A dualogue by two pirates, inspired by SPG's Captain Albert Alexander
CAPTAIN ALBERT, middle aged and wearing 19th Century sailing clothes, leaning on a barrel as others rush behind himshouting. He holds his damp hat.
I’ve led a life entirely nautical. It’s been filled with oceans, vast and beautiful; and sailors, friends I’ve known many years now. Though… I have lost a few men from this ship, a few scrapes and suddenly we’re a few men down but still sailing. That’s us, me and her, always sailing. My ship, she’s been good to me. Ain’t a finer seafarer than my Lady Elizabeth, I can tell you. She’s lasted me well, until now…
[Looks around] That’s my crew running around like headless chickens. It would be funny if not for the circumstances… Ah well, laugh anyway! That’s what I’ve learnt from thirty years on the sea, laugh even if it’s inappropriate. You might regret it if you don’t, and you should never regret a good laugh.
ARCHIE is a young 19th Century sailor, quickly emptying buckets of water over the side of the ship.
I were never even mean’ to be ‘ere. My mam signed me up, says that a man can’t be a man til ‘e’s a sailor but it seems I ain’t even gonna get to be a man neither, judgin’ by the ‘ole in the capt’ins ship.
Though, I did enjoy it while it lasted, can’t lie. It was ‘ard, o’ course. Ain’t ev’ry job ‘ard? Before this, I were a fisherman [stops emptying the water], I wasn’t right good at it, see, always messed the fish up. Don’ even know ‘ow. Mam says to me she says ‘Archie, you gotta be a sailor, ‘cos the fish ain’t lastin’. You’re a sailor, not a fisher’. Then the capt’in found me couple month back. ‘e said that I coul’ be one of ‘is crew and sail the ‘ole world.
[Recommences emptying water] We only got halfway to Algiers before this ‘appen. Bloomin’ great fish decides it’s gonna ‘it us, make us sink. It’s winnin’ at the momen’, but the capt’ins still laughin’. Always laughin’ ‘e is.
CAPTAIN ALBERT shouts to others offstage
Starboard helm! This boat won’t last against a fish like that. Turn around! Let’s take it in the hull if we cannot avoid a collision! Let’s see how it likes to butt heads with us! Ha!
[Pause. Turns to audience]
It’s almost as if we won’t get out of this one. We can do it though, that whale isn’t so big. A sperm whale, I’ve seen a few of those, although none as ferocious as this young fish! She won’t bother us long I bet. Lady Elizabeth is too tough to let a whale bring her down to the depths!
[As if proud] We’ve faced worse, we have. A long time ago some young sailors thought they could rob her from me. We fought them off together: her, my crew and me! No one could have taken us then! Not them, not this fish, no one!
ARCHIE is bracing himself against the side of the ship
Lord help us all. We’re gonna sink, ain’t nothin’ we can do, we’re gonna sink.
I wish the capt’in woul’ stop laughin’. I don’ understand ‘ow ‘e can laugh. We’re goin’ down. Fast. Water ‘as filled the ship righ’ up, lappin’ at our ankles. Some o’ the wood migh’ make it, I coul’ jum’ on somethin’, paddle meself to land.
No. The capt’in shoul’ have that firs’, ‘e’s most impor’ant ‘ere. Me mam always use’ to say ‘A capt’in shoul’ go down with his ship’, I didn’ never believe it an’ I don’ believe it now! Our capt’in, ev’ryone loves ‘im. We woul’ rather sink than see ‘im gone.
CAPTAIN ALBERT sits on a beach
The nautical life is over: no more seafaring, no more ships. My Lady Elizabeth and her crew was the only one for me, and now she’s gone. My crew is gone. Damn beast. It took my life from me…
My life? Damn my life! What about theirs? Some of them… They were so young.
I remember being young. It seems so long ago. I remember a time when I would come home from the mill and she would be there waiting in the town square. My Elizabeth. Not my ship, of course, not yet, the girl whom I would grow to adore. She was older than me, but that never stopped me! I chased her, I admit. I went over the top. It was funny, sometimes. I remember laughing whenever she spoke to me. I knew she didn’t mind, she would smile at me and her friends would all giggle. That’s why I named my ship the Lady Elizabeth. I always thought my Elizabeth was beautiful enough to be a Lady. Crazy.
She was taken from me, just as my crew and my ship, her namesake, was. I say she was taken from me… She got married to a young sailor passing through. It killed me then. That was why I became a sailor in the first place… I thought of it as competition. Though I never saw her again after she left with him on his ship. I never thought anything could hurt me as much as that, until now.
This is a hundred times worse. My life: over. My crews lives: gone forever, like my Lady Elizabeth.
There’s no fresh water here: I fear I am close to death. There’s no laughter either. The gulls make noise but it’s more mocking than anything. They mock my torture, enduring this pain of loss. Not only of my crew and ship, but of myself. My crew saved me, they did. They put me on a large enough plank of wood and gave me another as a paddle…
I would rather have perished with my crew, doing what I loved, and laughing.
There he was thrown: the shore alone,
Singing the former anthems, yet,
And dry his mantle, torn and wet,
In beams of sun atop a stone.
- Adapted from ‘Arion’ by Pushkin