Stone Soup by Paul Thain

PAPERBACK
DOWNLOAD

 

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author’s PRIOR consent



SLOWLY FADE UP the orange glow of an African dawn

Cicadas pulse in the rising heat

The Tree of Life - half-dead - dominates the Space

Beneath its branches, a thin cowled African Woman sleeps with her Baby

In the North, an imposing Set of Steps rises to meet a GRAND DOOR  

And in the South, there is a rusty SHACK, where a young African Man sits on a battered oil-drum

He notices the audience, stands and smiles

MAKOMO: Welcome. Welcome to our Village. You are all most welcome.  My name is Makomo and I am very pleased to meet you. I am to be your guide. The Village can be a very strange place, but with me, I promise you will be perfectly safe ... no,  no, please ... ssssh, ssssh ... please, that is too much. You see over there? That woman? She is trying to sleep so we must all be kind and be very, very quiet. 

He goes to the sleeping Woman, whispers …

MAKOMO: Her name is Hannah.  Her husband was killed in the war.  She has walked many mile with her baby looking for food.  But here there is none to be found.  For her, you know, life is hard, very hard.

MARTHA (off) Henry!

MAKOMO: Oh, dear…

MARTHA: (off) Henry!

MAKOMO: ... sounds like trouble.  Over there, that is where the rich live.  We can look, but we are not allowed to get too close.

He leads them North, towards the GRAND DOOR

As he edges closer, Tropical Effects cross-fade to those of the City and we find ourselves in the centre of angry traffic ...

A Siren approaches

An invisible Ambulance speeds past

In the distance, we hear a NEWSELLER ...

NEWSELLER: Man murders future! Read all about it!

MAKOMO: You see, my friends, the Village, it is full of contrast.

NEWSELLER: Man murders future!

MAKOMO: Contradiction.

NEWSELLER: Read all about it!

MAKOMO: The strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, they all -

MARTHA: (off) Henry !

The GRAND DOOR suddenly opens

HENRY NORTH - an English gentleman - sneaks out and escapes down the steps

NEWSELLER: Man murders future!  Read all about it!

HENRY sees MAKOMO, wags a finger

HENRY: Not a word, Makomo, not a word.

MARTHA: (off) Henry!

HENRY pushes through the Villagers

HENRY: ... out of my way, out of my way ...

MAKOMO: That was Mr North.  He is a very powerful and important man.

The GRAND DOOR opens again and MARTHA NORTH - an American - appears

MARTHA: Henry North !  You come back here right this minute! 

MAKOMO: And that is Mrs North.

MARTHA: Henry!

MAKOMO: A very powerful and important woman.

MARTHA: Where’s he gone?  Have any of you seen Henry?  Makomo, have you seen Henry ?

MAKOMO: Many times, Mrs North.

MARTHA: Don’t you fool with me.  Who are all these people? Have they permission?  What are they doing here?

MAKOMO: They are new to the Village. I am showing them how we live.

MARTHA: Is that right?  Now there’s a thing. Well, don’t you worry your pretty little heads, we live fine, just fine, and that’s the truth.  Have a nice day.

MAKOMO: Yes, a nice day, a new day.  Perhaps a new beginning, eh ?

The GRAND DOOR closes

MAKOMO: Or perhaps not.

MAKOMO turns away, goes South ...

Cicadas pulse in the heat

An Old Woman approaches, bent against her Staff, her open hand outstretched

SOPHIA: Please … I have travelled far, I would welcome a little kindness, a little food and water.

Charms hang from her head and dress – feathers, bone, twisted root, spangled glass

MAKOMO: Forgive me, I am sorry for your situation, but we are poor, we have nothing.

SOPHIA: Nothing ?

AHMED, an Arab approaches

AHMED: That’s right, woman - nothing. Can’t you see, we also are starving?

CAMILLA, a Jamaican approaches

CAMILLA: He’s right, darlin’ - we’d like to help, but there is nothing for you here.

DOREEN, a Londoner approaches

DOREEN: You heard, go on, push off.

SOPHIA: I travel from the stars to be with you and you ask me to leave ! Not even a Good Morning, How Are You?

DOREEN: You what?

AHMED: How can we give what we don’t have ?

DOREEN: The cheek of it!  Go on - scram !

CAMILLA: Please, darlin’, it is better you leave.

SOPHIA: Have you no pity? Are you all so wretched you would you see me starve ?

AHMED: We see so many starve, what is one more?
 
CAMILLA: These are dark days.

AHMED: Dangerous days.
 
CAMILLA: Days of plague and famine. 

AHMED: Rain burns.
 
CAMILLA: Fish choke.

AHMED: Rivers run to dust.
 
CAMILLA: Soon this will be a Village of ghosts. 

AHMED: Leave us. 
 
CAMILLA: Leave us while you still can.

SOPHIA: Look at me. All of you, look at me. Look into my eyes, into my mind. See into my mind and I promise I will feed your soul.

CAMILLA: Not me soul needs feedin’, darlin’, it is me belly.

SOPHIA: My dear, to feed one, you must feed both.

Using her Staff ...

SOPHIA: See how I draw the magic circle. So come, gather round, gather round and listen to my story. It begins when old Mother Earth takes on human form and visits the world of -

AHMED: This is no time for stories, woman, we must work.

SOPHIA: Work?  Work for what?  More Work? What are you? Man or beast?

AHMED: Don’t you meddle with me! 

SOPHIA: A donkey, perhaps? 

She uses her hands to make donkey-ears

SOPHIA: Hee-haw, hee-haw ... more work, more work!

The VILLAGERS laugh

AHMED: Silence !

The VILLAGERS fall silent

AHMED: I am warning you, I have influence.

SOPHIA: You threaten a harmless, old woman ?

AHMED: I have no time to waste with you.  Follow me, you stinking heaps.

The VILLAGERS begin to follow

SOPHIA: Go then. Go and rot. Rot in your cave of bone. Sit in that little cave behind your eyes and watch the world die. Hunger has hardened your miserable hearts, all I ask is a little food. Very well, so be it - I shall just have to make soup.

The VILLAGERS return ...

AHMED: Soup?  You can make soup and you dare beg from us ?

SOPHIA: Beg ?  I never beg ! I share ! 

DOREEN: ... share ?

SOPHIA: Always.

AHMED: Then share now. 

SOPHIA: What ?  Share with you ?

AHMED: You said you’d share. 

DOREEN: That’s right.

CAMILLA: We all heard you.

MAKOMO: We did. We did, didn’t we? 

SOPHIA: Very well, then I will share my soup. I share my soup with everyone.

CAMILLA: ... everyone ?

SOPHIA: Every last delicious drop.

AHMED: You can feed everyone ?

SOPHIA: Are you gone deaf?  Now close your silly mouths or instead you will be eating flies.

CAMILLA: Even the poor ? 

SOPHIA: Yes, the poor ! I even feed the poor ! Bring me a big enough pot and I promise I will feed the entire Village!  Well?  What are you waiting for?  How can I cook without a pot?

The VILLAGERS frantically search for their cooking pot

SOPHIA raises her Staff, incants ...

SOPHIA: A pot, a pot! I need a pot!  Bring me your cooking pot!

The Sky answers with a Crash of Thunder

CAMILLA returns with their Cooking Pot - the size of a football, cracked with a large chip in the lip

SOPHIA: And what am I supposed to do with that?

CAMILLA: It’s all we have.

SOPHIA: But it’s much too small to feed everyone.

CAMILLA: You think we don’t know that, darlin’?

SOPHIA: Stand back, all of you.

SOPHIA spins her Staff, points at ...

SOPHIA: Makomo, it is you!  I choose you!

MAKOMO: How do you know my name?

SOPHIA: I am Sophia. I know everything. Well?  Will you accept? Will you speak for your people?

A Crash of Thunder

MAKOMO: What must I do ?

Lights change

SOPHIA: Run, Makomo!  You must run!

A Great Wind rises

And MAKOMO runs

SOPHIA: Run North!  Follow the Star and run like the wind!

Fade Up a Sound Sequence illustrating his journey North

SOPHIA spins her Staff

SOPHIA: A pot, a pot!  I need a pot! A great, big cooking pot!

As if attached by an invisible thread, MAKOMO circles SOPHIA

SOPHIA: ... run ... run ... faster and faster ...

His running flows into slo-mo

We hear an ANCIENT JUNGLE

SOPHIA: Africa!  The true Eden! Cradle of humanity!

Sounds change from Jungle to City ...

SOPHIA: Run, Makomo, run!

FADE UP ANGRY TRAFFIC - punctuated with snatches of TV news, pop music, radio ads, ring-tones etc

NEWSELLER: Man Murders future! Read all about it!
SOPHIA: A pot, a pot!  I need a pot! A great, big cooking pot!

NEWSELLER: Man Murders future ! Read all about it !

A POLICE CAR screams passed

SOPHIA: Hear the hate, see the pain, feel the anger burn your brain.  Let the concrete pound your feet, so that soon we all can eat!

MAKOMO reaches the GRAND DOOR where he collapses, exhausted

A SUDDEN SILENCE

He stands, presses the Doorbell

DOOR-BELL: ... ding-dong ...

MAKOMO waits, panting

THE DOOR-BELL continues comically in the manner of Big Ben ...

DOOR-BELL: ... ding-dong, ding-dong ... ding-dong, ding-dong ... etc

Finally, HENRY opens the GRAND DOOR

HENRY: Makomo!  My dear fellow, what brings you to these parts?

MAKOMO: (breathless) ... a woman ... an old woman

HENRY: ... old woman ?

MAKOMO: She says –

HENRY: By rights, you know, you really shouldn’t be here.

MAKOMO: She says she can feed us all.

HENRY: Who does ?

MAKOMO: The old woman.

HENRY: What old woman?

MARTHA: (off) Henry!

HENRY: Oh, no ...

MARTHA: (off) Who is it?

HENRY: Just Makomo, darling.

MARTHA: (off) Makomo! How wonderful ! 

MARTHA appears

MARTHA: So nice of you to visit. And what have you brought us today, hm?

MAKOMO: Mrs North -

MARTHA: Something really, really scrumptious and tasty, I’ll bet.

MAKOMO: Mrs North -

MARTHA: You know, I could kill for a hamburger.

MAKOMO: Please, Mrs North -

MARTHA: Or a steak ...  a nice, tender, juicy -

MAKOMO: Mrs North, please ...

HENRY: Darling, this time he hasn’t brought food.

MARTHA: Hasn’t brought food?  Hasn’t brought - so what’s he doing here?

HENRY: Something about an old woman.

MAKOMO: She promises to feed everyone. Even the poor.

HENRY: ... the poor?  Feed the poor? Now there’s a thought.

MAKOMO: But for that to happen we need the giant cooking pot.

MARTHA: You mean our giant cooking pot ?

HENRY: There is only one, darling.

MARTHA: Darn right there is. And we have it and we’re keeping it.
 
MAKOMO: This time I was hoping we could share.

MARTHA: In your dreams – no way, Jose. 

MAKOMO: Mrs North, in my part of the Village people are starving.

HENRY: Yes, we, er ... we saw the pictures, on the ... on the television.

MAKOMO: Then you will see most of them are children.

MARTHA: Yes, we know, isn’t it awful? 

HENRY: ... yes ... yes, very sad ...

MARTHA: ... so sad ...

HENRY: ... tragic ... tragic, even ...

MARTHA: ... yes, tragic ... totally tragic ...

MAKOMO: So what will you do ?

HENRY: Do ?

MAKOMO: Yes, do.

MARTHA: Well we’d like to help, of course we would, only ...

MAKOMO: Only what?

MARTHA: Only ... only what, Henry ?

HENRY: Only we don’t have a magic wand.

MARTHA: Ah, right - no magic wand.  Hey, if we had a magic wand, we’d wave it in a minute.  But we haven’t.

HENRY: Fact is, Makomo, the world’s in a bit of a mess, things are hotting up, and as much as we’d like to help, it’s just not that simple. Of course we want to share the giant cooking pot, absolutely, no question, and one day no doubt we shall, one day justice will surely prevail.  But until then, like it or not, for good or ill, each and every one of us has to learn to live in the real world, the world of reality, of hard knocks and hard choices, difficult though that often is.

MARTHA: Well said, Henry.

HENRY: Thank you, darling.

MAKOMO: You say one day there will be justice?

HENRY: Absolutely.

MAKOMO: Then today. Why can that day of justice not be today?

HENRY: Today?

MAKOMO: Yes, today.

HENRY: Haven’t I just explained?

MAKOMO: No

HENRY: Well, for one thing, there’s your debt. I mean, Africa ... (tutting) ... frightful mess. You must owe us, what, billions.

MARTHA: Billions.

HENRY: Billions and billions.

MARTHA: Trillions, even.

HENRY: Trillions and trillions.

MAKOMO: But it is you who owe Africa.

MARTHA: Excuse me?

HENRY: No, no, quite the contrary. It’s all written down, you see ... facts, figures ... capital interest, compound interest, it’s all there, all accounted for.

MARTHA: All above board.

HENRY: All fair and square.

MAKOMO: That is not right.  That cannot be right. For hundreds of years your people steal my people. You force them to work long hours for all of their lives. You make them work and work until they die. And you never pay them. You never pay them wages. Not a penny, not a single cent. Tell me, Mr and Mrs North, how much is that worth? How many trillions and trillions?

Pause

HENRY: Goodness me is that the time ?  Tell you what -  why don’t Martha and I have one of our little talks, hm ? See what we can do. Thrash the whole thing out and get back to you, eh?  Soon. (closing the GRAND DOOR) Soon, I promise.

The GRAND DOOR closes

MAKOMO turns away, slowly walks down the Steps

And sits

MAKOMO: Then I will wait.

The GRAND DOOR slowly opens – HENRY appears

HENRY: Wait?

MAKOMO: (motionless) I will wait for as long as it takes.

HENRY: Wait? Wait where?

MAKOMO: Here.  I will wait here.

MARTHA: (from behind the Grand Door)  What’s he say?

HENRY: He says he’s going to wait.

MARTHA: (from behind the Grand Door)  Wait? Wait for what?

MAKOMO: Justice.  Tell her I am waiting for justice.

HENRY: He says he’s -

MARTHA: (appearing)  I heard.  Now listen up, Makomo, you can’t wait here.  I mean, what will the neighbours think ? 

MAKOMO: That is a good question.

MARTHA: But it’s cold.  It’s cold and you’ve no food, no water.

MAKOMO remains sitting motionless

MARTHA: Makomo ... Makomo, are you listening to me?

Pause

MARTHA: Henry, do something.

HENRY: Well I suppose we could always give him a blanket and a sandwich.

MARTHA: And what good will that do?

MAKOMO: I am not wanting charity, I am wanting justice.

MARTHA: But we’ve people coming.

Pause

MARTHA: Makomo ...

Pause

MARTHA: Makomo, please … be reasonable.  We’re expecting some very important people.  What are they going to think ?

MAKOMO: That is another good question.

MARTHA: Oh, I just knew this was going to be a terrible day.  And now ... now I have a migraine. 

HENRY: Perhaps if you were to have a lie-down ?

MARTHA: ... lie-down?  How can I possibly lie-down when all this is going on ?  Ok.  Ok, Makomo - you want a deal, let’s make a deal.

MARTHA goes in

After a pause

HENRY: Well then, I, er ... I suppose you’d better come in. 

MAKOMO stands, climbs the Steps

MAKOMO: Thank you.

MAKOMO stands on the top step, looks HENRY hard in the eye

MAKOMO: This has been a long time coming.

As MAKOMO enters

MARTHA: (off) Tell him to wipe his feet.

The GRAND DOOR closes

Lights change

AFRICAN DRUMS beat the good news from one part of the Village to the next

SOPHIA dances wildly, spinning her Staff as she scribes the magic circle

As the DRUMS reach Crescendo ...

MAKOMO, AHMED, CAMILLA & DOREEN enter with the GIANT COOKING POT

Great cheers from the VILLAGERS as they position the GIANT COOKING POT beside the ANCIENT TREE

SOPHIA examines it

SOPHIA: Well done, Makomo - this is a fine pot.  With such a pot I can feed us all.

MAKOMO: You had better be right. They bargain hard, all we have left is our children’s future.

SOPHIA: My soup, it is the food of the gods. With their blessing, your children will be giants.  But first we need fire. Quickly, quickly!  More wood, more wood! 

DOREEN & HANNAH approach, each carrying a bundle of twigs (hidden inside are cut-out Tongues of Flame)

DOREEN: ... all right, all right ...

SOPHIA: Bring me more wood !

HANNAH: Five miles there.

DOREEN: Five miles back.

As they encircle the GIANT COOKING POT with twigs

HANNAH: Ten miles of hot sand.

DOREEN: Each day further and further.

HANNAH: Each day less and less.

SOPHIA: More wood, more wood ! 

DOREEN: Give it a rest, it don’t grow on trees.

HANNAH: Not anymore.

As they add the cardboard TONGUES OF FLAME, SOPHIA stirs the GIANT COOKING POT, and incants ...

SOPHIA: Feed the flames, feast the fire! Let my soup serve your desire! Burn! Burn! Hotter than hell!  Pray my soup will have a smell!

SOPHIA: It is an ancient recipe – fire, water, earth and air!

DOREEN: Earth?

AHMED: Earth?

SOPHIA: Ah! How stupid of me!  I forget the earth, I use no earth!

DOREEN: You use earth?

SOPHIA: How can even I make stone soup without earth?

CAMILLA: What soup ?

SOPHIA: Stone soup.

DOREEN: What did she say?

HANNAH: Stone soup?

SOPHIA: My favourite.

[end of extract]


PAPERBACK
DOWNLOAD