8 november 2010.
the last time i worked with Erik James, who plays Little John in this production, was on a fantastic play called The Lesser Magoo by Mac Wellman (this being part IV of the Crowtet, which defunkt theatre produced over four consecutive seasons). The Lesser Magoo was directed by Sarah Jane Hardy (director of Robin Hood). it’s a progressively bizarre script that reaches one of its highlights in a four page monologue Senator Candle Prosper (Erik’s character). you can read the original here (the whole play is well worth reading; the monologue in question starts on page 53).
Erik sent me an email after having read an early draft of Robin Hood and asked if Little John would also have a four page monologue. and i, always up for a little fun, took it upon myself to re-tool Senator Prosper’s speech into an introduction of Little John, which i jokingly sent to Sarah Jane and Erik as a scene for him to start memorizing. i enjoyed it so much that i have to share it here, which i do with the very kind permission of Mac Wellman (thank you, sir).
so here’s what this playwright does for fun:
[the contents of Little John’s monologue are liberally sampled from Senator Prosper’s monologue in Mac Wellman’s The Lesser Magoo]
The Kid and Little John are left alone at the campfire. They’re a little awkward. Little John may have had too much to drink.
so, how did you join Robin Hood’s Merry Band? i know it’s getting late.
Yes, yes, yes. Soon it will be dark. But without
a steady supply of candles one can do nothing. I always
wanted a true conversation with the English people.
But things have changed. What with the rough new
crowd in Nottingham. I grew up with certain ideas
about … well … civility, and how far one is …
or ought to be prepared to go. And now I’m tired of
it all. I’m just plain tired. Tired of having to
explain over and over again the difference … the
difference between right and wrong, truth and lies.
King Henry II was right: he told me, if you don’t
spend full time stonewalling the Irish they’ll
just roll over you. That’s a free paraphrase.
I dunno. And yes, I know, I know. This all sounds
so old and … hopelessly feudal. So old hat.
Scratches his head.
But the Sheriff and his men are the least of it now.
Tax this. Tax that. Why can’t the
people perceive that all this tax hebephrenia
is just a cover for the bigger grab? So much money amassed,
and amassed in a way that shall … that shall bury the
common man, whoever that may be, under a fecal tideflow
of dead, little dead-end dreams. Little, dead
dreams. Nightmares, in fact. With real bats in the
net of the church belfry, ugh. Hebephrenia’s a big word, I
know; means the foolish kind of crazy. Delusional.
Politically nutters. All of us, plopped in the
chamberpot of … political enfeeblement and, and Holy
Roman misrepresentation, sheer moral equivocation.
Mendacity. Drastic mendacity. Drastic enfeeblement.
My record on the important topics speaks
for itself. I knew when Henry’s bunch
murdered Becket that all was lost. Only London Bridge-
rebuilding Augustinian pilgramages after that.
Saddled with do-gooder rhetoric, but fundamentally
unmoored. No real agenda any more. We defanged
ourselves, you see. But I’m told the young are
tired of politics anyway, so what’s the use? As
if you could make “politics” go away by hiding in
Sherwood Forest. A little lying is just so damn tempting, so
you give in, and the villages fall apart, there’re
revolts, because something like three thousand pounds
has gone and been dumped into that filthy abattoir,
the Crusades. At least I was firm on that. No one ever
accused me of waffling on that. Ditto for Alnwick.
So now our schools are shot, and everyone moves to
Muddy villages where no one gives a damn about education
or Crusades or crop rotations. Hell, I was for the
Treaty of Windsor (or something just like it) before the
Normans arrived; I told Bill Adelin to ladle it in
months before the White Ship Disaster.
Still no one apparently can READ and the Saxons can
reproduce faster than a speeding rabbit. Henry I and
Henry II were my god-children, only, only no one cares
about line of succession anymore. Henry I and Henry II:
who remembers them? But they should. I wouldn’t want
to live downwind of Westminster Abbey. Poor Adelin,
the poor … dope.
Hell, I was never in politics to be loved. Not to be
loved, precisely; no. But, hell, it gets to you. I
mean how for instance no one in the peasant class
ever bothers to say a simple “thank you”. And I’ve
always supported peasant rights; see, I’m wearing
one of these little, anti-Leprosy ribbons. No one forced
me. No, no one forced me.
Hell, a man of principle doesn’t do the right thing
because he expects to be loved, and I’d have gone
after that kook William I at every juncture,
but, I don’t know, I don’t know.
I know some things about Empress Matilda that would make
you truly wonder what it takes. Yes, there is, I am
coming to believe, a fundamental disconnect between
the means of power and the exercise of power. Real,
political power and I am … certain …
… that, well, things will turn around, and anyway
I never gave those really fabulous speeches, speeches
like the kind Eustace…. And he has … in a sense
died, also; I mean, he’s dead and I’ve resigned.
Eustace bumps. And Emperor Henry V. But, hey, he was
a worm before the Concordat of Worms.
Still: Henry bumps. William I bumps. And now
John Little bumps, bumps, bumps.
Do you suppose they’ll miss me when I’m gone? Don’t
get me wrong, one of my kids is working with Stephen
Langton; I mean, I stood for something … in my time …
Langton, that ass.
You know what so mattered, and what has
so totally eluded everyone in what
used to be called “the Barons”, is not fighting
the good fight, but fighting the good fight on
a ground of our own choosing. Because I
I don’t want only to fight the good fight
I want to win. But But
It is them, the other side, who now
determine the agenda: crime (yawn),
taxes, mud removal, and so on. All
down the line. All non issues because
they all amount to grotesque versions
of real, desperately real issues.
Issues that have been redescribed by those
who wish to do nothing whatsoever
about their true causes: poverty,
a criminal redistribution of wealth
vertically, up the social hierarchy,
more poverty and extremely rainy
conditions in England. That’s it.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
So I’ve had enough.
And so I’m abdicating. People want
royalty, let’em have royalty.
I’m with Eustace and Emperor Henry V.
Maybe if people get a real taste of what
Prince John has in store for them.
A gesture of futility.
Want to hear something funny?
Whips out a bit of scroll.
These are King Richard’s remarks in
Westminster just before the coronation, the
largest crowd at a coronation:
2,000 strong. His opening remarks
as transcribed by the Feudal News Service:
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you
very much. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you! Thank you
very much. Thank you. Hello, Westminster!
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank
You. Thank you so much. Wow. Thank
Kinda says it all, doesn’t it?
He bows a courtly bow.
The Kid looks dazed.
Little John snorts and exits.