It is always wise to be cautious when dealing with the theatrical profession, especially if it you find yourself involved with agents or impresarios. I find that compared to them, even poets become persons of solid worth and unshakeable integrity.
As a cautionary tale I shall relate the story of Elsa and Mattan. They were children who lived in a village some distance south of Port Naain. Indeed their village was nearer to Avitas, which was considered their local centre.
These two young people could be categorised as ‘childhood sweethearts’ and there was an assumption in the small farming community where they lived that once they had reached their mid-teens they would marry and settle down to a lifetime of backbreaking toil.
Whilst neither raised much objection to the first half of the prospect, the second half didn’t appeal and when Markle the Mummer arrived in their village, the children joined the crowd that was thronging around his wagon.
Markle did some tricks, had a couple of his team do a few scenes from various plays, staged a slapstick harlequinade and had the hat passed round.
Also, he passed out a few handbills printed badly on cheap paper, stating he was recruiting keen young players for a summer season in Avitas. To Elsa and Mattan this sounded more interesting that another year of farm work.
So, when Markle and his troop moved on, the two youngsters slipped away from home, caught up with the troop and enquired about joining. Markle swept them into his private wagon, past the massive guard dog Fang who was locked in a cage by the door and explained his plans. He insisted on paying them.
They were warned to keep within the circle of the camp at night because Fang was allowed to roam free, but they were assured he wouldn’t attack anybody within the circle. They were two days away from Avitas when Markle handed the young pair a script and left them to peruse it. They sat quietly together and read it.
Elsa pointed to the title, “The beast man and the maiden. A performance for discerning gentlemen. It doesn’t seem to be high art.”
Mattan pointed to a section half way down the second page. “Is it actually possible to do that?”
Elsa pondered it. “Surely not when standing up in a hammock.”
They had just finished reading when Markle appeared with two bundles. “Your costumes; put them on and you can wear them as we make our way to Avitas. It’ll help with the publicity.”
Elsa put her garment on and was left wondering whether she was actually wearing anything. The term diaphanous might have been coined with this dress in mind. Mattan in comparison was left with a piece of hide to tie round his waist and a shirt of coarse material.
They read the script through a second time and Elsa admitted to being no more convinced as to its practicality, especially the scene with the donkey, the wash basket and the leeks. Indeed, she suspected her mother would not approve and her father would have been tempted to take a horse whip to anybody suggesting such a thing.
Mattan agreed and quietly they pondered whether now might well be the time to resign from the troop. They decided that rather than causing a scene, they would just slip away that night. In this they were helped by the fact that after Fang had been released, Markle unostentatiously went to the wagon of a female cast member, and judging by the way the wagon rocked and shook they were practicing some particularly complex and vigorous performance.
Elsa suggested that, as Markle was not in his wagon, and Fang was not guarding the door, they should creep in and retrieve their contracts.
Unfortunately, the wooden box Markle kept them in was locked. Mattan decided that they would take the box with them and open it when they got an opportunity. After helping themselves to some bread, an orid shank which still had some meat on it, and a bottle for carrying water, they left.
By sticking to the road they made good time, but perhaps two hours after they left they heard a savage howling behind them. It seems that their escape had been discovered and Fang had been set on their trail.
Frantically they looked for somewhere to hide, but the great beast was soon within sight. Mattan helped Elsa up a tree and when Fang appeared, stood with his back to the tree and waited for the attack. The hound approached him, snarling, and Mattan held out in front of him the orid shank.
We’re on tour again, so to read the rest of the story go to