Saturday, March 30, 2024

THE BENEFIT an extract

 The Benefit is a show intended for solo performance this Autumn.  It is a mix of narrative, verse and dialogue.  The protagonist is a bespoke, black men's overcoat travelling from back to back - or hand to hand - across time and space.    

I'm introducing here one of the characters who 'owns' the overcoat for a short period of time.  Marlon describes herself as a 'flaneur -or 'flaneuse - take your pick'.  She cruises the streets of her war-torn city in the spirit of the great French poet Baudelaire seeking out subjects for the poetry she writes.  She  dresses impeccably in a man's lounge suit channelling the style of the German actress Marlene Dietrich. 

She is arrested by an army officer and interrogated.  She charms him and wins our Overcoat from him in an arm wrestling contest.  She is freed, but on condition that she does a bit of spying for him 'out the back' of a cafe where anarchists supposedly meet.  Marlon, of course,  has no intention of doing this and sets off to do a bit of flaneuring around the city.

 Now Marlon has  absolutely no intention of going out the back or in the front or even round the side of any premises and having missed her daily flaneur round the city, she sets out to see what or whom catches her eye.  But feeling in need of a stiff drink after her interrogation she finds a seat on the terrace of a café.  Sure the tables are a little charred and half the bar is missing but it’s business as usual.  As she sips a large brandy, she notices  a girl picking her way like an angry pigeon through snow sludge and chunks of masonry.  She is wearing a top dollar  fox fur coat but it doesn’t sit well with her,  this girl being  in no fit state to benefit from either its warmth or elegance. Yes, a very angry pigeon, Marlon thinks when she notices that the fur on one sleeve is horribly burnt, burnt black. A poem takes shape in her mind.  Damaged Stock

she’ll call it.

A red fox fur I saw the other week

Draped on a mannequin with a

Sharp jaw and sharper carmine lips

Dead animals the both of them

On display in the window of a department store

Screaming ‘Look at me’

For the respectable amongst us to

Conspicuously consume,

To feed our greed for privilege,

To nourish an illusion of some certainty

In our oh so fractured lives.


Fur and skin,

The skin of the fur stretched

Stretched tight, nailed,

Stretched and nailed down,

 Alive, wasn’t it?  Once.

Yet the red fox fur moves,

And  lives in the mind of   

Our angry little pigeon,

Sharp, hungry eyes and sharper carmine lips

Short-changed, short sighted

Aware she’s drawn the short straw

When she should have  won the prize.

Look at her, trying for all she’s worth,

To hide her disfigurement

That charred black sleeve,

That dead red fox fur

Who’s  more damaged now?

The fur coat or the wearer?

A soldier at a café table laughs

And throws a bottle at the angry little pigeon.  

Now Marlon, sensing she  might get a bottle thrown in her direction, and conscious of looking like a slag heap in our overcoat,   decides to move on.  Plus she’s dying for a pee and she’s not running the gauntlet of what this café has to offer.  She knows just the place.