At night? The sea cracks against the ship. Fear whispers, screams, falls silent, hushed. Spewed from our country, forgotten, bound to the dark edge of the earth, at night what is there to do but seek English cunt, warm, moist, soft, oh the comfort, the comfort of the lick, the thrust into the nooks, the crannies of the crooks of England. Alone, frightened, nameless in this stinking hole of hell, take me, take me inside you, whoever you are. Take me, my comfort and we’ll remember England together.
COLLINS. […] You have been made Governor-in-Chief of a paradise of birds, Arthur.
PHILLIP. And I hope not of a human hell, Davey. Don’t shoot yet, Watkin, let’s observe them. Could we not be more humane?
TENCH. Justice and humaneness have never gone hand in hand. The law is not a sentimental comedy.
PHILLIP. I am not suggesting they go without punishment. It is the spectacle of hanging I object to. The convicts will feel nothing has changed and will go back to their old ways.
TENCH. The convicts never left their old ways, Governor, nor do they intend to.
I commend your endeavour to oppose the baneful influence of vice with the harmonising acts of civilisation, Governor, but I suspect your edifice will collapse without the mortar of fear.
TENCH. It’s their favourite form of entertainment, I should say.
PHILLIP. Perhaps because they’ve never been offered anything else.
TENCH. Perhaps we should build an opera house for the convicts.
PHILLIP. We learned to love such things because they were offered to us when we were children or young men. Surely no one is born naturally cultured?
Duckling’s gone silent on me again. I know it’s because of Handy Baker. I saw him as well as I see you. Duckling wants me, he said, even if you’ve hanged me. At least your poker’s danced its last shindy, I said. At least it’s young and straight, he said, she likes that. I went for him but he was gone. But he’s going to come back, I know it. I didn’t want to hang him, Ralph, I didn’t.
Do you know I saved her life? She was sentenced to be hanged at Newgate for stealing two candlesticks but I got her name put on the transport lists. But when I remind her of that she says she wouldn’t have cared.
PHILLIP. We are indeed here to supervise the convicts who are already being punished by their long exile. Surely they can also be reformed?
TENCH. We are talking about criminals, often hardened criminals. They have a habit of vice and crime. Habits are difficult to break. And it can be more than habit, an innate tendency. Many criminals seem to have been born that way. It is in their nature.
A crime is a crime. You commit a crime or you don’t. If you commit a crime, you are a criminal. Surely that is logical? It’s like the savages here. A savage is a savage because he behaves in a savage manner. To expect anything else is foolish. They can’t even build a proper canoe.
PHILLIP. Some of these men will have finished their sentence in a few years. They will become members of society again, and help create a new society in this colony. Should we not encourage them now to think in a free and responsible manner?
TENCH. I don’t see how a comedy about two lovers will do that, Arthur.
PHILLIP. The theatre is an expression of civilisation. […] The convicts will be speaking a refined, literate language and expressing sentiments of a delicacy they are not used to. It will remind them that there is more to life than crime, punishment. And we, this colony of a few hundred will be watching this together, for a few hours we will no longer be despised prisoners and hated gaolers. We will laugh, we may be moved, we may even think a little.
In my own small way, in just a few hours, I have seen something change. I asked some of the convict women to read me some lines, these women who behave often no better than animals. And it seemed to me, as one or two—I’m not saying all of them, not at all—but one or two, saying those well-balanced lines […], they seemed to acquire a dignity, they seemed—they seemed to lose some of their corruption. There was one, Mary Brenham, she read so well, perhaps this play will keep her from selling herself to the first marine who offers her bread—
HARRY. […] I’m sorry, Duckling, please. Why can’t you? —can’t you just be with me? Don’t be angry. I’ll do anything for you, you know that. What do you want, Duckling?
DUCKLING. I don’t want to be watched all the time. I wake up in the middle of the night and you’re watching me. What do you think I’m going to do in my sleep, Harry? Watching, watching, watching. JUST STOP WATCHING ME.
HARRY. You want to leave me. All right, go and live in the women’s camp, sell yourself to a convict for a biscuit. Leave if you want to. You’re filthy, filthy, opening your legs to the first marine —
DUCKLING. Why are you so angry with your Duckling, Harry? Don’t you like it when I open my legs wide to you?
DUCKLING. I need freedom sometimes, Harry.
HARRY. You have to earn your freedom with good behaviour.
DUCKLING. Why didn’t you let them hang me and take my corpse with you, Harry? You could have kept that in chains. I wish I was dead. At least when you’re dead, you’re free.
DABBY. You’re wasting time, girl, he’s ripe for the plucking. You can always tell with men, they begin to walk sideways. And if you don’t—
MARY. Don’t start. I listened to you once before.
DABBY. What would you have done without that lanky sailor drooling over you?
MARY. I would have been less of a whore.
DABBY. Listen, my darling, you’re only a virgin once. You can’t go to a man and say, I’m a virgin except for this one lover I had. After that, it doesn’t matter how many men go through you.
MARY. I’ll never wash the sin away.
DABBY. If God didn’t want women to be whores he shouldn’t have created men who pay for their bodies.
When I say my prayers I have a terrible doubt. How can I be sure God is forgiving me? What if he will forgive me, but hasn’t forgiven me yet? That’s why I don’t want to die, Sir. That’s why I can’t die. Not until I am sure. Are you sure?
WISEHAMMER. I am innocent. I didn’t do it and I’ll keep saying I didn’t.
LIZ. It doesn’t matter what you say. If they say you’re a thief, you’re a thief.
WISEHAMMER. I am not a thief. I’ll go back to England to the snuff shop of Rickett and Loads and say, see, I’m back, I’m innocent.
LIZ. They won’t listen.
WISEHAMMER. You can’t live if you think that way.
MARY. Liz, we’ve come to rehearse the play.
WISEHAMMER. Rehearse the play?
DUCKLING. The Lieutenant has gone to talk to the Governor. Harry said we could come see you.
MARY. The Lieutenant has asked me to stand in his place so we don’t lose time. We’ll start with the first scene between Melinda and Brazen.
WISEHAMMER. How can I play Captain Brazen in chains?
MARY. This is the theatre. We will believe you.
When he treats the slave boy as a rational human being, the boy becomes one, he loses his fear, and he becomes a competent mathematician. A little more encouragement and he might become an extraordinary mathematician. Who knows? You must see your actors in that light.
PHILLIP. Liz Morden—(He pauses.) I had a reason for asking you to cast her as Melinda. Morden is one of the most difficult women in the colony.
RALPH. She is indeed, Sir.
PHILLIP. Lower than a slave, full of loathing, foul mouthed, desperate.
RALPH. Exactly, Sir. And violent.
PHILLIP. Quite. To be made an example of.
RALPH. By hanging?
PHILLIP. No, Lieutenant, by redemption.
What is a statesman’s responsibility? To ensure the rule of law. But the citizens must be taught to obey that law of their own will. I want to rule over responsible human beings, not tyrannise over a group of animals. I want there to be a contract between us, not a whip on my side, terror and hatred on theirs.
I have seen the white of this animal’s bones, his wretched blood and reeky convict urine have spilled on my boots and he’s feeling modest? Are you feeling modest, Sideway?
(He shoves SIDEWAY aside.)
(DABBY comes forward.)
On all fours.
(DABBY goes down on all fours.)
Now wag your tail and bark, and I’ll throw you a biscuit. What? You’ve forgotten? Isn’t that how you begged for your food on the ship? Wag your tail, Bryant, bark! We’ll wait.
DABBY. When dealing with men, always have a contract.
MARY. Love is a contract.
DABBY. Love is the barter of perishable goods. A man’s word for a woman’s body.
When I say Kite’s lines I forget everything else. I forget the judge said I’m going to have to spend the rest of my natural life in this place getting beaten and working like a slave. I can forget that out there it’s trees and burnt grass, spiders that kill you in four hours and snakes. I don’t have to think about what happened to Kable, I don’t have to remember the things I’ve done, when I speak Kite’s lines I don’t hate anymore.
If you live, I will never again punish you with my silence. If you live, I will never again turn away from you. If you live, I will never again imagine another man when you make love to me. If you live, I will never tell you I want to leave you. If you live, I will speak to you. If you live, I will be tender with you. If you live, I will look after you. If you live, I will stay with you. If you live, I will be wet and open to your touch. If you live, I will answer all your questions. If you live, I will look at you. If you live, I will love you.
COLLINS. My only fear, Your Excellency, is that she may have refused to speak because she no longer believes in the process of justice. If that is so, the courts here will become travesties. I do not want that.
PHILLIP. But if she won’t speak, there is nothing more we can do. You cannot get at the truth through silence.
From distant climes o’er wide-spread seas we come,
Though not with much éclat or beat of drum,
True patriots all; for be it understood,
We left our country for our country’s good;
No private views disgraced our generous zeal,
What urg’d our travels was our country’s weal,
And none will doubt but that our emigration
Has prov’d most useful to the British nation.