On the pagan festival of the solstice, Judas and Eve watch the world below them and try to forgive themselves and each other.
'Solstice' was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company as a respose to Katie Mitchell's production of the York Mysteries in Stratford. Anthony Neilson and Aiden Healey also wrote companion pieces.Two things struck me about Edward Kemp's 'Mysteries' text. One was the denial of hell (and the translation of the concept of heaven into paradise/ the garden). The other was the way Judas and Eve are both condemned by predestination. They are effectively scapegoated. So after death these two characters would have nowhere to go and would feel pretty aggrieved, I thought.
'Solstice' was performed on the summer solstice in 1997 at The Other Place, directed by Myra McFadyen.
Duration: 30 minutes.
[Judas addresses the audience, as at a rally. He is dressed miss-matched army fatigues.]
JUDAS -It's true I tell you. It's all true. Look at me. I know it. I live it. There is a hell. It's not in here (hits his head) it's real. Punishment. One God. One immense God. We are God's people. His Nation. Why won't you believe it? Listen! You are dust. Screaming dust. Why aren't you afraid? Let me in!
[He turns and runs at the gates. He beats the gates, then clutches his throat, breathes the pain away. There are distant drums.]
EVE -Mud. Mud. Blood beat in head. Mud. Blood beat in belly. Mud. Between toes. Clods of the ploughed field. Rain heavy as clay. Legs are strong: always walking. Arms are strong: always carrying. Will is strong: not strong enough. But I turn this mud to corn this blood to life. Magic. Miracle. In a hard winter land. Drink the rain. I am a bird, a fish, a worm, a spark. Mud. Blood beat in head. Mud. Blood beat in belly. Mud. Blood. Getting stronger with the sun.
[She starts to dance to the drum, smiling.]
JUDAS -What are you doing?
EVE -Look! Them.
[She makes him look. They watch distant figures in their Solstice celebrations. He pulls away.]
JUDAS -Stop it.
JUDAS -Stop it.
EVE -Three fires lit. One: bone fire. Two: wake fire.
JUDAS -It is evil.
EVE -Three: Saint's fire. Beautiful. Dancing, laughing, singing.
JUDAS -Drinking, fighting.
JUDAS -Fucking like beasts.
EVE -Don't watch them. Watch the others. Joy.
[She is still dancing. She tries to make him dance. He won't.]
EVE -(Sings.) "I danced in the morning when the world was begun,/ I danced with the moon and the stars and the sun".
JUDAS -Shut up.
EVE -(Sings.)"I danced in the evening when the sky turned black"... I can't remember all the words.
[Eve dances and claps. She is trying to provoke him.]
JUDAS -Don't be a child.
EVE -I never was a child. If you won't dance, look. Solstice fires. Sun fires. Celebrating creation in climax, every leaf stretching. Wheat drinking heat. The pause between sowing and harvest; everything driven to live. Shadows shrill with birdsong. Songs shouting 'I'm here, I'm alive'. Humans feel it too. Solstice: the stopped sun moves on. A special night.
JUDAS -One night in a year of work.
EVE -And more precious for it.
JUDAS -You would say that. Go and join them then, your dirty pagans.
EVE -I want to.
JUDAS -You never learn do you?
EVE -Ha! Well put.
JUDAS -Well it's not going to help, is it?
EVE -So? (Pause). Where have you been?
JUDAS -Nowhere. Obviously.
JUDAS -How can you be so calm? You just sit there day after day. Not angry, not sad. Just accepting it all. You sit like a field sits. It's unbearable.
EVE -What else can we do?
Eve (Josette Bushell-Mingo) in the RSC production
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