Sunday, May 7, 2006

The Actors' Gang

George Orwell-1984
The Actors' Gang
Tim Robbins

'You can turn round now,' said Julia.

He turned round, and for a second almost failed to recognize her. What he had actually expected was to see her naked. But she was not naked. The transformation that had happened was much more surprising than that. She had painted her face. She must have slipped into some shop in the proletarian quarters and bought herself a complete set of make-up materials. Her lips were deeply reddened, her cheeks rouged, her nose powdered; there was even a touch of something under the eyes to make them brighter. It was not very skilfully done, but Winston's standards in such matters were not high. He had never before seen or imagined a woman of the Party with cosmetics on her face. The improvement in her appearance was startling. With just a few dabs of colour in the right places she had become not only very much prettier, but, above all, far more feminine. Her short hair and boyish overalls merely added to the effect. As he took her in his arms a wave of synthetic violets flooded his nostrils. He remembered the half-darkness of a basement kitchen, and a woman's cavernous mouth. It was the very same scent that she had used; but at the moment it did not seem to matter.

'Scent too!' he said.

'Yes, dear, scent too. And do you know what I'm going to do next? I'm going to get hold of a real woman's frock from somewhere and wear it instead of these bloody trousers. I'll wear silk stockings and high-heeled shoes! In this room I'm going to be a woman, not a Party comrade.'

They flung their clothes off and climbed into the huge mahogany bed. It was the first time that he had stripped himself naked in her presence. Until now he had been too much ashamed of his pale and meagre body, with the varicose veins standing out on his calves and the discoloured patch over his ankle. There were no sheets, but the blanket they lay on was threadbare and smooth, and the size and springiness of the bed astonished both of them.

'It's sure to be full of bugs, but who cares?' said Julia.

One never saw a double bed nowadays, except in the homes of the proles. Winston had occasionally slept in one in his boyhood: Julia had never been in one before, so far as she could remember. Presently they fell asleep for a little while. When Winston woke up the hands of the clock had crept round to nearly nine. He did not stir, because Julia was sleeping with her head in the crook of his arm. Most of her make-up had transferred itself to his own face or the bolster, but a light stain of rouge still brought out the beauty of her cheekbone. A yellow ray from the sinking sun fell across the foot of the bed and lighted up the fireplace, where the water in the pan was boiling fast. Down in the yard the woman had stopped singing, but the faint shouts of children floated in from the street. He wondered vaguely whether in the abolished past it had been a normal experience to lie in bed like this, in the cool of a summer evening, a man and a woman with no clothes on, making love when they chose, talking of what they chose, not feeling any compulsion to get up, simply lying there and listening to peaceful sounds outside. Surely there could never have been a time when that seemed ordinary?

Julia woke up, rubbed her eyes, and raised herself on her elbow to look at the oilstove.

'Half that water's boiled away,' she said. 'I'll get up and make some coffee in another moment. We've got an hour. What time do they cut the lights off at your flats?' 'Twenty-three thirty.' 'It's twenty-three at the hostel. But you have to get in earlier than that, because -- Hi! Get out, you filthy brute!' She suddenly twisted herself over in the bed, seized a shoe from the floor, and sent it hurtling into the corner with a boyish jerk of her arm, exactly as he had seen her fling the dictionary at Goldstein, that morning during the Two Minutes Hate.

'What was it?' he said in surprise.

'A rat. I saw him stick his beastly nose out of the wainscoting. There's a hole down there. I gave him a good fright, anyway.' 'Rats!' murmured Winston. 'In this room!' 'They're all over the place,' said Julia indifferently as she lay down again. 'We've even got them in the kitchen at the hostel.Some parts of London are swarming with them. Did you know they attack children? Yes, they do. In some of these streets a woman daren't leave a baby alone for two minutes. It's the great huge brown ones that do it. And the nasty thing is that the brutes always-'

'Don't go on!' said Winston, with his eyes tightly shut.

'Dearest! You've gone quite pale. What's the matter? Do they make you feel sick?' 'Of all horrors in the world -- a rat!'

She pressed herself against him and wound her limbs round him, as though to reassure him with the warmth of her body. He did not reopen his eyes immediately. For several moments he had had the feeling of being back in a nightmare which had recurred from time to time throughout his life. It was always very much the same. He was standing in front of a wall of darkness, and on the other side of it there was something unendurable, something too dreadful to be faced. In the dream his deepest feeling was always one of self-deception, because he did in fact know what was behind the wall of darkness. With a deadly effort, like wrenching a piece out of his own brain, he could even have dragged the thing into the open. He always woke up without discovering what it was: but somehow it was connected with what Julia had been saying when he cut her short.

'I'm sorry,' he said, 'it's nothing. I don't like rats, that's all.'

'Don't worry, dear, we're not going to have the filthy brutes in here. I'll stuff the hole with a bit of sacking before we go. And next time we come here I'll bring some plaster and bung it up properly.'

Already the black instant of panic was half-forgotten. Feeling slightly ashamed of himself, he sat up against the bedhead. Julia got out of bed, pulled on her overalls, and made the coffee. The smell that rose from the saucepan was so powerful and exciting that they shut the window lest anybody outside should notice it and become inquisitive. What was even better than the taste of the coffee was the silky texture given to it by the sugar, a thing Winston had almost forgotten after years of saccharine. With one hand in her pocket and a piece of bread and jam in the other, Julia wandered about the room, glancing indifferently at the bookcase, pointing out the best way of repairing the gateleg table, plumping herself down in the ragged arm-chair to see if it was comfortable, and examining the absurd twelve-hour clock with a sort of tolerant amusement.

She brought the glass paperweight over to the bed to have a look at it in a better light. He took it out of her hand, fascinated, as always, by the soft, rainwatery appearance of the glass. 'What is it, do you think?' said Julia.

'I don't think it's anything -- I mean, I don't think it was ever put to any use. That's what I like about it. It's a little chunk of history that they've forgotten to alter. It's a message from a hundred years ago, if one knew how to read it.'

'And that picture over there' -- she nodded at the engraving on the opposite wall -- 'would that be a hundred years old?'

'More. Two hundred, I dare say. One can't tell. It's impossible to discover the age of anything nowadays.' She went over to look at it.

'Here's where that brute stuck his nose out,' she said, kicking the wainscoting immediately below the picture.

'What is this place? I've seen it before somewhere.' 'It's a church, or at least it used to be. St Clement Danes its name was.'

The fragment of rhyme that Mr Charrington had taught him came back into his head, and he added half-nostalgically:

"Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's!" To his astonishment she capped the line: 'You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St Martin's, When will you pay me? say the bells of Old Bailey -- '

'I can't remember how it goes on after that. But anyway I remember it ends up, "Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head!"' It was like the two halves of a countersign. But there must be another line after 'the bells of Old Bailey'.

Perhaps it could be dug out of Mr Charrington's memory, if he were suitably prompted.

'Who taught you that?' he said. 'My grandfather. He used to say it to me when I was a little girl. He was vaporized when I was eight -- at any rate, he disappeared. I wonder what a lemon was,' she added inconsequently. 'I've seen oranges. They're a kind of round yellow fruit with a thick skin.'

'I can remember lemons,' said Winston. 'They were quite common in the fifties. They were so sour that it set your teeth on edge even to smell them.'

'I bet that picture's got bugs behind it,' said Julia. 'I'll take it down and give it a good clean some day. I suppose it's almost time we were leaving. I must start washing this paint off. What a bore! I'll get the lipstick off your face afterwards.'

Winston did not get up for a few minutes more. The room was darkening. He turned over towards the light and lay gazing into the glass paperweight.The inexhaustibly interesting thing was not the fragment of coral but the interior of the glass itself. There was such a depth of it, and yet it was almost as transparent as air. It was as though the surface of the glass had been the arch of the sky, enclosing a tiny world with its atmosphere complete. He had the feeling that he could get inside it, and that in fact he was inside it, along with the mahogany bed and the gateleg table, and the clock and the steel engraving and the paperweight itself.

The paperweight was the room he was in, and the coral was Julia's life and his own, fixed in a sort of eternity at the heart of the crystal.

Ήμουν μέσα και παρακολουθούσα την παράσταση 1984 του George Orwell, από τη θεατρική ομάδα The Actors' Gang σε σκηνοθεσία του Tim Robbins, ενώ έξω οι ειρηνικά

διαδηλώνοντες ζούσαν το δικό τους πανηγύρι, αυτό της συμμετοχής.

Αυτοί δρούσαν, εγώ παρακολουθούσα.

Δεν ξέρω τελικά τι είναι προτιμότερο... Να ζεις τη ζωή στου δρόμου τη χαρά, ή να είσαι θεατής της.....


Λύσιππος said...

Είναι θέμα επιλογής: το θέατρο της ζωής, ή η ζωή του θεάτρου.

Ο ένας στους δύο κερδίζει (λαικό λαχείο).

Loreley-lucyluce said...

Δεν κερδίζω ποτέ σε ό,τι έχει να κάνει με τύχη...τη ζωή θέλω να τη ρουφάω μέχρι το μεδούλι...δεν αρκούμε σε λίγα, ή όλα ή τίποτα... !

par-i-saktos said...

παρακολουθα την ζωη, και βγες στους δρομους να την αλλαξεις...

Loreley-lucyluce said...

"..κι εσύ έστεκες στη μέση όλου του κόσμου κι ήσουν φως μου, κατακόκκινη νιφάδα σε γιορτή, σε γιορτή που δεν ξανάδα, στη ζωή μου τη σκυφτή!..."
Δεν μιλάω για κομματική σημαία, αλλά για την σημαία της ζωής, που στέκεται πανέμορφη κι αγέρωχη μπροστά στα σαστισμένα μάτια μας...

Loreley-lucyluce said...

Διονύσης Σαββόπουλος στο προηγούμενο! :-)