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The opening scene of the play introduces the audience to Rolfe's
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(The stage is dark. VOICEOVER: Faint cheering can be heard. As the cheering grows louder a spot comes up on ROLFE, asleep in his clothes on his bed, clutching a bolster.)
(The cheering gives way to a booming voice in a foreign accent:)
VOICEOVER (CARDINAL) Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habemus Papam! Vi annuncio una grande gioia: abbiamo il Papa! I announce to you with great joy: we have a Pope! We have the Lord Frederick of the Ravens, Who has imposed upon Himself the name of Hadrian the Seventh!
(The cheering returns even louder.)
ROLFE (moves in his sleep, a beatific smile on his face) Bless you, my children, bless you!
(The cheering fades as a young man’s voice is heard.) VOICEOVER (ZILDO) Sior? Sior! Sono qua, Sior. Cosa voeo?
ROLFE (asleep) Niente, Zildo, niente. (In his sleep ROLFE begins to make love to the bolster.)
VOICEOVER (ZILDO) Nalta volta, Sior? (affectionate noises) Si, Sior! Si Sior!
(The cheering flares up again)
ROLFE (still asleep, freezes) Zildo! Zildo! Stop! Not here, not now! Not now We are Pope!
(He sits up suddenly and stares blankly at the audience.) (in a monotone) Lord Cardinals. We thank you for your service and We invite those of you who are able and willing to attend Us, now, when we go to take possession of Our episcopal See.
(ROLFE falls back on the bed. As he slowly wakes, full lights come on, revealing a shabby attic room with, in addition to the bed, a worktable covered in papers, books, tobacco tin, cigarette papers, spectacles, dead matches, old bread and other paraphernalia. A chair beside the table. On the walls a mirror, crucifix and a picture of a youthful St Sebastian.)
(Finally conscious, ROLFE sees the bolster and pushes it aside.)
ROLFE (looking round the room) Zildo, dov’è stai? Where are you, Zildo? That boy! Never here when I want him. (calls at the only door, which is closed) Zildo! My breakfast. Breakfast! Colazione!
(No-one comes. He stands up slowly. His clothes are worn, dishevelled and half open.)
(to himself, as if aware Zildo will not come) Breakfast, Zildo, breakfast.
(As he moves sleepily away from the bed, his foot kicks a half-hidden chamber-pot. He picks it up and examines its contents.) No rat today? I’m being abandoned like a sinking ship.
(loudly, to the door) Il vaso, Zildo, the pot! It needs to be emptied!
(He holds out the pot but no-one comes. He puts it down and adjusts his clothes.) When I think of all the benefits that boy has. . . . Gondolier to a Baron . . . an English gentleman . . . a scholar . . . (stops fiddling with his clothes, straightens up; with humorous pride) . . . Prior of St George of the Order of Sanctissima Sophia! Protector of the Peacock and Puppy at Gwernvale! There can be no higher honour than these. (looking around, he sees the crucifix; his tiredness returns) Except one. (looks back at the door and the absent Zildo) Once he was faithful to me. Now he’s never here.
(He goes over to the crucifix and drops to one knee.) Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.
(Gets up. Looks round the room. Half-heartedly:) Breakfast, Zildo.
(Drifts to the table. Examines an inedible piece of bread.) Man alone does not live on bread.
(Potters around, finds himself at the mirror, puts on glasses.) It’s one of your bad days, my friend. You look all your age and twelve years more. (takes off glasses) Draw down those feathered brows. Never mind the upright furrow that makes you look stern. Draw them down. Open your eyes and look alert. Do something to counteract the tender thin line of your mouth. Buck up a bit! Ugly as you are, you’re neither vulgar nor common-place. Straighten your back and pull yourself together.
(Sits, searches on table, finds papers and tobacco. Rolls a cigarette and then looks for matches.) No matches? (half-heartedly to door) Zildo . . .
Foreman, Martin. Now We Are Pope: Frederick Rolfe in Venice, Arbery Publications, 2012, pp 9-15.
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