MUMBO JUMBO (1986)
Mumbo Jumbo was first presented at the
Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on 8th May 1986. The play was directed by
Nicholas Hytner. The cast was as follows:
The Dean- Nigel Stock
Mrs. Howlett - Richenda Carey
Bill Dunham - Denys Hawthorne
Marion Dunham - Anne Lawson
Barry Dunham - Michael Grandage
Creaney - John Elmes
Patterson - Dan Gordon
Brown - Anthony Hearne
Butler - Peter Richey
Dunbar - Dermott Graham
Lowry (Bobby) - David Adair
McKenna - David Michaels
Richards (Wombat) - Marcus O’Higgins
Robinson - Maurice Dee
Jameson - Adam Sunderland
Angela - Sadie Frost
Set Design - Mark Thompson
DEAN is seated in front of his class, with a book on his knee. He conducts
the class with a walking stick; another stick rests against his chair. Where it
says BOY, it is unimportant which member of the
class says the line.
DEAN: One, two, three, four! CLASS [chanting]: ‘Fat
black bucks in a wine barrel room. ‘ BOY: ‘Barrel-house
kings, with feet unstable,
Sagged and reeled and pounded on the
table! ‘ CLASS: ‘Pounded on the table!’ BOY: ‘Beat an empty barrel with the handle
of a broom!’ DEAN: Breath, breath! CLASS: ‘Hard as they were able BOOM, BOOM,
BOOM!’ BOY: ‘With a silk umbrella and the handle
of a broom.’ DEAN: Vowels! CLASS: ‘Boomlay, Boomlay, Boomlay, BOOM!’ DEAN: Dunham! BARRY: ‘Then I had religion, Then I had a
vision.’ DEAN: Creaney! CREANEY: ‘I could not turn from their revel in derision.’ DEAN: Patterson! PATTERSON: ‘Then I saw the Congo ...’ DEAN: Consonants!
CLASS: ‘... creeping through the black,
Cutting through the forest with a golden
track.’ [Pause. DEAN has gone rigid, his chin and head thrust
forward, eyes staring. It is as if he is in an open-eyed trance. The boys call
this condition a ‘stare’.]
BARRY [uncertainly]: ‘Then along that river bankƒ’ BUTLER: Shhhhh. BARRY: ‘... a thousand milesƒ’ BUTLER: Shut up! DUNBAR: The Dean’s in a stare.
[CLASS look at DEAN and wave their arms about. They chant
softly.] CLASS: The Dean’s in a stare, the Dean’s in a
stare, the Dean’s in
a stare ... CREANEY [over the top of the continuing chant]: Did someone get
the clock on him? LOWRY: I did, I did.
[The chanting grows louder.] PATTERSON: It’s a long one. CREANEY: What’s the record? BUTLER [lifting desk lid and reading paper
stuck on the inside]: One
minute, twenty-two seconds. LOWRY [timing with watch]: Twenty-two,
... [LOWRY continues counting. The boys’ chanting dies away as DEAN comes to. He is now watching LOWRY count, concentrating on his watch. The
class titters.] ... thirty-four, thirty-fiveƒ
DEAN: What are you doing, boy? LOWRY [startled]: C
... c ... counting, sir. DEAN: What are
you counting? LOWRY: S ... s ... s ... seconds, sir. DEAN: I do assure you that you are going to
tire of this before I
do. Why are you counting seconds? BUTLER [a happy inspiration]: Seconds left till
the end of the
period, sir. DEAN: The length of the period may surprise you; that is, it may
well extend beyond the span allotted it
in the timetable; that is,
until I have your undivided attention.
Do I make myself clear? LOWRY: Yes, sir. DEAN: Well, what is keeping you? BARRY [dully]: ‘A thighbone beating on a
DEAN [urging]: Everybody! CLASS [without
enthusiasm]: ‘Blood screamed the whistles and the
fifes of warriors.’ RICHARDS [out of time]: ‘Blood screamed the
skull-faced lean ... ‘
[The rest of CLASS react with disgusted cries of ‘Wombat!’.] DEAN: STOP! That’s no good. Poetry can set you free, especially strongly
rhythmical poetry like this; it’s a vehicle for developing the vocal
possibilities within each of you. You are victims of your environment. That
famous Ulster reticence. [He makes a truly awful attempt at an Ulster accent.] ‘Whatever
you say, say nothing’. [Laughs] Your speech is sloppy, slovenly, dull,
restricted, constricted, no freedom, no resonance, not from here. [He pats his
diaphragm.] You are unaware of your physical powers; they are yours to use ...
[Accent again] ‘If in doubt, say nowt’. [Laughs] Right, relax, breathe in, from
here ... [Waves his stick]
RICHARDS [magnificently]: ‘BLOOD screamed the skull-faced lean witch-doctors.’
BARRY: ‘Whirl ye the deadly voodoo rattle.’ BOY: ‘Harry the uplands.’ BOY: ‘Steal all
the cattle.’ DEAN: ‘Rattle-rattle, rattle-rattle.’
BOY: ‘Bing.’ CLASS: ‘Boomlay, Boomlay, Boomlay, Boom!’
[The school bell rings.] DEAN: Dismissed. Dunham!
[BARRY goes to DEAN. They talk upstage as CLASS wheels off the desks.] CREANEY: He’s finally flipped his lid. RICHARDS: I think it’s great. DUNBAR: Wombat thinks it’s great.
ALL: Shut up, Wombat. DUNBAR: If you
think it’s so bloody good, you get up on
Founders’ Day on your own and do it. RICHARDS: Well, it’s more of an ensemble piece. ALL: Ohhhhh! PATTERSON: Come on, Wombat, give us a critical appreciation of
this poem. DUNBAR: Yeah. Give us a literary interpretation of ‘bing’. LOWRY: Yeah. Give us a literary
interpretation of ‘bing’. RICHARDS: You
can’t just take a word out of context. BUTLER: Dunbar, I wouldn’t do it. DUNBAR: Do what? RICHARDS: Especially a word like ‘bing’. CREANEY: Not costumes. DUNBAR: What costumes? BUTLER: You know he
did this four years ago. They’ve still got the costumes. He wears khaki shorts
and a pith helmet and
whoever leads it wears a grass skirt and
beats it out on a drum.
CREANEY: Someone with good rhythm. [Pause] MCKENNA: That’s you, Dunbar. All your Paisley marches. ALL: Oooooohh. DUNBAR: What the fuck would you know about Paisley
marches? LOWRY: What the fuck would you know about
McKenna? DUNBAR: Well said, Bobby, see ya, Mick.
[All the desks have now been removed. DEAN makes a funny little run forward, moving
with short, fast steps, as though involuntary. At the same time he grimaces,
chin thrust forward, shoulders hunched, his elbows sticking into his side and
his hands flicking outwards. The boys call this involuntary run forward a ‘shoot’,
and the spasmodic jerk of the arms a ‘flick’. DEAN’s spasm passes and he is able to make a dignified exit with the aid of
his sticks. BARRY, CREANEY and PATTERSON have remained on stage, watching him
CREANEY [imitating, cruelly]: Flick! PATTERSON [likewise]:
Shoot! CREANEY and PATTERSON [chanting together]: Shoot flick the
Dean, shoot flick the Dean. [They
imitate the grotesque little movements, laughing. BARRY watches in silence.]
CREANEY: What in hell makes the silly old bugger do that? PATTERSON [knowledgeably]: Oh, it’s undoubtedly a
nervous tic of
some kind; a sort of minor neurasthenic
disorder. CREANEY [impressed]: Wow! PATTERSON: I intend to take up medicine. CREANEY: What about the stare?
PATTERSON: Petit mal. CREANEY: What? PATTERSON: A mild form of epilepsy. CREANEY: I thought
he fell out of a Spitfire without a parachute. PATTERSON: Not inconsistent with those particular symptoms. CREANEY: He’s supposed to have a steel plate in
his skull. PATTERSON: Probably producing pressure on his
frontal lobes. CREANEY: Boring old fart. PATTERSON: Shoot. CREANEY: Flick. PATTERSON and CREANEY [together]: Stare! [They both end up staring at BARRY.]
PATTERSON: We’re offending Dunham. CREANEY: Poor old
Dum Dum’s offended. BARRY: If he fell out of a Spitfire he was
serving his country. CREANEY
[pityingly]: Oh, Dum Dum’s offended.
PATTERSON: Of course you know why. CREANEY: We have offended Dum Dum. PATTERSON: The Dean fancies him. [CREANEY gives a salacious
laugh.] That’s why he picked him for
Hamlet. BARRY: I auditioned! PATTERSON: He asked you to audition, he pleaded with you to
audition! BARRY: I wanted to audition! CREANEY: You should
have heard what the Dean said to him at
lights out. PATTERSON: What? BARRY: Shut up, Creaney. PATTERSON: Go on, go on. BARRY: You bloody well know it was a joke. PATTERSON: What did the Dean say to his darling Dunners? BARRY: It was an effing joke! CREANEY: ‘Good
night, sweet prince.’ BARRY: It was a
frigging joke, for Christ’s sake! PATTERSON [laughing]:
I should watch out, Dunners, if I were you. BARRY: Why? PATTERSON: No little approaches at rehearsals? BARRY: Ach, come off it, Patterson! CREANEY: He’s got to get his pleasure some way.
PATTERSON: No friendly hand on the shoulder? BARRY [finally]: No! CREANEY: Unless the fall from the Spitfire did for that as well. PATTERSON: No fluttering of the fingertips around
little rear? BARRY: No, no, no! [Pause] PATTERSON: ‘Methinks
he doth protest too much.’ CREANEY: No smoke
without fire. BARRY: You’re both disgusting. CREANEY: Why, Dum Dum? BARRY: Sewer rats! PATTERSON: But why, Dunners? BARRY: All you ever talk about is sex! PATTERSON: But sex is not disgusting, Dunnersƒis
it, Creaney? CREANEY: No. PATTERSON: Sex is beautiful. Isn’t sex beautiful, Creaney? CREANEY: Magic. PATTERSON: The Reverend Brian Morrison says it’s only those
who have an unhealthy and unwholesome
attitude to sex that think it is disgusting. He says that the sniggerers and
the smutty talkers just reveal their lack of maturity.
CREANEY: Do you lack maturity, Dum Dum? BARRY: I wasn’t sniggering. PATTERSON: You
did mention sewer rats. BARRY: Bloody
hell, it was you twoƒ PATTERSON: You
should come to his talks. BARRY: It was you
two who were doing all the sniggering. PATTERSON: ‘Sex and the Modern Christian’.
CREANEY: Don’t take it to heart, Dum Dum. BARRY: I am not taking it to heart! PATTERSON: At
the Christian Union every Tuesday. CREANEY [trying
to make peace]: Alright, Dum Dum, alright. BARRY: It was you!
PATTERSON: The Reverend Brian Morrison is very explicit. CREANEY [sudden interest]: Explicit? PATTERSON: Take
you out of yourself, Dunham. BARRY: I do not
need taking out of myself.
PATTERSON: Cure you of your self-obsession. BARRY: I am not self-obsessed! PATTERSON: You
could have fooled me. BARRY: Bugger off!
PATTERSON: Charming. BARRY: Fuck off! PATTERSON: Language like that shows a lack of imagination. BARRY [threatening]: I’ll kick the shit out of
you, Patterson! PATTERSON
[exiting]: Especially in someone
who has pretensions
to be a poet. [Pause. BARRY seethes.] CREANEY: Forget that supercilious bastard. BARRY: You sided with him! CREANEY: No, I
didn’t. BARRY: With him against me! CREANEY: It was a joke. BARRY: I asked you not to tell him that. CREANEY: Oh, for God’s sake, don’t take it so
seriously. It was a
joke. Anyway, you were defending that
old cripple. BARRY: I don’t give a damn about ... [without
conviction] the old fart. CREANEY: You have
entered his precious poetry competition. BARRY: Yes. CREANEY: Clouds and daffodils? BARRY: No. CREANEY: Won’t win then! BARRY: What the
hell do you know about it? CREANEY: Unless, of
course, it’s leech-gatherers or nutters! BARRY: Look, you great cretinƒpoetry can be tough and
hard and honest and true. In fact, it’s
no bloody good if it
isn’t. CREANEY: Has nobody told you the rules, Dum Dum? BARRY: What rules? CREANEY: To succeed as a poet in this country
you have to be
called Seamus. BARRY: You are a typical thick Prod, aren’t you? CREANEY [truculently]: Yeah! BARRY: No shame! CREANEY: None. Just hard and honest and true. BARRY [laughs]: OK ... Look, the Dean may have
ideas, but he’s good at technique. I
value that. And he tries
to encourage me. CREANEY: He tries to discourage me. BARRY: I’ve never heard him discourage
anyone. CREANEY: He called me Neanderthal man; that’s
discouraging. BARRY: A joke. CREANEY: Bloody funny joke, to be told you have
one of the
finest minds of the early Stone Age. BARRY: You deserved it. CREANEY: Why? BARRY: You make such stupid bloody statements. CREANEY: Like? BARRY: Oh, for goodness sake, you told him
that the Battle of the Boyne was the turning point in world history.
CREANEY: What’s wrong with that? BARRY: Ach, come
off it. CREANEY: It was a turning point. BARRY: Of world history? The greatest thing
from the decline
and fall of the Roman Empire to the rise
of Mao Tse-tung? CREANEY: Well, I admit it hadn’t a big impact
on China. BARRY: It was of minor European importance. CREANEY: The Pope was pleased enough.
BARRY: You don’t have to justify your bigotry to me. CREANEY: It wasn’t bigotry. BARRY: What was it
then? CREANEY: I wasn’t going to let an Englishman
make light of the
whole thing as if it didn’t matter
whether it had happened or not. BARRY: He was
laughing at you. CREANEY: I don’t care. BARRY: He thinks you’re a buffoon.
CREANEY: Does he? [Half a smile] BARRY: Of course
he does. CREANEY [half a laugh]: Oul shite. BARRY: Buffooooooooooooooon! CREANEY: If he wants to treat me like a Paddy I’ll
act like a Paddy.
Jesus, I’ll buffoon the bastard. [They
both laugh quietly.] CREANEY: Hey? BARRY: What? CREANEY: What about the God Squad, then? ‘Sex
Modern Christian’? Do you think we
should? This hellhole would put the bloody mockers on you. [Pause] I need a
girl, Dum Dum. I need a girl very soon, if I don’t get a girl soon ... Jackson
got it, you know.
BARRY: What? CREANEY: The narles. BARRY: Oh. CREANEY: You know that piece that hangs around
the side gate? BARRY: No. CREANEY: Yes you do. BARRY: No I don’t. CREANEY: Red face. Big knockers. Fat legs. Wears a wet-look miniskirt stretched
tight over her bum. I’ve seen you
BARRY: No you haven’t! [Pause] CREANEY: Alright,
Dum Dum, I haven’t. I have though. BARRY: I may have
caught sight of her. CREANEY: You were staring. BARRY: From a distance. CREANEY: Your eyes were on stair rods. BARRY: Briefly. CREANEY: She was flirting with three third formers and you were
standing there looking on and wishing
like hell it was you. BARRY: Look, I
admit I saw her, once, briefly, from a distance as
I was passing. [Pause] CREANEY: Well, Jackson had her twice in one
git. I’ll die if I don’t get it soon.
The narles. The narly, narly, narles. [He moans.] Oh, Dum Dum, that big juicy
bitch. Can you imagine it, Dum Dum?
BARRY: I’ve never even kissed a girl. CREANEY: You’re not serious? BARRY: Not
properly; not on the lips, not a real kiss. CREANEY: Kissing’s nothing, Dum Dum. BARRY: I’ve never
done it. CREANEY: It’s usually them that decides. BARRY: Is it? CREANEY: Oh yeah. The first girl I kissed was Big Sadie
Thompson. Parish social. She asked me
into the cloakroom to see her new prayer book. I thought it a bit odd at the
time; I mean, Big Sadie and prayer books were not what you expected, but I went
out of curiosity and as soon as I shut the door she grabbed me. Do you not know
any girls, Dum Dum?
BARRY: There’s the girl next door. CREANEY: Kiss her. BARRY: Her family have just moved in. CREANEY: If the old man hadn’t made so much
and sent me to board in this kip, there’s
no telling what Big
Sadie might have done for me by now. BARRY: I saw her in the garden on the last
day of half term. CREANEY: Big Sadie’s probably had the whole of
Flute Band by now. BARRY: She goes to a day school. CREANEY: Played a tune on each one of them. BARRY: I’ll kiss her. CREANEY: As far as I’m concerned she can play ‘The
Boys’ and ‘The Green Grassy Slopes of
the Boyne’ on my flute any time she wants and the sooner the bloody better. She
can even play ‘Kevin Barry’ if she fucking feels like it, but of course she
wouldn’t. True blue, Big Sadie.