THE POPE AND THE WITCH

[ ďIl papa e la stregaĒ ]

 

A two act play by Dario Fo

translated by Ed Emery

_________________________________________

For all queries regarding performance rights, please contact

Agenzia Tolnay : info [@] tolnayagency.it

For all queries regarding the text, please contact the translator at:

ed.emery [@]thefreeuniversity.net

Original text copyright © Dario Fo

Translation copyright © Ed Emery

_________________________________________

 

 

First Performance:

Novara Ė Teatro Faraggiana, 31 October 1989

 

Reworked Version:

Milan Ė Teatro Lirico, 20 January 1990

 

Preface:

 

In the Book of Genesis it says that the first woman was not Eve but Lilith.

A woman who would never accept to be subjected to a man...

She demanded her own complete autonomy, and for this reason she was the first to have to leave Paradise.

I believe that Franca comes from that very particular race of women...

She performs together with me, but she does everything in order not to resemble me in style; she has a style all her own.

She collaborates in the writing of plays, but never in second place.

She wonít accept even one line without having discussed it first... Sheís very insistent!

But it would be a sad day for me if I didnít have this constant stimulus to rewrite, correct, and rework everything again from the beginning... On stage... And with passion.

The text of this play has been edited by Franca.

More than just editing it, France has raised it, brought it up, and made it theatrically readable.

All done with true skill and dedication.

 

Dario Fo

 

____________________________________________________________

 

CHARACTERS

 

The Pope

First cardinal: Popeís Personal Secretary

Second Cardinal

Third Cardinal

Professor

First Nun

Second Nun/Healer

Third Nun

Priest in charge of Press Office

Vatican String Quartet

First Young Man

Second Young Man

Third Young Man

First Young Woman/Assistant

Second Young Woman

Third Young Woman

Drunkard

First Gangster

Second Gangster

Small Monk, Poison Tester

Brazilian Nun

Head of the Swiss Guard

Swiss Guards

 

Total cast list: 13 persons, including doubling-up

 

ACT ONE

 

We find ourselves in the corridor outside the POPEís apartments in the Vatican. The stage is divided by a traverse curtain. On it is painted a large sixteenth-century fresco.

 

Enter a CARDINAL [the POPEís personal secretary]. We hear a warbling sound; the CARDINAL looks about him and raises his cassock circumspectly. From an inside pocket he extracts a mobile telephone, and pulls up the aerial.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Hello... Yes... whatís the matter?... Iím right here, outside his rooms... Yes, I know heís late... The trouble is, I donít know whether heís still inside or whether heís gone out already...

 

Enter a NUN. She hurries across the stage.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Trying to stop her] Oh, Sister... Just a moment... Sister...?

 

FIRST NUN: Iíll be back in a moment, your Eminence... I have something urgent to see to...

 

She exits, almost running.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: That was the Sister who runs his life... went off like a bat out of hell... no way I could stop her... Well, yes... Maybe heís gone down to take a look at the children... What do you mean, what children? Havenít you seen St Peterís Square this morning...? [The CAPTAIN OF THE SWISS GUARDS crosses the stage] Theyíve been arriving since dawn... Exactly... for the so-called ďGathering of the InnocentsĒ... Of course! Iím the one who does the programming, so obviously I know that heís scheduled to meet them this afternoon... Oh, hereís the Sister coming back again... Iíll ring off for now. [He replaces the mobile phone clumsily, forgetting to put down the aerial, which sticks up under his cassock. The FIRST NUN enters, carrying a tray with a jug and a glass on it, all of which is covered with a serviette] Oh, Sister... Wait a moment...

 

FIRST NUN: Yes...? [She points to his raised cassock] Excuse me, your Eminence, what might that be...?!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Oh, nothing... Just my aerial...

 

He turns away from the SISTER and fiddles with the aerial in order to get it down.

 

FIRST NUN: Would you like me to give you a hand?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: No, I can manage, thank you...

 

He gets the aerial down.

 

FIRST NUN: Well, Iím in a terrible hurry, so if you donít mind I must be going.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: No, wait. I wanted to know whatís happened to the Holy Father... Why is he so late this morning?

 

FIRST NUN: Your Eminence, Iím afraid I really canít...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: What do you mean, you really canít...! Donít you realise how serious this is...? Itís the first time in the history that the head of the Catholic Church has agreed to meet directly with the worldís press... journalists from all over the world... And has agreed to answer their questions at a press conference, as if he was some American President... With all the TV channels reporting it live!

 

FIRST NUN: Yes, I know. But I think weíve got a problem on our hands.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: A problem? You must be joking? Downstairs weíve got a hall jam-packed full of journalists... [He raises the serviette covering the jug and pours himself a drink. The NUN pointlessly tries to stop him] What am I going to tell them?

 

He downs the drink, and then pours himself another.

 

FIRST NUN: But who would have thought that heíd get all upset over a few children like this?

 

A PRIEST crosses the stage.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Lowering his voice] Whatís so surprising about it? Heís always been a bit weird about children... Kissing babies all over the place...

 

He continues drinking.

 

FIRST NUN: Please, your Eminence, such sarcasm is unbefitting.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Iím not being sarcastic... [He pours himself another drink] Iím just saying that this time weíre up against a hundred thousand of them... A hundred thousand children, all here in St Peterís Square?! Herod would have had a field day.

 

FIRST NUN: How can you joke about it, your Eminence... Itís terribly serious! Heís on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Heís started shaking all over.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Really? When did this start?

 

FIRST NUN: About an hour ago.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: And this is the first you choose to tell me about it? I mean to say, Sister...!

 

FIRST NUN: Donít blame me Ė it was the Holy Father. He said: ďDonít tell anyone, for goodness sake... With all those journalists around... We mustnít let on... If they ever find out...!Ē

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Well, I suppose heís got a point. [The warbling of a mobile phone again. Another CARDINAL crosses the stage] Oh dear, here we go again. Excuse me, Sister... [The NUN turns slightly, in order not to see the FIRST CARDINALfumbling under his cassock] Hello, whoís there...? Hello!

 

The warbling sound continues.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Oh, it must be mine... [He pulls a mobile phone out of his sleeve and puts it to his ear] Hello... Hello...

 

FIRST NUN: Ah, actually, it was mine...

 

She goes, coyly, to lift her gown.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: When the Day of Judgement comes, the Angels will call us on our mobile phones... And God help anyone whoís caught with their batteries flat!

 

He exits.

 

FIRST NUN: [To the FIRST CARDINAL] Would you mind turning round? [She extracts her mobile phone from under her tunic] Hello? Yes, itís me. Yes, send them in... Or rather, youíd best bring them in...

 

Both the men put their mobile phones back under their cassocks, remembering to put down their aerials.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Might I ask whoís on their way, Sister?

 

FIRST NUN: Professor Ridolfi, and one of his assistants.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Ridolfi? You mean the psychiatrist?

 

FIRST NUN: Well, actually heís rather more than just a psychiatrist... Heís a neurological surgeon... specialises in nervous disorders.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Thatís what I mean. It seems to me going a bit far to invite someone like that in, just to deal with this childish fixation... I mean... this child fixation...

 

FIRST NUN: Unfortunately, I really donít think the Holy Fatherís problem is that simple. Anyway, he was the one who insisted on the Professor being sent for.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Ah well, if it was all his idea, fair enough... [He takes another drink] This is good...! What is it?

 

FIRST NUN: The Holy Fatherís laxative [A measured reaction on the part of the CARDINAL] Oh, here he comes...

 

Enter the PROFESSOR. He has his doctorís bag with him.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Ah, Professor... Welcome...!

 

PROFESSOR: I was held up by your Guards... They insisted on putting me through a metal detector... They even took away my little hammer for testing reflexes...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: After all that hoo-ha in Panama theyíve become rather over-keen... But whereís your assistant?

 

PROFESSOR: I was just wondering that myself. I think she must have got lost down a corridor somewhere...

 

Enter the PROFESSORís assistant: the SECOND NUN. She carries two large bags, and an African bow.

 

SECOND NUN: Here I am.. Here I am... I was held up by two Swiss Guards. They wouldnít let me pass, on account of this sacred bow and arrows, which is an extra-special present for the Pope. They blunted all my arrows, and pulled out all my feathers... of the arrows, I mean... And then they insisted that I put little stickers on the rude bits of these naked men. [She points to the bow] I didnít have any! So I stuck some stamps on instead... Vatican Christmas stamps!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: I know... bit of a problem, our security services... Theyíre a bit edgy, these days... Anyway, Iím delighted to see you. Iím sure that youíll have everything sorted out in no time... My problem is that downstairs weíve got a hall full of journalists waiting. How long is all this going to take?

 

PROFESSOR: How can I say, your Eminence? I still donít know what the problem is... At least give me a moment...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Yes, yes, take as much time as you need. Anyway, maybe I might venture a guess... In my humble opinion, I would say itís just hypertension due to a state of stress.

 

PROFESSOR: Letís hope that youíre right.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Follow me. Iíll lead the way.

 

PROFESSOR: No, please, your Eminence. I prefer to see the patient in private... Iím sure you understand.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Certainly... fine... no problem...

 

PROFESSOR: Good... [To the SECOND NUN, his assistant] Right, Sister, this way, letís go...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Letís hope you come up with something, Professor... Iíll be waiting outside...

 

PROFESSOR: Relax, Cardinal, relax...

 

The traverse curtain with the painted fresco rises. We find ourselves in a large room with many columns. There are four windows down one wall of the room, stage-left, which divides at an angle; backstage right hangs a large curtain. There is nobody on stage.

 

PROFESSOR: Your Holiness...? Hello... Are you there, your Holiness...?

 

From behind the curtain a dummy appears. It is a perfect reproduction of the POPE. At the same time the POPE himself peers out from the opposite side.

 

POPE: Here I am... And who might you be?

 

PROFESSOR: What do you mean, who might I be...? I thought it was you who sent for me!

 

POPE: Ah, you must be the Professor... [At this moment the POPE emerges from the other end of the curtain] At last! Welcome, Professor!

 

PROFESSOR: This is extraordinary! A double Pope?!

 

POPE: [He emerges fully from behind the curtain, and brings the mobile dummy forward with him] Well, of course, this oneís only a dummy... Tell me what you think Ė itís a good likeness, isnít it! It was given to me by a Sicilian wood-carver, one of those who make puppets... You know... [He laughs, amused] Ha, ha... A puppet-Pope. Amusing, eh?

 

PROFESSOR: [Worried] Are you feeling alright, your Holiness?

 

POPE: Yes. [He points to the SECOND NUN accompanying the PROFESSOR] Who is this Sister? Is she with you...? Does she have to be here? [The phone rings. He picks it up] Hello? [We hear a din coming from the phone, the sound of loud rock music] Whoís there? Who? Panama...? The Papal legation? What on earth is that racket...? The US marines again...? What do they want...? Noriega? But I thought we just handed him over...? Heís come back? So how did he manage to get back in...? In a lorry full of pineaplles...!! Send him back to the Americans at once! [He puts down the phone] That Noriega... Ever since he heard someone say that religion was the opium of the people, he wonít leave us alone for a minute! Anyway, as I was saying, who is this Sister? Whatís she doing here...?

 

PROFESSOR: She is my assistant and one of my most valued colleagues... You need have no worries about her... Now, tell me...

 

POPE: On the contrary, I am worried... Because I think I know that face from somewhere... I would like to see her bare-headed, if you donít mind...

 

PROFESSOR: Bareheaded? Why?

 

POPE: I donít think sheís really a nun at all.

 

PROFESSOR: Oh, really! Youíre beginning to worry me, your Holiness. Whatís got into you? What is this paranoia? [Addressing the FIRST NUN, the POPEís housekeeper] Maybe heís worse than we feared.

 

POPE: Ah, there! So you think Iím mad too, eh?!

 

PROFESSOR: Who thinks youíre mad...?

 

From offstage we hear the sound of childrenís voices.

 

POPE: Shush! Whatís all that shouting...? It must be more children arriving in the Square..? Shut all the windows!

 

The FIRST NUN hurries over, assisted by the SECOND NUN, and closes the windows. The sound of voices stops.

 

PROFESSOR: There, thatís what I mean. What is this Iíve been hearing about you locking yourself in your room because youíre terrified of children?

 

POPE: Yes, itís true... [He points to the window] Look, every time I look out, there are more of them... But itís not so much them and their shouting that worries me... Iím more worried about the trap that theyíre organising for me...

 

PROFESSOR: What trap...? And whoís organising?

 

POPE: [Looking around cautiously] Thereís a plot.

 

PROFESSOR: A plot? What sort of plot?

 

POPE: Canít you even guess?

 

SECOND NUN: If you donít mind me interrupting, I think I know what his Holiness means.

 

POPE: Letís see if youíre shrewder than the Professor here.

 

SECOND NUN: Well, to start with, as I was coming across the Square, I stopped to take a look for a moment, and I noticed that most of these children are halfcastes and mulattoes from South America... and Filippinos... and little black children...

 

POPE: Well done... Spot on...! In other words, all children from the Third World...

 

SECOND NUN: Yes. Then I asked around, and I discovered that almost all of them are orphans... No parents...

 

POPE: Exactly... My compliments! Sit down.

 

PROFESSOR: Why compliments...? What are you getting at?

 

POPE: Come on, Professor... Make an effort... Use your imagination. In your opinion, who was it brought all these children together and organised all the transport to bring them to Rome?

 

SECOND NUN: If I might assist you, Professor, Iíd say that here weíre dealing with an organisation that is very powerful, and which has considerable financial resources.

 

POPE: Exactly! How did you guess?

 

PROFESSOR: Well itís hardly a secret, is it, seeing itís been in all the papers... Theyíve been organised by the IMPAC, the International Movement for the Protection of Abandoned Children.

 

POPE: And to what end has this so-called ďIMPACĒ taken on the rather expensive task of bringing all these children to Rome?

 

PROFESSOR: Well, I presume theyíve come for the same reason that brings millions of Christians to Rome every year. They want to see the Pope in person, and they want to receive your blessing.

 

POPE: Oh yes? So there they are, all these poor little orphans, in Africa, Brazil, Colombia and India and so on... And all of a sudden they feel this irresistible urge: ďI want to see the Pope... Bump-di-dum... I want the Pope... Bump-di-dum!Ē

 

SECOND NUN: Ooh, youíve got a lovely sense of humour, your Holiness, really.

 

POPE: Thank you... I suppose you think Iím a bit eccentric...

 

SECOND NUN: Incidentally, I talked to some of the children from Zambia, and when they found out that I was coming to see you, they asked me to bring you this bow... Itís a sacred bow.

 

She hands him the bow.

 

POPE: How lovely! All these little men, all these lovely little authority figures, all piled up, one on top of the other, according to their rank... Imagine if we did this sort of thing in the Vatican! Youíd have me, going round with all these cardinals on my head... Mind you, I wouldnít fancy having Poletti on my head!

 

PROFESSOR: You see? Itís a gesture of affection, Your Holiness, if I were you I wouldnít worry so much... Obviously, the people who brought all these children together thought it would be a wonderful thing if thousands of poor children from all around the world could enjoy this extraordinary privilege.

 

POPE: Oh yes? And now you tell me that Iím the mad one, the eccentric one?

 

The SECOND NUN hands the bow to the FIRST NUN, who leans it against a wall.

 

PROFESSOR: I donít understand... Are you saying that Iím mad?

 

SECOND NUN: Well really, Professor, hasnít it even occurred to you that these so-called protectors of abandoned infants might actually be bogus...? Am I right, Your Holiness?

 

POPE: Absolutely, absolutely.

 

SECOND NUN: An organisation cunningly concealing itself behind this apparently humanitarian venture... with who knows what vile purposes.

 

POPE: Oh, finally, someone who knows what theyíre talking about! Youíve hit the nail on the head!

 

PROFESSOR: Whereas I, on the other hand, am some kind of congenital idiot? Alright. If these people arenít from the organisation that they claim to belong to, then who are they?

 

POPE: Nothing more nor less than a movement of fanatical birth control activists, who are in favour of the totally free distribution of contraceptives and prophylactics.

 

SECOND NUN: I wouldnít be at all surprise if the sponsors of this plot turned out to be the big American manufacturers of surgical goods and rubberware...

 

POPE: Ah yes, surgical goods and rubberware... I hadnít thought of that... My compliments, Sister!

 

PROFESSOR: Excuse me, but if you ask me this is verging on paranoia... You in particular, Sister.

 

POPE: Oh yes? So I suppose the security services of the pontifical state are also verging on paranoia, when they send me these security despatches?

 

He picks up a big dossier and passes it to the SECOND NUN.

 

PROFESSOR: Why, what do they say?

 

POPE: I am kept up to date, on an hourly basis, on all the movements of these provocateurs extraordinaires; to such an extent that I am now in a position to be able to give you a fair idea of what will happen at the precise moment when I appear on the balcony.

 

PROFESSOR: So whatís going to happen, then?

 

POPE: At that very moment they will raise hundreds of banners, with messages in all different languages... and at the same time, over a very powerful loudhailer system, they will start shouting: ďHere you are, Holy Father, you ordered us to love one another, and to go forth and multiply... iply... iply...Ē Thereíll be an echo, you see. ďBring forth many children of God into the light of day... Who cares if then they all die like flies!Ē

 

PROFESSOR: [Shocked] No!

 

FIRST NUN: Theyíll really say that?!

 

POPE: Yes. ďWho cares if then they all die of hunger at the rate of thirty-five million a year... if half of them end up abandoned, forty-eight million of them in five years alone... or if they end up illiterate, imprisoned, half starved, exploited and wretched for the rest of their lives. What matters is that they be brought into the world, because life is sacred, even though their life is disgusting... ting... ting...Ē

 

SECOND NUN: Quite right.

 

POPE: What?!

 

SECOND NUN: I mean, yes, thatís exactly what theyíll say. [She is embarrassed, and in an attempt to overcome her gaffe she waves the documents in her hand] Itís written here, in the despatches.

 

PROFESSOR: Incredible...! But surely, wonít the police be able to stop them and seize their public address system...?

 

POPE: Yes, but at that moment their master plan goes into action. Theyíll send up an enormous banner, suspended from hundreds of balloons. [He points to one of the windows] Look, you can see the balloons down there, all ready... It will rise slowly into the sky over Rome... And itíll be readable from every part of the city.

 

PROFESSOR: Is this spelled out in the despatches too?

 

POPE: Yes, yes, look... Word for word...

 

He passes him some sheets of paper.

 

PROFESSOR: And what will be written on this enormous banner?

 

POPE: [He seizes some sheets from the SECOND NUNís hand] ďHoly Father, you wanted all these children. It was you who said: ĎSuffer the little children to come unto me!í Well here they are! [He throws all the papers in the air] Theyíre all yours! Take them, you bring them up!Ē And theyíll dump them all right here. You see? A hundred thousand children, here, in St Peterís Square... all crying... and shouting... and bawling... and hungry... And what am I supposed to do with them? Where am I suposed to put them? A hundred thousand children! With all the hotels and convents and Catholic youth hostels all full up for the World Cup?

 

The two NUNS gather up the sheets of paper.

 

PROFESSOR: But how can they! Itís criminal! After bringing them all the way here, they just dump them... without anyone to look after them? Itís scandalous...! What a shitty trick... Itís bloody obscene... [He breaks off, embarrassed] Oh, Iím sorry...

 

POPE: I can think of no more fitting words to define the revolting situation in which I shall find myself!

 

PROFESSOR: But seeing that you already know whatís going to happen, why donít you just arrest them now?

 

POPE: Oh yes? And what would we charge them with? You need proof to arrest people, but by the time we have the proof it will be too late. By then theyíll have made a mockery of me and of the Church as a whole. Can you imagine the scandal! The laughter...! What a disaster!

 

SECOND NUN: [Aside, to the PROFESSOR] If you ask me, as of this moment, if a child comes anywhere near him, heíd eat it alive.

 

POPE: So at this point I think youíll agree that Iíve got good reason to be apprehensive, Professor!

 

PROFESSOR: Certainly, certainly. Very good reason.

 

The FIRST CARDINAL puts his head round the door, rather nervously.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Excuse me, may I...

 

POPE: Whoís that? Iím not seeing anyone!

 

PROFESSOR: Itís only your personal secretary.

 

POPE: Iím sorry... I saw red. what do you want?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Iím worried, Holy Father...

 

POPE: You have good reason to be... You drank my laxative...! No, Iím only joking. I know: youíre worried about all those journalists downstairs. Iím not coming down, though! Iím sorry, but I am physically and psychologically quite incapable of meeting with them. Isnít that right, Professor?

 

PROFESSOR: Absolutely... It would be quite inappropriate.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: I understand, but itís not the journalists Iím worrying about, your Holiness... Iíve already told them that the press conference is being postponed... Iím worried about the children... You know... The ďGathering of the InnocentsĒ. The square is filling up a lot faster than expected... The two shipfuls of children arrived in port earlier than they were supposed to...

 

FIRST NUN: [Going over to the window] Look at all those coaches!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Theyíve been there for half an hour now, and many of the rest have been here since dawn. In my opinion, your Holiness, you should bring forward the time of your meeting with the poor things.

 

POPE: In other words, you want me to go out on the balcony now... with my arms outstretched towards all the children... instead of waiting till the afternoon?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Yes... Poor things, theyíre starting to show signs of tiredness and restlessness... Look, theyíre all so jammed in together!

 

FIRST NUN: [Going across to one of the windows] Heavenís above, what a crowd! Iíve never seen so many children all in one place!

 

POPE: [Barely peeking out of the window, and suddenly drawing back] Yes, they really are an incredible number!

 

SECOND NUN: Look at them all! You know what Ė they remind me of the story of Little Pea...

 

POPE: Little Pea?

 

SECOND NUN: Donít you know the story, your Holiness?

 

POPE: No.

 

SECOND NUN: Would you like me to tell it to you?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: This is hardly the right moment for stories about Little Pea!

 

POPE: A Pope should know all stories... seeing that that is what Popes do, tell stories... How does it go? Come and sit down.

 

SECOND NUN: You know, the story about the mother who was so desperate to have children that she went to see a wizard...

 

POPE: No, I donít remember it... What does the wizard do?

 

SECOND NUN: Well, there was once this woman. She really, really wanted to have children, but unfortunately for her, her husband had taken a vow of total chastity.

 

POPE: [To the FIRST CARDINAL] Weíre giving that Formigoni too much leeway!

 

SECOND NUN: She despairs. She cries from morning to night. She wails... ďI shall never be a mother! I shall never be a mother!í She shouts it out of the window too: ĎI shall never be a mother!Ē All of a sudden a gynaecologist passes by. He happened to be out jogging, with the word ďGynaecologistĒ written across his track suit top... Backwards, like they do with ambulances... And he says: ďWe could make you a couple of babies in a test tube.Ē ďBabies in a test tube? No, never! It would be a sin!Ē ďWell alright then, with frozen eggs.Ē ďFrozen eggs?!Ē ďOnly the best free-range, of course!Ē ďGet thee behind me, Satan!Ē

 

POPE: Well said!

 

SECOND NUN: Thank you. So, in desperation the woman goes to see a wizard, a holy man who lived in a hermitage on a working-class housing estate. ďListen to me, Woman, your faith will be rewarded. You want children? Well then, go home and put a handful of beans on to boil. Black-eye beans. Donít use frozen beans, because theyíre contrary to nature and they might turn out freaks. Put these freaks... I mean, these black-eyed beans... on to boil and just when they come to the boil, throw them onto the floor... And you will see, youíll get two or three beautiful children, with a black eye... I mean, with two black eyes.Ē No sooner said than done! The women goes home, puts water on the stove, and, seeing that sheís so greedy for children, she throws in half a sack of these black-eye beans... and she stirred... and stirred... ďI donít want them to stick... I donít want to end up with Siamese twins...Ē she shouted. As it came to the boil... Crash, she hurled this great beanery to the floor, and... Ping... Pong... Ping... Pong... Hey presto! From every bean a child was born... Two... three... seven... nine babies! ďIím a mother, Iím a mother,Ē she shouted, happily... Twelve, eighteen, twenty-one... ďIím a mother!Ē .Thirty-seven, forty-nine, eighty-three, ninety-five, ninety-seven... one hundred... One hundred babies! ďIím a mother...Ē She was starting to get a bit worried. ďIím a mother...Ē A hundred babies, all with these bright little black eyes, leaping around, jumping up and down, arguing, and growing... By the end of ten seconds they already had long hair down to here... four sharp little teeth, hard nails... And they started shouting that they were hungry, because children who are born from beans can speak as soon as theyíre born. They started gobbling up everything in sight, including all the furniture in the house, and then they started attacking the mother... Her legs, her bottom, her breasts... it was incredible! They swarmed all over her, chewing bits off her, biting her neck, taking lumps out of her ears... They were incredibly fast eaters, you see. The poor woman was desperate, and in order to save herself she grabbed a frying pan... and squish-squish-squish, she started bashing all her little bean babies. What a terrible sight! All her children squashed! Out of all this terrible massacre, only one little child was saved Ė and he wasnít a bean at all, he was a pea. A tiny little green pea child. Heíd managed to save himself by hiding in a thimble. ďBut how is it that you are so small?Ē the women asked. ďI wath not born from a bean,Ē said the pea, ďbut from a dried pea, which jutht happened to end up in that bag.Ē ďAh, so thatís why youíre so green... Poor Little Pea!Ē ďDonít make fun of me! I know Iím green, and I know you find me repellent... Thquash me, thquash me! Take your frying pan and thquash me!ĒĎ [Children born from green peas all have this kind of lisp.] ďNo,Ē says the woman, hugging the child to her breast. ďI shall love you and care for you always. It doesnít matter if youíre green... Youíll see, soon youíll find other greens like yourself, and together youíll all set up a lovely big ecology party.Ē

 

POPE: The story has a certain moral... We had a story like that where I come from, a Slavic story, except that when we told it, it was dried chestnuts... And instead of peas, we used a chickpea, which went on to found the Solidarity movement in Poland. Iím joking... I made it up...!

 

So where is the moral? Am I supposed to be the mother, because first I encourage the birth of children and then I end up being terrified of them?

 

SECOND NUN: I hope you wonít be offended, your Holiness, but, for me, yes, I suppose you are a kind of big mother.

 

POPE: A big mother!! Listen, Sister, you might recall what happened to my predecessor in this job, when he proclaimed that God was more mother than father... It seems that the Good Lord rather took offence at this, and decided to call him to meet his Maker rather earlier than expected... But this is the first time Iíve heard anyone calling the Pope a ďbig motherĒ. Is this a provocation, or are you trying to...

 

From offstage the sound of childrenís voices becomes louder. The POPE breaks off.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Looking out of the window] Holy Mother, what a pandemonium!

 

POPE: ďHoly MotherĒ? You see Ė now see what youíve started!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Theyíll cause a riot at this rate!

 

PROFESSOR: There are more groups arriving too... Your Holiness, come and see... Itís an amazing sight!

 

POPE: [He sits down] No thank you, Iíll take your word for it.

 

SECOND NUN: Holy Father... something seems to be happening to your eyes...

 

POPE: My eyes?

 

SECOND NUN: Theyíre getting all red and watery... Look, professor...

 

PROFESSOR: Looks like an inflammation to me...

 

SECOND NUN: If youíll allow me... Iíve got just the very thing.

 

She takes a small bottle of eye drops from her handbag.

 

POPE: Thatís very kind of you, but...

 

The SECOND NUN more or less forces his head back.

 

SECOND NUN: Keep still... Look up... Look towards me... No, donít shut your eyes...

 

She drops a couple of drops from the dropper into the POPEís eyes.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: I think it would be appropriate, your Holiness, if you went out onto the balcony. Just for a moment... to say a few words of welcome...

 

POPE: No, for goodness sake... That would be the signal for the loudhailers and the posters...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Not understanding] Loudhailers and posters?

 

POPE: This is very strange... Iím feeling all dizzy...

 

SECOND NUN: Try looking at my hand... Can you see it?

 

POPE: Yes. It looks rather peculiar, though. Distorted, crooked, somehow...

 

SECOND NUN: Come over here... [She helps the POPE up, and leads him to one of the windows] Try walking a bit... Can you see better now?

 

POPE: [Approaching cautiously] Yes, thatís better... But what are those children doing down there? They seem to be climbing up.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Where? I donít see anyone climbing up.

 

POPE: What are you, blind as well as stupid? Look, there!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: I donít see anything...

 

SECOND NUN: There, coming up the columns. Look, one of themís fallen!

 

POPE: Two, in fact...! But the others are still climbing... Heavens, theyíre terribly brave!

 

SECOND NUN: Of course they are...! Seeing these kids have been out on the streets virtually since the day they were born, theyíre absolutely fearless!

 

POPE: And theyíre violent too... Look, theyíve attacked that group of priests who were trying to block their way...

 

FIRST NUN: Oh! Theyíre hitting the priests!

 

SECOND NUN: And biting the nuns!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: But where? I donít see them... I canít see a thing!

 

FIRST NUN: Me neither!

 

PROFESSOR: Down there... Theyíre rushing about like headless chickens on a battery farm.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Chickens too, now! Thatís incredible! But where?

 

POPE: Coming up the front there. Itís incredible! Theyíre climbing up the front of St Peterís... Theyíre climbing up by hanging onto balloons!

 

Through the window we see clusters of balloons floating up.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Chickens hanging from balloons? I see no chickens... [The SECOND NUN stamps on his foot] Ouch! What was that for, Sister?!

 

SECOND NUN: Stand more over that way. Surely you can see them now, loads of children hanging onto clusters of ballons and being carried up by them? Quick! Weíd better burst their balloons before they get a grip on the window sill...

 

PROFESSOR: What with, though?

 

POPE: We could burst them with those halberds.

 

He points to halberds hanging on the wall. The PROFESSOR and the SECOND NUN take them, and move across to the window.

 

SECOND NUN: Mind we donít puncture ourselves too, eh...!

 

POPE: And pass me the sacred bow from Zambia.

 

The FIRST NUN passes him the bow.

 

PROFESSOR: Thatís the way! Lay on. Macduff! And you too, Cardinal. See if you can find something to throw.

 

The FIRST CARDINAL takes two silver-gilt apples from a bowl. After examining them to see if theyíre valuable, he shrugs his shoulders and throws them.

 

SECOND NUN: There, I hit one! I knocked him down!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Where?

 

PROFESSOR: There... Two balloons, with a child hanging underneath! [He makes a gesture as if bursting the balloon] Take that...! Thatís dealt with that one!

 

FIRST NUN: Watch out, over there... one of the balloons has come in the window... Oh, itís alright Ė it didnít have a child on it...

 

PROFESSOR: Uh oh Ė trouble! One of the kids just got in through that window over there!

 

SECOND NUN: And heís hidden behind the curtain at the back!

 

POPE: Stop him, catch him!

 

PROFESSOR: [He runs behind the curtain. The SECOND NUN follows him, carrying her big handbag] Aha! Got you! Itís alright Ė Iíve caught him...!

 

The curtain shakes as if a struggle is taking place behind it. We catch a glimpse of a childís head. This is a doll, which the SECOND NUN had in her handbag, together with the knife which the PROFESSOR is wielding.

 

SECOND NUN: Watch out, heís got a knife!

 

PROFESSOR: [Yelling] Oooch! Ouch!

 

SECOND NUN: What happened?

 

The PROFESSOR comes from behind the curtain with a knife sticking in his chest.

 

PROFESSOR: He stabbed me...

 

POPE: Oh, my God!

 

The child-doll flies into the air above the curtain. The POPE fires an arrow at it. With some co-ordination, he may succeed in hitting it.

 

SECOND NUN: There, take that, you brat! [We hear the crash of breaking glass] Whew, at last! [She comes back on stage] I threw him out of the window.

 

POPE: Oh, how terrible! Oh, the poor thing!

 

The POPE also runs behind the curtain.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [To the PROFESSOR] Are you alright, Professor?

 

PROFESSOR: Yes, yes... Itís nothing... Just a scratch... [He pulls the knife out of his chest, and looks at it] ...about three inches deep...! Iím dying!

He falls backwards on the floor.

 

The POPE re-enters.

 

POPE: I think I shot down one of the children with an arrow.

 

He goes back behind the curtain.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: I think Iím going crazy...! Were you really dying just then, Professor...?

 

PROFESSOR: [Confidentially, to the FIRST CARDINAL] Donít be silly Ė weíre acting... Itís a role-playing routine. Weíre helping the Holy Father to act out his fears, as a way of getting him over his phobias.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Oh, I see... So weíre supposed to play along with him!

 

PROFESSOR: Well done! So now you can give a hand too!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [He takes the PROFESSORís knife, runs to the window, and mimes a big battle] OK, come on, letís be having you! Take that! Thatís sorted you out... scumbag! Ha!

 

The POPE re-enters.

 

POPE: What on earth do you think youíre doing, Cardinal?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Iíve just polished off one of those evil Satanic children!

 

POPE: And I suppose youíre happy now... I suppose that makes you feel good? The poor thing...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: It was legitimate self-defence.

 

POPE: Legitimate self-defence? Against a poor, starving little mixed-race kiddie! Youíre a monster!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: What do you mean? They throw them out of the window, and shoot them full of arrows, and then Iím the monster!?

 

SECOND NUN: Ah yes Ė but then we feel terrible about it afterwards. We find it repugnant... But youíre obviously getting a kick out of it! If you ask me, youíre a sadist!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: No, no, I felt terrible about it too.

 

POPE: Silence, hypocrite!

 

He fires an arrow at the CARDINAL. It bounces off his stomach.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Your Holiness! Thatís no way to treat a Cardinal!

 

POPE: Forgive me, but beneath these robes beats the heart of an actor who canít stand the sight of priests... Faced with a Cardinal, I donít know how to restrain myself. [He goes back into character as the POPE] Oh... itís over... at last!

 

He settles into a chair and closes his eyes, as if sleeping.

 

FIRST NUN: Amazing Ė look, all the children are starting to leave the square.

 

PROFESSOR: Yes, theyíre loading them back on the buses... Theyíre going away.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: I donít see whatís so amazing about that! Seeing that the Pope shows no signs of appearing on the balcony, theyíre taking them off to get something to eat. Itís all part of the programme...

 

SECOND NUN: [To the FIRST CARDINAL, stamping on his foot again] Shush!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Ouch!

 

SECOND NUN: [She goes over to the POPE and waves her hand slowly in front of his eyes] Hooray! We did it! Itís all over now, your Holiness!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Limping] Sister, are you out of your mind? Now youíve crushed my other foot! Why didnít I just stick to being parish priest in Bassano del Grappa!?

 

POPE: [Waking up again] Whatís all the shouting about? Whatís going on? Oh, I must have nodded off... Iím sorry... [He sees the SECOND NUN] Whoís the Sister? Oh yes, now I remember... Sheís the Sister with the excellent intuition. [To the PROFESSOR] Professor...? What on earth are you doing here? Oh, how silly of me... It was me who asked you to come, wasnít it... I wasnít feeling very well, you know... Because what happened was that... Oh, I donít remember now... Anyway, itíll come back to me... Goodness, Iím late... [To the FIRST CARDINAL] Cardinal, what about the journalists?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Oh, for heavenís sake...

 

POPE: For heavenís sake what?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: For heavenís sake maybe Iíll be in time to stop them.

 

POPE: Tell them that Iíll be ready to meet them in fifteen minutes. [Turning to the FIRST NUN] Sister, call my valet to come and give me a hand, because I have to change.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: But, your Holiness...

 

POPE: Donít go away, Professor, Iíll be back in a minute... I must say, Iím feeling rather peculiar...

 

He exits in a hurry, followed by the FIRST NUN.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Itís incredible! Itís as if he doesnít remember a thing. Whatís come over him?

 

SECOND NUN: Whatís come over him is that I brought him out of the trance... So now all he has is a few half-memories.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Shocked] Trance? What trance? When did he go into a trance... And who put him into it?

 

PROFESSOR: You remember when she went to put the ointment into his eyes...? Well, she was really just pretending... In actual fact, by waving her hands in front of his eyes she was able to guide him from a state of paranoid hysteria into a controlled trance. Fortunately for us the Sister has considerable powers of exorcism.

 

SECOND NUN: Pleased to meet you. Would you care to avail yourself of my services too? We could do a group discount.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: You hypnotised his Holiness? On whose authority, may I ask...? This is appalling?

 

PROFESSOR: But donít you realise, we freed him from a nightmare that could have led him to a total breakdown?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Well, Iím lost for words... Youíll have to excuse me. Lord, what a day! You may have freed the Holy Father may have been freed, but now Iím the one heading for a nervous breakdown! Anyway, even though I donít agree with your methods, thank you, Sister.

 

SECOND NUN: Donít mention it.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Picking up the POPEís ďdespatchesĒ] And what about these...? Look! These were supposed to be special security bulletins... but thereís no mention of a plot anywhere here...

 

PROFESSOR: Hardly surprising. Theyíre Met Office reports!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [He reads] ďWinds light to variable... Maximum temperature fifteen degrees Celsius.Ē So the Holy Father was only pretending to read... In actual fact he was making it all up?

 

PROFESSOR: No, not at all. He actually believed he was reading them... It was all going on in his sub-conscious.

 

SECOND NUN: There! Now just imagine if heíd gone down to meet the journalists in a frame of mind like that... waving the sacred bow... and saying: ďI handed over Noriega to the Americans. Theyíve promised me they wonít sentence him to death. Instead theyíll punish him by making him write a hundred lines a day: ĎNo cocaine! Cocaine is bad for you! No cocaine! Cocaine is bad for you!íď

 

FIRST CARDINAL: But do you really think that the Holy Father is going mad?

 

PROFESSOR: No, not mad... He is in a highly excitable state, though.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: So what do you suggest we do about it?

 

PROFESSOR: Heíll need a course of treatment.

 

SECOND NUN: Thatís right Ė complete rest and relaxation...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Rest and relaxation? A rest cure! Easier said than done, for a Pope...!

 

SECOND NUN: [She rummages in her bag and pulls out a cigarette] Exactly. The only real cure would be to give up being Pope.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Weíd have to sack him. You canít do that! You canít sack a Pope!

 

SECOND NUN: Why not? You got rid of the last one quick enough, John Paul the First, when he started raving round like a loony and telling Pinocchio stories... talking about breaking up the IOR, you certainly got rid of him!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Sister, I will not permit you to make gratuitous and poisonous insinuations.... John Paul the First died from natural causes.

 

SECOND NUN: Well, seeing that natural causes seemed to work so well last time, maybe we could try them again. Mind you, itíd be a shame, really, because Iíve taken a bit of a liking to this Pope.

 

She lights her cigarette.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Thatís quite enough, Sister... Donít you dare use language like that! [He realises that she is smoking] Youíre smoking?!

 

SECOND NUN: [Caught on the hop] ...It helps my asthma.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [To the PROFESSOR] Professor, where in heavenís name did you find this Sister? Sheís very strange.

 

PROFESSOR: Youíll have to make allowances for her. Sheís a missionary... unaccustomed to our worldly ways. I met her in Africa, when I was on a secondment in Burundi. She was running a leprosy colony; then she took up curing people who believed theyíd been possessed by demons; and then people with the plague...

 

SECOND NUN: That was the life!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Well, that explains where she acquired her curiously... uncivilised habits... Like some Bantu witch!

 

SECOND NUN: Watch who youíre calling a witch, Cardinal, or I might just turn nasty. Iíll turn you into a baboon, and you can wear your little red bobble hat on your bald backside!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Donít talk to me like that, Sister! Youíre very lucky that youíre under the protection of the Professor! I think itís high time you were leaving. Right?!

 

SECOND NUN: Nothing could give me greater pleasure! [She picks up her bags] I shall go back to my drug addicts. At least they show a bit of gratitude... Not like some people I could name...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Drug addicts? Whatís all this about drug addicts?

 

PROFESSOR: Well, actually, this likeable good Samaritan runs a centre for the rehabilitation and cure of drug addicts and social misfits.

 

SECOND NUN: Thatís right. We work wonders there.

 

PROFESSOR: Letís say a charitable institution which is not exactly registered with the authorities...

 

SECOND NUN: The Council were just on the point of shutting me down. The Professor took advantage of this fact to do a bit of blackmail on me.

 

PROFESSOR: I wouldnít exactly call it blackmail...

 

SECOND NUN: Thatís what I said Ė blackmail. He came to visit me, and more or less told me: ďListen, I can save you. I can stop them evicting you, you and your drug centre and throwing you all out in the street like they did the Leoncavallo centre... I can also help you to escape a prison sentence for serious professional misconduct... In exchange, however, I want you to do me a favour. The Pope is sick. I want you to come to the Vatican with me and see if you can use your hypnosis to cure him. Take it or leave it.Ē

 

FIRST CARDINAL: But you must be out of your mind, Professor. You bring a person here, who has been involved in illegal acts, who is operating outside the law, and you put the Holy Father in her hands! Supposing people got to hear of it!?

 

PROFESSOR: How many times do I have to tell you Ė unorthodox situations require unorthodox remedies.

 

SECOND NUN: Forget it, Professor. I canít say Iíve got a lot of time for his Eminence... The manís got no style... [She looks around for an ashtray. She doesnít find one, so she passes her cigarette stub to the CARDINAL] I wouldnít want to desecrate the Holy See... Anyway, his Eminence is right... As Cardinal Biffi put it so nicely, we women are dismal creatures... advisors of the Devil, and propagators of death! The best thing we can do is just pull the chain and disappear from history. Goodbye.

 

She heads for the exit; the PROFESSOR follows.

 

Enter the POPE, followed by the FIRST NUN. The SECOND NUN and the PROFESSOR are stopped in their tracks.

 

POPE: Here I am. Right, your Eminence, are we ready...? [He sees the cigarette in the FIRST CARDINALís hand] Smoking, your Eminence?!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Extremely embarrassed] Um, er... it helps my asthma.

 

He passes the cigarette stub to the FIRST NUN, who goes to stub it out.

 

POPE: Shame on you! [He points to the PROFESSORís briefcase, and then takes it from him] Oh, at last! Wonderful! Youíve found Calviís briefcase! All this time weíve been looking for it...!

 

PROFESSOR: No, no, your Holiness... Thatís my case...

 

POPE: Oh what a shame, I suppose weíll never find it now. [He gives it back to him] Now, letís get organised. [To the FIRST CARDINAL] Your Eminence, before we go down, wouldnít it be an idea if you gave me a preview of some of the questions that theyíre going to be asking?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Ah, exactly Ė just what I was about to propose.

 

He pulls out his mobile phone.

 

POPE: [To the PROFESSOR and the SECOND NUN] You know, sometimes these journalists are so poisonous in their interviews that if a person doesnít turn up well prepared... I tell you what, do me a favour, Iíd like you to stay as well... Itíll be educational.

 

A young PRIEST appears on stage, holding a folder full of papers. He is the Vatican Press Officer.

 

PRIEST: Excuse me, your Holiness...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Ah, there you are, I was just about to come looking for you.

 

POPE: Whoís he?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Heís the new attache at the Vatican Press Office.

 

POPE: [To the PRIEST] Oh, good... do sit down... This gives us a bit of time to prepare ourselves...

 

FIRST NUN: Your Holiness, the Musicians are outside, the ones you asked for... Do you want them to come back later?

 

POPE: No, no, bring them in. [The FIRST NUN ushers in the string quartet, which consists of two NUNS and two young PRIESTS] Set yourselves up over there, and letís have something nice and soothing... Itíll help me to think... [The quartet sets itself up in a corner of the salon, and performs an eighteenth-century largo. The POPE turns to the PRIEST] Right, fire away.

 

PRIEST: Well, the correspondent of the London Daily Express wants to know your reactions to the statement made by the Bishop of Cologne, Gruber Kutter, when he said, and I quote: ďI find it ridiculous that, on the threshold of the year 2000, Catholics are still tearing themselves apart over the question of contraception...Ē [The STRING QUARTET breaks off for a moment] Yes, thatís exactly what he says... ďof contraception, of the pill, of the coil... of the...Ē

 

POPE: Alright, alright, you donít have to list them all!

 

The STRING QUARTET begins playing again.

 

PRIEST: Iím sorry... Anyway, he carries on: ďItís no business of the Pope to be handing down instructions about contraceptives. These are not matters to be laid down and dictated by the Church. It is not the Churchís business.Ē

 

POPE: So itís not our business, eh? Well, you can tell Gruber Kutter that the next time thereís a Vatican Council I shall find him a nice little parish in Upper Bavaria. With the goats.

 

The STRING QUARTET breaks off again.

 

SECOND NUN: Which, as we know, are not noted for their use of prophylactics.

 

PROFESSOR: Calm down, your Holiness... You shouldnít get all worked up... Donít forget, youíre going to have to address all those journalists, and thereís nothing theyíd like better...

 

SECOND NUN: ...than to see you throwing a wobbly... You know what? I think youíre a bit of an old reactionary.

 

POPE: Reactionary? Me? The cheek of it! I tell you, Sister, Iím a lot more progressive than you think. Anyway, you heard it for yourself Ė here I am, the head of the Church, and I have high-up members of the clergy standing up and preaching against me. But what do I do? I donít go off and sentence them to death, as Ayatollah Khomeini would do... Mind you, would that I had the chance! Ha, ha!

 

SECOND NUN: Iíd like to hear you say that in front of the journalists.

 

POPE: Theyíd never get the joke! [To the PRIEST] Carry on.

 

The MUSICIANS strike up again.

 

PRIEST: The man from the Frankfurter Allgemeine wants to know your feelings about the statement made by Deacon Keller from Holland, who has declared himself opposed to your statement in which...

 

POPE: Me, statement, what statement? Give it here, let me read it for myself.

 

He takes some papers from the PRIEST.

 

PROFESSOR: You should try and read them with detachment, your Holiness.

 

POPE: Of course... Howís this for detachment...?! [He holds the papers at armís length, and chuckles] Vatican humour! Relax, I can control myself. Here, look, he says: ďI recall that in the nineteenth century, Pope Piux IX...Ē Whoís talking here? Ah, itís still Keller... ďIn the nineteenth century Pope Pius IX used to issue condemnations of doctors who vaccinated people suffering from cholera. [The music stops] Vaccination, he declared, was an act contrary to nature.Ē [To the FIRST CARDINAL] Is it true, what he says?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Unfortunately, yes, your Holiness. Word for word.

 

POPE: Oh dear... Pius IX... may the Lord rest his soul... Well, letís carry on. [He continues reading, and the music strikes up again] ďThen, when there was an epidemic and it was beginning to kill large numbers of people, the Pontiff was obliged to change his tune, and declared that: ĎVaccination is not a question of dogma!í And later on, when a number of dying bishops were actually saved by vaccination, he said: ĎWell, of course, Pasteur, the discoverer of the vaccine, was inspired by Providence in his discovery, even if he was a notorious atheist.íď But this is too much, this is scandalous...!

 

The music stops again.

 

PROFESSOR: Your Holiness, I thought you said you were able to control yourself? Anyway, I have to admit, Iíve read about Pius IXís statements too... What Keller says is historically undeniable... So...

 

POPE: So what? Whatís Keller getting at, and this jumped-up journalist too...? I suppose theyíre trying to make a parallel between me and Pius IX. Seeing that I preach that the use of contraceptives is contrary to nature, I suppose theyíre saying that Iím reactionary and obscurantist, just like Piux IX... And maybe, next, theyíre expecting me to come out with a statement that: [The music starts again] ďContraception is not a question of dogma! And Condom, the inventor of the first rubber... condom... was obviously inspired by the Holy Ghost!Ē [As he says this, he flings his arms open and leans forward. All of a sudden he has a muscular seizure, and is left standing with his arms and legs apart. The music breaks off] Ouch...! [He moves his arms, in an attempt to straighten himself up, but cannot] Ouuuch!

 

PROFESSOR: [Worried; running over to the POPE] Whatís happened, your Holiness?

 

POPE: I seem to have had some kind of a seizure... Didnít you see? Just as I stretched out my arms... Crack! I felt a sort of crack right across my kidneys... across between my shoulder blades too... Iím stuck. I canít move...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Oh Lord, this is all we need!

 

Everybody comes over to the POPE, including the MUSICIANS, to stop him falling over.

 

PROFESSOR: Donít try to move! [He hands the POPE a spear and also the pole on which the sculpted Popeís head is placed] Lean on these, your Holiness.

 

POPE: Oh thank you... Ouf, that feels better already...

 

PROFESSOR: [To the FIRST NUN] Sister, help him out of his clothes.

 

As the FIRST NUN lays her hands on the POPEís shoulders, he lets out a yell.

 

POPE: Ouch, no! Donít touch me!

 

PROFESSOR: What do you mean, ďDonít touch meĒ? Youíre not shy of nuns, are you?

 

POPE: No, itís just that when she touched my skin it felt like I was being sandpapered with a Black and Decker... Ouch...!

 

PROFESSOR: Let me feel for a moment...

 

He reaches out his hands to touch the POPEís back.

 

POPE: Go easy, for goodness sake... [The PROFESSOR touches him] Ouch! Ouuuch!

 

The PROFESSOR and the FIRST NUN remove the POPEís upper garment, leaving him in a shirt and baggy trousers.*

 

PROFESSOR: I would say the symptoms are obvious... A classic case of hyperaesthesia.

 

POPE: Classic...? Whatís hyperaesthesia? Is it serious? How do I end up getting it?

 

PROFESSOR: Well, at the origins, I would say that it was probably a sciatic neuralgia of the lumbar region, otherwise known as the ďwitchís strokeĒ.

 

Aided by the SECOND NUN he pulls out of his doctorís bag the wherewithals for measuring the POPEís blood pressure.

 

POPE: Well now thatís a real laugh... The Pope, noted scourge of the feminists, in other words todayís witches, gets struck down by the classic witchís stroke!

 

SECOND NUN: [She laughs] Iím glad to see youíve still got a sense of humour, your Holiness!

 

POPE: Ha, ha...! The only trouble is, every time I laugh, it gives me a terrible pain, right here in the back.

 

PROFESSOR: Thatís easily explained. When you laugh, the movement involved means that the sciatic nerve gets rubbed between your vertebrae, all adding up to a classic slipped disc, with sciatic complications.

 

POPE: Classic, eh? Well, Iím glad weíre still dealing with the classics!

 

PROFESSOR: Whatís more, I would say that what we have here is almost certainly an anchilosant spondylitis, involving the upper vertebrae, the atlantis and the epistrophe.

 

POPE: Anchylosant spondylitis... atlantis and epistrophe... What is this, Virgilís Aeneid?!

 

PROFESSOR: And by extension this leads to what we doctors call the ďcrucifixion strokeĒ.

 

POPE: Also classic, I presume...! So in addition to the witchís stroke, Iíve got crucifixion stroke too?

 

PROFESSOR: Exactly.

 

POPE: Well, thatís handy, I suppose I am a Pope, and the cross is my symbol after all.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: If youíll excuse me, I suppose Iíll have to go and send the journalists away again... Today just isnít my day!

 

He exits.

 

POPE: Did you see that? He doesnít even care about my crucifixion stroke... All heís interested in is newspapers...! Newspapers and journalists, journalists and newspapers...! Anyway, what about this ďhyperaesthesiaĒ, which, as I recall, was also classic.

 

PROFESSOR: Well, I was just coming to that, your Holiness; itís all part of what we doctors know as the pathological hunchback syndrome.

 

POPE: Hunchback...? All of a sudden Iím a hunchback...? Things arenít going too well for me today. Perhaps I ought to get someoneís blessing, just in case.

 

PROFESSOR: Donít get too upset. I know this is rather a lot to be coping with...

 

SECOND NUN: Thatís right.. All at one go, eh?

 

PROFESSOR: In these cases you always find symptoms of paraesthesia Ė you could call it referred pain Ė caused by a malfunctioning of the sympathetic ganglia.

 

POPE: Excuse me Professor... I donít follow... What exactly is malfunctioning here?

 

PROFESSOR: The sympathetic ganglia. You see, in the area around the plexus... we have a network of ganglia that act as a kind of coordinating centre... a sort of telephone exchange, if you like... one on either side. These receive and interpret commands from the brain... and then pass them to other parts of the body. You follow me?

 

POPE: I suppose so. It must be a bit like the internal workings of the Holy See, which, by the way, is also made up of two chambers.

 

PROFESSOR: Exactly, well done... But now, your Holiness, imagine that all of a sudden the nerve centre starts receiving signals which are unclear and confused, because of a breakdown in the sciatic system... What happens?

 

POPE: The Holy See goes haywire.

 

PROFESSOR: Exactly. The lines start to overheat, your nerves become over-sensitised, and they create this burning sensation, so that all it needs is for someone even just to touch your skin and you end up howling like a coyote! Clear?

 

POPE: So... to sum up: I, personally, Holy Father to the whole of Christianity, all eight hundred million of them, in fact, more like a billion, find myself with my ganglia malfunctioning... my brain on the blink... a hump on my back which derives from my sympathetic doo-da... a classic witchís stroke... a common-or-garden crucifixion stroke... nerve signals blacking out all round... a slipped disc... the Holy See gone haywire, and I canít even laugh because if I do my vertebrae go scritch-scritch... and I howl like a coyote... and at that moment Gruber Kutter arrives, the Bishop of Cologne whom I put out to pasture with the goats, and he falls about laughing.

 

The POPE gets agitated, and as he leans forward he loses his balance and tumbles forward on the spear and the pole on which he was leaning. The music breaks off.

 

PROFESSOR: Look out!

 

SECOND NUN: Donít just stand there, give him a hand!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Hold him up!

 

POPE: Help! Itís the curse of Gruber Kutter!

 

The PROFESSOR and the BYSTANDERS rush forward to lift the POPE up.

 

PROFESSOR: Have you hurt yourself, your Holiness?

 

POPE: No, only a big bash on the nose! Iím sure Iíve broken a couple of ribs as well, but apart from that Iím fine.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Relax, your Holiness! Sit down.

 

POPE: Is there a chair there?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Yes, yes... sit down... Relax, your Holiness...

 

POPE: [He sits down] I suppose thatís right... I should relax! Iím wondering why exactly the Lord has decided to lay me low like this...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: The Lord is putting you to the test, as a sign of his love for you!

 

POPE: Couldnít he love some of you a little bit as well, though?

 

PROFESSOR: Well, cheer up your Holiness. [To the SECOND NUN] Flectadol! [To the POPE] Maybe in a minute or two your suffering will be at an end... Always assuming that youíre willing to collaborate.

 

The SECOND NUN prepares the hypodermic, goes over to the POPE, and prepares to give the injection.

 

POPE: What made you think that I wouldnít be willing...? More to the point, how are you planning to get me out of this wretched situation? [Referring to the injection] Whatís that?

 

PROFESSOR: A pain killer.

 

POPE: Classic?

 

PROFESSOR: Common-or-garden.

 

POPE: Ouch! For a pain killer, itís very... painful! And is this going to cure me of everything?

 

PROFESSOR: No, unfortunately not. Your Holiness, to be perfectly honest, in the area of neurosympathology and sciatic disorders, modern Western medicine is basically at point zero.

 

POPE: Oh good, thatís really cheered me up.

 

PROFESSOR: When it comes to this kind of illness, any with doctor in Africa would have a set of diagnostic techniques and cures far more effective than anything that we have at our disposal.

 

POPE: Ah, here we go again with your mania for exotic cures and native medicines!

 

PROFESSOR: Your Holiness, I assure you that in Africa I personally have been present at cases of blockage similar to yours... and the Sister here can testify to that.

 

POPE: Ah, was she down there too?

 

SECOND NUN: Yes, I was...

 

POPE: And how did they cure them?

 

SECOND NUN: The commonest method consisted of smearing the patientís back with honey, and then applying an entire nest of rather angry red ants, which had previously been agitated by giving them a good smoke-up with Afghan hashish, and then, hopla, the patient would leap up and go running off into the savannah singing Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

 

POPE: Professor, if you so much as try that on me, Iíll have you thrown out of every medical order on the planet... covered with ants in your turn, and with a bonfire stuck... I wonít say where! And then weíll see you running off into the savannah... but Iíll be the one whoíll be singing the Hallelujahs...

 

PROFESSOR: All right, your Holiness, if you put it like that, I surrender.

 

POPE: No need to get all touchy... Canít a Pope have a joke every once in a while? Even though I donít know how I manage it. At this precise point I feel so completely wretched that if you were to put me in the hands of a Bantu witch doctor... in fact, do me a favour, phone and see if you can get me one, would you? Iíve heard such a lot of good things about that De Michelis... Couldnít you get him along?

 

SECOND NUN: No, thereís no need to start phoning around, your Holiness. Youíll just have to imagine that Iím a Bantu witch doctor... If youíd be willing to trust me, Iíd like to try a very particular kind of cure.

 

POPE: At this point Iím game for anything, so go ahead.

 

SECOND NUN: All right. Now, first of all we have to find a way of raising your Holiness to about this height [She raises a hand to eye level] and in such a way that you can completely relax your back muscles.

 

The POPE is helped to lean forward.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: And how do you propose doing that? If weíre starting lifting games, Iíd better go and get a couple of Swiss Guards.

 

He exits, and returns immediately, followed by two SWISS GUARDS.

 

SECOND NUN: Tell you what Ė why donít we lower that chandelier. Then we could use the ropes.

 

PRIEST: Good idea.

 

POPE: What does this ďtreatmentĒ involve?

 

The chandelier is lowered.

 

SECOND NUN: Unhook the chandelier... [Everyone helps. The ropes which hold up the chandelier are converted into a sort of harness for the POPE] Shift that table... Make a loop under the Holy Fatherís armpits, and another one under his stomach... and one supporting his legs... There, that looks fine. Now raise him up.

 

The two SWISS GUARDS haul on the ropes, and the POPE is hoisted into position.

 

POPE: Couldnít I have a couple of candles too? Iíd make a good baroque chandelier.

 

The PROFESSOR, aided by the SISTER, pushes a table and a stool across to where the POPE is suspended in mid-air.

 

PROFESSOR: [To the SECOND NUN] Climb up on this table, youíll be able to reach his Holiness more easily.

 

SECOND NUN: Good thinking... Give me a hand. [To the FIRST NUN] Sister, would you get me a basin of boiling water?

 

The FIRST NUN exits.

 

POPE: Boiling water? What do you want with boiling water?

 

SECOND NUN: Donít worry, your Holiness, Iím not about to pour it over you. [To the FIRST CARDINAL] Your Eminence, would you get some incense and four candles and set them up round here.

 

POPE: Candles?! What is this Ė the funeral, already?

 

The MUSICIANS exit, and re-enter with large candleholders, which are placed on either side of the POPE. They are followed by a SWISS GUARD carrying incense, and by a PRIEST carrying a large silver basin, which is placed on the ground beneath the POPE.

 

As each character walks in front of the POPE, they genuflect. The POPE responds with strangely contorted movements of his head and upper torso.

 

POPE: [At the end of the procession] Wonderful. When do the Three Wise Men arrive?

 

SECOND NUN: Professor, in my handbag youíll find a small tobacco pouch with some crystals in it. As the water comes to the boil, throw a dozen of them in. [She leans across the POPEís back] Your Holiness, please, relax...

 

POPE: I canít... Iím sorry... Iím just all tensed up...

 

The FIRST NUN re-enters.

 

FIRST NUN: Hereís the boiling water...

 

SECOND NUN: Give it to the Professor. [The PROFESSOR pours the water into the basin and adds the crystals. This produces a large number of soap bubbles which float up underneath the POPE. The MUSICIANS and the SWISS GUARDS arrange themselves around the POPE as he hangs suspended] Now, I want you to imagine that you are somewhere completely different... imagine youíre in the sea somewhere... Swimming... I want big movements of your arms... and I want to hear you singing... [To the SWISS GUARDS] And you... Set this contraption swinging a bit, and light the candles too.

 

The POPE is swung slowly to and fro in the harness; the SECOND NUN spreads her hands over him.

 

POPE: Sing, you say? Well, Iíll give it a try. [He begins intoning a Gregorian chant, which is immediately taken up by the STRING QUARTET]

 

Aleus Domine Fulgitur...

 

SECOND NUN: What on earth kind of song do you call that?

 

POPE: Itís Gregorian...

 

SECOND NUN: Who ever heard of anybody swimming and singing in Gregorian?

 

POPE: Lefebvre does.

 

SECOND NUN: Canít we have something a bit more lively!

 

POPE: Lively? Thereís no such thing as lively Gregorian chant!

 

SECOND NUN: Donít you know any proper songs? What about when you were a boy? You were a boy once, werenít you?

 

POPE: Yes, but not for long.

 

SECOND NUN: You must remember some little song from your childhood?

 

POPE: Yes, now I think of it, there was one. It went something like this: [He sings]

 

Strado je hobje alonnideja

Strado-je-nubie alfonida

 

SECOND NUN: Thatís brilliant Ė carry on.

 

The STRING QUARTET provides a musical backing.

 

POPE: Acuni bonnja inanolijae

A la-stoni-nijamihiae acooinaat!

 

He sings in Slavic.

 

SECOND NUN: Carry on with the singing... In a minute or two youíll feel a sensation of heat coming over you. Perfect! [To the PROFESSOR and the FIRST CARDINAL] Come on, you sing too!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: I canít sing in Slavic!

 

SECOND NUN: Well mime, then... Where thereís a will thereís a way.

 

Everybody sings along with the POPE.

 

ALL: Strado je hobje alonnideja

Strado-je-nubie alfonida

Acuni bonnja inanolijae

 

All of a sudden, the SECOND CARDINAL enters (the priest in charge of Vatican security). He is holding a photograph, and is accompanied by two SWISS GUARDS.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Excuse my interrupting, your Holiness, but we have a serious problem here... We have incontrovertible evidence...

 

He stops in his tracks and stares in amazement at the scene of the suspended POPE swinging to and fro.

 

POPE: I wasd starting to feel better just now... Now all of a sudden I feel like someoneís shot me full of quick-setting cement.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: [He goes over to the SECOND NUN and climbs up onto the stool next to her in order to compare her face with the face in the photograph] Yes, itís her. Absolutely no doubt at all!

 

He gestures to the SWISS GUARDS, who come over to arrest her.

 

POPE: [Stopping them] What on earth has got into you? Since when have people had the right to come wandering round my chambers, not to mention climbing up on my furniture, without so much as a ďby your leaveĒ...?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: And right in the middle of a Slavic song, too!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: But we have a serious security problem here!

 

SECOND NUN: I think I should warn you, if we donít re-start the massage at once, weíll be right back where we started and the Popeís going to seize up again.

 

PROFESSOR: [He climbs up on a stool next to the SECOND CARDINAL] Speaking as the doctor responsible for His Holinessís health, your Eminence, Iím afraid Iím going to have to ask you to leave!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Iím sorry, but as head of Vatican security, Professor, I must insist that I stay and carry out my duty, and I must inform you about the real origins and profession of this... woman...

 

POPE: Thatís enough of that! What is this, a rank and file ecclesiastical take-over?!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: We already know; the Sister works in a community centre rehabilitating drug addicts... sheís a qualified healer...

 

SECOND CARDINAL: A qualified healer, maybe. But she has absolutely no licence or permit to practise. Sheís running an illegal operation in other words. [To the GUARDS] Get those nunís clothes off her and take her away, sheís a sham...

 

POPE: Get her clothes off? Youíre going to start undressing a nun? Here? In my apartments? What is this? The Crazy Horse Saloon?

 

PROFESSOR: Iím afraid youíve gone a bit too far, your Eminence! Interrupting a crucial moment of the andro-therapeutic process... Do you want the Holy Father to be the victim of an irreversible arthritic paroxysm?

 

SECOND CARDINAL: What if I were to tell you that this so-called ďSisterĒ from Burundi was not in fact a missionary... that this woman...

 

POPE: So why should I worry whether sheís a missionary nun in Burundi or a convent nun in Monte Cenisio? Ouuuch...! Iím seizing up again! Get out...! Get out...! You, and your Switzers!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Your Holiness, the only reaon Iím here is to save your life.

 

POPE: What do you mean, save my life? I see no danger? People love me... The political situation is under control...

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Exactly. The same words that Ceaucescu said five minutes before they shot him.

 

Exit the SECOND CARDINAL, followed by the SWISS GUARDS.

 

POPE: The cheek of the man! Now how on earth am I going to relax again...

 

SECOND NUN: Youíd best start singing again.

 

POPE: Easier said than done... Iíve lost the motivation.

 

SECOND NUN: [With her hands still laid on the POPE] Iíll see if I can give you a hand, then. I know a little song with just the same tune as yours. They used to sing it in the village where I lived, when I was a girl.

 

POPE: Really?

 

SECOND NUN: Yes, of course. You listen and tell me if it isnít the same. [She sings]

 

Oh fresh rose, the weather is so gentle

Come down, come down, donít make me wait for you.

Undress yourself, take off all your petals,

And come and sink

Into this clear, warm water.

You are a mermaid among the waves.

With your eyes you take me to the bottom of the sea.

You take me to the bottom of the sea.

You take me to the bottom of the sea.

 

POPE: Naughty, naughty...! My song didnít have rude bits in it... Two lovers in the water, getting undressed... Sinking into warm water and getting up to hanky-panky... Without any clothes on, too.

 

SECOND NUN: What do you mean, two lovers? Theyíre married!

 

POPE: No, Iím sorry... People who go getting undressed in warm water... and embracing each other with no clothes on arenít married! And if they are married, theyíre certainly not married to each other.

 

SECOND NUN: Before you start... pontif-icating... could I draw your attention to the fact that you just started moving your arms about as if there was nothing wrong with you?!

 

POPE: Amazing! I didnít even notice. It must have been the singing that did it.

 

SECOND NUN: Come on... Relax, move about a bit more... Donít worry...

 

POPE: Alright, Iíll try. Let me down... I want to try walking a bit...

 

PROFESSOR: Right. Help him down.

 

Everyone helps the POPE to come down.

 

POPE: [When he reaches ground level, he begins to move, swivelling his legs and his body in a disjointed fashion] Yes, I can do it! Look how well I move! Strutting like a peacock!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: What an amazing recovery! Fling open the windows, the Pope is cured!

 

SECOND NUN: Slow down, donít get carried away... The first time round the effect doesnít last for very long.

 

As the FIRST NUN flings open the windows, the SECOND CARDINAL enters, followed by two SWISS GUARDS.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Iím sorry to interrupt again, your Holiness... this really is extremely urgent... I insist that you let me explain.

 

POPE: In a minute, if you donít mind. First I want to thank this Sister.

 

The STRING QUARTET begins playing again, quietly.

 

POPE: Now, I think the time has come... Would you all sit down and listen... [The music breaks off] The Cardinal here has been trying to tell me that this Sister...

 

SECOND NUN: Is not a nun at all...

 

POPE: What? How do you mean?

 

SECOND NUN: Like he says. Iím not a nun...

 

POPE: You are a missionary, though?

 

SECOND NUN: Iím afraid not.

 

POPE: And you donít even come from Burundi?

 

SECOND NUN: Yes, I do come from Burundi. And how...

 

POPE: Well, at least there was a bit of truth in it. Oh dear oh dear... I guessed it as soon as you came in... There was something in the way you moved... And then when I got hit by my ďwitchís strokeĒ... I had my mind on too many other things. So who are you, then?

 

SECOND NUN: A witch. Like he said.

 

POPE: What...?! I do hope youíre joking.

 

PROFESSOR: Of course she is, your Holiness. My assistant has a rather bizarre sense of humour...

 

SECOND NUN: Why donít we just call it a day, Professor, and stop pretending. [To the POPE] Yes, Iím exactly that... a witch. My life story is so amazing that theyíve been begging me to make a 139-episode TV series out of it.

 

POPE: I hope weíre not going to get the full version now... Iím due to leave for Moscow on Thursday.

 

SECOND NUN: I could give you a quick run-down.

 

POPE: All right. Letís have the potted version.

 

SECOND NUN: Well, I was born in Africa, to white parents, who went and died in a hunting accident. I was looked after by a Bantu witch doctor, who reared me like a mother. At the age of nine I was walking on burning coals; at the age of ten I was walking on water... not least, to cool my feet, because of the fire. At the age of twelve, a herd of wild elephants was about to trample my village. I stood in front of them, raised my arms, and let out a terrifying yell! The elephants were stopped in their tracks... and two rhinoceroses came and lay down at my feet and went: ďEe-eee-eeeĒ, which is rhinocerosesí way of communicating with humans... and they said: ďHere we are, prostrate at your feet... Do with us what you will... We are willing to do anything... Even change our names... if youíll only let us join the Socialist International, like the Italian Communist Party.Ē End of the first episode. The second episode...

 

POPE: [Interrupting her] No, no, spare us...

 

SECOND NUN: But itís the bit where I meet Tarzan! He was running the World Wildlife Fund at the time!

 

POPE: Very funny! [To the PROFESSOR] Leaving aside this womanís unorthodox qualifications, what on earth put it into your head to bring her here dressed as a nun?

 

PROFESSOR: First of all, I had to find some way of getting her into the Vatican and smuggling her past your Swiss Guards. And then, to be honest, would you have accepted her otherwise?

 

POPE: Well, I donít know, really... I suppose she seems pretty reliable... I donít see a problem...

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Well there is a problem, your Holiness, and how... as I was trying to tell you a short while ago... You ask this fraudster to spell out her real profession, and you will find that what we have here is a drug-trafficker, who also happens to specialise in illegal abortions.

 

SECOND NUN: Whoops! Thatís blown it!

 

POPE: You do abortions! An abortionist?!

 

PROFESSOR: Letís keep it in proportion... She works in a therapeutic community, where completely legal doctors carry out minor operations.

POPE: And abortions! Do you realise the position youíve put me in? Iím talking to you, Professor, and [to the FIRST CARDINAL] you! Personal secretary, indeed! Donít you dare let a word of this get out to the Press!

 

SECOND NUN: [Picking up her bags] Isnít life amazing... Up until a few minutes ago I was this extraordinary, marvellous woman... and now Iím the nun who never was!

 

POPE: You have dreamed up this diabolical situation... an insult to my person, and to everything I represent. When I think that you allowed this wretched woman to put her hands on me, the same murderous hands that have killed innocent babies before they could see the light of day.

 

SECOND NUN: Excuse me, your Holiness, but letís get one thing straight. Personally speaking, I am not in favour of abortions either... but if itís a choice between that and the horros of the alternative, with desperate women dying of back-street abortions every day, I think I know which side I come down on. Itís only with great reluctance and pain that I take that path, believe me.

 

POPE: You canít fool me with fancy words!

 

SECOND NUN: You protest about my hands, but it never worried to shake certain other hands. The truly bloodstained hands of the likes of Pinochet and Marcos, and that other dictatorial thug in El Salvador.

 

POPE: [To the SECOND CARDINAL] Cardinal!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Your Holiness?

 

POPE: I donít want to hear another word out of that woman! Get her out! Out of my sight!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: [To the SWISS GUARDS] Do as he says.

 

The SWISS GUARDS frog-march the SECOND NUN to the exit.

 

POPE: Take those nunís clothes off her, and hand her over to the police of the country she belongs to. No, more to the point, just see her to the door. Get her out, I said!

 

SECOND NUN: Thatís fine, your Holiness. Enjoy your seizure!

 

The SWISS GUARDS march her off.

 

POPE: Get out!

 

He gestures as if to shoo her off, and his arms lock in the same outstretched position as previously.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: There! Sheís done it! Sheís done it! Sheís given him another seizure!

 

PROFESSOR: So what do we do now?

 

The SECOND NUN comes running back on stage.

 

SECOND NUN: Maybe I can be of assistance.

 

GENERAL CHORUS: Get her off!

 

The SECOND NUN raises her arms and lets out a screech. Everyone on stage is convulsed, as if by an electric shock, and they end up with their arms in the same outstretched position as the POPE. The SECOND NUN exits.

 

Musical interlude. Blackout.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT TWO

 

We find ourselves in a warehouse or a large and more or less dilapidated room. The windows are in a state of disrepair, and there is a skylight in the ceiling. There is glass missing from some of the windows. The room is bare. In the centre stands a long table. On-stage we see a group of YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN. They look pale and undernourished. It is clear that they are drug addicts. They are at work on weaving looms.

 

The HEALER, whom we saw previously in the guise of the SECOND NUN, is now dressed simply in a doctorís jacket and a pair of trousers. She is busy massaging a YOUTH who is stretched out on the table. From backstage, enter the PROFESSOR. The YOUTHS run up to him, shouting excitedly in unison and trying to search him.

 

PROFESSOR: Do you mind?!

 

FIRST BOY: Heís arrived! Itís him!

 

FIRST GIRL: Have you got the stuff?

 

THIRD BOY: Are you the courier?

 

PROFESSOR: Hey, calm down, get your hands off!

 

HEALER: Stop that! Leave him alone! Heís got nothing to do with it, it canít be him... Heís a Professor.

 

FIRST BOY: So? Why couldnít it be a Professor who brings us the stuff?

 

HEALER: Leave him alone, I said!

 

They all return to what they were doing.

 

PROFESSOR: What on earth was that all about...? What were they all after?

 

HEALER: Nothing, nothing... Just a misunderstanding, donít worry about it, Professor...

 

PROFESSOR: Alright. Anyway, I sent you some medical supplies and things. Did you receive them?

 

HEALER: Yes. Thank you... [She finishes massaging the BOY and sends him packing] Whose turn is it now?

 

ASSISTANT: [To one of the GIRLS] Come on, youíre next...

 

PROFESSOR: Hey, now this is a lovely welcome! Youíre not angry with me too, are you?

 

HEALER: Not at all... Itís just that Iím under a lot of pressure... I have problems... Anyway, spit it out Ė what do you want this time?

 

PROFESSOR: Well, I only dropped in to say hello, really... To find out how youíre getting on.

 

HEALER: Well, thatís really lovely, Professor. ďHello. What a lovely day. How nice to see you!Ē And now, the doorís over there. Give my regards to the family.

 

She pushes him towards the door.

 

PROFESSOR: You canít throw me out just like that... We worked together once... we were friends...

 

HEALER: Spare me the ďold palsĒ act. I presume youíve come here for a reason. I hope youíre not trying to convince me to pay another visit to... the fellow with the funny hat...?

 

PROFESSOR: No, not at all! I donít think we need go to the Vatican again.

 

HEALER: Just as well.

 

PROFESSOR: Heís decided heís coming here, instead.

 

HEALER: Who?

 

PROFESSOR: The fellow with the funny hat. In person.

 

HEALER: Here? To me? Are you crazy?

 

PROFESSOR: Almost!... Seeing that the mountain wonít go to Mohammed...

 

HEALER: So Iím a mountain, now? Iím warning you, if heís coming looking for political asylum, Iíll hand him straight over to the Americans. Moody old bastard, isnít he! One minute heís falling at my feet, just because heís feeling a bit peeky, and the next minute heís calling me a murderer.

 

PROFESSOR: The poor chap is at his witsí end. Heís totally seized up. Weíve tried everything... electric shocks... acupuncture... poking around in his sympathetic ganglia... Nothing! At a certain point he was so desperate that he started asking for you again.

 

HEALER: Spare me the sob stories, Professor, because Iíll start to cry. So how will His Nibs be arriving? Unobtrusively in his white Popemobile, I suppose?

 

PROFESSOR: No, not at all... Heís coming totally incognito... dressed in ordinary clothes. Donít say no... Iím relying on you...

 

HEALER: Well, I suppose, when allís said and done, the Popeís a Christian too, eh? Alright, where is he? I bet heís waiting at the door.

 

PROFESSOR: You guessed it! I brought him with me... Allow me...

 

He gestures with his hand, and the POPE enters from back-stage. He is wearing inconspicuous dark clothes, with a corduroy jacket and a collarless shirt. He has his arms up in the air, and in an effort to disguise this unusual position he carries a basket on his head, containing fruit and vegetables.

 

POPE: Good morning.

 

HEALER: Oh my goodness, look at the state of him...!

 

The BOYS and GIRLS get excited again and dive on him.

 

FIRST BOY: Here he is!

 

THIRD BOY: In the basket, the stuff must be in the basket!

 

SECOND BOY: This time it really is him.

 

POPE: Hey, hold on... Get off... Whatís got into you?

 

FIRST GIRL: Where is it, where have you hidden it?

 

One of the BOYS grabs the POPEís basket, leaving him with his arms up in the air.

 

SECOND GIRL: [Searching through the basket] I bet theyíve hidden it among the vegetables.

 

POPE: Whatís got into them?

 

HEALER: Leave him alone. Heís nothing to do with it! Heís not the courier... Thatís enough, now!

 

POPE: What are they looking for, though?

 

PROFESSOR: They did the same to me Ė came leaping all over me...

 

HEALER: Goodness, you really are in a state. [She accompanies him to a chair] Here, sit down.

 

SECOND GIRL: Whatís he doing with his arms up in the air? I bet heís some sort of Hindu holy man.

 

FIRST BOY: But if heís not the courier either, then who is? The stuffís usually been here by now.

 

HEALER: How should I know... Just hang on a bit, eh?

 

SECOND GIRL: Hey, no! I canít stand it any more, Iím feeling bad.

 

HEALER: And who cares if you feel bad...? Look at this poor gentleman... Heís certainly in a worse state than you, and heís not complaining, is he?

 

SECOND GIRL: Iím not a Holy Man like him, though.

 

PROFESSOR: What are they waiting for?

 

HEALER: A free delivery of something rather special.

 

PROFESSOR: And whoís supposed to be bringing it?

 

HEALER: Nobody knows.

 

POPE: It wouldnít happen to be the packet Iíve got in my pocket, would it?

 

HEALER: Youíve got a packet in your pocket?

 

POPE: Yes. A transparent packet. Somebody slipped it into my jacket outside... while I was waiting to come in.

 

FIRST BOY: Hey, the Hinduís got the packet!

 

THIRD BOY: Where is it? Which pocket?

 

The YOUTHS dive on him and knock him to the floor.

 

FIRST GIRL: Come on, Hindu! Letís have it.

 

HEALER: [She helps the POPE to get up] Stop that, or Iíll put the lot of you out the door! [She sits him back on his chair] God help anyone who lays so much as a hand on him!

 

SECOND GIRL: So who is he, then? God Almighty?

 

HEALER: Letís say heís the next best thing.

 

FIRST BOY: It looks like heís stuck in that position!

 

HEALER: If you donít mind, your Holi... I mean, may I...?

 

POPE: There, right there... in the inside pocket...

 

HEALER: [She pulls a packet out of the pocket of the POPEís jacket] Yes. Thatís the one weíre waiting for.

 

CHORUS: Hey!

 

POPE: The fellow outside told me: ďGive it to Elisa.Ē Whoís Elisa?

 

HEALER: Iím Elisa.

 

POPE: Youíre Elisa? Pleased to meet you...

 

HEALER: [To the YOUTH] And now, calm down, all of you, and line up, and Iíll do your shots. [To the POPE] Youíll have to excuse me, a moment. Iíll just get them sorted out, and Iíll be with you right away.

 

POPE: So youíre not angry with me any more?

 

HEALER: I donít have the time to nurse old grudges... You need time on your hands for that sort of thing.

 

POPE: But when I threw you out the other day, you were absolutely furious...

 

HEALER: True...I get that way every once in a while... Anyway, make yourself at home. [To her ASSISTANT] Hey, get a move on with those needles... Iím almost ready [To a BOY who is trying to take a syringe] Mitts off...! Professor, give me a hand.

 

One of the GIRLS brings over to the HEALER a hospital trolley loaded with bottles, test-tubes, small bowls, various instruments and a small spirit lamp. The HEALER measures out a dose, breaks open an ampoule and mixes the mixture into a container. She takes a syringe and prepares the first injection.

 

PROFESSOR: Excuse me, am I mistaken, or are you just about to...

 

HEALER: No, youíre not mistaken. [To the YOUTHS] Whoís first? [They all rush forward, noisily] Stop! Get in a queue.

 

She sits one of the BOYS down.

 

PROFESSOR: But what is that youíre injecting?

 

HEALER: Heroin.

 

PROFESSOR AND POPE: What?!

 

POPE: Heroin? So that transparent packet that I was carrying was...

 

HEALER: Thatís right. Heroin. One hundred per cent Grade A heroin.

 

POPE: You mean Iíve been carrying drugs?! Imagine what would have happened if Iíd been stopped by a policeman...

 

HEALER: We would have had the finest scandal of the century.

 

POPE: And you think itís funny...! I canít handle this any more... My arms are getting tired.

 

HEALER: Hang onto that iron crossbar over there, in the alcove... It could have been made for you... Anyway, I donít inject the stuff full-strength... Itíd blow their minds... I make up a mixture. Iíve added Arsenofix as a vein-dilator, together with some fluidifying Merenal, and various other secret specialities of the house.

 

POPE: But what do you mean...? Youíre handing out drug injections in a place like this?

 

HEALER: Yes, youíre right, the place is a bit squalid; I suppose it would be better if it had a bit more atmosphere... comfortable sofas... hubbly-bubblies... soft music...

 

Aided by her ASSISTANT she sets about the business ofgiving injections to all the drug addicts.

 

POPE: Donít go making jokes about it... Itís insane, what youíre doing.

 

HEALER: Insane situations require insane solutions. I canít see any other way round it, for the moment.

 

POPE: No other way? What about you, Professor? Have you nothing to say?

 

SECOND GIRL: Oh dear, the Hinduís kicking up a fuss!

 

PROFESSOR: Well, I am astonished and perplexed.

 

POPE: What do you mean Ė this womanís engaged in wholesale drug trafficking, and all you can say is that youíre astonished and perplexed?!

 

HEALER: Gently! Whoís trafficking? What happens here is that we supply the drugs at a controlled price. Dealers out on the street would charge you 50,000 lire for a dose, but we sell a dose for 1,800... And that includes injection, with a clean needle, and under medical control... [She points to her ASSISTANT] Sheís a doctor... A drug addict, but a doctor nevertheless.

 

SECOND GIRL: And if you havenít got the money, you can even get it on tick.

 

POPE: But donít you realise that you are promoting moral corruption, and vice, and criminality...!

 

HEALER: Excuse me, but youíre talking like Mary Whitehouse. If anything, itís quite the opposite! Take this boy, for example. [She points to one of the BOYS] Out on the street, if he wants to get the money for his daily shot, he has to deal at least ten doses to other young people like himself, or find new ones that he can persuade onto the habit... [To the FIRST GIRL] Tell this gentleman how you get to afford your drugs.

 

FIRST GIRL: Iím on the game...

 

HEALER: Thatís no way to put it...! Youíre in the business of offering remunerated affection... Her over there, on the other hand, sheís in the business of thieving. And that one over thereís into thieving too, but unfortunately heís not very good, so he spends most of his time doing time. Thereís others too. Youíll see them later... when the night shift comes. Good kids, all of them. All in and out of prison most of the time.

 

POPE: So you run a shift-system, eh?

 

FIRST BOY: Thatís right, Holy man... Spot on! Sometimes we do upwards of fifty sittings a day.

 

POPE: Hey, no, look! Iím sorry, but I canít stay in a place like this...! I guess Iíll just have to learn to live with my seizure...

 

He heads for the exit.

 

HEALER: Ah, so youíre disgusted... I quite understand... Go ahead, leave! But what do you think Ė that I pump this filthy poison into these kids because Iím some kind of depraved pervert? No, it horrifies me... Maybe even more than you. Every time... every time I do it, I feel sick in my stomach. It makes me want to throw up.

 

POPE: Nobodyís forcing you to do it, though... So why do it?

 

HEALER: Itís the idea that somehow, in some little way, I might be doing somebody some good. If nothing else, ever since we opened this place and started making the drugs availabe at reduced prices, it seems like weíve already started to have an effect. For example, take these young men and women. We can give them more choice in life than just prostitution, Aids, a life of crime and prison. Theyíre here, and that gives me a chance of talking to them... and reasoning with them... and maybe even getting them to do something useful with their lives.

 

POPE: Stupendous! First you shoot them full of cheap drugs, and then you ďreasonĒ with them? This is heaven on earth...! In fact, even better than Heaven, because in the Garden of Eden the apples were forbidden, and here they get their shots for free.

 

HEALER: Please, donít start making fun of me. These kids are trying to stay alive and healthy until such time as they manage to kick the drugs... Because people donít necessarily die of heroin, but when you get Aids, you die, and thatís that.

 

POPE: But doesnít it occur to you that these poor creatures only come here and listen to you because youíre handing out drugs left right and centre?

 

GIRL: Hey, it sounds like our Guru isnít too keen on us, eh?

 

PROFESSOR: Exactly, they see no further than their next fix. You canít reason with them...

 

POPE: But on the other hand I suppose we should have compassion on them... they are our children, after all, and they have plunged into the abyss of a terrible alienation...

 

PROFESSOR: And the business of pulling them back is going to be long and hard.

 

HEALER: So in the meantime the only solution is to put them out on the streets... Or put them all in prison? Or put them into a nice zoo or something... A little ghetto all to themselves, where they can shoot themselves full of drugs and die without anyone noticing.

 

PROFESSOR: No, for goodness sake, thatís not what I mean at all. I agree Ė a civilised society canít just ignore whatís going on, canít just watch our kids dying in the toilet of some street-corner bar.

 

HEALER: Letís face the facts. This smug, self-satisfied, so-called civilised society only sits up and takes notice of drug addicts when the kids start making trouble for them. You donít hear ministers and newspapers and bleeding-heart liberals getting all worked up over the thirty thousand alcoholics who die every year of cirrhosis of the liver, do you...? Thatís because they have the good manners to die unobtrusively. If drug addicts died like old-age pensioners do Ė of poverty, loneliness and cold Ė nobody would say a word, would they! The thing about these kids is that they steal, and they dirty up parks with their syringes, and they go out and prostitute themselves... and since ninety per cent of them are HIV positive theyíre probably going to infect you with Aids too! And then they come and die right under your window! Their deaths create a scandal... Theyíre an embarrassment. They are the bad conscience of our society! So prison is the only solution.

 

POPE: Exactly! Youíve hit the nail on the head! Itís all hypocrisy, self-interest and intolerance. I like what youíre saying, there... Professor, how about a massage? I donít think I can manage like this for much longer.

 

HEALER: Alright, letís see what we can do. Could someone take the gentlemanís jacket off.

 

She begins to give him a massage.

 

POPE: But seeing that you provide this stuff more or less free, doesnít it ever occur to you that youíre actually pushing young people into drug-taking? Those same young people who today are kept away from drugs precisely by the fear of ending up in prison...

 

PROFESSOR: ...and more particularly by the difficulty of getting hold of the stuff.

 

HEALER: I can see youíre completely out of touch, Professor... You think itís hard to get the stuff! Ha! You see how the kids are laughing?

 

SECOND GIRL: Thatís right... These days heroin grows on trees.

 

FIRST GIRL: You can get the stuff any place and any time you like.

 

FIRST BOY: All you need is the money.

 

POPE: All right. Fair enough... But what about you...? Who gives you all this heroin? I presume it doesnít grow on trees.

 

SECOND BOY: Weíve already told you, Holy Man. Every day somebody sends us between thirty and fifty doses and we donít have the first idea who.

 

PROFESSOR: What do you mean, you ďdonít have the first ideaĒ? You must know who sends the stuff.

 

HEALER: No! We donít know. I presume weíve got a hidden benefactor who wants to keep his identity secret. Anyway, every time it arrives in a different manner! One time someone comes shooting past on a motorbike and throws the packet through the door... Another time thereís a pigeon comes in through the big broken window up there... with a packet tied to its leg.

 

POPE: A drug-dealing homing pigeon?

 

HEALER: Yesterday somebody sent us in two-dozen eggs... [She points to one of the BOYS] This idiot didnít realise that two of them were stuffed full of heroin... He made us an omelette. Three grammes of heroin in an omelette! We ate it... You should have heard the burps afterwards... Deafening!

 

POPE: Do you really not know who sends you the stuff?

 

HEALER: No, honestly.... Every day the stuff arrives in a different manner... and in fact today, as you know, it came via you.

 

POPE: Exactly. Just call me Father Christmas!

 

HEALER: Anyway, how are you feeling now?

 

POPE: A bit better, thank you, but I still canít move my arms.

 

HEALER: I think I know how I could solve your problem once and for all.

 

POPE: How?

 

HEALER: Hypnosis.

 

POPE: Oh no you donít... I donít think so...! Youíll have me going round on all fours and barking like a dog.

 

The door at the back of the stage opens with a big crash, and everybody turns round. Enter a DRUNKARD. The Healerís ASSISTANT rushes to prop him up before he falls over.

 

DRUNKARD: Iím thirsty... Iíve come for my ration!

 

ASSISTANT: No problem. Come on in.

 

DRUNKARD: [He disentangles himself from the ASSISTANT] I can stand up on my own... [To the HEALER] Hey, Missus... whereís my wine? [To everyone] Your health!

 

CHORUS: Your health!

 

HEALER: Your health! [To the POPE and the PROFESSOR] One of our regulars.

 

PROFESSOR: You donít mean you serve alcohol too...?

 

HEALER: We do our best to oblige. Heís always here to get his ration, regular as clockwork: two or three litres at a time, and off he goes, drunk as a lord.

 

POPE: Iím impressed.

 

HEALER: [She goes over to the DRUNKARD] Good day, my friend. What can I serve you? What do you fancy today?

 

DRUNKARD: I fancy something with a bit of a zing to it... a nice little Bulgarian Sauvignon, maybe. Pre-Chernobyl, preferably.

 

HEALER: No problem. A very good vintage, too... Iíll bring it up straight away... Straight from the cellar... But first, would you please look at my finger.

 

DRUNKARD: Why, whatís wrong with it?

 

HEALER: Donít ask questions and just watch carefully... There it goes... round, and round, and round...

 

POPE: [To the PROFESSOR] Whatís she up to?

 

PROFESSOR: I think sheís trying to hypnotise him.

 

HEALER: There, well done... Now you feel all light... as if youíre floating... you just stay like that... Good! Now, as a reward, Iíll give you your cool fizzy Sauvignon. Hereís the bottle... [She mimes taking a bottle] You, take the cork out. [She passes it to the DRUNKARD] I think one should have a tall glass for a Sauvignon.

She mimes polishing a glass.

 

DRUNKARD: Correct!

 

Having taken the cork out of the imaginary bottle, he pours himself a drink... He takes a sniff at it, and then drinks.

 

HEALER: How is it?

 

DRUNKARD: Good... Slightly fruity... Excellent! [To the POPE and the PROFESSOR] Do you fancy a drop?

 

PROFESSOR and POPE: No, no thanks.

 

DRUNKARD: The drinks are on me. Itís my birthday!

 

HEALER: Itís true. Every dayís his birthday. You canít not accept a drink. Here are your glasses... [To one of the GIRLS] Give us a hand.

 

They put on a performance of handing round glasses, pouring the wine, and drinking it. The POPE still has his arms up in the air. One of the GIRLS mimes handing him a glass.

 

CHORUS: Your health!

 

DRUNKARD: What do you think of my wine?

 

PROFESSOR: Good colour.

 

POPE: A touch fruity...

 

DRUNKARD: Down the hatch... Thisíll put hairs on your chest!

 

HEALER: Your health!

 

POPE: Itís incredible Ė yopu actually use hypnosis to convince him that heís drinking?

 

HEALER: Thatís nothing... One time I even managed to convince a gentleman that he was throwing children out of a window... But thatís another story.

 

PROFESSOR: But can you really cure him with hypnosis?

 

As if itís the most normal thing in the world, they all continue miming drinking.

 

HEALER: Of course... Heís drying out a treat. Up until a week ago, he was miming up to four bottles a day... Now heís down to two!

 

DRUNKARD: Your health!

 

EVERYONE: Cheers!

 

The DRUNKARD heads off towards the exit.

 

PROFESSOR: Have you never thought of trying to use hypnosis with your drug addicts too?

 

HEALER: No. It canít be done. Iíve tried it. Itís like trying to hypnotise a mirror.

 

DRUNKARD: See you, folks, thatís all for today! Cheers!

 

EVERYONE: Cheers!

 

POPE: Maybe Iíll live to regret this... but while youíre at it, why donít you try hypnotising me too?

 

HEALER: All right... sit down here...

 

She points to a chair.

 

EVERYONE: Hereís to it!

 

Enter two ARROGANT TYPES, pushing the DRUNKARD before them.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Mind if we come in? Howís business?

 

POPE: More drunkards?

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Any chance of a score at this time of day?

 

DRUNKARD: You canít come in. This is a private club.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Shut up, you little prat!

 

They knock him over.

 

FIRST GIRL: You pigs!

 

SECOND GIRL: [Going over to the ARROGANT TYPES] Who do you think you are?

 

The FIRST ARROGANT TYPE gives her a kick; the DRUNKARD gets up and leaves by the door.

 

PROFESSOR: What do you want?

 

HEALER: Are you looking for something?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: All depends on what youíre offering. Whoís in charge here? Are you Elisa?

 

HEALER: Yes, thatís me... What do you want?

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Pleased to meet you. Weíre from the health authorities. Ha, ha...

 

He looks over at one of the BOYS, who is rubbing his arm, and then at the syringes on the trolley.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Thatís nice. Looks like weíve caught you red-handed. [He grabs the BOY by the chin] Look at them all, all drugged up to the eyeballs.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: [He uses his thumb to push back one of the GIRLSí eyelids to examine her pupil] Exactly. Look at their pupils. The size of pin-heads...

 

HEALER: So? Whatís it to you?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Look, lady, like I said, weíre from the health authorities. I think it would be useful if we had a look at the stuff youíre using, just to check it for purity...

 

HEALER: Thereís no need to check it... We have the Professor here, heíll vouch for it.

 

PROFESSOR: Yes, I can vouch for it.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Professor, eh? Professor of what?

 

PROFESSOR: Neuro-psychiatry.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Oh yes? Well, Iím a specialist in advanced orthopaedic surgery. [He grabs one of the GIRLS by the arm and forces her to the ground] And if you donít produce the goods pronto-pronto, Iím going to break this oneís arm, and then Iíll stick it in plaster... for free, ha, ha...

 

POPE: Leave that girl alone at once. You are rude, arrogant and intolerable, thatís what you are!

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: And who might you be? Whatís he doing with his arms up in the air, like heís saying ďHallelujahĒ?

 

FIRST BOY: Heís a Hindu holy man. I think heís probably doing penance.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Well, you just carry on with your Hallelujahs and donít interrupt, because otherwise I m ight just be tempted to kick you where it hurts!

 

POPE: Oh dear... I think Iíll go back into my alcove.

 

The FIRST ARROGANT TYPE twists the GIRLís arm. She screams.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Either you talk, or Iíll break her arm! Whereís the stuff?

 

The GIRL screams again.

 

HEALER: Stop it! Leave her alone. Iíve got the stuff. Itís here... [She hands the GANGSTER a couple of small packets] There you are. And I hope you die.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: This is just chicken-feed.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: What do you take us for, a couple of canaries? A little nibble just to keep us happy?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: What weíre looking for is the Christmas cake... I think you know what I mean?

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Thatís right. Weíve developed a terrible appetite all of a sudden. Whereís the stash?

 

HEALER: Iím sorry, but thereís no Christmas cake here, and no stash either.

 

SECOND GIRL: Itís true. The stuff comes in every day, but never more than fifty doses at a time.

 

HEALER: And we donít have the first idea where it comes from.

 

PROFESSOR: It must be a present from someone.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: A present?

 

POPE: A kind of miracle.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Who asked you, Guru?

 

POPE: Well, to tell you the truth, I didnít believe it either, at the start, but it seems it arrives in all sorts of unexpected ways. One time somebody turns up on a motorbike... another time itís a pigeon with a packet tied to its leg. Then somebody else turns up and says: ďHere you are, hereís two dozen eggs.Ē This cretin makes an omelette with two eggs full of heroin. Had everyone burping all over the place...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Listen, Hindu... Either you stop taking the piss or Iíll take your arms and ram them down your throat. In fact, do me a favour, put them down, will you, theyíre starting to get on my nerves.

 

POPE: Iím sorry, I canít. Iím a bit sort of seized up.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Did I ask your opinion? Put them down, I said... Theyíre getting on my nerves! In fact theyíre just about to make me extremely annoyed!

 

PROFESSOR: No, really, heís telling the truth. He really canít put them down. Heís got what we call crucifixion syndrome, and witchís stroke.

 

POPE: Thatís right. Iíve got sciatic neuralgia, hyperaesthesia, a sympathetic doo-da and a malfunctioning of my ganglia.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Malfunctioning of the brain, thatís what youíve got. And now Iíd say youíre taking the piss.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Correct! Put those arms down, and spare us the Hallelujahs... If not, Iíll blow your brains out. [He pulls out a big pistol] In fact how would you fancy some dental rearrangement? [He puts the barrel in his mouth] Iím going to count to three... One!

 

HEALER: But itís true! He canít move... Heís been like this for days!

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: You can shut your mouth, too! [He pulls out a gun, and points it at the HEALER] Youíll see, heíll put them down soon enough...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: OK, now get those arms down... Two!

 

Everybody on stage shouts in unison:

 

ASSISTANT: Put them down!

 

FIRST BOY: Bring them down!

 

SECOND BOY: Do as he says, Holy Man, put them down!

 

THIRD GIRL: Down!

 

FIRST GIRL: Get your arms down!

 

SECOND GIRL: Hurry up!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Bear in mind that when this gun goes off, itíll need a very big cork to plug the hole thatís going to be made in the back of your head! Two and a half!

 

Everybody shouts:

 

CHORUS: Nooo!

 

FIRST BOY: Donít be silly Ė get them down!

 

SECOND BOY: Get those hands down!

 

FIRST GIRL: Get them down!

 

THIRD GIRL: Down, for Godís sake!

 

SECOND AND THIRD GIRLS: Down!

 

POPE: Aha! [He lets out a yell, and then suddenly lowers his arms] Theyíre down!

 

CHORUS OF YOUTHS: Amazing! Heís done it!

 

POPE: Amazing, Iíve done it!

 

HEALER: Well done!

 

PROFESSOR: Itís incredible, it worked!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: You see, Holy Man... ha, ha...big gun heap powerful medicine!

 

POPE: Uh uh!

 

As if a spring has gone into action, all of a sudden the POPEís arms go up again.

 

CHORUS OF YOUTHS: Oh no!!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: So Ė you want to play games, eh?

 

He points his gun again. The POPE very rapidly returns his arms downwards.

 

HEALER: Goodness, what an action!

 

PROFESSOR: How do you feel...?

 

POPE: Good... Better than hypnosis, this...

 

He moves his arms, waves them around, and generally flexes them.

 

HEALER: Itís a bit drastic as treatments go... But it seems to work wonders.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Right, thatís enough of the chit-chat. [To the HEALER] You, spit it out! Whereís our stash?

 

HEALER: With the amount that people like you handle in a day, I donít see why you get so upset about an odd fifty doses? Whatís it to you?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: You think fifty shots a day is peanuts, eh? Day in, day out. Week after week. Anyway, itís the principle that counts... Youíre setting a dangerous example.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Correct. People have started setting up centres like this in other parts of town, and that means the bottomís dropping out of our market.

 

POPE: Well, fancy that, Iíd never have believed it...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: So we have to stop your nonsense before you get started! Understand?

 

HEALER: Perfectly... Weíre setting a bad example. Because weíre ruining your market. [To the POPE] Understand?

 

The SECOND ARROGANT TYPE pushes to front-stage a dressmakerís clothes rail on wheels. On it are hanging various garments, including a motor-cycle helmet and two carabinieri dress-uniforms complete with carabinieri hats with big feather plumes.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Hey, look what Iíve found...!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Whatís that?

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Look! [He takes two police uniforms from the coat rail] And thereís more where those came from... hats, boots, everything... Does this remind you of something?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Thatís right! The people who held up our van were dressed as policemen! Well, isnít life amazing! [To the POPE and the PROFESSOR] And, of course, you donít have the first idea what weíre talking about...

 

PROFESSOR AND POPE: Er... no!

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: And you play the dummy! To think that you almost had me fooled...

 

The two ARROGANT TYPES go over to the POPE and the PROFESSOR, holding the two police uniforms.

 

HEALER: What on earth has got into you now?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Shut up, a minute. [To the POPE] Put this jacket on for a minute, will you?

 

POPE: Whyís that?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Do as I say, or Iíll blow your head off! Get a move on!

 

While the POPE is putting on one jacket, the SECOND GANGSTER forces the PROFESSOR to put on the other. Then they put the hats on their heads.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Look at that Ė the jacket fits him like a glove... And the hat could have been made for him.

 

HEALER: Would you mind explaining what this is all about?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Well, my dear Lady Bountiful, about a month ago a courier sent by our Calabrian friends was unloading a load of heroin from a van. A big load. Fifty kilos, in fact.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Did you get that? Fifty kilos of Grade A, top-notch heroin.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: And all of a sudden, just like the movies, up jump four Rambos dressed like policemen, and, hey presto! They arrest his stash.

 

HEALER: Carabinieri in full dress uniform with feathers in their hats? What on earth are you talking about? These two look more like something out of Pinocchio!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: There was also another person, on a motor bike, and he had a helmet on his head that just happened to look exactly like this one. [He puts it on. Then he takes it off and puts it back] Anyway, like I was saying... it could have been people from outside our patch... eh? A bunch of bastards like our friend the Guru here, for example, and his gang. In fact, the more I look at him, the more I have this feeling Iíve seen him somewhere before... Now where might that have been...? I reckon you are part of the gang. I think we can even prove it. I think weíll take a closer look at you.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Thatís right. Up till now Iíd say youíve been taking us for a ride... But now youíre the one whoís going on a ride... Right, letís have you. Roll your sleeves up. [To the HEALER] You, give him a hand... [To one of the GIRLS] And you, take his shoes off...

 

POPE: What are you going to do with me?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: We want to find out if our Guru friend is Hey, you, bring that bowl over here... and wash his feet... I want to see them clean.

 

The SECOND GIRL does as he says.

 

HEALER: I can assure you, this gentlemanís not on drugs.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Iím not so sure... [To the HEALER] Oi, Mary Magdalene, get on with the washing...

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: [He inspects the POPEís feet] Nope, no signs of any needle marks.

 

FIRST ARROGANT MAN: Clean as a whistle. And look at those white feet! Could almost be an intellectual.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Thatís good... that means itíll work even better...

 

HEALER: What díyou mean? What will work? What are you going to do?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: [He prepares a hypodermic] Sit him down a bit higher... on that ledge... Youíll see. Weíre going to have a bit of fun! Weíre going to give him a little shot of something...

 

PROFESSOR: Of heroin?!

 

POPE: Heroin?!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Thatís right. But mixed with Pentothal. That way weíll have him singing like a canary on speed.

 

PROFESSOR: But you canít... Thatís very dangerous...

 

POPE: ...very dangerous...!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: [To the PROFESSOR] Maybe youíre right. You say youíre a Professor? Well, thatís nice, you can do it, then. Letís see how you get on with it.

 

He hands him the hypodermic.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: [He points the pistol at the PROFESSOR] Go on, get a move on!

 

POPE: No! You canít! I wonít have it! God Help Anyone Who Injects Me!

 

HEALER: You bastards! How can you...

 

The FIRST ARROGANT TYPE hits her.

 

PROFESSOR: Iím sorry, but I donít think Iíve much choice...

 

POPE: But whatís going to happen to me afterwards?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Oh, youíll be fine, Holy man... Youíll suddenly get this wonderful urge to talk, and youíll tell us all about your life, from when you were a little boy... And what you want to do when you grow up... and, more particularly, what happened to our stash.

 

POPE: No, I donít want to!

 

FIRST BOY: Do it to me instead... Iíll talk!

 

HEALER: Shut up, stupid!

 

POPE: [Disentangling himself] No, I refuse to go along with this! Youíll have to kill me first!

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Hey, the Holy manís playing hard to get! All right... Why donít we start with killing one of these junkies...? Letís see if that loosens him up a bit, even without the injection.

 

HEALER: Iím afraid this time theyíre not joking.

 

PROFESSOR: Youíd best let them do it. It wonít be too terrible.

 

POPE: I thought you just said it was very dangerous...!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Right, weíll start with this one... [He grabs one of the BOYS] And the rest of you down on your knees, because your turnís coming next. [He yells] On your knees!

 

All the DRUG ADDICTS go down on their knees.

 

POPE: All right, all right... Iím ready. Do the injection! Theyíre closing the hole in the ozone layer, and they make up for it by making a hole in me!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Ah, at last! [To the PROFESSOR] You Ė get on and do the injection. [The PROFESSOR carries out the injection, assisted by the HEALER] Now shut up all of you, and sit still. As from this moment, God help anybody who utters a word, because you might put the Guru off and blow his fuses. Iím the only one whoís talking, alright?

 

POPE: [Speaking with difficulty] Whoís that...? Where are you...?

 

PROFESSOR: There, itís starting to take effect. Iíd advise you to keep your questions general to start with... take it very, very gently.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: All right, no problem. Right, Mr Guru, can you hear me. Nod your head if you can hear me... [The POPE nods his head] Are you there? Right now, tell me, whatís your name?

 

POPE: I donít remember...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: The kids here tell me your nameís Holy Man.

 

POPE: Holiness, actually...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Is that your first name or your surname?

 

POPE: Er.. Surname.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: So whatís your first name?

 

POPE: First name... er... His... His Holiness...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Holiness, His, His, Holiness... whose Holiness... Very odd, this... And I suppose itís your pals who call you Guru...?

 

POPE: No, not Guru! Not a Hindu! Iím not called Guru. I donít have anything against Hindus, but Iím not called Guru...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: OK, not Guru... Just His Holiness the Holy Man. Now, you know a thing or two about drugs, donít you?

 

POPE: [Still speaking with difficulty, but gradually loosening up] Do you mean heroin?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Yes. Tell us everything you know.

 

POPE: Yes... everything I know. I aam reeady n-o-o-w. Heerooin iis ca-a-alled Anita in street slang...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Anita?

 

POPE: Thatís right. Anita in the sense of Anita Garibaldi, wife of the great Italian hero, his companion in all his adventures... and therefore a heroine herself, so to speak...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: [Laughing] Hey, I like it! Carry on!

 

POPE: Heroin Ė or Anita Ė costs two dollars a gramme at the start. But by the time it gets to Europe, where itís refined, the price goes up to fifty dollars a gramme... and then, after itís been cut, the price per kilo...

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: We know, we know: a kilo brings in something like two hundred million, and that stash that you hijacked must have been worth at least ten billion.

 

PROFESSOR: Please... donít interrupt him... If you do he might go off the rails.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Precisely... [To the SECOND ARROGANT TYPE] You behave yourself... Iím the one asking the questions...

 

POPE: Problem: If one gramme of crude heroin costs fifty dollars at the start, how much will a kilogram of refined heroin cost once it is refined, if its value is increased by one thousand times during the refining process? Thatís your homework for tonight...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: We can do without the wisecracks, Holiness. As you were saying: ďAt the start, fifty dollars a gramme...Ē

POPE: Thatís right, highly profitable. One of the most profitable businesses there is. A big market... big stakes, but a big pay-off...

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Hey, listen to the Hindu! Heís not as stupid as he looks.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Shut up!

 

POPE: The profits from drugs are invested...

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: [Irritated] Woah, thatíll do... Youíre not addressing a conference, you know... Ask him who he works for.

 

POPE: ...in the building industry, produing profits of the order of...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Stop a moment... Would you mind saying who you work for?

 

POPE: For the Vatican.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: For the Vatican?

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Heís taking the piss again.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Well, itís not so odd when you think about it. You read the papers, donít you? You ust have heard of the Sindona case, and Sindonaís links with the Vatican, via Cardinal Marcinkus? And what about that Judge Ambrosoli who was killed?

 

POPE: Marcinkus, Sindona, Calvi. Calvi used to go to London quite regularly, and by way of entertainment he used to do balancing tricks under Blackfriars Bridge. So that he could maintain a perfect balance he would always keep two bricks in the left pocket of his coat, and a very heavy briefcase in his right hand... And in order not to get a soaking in the smelly waters of the Thames, he used to put a rope round his neck. Oh dear, he slipped, and ended up hanged... The bricks in his pocket were found... But not his briefcase! Weird, eh? Vanished! Problem: Where did Calviís briefcase end up? Thatís your homework for tonight...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Get on with it, Mr Guru... Whose idea was this joke about free drugs?

 

POPE: The Vaticanís...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: The Vatican?

 

POPE: Yes, the Vatican.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: And who organised the raid on the van?

 

POPE: The Vatican.

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: The Vatican again?

 

POPE: Yes, the Vatican.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Here we go again! If you ask me, the needleís got stuck...

 

POPE: The Vatican.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: [To the PROFESSOR] Give him another shot. Maybe heís running out of juice.

 

PROFESSOR: But Iíve already given him an entire syringe-full... I have to protest. This really is very dangerous... And anyway you run the risk that heís going to clam up completely...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Pump away, pump away!

 

The HEALER does as he says.

 

POPE: [He continues, in the tone of a radio announcer] A spokesman for the US State Department has stated that it is unlikely that the Mafia and the international drug cartels are ever going to be defeated by military means.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Thatís better. Thatís got him going again.

 

POPE: The only way to eliminate them is to liberalise the entire drug market, under the control of the state.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Uh oh... I donít like the sound of this... Where the hellís he taking us now?

 

POPE: President Bush developed the point further, in his latest speech to the American people, when he admitted that repression only brings about a development of the drug market, and an increase in the number of deaths...

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Hey, slow him down a bit. Heís starting to blow his fuses.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Right! Listen, Holy Man, can you hear me? Hello, is anyone there?

 

POPE: [As if on a telephone] Yes, I hear you... Itís His Holiness here... Hello... Hello... Put another coin in, please. Thank you!

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Yes, hello! Can you hear me? Right, Holy Man, now, tell me from the beginning, who set up this business about free dealing? Whose idea was it? Donít just tell me the Vatican. I want names.

 

POPE: Itís a crazy Utopian idea...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Yes, agreed, but we want to know the name...

 

POPE: The only trouble is, thereíll be a terrible fuss if this ever gets out.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Why? It must be someone pretty important. Who is it?

 

POPE: The Pope.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Which Pope?

 

POPE: The Pope. [He points to himself] His Holiness the Pope.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: What Ė the Pope?

 

POPE: Thatís right. It was like a miracle. For so long I was blind. Then, all of a sudden, my eyes were opened. Now I see things as they really are.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Correct me if Iím wrong, or is he talking like heís the Pope?

 

PROFESSOR: Ah yes... Classic split personality syndrome.

 

HEALER: Heís identifying with the Pope.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Oh for Godís sake...!

 

POPE: No, I donít think itís to do with God... This time God doesnít come into it. Or yes, maybe it was God who inspired me. My ganglia seized up because I had hardened my heart... The real blockage was not in my nerves but in my brain... The fires of my human action were extinguished because there was nothing alight in my spirit...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Oh God! Heís giving us the Pentecost sermon!

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Thatís all we need Ė heís going ga-ga.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Shut him up, for fuckís sake! Professor, either you turn him off somehow, or Iíll turn him off with this.

 

He waves his pistol.

 

PROFESSOR: Well I donít quite know where to start.

 

HEALER: Let me have a go. [She takes up a position in front of the POPE] Iíll pretend I believe him... You have to give him a bit of leeway... If he thinks heís the Pope, then the only way to deal with him is to talk to him as if he is the Pope. [She changes tone, and takes him by the hand] Your Holiness, can you hear me?

 

POPE: Eh? Somebody call? Whoís there?

 

HEALER: Itís me... the missionary nun from Burundi... Remember?

 

POPE: Ah yes... The children... A hundred thousand children in St Peterís Square... Am I still there? Oh my goodness yes! Look at them. Thousands of them! Theyíre climbing up! Quick, get a stick, knock them off...!

 

HEALER: Donít let them get too close! Remember the black-eyed beans!

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Theyíre all raving mad!

 

POPE: All squashed! But one was saved!

 

HEALER: Yes Ė poor Little Pea. Saved by hiding in a thimble!

 

POPE: Poor Little Pea, stuck in there with all those beans...

 

HEALER: OK, OK, thatíll do...!

 

POPE: Thatís a shame... I remember the whole story, you know!

 

HEALER: Save it for later. These gentlemen are getting a bit nervous, and they want you to tell them the truth about the raid on their stash.

 

POPE: The raid on the Calabrian van... with Pinocchio and the policemen?

 

HEALER: Thatís right. Well done. Why donít you tell it from the beginning?

 

POPE: [Speaking in a steady rhythm] Yes, yes... Well... Once upon a time, in the police station, there was a talking cricket... a mole, in fact... or to be more precise, at talking cricket-mole.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: What mole, what cricket? I want names.

 

POPE: Iíll talk... Iíll tell everything.

 

The HEALER makes other gestures. The POPE accelerates to a high speed. At that moment the door at the back of the stage is flung open. The two GANGSTERS spin round, guns at the ready. Enter the DRUNKARD.

 

DRUNKARD: Relax, friends! Make yourselves at home! The drinks are on me!

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: Hey, Drunkard! I came within an ace of shooting you! Where do you think youíre going?

 

The DRUNKARD wanders off on an exploration of the premises. The two GANGSTERS follow him. The PROFESSOR takes advantage of their absence to mutter to ELISA:

 

PROFESSOR: Am I mistaken, or did you just hypnotise him...? Was it you making him say all that stuff?

 

HEALER: After all that heroin and Pentothal he was very open to suggestion.

 

PROFESSOR: What about the bit about the bogus policemen, and the raid on the drugs van...

 

HEALER: All true. If you must know, the robbery weasa organised by some of our friends.

 

PROFESSOR: So theyíre the ones who send you your daily doses.

 

HEALER: Weíre opening quite a few centres like this one and the bottomís dropping out of their market. Shush, theyíre coming back...

 

The DRUNKARD reappears, followed by the two GANGSTERS.

 

DRUNKARD: Here we are again.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Right, you, sit there, and donít interrupt! Letís get on with it.

 

With a gesture from the HEALER, the POPE continues talking, but this time in a normal rhythm.

 

POPE: Thanks to the mole, we knew exactly the route that the goods were going to take, and we knew the exact day and time when the van was going to be transporting the stuff...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: This is wonderful, Holy Man. Go ahead, youíre doing well!

 

POPE: [All of a sudden he changes tone] Ha, ha, ha! Faroes, Dogger Bank and German Bight, visibility down to one mile...

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: What in hellís name is he talking about now?

 

HEALER: Itís the shipping forecast. Heís jumped channels! [Annoyed] Itís your fault. You put him off his stroke with all your yakety-kay. Why canít you just keep quiet!

 

POPE: Um... Fungal growths of green algae are suffocating the fish. Bishops are caling for special prayers to be said...

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Switch channels! Why canít you get him to switch back again?

 

HEALER: Hey, go easy, heís not one of your super-modern portables, you know. Heís a bit of an antique.

 

POPE: Try Carynthia, the double-action tampon for the woman with an energetic life-style! [He changes rhythm and voice] Haha! A problem with bad breath? Try Resolax... Works under your armpits too. [He changes tone again] At an industrial court in Turin, the FIAT motor company has been on trial for its record of accidents and industrial injuries. The judge has ruled that managing-director Romiti is innocent of all charges. The blame rests entirely with the workforce, because for years they have been deliberately pushing their arms and legs into the companyís machinery, thereby seriously threatening productivity.

 

DRUNKARD: I think thatís enough telly for today. Anyone fancy a beer? The drinks are on me...! [He mimes handing round the glasses] Bottoms up!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Drunkard, Iím going to kill you.

 

DRUNKARD: No, my dear Arrogant Man... Youíre not going to kill me, no!

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Yes, I shall shoot you, if you carry on interrupting... I shall shoot you in the head!

 

DRUNKARD: Really?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: You can count on it!

 

He pulls out his gun.

 

DRUNKARD: OK, letís see whoís quickest on the draw! [He goes through the classic gunslinger routine. He spins round and pulls an imaginary pistol out of an equally imaginary holster. He reaches out and points with two fingers as if to shoot; then he mimes putting the gun back] OK, cowboy, Iím ready... Are you?

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: [Seriously shaken] Iím going to kill you for real, now!

 

CHORUS: Noooo!

 

HEALER: Leave him alone... Heís just a drunk!

 

PROFESSOR: Yes... What good would it do you to kill him?

 

The FIRST ARROGANT TYPE pulls out his pistol. The DRUNKARD reaches out his arm all of a sudden and points his finger. A shot is fired. The GANGSTER touches his head with his hand. A trickle of blood runs down from his forehead. He takes his hand away, and we see a bullet hole.

 

FIRST ARROGANT TYPE: Oh no!

 

He slumps to the floor.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: But who fired?

DRUNKARD: Who do you think? ...Me!

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: With your finger?!

 

DRUNKARD: Thatís right. This finger never misses... Truth to tell, the finger acts only as a gunsight... The actual gunís up my sleeve here. [He pulls up his sleeve to reveal his arm, where he has a kind of track attached to his forearm] Look, hereís the gun. No handle Ė it doesnít need one. The gun runs down this rod. Invention of mine... Clever, eh? When I reach out like this, the gun runs down... and... bang!

 

We hear another shot.

 

SECOND ARROGANT TYPE: [Putting his hand to his stomach] You... bastard...!

 

He slumps to the floor.

 

POPE: End of transmission. And, as the Bible says: ďBlessed are those who shoot first... for they shall be the last to reach the Kingdom of Heaven.Ē

 

BLACKOUT

 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

 

SCENE

 

The big traverse with the painted fresco comes down, and we are in the corridor facing the POPEís apartments. Enter the FIRST CARDINAL, with some newspapers in his hand, followed by two PRIESTS, who periodically raise small transistor radios to their ears.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Oh, it was terrible! You should have been there... The crowd was devastated...

 

FIRST PRIEST: How did he begin?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Nothing at all... He went out on the balcony, rolled up his sleeves, showed his bare arms and said: ďLook, I too have taken drugs!Ē

 

FIRST PRIEST: Incredible! And how did the crowd react?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: People were fainting.. People were crying... Some people were jeering... Most people didnít understand.

 

FIRST PRIEST: Well, I suppose itís a bit provocative on his part, but it could end up positive in the end.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: What do you mean, positive? A Pope who says that we should be nice to drug addicts... And try to understand them... And that we should love them as our dearest children. I tell you, itís a scandal! In fact, itís like the end of the world has broken out! And now weíve got journalists invading by the thousand... And a sea of camera crews from every television company in the world, even Japan.

 

SECOND PRIEST: [Removing the transistor radio from his ear for a moment] The governmentís fallen!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: But we knew that this morning.

 

SECOND PRIEST: No, Iím talking about the American government... [He puts the radio back to his ear... And then takes it away again] And the German government.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: This is incredible! Never heard anything like it!

 

FIRST PRIEST: [Listening to the radio] The Christian Democrats have split down the middle... The German Christian Democrats are in a major crisis... The Jesuits have gone into liquidation...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: You see! What was that you were saying about ďpositiveĒ?

 

Enter the PROFESSOR.

 

PROFESSOR: Here I am... What on earth is going on?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Oh, at last!

 

PROFESSOR: I came as quickly as I could... But why all the panic, whatís going on?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: You really mean to say that you havenít heard?

 

PROFESSOR: Iíve been in the operating theatre since dawn this morning. I left somebodyís brain open in the hurry to get here.

 

Enter the HEALER, in a hurry. She is dressed as a nun, but on her feet she wears a very visible pair of red high-heel shoes. She is also carrying her two large bags.

 

HEALER: What on earth is all the fuss about?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Ah, thatís good, youíre here too...

 

HEALER: You made me come in such a hurry... Iím all out of breath! I couldnít find my nunís outfit... Apart from which, I was halfway across St Peterís Square before I realised that I hadnít changed my shoes... These are the shoes that I wear to go out dancing on Saturday nights... I had to cross the square like this... [She bends her knees so that her nunís habit covers her shoes] And everyone was saying: ďLook at that dwarf nun... with the red shoes on! [To the PRIESTS] Would you mind getting me a chair? Iím completely worn out! [One of the two PRIESTS exits, and returns immediately, carrying a stool] Why on earth is it that every time I come to the Vatican I have to put up with this shithouse... [She corrects herself] er, I mean... this crowd... this very big crowd!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: I think you had the right word the first time. Every time you show up, itís a disaster.

 

HEALER: Watch what youíre saying, Cardinal, Iím in a right mood for a punch-up.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Ah, I see. So you donít think youíre the main one responsible for this disaster?

 

HEALER: Me?!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Who was it put all these ideas into the Holy Fatherís head, and got him all worked up, so that now heís going round like a man possessed?

 

HEALER: I suppose, the next thing, youíre going to stick me on a bonfire and burn me as a witch!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Thatís it! Witch! Just the word I was looking for!

 

HEALER: Your Eminence, why do you feel this need to treat me so badly? Why do you have to keep picking on me? Look at me, Iíve had to run all the way here... Iím half out of breath... And you still start having a go at me. Youíve been treating me terribly ever since Act One... Why canít we stop arguing, and make friends. Look, Iíve brought you a present.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Whatís that?

 

HEALER: [She pulls an abacus from her handbag] Here you are. For the next papal elections... Seeing that your computers are always breaking down.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Youíre a witch!

 

PROFESSOR: Hey, go easy, your Eminence.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Launching into the PROFESSOR] Itís all your fault. You brought her along in the first place. [To the HEALER] Now, do me a favour, will you? Letís have the Holy Father back like he was before.

 

HEALER: In other words, crippled with paranoid delusions about children climbing up the front of St Peterís with balloons?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Exactly. I think weíd rather have him suffering all the nightmares of Saint Anthony the Hermit, rather than have him raving round like a demented paranoiac, like he is now!

 

HEALER: Will you just listen how this man talks about his Pope!

 

FIRST PRIEST: Yes, if youíll permit me, Your Eminence, I believe that the apparent madness which seemed to have seized the Holy Father is, in truth, a sign of Godís will, and that, furthermore...

FIRST CARDINAL: Shut up... Creep!

 

PROFESSOR: Excuse me, might I know what horrifying catastrophe our Holy Father is supposed to be responsible for now?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: An encyclical!

 

PROFESSOR: An encyclical? And what could be so paranoiac and demented about an encyclical?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: In this instance everythingís paranoid and demented. For a start, the title: ďHeroinum et Omnia Medicamenta Stupefactiva...Ē

 

PROFESSOR: Heroinum et Omnia Medicamenta Stupefactiva?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: ď..et Potionem Psicotropicae Libera Sunto.Ē

 

PROFESSOR: ďLibera SuntoĒ?! An evidential accusative indeed! Is that how the encyclical starts?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Yes, look, have a read...

 

He passes him a newspaper.

 

PROFESSOR: Iím afraid I left the hospital in such a hurry that I forgot my glasses.

 

HEALER: You probably left them in your manís open brain. Never mind. Iíll read. ďHeroinum et Omniam Medicamenta blah-di-blah. The Pope has initiated a campaign for drugs to be distributed a affordable prices by all national governments.Ē

 

PROFESSOR: A liberalisation of drugs?! So heís taken you literally!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Precisely... It was you who put this criminal idea into his head, and now youíre going to have to sort him out again! Understand?

 

HEALER: Do you mind if I continue, Cardinal? ďThe Pope has taken up the proposal of the bishops of Sicily, and has promised excommunication for all drug traffickers, in particular the Mafia, and all those who support them or cover up for their criminal actions. Immediately, three ministers and eight under-secretaries in the Italian government declared themselves Muslim. The Church is being torn apart. Schism is the order of the day. The bishops are in revolt. The entire Dutch and Brazilian clergy are with the Pope. A general Synod has been called for today. The more conservative elements in the American and European clergy have decided to elect an anti-Pope. The French tend towards Lefevre, while the Italians bishops are favouring of Donat Cattin...

 

PROFESSOR: I donít believe it; this is incredible!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Slow down, thatís not the end of it!

 

FIRST PRIEST: [With his ear to the radio] Listen to this!

 

SECOND PRIEST: [Also with the radio to his ear] What frequency are you on?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Thatís not the end of it! The second part of the encyclical is all to do with unplanned pregnancies and unwanted children, and needless to say with contraception.

 

HEALER: The Pope really goes to town here. He says: ďWe should not see a condom as the Devilís raincoat...! Similarly, the contraceptive coil is not some centrifugal device invented by the Devil, deisnged to make the spermatozoa so dizzy that they canít go about their business!Ē

 

Exit the two PRIESTS.

 

PROFESSOR: Heís the first Pope in history with a sense of humour!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Sure, but things have reached such a pitch that the Catholic Youth Federation have decided to remove the Popeís statue from all their branch offices, including the Catholic University, and have replaced him with statues of Andreotti and Craxi, holding hands.

 

We hear a warbling tone. The CARDINAL answers his mobile phone.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Hello? [He listens, and then replaces the phone, and announces:] That was to tell me that the Holy Father is arriving!

 

Enter the FIRST NUN, followed by two SWISS GUARDS, and the CAPTAIN.

 

FIRST NUN: Make way for the Holy Father!

 

Everybody stands back. The CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD looks round suspiciously.

 

CAPTAIN: [Pointing to those present] Search them!

 

The GUARDS begin to search the FIRST CARDINAL, the PROFESSOR, and the HEALER.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Get your stupid hands off...! Iím the Popeís personal secretary!

 

CAPTAIN: Iím sorry, orders from above!

 

Enter the POPE, accompanied by a short FRIAR.

 

POPE: [To the CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD] No, no, theyíre alright... I can vouch for them... [To the PROFESSOR and the HEALER] How goes, my friends? [Pointing to the CAPTAIN] You have to understand, a short while ago someone tried to shoot me. [They all look at each other in alarm] A bullet came in through the window. Bang! Missed my head by two inches.

 

Once again, reactions of alarm.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: This must be the response to your threat to excommunicate the Mafia.

 

POPE: You think so...?

 

He walks round the room, closely accompanied by the FRIAR and the SWISS GUARDS.

 

HEALER: No, I donít think the Mafiaís too upset about the excommunication... Theyíre a law unto themselves.

 

POPE: Yes, I donít think the Mafia comes into it either. I think weíre dealing here with religious fanatics... As a friend of mine once said: ďI prefer criminals to idiots. Because criminals take a rest every once in a while... but idiots, never!Ē

 

PROFESSOR: Youíve caused quite a stir, your Holiness!

 

POPE: That was exactly what I intended! Did you like my encyclical?

 

PROFESSOR: Very courageous!

 

HEALER: A broadside, Holy Father!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Exactly. Just like the real ones theyíll be firing off any minute.

 

POPE: Why do you always have to be suchg a pessimist? Anyway, itís not over yet. Tomorrow Iím coming out with a supplement to the encyclical, which should raise a few hackles.

 

HEALER: What is this, a serialised encyclical?

 

POPE: Donít joke. Iím serious! Listen: ďThe Church must become poor again, as it was at the beginning, and must impose upon itself a dignified poverty!Ē

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Dignified blooming poverty!

 

POPE: All the Churchís goods will be distributed to those in need. All bank accounts of the various religious orders and bishoprics will be abolished. All the Catholic banks will be required to reorganise by law, which will force them to be totally open about their dealings.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Open about their dealings? Excuse me, Holy Father, but this means suicide... Weíre coming up to the year 2000, and you want to plunge the Church back into a pauperist Middle Ages running alive with pre-Waldensian fanatics and Anabaptists!

 

POPE: Am I right in thinking that you just called me a fanatic?

 

CHORUS: [With extreme amazement] The Pope a fanatic?!

 

HEALER: Donít pay any attention, your Holiness. Iím sure youíre going to hear worse... Anyway, if I may be allowed, from this moment youíre going to have to watch yourself. Everyone from the Mafia on downwards is going to be queuing up to take a pop at you.

 

POPE: You mean you donít think Iím careful enough already? Already I have to go round surrounded by hordes of people to protect me. You canít imagine how this dear Friar here [He points to the small FRIAR] pursues me. He doesnít leave me alone for a minute. He tastes all my food for me... And everything I drink... Starting with my coffee. I go to take a sip of a cup of coffee... He grabs it and just about swallows the lot...! Call that a taste? And then it has to be without sugar, because thatís the way he likes it... Then I wait for a moment to make sure it doesnít have a Sindona effect on him, and then at last I get to drink myself. [He goes and sits down, with his back facing off-stage left] I tell you where I draw the line, though Ė using the same toothbrush Ė thatís going too far! [We hear the dull thud of an explosion] What was that?

 

CAPTAIN: The explosion came from your rooms, Holy Father!

 

The CAPTAIN exits, followed by the SWISS GUARDS.

 

POPE: What was that?

 

He gets up, and as he walks across stage we see that he has an arrow stuck between his shoulder blades.

 

PROFESSOR: What on earth is that?

 

POPE: What? Where?

 

PROFESSOR: In your back... Thereís an arrow sticking out of your back.

 

POPE: Well, fancy that! I didnít even notice! [To the little FRIAR] Youíre not guarding me very well behind! [To everybody] Luckily I was wearing an orthopaedic corset, and that stopped the arrow.

 

PROFESSOR: Are you still wearing the corset?

 

POPE: Yes, just as a precaution... in case I get struck rigid again...

 

The HEALER plucks the arrow from the POPEís back.

 

PROFESSOR: Excuse me a moment.

 

He exits.

 

POPE: I wonder who fired the arrow.

 

HEALER: [She studies the arrow] Iíd say it was a Comanche arrow...

 

POPE: Comanche?

 

HEALER: Calabrian Comanches!

 

The PROFESSOR re-enters, with the SWISS GUARDS and the CAPTAIN. They are carrying a NUN, who is dying.

 

POPE: What happened?

 

CAPTAIN: The canary in the cage. It exploded just as she was about to give it something to eat.

 

HEALER: A canary bomb?!

 

PROFESSOR: They replaced your canary with a mechanical canary stuffed with TNT... All it needed was for the Sister to nudge it... and Bang! Hereís all that was left.

 

He shows some feathers.

 

POPE: Of the Sister...?! Oh no, the Sister is there. [The PROFESSOR exits, following the SWISS GUARDS, who carry the dead NUN] Itís usually me who feeds the canary... He used to peck it out of my palm. He never was very good at it. Look at the state of my hand!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Well, I would say a prayer of thanksgiving would be in order, your Holiness!

 

POPE: Yes, I suppose It would.

 

Enter the CAPTAIN, running. He is listening to a walkie-talkie.

 

CAPTAIN: Look out, your Holiness. Iíve had a report that a small radio-controlled car has been spotted. Itís apparently heading this way, from the south wing. It might be a bomb!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Quick, find somewhere to shelter... Get out of the way... The thing could be stuffed with dynamite.

 

POPE: South must be that way...

 

Everybody follows him.

 

PROFESSOR: No, no, South is this way.

 

POPE: Well in that case we have to run that way.

 

The big traverse with the fresco rises. We see the same scene as in Act One [the interior of the POPEís apartments]. The walls of the previous stage setting have been pushed back, so that what we see is pillars and arches tht create a sequence of quadriporticos. A structure which is open to the sky. All of a sudden a model car appears and zigzags at speed across the stage. The actors rush hither and thither trying to escape it.

 

POPE: There it is! It must be a Lebanese toy!

 

HEALER: Ha, they think of everything!

 

She jumps out of the way.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Leaping about] Stop it! What are you waiting for?

 

PROFESSOR: A miniature car-bomb! What is the Vatican coming to?

 

POPE: [Also leaping out of the way] Itís like being in a miniature Beirut! A Lebanese Euro-Disney!

 

CHORUS: Itís going to blow up! Itís going to blow up!

 

The little car continues racing around. They all leap about and change positions in a strange kind of dance, to the insistent rhythm of a Mozartian toccata and fugue. Every now and then the vehicle stops. The music also stops and everyone on stage stops moving. Then they start up again, matching the speed and the movements of the miniature car-bomb. This action is not overplayed but is played at more or less normal pace. Then the car comes to a complete halt. It lets out a menacing hiss. From its dashboard a jet of smoke emerges... Everyone begins to cough. The POPE is coughing so badly that he is bent double.

 

PROFESSOR: Itís gas! What a stink! Get that thing out of here!

 

A SWISS GUARD does as he says.

 

POPE: [Coughing] Iím suffocating!

 

FIRST GUARD: Here, your Holiness... Itís aromatic ozone, compressed... one hundred per cent pure!

 

He hands him an air cylinder, with a mouthpiece to breathe with.

 

POPE: Thank you...

 

As he is about to put the mouthpiece to his mouth, the small FRIAR grabs it from his hand.

 

FRIAR: No, your Holiness! I have to try it first!

 

POPE: Oh, donít be such a fuss-pot!

 

The FRIAR puts the mouthpiece to his mouth and breathes deeply.

 

PROFESSOR: How is it?

 

FRIAR: Nice! Like bitter almonds with a touch of smoked kipper.

 

PROFESSOR: Like Dioxin! Donít breathe it!

 

FRIAR: Too late!

 

He slumps to the ground.

 

HEALER: Well, look at that, heís stone dead!

 

POPE: This is murder...! I feel ill...!

 

HEALER: The Catholic Herald strikes again!

 

FIRST PRIEST: [Listening to his transistor radio] Incredible... The Queen of Holland has supported the Holy Fatherís statement about liberalising drugs.

 

POPE: Thatís good news!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Oh go on! Thatís impossible!

 

FIRST PRIEST: [He turns up the volume on his radio, so that everyone present can listen] Listen!

 

ANNOUNCERíS VOICE: The governments of Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden, along with the Belgians and the Austrians, are expected to vote on the proposal shortly...

 

FIRST PRIEST: [At the window] Oh, look, your Holiness. What an amazing sight! There are thousands of them!

 

POPE: Thousands of whom? Where?

 

HEALER: Down in St Peterís Square... Seminary students, monks, nuns... Young people from the Catholic Youth Organisation... All gathering to hear what you have to say.

 

POPE: Oh, so Iíve not ended up as isolated as some people were trying to make out.

 

He points to the FIRST CARDINAL.

 

PROFESSOR: You must be joking, your Holiness... You have reawakened such a passion, such a commitment... especially among the Catholic youth. Listen how theyíre calling for you.

 

HEALER: Theyíre full of feeling for you!

 

PRIEST: Youíre going to have to go out and address them, your Holiness...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: You must be joking! It would be madness... First, from a political point of view... I know what theyíre doing, theyíre trying to draw us into a schism in the church! And secondly, thereís the danger of snipers... who, Iím sure, will be hiding on the terraces and statues out there...

 

PROFESSOR: Thatís impossible. Out on the terraces there are hand-picked marksmen from the Vaticanís security services.

 

HEALER: Thatís exactly what worries me.

 

CAPTAIN: [He walks confidently over to the window] No, no, you can trust them. [We hear a rifle shot] Not too much, though.

 

He falls to the ground, dead.

 

POPE: Heís dead! This is terrible!

 

PROFESSOR: Stay back, your Holiness. Get down!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [Pointing outside] Did you see... It was one of your hand-picked Vatican marksmen!

 

HEALER: Hand-picked, but blind! He must have mistaken the Captainís helmet for the Popeís mitre!

 

The CARDINALís mobile phone rings. He takes it from his pocket.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Excuse me, someoneís calling. [He answers his portable phone] Hello? Yes, of course... Iíll be down at once... [To the POPE] Iím sorry, but Iíll have to go down... Itís urgent... If youíll excuse me, your Holiness.

 

He exits.

 

POPE: Yes, yes... see you later. Have you noticed how that one absolutely doesnít care at all. I hope his walkie-talkie blows up in his pocket! [The two NUNS carry over a silver sculpted bust on a small pedestal, so that the POPE can shelter behind it] May Saint Callisto protect me!

 

HEALER: Listen, that sculpted portrait of you over there has given me an idea...

 

The PROFESSOR exits.

 

POPE: Youíre thinking of putting it out on the balcony in my place?

 

HEALER: Exactly... But weíd need a volunteer to hold it up...

 

POPE: A volunteer? A kamikaze merchant, more like. Heíd be a sitting duck.

 

HEALER: Weíll find one, your Holiness.

 

She runs off stage. The PROFESSOR re-enters, holding the sculpture of the POPE.

 

PROFESSOR: Here it is.

 

SWISS GUARD: [To the PROFESSOR] Get down!

 

We hear a shot.

 

PROFESSOR: [He walks bending forward for fear of being hit by a bullet] And Iíve also got a piece of good news for you. Your poison-tester is better already... And here he is...

 

Enter the small FRIAR.

 

FRIAR: Here I am!

 

SWISS GUARD: Get down!

 

The FRIAR ducks down, and only just in time, because we hear a shot.

 

POPE: Oh, I am glad...

 

Enter the HEALER, carrying a long papal tunic.

 

HEALER: And here...

 

SWISS GUARD: [To the HEALER] Get down!

 

We hear another shot.

 

POPE: Goodness, what a lot of shooting! Itís like being at the Yacht Club in Naples.

 

HEALER: [Bending double] And here Iíve got your tunic. [To the MONK] Brother Monk, you who have just been saved from death... Would you be willing to put on the Popeís head, and the Popeís tunic, and be Pope in the place of the Pope? [The MONK shakes his head vigorously] He said yes. Well done, thou good and faithful monk!

 

POPE: Thank you, you are too generous. But wait... At least let us take some precautions. First you should wear a breastplate underneath... [To the SWISS GUARD] You...

 

SWISS GUARD [He comes over] Your Holiness?

 

CHORUS: Get down!

 

The SWISS GUARD ducks.

 

POPE: Youíd better give him yours. In fact, go over there and help him to put it on.

 

PROFESSOR: It would be best if you put on a breastplate and helmet as well, your Holiness. Come over here, Iíll help you into the ones that the Captain was wearing, the one who was shot.

 

POPE: Wonít that be terribly unlucky, though...? Oh alright, Iím coming... But Iím bringing my bronze Saint with me as a shield... [Raising his voice as he shouts out of the window] Thereís no point in you shooting, Iím protected by a Saint. [A loud shot is heard] Formigoni! I saw you with that gun!

 

The PROFESSOR and the POPE exit back-stage.

 

Enter the HEALER, the SWISS GUARD, and the FRIAR dressed as the Pope. The young FRIAR has put on the armour. He has the sculpted head of the Pope above his own head, wearing the Popeís mitre. He is also wearing the Popeís robes.

 

HEALER: [To the NUNS] Could you give me a hand...? [The NUNS lift a big icon down from the wall and carry it to front-stage] Get down! [The entire group takes shelter behind it] Now, Brother Monk, you have to step out onto the balcony. Raise your arms in the way that the Pope does... And in the meantime, the Holy Father will speak through the microphone from back there... [The FRIAR has by now completed dressing up as the Pope] How do you feel?

 

The din increases. Enter the PROFESSOR.

 

CHORUS: Get down!

 

Another shot is heard.

 

PROFESSOR: Goodness, listen to all that shouting down there! Are you ready with the Dummy?

 

At this point a BRAZILIAN NUN enters and throws herself to her knees before the animated puppet.

 

BRAZILIAN NUN: Oh, your Holiness, finally I meet you!

 

SWISS GUARD: [Trying to stop her] You canít... You have to ask for an audience first... You canít just...

 

BRAZILIAN NUN: [Extricating herself] Oh, most holy Father... I am a poor nun from Brazil... Here, prostrate, in order to express my gratitude...

 

PROFESSOR: No, Iím sorry... His Holiness is rather busy at the moment...

 

BRAZILIAN NUN: I have come to thank the Holy Pontiff on behalf of our Indian brothers, because with his encyclical he has...

 

HEALER: Listen, Brazilian nun! Calm down for a minute! The Pope has to show himself to the people from the balcony now! Wait till heís...!

 

BRAZILIAN NUN: [She pulls out a gun and pushes the SWISS GUARD aside] Right then, show yourself to the people... dead...! [She shoots the DUMMY in the chest] You red Pope, you communist, die!

 

She shoots the two NUNS, the SWISS GUARD and the PROFESSOR. They all fall to the ground. Then she points her gun at the HEALER.

 

HEALER: No, Iím nothing to do with it...! I just happened to be passing.

 

BRAZILIAN NUN: You donít fool me... You must all die! [She fires at the HEALER, but her gun jams] Putana de mierda! Iím out of bullets! [She hurls down her gun, takes the mitre off the DUMMYís head, puts it on her head, and runs to the window] Heís dead! The Pope is dead!

 

We hear a shot. The BRAZILIAN NUN falls to the floor, dead.

 

HEALER: Everyone dead here? [To the PROFESSOR, who is lying on the floor] How goes, Professor?

 

PROFESSOR: [Raising himself] Fine... Fine...

 

The POPE enters, dressed as a Captain of the Swiss Guards.

 

HEALER: [To the POPE] Get down!

 

We hear a shot.

 

POPE: Itís terrible... All these people dead... All on my account...! And me, the one they want to kill, Iím still alive!

 

PROFESSOR: Itís a shame we canít say as much for these poor monks and nuns.

 

HEALER: [She pulls aside the garments concealing the small FRIAR] Your poison-taster has copped it too, poor thing... Fancy that, dying twice in the space of ten minutes! The Brazilian shot him through the head... His head, unfortunately.

 

POPE: Oh my God, so he sacrificed himself for me twice! I told you he was a persistent little chap.

 

Enter two BLACK FRIARS, wearing hoods and bearing a catafalque. On it they place the body of the FRIAR, who is still disguised as the POPE.

 

HEALER: Such is the price of faith!

 

POPE: No, we canít carry on like this, with people getting shot... Take off that contraption heís wearing... Get those clothes off him.

 

HEALER: No, your Holiness. Do as I say. Donít take the clothes off... Leave him dressed as the Pope... And you must stay dressed as a Swiss Guard.

 

POPE: But whoís ever going to believe that Iím Swiss?

 

HEALER: You make a perfect Swiss.

 

Enter a HOODED MONK, with a briefcase. He turns to the disguised POPE.

 

HOODED MONK: Are you Swiss?

 

POPE: Jawohl... Schweitzer.

 

HOODED MONK: From Bern?

 

POPE: Von Bern...

 

HOODED MONK: [He hands the briefcase to the POPE] A man called Carboni asked me to give this to you.

 

He exits.

 

POPE: Carboni...? Itís the briefcase! Itís Calviís briefcase!

 

HEALER: Throw it away!

 

POPE: No, those documents could be a bombshell!

 

HEALER: Throw it away!

 

The POPE throws the briefcase off stage. We hear a big bang, accompanied by a flash and smoke.

 

POPE: I told you so...!

 

Enter the FIRST CARDINAL.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Is it true, what people are saying?! [The POPE, still disguised as the CAPTAIN, moves to back-stage] Have they really shot the Holy Father?

 

HEALER: Brown bread, Iím afraid. Heís stopped breathing...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: [He hurls himself on the body of the Popeís DOUBLE] Heís icy cold... Thereís blood... Heís dead! [He runs to the window and calls out] The Holy Father has been killed... Heíd dead! Theyíve killed the Pope! Heís dead!

 

He runs off, shouting.

 

POPE: Donít say that! Iím alive... Wait...! [The FIRST CARDINAL carries on shouting offstage] Thereís no telling some people...!

 

HEALER: [Stopping him] No, let him go and spread the news.

 

POPE: The news that theyíve killed me? Whyís that?

 

HEALER: Do as I say. For the moment itís best you let everyone think youíre dead.

 

Enter the FIRST CARDINAL, the SECOND CARDINAL, and a THIRD CARDINAL, followed by MONKS and NUNS wearing capes and black hoods; they are carrying four candles, which they arrange at the four corners of the bier. At the foot of the bier a number of cushions are placed, and around it three large seats.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Oh, what a terrible thing to happen!

 

THIRD CARDINAL: A crime against humanity!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: The Lord is putting us to a terrible test!

 

CHORUS OF ALL THE BYSTANDERS: Examina nos pretende dei!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: But how did it happen?

 

THIRD CARDINAL: Who killed him?

 

HEALER: Well, what happened was that...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: All right, thatíll do... You can tell us afterwards.

 

The CARDINALS go to kneel on the cushions.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Post tempora melior nunca sapere.

 

THIRD CARDINAL: Why has the hand of God struck so hard?

 

CHORUS: Te acclamabit pater et fulgitur fuit.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Orridum eliamos... Such a thing is unprecedented in the history of the Church...

 

THIRD CARDINAL: ...for a Pope to be killed...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: No, no, youíre wrong... It has happened... It happened before...!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Yes, itís true... But with those pontiffs you could almost say that they deserved...

 

THIRD CARDINAL: Yes, in fact you could say those particular deaths were a liberation for the Church.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: But this one... a martyr...

 

THIRD CARDINAL: A martyr, so eager for his martyrdom!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: Well, yes, I suppose he did rather go looking for it.

 

CHORUS: Deus gratia acclamabunt!

 

The CARDINALS seat themselves on the thrones.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: When allís said and done, it was the hand of the Lord that called him to him...

 

HEALER: Yes. Iíve often heard the Mafia referred to as the ďHand of the LordĒ.

 

THIRD CARDINAL: What was that, Sister...?

 

HEALER: And the Camorra, I suppose, could be the ďTouch of the Holy GhostĒ!

 

CHORUS: Laude, laude... in gloria tuam!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: The problem is, we donít understand the logic behind all this...

 

PROFESSOR: [Coming from backstage] Look what Iíve found Ė a bug.

 

He displays a small gadget.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: A what?

 

POPE: An acoustic bug... You know Ė a spy microphone.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: A spy microphone?

 

PROFESSOR: Yes, and I found another one hidden in his phone.

 

He shows another, which is even smaller.

 

HEALER: Itís obvious that somebody has been watching and checking on the Holy Fatherís every movement.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: And now that youíve unplugged the Pope... I mean, unplugged the microphone...

 

CHORUS OF CARDINALS: The Pope is no longer of any use.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: The spy bug is no longer of any use!

 

CHORUS: Exaude gloria nos... Alleluiah!

 

HEALER: Microphones in every bit of plasterwork...! Itís like being in the Sicilian Law Courts in Palermo.

 

CHORUS: Nunque intendemus.

 

From the square we hear the growing noise of a big crowd.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Listen to the noise theyíre making.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: [Muttering to himself] Hooligans! Trouble-makers! Theyíre agents provocateurs, thatís what they are! [To the CAPTAIN/POPE] You, Captain, go down and disperse them by force...

 

POPE: The force of a full company, your Eminence?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Certainly, there must be two or three hundred thousand people out there!

 

POPE: If you donít mind my saying so, it was a mistake not to give us Swiss Guards tanks... a hundred or so... nice big heavy ones...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: No, no, for goodness sake, moderation is always our best weapon... We have to be political... give and take... choose the middle option... Be diplomatic with people.

 

CHORUS: Utque versum stracere.

 

The FIRST CARDINAL calls for a censer, and swings it so that it emits clouds of incense.

 

SECOND CARDINAL: We shall begin a process of beatification of our Holy Father here!

 

CHORUS: Sanctus, sanctus... Petrus et Pauli fuerunt!

 

THIRD CARDINAL: Of course, it will take time.,..

 

SECOND CARDINAL: We should not be in too much of a hurry...

 

CARDINALS: [In chorus] Tempore probi et savi sunt.

 

CHORUS: Promittere et transigere.

 

CARDINAL: [In chorus] Dilatare e distendere... Rinviare et eludere.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: There will have to be a transitional period... Then a pause before the Conclave...

 

He hands the censer to the THIRD CARDINAL.

 

THIRD CARDINAL: The Conclave will be a difficult one...

 

SECOND CARDINAL: A lot of black smoke...

 

FIRST CARDINAL: But in the end a new Pope will be chosen... A Pope who is wise, mild-mannered... and maybe even a teensy bit poorly...

 

POPE: Oh yes, of course, the best popes are always the popes who donít last long... In fact the best popes die more or less straight away.

 

CARDINALS: [In chorus] Captain! Such language! At a moment like this!

 

THIRD CARDINAL: Is that a proper way to talk of our Holy Martyr?

 

POPE: What do you mean, martyr...? He was an extremisty. A fanatic... a complete lunatic! How could anyone in their right minds imagine dismantling the Mafia... with all the interests that are involved... and the power balances that rely on it?

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Well, yes, of course, it was rather Utopian... But...

 

POPE: Utopian, you call it... Politics, economics... finance... All blown sky-high... Millions of workers employed in drug-trafficking and the recycling of drug dollars... all sacked... Not to mention hundreds of subsidiary firms all going to the wall. Hundreds of useless empty mouths waiting to be fed... Old people living longer than they need to ... Millions of blacks invading Europe...!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Yes, yes, we agree, it was madness, but this is no language to be using!

 

CHORUS: Verbum molestus deprecamus!

 

POPE: [Aggressive, in a Slavic grammelot] Ma vadoona meschiskaia vescvia... vadoons chia cabrimka!

 

He snatches the censer and starts whirling it over the CARDINALSí heads.

 

FIRST CARDINAL: What did he say? Whatís got into him?

 

CHORUS: Ellitur conficere!

 

THIRD CARDINAL: What on earth are you saying?

 

POPE: Eascariosia steroma alunca cardilala... brumbuania!

 

SECOND CARDINAL: I think heís insulting us!

 

CHORUS: In mescula intrisus calamus!

 

POPE: Ummelia kauschia Ė ebey paradoe avaschiaira!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: What are you saying, Captain?

 

POPE: Ayusca vineschiana!

 

THIRD CARDINAL: Whatís the meaning of all this?!

 

FIRST CARDINAL: Potens amelita! Who gave you permission to interfere like this?

 

POPE: Stariota ameschima mechinaia!

 

By now he is giving free rein to his Slavic grammelot.

 

CARDINALS: [In chorus] Heís mad! Whatís got into him?

 

POPE: [He continues in grammelot]

 

CARDINALS: [In chorus] Help! Who do you think you are?