Theatre of the End

Our plan was simple. Get lots of people together and rehearse for a week or so. Then, on the appointed day, over the course of a couple of hours, in ones and twos and fours, we all go into a  large coffee shop and do normal things there until the signal; a man plays to his girlfriend, through tinny mobile phone speakers, a majestic love song (much brass). At this point (apparently unrelated) a couple in the queue start kissing, then a tearfully moving phone call begins at one of the tables, then two friends warmly agree, shaking hands…

Then a few things happen at once; someone says ‘I know this is not the most romantic venue, but it’s now or never…’ (inaudible muffles followed by quiet delight), someone else starts reading a newspaper story about the coming cataclysm with grunts of dark approval, another comes in and recognises a long-lost friend — they embrace — talk of the war. Two other friends, chatting about their plans for a another’s funeral, burst into warm laughter. The events — low-key, natural, subliminal, death-related but oddly warm — snowball; flowers are produced and tenderly laid, a extremely old woman is led totteringly to a seat where she spreads large tarot cards and starts knitting, two mourners — tear-stained — order lots of milk, more catastrophic news is read from a laptop with approval, strangers in the queue start talking to each other ‘you too?’ ‘yes, me too’, a couple of chin-dribblers wibble-wobble their way yawpingly through the room, some small scale magic from one of the tables (levitating cutlery?), the music gets louder — but still quiet. A man and wife knock their heads together, two more lovers reach a startlingly pleasant conclusion ‘it is finally happening’, someone unrolls a large poster that says ‘History is Ending’, a hearse passes outside, muffled music — the same song as the speakers, but live from outside, approaching. The rumour spreads, the end is coming, fundamental behaviour, general relief, unlikely sharing, five girls with realistic giant felt cat’s heads come in, sit down and talk enthusiastically about love, they are followed by a football team with the realistic prosthetic make-up of a strange carnage (run through with swords, axe in head, missing limbs, etc), music swells — magnificent, irresistible — doors flung open, death comes in, moonwalking, birds flying backwards, monkey balloons and the planet Saturn. The three-time bass flood through the room, a coffin enters followed by a carnival of flamboyantly attired orchestral brass, cartwheeling and sadly coroneting, a festival of the dead, children, geriatrics, mules and cripples; bannered with happy asteroids and cheerfully apocalyptic slogans. The place erupts in trombones and everyone, now half-choir, falls in enthusiasm, sad ecstasy, fellow-feeling and weeping; inanimate objects are caressed, walls are smeared over, many nodding in shared yes, layered descants and the world clasped, waltzing for a moment, gives up to the friendly trumpets of infinite loss.

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