My memories are so real, Babcia. But whose are they, and why can't I believe they are true?

Pictures in Babcia's Head

First performances Etcetera Theatre, London, July 1998.

The cast:
.........................Babcia ..............................................................Jennifer Lautrec
.................................Wanda................................................................Lyn Morgan

.................................Director............................................. .................Robert Tomlinson
.................................Composer/ on-stage musician ............... .    Chris Nettleton
.................................Lighting ..............................................................Dominic Burnham

Set: Family photos hang from wall. Stage right a kitchen - wooden table, chairs, various props for food preparation and to indicate a birthday. Stage mid-left is a chair. Upstage left a box of framed photographs. Preset Wanda, opening presents, later peeling potatoes. Babcia preset on stage mid-left chair.

.Lighting: Stage right fully lit, stage left in darkness.

Wanda:

Where is it? Where has it gone? What is it about the first thing I remember? My earliest memory; why should it be so important? What is it that makes me always look back when I should be facing forwards? Why then am I so drawn to a time before I can easily recall, to the first sign of memory? Nobody ever tells you that they have heard the second cuckoo of spring. My earliest memory? I can see it so clearly. I'’m not sure where I am; only know that the first thing I can recall is a boat on a blue, blue sea. I am feeling sick, cold and feverish under the warm sun. Could this really be my earliest memory after all? If so, it is such a disappointment.  I'’m sure it can'’t be right. But then why is it that nobody else is sure about the second earliest event? It seems that second best is all I can ever find. Why am I on this boat, bobbing about on sparkling blue sea? Am I going to another country? Yes, that must be it. I am, I was coming here. Why didn'’t I realise that before? But if I can remember the journey so clearly, why is the start of it just beyond my recollection?.............................

Sound cue: Short, far-background sound of a gently lapping sea. Fade.

Lighting cue: Very gradually, through following speech, spot Babcia.

Wanda: ..................................
Wherever I have travelled, it was always to move away, never to go back, never back, never to revisit my past. It had passed. How strange then that I should yearn so, for a memory that I do not possess. If I could only remember my beginnings perhaps I could have settled down and felt more at home here. I know I have earlier memories, I can feel them. But they have no shape. These memories are so strong. But are they my own?

My earliest memory? The first thing I can remember is me on a  boat, a boat on a blue, blue sea. I am feeling sick, cold and feverish under the warm sun. I so want to remember a place I must have seen, the place where I was

Lighting change: Light whole of stage left.

Babcia: ..................................
You never saw Beirut, that so beautiful city? My dear! Oh, so beautiful, so peaceful.

Wanda: ..................................
Yes, Babcia, I must have seen it. I just don't remember. If only I could recall a little earlier, remember just a few days earlier.

Babcia: ...................................
Yes, remember just a few hours earlier and you would see. So beautiful, happy city. Try, little one. Try to remember. My child grew up in that so beautiful place.

Wanda: Stands centre stage, looking upward, then around.
I have been am feeling sick, cold and feverish under the warm sun. I'm feeling a little better. The sea is calmer now.
Looking upward, then searching stage.
Where is Mama? In my memory everyone, everything is so big. I feel small. I am a child again, a curious, frightened child.
Admires her clothes.
And I am wearing my smart green coat, shiny brown shoes and a big straw hat on the back of my head.

Babcia: ...................................
You have seen a photograph. That is what you are seeing, yourself in a photograph, you as a child on a ship. Maybe that is what you are thinking, or thinking back to what happened? You maybe don'™t remember, and maybe you do. Ah, but that is just how you were, the coat and hat and my pretty little one on a boat, dressed up like she was going to church. So smart, so careful to keep your shoes clean, to put your hat on straight.

Wanda:....................................
I do remember, Babcia. This is real. The black and white photo, yes the photo was in black and white,
Admiring clothes, then looking upwards and around, as before.
............................................... ......................................... but in my head I can see the colours; the green of my coat, the olive band on the golden straw hat. And I feel sickness from the rocking boat, sun and spray in my face, the taste of salt. Hot and cold and sick - you cannot feel that by looking at a .photograph. And I am so happy and sad because ........ I do not know why I am happy and sad. But I remember that is how you and Mama felt. I remember being confused that anyone could be happy and sad. I remember asking you. Why is that Babcia? How can you be .........

Babcia:...................................
.
happy and sad, oh yes. So happy, so very sad. Happy to be safe, sad to travel so far, always so far away from home. Our little farm, our small house. So far, far away. So far. Sad because we had to leave my Mama, your Prababcia. They said Mama could not come. Was too old to travel, too very old.

Wanda: ...................................
Not as old as your Tata!

Babcia: ....................................
Oldest man in Poland, maybe the oldest man in the world. I don't know. One hundred fifteen years, my Tata.

Wanda:.....................................
One hundred and fifteen years. Out of bed at six o'™clock, washed in cold water. And every.morning for breakfast he had a big glass of vodka.
Sudden change, agitated
Why should I remember that? Was I there?


End of taster. 

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