Libretto

THE MAN WHO MARRIED HIMSELF.

Libretto by Anna Chatterton

Commissioned by Toronto Masque Theatre with funds from The Toronto Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts & The Ontario Arts Council

Final Version: January 2017

Inspired by the Karnataka folktale, The Prince Who Married His Own Left Side (A Flowering Tree, ed. A.K. Ramanujan)

 

Characters

The Prince — counter-tenor

The Newborn Woman — Carnatic/jazz vocalist

The Lover — improvising jazz vocalist

 

The Story

PRINCE: The admired, pursued and proud Prince says:

Married people want everyone settled.

Nudge and nose me towards a wife.

But you can’t control a woman

Can’t keep them in line

So, this and only this is how I will marry:

PRINCE AND NEWBORN WOMAN: Split my body in two

Bury my left half in flowers

Blood and bone in earth

Will birth a woman

 

Dance of the NEWBORN WOMAN being born.

 

PRINCE: The Prince looks at his Newborn Wife and coos:

She’s perfect, such beauty

Same bright eyes, locks like mine that curl like shells

She has my round cheeks, satin neck,

rosebud lips, jasmine teeth

Same bright eyes, locks like mine that curl like shells

She has my round cheeks, satin neck,

rosebud lips, jasmine teeth

Young mango leaf wife

When I look into your petal eyes, I am home.

NEWBORN WOMAN:

eyes curl

eyes neck

lips teeth teeth!

eyes!

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: Eyes like you,

Teeth like you,

You, you, you!

 

PRINCE: The Prince says to his pretty wife, so pink and sweet:

Oh my pretty wife, you are my soft sugar, my pink, my sweet.

Let’s curl up in your penthouse suite

I bought it just for you. High in the sky, a view of the world

Yet safe and serene.

 

NEWBORN WOMAN

Soft? Sweet? Safe? Sweet? Soft? Sweet? Safe?

I want to fight,

Bite this town to the core,

Bite and fight this town to the core.

 

PRINCE: The Prince pastes on a smile, breathes deep, then says:

Impossible. Too polluted, seedy.

You who grew from flowers — my hidden half

Fragrant skin, petal eyes, sweet breath,

You would be plucked and trashed

Your rosy glow tarnished.

You must be protected

Twenty-four hour security to guard my sweetest self

Wall to wall windows and plush carpets

Where you can rest and bloom.

(He puts an ankle bracelet on her)

A bracelet for your lovely ankle —

Wear it and dream of me.

The PRINCE leaves.

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: What the newborn woman says:

Blast it.

This is just as lonesome and cramped as before.

My elbows in the cupboards

Toes curbed and cornered

Ceiling crowning my head

Nose pressed to the window

Eyes click, blink, scratch the glass,

Other half where oh where is my other half?

A lion is a lion be it female or male.

A lion is a lion is a lion is a lion…

A lion, a lion.

Who is that?

 

LOVER looking up at NEWBORN WOMAN, who is looking down at him.

 

LOVER: My heart is caught in her dark eyes

Black as laurel branches

Hair flowing as honey

How many floors, how many windows between us

And our arms’ embrace?

NEWBORN WOMAN: Moonlight man

I thought I was made for another, but

I want to lay garlands on your chest

Climb the tiger claw trees

And find my tiny flower heart

Beating for you.

 

LOVER & NEWBORN WOMAN: So the Lover sends an Old Woman

With a garland of blue flowers.

NEWBORN WOMAN: What does the Newborn Woman do?

LOVER & NEWBORN WOMAN: Smack! Cloud of vermilion on the Old Woman’s cheek.

LOVER: The Old Woman weeps, tears on her vermillion cheek.

I tell her: it is nothing.

The Newborn Woman’s slap says wait, for she is stained with red blood.

NEWBORN WOMAN: She is stained with red blood.

NEWBORN WOMAN & LOVER: The Lover sends the Old Woman back with a second garland

What does the Newborn Woman do?:

Slap! White lime hands upon her breasts.

LOVER: The Old Woman weeps, tears on her white cheek.

The Lover says: Shush your sobs.

Don’t worry. She is telling me it’s full-moon time.

NEWBORN WOMAN: full-moon time.

NEWBORN WOMAN & LOVER: So the Lover sends the Old Woman back with a third garland.

LOVER: What does the Newborn Woman do?:

NEWBORN WOMAN: Whack! Black ink hands upon her ass.

LOVER: The Lover comforts the Old Woman. He says:

Wipe your tears and read these signs right.

She is telling me to visit on a dark new-moon night.

NEWBORN WOMAN: dark new-moon night.

 

The LOVER and the NEWBORN WOMAN meet.

 

LOVER & NEWBORN WOMAN: Black ink night

Black soil, black earth

New moon kiss

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: What the Newborn Woman says to her lover:

Disguise yourself my love

Steal my nights and days

Snake into my pockets

Snake, snake, curl into my curves.

LOVER: I will slither up the drainpipes,

Slip into your arms

Snake into your pockets

Snake, snake, coil into your curves.

 

LOVER & WOMAN: Snake, snake….

 

PRINCE: Snake, snake!

Guard! Guard! Attack!

Lasso it, trap it, Snap its neck.

The brave Prince says to his wife:

I saw a snake sneaking into your sacred space

So I swiftly slayed it and hurled the remains in the streets.

What my wife says:

DEAD LOVER: What the dead lover says:

 

DEAD LOVER & NEWBORN WOMAN: Ayyo, ayyo, ayyo! Dark dark day.

NEWBORN WOMAN: Tremble, shudder, shake, quake

Almost, could have, so close- can’t-

Oh I can’t, oh I can’t, oh I can’t…

 

PRINCE: What the Prince says:

Scaredy cat!

You are beating your breast blue.

Do not worry — the snake is dead, gray, still, cold.

DEAD LOVER: Alone, alone, dead, gray, still, cold.

 

DEAD LOVER: Dead, gray, cold, dead, gray, cold, (continues)

NEWBORN WOMAN: Ayyo, ayyo, ayyo!

Why eat when he cannot taste?

Why sleep if he will never wake?

Rain on my cheeks,

Drown me to my death.

The Newborn Woman says to the concierge:

Find my lover’s body and I will pay you one.

Burn him into powder proper and I will pay you two.

Place him in a talisman and I will pay you three.

I will wear him always on my breast.

 

Dance of the NEWBORN WOMAN with her LOVER’s ashes.

 

CHORUS: The Prince is back, the Prince is back….

PRINCE: The Prince is back, lines snaking across his moon-like brow,

Heart thudding in his strong chest.

He says to his young wife:

Why are you thinner than the steel wires that stretch across the sky?

Why are you paler than ash?

I command you to speak,

I command you to…

Sit on my lap and whisper in my ear.

 

DEAD LOVER, WOMAN & PRINCE: This is what she says:

 

NEWBORN WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: What else can I/she do?

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: You keep me here,

Here in the clouds,

Only visiting on full moon or new moon days.

 

NEWBORN WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: How can my/her heart be strong? How?

 

PRINCE: The Prince’s heart is galloping,

He feels too hot, then too chilled,

He swallows the lump in his throat,

Grips her too tight and cries:

Then I’ll stay here, 

My eyes holding yours

As sun fades into moon.

My breath, your breath.

Locked in my arms while you sleep. 

I will watch over all your dreams.  

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: The Newborn Woman cannot breathe,

She shakes free from the crush of his embrace and gasps:

I’ll tell you a riddle, I’ll tell you a riddle.

If you answer, I’ll fling myself out the window.

If you cannot answer, you must hurl yourself out the window.

Either agree or let’s quit.

 

WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: This is what the crazy prince says:

 

PRINCE: Agreed, agreed, agreed.

 

DEAD LOVER: Now here comes the riddle, the riddle.

This is what the Newborn Woman says:

 

WOMAN: One for seeing,

Two for powder,

Three for wearing it round my neck.

A husband on the thigh,

A lover on my breast.

A husband on the thigh,

A lover on my breast.

Tell me what it means,

Tell me what it means.

 

WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: This is what the crazy prince says:

 

PRINCE: What? Woe!

Oh no, oh no, oh no…

Maybe maybe but but but how?

Wait wait wait wait

No! No no no no no

Damn woman!

Why must everything be so?

Why?

Oh before, before you everything was so simple

Now now now so complex

Curses!

Blast it bombast it, blast it bombast it, blast it bombast it!

 

NEWBORN WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: Moon rises, moon fades,

Sun rises, sun lowers,

Moon rises, moon fades…

PRINCE: This is- this is- splutter- utter utter

Curse- groan- roar- tear- groan- roar-

This is why I never wanted to marry-

Even you- even me- even you- even me-

You and me and you and me and me and you

Ha ha ha ha ha ha

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!

 

NEWBORN WOMAN & PRINCE & DEAD LOVER: The spent prince teeters, hedges,

Edges towards the brink,

Then dives, plunges, tumbles, soars,

Arms bent, reaching up,

Crooked legs,

Twist, turn, twist, turn, twist, turn…

 

THE PRINCE falls to his death.

 

NEWBORN WOMAN (watches him fall then sees a lover-to-be): Who is that?

 

DEAD LOVER & PRINCE: The Newborn Woman spots another lover.

And another lover and another lover…

WOMAN: Black ink night,

New moon kiss, waxing crescent kiss,

First quarter kiss, waxing gibbous kiss,

Full moon kiss,

Waning gibbous kiss, third quarter kiss, waning crescent kiss…