The stage is unlit when it starts with sudden sound. It’s jungle music, dark, discordant, disorientating and very loud- but somehow still organic. There are drums, screeching that could be from a pterodactyl and clashing horn instruments.
It goes for five seconds then ceases just as suddenly as it began.
The lights flicker on in a fluorescent way (is it possible to make them click?) and a man carrying a manila folder is moving across the boards.
He is wearing unwashed jeans, a scruffy leather jacket and an oversized orange T-Shirt with some Thai letters still faintly visible on the front. He needs a shave and good soapy face scrub.
It’s clear from the way he moves that he’s got a lot to say and feels like there is little time to say it (though of course he doesn’t realise he’s about to get run over by a bus), and even if his general seediness and the way his eyes gleam madly out from behind his glasses cause some to put him down as a lunatic, the overstuffed manila folder he’s carrying will give others the impression that he’s some kind of absent minded academic.
He accent is English, London. He knows that no one other than him will ever care much about the orgiastic rhinoceros ritual of now vanished Paluk people, but it’s welling up in him and pours out anyway.
“And then (he shouts, damn close to ranting, speaking too fast) there was the jubilee rites of the Pamuk Ula, the warrior tribe that ruled absolutely between the Alitac River and the Mountains of the Moon in Ethiopia. At the height of their annual feast they selected a youth and pitched him, armed with nothing but a small dagger, into moral combat with an angry rhinoceros"(he wants us to be amazed)
“And the final time they held this feast, just months before the Italians invaded in 1935, was the largest and most spectacular ever, because that very afternoon old king Musa had just vanquished a rebel army led by his nephew at the very gates of his capital”.
“Lloyd Taylor, the anthropologist, he was there that year, and he wrote about it! Herds of shackled prisoners, hundreds of warbling concubines in grass skirts, thousands of loyal subjects reeling with joy and the beer they used to brew from fermented bush honey, the victorious cavalry, still grimy with blood and battle sweat, cavorting ecstatically, filling the thick evening air with red dust, the court shaman frothing at the mouth, and somehow in the midst of it all, they loosed this enraged bull rhino. That was when the young Tiko Musa (here he reaches a new pitch of enthusiasm and starts jumping around, acting it out as he sees it in his mind) not even thinking about the fate of his friend the thing just disembowelled, leapt out of the rhino’s path, and even though he shattered his kneecap in the process, somehow ran his dagger through its neck."
"Can you imagine it?" (he implores!).
And it was the duty and honour of the boy who killed the rhino to serve its still twitching heart to the king on a jewel encrusted plate they said was 2000 years old and a gift from the Queen of Sheba” (a few papers fall out of the manila folder when he gets to this point, he pauses to pick them up and catch breath)
From off stage, shouted: “Watch out you fool”.
Our enthusiast doesn’t even get a chance to stand up.
In the second or so before the stage goes black there’s just enough time to see him look to the right with surprise and horror, then there’s the horrible sound of a bus engine, brakes and the poor guy getting collected.
The stage stays dark for three or four seconds, there’s no noise but you can faintly see the lights from an ambulance flickering.
The ambulance lights fade away, and from somewhere off stage a brass band can be heard to strike up a jaunty rendition of the Italian national anthem. A screen at the back of the stage comes on, five seconds of stock footage of the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. The footage must make it clear that the conflict is in Africa. Suggestions include showing Ethiopian soldiers on horseback, an Italian tank, surrendering Ethiopian soldiers at the end of the war, a statue of Mussolini or an Italian flag in Addis.
Cut to black. Silence. The number '2007' appears on the screen in stark black and white and stays there. There’s the sound of a jet landing.
The stage is lit again, but this time gradually, and only to something like the dullness of a winter’s afternoon in London.
There is only one brightly lit area, at the left of the stage. Underneath it there’s a desk with a computer on it and a business like woman sitting there, tapping away at the key board. Two chairs are placed in front.
From the opposite side of the stage enter an elderly black man wearing an old fashioned hat and a slightly younger one with grey hair. They walk a little uneasily towards the desk and sit down. The old guy has a limp.
Once they've both sat down she looks up at them.
Woman: “Tipo Moosa?”
Tiko’s son: (English, with just a touch of elsewhere) "His name is Tiko".
(The woman doesn’t seem to hear him).
“The available role is in an aged care facility providing exceptional nutritional solutions to a variety of stakeholders. Mostly it will involve simple cooking, soft boiled eggs, pumpkin soup, toast and margarine- that sort of thing. The successful candidate will have interpersonal skills, demonstrated commitment to health and safety standards, and food experience."
Tiko and his son have a low hurried exchange in a foreign language, but say nothing to the woman.
Woman: (looking first at the computer screen then at the old man, starting to sound dubious) "It says here he has previous experience with food service and preparation. Is this true?"
(more talk between Tiko and son).
Tiko’s son: “He says he has some”.
Flick off the lights, crank up the jungle music, that’s it.