Away In A Sand Dune (AKA Jesus vs. Cannibals)Harley Byrne / Humor
Away In A Sand Dune
(AKA Jesus vs. Cannibals)
Copyright 2013 Harley Byrne
A script for the stage
Adapted by Graeme Cole
from the unfound memoirs of Harley Byrne.
Cover design by Elly Strigner
Harley Byrne, 35, wears the pale blue shirt and khaki shorts of the postal service, a beard, and an elaborate utility belt which holds the Universal Ear. The little finger on his right hand is missing; a prosthetic digit is covered by a leather finglet.
Barnard Barnard, a portly American.
Nadia Barnard, his teenage daughter.
Susan Batt, a woman of middle age and not too tall.
Jonathan, a man of middle age. He wears the basic postal service uniform – and a grass skirt on top.
Jesus Christ/Being, the latter being disguised as the former, reborn as a male native. Grass skirt and topless, her breasts bound down.
Hiwa, a lady native.
An unnamed and short-lived native.
Plus the illusion of many other natives.
UNIVERSAL EAR is a perpetual adventure series concerning Harley Byrne’s attempts to record and make available for download all the world’s music, ever. This stage play forms a single standalone episode.
The Universal Ear is a recording device shaped like a loudhailer but with all sorts of esoteric cables and dials attached.
For more on UNIVERSAL EAR, visit alltheworldsmusicever.com
A dark and stormy night. A single-engined aeroplane splutters through the air before crashing into some trees and exploding.
Darkness. The sounds of four screaming bodies whooshing through the air end abruptly, one at a time.
A torch flashes on and off, on and off. The bearer adjusts the setting so that it shines continuously.
The light comes from HARLEY BYRNE’s Universal Ear device. The Ear has a flashlight function.
Four humans hang from the branches of tall tropical trees by the strength of their parachutes: HARLEY BYRNE, BARNARD BARNARD, NADIA BARNARD and, of course, SUSAN BATT.
BYRNE shines the light on BARNARD. Throughout the scene, he shines the light on whoever is speaking, including himself.
BYRNE. What were we talking about?
BARNARD. I forget. I think you’d finished. Can you see if my daughter’s here?
BYRNE shines the light on a body hanging from the next tree. It is SUSAN BATT.
BATT. Hello. My name’s Susan Batt. I think we were on the same flight.
BYRNE shines the light on the final body. It is NADIA BARNARD.
BYRNE. Your father is dead.
BARNARD. Wait! That’s my girl.
BYRNE. Your father is alive. But your luggage is lost.
BARNARD. Nadia! I’ve asked you not to swear in front of strangers.
BYRNE. We’re not strangers any more. We’re forever bound by the – bond of shared trauma. We will remain brothers and sisters of this tragedy until the day we die. My name is Harley Byrne. My ongoing mission is to record and make available for download all the world’s music, ever. My efforts are frequently hindered by my arch-enemy, BEING!, mysterious mistress of disguise. But this – this was supposed to be a holiday.
BARNARD holds his hand out. BYRNE cannot reach to shake it.
BARNARD. Barnard Barnard. Businessman.
NADIA. Nadia Barnard. Teenager.
BATT. My name’s Susan Batt.
BYRNE. Pleased to meet you, Miss Batt.
BATT. It’s nothing.
BYRNE. Thank you. So. Here we are, lost in the jungle. And somewhere out there, an escaped convict lurks, waiting to murder again.
BARNARD. The chap on the plane in the cuffs? You needn’t worry about him, his head came clear off when that first branch ripped through the fuselage.
NADIA. That was cool.
BARNARD. Everything’s “cool”.
NADIA. Ugh. You don’t get me.
BARNARD. No. And I don’t suppose I ever will.
BYRNE. Well, it’s brilliant news about the murderer. But what can we do for food?
BARNARD. I have a single bar of chocolate. We could ration it out.
BYRNE. What sort of chocolate is it?
BARNARD. I think it’s white chocolate.
BARNARD. Susan Batt, would you like a piece of chocolate?
BATT. I‘m allergic.
BARNARD struggles with the wrapper, then accidentally drops the chocolate, which lands in the jungle below.
BYRNE. What was that?
NADIA. Is anyone else thirsty? I’m really thirsty.
The others all “yeah” or “mm” in agreement.
A silence follows.
BARNARD. So Byrne, what’s the form? I get the impression you’ve been stuck in a tree or two in your time. Will we be rescued, or what?
BYRNE. Often it is a case of being rescued, yes. On occasion I’ve managed to turn a natural disaster to my advantage. And more than once, I’ve used monkeys.
BARNARD. No monkeys here.
BATT. And two days before Christmas.
BARNARD. I hear that, sister.
BYRNE. I don’t see the connection?
BATT. No connection.
The rain gets louder.
NADIA. It’s so shitting rainy.
BARNARD. Nadia! Why does everything have to be “shit”? Or “cool”?
BYRNE: It is a tropical storm. The most exotic of the storm types.
NADIA. Oh, a storm. I thought the sky was broken.
BYRNE. I don’t know if that’s possible.
BATT. Listen, I’ve had an idea. Why don’t we tell Christmas stories to help pass the time until we’re rescued or die?
BATT. I’ll start. So: I once had this terrific hat and – oh, I forgot to say, it was a Christmas hat, that’s important, it had deers on it –
BYRNE. Actually, I have a few Christmas stories which are already well structured, on account of my having written my memoirs.
BYRNE. In fact, what might be nice, is if I start with a story of Christmas past, of Christmas present, and of Christmas future.
BARNARD. Really? Three stories?
BYRNE. I’m a time-traveller you see.
BARNARD. Oh yes. With the recording-the-music-thing.
BYRNE. All the world’s music, ever.
NADIA. We already know Christmas present. This is it. It’s shit.
BARNARD. Don’t go in for stories about the past. It’s all a bit like British TV. You know. Horses. And maids.
BATT. The future terrifies me. Who knows what it holds?
BYRNE. I do. I’ll start with a story about the future.
BARNARD. How about a sports story? Christ, I miss sports.
BYRNE. The future. About eight hours from now-
NADIA. That’s the present.
BYRNE. Not yet it’s not. Eight hours from now, the survivors of a terrible plane crash wake up on a beach.
BARNARD. We get down? How?
BYRNE. It is explained to them in a story. Please, no more interruptions. I have difficulty concentrating.
BATT. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear it.
BYRNE. Eight hours from now, the survivors of a terrible plane crash wake up on a beach, the ocean lapping at their toes like an enormous, toothless dog…
The lights go up as in a sunrise. The actors discreetly remove themselves from the trees and lay on the beach.
The air is clear following the previous night’s storm. (If clear air can’t be found, smoky air will do).
A caption is lowered in front of them. It says: SOMEWHERE POLYNESIAN. The caption is drawn back up to the rafters.
A second caption is lowered. This one reads: CHRISTMAS EVE, 2012 A.D. It rises back over the treetops.
The sound of waves on the shore. Water washes over BYRNE’s toes. He wakes with a scream, as if from a nightmare.
The scream wakes BARNARD. He opens his eyes and sees BYRNE. He closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep again, but BYRNE has noticed and shakes him by the shoulders.
As BARNARD sits up, BYRNE surveys their surroundings with distaste.
BYRNE. A beautiful day.
BARNARD. A beautiful day – to be alive. I don’t remember: how did we get down from the trees?
BYRNE. I – I don’t recall.
BARNARD (recorded voiceover). You said the story would tell us how we get down from here.
BYRNE (recorded voiceover). Let me tell it my way, yes? Barnard?
BARNARD (on beach). Strange. Still, I’m sure it will be explained in time, if I’m patient.
BYRNE stands and peers around.
Let’s explore the island.
They walk around the stage. BYRNE despondently picks up the odd twig or rare flower.
BARNARD pokes at the sleeping women.
BARNARD. The women are alive!
BYRNE. Good. Let them sleep.
BARNARD. Why so glum, Harley Byrne?
BYRNE. I miss Manchester.
BARNARD. That hellhole?
BYRNE. Badmouth my home town again and I’ll strike you. You’ve been warned.
BARNARD. Pardon me, sir. I found it a little – abrasive is all.
BYRNE. Yes… so abrasive. I’ve grown weary of these insipid paradises I keep finding myself in. Where’s the struggle? Where’s the danger?
BARNARD. Come on Harley Byrne, look around you. Why, there’s a poisonous snake – that slippery character could kill any one of us at a moment’s notice. On the horizon – a tornado which, if it continues on its present course, could pick us up like dolls and