From the depths of a Utah tomb to a Cornish catacomb, Nick Darke's startling new play is a pan-Atlantic tragicomedy of murder, corruption and missed nuptials.
Koyt (formerly The Bogus)
Springville, Utah, USA ‘96
JOHN SHY - thin, undernourished, dressed in rags
His lamp illuminates a row of human skulls
He lifts one down, blows the dust off and inspects the jaw
He plucks a gold tooth out with a pair of pincers
JOHN SHY Y’don’t have to tell me it’s a sin to rob the dead but I’m starving. If half these brain-pans was alive they’d give me their gold teeth outa compassion.
He draws another tooth
JOHN SHY Name’s John Shy. I can’t get work see I’m on the black-
A VOICE calls from above
JOHN SHY recoils
VOICE (sings) Sing from the chamber to the grave,
I hear the dying miner say…
JOHN SHY (petrified) Hear that?
VOICE (sings) A sound of melody I crave,
Upon my burial day.
JOHN SHY There’s three or four hundred corpses round me and one of the bastards is singing a song.
JOHN SHY That’s a mortal voice. He ain’t dead. Yet.
VOICE Help me!
JOHN SHY I’m coming buddy! Hold fast!
SONG (scherzo) Once there was a man
Who called himself John Shy,
But that is not the name
That you will know him by.
Which is just as well
Cus John Shy was a loner
With nothing to him till he took
Another man’s persona.
Above ground, ARTHUR MAY lies dying in a ditch
Enter JOHN SHY
JOHN SHY Know this man? Yes y’do. It’s Arthur May. Governor May.
ARTHUR MAY groans
JOHN SHY Somebody put a bullet in him and I ain’t at all surprised cus this guy is one prime bastard. Bin assassinated. Look at his stomach. Flensed and raw like the meat deck on a whaleboat.
ARTHUR MAY Mister-
JOHN SHY What is it Governor?
Arthur had some breath left
To ask John Shy a favour-
ARTHUR (adagio) I’m on my way to Kernow
To visit my old mother.
I wrote her I was coming
And I can’t let her down,
Wear my coat, say you’re me,
Go to my home town.
If you can keep your nerve,
They won’t know your face,
I was no more than a child
When I was taken from that place.
ARTHUR MAY dies in JOHN SHY’s arms
JOHN SHY His mouth is open but he ain’t gonna sing no more.
He extracts three gold teeth
JOHN SHY Why should I do as he asks? He was Governor of Utah! Never did a god-dam thing for me. I don’t owe him any favours at all. Visit Kernow? Where the hell’s that? Go see his mother? Some old bitch who’s expecting her son, a little boy who left home all those years ago, to pay her one final…one…before she…aw shit! The last wish of a dying man. To call on his mother. That’s something. Boy I don’t care if he’s a friend or foe I’m a man of integrity and I will honour that wish.
The transformation is complete,
John Shy is no more,
And Arthur’s journey started
Towards a distant shore.
Bound for a town in Kernow
Where Arthur May was born,
A desperate town, a lawless town,
Where good days fear to dawn.
Rural Sanitary District of KOYT, KERNOW, ‘96
GRACE BRINEY’S shop on the eastern edge of town
SIGN: ‘GRACE BRINEY’S sabotage shop; Dynies for sale; Top Kwality nitro; ‘dozers
immobilized; Trespassers will be vindicated; Fish-head soup’
Enter JOHN SHY
BIDDICK BATE raises her head from behind a wall
BIDDICK Stay where you are mister! If you value your life!
JOHN SHY Why?
A loud explosion inside the shop
JOHN SHY drops to the ground
BIDDICK She’s mixin up the nitroglycerine.
BRINEY (within) Biddick!
BIDDICK Loosen the flange bolt on the acid inlet before you run the water!
BRINEY (within) I done that!
BIDDICK Did you pipe air up through the agitator coils?!
BRINEY (within) Biddick!
BIDDICK Shall I announce your arrival?
JOHN SHY Who to?
BIDDICK Grace Briney.
JOHN SHY Where am I?
BIDDICK Town of Koyt. Country of Kernow.
JOHN SHY Koyt. Strange place, no bones about it.
Enter GRACE BRINEY
BRINEY O yes! Every inch a Governor.
BIDDICK Governor is it?
BRINEY Governor Arthur May.
BRINEY E said so on ‘is letter.
JOHN SHY (alarmed) Which letter?
BRINEY The one you wrote to my late husband.
BIDDICK Blind Harold Briney.
BRINEY Chairman of Koyt Rural Sanitary Authority.
JOHN SHY How did he die?
JOHN SHY Let me see that.
BRINEY (handing him letter) It was the last thing I ever read to im.
BIDDICK Forgive us our grief.
BRINEY We only burned im yesterday.
BIDDICK thrusts a bucket at JOHN SHY
BIDDICK There’s his ashes.
Enter ALICE MAY
ALICE I wanna stick a dynamite!
BRINEY A dynie madam? What size?
ALICE snatches the bucket from JOHN SHY and empties out the ashes