MARLENE MADE ME
To the Beloved Mr L.S.
Now my love is not what it used to be.
Oh, I know, you are grieving, you are grieving
That the broom of the moon
Didn’t splash around the puddles of verses.
Feeling sad and rejoicing at the star
That falls down onto your eyebrows
You have given the cabin a heart through song,
But you didn’t build a home inside your heart.
And the man for whom you waited in the night
Again passed by the hospitable cover.
Oh my friend, for whom did you gild your keys
With the signing word?
You will not sing about the sun
And you won’t see heaven through a window.
This is how a windmill, waving it’s wing,
Still cannot fly away from the earth.
Sergei Esenin. 1918.
Translated by Vitaly Chernetsky
The Characters (in order of appearance):
THE PREY & THE PREDATORS
McDONALD’S GIRL (SONYA)
A BOTTLE PICKER
Voices of FROU FROU (aka KOLYA), VASSYA, DIMA, FIRST MILITSIA
OFFICER, SECOND MILITSIA OFFICER
Iliyinsky Park, Kitai Gorod, Moscow. The monument is upstage centre,
massive, cast iron and bronze; do we know or care what it commemorates?
– dead soldiers, as always; ironic now, with all the cadets that
‘parade’ here; I think it resembles more a totem pole, a ceremonial
setting for less august purposes – the steps are where the PREY
now come to rest, and around them, day and night, circle the PREDATORS.
Upstage, left and right, are two low-lying corner walls, and behind
this the suggestion of civic vegetation. Back of stage, flanking
the monument, is a wall surmounted by steel railings, and on both
sides of this the steps down to the metro; the action must emphasise
the daily disgorging of new adventurers – their always hopeful arrival,
and later the crestfallen lonely retreat, or the proud escorting
of PREY back into the bowels. There is the hum and intermittent
blare of traffic swooping down Lubyanski Proezd.
It is early evening in high summer, the season for rutting and
hunting. Turgenev’s hunters would have understood the waiting game
here of long, patient, watchful silences – the stalking before moving
in for the kill. In the wild, gathering at the only water hole,
the lion drinks with the gazelle; later he eats his neighbour; in
Moscow’s hunting ground PREY and PREDATOR similarly sense and see
every eye upon them.
At curtain rise Marlene Dietrich is heard singing ‘Cherche la rose;’
there is a very particular sound to this recording (Paris, May 12,
1962; music by Henri Salvador, lyrics by R.Rouzaud) which takes
us back both to the rainbow world of the ‘modern’ nineteen sixties
and to that earlier mythological black-and-white world of Dietrich
herself. Burt Bacharach’s orchestration is a masterpiece of developing
colour: Marlene’s lament begins with only the piano and double bass
as backing; Bacharach brings in an ondes-martenot (the most ‘period’
instrument), strings, saxophone –amplifying the volume, scaling
it back for the middle section (introducing the solo violin – ‘
…ou la nuit rêve du jour …’), and then unleashing a piano roll into
a crescendo that carries us along on a wave of strings and brass
with trumpeted top notes; the diminuendo brings us back to Marlene
with just the piano, double bass and solo violin, a rising undertow
and dying away of strings until we are left with only the final
fading whistle of the ondes-martenot that seems to echo into an
endless desert that is Marlene’s final words – “la rose … la rose
….” All this in three minutes and fifty-six seconds.
This musical leitmotif haunts the play; here it accompanies an
idealised choreographed moment when the PREY, the PREDATORS and
the McDONALD’S GIRL come onto the stage like Nureyev and Fonteyn;
later, perhaps it will remind us – characters and audience alike
– of that undefinable something that we are all of us looking for.
During the prologue there is nothing of the hardness and ugliness
that we will see when the music stops; the PREY and the PREDATORS
do not dance but they enact in elegance the rituals of courtship
– pairing, separation, jealousy, as the McDONALDS GIRL is passed
around them (think Aurora with her cavaliers). The silence finds
them in stasis; moments later Tatu can be heard screaming, ‘Malchik
Gay! Malchik Gay!’ and the tableau comes back to life without the
The PREY are now lounging around the monument – hustlers, drunks,
‘real’ girls, students; who is for hire and who is not is all a
part of being here. The ‘sellers’ move like peacocks, strutting,
alert to the need to attract – even the ‘straight’ ones have a poetry
about them. At any moment the Militsia can arrive to check documents
– why the army and navy cadets congregate restlessly around the
edges, on the walls, backing into the undergrowth, ready to run.
Back and forth across the stage, encircling the monument, the PREDATORS
herd – queens, ‘suits,’ husbands … so many husbands; they act like
they’re so anonymous you’d think they really have come to take the
A self-absorbed youth, less obvious but no less one of the hunted,
carries a ghetto-blaster on his shoulder, playing over and over
at full volume Tatu’s ‘Malchik Gay!, Malchik Gay!’ he wanders aimlessly,
on and off the stage – DJ to the cattle show.
The McDONALD’S GIRL roughly pulls her boyfriend close to her, tongues
him, then pushes him away; he goes off with his boyfriend, she follows,
McDONALD’S GIRL: Fuck you! Cunt! Go fuck yourself!
A woman, not very old, in a dirty tracksuit and slippers, is scavenging
for beer bottles and empties; she carries two full carrier bags.
She finds an empty can, stamps and crunches it underfoot, and adds
it to her stash. She screams at a man who has swooped upon an empty
on the other side of the monument:
BOTTLE PICKER [running towards her adversary]: Cocksucker! Vadik
you cunt! I’ve been watchin’ that fuckin’ bottle for twenty minutes
…. [VADIK runs off with his booty. The BOTTLE PICKER gives chase
for a few metres but fearing for her other bottles she gives up
the game, and lopes back to the monument. One of the PREY speaks.]
THE PREY: Vulture.
BOTTLE PICKER [cursing furiously]: Arse fucker! Bum bandit! Whore!
THE PREY [calmly]: Fuck off cunt.
The BOTTLE PICKER exits, still muttering curses.
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