Vurt: A Theatre Remix
“A cross between A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and BLADERUNNER. Rough, raunchy, dynamic and dirty. A gruelling emotional and physical rollercoaster trip. Heart stopping cicus, savage dance and mutant music give you a glimpse of the dangerous road ahead… Where vurt feathers take you on a speedy ride through a strangers skull.”
Book by: Jeff Noon
Director: Liam Steel
Design: Leslie Travers
Sound: Nathaniel Reed
Sound: Andy Barlow
Lighting: Paul Colley
Performer: Fraser Ayres
Performer: Anthony Barclay
Performer: Emma Cleasby
Performer: Richard Clews
Performer: Danny John-Jules
Performer: Alex de Marcus
Performer: Rina Mahoney
Performer: Julie Riley .
Extract from Act 1 of Vurt: Theatre Remix
(DARKNESS. SOUND OF WHIPLASH RAIN. HARD NOISE MUSIC. SMOKY BEAMS OF ORANGE LIGHT SKIM ACROSS, SHIVERING AS THOUGH ALIVE. NOISE OF SIRENS, CARS SPEEDING, GHOSTS, DOGS, ROBOS ETC. WINGS FLUTTERING. SNAKES HISSING. A VOICE CHANTS MUTATED SLOGANS…)
VOICE: Vurt…Play. Play Vurt. Vurt…Play. Play Vurt. Play…Vurt. Totally feathered up, living on the dub side. Play…Vurt. Play Vurt. Totally feathered up… (ETC.)
(THE MAP OF MANCHESTER, MUTATING OVER THE CITY’S THEME MUSIC, SLOWER NOW…)
ADVERT: City of dreams. Whispering. Manchester. City of dreams. Whispering… where the walls are thin. Every day ends when dreams begin…when dreams begin…when dreams begin…
(ALL EFFECTS COME GENTLY DOWN TO…)
(BEETLE’S FLAT. NIGHT. SEDUCTIVE LIGHTS SHOW A TABLE, CHAIRS AROUND IT. A SETTEE. BRIDGET ASLEEP ON IT, BENEATH GAME CAT POSTER. FLOOR COVERED WITH DISCARDED CREAM FEATHERS.)
(ENTER BEETLE. MAD, BUT SUPERCOOL WITH IT. DRESSED IN ALL-OVER BLACK, RIDER OF A THOUSAND TRIPS. HE’S CARRYING A PLASTIC TESCO’S BAG. IN THE OTHER HAND, A MULTICOLOURED SNAKE, STILL ALIVE. HE HAS IT BY THE NECK, HYPNOTISED. HE MOVES TO TABLE, DUMPS THE BAG ON IT.)
BEETLE: I’m fucked with this, Brid, I really am. Bridget! You awake, girl? I tell you, I’m all set to burst my fucking head apart.
(HE OPENS A DRAWER IN THE TABLE, PULLS OUT A KNIFE. WITHOUT EVEN THINKING HE LAYS THE SNAKE DOWN AND CHOPS ITS HEAD OFF. THROWS THE BODY INTO A WASTEPAPER BASKET, LEAVES THE HEAD ON THE TABLE.)
BEETLE: Fucking snakes! Can’t move for them. Jesus, I need some jam. Brid, you want some brainjammer?
(BRIDGET STIRS. ALSO IN BLACK, BUT SHADOWGOTH STYLE. WHITE FACE, HEAVY EYES. SMOKE RISING FROM HER. SLOW MOTION HEART.)
BEETLE: I need some jam, I need some Fetish. Brid, you want some jam and fetish?
BRIDGET: No ta. It went wrong?
(BEETLE OPENS JAMJAR ON TABLE. TAKES OUT A SCOOP, USING THE KNIFE, LICKS JAM OFF THE BLADE. OPENS BOTTLE OF FETISH, DRINKS. HIS HEAD KICKS INTO ANOTHER GEAR.)
BEETLE: Hits it! Hits it! Launchpad! Hits the target. Yes! (A BEAT. KNIFE BACK INTO DRAWER.) Sometimes, I don’t know, I feel like I’ve gotta get right out of this world, just to even get by in it. Can that be right, Brid? Can it?
(HE TAKES A GUN OUT OF HIS WAISTBAND.)
BRIDGET: Oh Beetle, I don’t mind it. Come and sit down.
BEETLE: (WHILST CHECKING GUN.) You don’t mind it? You don’t mind anything you Brid, you just wanna be sleeping all the time. Do you think that’s enough for me. Do you?
BRIDGET: I know what you really think.
BEETLE: You keep that shadow to yourself tonight, you hear? I am not in the fucking mood for it.
BRIDGET: Don’t take it out on me.
BEETLE: (GUN INTO DRAWER. PICKS UP THE TESCO’S BAG) And guess who’s to blame.
BRIDGET: Poor Scribble. Where is he¾
BEETLE: Don’t mention that name. That is a banned name. No more shall that name be spoken. Not till the Game Cat himself drags me up to Vurt heaven, there to find my bliss in the dreams of Miss Hobart herself. (HE GENUFLECTS TO THE POSTER) May the feathers be with you. Hah!
(HE MOVES TO THE DOOR, SHOUTS DOWN THE STAIRS…)
BEETLE: Scribble! You lazy piece of robodog roboshit! Get your sweaty arse up here now!
(HE BANGS THE DOOR SHUT.)
BEETLE: We nearly copped it there, Brid. It was a bust. Fucking shadowcop had us, full beam. Murdoch was there, sure was. That fleshcop has got my number, real bad. Only yours truly on the old vaz drive got us out of it. Had to go into speed damage mode. Had to scrape some paint off the van’s sides. Near-total some pedheads. (BEAT) Fuck, I’m tired, Brid. (BEAT) That’s not like me, that’s not me. This is me! I’m the fucking Beetle. I’m the high priest of stash riding. I’m the ace and the deuce, I am, aren’t I Brid? Tell me I am.
(HE SITS DOWN NEXT TO HER ON THE SETTEE, PUTS HIS HEAD IN HER LAP. SHE STROKES HIS HAIR.)
BRIDGET: You’re my bit of smoke, you are.
BEETLE: Should’ve seen it, Brid. We made a public mess in a public place. Right in the public feather. Oh dear.
BRIDGET: You’re my fog, my mist, my dark cloud.
BEETLE: (RELAXING.) Tell it like it is, shadowgirl. Give me sleepy thoughts.
BRIDGET: You’re my rainfall, my cloud of flies, my broken mirror, my drop of the moon.
BEETLE: Lovely. Only you, Brid, only you…
BRIDGET: Scribble’s at the door.
(THIS SAID BEFORE THE FRANTIC KNOCKING AT THE DOOR. AND THE BUZZ OF THE BELL.)
BEETLE: Ignore. Keep on stroking.
BRIDGET: He’s struggling.
BEETLE: Only you, Brid, only you…
SCRIBBLE(OFF): Beetle! Let us in, man! Come on!
BEETLE: (SHOUTING) Fuck off! It’s open.
SCRIBBLE(OFF): I can’t…shit!
(THE DOOR BANGS OPEN. SCRIBBLE FALLS INTO THE ROOM BACKWARDS, TRYING TO KEEP HOLD OF SOMETHING LARGE AND HEAVY WITH BOTH HANDS. SCRIBBLE: THE INNOCENT RIDER, KID FEATHER, SKINNY NORMAL. CREW-CUT No. 3. JEANS AND AN OFFICIAL GAME CAT T-SHIRT. SCRUFFY JACKET. HE STANDS UP, REACHES FOR THE THING AGAIN, CURSING…)
SCRIBBLE: Thanks a bunch, Bee.
BEETLE: Your game, man.
(SCRIBBLE BACKS INTO THE ROOM CARRYING ONE END OF A LONG THICK OBJECT WHICH IS COVERED WITH A TARTAN RUG. SOMETHING IS SLOWLY MOVING UNDER THERE. AND ON THE OTHER END…ENTER MANDY. NEW GIRL, WOULD-BE STREET SMART WANDERER, OUT OF HER NATURAL ORBIT. SCARLET HAIR, SMUDGED BLOODSTAR LIPSTICK. DRESSED IN TECHNICOLOR. TOGETHER, SHE AND SCRIBBLE MANHANDLE THE THING INTO THE ROOM.)
SCRIBBLE: Stop dropping him.
SCRIBBLE: His head’s on the floor.
MANDY: His head? I thought you had the head. I’ve got the tail.
SCRIBBLE: Keep hold!
MANDY: Urgh! He’s all slippy. I hate this, Scribble.
SCRIBBLE: Okay. Down with him now. Gentle…gentle…Gentle I said!
(FINALLY THEY GET THE THING DOWN AND SAFE. DURING ALL THIS BEETLE HAS MOVED AWAY FROM BRIDGET. NOW HE SITS AT THE TABLE, IGNORING THE COMMOTION. HE POURS A SLOW GLASS OF FETISH, SIPS AT IT.)
(SCRIBBLE COMES UP TO HIM)
SCRIBBLE: You left us down there.
BEETLE: Got you home didn’t I? Don’t know why.
SCRIBBLE: Three flights up. Snakes all over.
BEETLE: Vurtsnakes are easy. (HE DISPLAYS THE SNAKE HEAD CUT OFF EARLIER.) Leave em to the Bee.
SCRIBBLE: You ain’t never been bit. You don’t know.
BEETLE: I ain’t been bit because I’m good.
MANDY: What? He’s been bit by a dreamsnake? No way.
BEETLE: Oh, the Scribb’s full of surprises. Fairy tales.
SCRIBBLE: We nearly got caught down there, first floor¾
BEETLE: Caught? Who by? Who saw you?
SCRIBBLE: Nobody! Get off!
BEETLE: You be careful, boy. You’re too much disturbance.
SCRIBBLE: Leave us alone!
BEETLE: Yeah, well…don’t know why I’m bothering anyway. Fucking lump of lard we have to carry everywhere. Dangerous game. You know the penalty for live drugs? Five to ten, Scribb. Five to ten of serious nasty boy leisure. Here’s us spending all the doshola on Vurt, when we’ve got our very own supply. Don’t know why we don’t just eat the Thing.
SCRIBBLE: Nobody eats the Thing.
MANDY: Yeah, we could eat it, Bee. Eat the Thing from Outer Space.
SCRIBBLE: It’s not from outer space.
MANDY: We could go travelling with it. Don’t need no feathers.
BEETLE: Sure thing, Mandy. Get us some serious Vurt flesh. Get us some rocket fuel. Get us some dream! Or else we sell it¾
SCRIBBLE: We’re not selling it!
MANDY: Make a money bomb. Get off the dripfeed. Go cruising.
BEETLE: Get the cops off our squeeze-box.
SCRIBBLE: We need it. You know we need it.
BEETLE: You need it. I need to go dreaming. Who’s in?
MANDY: (SITTING AT TABLE WITH HIM.) Me, I’m in.
SCRIBBLE: (TO BEETLE) Don’t you care about Des?
BEETLE: Sure I do. Don’t be nasty.
MANDY: All we ever talk about. Boring.
BEETLE: Sure I do. But right now I want me some serious feathertronics. All right? Brid? You up for this?
MANDY: Sleep is for the dead.
BEETLE: You hear that, Brid? The new girl speaks. Bridget! Wake the fuck up!
MANDY: I’ll stay awake for you.
BEETLE: (TO SCRIBBLE.) Will you, won’t you? Will you, wont you?
SCRIBBLE: I can’t dream, not unless it’s…
MANDY: What about me, eh? I’m here. I’m now, me. I’m ultra now. I’m better than Desdemona. I mean, I can do anything she can do. I mean, just what did she do anyway, so special?
(SCRIBBLE SHAKES HIS HEAD.)
BEETLE: A thousand things you aint even heard of, girl.
MANDY: Don’t you like me, Scribb? I like you. Don’t waste yer flights.
SCRIBBLE: You never met her.
MANDY: She’s dead, Scribble. Oh…
BEETLE: Oh, nasty moves.
(SCRIBBLE MOVES BACK, SHAKING HIS HEAD. HE GOES TO THE THING UNDER ITS RUG. IT MOVES UNDER HIS TOUCH.)
BEETLE: (QUIET.) Word for you, new girl. Don’t say such things, not to Scribble. Not just now. Give him a week or two. A month or a year or two. A lifetime or two. Let the sun turn to bone, maybe then, maybe, you can talk to my friend like that. Until then, know your fucking place.
MANDY: Okay. Didn’t mean owt. How long’s she been gone?
BEETLE: Nearly two weeks.
MANDY: But I’m right, aren’t I? She can’t last that long. Not in English Voodoo.
BEETLE: Not in a yellow. Kite without a string. (WHISPERING.) Thing is, Des wasn’t just his sister.
MANDY: Not just his sister? What do you mean, not just his sister?
BEETLE: I mean, not just his sister.
MANDY: Oh. Not just his sister.
SCRIBBLE: (FROM OVER BY THE THING.) What you two muttering about?
BEETLE: About your sister.
MANDY: Yeah, about Des not being just your sister.
BEETLE: She’s gotta know, man.
MANDY: I thought Barnie would know the Voodoo feather, I really did. I mean, where to find one and all that. I mean, I wasn’t kidding or anything. I wasn’t trying to impress or anything.
BEETLE: Course you weren’t.
SCRIBBLE: (COMING UP TO TABLE.) Course you weren’t. Barnie can do this, Barnie can do that. Barnie can find anything.
BEETLE: And you never mentioned he was a Robo. Fucking halfmeat. Fucking shake on him. Bag o’ wires. You can’t trust em, I say.
SCRIBBLE: Yeah, RoboBarnie can pluck feathers out of the moonbird’s areshole.
MANDY: Well he can. Usually he can.
SCRIBBLE: Usually don’t cut it. Usually used to cut it. But not now. Usually is all gone cream.
MANDY: You’re being rude, you are.
BEETLE: Riders, subside! Come on now, let’s go float some goodies. Isn’t that what we live and die for?
SCRIBBLE: Count me out.
(HE MOVES AWAY.)
BEETLE: So be it.
MANDY: And then there were two. Best way, isn’t it, Bee? Going in as a couple.
BEETLE: Stash Riders, we are gathered here today to partake of the dream, of the dream of flight, the dream of gathering. We are mere flesh without plumage, mere twats in the dungheap. The last of the pure, only upon the wondrous feathers of Vurt can we ascend to bliss, to kiss, to make a little wish.
MANDY: Sounds nice.
BEETLE: Hmm, sounds nice. Scribble, come join. It’s nice over here.
(SCRIBBLE LEAVES, INTO THE KITCHEN.)
BEETLE: Moody tart.
MANDY: Let’s stay up all night playing Vurts! Let’s make a meal from scraps in the fridge! Let’s never sleep again.
BEETLE: So young, so sugary.
(HE OPENS THE TESCO’S BAG, TAKING OUT BLUE FEATHERS ONE AFTER THE OTHER…)
BEETLE: Let us peruse. Thermo Fish. Oh dear. Done it. Honey Suckers. Oh dear. Done it.
(EACH FEATHER IS PLACED INTO TABLE’S DRAWER. MEANWHILE SCRIBBLE HAS COME BACK IN, CARRYING AN OPENED TIN OF CAT FOOD, AND A SPOON. HE GOES TO THE THING.)
MANDY: How was I to know?
SCRIBBLE: (FROM WHERE HE’S FEEDING THE THING.) I’ve looked already. There’s nothing.
BEETLE: Crack Flowers. Done it. Wormwinder. Oh, good.
MANDY: You like Wormwinder? Not done it?
BEETLE: Course I’ve done it. But it’s nice. Need a new one. Got some old dreams I wouldn’t mind revisiting, oh yes. Deja Vurt. Never as good as the real thing, of course, but nice, just the same.
MANDY: It’s nice. Barnie said it was nice.
BEETLE: Thunderwings. Venus Dust. Tongueboy. Butterfly Squadron. Done it, done it, done it, done it. Stash them all.
(ALL FEATHERS INTO DRAWER.)
MANDY: How was I to know. You’ve done too many. Me, I’ve not done any of these. Next time you go shopping.
SCRIBBLE: (STILL FEEDING.) Ain’t got nothing.
BEETLE: All safe, all legal, all blue.
MANDY: He had to give us some legals, didn’t he? Cover up job.
BEETLE: There’s nothing to cover up. No pinks, not a hint of yellow.
SCRIBBLE: Thousand miles away from a yellow.
BEETLE: Not even a lousy black.
MANDY: No. Barnie gave us a black.
BEETLE: Did he now?
(SHE LOOKS IN BAG, PULLS OUT A BLACK FEATHER.)
MANDY: See. That’s not safe, that. That’s illegal that is.
BEETLE: (TAKING FEATHER.) Skull Shit.
MANDY: How can you tell what they are, just by looking?
BEETLE: Because the Beetle, he’s the lab test residue of a thousand bad trips. It’s a question of reading the waves, the flights of it. The colours and the spray and distribution of the plume.
SCRIBBLE: It’s written in code, Mandy…on the shaft. He’s only translating.
BEETLE: Will you stop feeding that Thing so much. It’s making me ill.
MANDY: Skull Shit? Is it good?
BEETLE: Oh it’s good.
MANDY: Barnie told me it was good. Said it was fine and dandy.
BEETLE: Oh it’s fine. Also, very dandy. Don’t make no difference. I’ve done it. Anyway, we need the money.
(FEATHER INTO DRAWER.)
MANDY: Aw. That’s not fair. Don’t sell it, not that one. Never done a black feather. I’ll go in alone, if you¾
BEETLE: Nobody, but nobody goes in alone. You hear me, now?
MANDY: Why not? I’ve been in alone.
BEETLE: In blues, sure. No problem. With blacks you see, it starts getting slippy. Dangerous dreams. That’s why you can’t get them above counter. You need a friend in there.
SCRIBBLE: You need him in there, he means.
BEETLE: Fuck off. Who’s the driver round here? I said who’s the¾
SCRIBBLE: You are, Bee. You’re the driver.
BEETLE: Yeah well, and less of it next time. Who’s paying for these feathers? Who’s funding the expedition?
SCRIBBLE: You are.
BEETLE: Bunch of dripfeeders. I need to get me some new lodgers, I surely do.
(HE REACHES INTO BAG, PULLS OUT ANOTHER BLUE FEATHER…)
BEETLE: Ah, now then. No code. What’s this little beauty? This strange little piece of the sky…
MANDY: You don’t know it?
BEETLE: Let me guess now, let me have a little taste.
(HE PUTS THE FEATHER GENTLY AGAINST HIS TONGUE, LICKS IT VERY BRIEFLY.)
BEETLE: Hmmmuh! I do believe it’s Robo Scratchmaster versus the Fever Hound Volume Nine. Hey Scribble, you ever done Robo Scratchmaster versus Fever Hound Volume Nine?
SCRIBBLE: Robo Scratchmaster versus Fever Hound Volume Nine? Wouldn’t want to.
BEETLE: Know what you mean. Robos shouldn’t be allowed to dream, never mind sell them. Never know what you might catch in there. Game Cat gave it a Dodo review. Waste of a good head.
MANDY: Gotta try it though, haven’t you? Try it for yourself?
BEETLE: Gotta try something. Come on, let’s climb inside.
MANDY: Oh goody.
BEETLE: Goody goody goo! Oh mama, cover me in vaz, lick it all off.
(SCRIBBLE COMES UP TO THE TABLE.)
SCRIBBLE: This isn’t right.
BEETLE: What isn’t?
SCRIBBLE: You’re not going in?
BEETLE: No. I’m gonna visit my aunt in Scunthorpe.
SCRIBBLE: We haven’t done the Vurt, not since…
BEETLE: Will you leave it alone just for a tiny fucking second, man. You are getting my wick erected, right? She’s gone. Right? You had you’re stupid game, and now it’s over.
SCRIBBLE: It’s her birthday.
SCRIBBLE: It’s Des’s birthday, soon. Next Thursday.
BEETLE: Sorry, sorry. Okay. You lost her, Scribble. We all lost her. We let go of her. Shit man, crazy hurt. Feel it here, but come on…
SCRIBBLE: I’m not giving up. Not while the Thing is with us. All we have to do, right, is¾
BEETLE: Yeah, and then I’m elected Queen of Dreamland. Then I grow buildings out of my eyes. I make the sun explode. Then I climb on board a quark pig, I ride it to the valley of a thousand virgins. And all before teatime.
SCRIBBLE: I know you’re with me on it. I know you are. All this having fun, all this cheap dreaming…
BEETLE: Aye that’s right. Come on, Scribble baby. I’m stuck on the launchpad here. I can’t do the big man bit, not without a take-off. Tomorrow we go look for this feather, this…
MANDY: English Voodoo.
BEETLE: Yeah. Fuck. Tomorrow, right?
MANDY: The thing is, Barnie mentioned a new shipment coming in soon. Some serious bad feathers in it, he said.
SCRIBBLE: Did he?
MANDY: Serious bad. He mentioned a contact, maybe could find you some English Voodoo.
BEETLE: There we go then.
SCRIBBLE: Said too many things already, this Barnie. None of them coming up.
MANDY: Said his name was Tristan, this contact.
MANDY: Yeah…erm…Tristan…and erm…Suze.
MANDY: You’ve heard of them, Bee?
BEETLE: Tristan. Jesus Feather. Haven’t seen him in years.
SCRIBBLE: Where’s he live, Bee? Come on.
MANDY: Said he’s a feather maker. Got some dog in him.
BEETLE: Can’t be trusted, them dogmen, you ask me.
SCRIBBLE: Don’t care what he is.
MANDY: Only a touch of dog, apparently. Can’t hardly tell to look at him.
SCRIBBLE: We’ve got to find him.
BEETLE: Worst kind, you ask me. Now then, in the old days, Mandy, before you were even born, there was only one kind of dog on the streets of Manchester, and that was the low-slung, down on all fours, sit up and beg, skin em alive makes a nice fur coat kind of dog. These days, we’ve got dogs walking upright, becoming bank managers, standing for prime minister next, I shouldn’t wonder. Tart seed, the lot of them. I swear, the world is turning slippier day by day. Gotta stay pure, girl, that’s the way to keep control. I mean, you are pure, aren’t you? Can’t have no hybrids in the Stash Riders. Wouldn’t do. I mean, wouldn’t mind a spot of Vurt inside me, sure could fly then. But no to the robo, the bitchgirls and the dogboys, and all the weirdo parade in between.
SCRIBBLE: Will you shut up¾
MANDY: You let Bridget join. She’s not pure.
BEETLE: Yeah, well. That’s different. That’s useful, having a touch of shadow inside. Like magic, isn’t it. Magic charm.
MANDY: Sexy, you mean.
BEETLE: And that.
MANDY: What’s it like? Having her read your thoughts like that? Urgh! Wouldn’t like it myself. She better not bring that shadow near me.
SCRIBBLE: Mandy? Do you know where this Tristan guy hangs out?
MANDY: Don’t know.
SCRIBBLE: Bloody hopeless.
MANDY: I’ll have to ask Barnie, won’t I?
SCRIBBLE: Could’ve asked him tonight.
MANDY: Sorry. Would’ve done.
BEETLE: She would’ve done, if a certain somebody hadn’t gone bonkersville in there, in fucking public even. I don’t know, it’s like you want to bring us all down with you. Is that what you want, Scribble? Is it?
(MOMENT OF TENSION. SCRIBBLE TURNS AWAY.)
BEETLE: Okay. He lives in Bottletown. I think.
MANDY: Oh wow. That’s not safe, is it?
BEETLE: Yeah, fuck safety.
SCRIBBLE: Come on then. Let’s go.
BEETLE: Scribble, it’s late. It’s very late, and I’ve been chasing feathers all day long and getting my van creased, never mind the shadowcops and that Murdoch cop after me, and the Thing from Outer Space and everything. You know, the pile of vomit. The Mount Everest of vomit. So, tomorrow…
BEETLE: Tomorrow we find Tristan. I promise. Okay? Maybe he knows something, a little Voodoo something. Then we go get Des, make the swap back. Okay? Is that okay with you?
SCRIBBLE: Or else I’m leaving. Go it alone.
BEETLE: Riders! Please, can we partake. I have the blue, I have the vaz, I have an open mouth that’s coming on like a dodo for a bit of flight. Do we have take-off?
BEETLE: That’s right. Stash Riders, forever!
(SCRIBBLE SITS DOWN. BEETLE OPENS A JAR OF VAZ, DIPS HIS HAND IN, SMEARS THE FEATHER WITH THE GREASE.)
BEETLE: This our nightly feather, we do anoint. In the name of the Game Cat, ambassador of the way, and of Miss Hobart, maker of the first feather, and of the dreaming Vurt bird of which this, our humble plume, is but a mere earthly reflection. Shit me, that’s greasy. Overdone the old vaz there, chaps. Beauty’s gonna slide! Woof! People get ready!
Copyright Jeff Noon, 2011