The storm

(Les Histrions (détail))

HISTRIONS. Do you hear that? Do you hear the rain, the rumbling storm, the lightning?
CHILD. Aren’t you lot scared of getting struck?
HISTRIONS. Do you hear the rain lashing the theatre?
BIRD WOMAN. That’s the deluge outside, ladies and gentlemen. The apocalypse. Catastrophe.
HISTRIONS. Do you hear the noise of the world? Do you hear the noise of society’s lowest depths?
BIRD WOMAN. They’re coming.
HISTRIONS. They’re coming down from the hills of the city.
Listen how they strike. The vermin.
How they strike. The mendicants.
How they strike. The army of bandits.
Assassins.
Wretches.
How they strike.
Do you hear them?
BIRD WOMAN. They’re coming.
HISTRIONS. The anger of the people is mounting.
BIRD WOMAN. They’re coming.
HISTRIONS. And the blades of their knives shine like false teeth.
BIRD WOMAN. They’re coming.
HISTRIONS. I can hear their weapons clinking.
The dull thud of their steps.
BIRD WOMAN. They’re coming.
HISTRIONS. They’re going to rip out  your livers, madam.
They’re going to tear you right through, the way lightning splits the trunk of a fir tree and you’re  going to fall into two halves, madam.
They’re going to slice you down the middle, and feast on your heart of gold. They’re going to resell your heart of gold, madam, you know they’re traffickers.
PRACTICAL MAN. At that point, the theatre doors could begin to tremble, and the army of mendicants would come and terrorise the old woman in the front row.
OLD WOMAN. Stop that.
PRACTICAL MAN. Yes, the old woman could get up on her seat, lift her heel and enucleate a poor man. It’d be a sort of new class war. An extraordinary combat—savage. Athletic. And the couple would roll across the theatre. And the house would start to smell sweetly of the arena. And sweat would start sticking to their hair, their clothes, would start making everything transparent, our combatants would be completely naked, and the hysterical crowd would start encouraging the wrestlers, yes, choosing their side, yes, the unbridled crowd would start screaming insanely. The feverish, overexcited crowd, seized by a voyeuristic drive, would start screaming “Get your tits out, grandma, show us your arse”, dreadful things like that. The uncontrollable crowd would be gripped by a violent access of vulgarity. And then the old woman, stirred up by her fans, by the whistles, by the booing, intoxicated with the stink of the poor man’s sweat, took up the challenge. Yes—crouching down over the poor man, she started unbuttoning, one by one and with great dexterity, the thousand pearl buttons keeping her flannel shirt on. Then, with an innate sense of show business, she made her little blouse billow, then sent it waltzing into the delirious crowd who began at once to finger it, to inhale its scent, yes, as if it were a relic. Then she continued her striptease, galvanised by the bursts of applause, yes, she removed her secretary suit, her girdles, her suspenders. Then she exposed her long, streamlined thighs, her athlete’s thighs, and it satisfied her to expose herself like this, never had she known such intensity. And the poor man at once fell passionately in love with her. They began caressing each other right before the very eyes of the dumbfounded crowd, and everybody fell silent, for they weren’t too sure what to say faced with such an anomaly. Then, as often happens, apparently, at moments of great upheaval—cataclysms, earthquakes—everyone was seized by a sudden irrational desire to perpetuate the species absolutely immediately, there and then. It was a compulsive, incandescent desire: they began to pounce on one another, climbing around over each other losing all notion of dignity, of aestheticism, of elegance, and they began copulating indiscriminately like beasts; yes, and thus did we see an unbelievable orgy in the theatre. And the women got too hot.
OLD WOMEN’S CHOIR. I’m hot are you not hot are you not I’m suddenly hot I’m so hot.
PRACTICAL MAN. And that evening, everyone forgot their trifling differences, and all their trifling quarrels were swept away by a mad wind, a sexual tornado. Yes, some people had their debts swept away, others their grief and sorrow. And the judge’s wife was straddled by a Negro, a Haitian, she couldn’t get over it, my God it was good—yes, the women let their heads fall back, they shut their eyes. No, there was no longer really any question of social hierarchy, of trials, of corruption. And men thought they were Dionysus. They brandished their thyrsi, they shook their tresses of ivy. And from this savage, improbable union, came forth the men of Earth.
HISTRIONS. That’s us.
It’s still us.
Sons of the dust of the arena and the theatre.
Sons of mendicants’ rags and the gold of the well-to-do.
Eternally hybrid.
Thirsting for recognition.
Natural sons.
Bastards.
PRACTICAL MAN. And afterwards—naturally—everyone tidied themselves up in deathly silence. Yes, for everybody was ashamed at having abandoned themselves to such bestiality. Everybody was sickened, and the ladies never wanted to go to the theatre again, and everybody hated themselves, and so remained we there in a heap. In a mass grave, screaming under the spotlights. And there we did survive, just to tell you this story.
SECATEUR MAN. Fine. We should sweep the stage now. Clean the boards.
OLD WOMEN’S CHOIR. What a crisis. My God, what a crisis.