La Reine Claude, a collaborative play by some of our finest writers

The full script for The Arc, a project devised by The Irish Times and Dublin Theatre Festival

The Irish Times, in association with Dublin Theatre Festival, concocted a project which saw ten playwrights contribute ten parts to one play. The play, La Reine Claude, has a rehearsed reading as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

 

The Irish Times, in association with Dublin Theatre Festival, devised the Arc, a project that saw 10 playwrights contribute to one play, with each adding a few pages to what had gone before.

Tom Murphy kicked things off with an opening scene for a play he called La Reine Claude. Enda Walsh then took up the baton, followed by Deirdre Kinahan, Sonya Kelly, Stacey Gregg, Kate Heffernan, Bush Moukarzel, Brokentalkers, Genevieve Hulme-Beaman and Michael West. Each part was published on irishtimes.com, with the exception of the final part (by Michael West) which is printed here, with the full script in all its chaotic glory.

The play received a rehearsed reading on the last day of this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival at the Project Arts Centre. Annabelle Comyn directed, with Kate Stanley Brennan as Karolina, Niamh McCann as Paulina and Declan Conlon as Mulcahy

LA REINE CLAUDE

An apartment, high-class, paintings on the walls - alluded to, not necessarily seen. A trompe l’oeil on a wall. A table at which a young Woman (PAULINA) is sitting in hat and top coat, decidedly purposeful.

KAROLINA, a young woman, a maid, is by a window, looking down onto the street, a cup of tea in her hand. She reacts.

KAROLINA In Polish He’s here. He is parking his car. Her upstage hand indicating a room. In there!

The Woman (PAULINA) exits to the room indicated. KAROLINA hurriedly exits to the kitchen to deposit her cup there and return with two bottles of red wine which she commences to uncork, in the middle of which she barks:

KAROLINA In Polish Shut the door!

As the room door is shut, the front door is heard opening. Then:

A man’s voice Karolina!

KAROLINA Yes! Mr Mulcahy! She has just finished uncorking the wine.

MULCAHY comes in. Businessman’s suit, large briefcase. (Perhaps cliched pencil-line moustache to say that something about him is dodgy!)

KAROLINA Fresh coffee in the coffee machine in the kitchen, the red wine is opened, as you instructed, for three hours. Breathing.

MULCAHY KAROLINA. Which means “thank you”. Did you collect my shirts?

KAROLINA Oh! No. I will – I am going to collect them now. As she goes. Mr Mulcahy. She’s gone.

MULCAHY is at ease, pours a glass of wine, produces a painting from his briefcase, on plywood, sits looking at it propped on the table, taps out a number on his mobile phone.

Meanwhile, the Woman (PAULINA) has come out of the room and is regarding him. She removes her hat.

MULCAHY Into the phone. Me, yeh . . . I picked up a Percy French today . . . No, he didn’t just write songs, a watercolourist – thousands of them – he’s going for five or six grand . . . I got him for . . . Hold on, I’ll call you back.

He has sensed a presence in the room. He sees her.

MULCAHY What is this! . . . Who are you? . . . How did you get in here?

PAULINA My name is Paulina. You have something that belongs to me.

MULCAHY I have something . . ? I’m calling the police.

PAULINA That would be unwise.

MULCAHY I have guests coming shortly.

PAULINA Cancel them.

MULCAHY My maid will be back in a moment.

PAULINA Your maid, Karolina, is my sister. You have something that belongs to me.

Lights up on KAROLINA and PAULINA.

KAROLINA is looking down onto the street, a cup of tea in her hand. She reacts:

KAROLINA: (In Polish) He’s here!!

The cup falls from her hand and smashes on the ground.

KAROLINA: (in English) He’s parking his car. (Her upstage hand indicating a room) In there quick!

PAULINA exits to the room indicated.

KAROLINA brushes up the smashed cup.

Carrying the pieces she exits into the kitchen and returns with a bottle of red wine which she starts to uncork, in the middle of which she barks:

KAROLINA: (in English) Shut the door! Shut the door!!

As the room door is shut by PAULINA, the front door is heard opening.

Then:

A MAN’S VOICE: Karolina!

She uncorks the bottle of wine but the very top of it shatters.

MULCAHY comes in. He wears a businessman’s suit, carries a tiny briefcase - and sports a Hitler moustache.

KAROLINA: The red wine is opened, as you instructed, for three hours. Breathing.

MULCAHY: Did you collect my shirts?

KAROLINA: Yes they’re hanging in your wardrobe. I’ve ordered others too.

MULCAHY: And why’s that?

KAROLINA: It seemed like you were running low on that type of shirt.

MULCAHY: How many did you order?

KAROLINA: 45.

Pouring himself a glass of wine from the shattered bottle -

MULCAHY: You know my brown shoes I wore yesterday?

KAROLINA: Yes of course I do.

MULCAHY: I wondered whether you could give them the once over.

KAROLINA: Now Mr. Mulcahy?

MULCAHY: I fancy a change of shoes. It’s not something I do often - change shoes in the middle of the day - but today - walking around outside - I had this insatiable urge to rush home and try on those brown loafers and flounce about the house - a bit like Jay Gatsby.

KAROLINA: Yes, Mr. Mulcahy.

KAROLINA leaves - and exits into the kitchen.

Suddenly an enormous sound of furniture falling and crashing to the ground - the kitchen has exploded.

A slight pause.

KAROLINA: (off stage) I’m fine - all fine!

MULCAHY opens up his tiny suitcase and takes out a tape recorder.

He grabs his phone and quickly rings someone -

Meanwhile PAULINA has come out of the room and is regarding him. She removes her hat.

MULCAHY: (Into the phone) Me, yeh…I picked up another Percy French today… Don’t say a word - just listen!

He hits the tape recorder and Foster and Allen are heard singing The Mountains Of Mourne.

He holds his phone to the tape recorder.

He has sensed a presence in the room. He turns and sees PAULINA.

The song continues -

MULCAHY: What is this!...Who are you?

He turns off his phone.

PAULINA: My name is Paulina.

MULCAHY: I don’t give a fuck what your name is! What are you doing in my house?!

PAULINA: I’m Karolina’s sister.

MULCAHY: Oh.

PAULINA: I was passing by and thought I‘d come to say ‘hi‘.

MULCAHY: I’m sorry - she didn’t say - I was startled. Do you want a drink?

PAULINA: No.

They listen to Foster and Allen for a few moments.

PAULINA: Isn’t this a Percy French song?

MULCAHY: Yes.

PAULINA: Do you like him?

MULCAHY: Yes, very much.

PAULINA: Why?

MULCAHY: He represents an Ireland I think we’d all like to return to.

PAULINA: And what is that exactly?

MULCAHY: Difficult to say.

Blackout.

Lights up on KAROLINA and PAULINA.

KAROLINA is looking down onto the street, holding a cooked chicken. She reacts:

KAROLINA: (In Polish) He’s here. (in English) He’s parking his car. (Her upstage hand indicating a room) In there quick!

PAULINA exits to the room indicated.

The chicken falls from her hands and onto the carpet. She kicks it towards the kitchen and disappears momentarily. She returns with a bottle of wine and starts to uncork it.

She shouts to PAULINA

KAROLINA: (In Irish) Shut the door. Shut the bloody door.

PAULINA doesn’t. The front door opens and MULCAHY comes in.

KAROLINA: (In an Irish accent now) Your chicken is on the floor.

MULCAHY: Perfect.

KAROLINA: The plums are in the oven and the wine is

She takes a swig.

The wine is rotten.

MULCAHY: Of course.

He sits.

Who is she?

KAROLINA: She is my sister.

MULCAHY: Really?

KAROLINA: Yes really.

MULCAHY: Come over here so and let me have a look at you.

PAULINA steps into the room and removes her hat.

MULCAHY: What’s your name.

PAULINA doesn’t answer.

MULCAHY: Does she not speak the lingo?

KAROLINA: Paulina.

MULCAHY: I see.

Give us a twirl Paulina.

She turns around.

Not bad.

You look after yourself.

To KAROLINA

She looks after herself.

They look after themselves don’t they,

I see them in the gym or down at the swimming,

the Polish wans.

KAROLINA doesn’t answer. She takes another swig of wine.

MULCAHY: (To PAULINA)

I have to make a call.

I have some business...

Some business to attend to!

So you….you make yourself useful here and we’ll see if you can stay.

He taps out a number on his mobile phone.

MULCAHY: (Into the phone) Me, yeh…I picked up….

PAULINA: (quietly) You have something belonging to me.

MULCAHY: What?

PAULINA: (louder) You have something belonging to me.

MULCAHY: (Into the phone) Hang on a second Percy…she’s saying…someone’s saying something….

PAULINA: You stole my brother’s shoes.

MULCAHY: I what?

PAULINA: You stole them.

MULCAHY: (to KAROLINA) What’s she saying?.

PAULINA: The nice lady cut his toenails. She bathed…she washed his feet. She said that he was happy that she did that. She said..

KAROLINA: that they were in a state…all puss and cuts and filthy.

PAULINA: Filthy.

KAROLINA: But then she cleaned them.

PAULINA: She cleaned them and she said he had a coffee.

KAROLINA: A cup of coffee.

PAULINA: Before he went on his way.

MULCAHY: So?

PAULINA: They found him in a dumpster.

KAROLINA: A bin.

PAULINA: He was sleeping in a dumpster.

KAROLINA: Dead in a dumpster.

PAULINA: Dead in a bin.

MULCAHY: O Right.

Yeah,.

I think I heard about that…read about that.

Tragic.

Treacherous.

Tough.

It can be tough out there.

Pause

PAULINA: You have his shoes.

MULCAHY: (To KAROLINA) What the fuck is she saying?

KAROLINA: You’re wearing….

You wore.

You walked in his shoes.

MULCAHY: Well, not any more.

Not any more my sweet.

Now! I need to make this call.

He taps a number into his mobile phone but KAROLINA approaches and takes it from him. She switches it off.

KAROLINA: You have something belonging to me.

MULCAHY: For Christ’s sake….what are you at?

KAROLINA: You stole my Mother’s voice.

MULCAHY: Your Mother?

KAROLINA: And after you promised so much.

MULCAHY: I promised…..I promised fucking nothing.

KAROLINA: But we were the first.

PAULINA: The first.

KAROLINA: To have a woman there at all.

MULCAHY: Where at all?

KAROLINA: What happened?

MULCAHY: I don’t know.

PAULINA: What happened?

MULCAHY: I don’t know what you’re asking.

KAROLINA: I think you do.

MULCAHY: I don’t.

PAULINA: You do.

MULCAHY: I don’t.

PAULINA: You do.

MULCAHY: Oh, no I don’t.

PAULINA: Oh, yes you do.

MULCAHY: Ah Jesus! Stop!

PAULINA: What?

MULCAHY: I don’t like this genre. Fecking bloody two camera shot theatre, EastEnders bloody panto machine! Let’s back track here for a minute, get a little perspective, hah?

MULCAHY takes a painting out of his briefcase without revealing it. He marches downstage left and waits.

KAROLINA reads his mood, walks downstage left and takes out a microphone stand and places it under the trompe l’oeil. A chicken drumstick sits in the microphone stand in place of a microphone. MULCAHY speaks into the chicken leg. A soft light appears over the A trompe l’oeil but not enough to make it out so clearly.

MULCAHY: Extreme Realism, ahem. Extreme realism, the art of representing an image where everything is in focus, where everything you see is literal as if the image itself, be it a bowl of plums or a beautiful queen might with time disintegrate off the canvas…

Mulcahy’s phone rings. Karolina answers it.

KAROLINA: Hello.

MULCAHY: Who is it?

KAROLINA: Dada.

MULCAHY: I’m not home.

KAROLINA: Er ist nicht hier im moment.

Karolina hangs up.

MULCAHY: The goal of extreme realism is to capture a moment in paint like a photograph snaps a picture, to make the flesh pulsate under the skin, to catch the slightest glimmer of thought or expression and carry it off the canvas and into the mind of the viewer so you look at it and think, This woman is forlorn. This woman is forsaken.

The trompe l’oeil slowly becomes more visible. It reveals itself to be an image of La Reine Claude, which is also the face of Paulina. In it she holds a handkerchief to her eye like she is crying.

MULCAHY: To own a portrait is to purchase a piece of a soul, to exchange a moment of public joy or private sorrow for money. It cultivates a desire to interact with its subject, to carry forward this exchange of feelings. The problem of course with extreme realism is that after a time the experience of looking at it becomes less extreme. You tire of it. The figure in the portrait has left you nothing to imagine. It is too real and so you being to look for other methods of expression, less realistic subjects that allow for deeper insight into their souls.

A light slowly comes up on another painting to reveal an impressionist watercolour of KAROLINA represented as a housemaid.

MULCAHY: Now the question here is, long after you stop feeling anything for the painting, does the painting continue to feel anything for you?

MULCAHY and PAULINA are locked in a frozen look. The doorbell rings. KAROLINA gets up and answers it.

SFX of seagulls and water.

KAROLINA returns.

MULACHY: Who is it?

KAROLINA: Galway Bay.

MULCAHY turns the Percy French painting to reveal a landscape of Galway Bay.

MULCAHY: Tell her to call back later. (holding the look with Paulina) This ladies, is a three hander. Now, about the shoes…

The lights fade to Pretendy Land by Percy French.

As the lights fade on Mulcahy, Karolina finds her way to a seat.

She sits. O it is comfy.

KAROLINA takes off her shoes. Thump. Thump. PAULINA notices that Mulcahy has stopped and Karolina has taken her shoes off. Paulina is indecisive… she joins Karolina.

PAULINA What’re we like?

They laugh a little. KAROLINA stretches her feet. KAROLINA makes a sudden strange sound. PAULINA reacts with uncertainty.

Sorry. Just me stretching.

PAULINA What was all that about shoes, Karo?

KAROLINA shrugs.

KAROLINA I like when he talks about the paintings. But only for the first two minutes. I don’t mind cleaning. I quite like it. I have a routine.

PAULINA Classy gaff.

KAROLINA I polish the leaves of the plants. (Paulina, laughing) I alternate plants. The leaves come up so green and lush. I have a system. I lay all my rags and chemicals out in a row like sweets and I go through my system in my head on the walk into work. I’m very healthy. They should do classes in it. (inspired) “Cleanercise.”

She demonstrates, mopping and cleaning in an aerobic manner. Maybe she sings a snatch from a high-powered pop song. PAULINA is impressed, despite herself.

Thing about cleaning is, it has an end point. Makes you feel useful.

She stops cleanercising, catches her breath.

Sometimes, I sit in his study and pretend I’m waiting on important guests in swishy shoes, or, just suck on a tomato in his kitchen like a sort of willowy, high maintenance Nicole Kidman, or I lay in the bath -

PAULINA In his bath?

KAROLINA In his bath. Once, I had the whole place cleaned so it spun, the light was translucent, a back-to-school sort of day and it all felt like it was really mine and I, I, I, I, I was polishing the bannister - a bit you know, high - on the polish fumes - could lick your dinner off the wood it was so brown and rich and warm and, I BIT it.

Beat.

PAULINA You what?

KAROLINA I bit it.

PAULINA Karo!

KAROLINA I know.

PAULINA Did you leave a mark?

KAROLINA (cheerfully) Big time. Perfect oval of tiny viscous dents.

PAULINA You bit Mulcahy’s mahogany bannister?

KAROLINA Is it -

PAULINA I think it’s -

KARO/ PAULINA Mahogony?

PAULINA What’ll you do?

If he finds them?

Your teeth?

On his - property?

Beat.

KAROLINA I don’t think I’m the best -

PAULINA Maid?

KAROLINA Yeah.

PAULINA Yeah. No.

Blackout.

They become aware of Mulcahy’s presence. An air of urgency. Karolina hurriedly puts her shoes back on.

Silence followed by a soft squeaking, a hint of metal on metal. Light springs up on MULCAHY who is kneeling on the dining table. He has just screwed a light bulb into the pendant lamp which hangs above it (the source of the light which now illuminates this part of the stage, including MULCAHY’s shoes, placed neatly to one side). Poised to leave, KAROLINA and PAULINA peer at MULCAHY from the darkness.

MULCAHY That’s the last of them. What was it?

KAROLINA (She steps into the light.) Twenty pack. In six months. Too cheap, Mr Mulcahy, you know?

MULCAHY Ah, no doubt you’re right. A, ah. What is it you call it, Karolina?

He disappears into the destroyed kitchen.

KAROLINA (calling after him) A false / economy

MULCAHY A German superstore.

He has reappeared carrying two comically oversized roast chickens on a serving plate and places them on the table

You know, races you through the checkout. And you’re like Brian O’Driscoll trying to catch everything. Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep!

He crouches, posing with hands outstretched as if to catch a rugby ball, shifting his pose rapidly on each beep. KAROLINA laughs pleasantly. He pauses. Notices KAROLINA’s shoes

Shoes on? Marigolds off?

Quick glance at clock, and scans the room, peering into the darkness)

Ah. Paulina. Of course. That time already. (Pause) What about my shirt?

KAROLINA I collected it this morning, Mr Mulcahy.

MULCAHY Righto. (Pause). And you remembered the socks?

KAROLINA I did.

MULCAHY How many?

KAROLINA One pair.

MULCAHY I hope they weren’t too expensive?

KAROLINA Penney’s, Mr Mulcahy. I know the drill. We should leave you. To your evening. To your guests.

Pause.

MULCAHY Your sister and I like our routine. Don’t we, Karolina?

KAROLINA We do, Mr Mulcahy.

MULCAHY Still. There is a lot of chicken here, isn’t there? Paulina? I could drink all of this myself (indicates wine) but I shouldn’t.

KAROLINA We really / should be

MULCAHY It’s breathing?

KAROLINA Three bottles are breathing Mr / Mulcahy

MULCAHY Seventeen. (Pause.) Bulbs. Now I think about it. Out of twenty. There was one of your crowd on the checkout that day. Smashed three of them when she fired it at you. Belligerent. You’ll stay of course, Paulina? You’ll have to convince that sister of yours, she doesn’t listen to me.

PAULINA (She steps into the light) That’s very kind, Mr Mulcahy.

MULCAHY Please, call me Mike! (He disappears into the kitchen again)

KAROLINA (In Polish) Look, he doesn’t want us to stay. Not really. And there’s no need. Take what you came for and leave. I’ll stay. Make an excuse for you.

PAULINA (In Polish) It’s polite!

KAROLINA (In Polish) Polite!

PAULINA (In Polish) Yes, mother! I can be polite. I can laugh at his old man jokes! How long have I been here now and you never want me to talk to him? And I’m hungry. Fancy table cloth? Merlot? Crispy skin! You’re so serious, Karolina. No sense of humour. (In English) Stuck in the sand.

KAROLINA (In English) Mud. Stuck in the mud. (In Polish) Look, just don’t mention the ‘trompe l’oeil’.

PAULINA (mocking MULCAHY’s affectation) ‘trompe l’oeil’.

MULCAHY reappears quickly with crockery, cutlery, wine glasses, a carving knife.

MULCAHY Sit! Sit, sit, sit!

PAULINA sits. KAROLINA sits beside her sister, glancing from her to MULCAHY. She passes out the plates. PAULINA pours the wine. Silence as MULCAHY begins to carve and deal out the chicken.

MULCAHY You have two breasts there.

He plates two chicken breasts for PAULINA.

PAULINA You have no friends?

KAROLINA Paulina! (laughs uncomfortably). Mr Mulcahy has loads of friends.

MULCAHY Too many by far. Think of the funerals. It will cost me an arm and a leg. And a wing?

PAULINA Please, Mr Mulcahy.

MULCAHY Mike! Please! Cancelled. Just now. All of them! Fowl already in the oven.

He continues carving.

Not to worry. A small convocation of movers if not shakers. Wine, quick unveiling of this new Percy French delight.

He points to the painting, PAULINA looks at it blankly. Pause.

Oohs followed by ahs I would have hoped. But no matter. Still. Two big birds. Your sister here basting all afternoon. Ethically sourced too, isn’t that right, Karolina? CYCLED to the shops for them.

PAULINA laughs at his bad joke. A bit too hard.

KAROLINA Those thighs for me, Mr Mulcahy, thanks a million.

MULCAHY How long more do we have you, Paulina?

KAROLINA Not long.

MULCAHY And you’re liking it I understand?

PAULINA I love it here.

MULCAHY I must admit, I’ve gotten used to you dropping in. Gotten used to our. Conversations. When your sister is out.

Pause. Light bulb flickers and dims as if it is about to blow, but it doesn’t. All three glance upwards.

KAROLINA (Pause). Those thighs for me, Mr Mulcahy, thanks a million.

MULCAHY How long more do we have you, Paulina?

KAROLINA Not long.

MULCAHY And you’re liking it I understand?

KAROLINA She loves it / but

PAULINA I admit, I’ve gotten used to dropping in. Gotten used to our. Conversations.

KAROLINA Salt?

Offers MULCAHY the salt cellar

MULCAHY About art?

KAROLINA Butter? (offers PAULINA the butter dish)

PAULINA Is it art or life? I’ve been wondering, Mr Mul-

MULCAHY Mike!

PAULINA I am wondering about this trumpet / trump-

MULCAHY (Affected). Trompe l’oeil! She wants to know about our trompe l’oeil, Karolina!

KAROLINA What do you know about art, Paulina?

PAULINA What do you?

MULCAHY It makes the apartment look so much bigger, does it not?

PAULINA Yes. But. Bigger? Do you need bigger?

KAROLINA That’s not polite, Paulina.

PAULINA So serious, Karolina!

MULCAHY (laughing) Your sister is quite serious! It is an optical illusion, Paulina.

PAULINA Yes. Like that cartoon we watched. Here. Karolina?

KAROLINA Paulina!

PAULINA The wolf chasing the bird with the long legs? What is it called? Karolina?

MULCAHY Karolina, you remember of course. Watching the telly here. All of us. With our feet up? Tell us the name!

KAROLINA Roadrunner.

PAULINA Yes, Roadrunner! The / wolf

KAROLINA Coyote / He’s a-

PAULINA The coyote paints a big black, a big black

Searching for the word, she draws an arch in the air instead

Like a tunnel, on the side of a mountain. (Laughing)

And the bird runs through it. Through the mountain! Straight through! (PAULINA and MULCAHY laugh KAROLINA joins in).

I don’t understand it at all. I wonder why you need it bigger? Bigger! For one pathetic, lonely old man!

MULCAHY stops laughing, and watches PAULINA and KAROLINA as they continue to laugh. KAROLINA continues to laugh with her sister, but with one eye carefully on MULCAHY.

MULCAHY And my maid.

KAROLINA eventually stops laughing.

PAULINA (still laughing hysterically) I keep seeing the coyote, that stupid old coyote, trying to follow the bird and, and

She stands up and mimes running full speed into a wall more than once. PAULINA continues to laugh, until it is beyond uncomfortable, while MULCAHY and KAROLINA sit in silence.

KAROLINA That’s enough now, Paulina.

PAULINA (Still laughing) And his maid. Of course. Mr Mulcahy the Miser and his pretty maid. Huge apartment. Expensive paintings.

KAROLINA (In Polish) Enough.

PAULINA Cheap help. Second-hand shoes.

Pause

MULCAHY Please, Paulina. How many more times. Call me -

PAULINA Mick, yes.

She returns to her chair

MULCAHY Mike. (Pause) But don’t apologise. Michael is just one of those names, isn’t it? People think they can come in here and call me whatever the hell they like.

PAULINA Cunt.

Pause.

KAROLINA (In Polish) He’s here! He is parking his car!

PAULINA doesn’t move. KAROLINA springs up, her upstage hand indicates a room, she knocks her plate to the floor.

KAROLINA (In Polish) In there!

PAULINA (Firm) Stop.

KAROLINA (In Polish) In there! And shut the door!

PAULINA still doesn’t move.

MULCAHY (Firm) Stop. Pick up your chicken, and sit down.

Pause. KAROLINA finally gives up, scoops dirty chicken up from the floor and sits down. She continues to eat. PAULINA stares at MULCAHY. MULCAHY leans back, hums the ‘Mountains of Mourne’, then sings these snippets from the last verse:

There’s beeyooteeful girls here, oh never you mind

With beeyooteeful shapes nature never designed

And lovely complexions all roses and cream

But let me remark with regard to the same

That if that those roses you venture to sip

The colours might all come away on your lip

Out of lyrics, MULCAHY continues to sing and hum the tune without words, half-encouraging, half-threatening KAROLINA and PAULINA to join in. They don’t.

MULCAHY Fierce blunt, your crowd. (Pause). Well. Eat up. There’s still plums to come.

Mulcahy continues to sing

MULACHY And tho’ by the Saxon we once were oppressed,

Still I cheered, God forgive me, I cheered with the rest.

Mulcahy starts to hallucinate. He has been drugged. He hallucinates that the audience is his trompe l’oeil

MULCAHY Christ, they’re breathing. Stop them breathing.

Looking out.

PAULINA It’s an optical illusion, Mike. Makes the apartment look so much bigger.

KAROLINA Don’t tease him, Paulina

PAULINA Look at all your friends, Mike. It’s a full house. You’re very popular.

KAROLINA He’ll pass out in a minute.

PAULINA I want some fun before he goes.

MULACHY My guests have arrived. God forgive me. Have you been fed? Do you know where the toilets are?

PAULINA That really is a wonderful suitcase, Mike. I wonder what’s in it?

MULACHY What?

PAULINA Your suitcase. With the painting in it.

MULACHY Valuable artwork.

PAULINA What sort of suitcase can fit a painting in it? Must be bottomless.

MULACHY The suitcase was a gift.

KAROLINA From Mary Poppins?

MULACHY From a writer.

PAULINA I wonder what else is in it?

MULACHY. All sorts.

PAULINA Where did you get it from?

MULACHY Tom Murphy. I used to know him. We were great friends.

PAULINA You must know a lot of great artists. Knowing so much about art.

KAROLINA It looks very practical.

MULACHY. (increasingly delirious) The things you can take out from it. A wealth of objects.

PAULINA Anything of mine, do you reckon?

MULACHY stands up and walk to the front of the stage.

MULACHY. (out to audience) I swear to God they’re moving.

KAROLINA You’ve been tricked Mr. Mulcahy.

PAULINA You have something that belongs to me.

MULACHY Shut up and serve my guests! They look starving.

PAULINA and KAROLINA walk to the front of the stage and look out at the audience.

KAROLINA So life-like.

MULACHY That’s not like life. That is life.

PAULINA I wouldn’t call it that.

KAROLINA What would you call it?

PAULINA Ugliness, ugliness, ugliness.

MULCAHY What are you talking about? (about audience) They’re my guests.

PAULINA I’m joking Mr. Mike. It’s a line. From your friend, Mr. Murphy. I presume you know your art, Mike, being such a connoisseur? My brother said you were a great artist.

MULACHY Fuck your brother.

PAULINA A good artist borrows but a great artist steals, isn’t that right, Mick? That makes you a very great artist.

MULACHY Your brother didn’t understand art because he didn’t understand business.

PAULINA You’re right. What did he know? He ended up in a dumpster after all.

MULACHY I’m going to join my guests.

KAROLINA You can’t run through a mountain, Mr. Mulcahy.

MULACHY There’s a hole. Right here. I’m going.

He loses consciousness and falls into the audience

PAULINA Get the painting and hand me the carving knife.

KAROLINA hands PAULINA the carving knife and a tin of Paint. PAULINA opens the tin of paint with the carving knife.

Blackout

Lights up on apartment. The floor is covered in white sheets. KAROLINA and PAULINA are wearing red raincoats and blue wellington boots and both are covered in white paint. PAULINA holds the carving knife.

MULCAHY is in the armchair. He is naked. His hands, feet and head are tied to an armchair with leather straps. His left arm is connected to a saline drip. He has been painted white. From the suitcase PAULINA takes out a large frame with an image that the audience never see.

KAROLINA I told you you had something belonging to me.

MULCAHY (crying) Please stay away from my art. It is private. My private collection.

KAROLINA Private? She picks up paint can and smashes it off his groin

KAROLINA Extreme realism, the art of representing an image where everything is in focus, where everything you see is literal as if the image itself, be it a bowl of plums or a beautiful queen or two young sisters.

MULCAHY Those are my words

KAROLINA The goal of extreme realism is to capture a moment in pain, sorry a moment in paint like a photograph snaps a picture, to show the goose bumps or the snot on the skin of a bare body, to catch the slightest glimmer of fear and carry it off the canvas and into the mind of the viewer so you look at it and think, This six year old girl IS cold. This eight year old girl IS calling for her mother to come and take her home and cuddle her.

MULCAHY Why are you speaking my works back to me.

PAULINA They are not your words. No one owns words.

MULCAHY This combination of words then. I used to speak this combination of words. To students.

KAROLINA To our mother.

MULCAHY I don’t remember

KAROLINA Did you take this photograph of my sister and me?

MULCAHY It’s not a photograph.

PAULINA goes once more to the microphone stand and speaks the following.

PAULINA To own a portrait is to purchase a piece of a soul, to exchange a moment of private terror for money.

MULCAHY It’s not a photograph. That never really took place.

PAULINA It cultivates a desire to interact with its subject, to carry forward this exchange of feelings.

MULCAHY You were never actually there. Like that. In that pose.

KAROLINA Look closer you art motherfucker. And tell me that’s not real fear on my sister’s six year old face.

PAULINA The problem of course with extreme realism is that after a time the experience of looking at it becomes less extreme. You tire of it.

MULCAHY It’s just a painting. It’s not real. MULCAHY repeats “It’s not real” during the following text.

PAULINA The two innocent subjects in the portrait have left nothing for the viewer to imagine. It is too realistic but some how not real enough for the occasion and so the artist looks for other methods of expression, more visceral, more real, more felt.

Paulina hands Karolina the carving knife and she removes Mulcahy’s eyes. During the eye removal Paulina stands at the microphone and sings a POLISH KARAOKE version of ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is’ by Anglo American rock band Foreigner.

Blackout

Lights up. Some time has passed. The stage is mostly as it was, white sheets on the floor, paint scattered, the boots and rain coats now in piles. Mulcahy is still propped on the chair. Blood stains on the floor around him. His head hangs back, He is slipping in and out of consciousness, beginning to come out of his drugged state. He is now wearing the maids outfit, and instead of shoes he has one oversized chicken carcases on each foot.

We hear the sound of a bath running in the other room, and the faint sound of Paulina humming snippets of ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’ in both Polish and English. The sound of a kettle boiling in the kitchen.

There is now a hole in the wall where the trompe l’oeil was.

Karolina is using the carving knife, methodically chipping away at the wall making the hole bigger. She is on edge. She has dried blood on her hands, she is dressed in Mulcahy’s suit with a Hitler moustache drawn on in white paint. She keeps looking over her shoulder at the kitchen door to listen for the kettle boiling. She stops chipping and stares at the door for a moment urging the kettle to boil. It doesn’t work.

She goes back to chipping at the trompe L’oeil. The light bulb flickers, Karolina jumps, very startled. A huge overreaction.

KAROLINA In Polish Shitty SHIT bollox FUCK.

She holds her chest trying to catch her breath again. Trying to catch her breath, again.Silence.

PAULINA Singing louder and in Polish I want you to show me-eeee

KAROLINA jumps again, freezes, then darts an angry look through the wall to her sister. She goes back to stabbing at the hole again, it calms her a little. Stab, stab stab, stab, stab stab, stab. She settles back into the rhythm of chipping away at the wall. Stab, stab stab, stab.

The light bulb flickers.

KAROLINA launches herself across the room and on to the table, she is just about to kill the bulb with the carving knife when we hear the click of the kettle boiled in the kitchen.

KAROLINA straightens up, delighted, she jumps down off the table and disappears into the kitchen.

The faint singing continues from the bathroom, we hear a tea spoon in a cup from the kitchen. MULCAHY groans slightly, his fingers flex and he tries to reach up to his face. He realises he is trapped and gives in. KAROLINA returns with a cup of tea in hand, smiling, energised, she moves quickly.

She looks for somewhere to put it down, offers it to MULCAHY with a silent gesture. He has gone limp again from the pain and the effort of stretching his hands.

There’s nowhere to put the tea. She leaves it back in the kitchen then returns.

With much effort she drags MULCAHY in his chair to the window.

MULCAHY reacts to the light on his face. He can feel warmth on his face. He makes little hopeful sobbing noises and moves his head tilting it towards the warmth, as though nuzzling into the light.

KATRINA takes no notice. She is untying the leather strap and holds his upstage hand. Once untied, she gets the tea from the kitchen. She stands with the cup of tea in her hand looking at MULCAHY. At his face. It’s unbearable to look at.

KAROLINA Under her breath. Ugliness, ugliness Michael.

She kneels down at his side, lifts his hand and almost tenderly wraps his fingers around the handle of the tea cup.

KAROLINA Harshly. Take it.

Gently, like a mother talking to a child. Take it Michael.

In Polish Fucking gobshite of a man TAKE IT

She squeezes his fingers into it. His hand closes around it and he reacts in pain. She stands back, delighted.

The slush of bath water. PAULINA is getting out of the bath. KAROLINA jumps, frantic, she grabs one of the white sheets from the middle of the room and throws it over MULCAHY, then disappears into the kitchen.

PAULINA comes through the doorway still naked and dripping wet, she strolls through the apartment lazily looking for something. She spots it, the tape recorder, sitting on top of a pile at the other side of the room.

The pile is made up of a suit case, two Percy French paintings, a tiny suitcase and a pair of loafers.

PAULINA floats over to the pile and picks up the tape recorder, then turns and saunters carelessly across the room and back through the door.

KAROLINA peers from the kitchen.

Slush of bath water. KAROLINA disappears again, and comes back with two bottles of red wine and a bottle opener. She starts to open the bottles as quickly as she can always keeping an eye on the door that leads to the bathroom.

Clunk. The sound of the play button,

KAROLINA jumps, spilling wine on herself. Darts an angry look. Breaths.

Foster and Allen’s Mountains of Mourn plays from the bathroom

Clunk clunk. The stop button, fast forward sound hums

Clunk clunk. Stop. Play. Percy French Eileen Og plays,

Clunk clunk. Fast forward.

Clunk clunk. This continues faintly from the bathroom over the next section

KAROLINA has now opened the two bottles. She pulls the sheet off MULCAHY and throws it on the floor, some tea spills from the cup that he obediently holds in his upstage hand.

KAROLINA In Polish. Gobshite

She tries to sit the wine bottles on MULCAHYs lap. It’s not working, she jams them between his legs. He squints, hoping she won’t move them any closer

She thinks about it. She doesn’t.

KAROLINA Gently. Squeeze……squeeze. Barks. Squeeze your legs together Michael.

He does. She stands back to look at the image she has created. Yes, it’s good. She’s ready. She picks up the tiny briefcase and walks to the main door of the apartment.

She takes a few moments to ready herself, rolls her shoulders, clenches her fists and stretches her fingers a few times. A boxer before a match, bubbling energy hums from her.

She opens and closes the door with a slam. She turns, suddenly, in character, as MULCAHY, her impression of him. She stands slightly hunched like a dirty old man, a scowling, miserable expression on her face and she stares madly at MULCAHY in the chair.

KAROLINA She speaks quietly but very clear and menacing. Get me my wine. Dear.

MULCAHY drops the tea cup, it smashes on the floor. Now more conscious, lifting his head fully.

KAROLINA Did you hear me my little polish dolly. Where. Are my. SHIRTS.

She mumbles this as she moves closer. 45, 45 shirts, tromp loy do you like my tromp loyyyyyy, let’s have chicken.

As KAROLINA moves towards MULCAHY we hear another clunk from the bathroom.

‘Are you right there Michael are you right

Do you think that we’ll be home before the night

Ah you’ve been so long in starting

That you couldn’t say for certain

You might now Michael so you might’

The last lines of the song slow and distort as the batteries fail.

Enter PAULINA, dressed as a maid, carrying a dripping mop and the tape recorder, which hisses drunkenly as it dies.

PAULINA Dead.

KAROLINA Don’t drop it in the bath.

PAULINA It’s batteries.

KAROLINA No. I meant don’t drop it in the bath. We might need it.

PAULINA O.

KAROLINA To record something. Do you’ve any blank tapes?

PAULINA Do you’ve any batteries?

KAROLINA Ask him.

PAULINA To MULCAHY. Do you’ve any batteries?

MULCAHY Do my eyes deceive me? All dark and comfortless. Dark and comfortless.

PAULINA I don’t think he does.

KAROLINA We’ll just have to write it down or something. Where’s a...

She starts looking for a pen.

PAULINA Do you know what you’re looking for?

MULCAHY I have no way and therefore want no eyes. I stumbled when I saw.

KAROLINA Over him. A pen! A pen!

MULCAHY Might I but live to see thee in my touch I’d say I had eyes again!

PAULINA Over him. What’s he talking about?

KAROLINA I hope it’s not... Art.

MULCAHY Yes! Trompe l’oeil, trompe l’oeil. The eye-deceiving trick.

PAULINA Perhaps we can gag him.

MULCAHY We used to use plums. For the vile jelly. You know the vile jelly? He raises his hands and uses his thumbs to gouge out imaginary eyes. “Out, vile jelly.” Plums. Perhaps we still do. “Out, vile jelly!”

PAULINA I thought it was “damned spot.”

MULCAHY But the ripeness is all!

KAROLINA What?

PAULINA “Out, damned spot.”

MULCAHY Out!

KAROLINA That too.

PAULINA Sadly. You can never get rid of the stains.

MULCAHY Of course, you’ve got to hide the stones. But we see what we want to see. And we hear what we want to hear.

PAULINA What?

KAROLINA I’m not listening. I’m looking for something to write with.

MULCAHY You look like sisters.

PAULINA Suddenly pleased. Thank you.

KAROLINA I look nothing like her.

MULCAHY I mean you sound like sisters.

PAULINA Dismayed. O I don’t think our voices are...

KAROLINA Maybe a little bit.

PAULINA O no.

KAROLINA Well whatever it seems like...

MULCAHY Seems like!

KAROLINA It’s just an illusion.

MULCAHY O yes! Trompe l’oeil. He pats his sockets. Trompe... l’oreille. He pats his ears.

PAULINA Trample Ray?

KAROLINA Trompe l’oreille.

PAULINA Tramp Lorraine?

KAROLINA Trompe l’oreille. L’oreille. Tricking the ear. Ear-deceiving.

PAULINA W hat?

KAROLINA Screams Ear-deceiving!

MULCAHY Ear piercing, more like.

PAULINA O yes. Perce-oreille.

KAROLINA Who?

PAULINA Perce-oreille.

MULCAHY Am I in France?

PAULINA No, perce-oreille. She makes a pincers of her finger and thumb.

MULCAHY You’re speaking French.

PAULINA Shudders. Euw.

KAROLINA Ah! She means Earwigs. Perce-oreille in French.

MULCAHY O fuck.

KAROLINA What?

MULCAHY I completely forgot. Percy French. Where’s the Percy French?

PAULINA The batteries are dead.

MULCAHY Not the songs, the painting. Where’s my Percy French?

PAULINA ”Nie moj cyrk, nie moje malpy.”

MULCAHY What?

PAULINA Not my circus. Not my monkey.

MULCAHY My Percy French!

KAROLINA I have it.

Karolina hasn’t moved and stares at Mulcahy.

MULCAHY You do?

PAULINA You do?

KAROLINA I’m looking at it.

MULCAHY You are? Describe it.

KAROLINA A Percy French original. Watercolour. Trompe l’oeil. “Plums in the snow.”

MULCAHY An original.

KAROLINA The last of its kind.

MULCAHY I’m glad it’s safe. Because he’ll be here to collect it.

KAROLINA We’ll be long gone.

PAULINA We’re late as it is.

KAROLINA We’re off.

PAULINA Our work is done.

MULCAHY You can’t go. You can’t leave me like this. I’m a state.

KAROLINA You’re as pretty as a picture.

MULCAHY I am?

KAROLINA You’re the finished article. He’ll be delighted.

MULCAHY He will?

KAROLINA You’re increasing in value just by sitting there.

MULCAHY I’m collectable?

KAROLINA Delectable.

PAULINA Though you might be fading.

MULCAHY Should we call him?

PAULINA Would you like me to cover you? From the light.

MULCAHY Yes. But before you go. Would you... sign me first. Please.

KAROLINA Ok. How would you like me to sign?

MULCAHY Your name, of course.

KAROLINA I mean, what method?

MULCAHY You choose.

KAROLINA I can’t find a pen. There’s only a mop. And a knife.

PAULINA The banister.

KAROLINA What?

PAULINA The mahogany banister.

MULCAHY Smiling. The mahogany banister!

Karolina rinses her teeth with her tongue and wipes them with her forefinger.

MULCAHY Sign me. Leave your mark. Now that we are both art and artist, painter and painted.

KAROLINA Banist and banister. Dentist and dent.

MULCAHY Do you remember Humphrey Bogart and...

KAROLINA Ingrid Bergman?

MULCAHY Claude Rains.

KAROLINA Claude Rains!

MULCAHY This could be the beginning of a beautiful...

Karolina takes his arm and prepares to bite. Paulina is at the window

PAULINA He’s here. He is parking his car...

The deafening sound of a car accelerating and crashing through the wall into the kitchen.

PAULINA In there.

Lights fade.

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