The Wednesday Play: The Hyperviolent King of the Universe
This week’s contribution, The Hyperviolent King of the Universe, is by Matt Parvin. A graduate of the Royal Court Young Writers Programme and the Orange Tree Writers Collective, his work has been staged at the Arcola Theatre and Theatre503 as well as at the Edinburgh Fringe and Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre. His professional debut, Two Roads, premiered at the 2015 VAULT Festival and his short, Roost, won Best Script Prize at the Oxford New Writing Festival. Jam, his full-length debut play, will be on at the Finborough Theatre from May 23.
A son and a mother, alone in the universe.
Beatrix. So violent.
Beatrix. Well …
No I’m kidding dear, of course.
Beatrix. Terrifyingly so.
Beatrix. I just got these new trousers, so …
Here is the thing: Ron is a good man. A good man is Ron. So how shall it be done?
Ed. … tender?
Beatrix. Good Boy.
I’ll be right outside.
Beatrix. Fucking yes fucking yes fucking yes, Boy. My Boy. My Boy. With his very hands. His beautiful little, little but tough – so tough – his so tough hands. Brings the money. Just a, just a hundred percent moneyed has he made us now, my Boy, with his hands; so moneyed and so free, all by only just the simple act of killing a husband. Killing a real shit. ’cause that cock had secret safes that spring at my touch. Taxless bank accounts, islands only I can find. A will written in my blood. There he was telling me how to act, speak, dress; and off went my bomb. My beautiful suitcase-nuke. Now my bomb – my Boy – my Boy-bomb’s going to private schools. Buying universities. Having any future he likes. Yes?
You look –
Ed. My stomach. Something’s there. Making me vibrate. All my … all.
Beatrix. Breathe that riverside air. Have some champagne or glass-bottled water.
… I sense you want to keep on with the husbands, then …
Beatrix. I blow the bloody horn. The metaphorical horn but we’ll get an actual horn. ’cause by this river, by this elemental … old god, we celebrate a new life. On and on, they’ll go. Killing husbands till the cows come home. Eating lines of succession like spaghetti, Bea and Boy. This revelation owes thanks to, would not exist without, pure faith in Boy. And, in some part, Bea’s genius to pick him up, tear his baby teeth out and give him fangs and claws. Please enjoy your meal of champagne, fresh strawberries, and caviar.
Beatrix. Every limb and digit.
Beatrix. Clonk clonk CLONK.
Ed. Ceremonial sword.
Beatrix. Suits him.
Beatrix. But …
Ed. Break his legs with pipe. Then pigs.
Beatrix. Where would we …
Ed. I have a place.
Beatrix. There we are then.
Beatrix. That’s not clinical. Something simple.
Beatrix. Nothing simpler …? Fine.
Ed. Knock Ron with the bat.
Beatrix. From behind.
Ed. If Ron’s not done, a cushion. On Ron’s face.
Beatrix. Take the wheel I have this smoke.
Driving are we. Driving are we. To our new town. In our big smooth car. That looks like a shark. Tamed by my Boy, ’cause I have faith.
We’re Bea and Boy. Bea and Boy. Killing husbands are we – some real shits, only the worst ones – and absolutely nailing it, and having a great time, and scything our own way through the heart of things.
And my Boy’s really handsome, cause he’s got good taste, and he buys cool clothes.
Ed. Mother …
Beatrix. My Boy is handsome. It shall be said.
And elated, my Boy. ’cause he knows. Knows we’re stinking filthing gorgeousing ruddy rich now. And so no school, no university for my Boy. My Boy don’t need help. My Boy can buy brains. My Boy will have whatever brains he wants.
All those toys you ever wanted, Boy, remember those. We’re buying them. All. Buy the store we could.
Ed. I don’t want them.
Beatrix. Boy does not want them? Boy will not deign them. What does Boy want?
Beatrix. KNIVES, he says. And knives shall he have. Knives with bells on.
Ed. No bells, serrated edges. With bells they’ll hear me coming.
Beatrix. Give the wheel back. Sit up straight police come by.
Of course it’s not all about the things, Boy. Not all about the money or the weapons or even the killing – even the killing, Boy, is a means, not an end, isn’t it?
Yes. And though it is fine to enjoy it, fine to take some pleasure in the things and the money and even the violence – fine because?
Husbands suck; natural, desirous even, because husbands suck; and the skill and the thrill and husbands, they suck –
And yet you don’t lose sight of the goal. Because let us get this very straight, Boy, you aren’t a serial killer. You are, if anything, a soldier; a revolutionary; but also beyond that –you’re new, entirely.
So what’s it about, Boy?
Are you listening to me?
Ed. Only to you.
Beatrix. Good. And what do you hear?
It’s about what we need, and who we don’t; who drags us down and who bears us up. It’s about the night-maze, and owning the minotaur, and who holds the torch. It’s about the system. Not just marriage, not just those men, the whole system.
The balance: it tips their way; it will tip mine. What is a better society –? No, reality? My reality. And to remake, to terraform, we need a weapon. You are the answer, my dear Boy. I deploy you and know all will be right in my universe.
Hear that? My universe. Fuck the old gods – the big man; the rivers – they’ve failed us. I’m your god, Boy; the only god you need.
Yeah … We keep it cool.
Ed. Carpet, dark alley.
Ed. Bin bags, lake.
Beatrix. Raining down in the dark water.
Ed. Plastic wrapping, under concrete.
Beatrix. His very own building site?
Ed. Acid bathtub.
Just, acid –
Beatrix. My Boy so clever, so clever my Boy.
Ed. He’s gone. In the pigs.
Beatrix. And the bones?
Ed. Them too.
Beatrix. And what does it look like? When you do it. I hear the sounds and wonder how you move. Like a knife, I bet.
And do you keep anything?
Beatrix. Just checking. There are crimes. Crime of crimes: endangering the project, in any way. Understand? Nothing more important. So spoke God to her enforcer, The Boy.
Ed. And who’s Ron?
I saw a –
Beatrix. Just a man. A man I’ve been speaking to, but just a man.
This is why I said simple.
Had you ever even used a crossbow?
I do not do … this bit.
He’s all over my trousers.
Priority one: don’t let them run for it.
… chasing him through that field … ridiculous.
Ed. We have to get / rid of –
Beatrix. Do the lake again.
Ed. They’ll have a pattern.
Beatrix. Do the lake. Now.
Beatrix. I’m sorry? I’m sorry what did Boy say to me?
Ed. Car crusher. Car crusher to crush his car and he’s inside.
And next we’ll do Ron.
That’s why you’ve been seeing him.
Beatrix. I’ll marry him first. Then you’ll do it.
Beatrix. … Seven …
Ed. Hoover. Acid wipe down. Burn the house. Burn the hoover. Ron’s gone.
Beatrix. I thought you used a bat.
Then how’s he up there. And over there. And in that.
Ed. I used it a lot.
Beatrix. Thinking is not a crime, Boy. Thinking is –
Ed. Long enough.
Beatrix. Think. Think. Thinking is the basis of our operation. So I shouldn’t be the only one doing it.
Ed. Married now.
Beatrix. It’s fine to take pause, to consider. To go on a cruise, where you consider. That you’re on it with the man you’re considering – tickety-fucking-boo.
Ed. Married now.
Beatrix. I’ve given more time to this than you. Elbow grease to fill a swimming pool. I’m wining and dining and fucking them every night for how long while you’re what – sitting in dark unfurnished flats. So it’s my say.
Ed. Long enough.
Beatrix. Stop saying that; with that look; just like your father.
No – Don’t – Don’t – STOP SLAPPING yourself –
You can’t want only this.
Ed. I don’t want it. I give myself to it.
Beatrix. You don’t need to.
Ed. So speaks my god?
Ron and comforts have … I worry …
Long enough. Ron must be hung, drawn, quartered. Ron-segments must feed rats and Ron-mulch fertilise –
Beatrix. YOU – WILL – OBEY –
… What a waste of holy energy … Striking Boy …
Ron is doomed now. Hope long gone, for Ron. Why wait I? None of Boy’s business. Boy does not grasp the ways. Ron dies when and how I will.
Boy questions our course again, Boy ends.
Ed. … zero …
Beatrix. Eddie? Eddie honey? Can you look at me? Don’t look at him; stop looking at –
There you are. It’s Mother. No – Stay. Over there. For the moment. Mother can’t hug you right now. And drop the knife, honey. There we go.
Don’t … Eddie … What’s that? Are you counting? His …? Well yes you did really go for it … No use … Stop staring at him.
No; I’m sorry; don’t cry my boy. Mother’ll sort it. Mother’s gonna clean him all up.
You know what? That was beautiful. What you did for me. Tender. I know it doesn’t look so right now, with all the red stuff, but … He was awful; though your father … So …
Eddie let me tell you a thing about fathers; let me tell you a thing about husbands, Eddie. Evolution, society, have wrecked them. They are useless; disaster; the curse. People pray nightly for their end. For each who uses his fists, another shuts the study door. All are better without fathers, without husbands. Until, of course, change comes.
No thank God. Thank the Lord for my Lord-given, strong-quick-brave boy.
Beatrix. No it’s fine. The hamster was for you, honey – to do with as you wish.
But it’s not that, is it … My Boy needs more. Okay.
Beatrix. Try this rabbit.
Beatrix. Try this goat.
Beatrix. Now that large dog.
Beatrix. I’ve located a horse.
Beatrix. We’ll visit the zoo.
Beatrix. I have an admirer. Wants marriage. So I’ve been thinking …
Ed. One. Another. Two. Another. Three. More. Four. MORE. Five. MARR. Six. MARRRRRGGHHH. Seven –
Beatrix. I said NOT WITH RON. And you … This wasn’t …
He was a GOOD ONE.
Ed. I’m sorry.
Beatrix. I expected too much. Maybe you are just like them.
Ed. Take up the bat, then. Take it.
Raise it high.
I kneel before you, Mother, praying your faith in me return. If it cannot … if I am just another … kiss my crown with night.
A dark room, with a single lamp on.
Ron and Beatrix, beside the lamp, putting down suitcases and removing coats.
Ron. Nice place, though. Can’t wait to get you moved in properly.
He shuffles his feet.
Beatrix. Plastic sheeting.
Ron. Oh yeah …?
Ron. Tonight? You didn’t say.
Beatrix. Surprise. Thought now we’re back, we should finally celebrate the wedding with my lot.
Ron. You should’ve said, I’d’ve invited my boys.
Beatrix. Another time. My Boy requires warning when / new people are –
Ron. Billy’s back from –? Sorry, interrupted you.
He’s back from boarding school? Amazing.
Beatrix. He’s excited to meet you.
Ron. And me, him. Heck, all your friends. Not that I’ve resented having you all to myself …
He kisses her. She pulls away.
Beatrix. Not right now.
Ron. No sure. No sure. I’m just … ah.
Say you couldn’t get me a glass of water, could you hun? I’m wobbly from the boat. Never usually feel nauseous, but …
No actually Jane what’s that smell? It’s, it’s –
Beatrix. Oh, this is my Boy’s room.
No but it smells like –
Beatrix. What boys smell like.
Ron. Oh sure. No sure. Natural. Boy that age … what he’s up to …
Beatrix. He’s a healthy growing strapping young man.
Ron. That I don’t doubt, with your genes, Jane.
But that water? Please? Know what I’ll just get it my –
Beatrix. No. May I say something?
Ron, you have been good to me. Beautifully, sometimes. And I want to thank you.
Ron. Of course, it’s –
Beatrix. No. It’s not. It’s an effort. Which you made.
Just know that … you can sleep easy.
Ron hesitates. Beatrix takes out a small horn and blows it, then leaves and locks the door.
The lights go on. The space is brighter, but shadows remain. It appears bare but for plastic sheeting on the floor, a small table and the lamp. Ed is there in a corner, dressed only in white pants and earmuffs. His body is covered by red handprints, including one across his face.
Ron recovers from Beatrix’s exit, sees Ed. Ed removes the earmuffs and moves over slowly.
Hello Billy, I’m Ron. Your mother’s –
Ed. Your pinky.
Ron considers it, puts out a pinky finger.
Ed moves up and takes it gently in his fist. Then twists it; Ron yelps; Ed forces Ron to kneel.
Follow me. Yes? It’s a dance. Yes?
Ron nods. Ed lets go of his finger.
Ron stands. Walks quickly to the door, tries it. Turns back. Ed is staring.
Ed also has a ball now. He chucks it to Ron; Ron flinches, but catches it.
Ed waits. Ron throws it back.
They exchange it three more times; on the third catch Ed puts it down his pants.
Then Ed comes close, points at Ron’s crotch.
Ed. Show me.
Ed. Your cock.
Ron. I’m –
Ed. Flash it.
Ron pulls his trousers and pants out; Ed glances in, nods.
Ron turns; Ed jumps onto his back.
Move and say ‘your mother …’
Ron circles the room.
Ron. Your mother … Your mother … Your mother … Your mother …
Ron lets him off.
Show me round work.
Ron. Uh well Billy, here’s where they do accounts, here’s where we get our coffee, and just through here, down those steps, is the factory, where they make the –
Ed. Give me a present.
Ron takes off his watch, gives it to Ed. Ed puts it on.
Ed hands Ron a razor, and foam, and has his own. Ron layers the foam on his face and shaves. Ed follows him, like a mirror image.
Ed lays out two bottled beers on the table, and a bottle opener, and steps away. Ron goes and opens them, gives one to Ed. They take a sip. Ed acts like it tastes gross. Ron watches.
Tell me about sex.
Ron. I, oh, well – When you really like a girl, Billy, you – It’s something you –
Ron. I’ll get you some condoms, Billy, which you put on your – Use for –
Ed. Congratulate me on my beautiful girlfriend.
Ron. God she’s an angel, son, yeah she’s –
Ed pauses, eyeing Ron.
Ed. Now ignore me. Ignore me and sing your favourite old song and dance like you’re at a wedding till I say stop.
Ron sings the instrumental opening to ‘Monday Monday Monday’ by Tegan and Sara. Ed goes behind him and gets the bat.
Ron reaches the verse. Ed comes up behind him, holding the bat.
Ed raises the bat, aims for the back of Ron’s head, and brings it back for a swing.
Ron reaches the chorus. Ed pauses. Listens. Ron keeps going.
Ed goes round the front and watches Ron, close to his face. Ron has his eyes closed, keeps going.
Ron jumps, stops.
Ron. I, I … don’t know. Just came out.
Ed. It’s odd.
Ed eyes Ron.
Ron. My company. Sells sun loungers. How we got the, the discount on the cruises.
Ron. Things? I, I got things, sure. Houses. Cars. Boats. Animals. Old china.
Ron. Uh … two sons. An ex-wife.
Ron. I …
Ron. I’d say so.
Ron. The wrong perspective. Or a lack of.
Ed. Do you hate her?
Ron. Not anymore. Now I’d actually say I love her again. Not, not in the same – Not like I love –
Ed. Your boys …
Ron. Garrett and Aaron. Older than you.
Ed. Did you hurt them?
Ron. Sure. Not physically; never physically. Not deliberately, neither. It just … Things just do.
I wanted things for them. Things they did not.
Ed. You had faith in them. They betrayed.
Ron. Sure. Then the divorce. The new girlfriends. And just, the days. All the days. Theirs, and mine. Just leads to … building …
But at times I’ve thought their hate of me maybe keeps them going. And they do good things. So that’s fine.
And at the bottom I just loved them. Love them.
Ed walks away, recedes into the shadows for a moment. From the shadows:
Ed. Would you like to see my work?
Ron. … sure.
Ed drags a large chest over to Ron. Opens it. Ron peeks in, starts back, glances at Ed.
That’s a box of heads.
Ed nods, stares.
Yeah no looks like some, some good work there, buddy. All in mint condition. Must’ve been tough, keeping their –
Ed. It was. I’m not meant to.
Ron. Ah well. It’s understandable. You’re just proud, aren’t you. You’re –
Ed. Ssh. Your eyes.
Ron pauses. Ed stares. Ron comes close and Ed stares into his eyes.
Ed’s hands work the bat, twisting and twisting, his fists straining.
He breaks away.
Ron looks about.
Ron goes and pulls back plastic sheeting to reveal a window. He looks back.
Run far. She may follow.
Ron. Won’t … won’t she know?
Ed. The heads.
Ed. THE HEADS.
Ron stares. Opens the window. Goes to climb out; stops.
Ron. You could come with me?
Ed stares. There is a creak outside the door. Ron climbs out the window.
Ed kneels, rigid, looking upwards.
Then stands and slaps his body, hard. Again, and again, and again. Pacing.
And he yelps. Yelps. Yelps. A gasping yelp, like an alien language.
Then he drags the chest of heads to the centre of the room, and tips the heads out. Picks up a head, holds it at arm’s length, and readies the bat.
Then screams – small at first, building to a pitch – spins the head upwards and readies himself to hit.
The room is dark again, but for the halo of the lamp on the table. Viscera covers lamp, table, sheeting, and Ed, who kneels below Beatrix and the bat.
She looks at him. Looks about, at the gore. Raises the bat to strike.
Drops the bat behind herself and sits in the blood.
He looks at her.
Beatrix. I should.
But Boy I’d straight-up murder anyone – anyone – instead. However many, however, for any reason, all my life.
He hugs her.
Is that what you want?
He pauses. He notices sirens nearby, getting closer.
He shakes his head.
He shakes his head again.
Is my Boy that strong too?
Wondrous. Wondrous strange. I knew him beautiful, knew him smart, knew him a total force. I had him pegged a predator, and missed his pure nobility. Now his true nature outs. Has the countenance of a king.
I wonder what this king could do …
She watches him and holds him as the sirens grow louder; the lamp flickers and dies.
Matt Parvin’s full-length debut, Jam, premieres at the Finborough Theatre on May 23. Tickets are £16 (£14 concessions) from May 23 to June 4 and £18 (£16 concessions) from June 6 to June 17.