Malmaison: Scenes 9-10


Scene 9: Malmaison, Dining Hall

Josephine & Napoleon are sat for dinner but none are touching their food, not speaking – Napoleon is tapping a plate with his spoon – two servants wait nearby

Take it away

Yes sire

& the empress also

Servants begin clearing the table

Let us take some coffee
{to the servants}
you may leave

Napoleon & Josephine move to the coffee table. Napoleon pours them both a cup

So many die in Spain, imperil’d force
Raking raw at my imperial crown
Their sacrifice must never fail in vain,
Their swords not stab the loud winds without wounds
The revolution embodies in them
As I, their man of state, its fate upholds
Spreading wide its enlighten’d ideals,
Are you listening to me, Josephine?
From Russia’s icy wastes to the Tagus
From Hamburg to the toe of Italy
Seventy million subjects are mine,
Where prefects & monarchs exist simply
To carry out my will… one thing remains
Beyond control… if tomorrow I die
In battle, everything I have built up
Degenerates into dull nothingness,
I must, I must, I MUST, create an heir,
Else old crown’d heads crawl’d out from under rocks
Resume rotten regimes

I’ll try again
The thermal spa at Plombieres-les-bains
Follow strict courses, tonics & potions,
Mineral baths & periodic rest.

These may restore your menses to full flow
But guarantees not your fertility,
Let us abandon contriving events
We both know beloft beyond redemption;
Such motions past, the people pressure me
To sire healthy successor sons, & soon!

Then darling, there is one way that we may
Avoid the odium of forc’d rupture,
If it would ever please you so we could
Father a child with another woman,
& let me pretend pregnancy the while
She comes to term, & pay her handsomely

No, no, Doctor Covisart refuses
Anything to do with such proposals
Disclaiming it dishonorable deed!

Harsh opinions may slay us, my love,
To circumvent draining situations
Still possible, maybe your family…

Impossible, each of them are unfit
Reprobates of royal insignia
Jerome is feckless, Pauline scandalous,
Incompetent scoundrels all the others,
Grown insubordinate, at drop of scarf
My throat to slash they would not hesitate
On making them monarchs they soon were up
Imagining t’were god who gave them thrones,
Not I, their one singular deity,
Swapping walking staffs for silver sceptres.

Even upon the summit of greatness
Your ambition reaches greedy for clouds
In thy deepest distress I sense sea-change,
No longer am I indispensable
To the happinesses of my husband
Spurning the dedication of your wife
Your expressions of love are faltering
Your countenance alters to stern reason
My hour is come at last

Give me your hand
& let it press against my woeful heart,
Chastise the desperation of my blood,
The bleeds insensible on both our lives
Josephine, my excellent Josephine,
Thous knowest alone if I have loved thee,
To thee & thee alone I only owe
My happy moments in these mousetrap spheres,
But destiny overmasters my will
My dearest affections forc’d to silence
Before the best expectations of France


Josephine, Josephine
You & I were swans a-sail the silver stream
Germany, Italy,
We were set to seal our signet dynasty
All I ever wanted was your child
All I ever wanted was my, my, my, my

Napoleon, Napoleon
All I ever wanted was to sire your son
Every dress, every rose
I would swap them all for those 10 twinkle toes

All I ever wanted was my child
All I ever needed was your child
Let him run thro’ Malmaison piglet wild
All I ever wanted was my, my, my, my

Many say Middle age
Is a time for one’s leisure
But I would sacrifice
Just to satisfy you
Come with me, let us lie
In the glow of our treasure
Make a son, raise him up
On our heavenly dew

Josephine, Josephine
You & I transcended all those kings & queens
I used to think my life’s truth
Was not to conquer empires
But to lie with you
But now our Signet Dynasty must fly from you
Has died in you…

Sing – say – no more – for this I was prepar’d
But the blow lands no less mortal

My love
It must be done, all France calls for divorce

Josephine wails, rolls on the floor

Please god, no, I shall never survive it
You cannot do it, surely I’d be slain

Believe me, this does violence to my heart
But irrevocable the decision
You are the last obstacle to my reign
Nothing will move me, not prayers nor tears

The People & the Papacy shall blame
The one who tramples down his holy vows
With callousness & cruelty so vain

The ceremony was irregular
Your parish priest witness’d not proceedings
& so our marriage legally dissolves

{standing up}
You dare to shame me with the dross of law,
Withdraw the stamp of honour from our love
Confound & bruise me with your scorn & flout!
Our solemn oaths were heard by God’s first voice
Thro’ him all Christendom our rites did hear,
So many sacrifices I have made
Tho’ these were sweet because them made for you
These interests, you say, of France, they seem
A pretext to my poor immolation
Your dissembl’d gut-thirsting for glory
Which guided you to endless victory
Now urges you disasterwards

It does?
Perhaps it may, but I am driven on
By daemon or angel, I know not which,
Hounded & surrounded by tormentors
Squeezing on me unite with another
But I am only marrying a womb.

You are, whose womb, the choice already made?

Yes, the arch-duchess, Maria-Louise

That Hapsburg whore, how old is she?


Eighteen! What? She is younger than Hortense

There are rubies worth a million francs
On the billiard table, your titles
Now Duchess of Navarre & Normandy

You try & buy me off, make ME the whore

It has to be so, if ever I see
A child, Heaven knows I am envious
A deadly poison darts into my heart
On viewing rosy cheekpuffs of an infant,
Near joys of mothers, by hopes of fathers
Dwell I in androgynous barrenness

Stop talking

It is true

Please stop talking

You must listen –

I said stop talking



Josephine faints

Jospehine, my darling, I am sorry

Napoleon rushes to door. On opening it Hortense, Odette & Fleur fall in after listening at the door.

Mother… what have you done Napoleon!?

She has had some sort of nervous attack

Odette get the sniffing salts, Fleur, swift heels,
& help me transport mother to her room
Shame on you father

Just take her away

{raising briefly from her feint}
Not so hard, you are holding me too tight

Josephine returns to her feigned faint

Marie Walewska

Scene 10: Malmaison, Dining Hall

Napoleon & Maria Walewska are together – the table is being set including soup by the major-domo and the valet de chambre

Many thanks, Maria, for joining me,
Both you & Malmaison tender my heart
With soothing mists, denying harsher truths

I had to see you, Bonaparte, of course
Presenting tidings of our little child
Before flotsam tides of pernicious fate
Carry you forever from Europa,
With all of your enemies approaching,
With Prussians encroaching upon Versaille
Why dare dally, Paris too dangerous,
Protracted delayments may be fatal
I urge you with good reason to depart

Procrastinations are necessary
I intend to sail for America
Thus fresh victuals & passports must prepare,
But here we are safe until tomorrow,
We dine & talk like happy times of old.

In this house all the memories are hers

She dreamt of you, before we ever met
I got a letter in desperate script
Describing how I had fallen in love
With a Polish beauty, swift I replied
Do not be silly, then one week later
We collide in miraculous meeting.

I was a dove, you a swooping eagle
Came to your claws only for my country
The tyranny of Russia drove desire
I curs’d my enemies with our kisses
& still… three perfect weeks at Finkenstein
Forever follow by me, at strange times
Flashes of remembrance rustle my thoughts –
Our long field walks, our talks, our burning bed –
Awakening my sensuality,
Where moons conceal’d emotions in our moans
I grew into this elated fondness
Which sees me dedicated to your fate,
Until the passing of my final breath,
Your name the very last words on my lips.

But never love?

How could I be in love
With one who lov’d another, even now
We are prepar’d to settle for a meal
At the very table you once declar’d,
I’m sure, sweet Josephine your only love.

I was – I am – will always be in love
With you my pretty volcano, with you,
Once I was an acorn, then I was oak
Yet when I was an oak to all others,
I was glad to be an acorn to you,
Who drives the shadows back across the hills,
Angelical, furtively unselfish,
Your charm & your enchanting gentleness,
Connect me to a cosmos of content,
& glad your special qualities reside
With our young son, how is our little bird?

He is happy, healthy, in his prayers
He hopes his Papa Empereur is safe,
You should have married me & made him heir,
When you married the Austrian princess,
Whom I hate with redoubtable candour,
My heart grew darker than a moonless night.
Enter Hortense

Madame Walewska, welcome to my home,
Father the rest of our dining party
Assembl’d, are you ready to receive?

Show them to their seats, sit here Maria,
Beside me, would you like a little soup?
{Napoleon tries the soup}
Take it away, this sea of frozen ice
It must be hot… hot-hot-hot-Hot-HOt-HOT!

Enter the rest of the party- Caulincourt, Lucien & Gourgaud

Your majesty

Gentlemen, welcome, sit

{raising the food pots}
We shall have eggs; boiled, poached, broke in omelettes,
Beef fillets, broiled lamb-breasts, lentils & beans,

Delightful &, I am sure, delicious

The servants begin bringing out dishes of food – the diners choose what they wish & begin to eat

Malmaison seems so deserted these days
There are more pretty paintings than people

But with Van Dyck, Holbein, Rembrandt, Rubens,
Leonardo, Titian, Raphael,
This is a sophisticated silence.

Indeed, in each a laurell’d memory
Of famous days of triumph… & how close
We were to adding to them, Waterloo!
Ah Waterloo! Such brutal, sluggish fight,
But a battle most inevitable
When they made me the king of that pebble
Within earshot of Parisian streets,
It seem’d as if they’d left unlock’d the cage,
My first hope came when I saw the gazettes
Where foolish King Louis insulted me
With rudest words unroyally spoken
In pamphlets & in private, losing friends,
That fat & gouty pile of impotence,
Who refuses to pay my pension! Non!
France did not choose to lose their Emperor
& have foisted on them an ousted king;
I am a man, and acting like a man
I felt I the need to show I was alive,
& so returned.

It was a joyous day!
The march you made from Antibes to Paris
Long-lined with celebrations never seen

By the boldness and sheer audacity
Of your return to France you gave the lie
To those wiping noses in newspapers.

I left my fortune for war on Elba,
Methinks, forgotten in the secret flit,
One commonly, when looking at results,
Perceives what the person ought to have done,
My plan was working to perfection
The English and the Prussians were surprised
In their cantonments, & the conditions
All set to crush the Duke of Wellington,
I still envisage all advantages.
If only the day could be fought again!
If only Ney would not have hurl’d the horse
When I was absent from the field

He lost
His head, a sense of past conduct impaired
His energy, however splendidly
Cuirassiers charge, without infantry
Marching in support, all won ground soon lost.

His attack on La Haie-Sainte a mistake,
Repositioning my well-posted guns
Reduced vital efficiency of fire.

True… true… both Soult & Suchet better knew
My way of making war than e’er could Ney

It was the impeccable discipline
Of the English that gained that deadly day
They advance thirty yards, halt, fire, go back,
Fire, and come thirty yards forward again,
Without breaking line, without disorder.

Poor France! to have been beaten, defeated
By those English rascals! Yes, it is true
The same sad thing happened at Agincourt
& Crecy before, but I was so certain
I should beat them, I had divined their plans,
& when at last had nail’d them to a field
They fought with unusual stubbornness,
Yet would have lost had Blucher not arrived.

I have heard that the Madame Hamelin
Thinks the Duke of Wellington talentless
& afraid of you, for once fortunate
& knows you would not lose a second time
Daring not risk his reputation so.

He will know, very well, he was lucky,
Regrets not for myself, unhappy France
With twenty thousand less of your soldiers
We should have won the battle, it was fate
That made me lose it.

Dwell not on this defeat
Let us toast instead those majestic arms
Which carv’d an empire, gentlemen, to

To France

& to its shining emperor

The empire, O beautiful creation
Twenty-Eight millions, one grand nation,
We sent the revolution thro’ the world
When all would have been equal under me
Instead young men prefer’d to fight for kings
Who yoked them to unequal existence,
Led by the sly & obstinate bulldog
Reveal’d in Englishmen when interests
Of England at stake, robust patriots
They fight for their slavemasters, while Russia
Spews out countless peasants into armies
Manpower as prolific as the steppes!

Father, enough of war-talk & regrets,
Posterity shall see your history
As if some supernatural romance,
The peals of praise shall evermore be yours,
Those fiery energies of youthful years,
Yielding to the magnificent progress
Of your irrisistable ambition,
Combining into visions of grandeur
As if you were a gift from heaven’s vaults.

You are indeed a greater man, when all
The lesser men & tumults of our age
Are pass’d away into oblivion,
Futurity shall dedicate these years
To your famous name of Napoleon.

Remember, brother, you have transform’d France,
Imposing government that we desir’d,
Honest, efficient administration,
Guaranteeing the rules of free reason,
Designing law codes memorised by all,
Illuminating Parisian streets
With gas lamps, paving quais beside the Seine,
New harbours, canals, your poplar-lined roads,
You set examples to inspire our lives.

Yes… yes… bring the cheeses sil vous plait
But what use of my legacy to me
When I am not yet dead to celebrate
& cannot still decide on best passage
America has many assassins,
I may live longer among the English.

Armand-Augustin-Louis Caulaincourt

England, your enemies?

Yes, it tempts me
The Britons’ inviolable hearts deem
Sanctuaries of generosity,
I could find scenic rural seclusion
Ending my days gracious with nostalgia.

I think it would be foolish in this clime
Of conquerors dictating to the French,
I have heard Blucher wants you delivered
To the Chateau at Vincennes, where the Duke
Of Enghien was shot, & the same spot
A pungent thought, a sordid phantasie
Better proceed you to America
Where Bolivars direct & ride the storms.

I need not resolute on this tonight
Instead to rest awhile & contemplate
Every angle drawn in my perception
Ruminating each expediancy –
The meal is done, I hope you found yours fine
If everyone could leave I wish to sit
Alone beside the fire, & with my thoughts.

While staff attend to clearing the table, everyone leaves saying ‘your majesty’ & ‘sire’

Shall I stay? Play a little vingt-et-un

I’d rather not, my love, my mind complains
To me each minute of pressing problems

You need not be alone, I’m here to share
All of your woes, even your exile, know
I’ll go where you go, flying on your flow.

I love you too much to put you thro’ such

I understand… I’ll be in my rooms

Exit Maria, Napoleon is left standing alone staring into the fire


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen


Malmaison: Scenes 7-8


Scene 6: Malmaison, Josephine’s Bedroom

Josephine is sat at her dressing table. Odette is tinting her hair & smoothing it with cream. Fleur is powdering her face with white & rouge.

I expect him any hour, the hero
Of Austerlitz returns to me tonight,
Not even death could still my flutter’d heart,
My love for His majesty must outlive
My breath, my body, & my faithful bones.

Today all France is aflame with his fame
& your name sing in celebration too
In company together you defy
The very bounds of Human endeavour

As if the Holy Spirit moved on earth
& settl’d in two vessels good & pure
Inspiring us all clean beakers to be,
So when your essence pours into our hearts
We too shall know a hint of the divine

Enter Napoleon, undressing quickly, throwing his great coat on the floor & placing his hat on a chair

Josephine, queen effigy of passion,
I am returned to sweep you to the seas
That deep across your bed entranquil’d lie,
But first we shall open every portal,
Draw in the air which God made for us all.

You startle me, darling, but I am glad
To see you here, come press these waiting lips
To yours, & hold me tight as my husband.

They embrace, exit the maids.

Come let us stand together at the bay,
The evening drips a gorgeous net of stars,
The peace in your presence a thousand miles
From those starch’d fields about the Pratzen Heights
Where I became the best of emperors,
A masterpiece of cunning deception
Put paid to ill-conceiv’d alliances,
Ill-omen’d, grandiose, a ratsbane rout,
With one sharp blow the war was over, won
By brutal logic of the bayonet,
Triumph more clear than Ceasar ever saw.

For you, I am as overjoyed as June
When roses grace long days, but did you think
Of me, my dear, when victory was yours,
Your little Josephine?

Of nothing else,
In the midst of military affairs
At the head of my troops, inspecting camps,
Over my heart an adorable sway
Is held by an image of your sweet face,
Alive in my mind as if it were real,
A mind you possess undisputedly
Engrossing all thought.

This cheers me to hear,
Your absences manifest as sickness
I cannot keep you from my intellect
Trampling serenity with hardest hooves.


Forgive me, empress, all I do I do
For you, my captivated faculties
Focus every conscious iota
Into & onto you, oblivion
Strikes me when we part, deadly sense of death,
There is no survival for me, except
In you – condemn’d to live thro’ Josephine
That was, that is, the story of my life.

That may be so, but tell me, mon cherie,
Tell me you were not abed with strumpets,
Perhaps some young actress of Vienna,
Distracting with assumption of beauty.

Please put no faith in jackal rumours spread,
Never doubt the reach of deepest feelings,
I love only my little Josephine –
Kindly, sulky, capricous – who quarrels
As gracefully as does she all things else;
& adorable always, excepting
When she screams suspicion, then she becomes
A regular devil.

Could you betray
All that we are when we are led unclothed
In bed, in love, in passion’s pilgrim shrine.

Betray you? You betray me with such doubts,
I love with a love beyond the limits
Of imagination, all my minutes
Of living life are yours, consecrated,
I’ve never thought of another woman
When private in my mind & paused from war,
They lack – in my eyes – beauty, wit & grace
You alone & all of you, as I see
You as you are – only you can please me,
Absorbing all the faculties of soul;
You pervade mine to its furthest reaches;
There is no corner of my open heart
You do not see, there is no thought of mine
Which prospers insubordinate to you,
The day on which you change or cease to live
Would be my day of death.

Dear Bonaparte
You are so dramatic – but I love it.

The world is only beautiful because…

It is I who inhabit it

Quite true,
You must believe me else do not love me.

Aha! It is the man who takes a sulk,
Come to my breast ye mighty warrior,
I barely slept to think you in the field
With all those guns & bullets.

I could feel
Your worries, some rare magnetic fluids
Flow between persons who love each other.

I always want to see me in your eyes
As you desire me now, I shall remain
Devoted to your love & happiness.

I am in love & I am very happy
A banquet of excitable moods
Wondering what my precious victory
Could achieve, in our day no-one conceives
Anything great – we can set examples,
Balancing for good the nation’s budget,
Design a law code memorised by all,
Illuminate the night-streets of Paris
With gas lamps, pave the quais beside the Seine,
& best of all erect a marble arch
Surmounted by the horses of Saint Mark’s,
Perpetuate the glory of our arms
For all who visit Paris evermore.

Forget those arms, let these arms curl caress
Across your chest, then let these tresses fall
Asplash your face as I descend a kiss,
Come swiftly to my bed, come lie with me,
& see how much of comfort it can bring.

I will, I thought of nothing else, but first,
Let us discuss occasional reports
Of wanton, boundless generosity
Indiscriminate, restless & impulsive,
You never wear a pair of stockings twice,
The smallest party merely an excuse
To order some new dress, in one season
You flit from polka dots to lacy ruffs,
You waste your life deciding what to wear,
So much discussion; petticoats, dresses,
Golden gowns cover’d in ostrich feathers,
Thirty-eight hats in September alone,
Cashmere shawls, silver slippers…

Yes, so what?
I am Empress – you are the Emperor,
Do not impinge on my duties & I
Shall not impinge on yours, together we
Will complement each other & our roles;
I master curriculi you send me
Of Europe’s courts I know the hiostory,
Including boring genealogies
Of all those royal houses, I am not
Ideal, but whenever we are present
At gatherings of crown’d & coquette heads,
I never put a foot or eyelash wrong.

Well I appreciate your elegance,
Your magnificence on state occasions,
Attending grand galas especially,
But darling you are drowning under bills,
If anybody asks you won’t refuse,
You scatter pensions like them chicken feed,
Only supersceded by your spending
On shoes – if somebody shows you something,
You buy it then forget at once what bought,
Because all this has made common knowledge
Your waiting rooms teem with panting merchants,
Tongues dribbling out vastly inflated sums.

But all of them, they are so very good
At what they make, I can never summon
Up the courage to turn just one away.

If sometimes I refuse to pay your bills ,
It is because you are so much imposed
Upon by tradesmen, & thus I cannot
Conscientiously sanction abuses…
I know about the necklace, Bourrienne
Gave me exact & staggering figures,
One million, two hundred thousand francs!

{obtaining necklace from her table}
But look at it, so pretty in the light
Of morning, then better by candlelight,
Could you put it on me, around my neck,
You have always wish’d for me to dazzle,
Yet when I spend a little more than norm
You reproach me with Corsican tantrums,
I do not throw phantastical parties
Or run up millions at the tables,
I am no thrifty Marie Antionette
Nor Madame du Barry, she gladly made
A diamond necklace for her yappy dog,
I do it all for love, & love of you.

You charm me yet again, I shall repent,
Hanging divinely on your perfect neck
Let your necklace adorn my victor’s ball
Tonight at the giddy Tuilerries.

We are the oddest couple you & I
Nature has made you strong & resolute,
While I am lace & gauze, I sail a swan
You fly an eagle

So perfect a thing!
We two have more in common than you think
We are both outliers & islanders
My Corsica, your little Martinique,
You brought it with you, stole my wintry heart
Its warmth & seductiveness fills your eyes.

I see it in reflection

Kiss my lips…

Napoleon & Josephine kiss


I won’t lie I dont care,
I’ll sing until the world’s aware
I feel pride by your side,
When we are sharing pleasure domes together

& its true, I feel blue,
When I’ve been forced to part from you,
But I’m back to my bride
You know I am you saw I am
We’re living to your higher plan
Im/you’re woman to your/my man

Cos you’re the lover
I’ve always been dreaming of

I sing songs I say psalms
I’m tingling to your tender charms
& this world becomes ours
When two intrinsic lovers come together

We’ve align’d in our minds
Cos this is destiny’s design,
Our fate fell from the stars
You know it would, you saw it would,
The glory your womanhood
Is glowing/flowing in/thro my blood

Cos you’re the lover
I’ve always been dreaming of

The world is unworthy of
The majesty of your throne
Come lie by my side my love
This bed is so cold alone

I love you Napoleon
I love you dear Josephine
I hate it when you are gone
But now you’ve come back to me

Cos you’re the lover…

Scene 7: Malmaison, Napoleon’s Apartments

The secretaries Marcel & Chapentier are setting their desks – enter secretary Desmarais

Good morning gentlemen, I am Jean-Claude.

Good Morning – will you be working with us?

I shall.

Are you a stenograph?

I am
Sufficient – is there anything to know?

You’ll need to be as fast as hunted fox.

Rapidity the order of the day,
Ability to differentiate
For whom the dictation is essential,
He possesses a mind like no other,
His memory furnishes him with all
He needs when commanding written discourse,
He compares it to a furniture piece
Composed of a great number of drawers,
Pulls out the one which each new moment needs,
The classification of everything
Is done as if automatically,
Nothing remains but to utter the words.

Are we to transcribe any of his notes?

The Emperor is too hyperactive
To write himself, & even when he does
Tho’ his first lines are passably composed,
Those that follow are illegible,
One very much accustomed has to be
To the form of his letters, of his words,
To the way they run together, then hope
To divine meanings in a hieroglyph,
Producing a decipher, more or less,
Counterpoising with clarity acute .

I can never make out his strange letters,
He writes like a cat, one deranged at that.


Enter Napoleon in a dressing gown & leather slippers

Good morning gentlemen, how are we all?

We are well your majesty

Very well

{pinching ears}
My rascal scribes, it is always wondrous
To see you, reminding me, above all,
That I am still alive… & who is this?

I am Monsieur Desmarais, Your Majesty.

Where are you from?

Five miles from Avignon.

I thought you were Provencal… very well
Let us begin, Marcel take the soldiers
& disputation to the deputies,
Chapentier the letter to my wife
In which the King of Rome shall hear my voice,
Young Desmarais, the English Regent, yours;
All four are more than vital, but before
Commencing, let me take a little snuff.

Napoleon takes out an oval snuff box made of tortoise shell lined with gold – on the cover is a silver portrait of the King of Rome, set in a circle of gold. He takes a sniff.

Men of the Provisional Government,
Disasters quake, but these we shall resist,
The enemy is on our native soil,
I propose my return to the army
To take advantage of any errors
The enemy commits, for I expect
To stimulate the national honour,
If all we do is argue all is lost,
Let not the fate Byzantium be ours;
My darling wife, empress Marie-Louise,
Do you remember the road to Soissons,
When first we met, from romantic meeting
Sprung the King of Rome – precious, perfect child,
How fares he now, I think of him each day,
Thro’ saddening times of strenuous strain,
The army has been exterminated,
The mood among the Representatives
More hostile than ever, I never should
Have come to Paris… To my dear soldiers
I have yielded to necessity,
& tho’ command no more our brave army,
I take away the happy certainty
That it will justify, by eminent
Service, all that the nation will expect;
To my gracious enemy of twenty years,
The most powerful, the most generous,
Your Royal Highness, I am made victim
To the factions distracting my country,
I live for peace & when I terminate
My political career, my true hope
Is to throw myself like Themistocles
Upon the gracious hospitality
Of Britisher civility & laws…
Exactly & precisely how they were
She preserves my apartments, as if I
Were still her dear husband…

Your majesty?

Learn to differentiate

Between the Emperor’s thoughts & his words

Where was I? O yes… sweet Marie Louise,
What brilliant qualities adorn you,
Inspiring me with a desire to serve
You, your father, our nations & our child,
Despite the trying nature of these days,
I shall strive with an Assyrian will
To bring us back together in one heart
& on our kisses crown the God of bliss;
Soldiers of France, I follow all your steps,
With just a few more efforts from each corps
The coalition of our enemies
Will inevitably droop & dissolve,
Napoleon will recognise you all
Thro’ breathless blows yet struck, save the honour,
The independence of France & remain
To the very end, as I have known you
These twenty years past, the invincible.

Enter Gourgaud, Caulaincourt & Lucien

My God, am I such a man to be born
To see my emperor a prisoner
Of his people at pretty Malmaison.

Gourgaud, Caulincourt… brother Lucien.

How are you keeping?

Things could be better.


Gaspard Gourgaud

With your permission, sire, I shall assume
Command of the Gaurd, we shall take careful
Watch over the safety of your person.

While you remain in France, he means to say,
The country no longer can sustain you.

Our enemies declared this current war
On you, a single person, & not France,
The nation must now be seperated
From Napoleon, you are all that stands
Between France & peace, a fresh new breeze blows,
Tho’ fidelity is not in question,
Our duty now is the welfare of France.

The tide has turned against you, & the sea
It seems has chained the next in captive waves

We travell’d, sire, to the Pont de Neuilly,
The bridge was barricaded so I inch’d
Along the parapet, then found a chaise
& drove it on to the Tuileries;
The commision of government was sat
In council, Fouche was most astonish’d
To see me, I read out your last letter,
Inform’d them of patriotic duty
In demanding your presence at their head,
But Fouche’s reply, rebuking candour,
Complain’d of imposts & grave vexations.

Enough, how can they want to overthrow
The government, when mortal enemies
Snarl at the gates, the Representatives
Opposing me are thick, ungrateful swine,
I showered them with honours & treasures
Now all they do is swivel backs & grunt.

The paths to power beyond redemption,
Your fate away from France & Paris lies,
I have already asked Decres to find
Two frigates to place at your disposal.

A silent pause descends for a while

There will be civic bloodshed if I stay,
I must not wade in blood, and be abhorred,
Far better to offer abdicatio
In favor of my son, all my glories
Concentrated in him, and leave the rest
Handling present difficulties themselves,
Then they will see it was not I alone
The Allies wished destroy’d, but all of France!

To abdicate once more your wisest course,
Your legacy ensured, despite the pain.

If I must go then gentlemen obtain
The necessary vitals of the road,
Gourgaud, go to the kennels at Versaille,
At stag-hoof speed, ask there for sporting guns,
Marcel, Charpentier &… Desmarais,
Deliver your letters, I have finished,
But let me sign them first, who has a pen?

Charpentier gives Napoleon a pen – he signs the letters

Now everybody leave but Lucien

Marcel & Charpentier
Your majesty



Your majesty

Exit all but Napoleon & Lucien

Take a pen, Lucien, are you ready?

I am, but what for?

My abdication…
Frenchmen! Tho’ I commenc’d the recent War,
Maintaining national independence,
I relied on the total union
Of all our efforts, of all our desires,
In which all French authorities concur,
I had reason to hope for great success,
Braving all the Allied Declarations,
But circumstances appear to have chang’d,
My political life is terminated;
& I proclaim my son Napoleon
The Second, the Emperor of the French,
Under him, & for the public safety,
Let all unite, in order to remain
The independent nation we adore.

Napoleon takes the pen from Lucien, signs the abdication & leaves the room. Lucien follows.



Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen


Oor Wullie

Oor Wullie Cast. Photo credit Tommy Ga-Ken Wan..jpg

Dundee Rep Theatre
Sat 23 November – Sun 5 January

Script: five-stars  Stagecraft: five-stars
Performance: five-stars S.O.D.:five-stars

Get your dungarees on and spike up your hair for bucketfuls of songs, laughs and good traditional fun as Scotland’s own comic superhero makes his musical theatre debut at Dundee Rep this Christmas. Wullie’s appeal spans the generations. He’s been around – and been ten years old – for eighty years now, doing his scallywag thing in the town of Auchenshoogle. Accompanied by his best mates Soapy Soutar, Fat Boab and Wee Eck, a real slapstick trio if ever there was one, Wullie makes good-hearted mischief in the way young boys used to before the internet and Xboxes, dodging the long arms of PC Murdoch, Teacher and the slippers of Ma and Pa. Christmas without an Oor Wullie annual is like turkey without stuffing, or indeed the eponymous hero without his bucket.

That’s just the problem – someone has stolen Wullie’s bucket. As a result of this calamity, the comic-book coloured Auchenshoogle and the real world are getting mixed up. Expect high-jinx abundant. Can Wullie and his gang and new found friend Wahib retrieve his bucket from our world before his mortal enemy Basher McKenzie turns Auchenshoogle into a richt stramash?

L to R Martin Quinn and Eklovey Kashyap. Credit Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.jpg

Always bringing something special at Christmas, Dundee Rep have excelled with this year’s production. Bright, colourful and exciting from start to finish, it’s sure to appeal to young children and nostalgic adults alike. The songs are fun and the tunes catchy enough for folk to be humming them on the way out. Take children or don’t – you’ll love Oor Wullie. It’s good wholesome fun for the children in all of us.

Mark Mackenzie


The Wizard of Oz


Leeds Playhouse,
28th Nov – 25th Jan

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: five-stars
Performance: four-stars.png S.O.D.: five-stars

Tonight saw the opening performance of Leeds Playhouse’s 2019 Christmas show, The Wizard of Oz, in the playhouse’s recently opened Quarry theatre. This was a hugely important night for the theatre and it was abundantly clear from the outset that every effort had been made to ensure that this show was nothing less than outstanding. It’s certainly no exaggeration to say that everyone who stepped out into the drizzly November night after the show were still wrapped up in the show’s spell, their faces plastered with beaming smiles and their ears still ringing with the joyful sounds of Oz.

This is a big budget family blockbuster that absolutely delivers on all counts, giddy with the spectacle of hot air balloons, colourful rotating sets, bungee jumping monkeys, enchanting puppet work, and panto-style boo hiss villains. The colourful and exuberant cast make use of every inch of the new performance space, popping out of trapdoors, rising up into the lighting rig and spilling out into the auditorium, much to the delight of the younger theatre goers in the audience.

Everyone involved overflowed with an infectious eagerness to please, from the cast to the attendants in the auditorium, actively engaging with members of the audience before, during and after the production. This wasn’t a show, it was an event: everyone involved with the production and the theatre had eagerly seized this opportunity to shout loudly about their wonderful new space: Look how amazing it is, look what it can do! It’s an assertion that is pretty hard to deny.

But this isn’t mere spectacle. There’s real substance here and much to commend. This could have easily been an overenthusiastic splurge of colour and choreography, but James Brining’s hugely assured direction easily swerves this potential pitfall. Given how much is going on onstage, it never feels overwhelming – every element sits perfectly in its rightful place.


The younger cast all hold their own and the early Munchkin sequence is an early high point in a show of many such high points. They enthusiastically pull the audience headlong into their colourful world. Their choreography is near flawless and their characters so joyful and memorable that they are single-handedly responsible for the grins that spread across the audience.

Standout performances include Polly Lister as the Wicked Witch, who thoroughly relishes the OTT villainy of the character, a character that inspires raucous boos and even more raucous laughter. Eleanor Sutton is a delight as Scarecrow, imbuing the character with boundless enthusiasm and Marcus Ayton as Lion delivers some crowd pleasing vocal performances.

It’s surely not possible to review The Wizard of Oz without mentioning the central performance as Dorothy. Dorothy can either make or break a production, and here it’s a resounding MAKE. Agatha Meehan and Lucy Sherman will be sharing duties throughout the run of this production and tonight was the turn of Lucy Sherman who provided a fantastic focal point for the show. Her performance was confident and effortless and her rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow provoked an early outburst of delighted applause.

Director James Brining has stated the parallels that he sees between environmental activist Greta Thunberg and the character of Dorothy, both taking on responsibility for a world that has been ruined and neglected by adults, and it’s clear that she is a huge source of inspiration for this take on the character, deliberately choosing a younger actress for the part.

There’s also an appropriately cheeky nod to the gay following of the 1939 Hollywood film. Sam Harrison’s Tin Man here is an overtly gay character, who has been punished for being in love with a man by having his heart forcibly removed. It helps to add depth to the story – this production’s Dorothy/ Greta is on a mission to help oppressed minority communities and individuals, not just to find her way back to Kansas.

Simon Higlett’s set design is nothing less than jaw dropping, creating a sense of constant movement – the sets rotate and evolve, vehicles move across the stage, forests bloom, tornadoes rip the scenery apart (what a fantastic sequence!) and the yellow brick road moves characters about the stage, bringing more and more outlandish characters into the path of the central protagonists. All of this is overlaid with video footage that lends further colour, movement and life to the stage. This reaches its crescendo when the cast arrive at the flashing green lights of Emerald City and the final showdown with the Wicked Witch – the sets are as brightly coloured and alive as any film set.


In fact, it’s hard to not list all the names of those involved with the show as this is a hugely accomplished show, packed full of highlights. There’s aerial director, Tim Claydon, whose work provides so much of the show’s spectacle and energy. There’s Ailsa Dalling as Toto puppeteer, brings the delightful character to scene stealing life. Put simply, there’s far too much to mention.

The Wizard of Oz is a resounding success for both company and theatre, a perfect show to launch their Christmas season and to show off their new theatre to a wider audience.

Steve Bromley


Malmaison: Scenes 3-5


Hortense de Beauharnais

Scene 3: Malmaison, Josephine’s bedroom

Hortense & a maid, Fleuer, are cleaning

You must dust underneath the porcelain,
How the fussiness flies from Bounaparte,
No speck of dust, no crease in the linen,
No particle seem alter’d in this room
From how my mother leaves it as she died.

Enter Odette

His majesty has just arrived your grace.

Mon Dieu, how does he look, how does he fare?

He pales fatigue, madame, but looks relieved.

Thank-you Odette, continue here with Fleur.

Exit Hortense

I do not wish to see the Corsican,
My father left to rot in Syria,
His sons – my brothers – slaughter’d by Cossacks,
Soldiers devoured as fast as they were made,
My husband was slain at La Rothiere,
& of my sons who rush’d into the ranks,
This recent insanity’s insistence,
There is no word, I fear the very worst.

I too have borne my share of grief & loss,
But still emit the beautiful belief
That all will settle right, when all who died
To make France great should not have died in vain.

They died, Odette, both in, & for, the vain.


Scene 4: Malmaison, Front of House

Napoleon is with Lucien & Caulaincourt, preparing to enter the house / Hortense bursts thro’ the door


Welcome home, father, welcome home!

Let us embrace as in those happy times
When all we will’d was magical & good,
Your winding arms comfort like dawn’s first rays,
Your happy face fair proof I am alive,
But tired… I shall remain some few days hence.

We can decorate all to your own taste,
So you may think in peace how to proceed
With present universitalities.

No, leave things be, her memories are best.

If you so wish… but what of recent wars?
Reports harangue conflicted; some say won,
Some say well beat, some even say you’re dead.

Here is a great event! A battle lost,
My soldiers were performing prodigies,
So tough & lustful, cheering every breath,
Facing the English on a tiny field
We ran them into ragged remnancy,
Six of their flags were ours, but old Blucher
Outwitted Grouchy in a day’s pursuit
& roll’d along our flanks in deadly fire,
Malicious elements cried in panic
Until we lost cohesion every point.

These events can hardly be called your fault,
Your commanders were not the same soldiers
As those who fought for France at Austerlitz,
No, they are faint of heart, & think war sport,
Go flitting between fear & foolishness,
The Gaurd, with Lannes or Bessi at its head,
Would not have been defeated.

Yes, perhaps…
I now know how I march’d a month too soon,
This Grand Armee lack’d true consistency,
But let us re-enact the war no more,
Too late to ruminate on matters pass’d,
The present presses in relentelessly,
Someone tell me of the mood in Paris,
What of the salon gossip, do you know?

All along the avenue Marigny,
At the Elysee, there were handsome groups,
Standing before the palace in full throat,
Shouts of ‘Vive L’Empereur’ were well heard,
Wich soldiers echoed back with happy hearts.

Why not fight on, lead armies to the Loire,
Rallying all with a single slogan,
La patrie en danger!

Still they cheer me?
The appetite last year was not for war,
But twelve more months of the fat Bourbon kings
Sticking their snouts in Republican troughs,
Has taught them who is better for the throne,
Let us declare a war of survival,
Announce that I will never sign a peace
As long as enemies trample Gallic soil
With booted footsteps of its soldiery.

If I may interject, Your Majesty
The enemy is legion, & possess
The border fortresses, the Prussians press
At Compeigne already.

But that is only forty miles away!
Inform the chambers of my willingness
To resume the command of the army,
There must be eighty-thousand troops to hand,
Yes, thirty-thousand more than in Fourteen,
When I held off the armies of three states –
Russia, Prussia, Austria – three whole months
Eighty thousand is forty-five thousand
More than cross’d the Great Saint Bernard Pass –
We can defend Paris for many years,
Until our foes are thoroughly repulsed.

We must persist, we must resist, levee
En masse, like Ninety-Three, the peasantry;
All men are soldiers, sire, sound the trumpet,
The Spanish did it to our very selves
They drove us back to France at pitchfork point,
Bolstered by handfuls of regular troops
Commanded by a lesser mind than yours –
Let fields & orchards, farmyards & churches
Become part of the fortress that is France,
Protracted war will stickle in the throat,
Of those who thought the French would merely lie
Down at their feet, prostrate, like panting dogs.

There is a problem, sire, the Deputies
Are turning in their chamber, mostly turn’d
By Fouche, who says you are a tyrant,
Your second abdication by them call’d,
It is a sordid spectacle to see.

Then the Chamber I shall simply dissolve,
Thro’ prosperties they crawled at my heels
Like bodiless creations, to act now
With strength, resembling my authority,
Is merely flashing mirrors from my will.

The Chamber only yesterday decreed
If anybody dared them to dissolve,
They shall be deem’d a traitor to all France.

All France? All France! All France belongs to me,
I should have had that scoundrel Fouche hang’d,
Incredulous he even dares to speak!
Who is he that invokes the Tricolor
Who France fled when I went off to Elba,
Who owes me his own return to Paris,
& while his feet are kicking weightless air
I’ll fling a number of the Deputies
Into the Seine, & have the Chambers closed,
Just like Cromwell.

Alas, your Majesty,
All this should lead to bloody anarchy
Do you have courage for the guillotine
& a legacy like Robespierre?

Gentlemen, let us from this talk divert,
This was my mother’s house, as well you know,
For war & politics she ground no salt,
& commanders best left from decisions
When sheerest exhaustion abstruses mind,
We have prepared hot waters for him here,
Better that he has bath’d before them cool’d.

Agreed, relaxing baths worth four hours sleep,
I’ll take one now & then a little food.

Exit Napoleon taking off his gloves, he is watched in


Scene 5: Malmaison, Gardens

Hortense is in the garden pruning Roses, singing an air.
Enter Napoleon in casual clothes.

I recognise that song, from Aquitaine?

It is father, how was your food, your bath?

They conjur’d revitalising essence,
I was an ocean’s weary, three full days
Lacking food of any substance, nor sleep
Dared visit me with blanket tenderness,
Delirious of Malmaison I dream’d,
This chateaux blesses comfort in my smiles,
It should be a merry dish of delights
If I could end my days entranquil’d here.

Malmaison is your home, your majesty

It never was, no, always your mother’s,
This elegant, heavenly enterprise,
That now is yours, & legally bestow’d.

Paperwork… it is yours via manna
Of existence, as ancyent Celtic gods
Are eterniz’d by name in sacred groves,
Malmaison shall frame Human memories
Of Josephine & her Napoleon!
Stay as long as you like, but with plain speech
Your safety is of issue paramount,
The Prussians close on Paris hour on hour

Let us not fret on matters such as these,
We are safe today, & for tomorrow,
Time enough to take delight in nature,
How are your mother’s flowers? Summer’s heat
Provides life when, vibrating in their terms,
Each flower like a censer fumes, perfumes
The air with such a melancholy waltz.

They prosper well as always, & I feel
Inebriated with their sheer beauty,
Exotic blooms of June, sweetly breathing,
Mass’d rhododendrons rambling by jasmine,
& roses of every shade & species.

She loved them so, adored their inspection,
Her loveliest roses would bloom for weeks,
The future’s garden lovers, I am sure,
Will praise her extension of loveliness
From petal-days to month-long majesty.

She was a master-mistress of her craft,
No guild could teach her what she breath’d inside,
But those are flowers, father, this is life
As every second sends its urgencies,
Where will you go? Perhaps America
A fine letter from Eliza Jummel
Reach’d me, she & her husband shall prepare
A royal residence to woo New York.

Considerations I shall give to this,
My destiny might be accomplish’d there,
Making amends to my posterity,
Dedicated devotee of science,
From Atlantic sound to Pacific rim
I could cross that vast & fantastic land,
Studying physical phenomena,
From botany to planetary spheres.

As one door closes, opens another,
If remaining salutationally
Determined, insurmountable hardship
Crumbles… labours persevered undaunted
Overhaul even broken destiny!

My destiny ruptured when we parted,
Your mother & I, my life’s large regret,
So strange that this fair chateaux which witness’d
Scenes of indescribable triumph, sees
Disaster never known by any man,
& she – she is absent – her tenderness
Could soothe fury.

I cannot take her place,
But sympathies solicited still yours,
I sense exactly how she would have felt,
In flummox-flux at her unhappiest.

Your mother was the true guide of my life,
The one who taught me fluency of love,
The love I bare for Maria-Louise
Is familial, you do understand?
No-one removes Josephine from my heart,
Within its lonely beats she sits in state.

I understand, but it pains me to hear
The name & source of your separation.

She never was the source, never the cause,
At work were forces dampening constraint,
An incredible empire to preserve;
On looking back… wiser, unvisor’d eyes
Acknowledge how my fate was built for her
Whose face I see, whose form goes where I roam,
Strolling paths, applauding in theatres,
Her irrisistabilty haunts me,
The most enchanting being I have known,
Vivacious & vivid in every sense,
She was a woman to her fingertips.

I miss her fashion, father, her passion
For elegance, to look her best, empress

The fairest in all France,
No painter ever captured her beauty,
For hers the deftest beauty of movement;
She was the most glittering ornament
Of empire, & this garden sings her style,
Best stage & setting of our better times.

I, too, cannot abide this fragrant place,
Without wondering if, any moment,
She might appear in happy finery
Pricking along the paths, plucking flowers.

With what sad tears she water’d all her blooms

I disagree, Malmaison her happiness,
These gardens were your union’s children,
Your nurseries these lush, umbrageous grounds.

Such well-will’d words are wounding me too much,
Let us stroll instead as did your mother
& I, so many times.

Of course father
{they link arms & head off thro’ the gardens}
Do you remember dining al fresco
Upon the lawns on warm summer evenings,
Talking about science, literature,
The supernatural, female attire…

I do, & after, on a path like this,
New plants would we admire & sometimes gaze
On recent vistas open’d thro’ the trees,
When doing so my political life
Evaporated like the early dew
That forms bright pearls upon the ageless grass.


Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen


Dixie Whittington: The Hamecoming

Oran Mor, Glasgow
Nov 25 –  Dec 28, 2019

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png
Performance: four-stars.png S.O.D.: four-stars.png

From the moment when Dixie Whittington (Amy Scott), Captain Cut-Thrapple (Claire Waugh) and Dame Dora Dumplin (Dave Anderson in a wig) came tripping down the aisle through the audience, the stage was set for an hour of merriment and chaos. So began Oran Mor’s 2019 Christmas Pantomime, “Dixie Whittington, the Hamecoming” written and directed by the excellent Morag Fullerton.

The fast moving plot found the naïve young Whittington under the sway of his evil landlord, Skinflint (John Kielty), head full of London tales that never came true, despite the voice in his head telling him to turn again for he would be Mayor of London. And when he was chucked out of his digs, and found himself in a tavern full of drunken sailors, his thoughts turned to heading back up north where his poor old grandmother sat all alone in her lonely flat. When pirate captain Cut-Thrapple offered him and his cat, Fleabag, a passage all the way up to Glasgow –– it seemed like the answer to his prayers.

Of course all Cut-Thrapple and his dastardly sidekick Dame Dumplin the ship’s cook could think of was treasure and cared not for the destinies of man or woman – he had every intention of corrupting the hapless Dixie and leaving him penniless. Was the ship even going to Glasgow? Who knows? The dark tale unfolded with plenty of rip roaring, thigh slapping action, hearty songs and fulsome audience participation. And just when we were wondering how the poor lad would ever climb out of his desperate predicament, enter Inverary Jones (John Kielty again) the shining hero, pushed onstage on a trolley.

With twists and turns too numerous to mention, and with the help of Inverary and a mysterious mermaid called Suzi-the-single-fish, Dixie eventually found his way back to the arms of his grateful granny, who would be lonely no more, much to everyone’s joy – except Cut-throat’s (Boo! Hiss!). And we end with the voices proclaiming that Dixie Whittington, you SHALL be Mayor of Glasgow! Hoorah!

Daniel Donnelly


Malmaison: Scenes 1-2


Scene 1: The Fields of Waterloo

The battle is going badly for the French, many of whom are fleeing the field. Napoleon is in discussion with Gourgaud, Darrican and Hulin. Cannonballs and bullets falling around them.

La Garde recule!

The Garde, ridiculous!

Stand, Boys!

Save the Eagles!

Vive la France!

Enter Hulin

The Old Gaurd broken, our hopes are all gone,
The moon uprisen, & the day is lost!
At Papelotte, Hougoumont, La Haye Saint,
The army gives up ground on every side,
Like a thaw it cracks & floats & rolls off,
Flailing in confusions & collisions,
An awful mass of panicking soldiers,
Casting muskets & knapsacks into wheat,
Officers, even generals, ignor’d,
& worst of all the portal of retreat
Is closing every second, Plancenoit
Is lost, our fifteen thousand overwhelm’d
By twice that number, swelling each second,
Only the Chasseurs of the Guard delay
The seizure of the vital Brussels road,
Sire, sire! You have no choice, please extricate
Your person from this scene of acrid carnage.


What is this mad, malevolent panic,
That like a poison penetrates the lines?
Where are Marshall Grouchy’s thirty thousand?
Where is that vain, reckless romancer Ney?

He is there, waving tattered epaulettes,
Ordering volleys of comfortless shot,
He is bleeding, muddy, magnificent,
Waving his broken sword as he recalls
& insults soldiers, even as they flee
They are shouting, ‘long live brave Marshall Ney!’

The Bravest of the Brave? The Fool of Fools!
Tho’ frightening the English from their wits,
A cavalry charge without infantry
Is folly of the lunatic kind,
On this terrible day of destiny
My talon’d wildcats transmorph to children,
But if I am to die it will be here
With my men, by their side, sharing the toil.

No, sire, you must escape the battlefield,
France cannot lose you, sire, for you are France.

You must leave at once.

Your horse is ready.

Very well, better to be in Paris,
To organise the national defence.

Napoleon is led from the field by the marshalls.
He passes an old soldier who looks at him
open-mouthed, with no love

Flee, wet chicken cur, coward recreant!
Leaving infants naked for the leopards –
Across the Earth I followed you in love,
Much more than brothers were we all in arms
Affections spent unearthly, devoted
To your very name; only this morning
I thought it was divine, but now it falls
Like sleet upon my ears, numbing & cold,
Heart freezing tears before the drops can fall
Into into this murd’rous sea of blood & mud.

The soldier is bayoneted by an English redcoat


Scene 2: Malmaison, Josephine’s Bedroom

Josephine enters with Napoleon, covering his eyes with her hands.

And this… keep them closed… this… is my bedroom

Incredible, those swans almost divine!

I like to think we two are one bevvy,
Celebrated by synchronicities,
& mates for life.

Let us make a signet
Or six, & christen these slick, silken sheets,
I imagin’d them just so this morning,
I have a thousand kisses readying,
Kisses for your eyes, your lips, your shoulders,
I am utterly, unboundenly yours.

Bonaparte, Bonaparte, be patient please,
Your tour of Malmaison yet incomplete,
Step with me to the window bay to gaze
On grounds Arcadian, much neglected
Since the Revolution, but potential!
Such potential! I have dreamt of roses,
Three hundred acres of woods, lawns, vineyards
& Rueill – see its smoke – a fine village;
Examine all apsects of this prospect,
Just think of it, Malmaison soon could be
Your royal court amid the countryside.

It could, yes, that may be, but let me show
You something, something much more beautiful,
Step gently to this mirror’s length to gaze
On the beauty of Madame Bonaparte,
Do you see?

I do… I wore white for you
You love me in white, I know

If it was
To please me you succeed – what beauty dwells
{rearranging Josephine’s flowers in her hair}
In special auras glowing aslant moon
& stars & skies; your almond-lidded eyes,
Like melted amber, by long lashes guarded,
Unleash resistless forces on my soul.

Resistless force? That force, I fear, is you,
The brilliant general of our day
Returning from Syria & Egypt,
Who somehow still has energy to spare
For my coiffure.

I am full devoted
To your hair, your body, your everything.

Later, love, let us dine tonight, & then…

Tonight! But what passion boils inside me,
The lava of my love for you explodes,
Erupting at the touchstone of your looks,
Your kisses set my blood on fire, your sweetness
Melts my heart, the poet stirs within
Primordial, like a wild animal.

Tonight! There is dignity in waiting,
It is time to show you the gallery,
Where paintings you issued from Italy
Bedeck the walls with bounty beauteous.


Will there be any portraits of yourself?
Between such images & memories
Of intoxicating nights together
I have no respite, incomparable
Josephine, your existence consumes me,
Your spirit overwhelms my heart profoundly.

I always want to see the tenderness
In your eyes, as you desire for me now,
My life was ordain’d for your happiness,
Whenever you are sorrow’d lay your hands
Upon these breasts, here salver’d solace yours,
Tho’ we are like the poles – apart in ways,
Entwining we make a perfect planet!

I will conquer countries while you’ll woo hearts,
My own beats testament to your powers,
It is Josephine who inspires my days,
The poets call them muses, you possess
Excuisiteness, decorative darling,
My entire being quickens before thee,
My inner mystic, lain in embryo,
Shaken alive by love so real, so true.

Yet so tainted

We shall speak no more of Hippolyte Charles

You are the first beholder of my shame,
He is dead to me now, my bewilder’d
State, strange delirium, fuddl’d by fate,
I hated being goddessean object
Of fascination, such adoration,
My spirit unsuited to submissives.

I am more harden’d now, Egyptian heat
Has baked my heart into a brick of clay,
My vanities by Syria were purg’d,
I never should have attempted the East,
Being fortunate to extract myself,
The folly’s karma equalised by you,
Driven into the arms of another,
So very far away, I understand.

My indiscretion was an insane play,
Vainglorious succubus swerv’d my brain
Whose dreams are full of you, a scar has form’d,
Smiting conscience with a deep penitence!

All soldiers have their scars, I have mine too;
This thigh reflects an English bayonet,
Delivered as I triumph’d at Toulon,
The other from our wedding day, a bite
From your dog, but the pain is forgotten,
All that remains are feelings of glory
In victories of lovemaking & war,
The memories of our nuptial night
Drop like clear heaven gleaming thro’ a pearl.

We share a love, full-form’d, unlike those loves
Of ordinary glaze, speak of what girl
In all the world who’d fail to take great pride
Being the motivating influence
Of martial arms marching unto glory.

Believe me when I say you march with us,
The designator of our providence,
Watching proceedings, blessing bravest feats,
When only as I win my battlefields,
Am I releas’d to hurry to your arms.


You’re my lucky star
You’re my lucky star
I see that you shine for me when I travel too far
You look so amazing, yeah, with your lazar chrome
Whenever you shine for me you’re gonna guide me home

This star of mine she shines
Only when I’m lost sometimes

I have a vision, ascertain
When you’ve gone & lost your way again
Gonna light the night my lovely one
So you can make your own way to the sun

You’re my lucky star
You’re my lucky star
I see that you shine for me when I travel too far
I know you’ll always be with me, where-ever I roam
Whenever you shine for me ya gonna guide me own

This star of mine she shines
Only when I’m lost sometimes

I have a vision, ascertain
When you’ve gone & lost your way again
Gonna light the night my lovely one
So you can make your own way to the sun

Living your life aint easy
If you’ve traveled off to far
But when I look up to the skies
I see exactly where you are
Beacause you are, oh yes you are
You’re my lucky star

This star of mine she shines
Only when I’m lost sometimes



Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen


a little space


Square Chapel, Halifax

Script: three-stars.png Stagecraft: five-stars
Performance: three-stars.png S.O.D.: four-stars.png

a little space is a collaborative production (appropriately, they describe it as an adventure) by Gecko and Mind the Gap. Together they lit up a decidedly dark and wintery Halifax. Created by Mind the Gap’s Charli Ward and Karen Bartholomew and Gecko’s Dan Watson and Rich Rusk, a little space is, at its most basic, a group of stories about the residents of an apartment block. However, this production is anything but basic.

It starts before we even realise. As the audience is directed to their seats, a young woman casually steps onto the stage and begins to rearrange the various pieces of furniture in a small apartment room– a table, an armchair, a lamp. She’s clearly enjoying personalising the space – she pauses for a moment to playfully drum her fingers on the table. The joy when she finds the optimum position for the armchair is infectious. You could be forgive for not even realising this is taking place, it’s all so unassuming. It could just be a stagehand making a few last minute finishing touches to the set. And these small series of actions get straight to the heart of one if themes of a little space, how do we carve out our own space in this world?


The backdrop is made up of a tangle of pipes that wrap around one another before shooting off in their own individual directions. She takes out a wrench and then begins to play a tune on these very pipes as the auditorium explodes with music and the five strong cast creep onto the stage to begin their opening dance. They weave through and around one another, much like the pipes of the backdrop, until they end up in a circle, almost – but not quite – holding hands.

The story, follows three key characters: A young woman moves into an apartment, seemingly on her own for the first time. A young couple, completely in tune and wrapped up in one another, begin to fall apart as one half tumbles down a rabbit hole of addiction as he becomes increasingly obsessed with the television in the corner of the room.

Again, it all sounds so simple, but yet the story is so ambiguous and open to interpretation that it allows a great depth and complexity to unfurl before our eyes. These residents aren’t given character names and they have little to no dialogue. They could be anyone, they could be saying anything. We’re treated to ghostly visitatons and flashbacks that hint at past traumas but these are never explained, allowing the audience to develop their own interpretations and emotional connections. The story is told in a series of vignettes that weave seamlessly into one another with flourishes of choreography and subtle shifts of the scenery as we move from one flat to another. At one moment, the production zooms in on the mundane – the young woman sits at the table completing word puzzles, the couple brush their teeth as they get ready for another day. In an instant, it shifts into the surreal as the floorboards open up and characters tumble through them into bizarre landscapes, of giant shifting tower blocks of lights, of characters navigating their way through a dark and scary world with nothing but a lamp to help them find their way. In a perfect illustration of this striking balance of surreal and mundane, one of the performers finds herself trapped in a miniature version of the set and begins to suffer a panic attack. Another character presents her with a mug and suggests she sits down and has a nice cup of tea, puncturing her nightmares with calming, reassuring normality.


This ambiguity is what really helps the production to shine. a little space is a veritable Rubik’s cube of a show, with shifting set design and choreography, with ever evolving permutations that set both the head and the heartalight. This ambiguity is a core value of Gecko theatre, using it to both inspire and move audiences and here the balance between emotional resonance and brain food is near perfect. It’s a heady mix that never feels cold and calculated due to the collaborative process, a process that has resulted in an warm, organic and exciting performance.

Oh, and that light? It’s almost certainly a character all of it’s own, as an assortment of lamps, torches and light boxes abound, helping to steer through the shifting atmospheres, at times horrific, eerie, adventurous, hopeful and joyful. It’s visually striking and places the control of these lights into the hands of the cast, allowing the lighting to be an extension of the own characters, as though cast and lights are extensions of one another.

No matter how surreal the production can be, at its core it is thrillingly human. The five strong cast of Paul Bates, Lorraine Brown, Alison Colborne, JoAnne Haines and Charlotte Jones are all equally superb. Their enthusiasm is infectious, steering us deftly through their humble but emotionally resonant adventure that is at times sad and at others delightfully hilarious. Their choreography is both abstract and emotional, their quiet interjections that sit just beneath the music are increasingly affecting. As one character reluctantly moves into her new apartment, she pauses amidst the drama and gasps, ‘Can’t!’ It’s a tiny, but powerful moment of vulnerability that provides a sharp insight into another of the production’s themes – in this busy world of high rise blocks and interlocking lives, we are always alone but together, always together but alone. At moments, this is a source of huge joy, but at others – such as here – it’s a startling jab of pain.

Fortunately, it doesn’t end with pain. Those hands that never quite held one another at the start of the performance? Ultimately, that’s the central conflict at the centre of a little space. We’re watching the inner and outer turmoils of characters who live together but feel alone and disconnected with the rest of the word around them. Will they finally connect and hold hands? I’ll leave that for you to find out. However, on my way home, Mind the Gap and Gecko had lit a spark in my chest that left me feeling compelled to stagger out into the world, to breathe in it’s beautiful light, form new connections and hold new hands.

Steve Bromley


Cranhill Carmen

IMG_1547i Charlene Boyd, Jason Harvey.jpg

Oran Mor, Glasgow
Nov 18 – 23, 2019

Script: five-stars  Stagecraft: five-stars
Performance: five-stars S.O.D.:five-stars

Oran Mor’s 500 Play season came to a glorious finale this week with a welcome return of “Cranhill Carmen”, Benny Young’s outrageous Glaswegian version of Bizet’s Carmen, complete with versions of all the best known songs, gustily performed by the gutsy cast who first appeared at the venue in 2018 as part of its Mini Musicals series. Reprising their original roles are Charlene Boyd (Carmen McGurn, the eponymous factory girl), Ewan Petrie (Donald John Macneil, the god fearing policeman from the islands) and Jason Harvey as Glesga Millio, the Glasgow hard man come matador.

We first encountered Carmen rather the worse for wear as she stumbled up the aisle in her high heels and frilly red skirt, and finds a suitable spot on the pavement to use as a toilet. Just the moment when PC Donald came upon her and, deeply offended by the depravity of the act, held forth on his fears for mankind and his unwavering faith in God, both for good inside and out. When he took out his notebook in order to charge her with indecency, Carmen employs all her wiles to persuade him not to book her for her minor misdemeanour. He found himself drawn towards her, enchanted by her glamour and her clever wit. The two engaged in a highly charged philosophical game and he was completely captivated – he’d give up his life for her.

IMG_1519i Jason Harvey, Charlene Boyd.jpg

Enter Glesga Millio, resplendent in full matador kit, going all out to impress the lovely Carmen. In complete contrast to the gentle Donald, this was the bad boy, taking command of the stage with his deep bellowing tones and overpowering flavoursome self. His wooing was rough and full of innuendos about what he’d do to women like her, but Carmen loved it and succumbed to his charms.

Dripping in sin, the lovely Carmen revels in the attentions of the two men in turn, laughing at their male competitiveness and transcending what seemed like horrific circumstances into something that it was a joy to behold. Of course the music helped, with all three belting out Bizet’s marvellous tunes with true operatic gusto and heart wrenching feeling. When the finale arrived it was Carmen who emerged victorious, declaring that both men just want to control her and she’s not having any of it. She deftly informs them that she’ll soon be leaving the country anyway.

This play is full of sheer flamboyance, reaching great heights and depths. When in the end Carmen left as she had come, disappearing back up the aisle with neither man in tow, we can’t help but smile.

Daniel Donnelly


Do Not Press This Button

IMG_1476i Cameron Fulton, David Rankine, Gemma McElhinney..jpg

Oran Mor, Glasgow
Nov 11 – 16, 2019

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: three-stars.png 
Performance: four-stars.png S.O.D: three-stars.png

As we approach the end of this season’s 500 play celebrations, today’s production took the form of Do Not Press This Button, a new play by Alan Bisset, directed by Kirsten Mclean. The scene was two table’s on a train where Ben (David Rankine) and Maria (Gemma McElhinney) were seated on either side of the four big windows, both looking intent and composed. All at once Ben tried to start up a conversation with a reluctant Maria and they growl at each other for a bit, recognising that they often share the same train journey but had never talked before.

The somewhat abrupt interaction warmed up when Maria hit upon the idea of a game of questions and answers where they each agreed to answer questions from the other. But Maria had an agenda, and her questions become increasingly personal and uncomfortable for Ben. With a smile on her face, she asked which race was his favourite, as in race of people, and the conversation took on an increasingly explosive tone as he tried to evade her probing. It was almost like watching a Shakespearean encounter with Maggie’s intelligence and sharp wit leaving Ben standing. We laughed at the sight of him being put in his place, it seemed that Maggie couldn’t be won over as easily as all that – if that’s what Ben was trying to do…

IMG_1451i David Rankine, GemmaMcElhinney..jpg

Enter Terry in his bomber jacket (Cameron Fulton), who became a kind of an innocent third party as the other two discussed him when he went off to find beer. They agreed that they found his demeanour threatening and confessed to feeling relief that he had temporarily absented himself. The contrast between the stereotypes was not lost on us – the two middle class professionals and the working class Terry with his rough accent and casual clothes. But their attitudes and opinions could confound us too, and lead to assumptions being taken to account. Things took on a much darker turn when Terry was reluctantly cajoled into talking with the two about race and Dire Straits, of all things, and he responded by threatening Maria with his fists. It all ended very badly…

This was a wonderful piece of writing and fitted the Oran venue perfectly, with marvellous edgy performance from all three actors. I suppose that if we don’t “press these buttons” we wouldn’t learn anything at all, but the stern lesson is to do so at your peril and know when to stop!

Daniel Donnelly