Wednesday 16 November 2011

Das Schloß - The Play (Act Two of Three)

A few minutes have passed since the previous action.  Tony is now seated at one of the round tables in front of the bar, along with the Innkeeper.  The Innkeeper’s Wife brings over a tray with two beers on it and puts them down in front of the two men.  Tony’s beer is brought down with a crash, sending a small puddle of beer flying towards his fur coat.  The Innkeeper’s Wife sneers at Tony, then turns on her heel and stomps back to the bar.  Tony begins to speak…

Tony: So what you’re saying is that I’m actually inside Kafka’s book?

Innkeeper: [Drinks, then brings his tankard crashing down onto the table] No!  Why do you keep talking about a book?  You are in the Village, the Village which belongs to the Castle, and there is no way to get into the Castle without connections, without working your way into a higher position.  If you start off as a barman, perhaps, if you are dutiful, in a few years, there will be the possibility of moving on to something more substantial…

Tony: [Interrupting] And then I can go to the castle?

Innkeeper: [Sighs] No.  Then you may have access to someone who might know someone who occasionally has access to a person who works in a capacity loosely connected with the Castle… [Pauses] …if you’re lucky.

Tony: Hmm.  [Pauses, then speaks] I was planning to be in Hohen-Cremmen on Saturday...

[There is silence.  Both men devote themselves to their tankards, Tony thinking of how to turn the conversation, the Innkeeper wondering how he can end it.  Suddenly, the door crashes open, and, framed against the streetlights and the swirling snow, a young man appears, still in the doorframe for a brief moment, before moving into the inn.]

Innkeeper: [Standing up] There you are, my friend, the answer to your prayers! [Points to the newcomer]  This is Barnabas, and he is a messenger from the Castle! [Addresses Barnabas]  Do you have a message for our foreign friend?

Barnabas: [Shifts nervously from foot to foot] I do have a message to deliver… [He steps forward and hands Tony a small piece of paper.  Tony opens it and reads it aloud as the Innkeeper tries to peer over his shoulder.]

Tony: [Reads the note] “ Tony, the people on the bus are getting a bit restless – some of them aren’t too keen on Kafka anyway and want to move on to the Thomas Mann trail.  How are those tickets looking?  Gary.” [Tony and the Innkeeper look at Barnabas, who is trying to look innocent and failing dismally.]

Barnabas: [Sheepishly] I never said it was a message from the Castle now, did I?
[Tony scribbles something on the back of the note and then hands it back to Barnabas.]

Tony: Here you are, take this back to the bus for me, will you?
[Barnabas nods, pockets the message, and leaves the inn.]

Innkeeper: [Curious] What did you say?

Tony: [Sitting down at the table again] Oh, I just told Gary to stick the German TV adaptation of Buddenbrooks on the DVD player – should keep the Mann fans quiet for a good few hours.

[The Innkeeper sits back down, and Tony leans across the table to ask him a question.]

So, tell me, what do you think of the castle?

Innkeeper: [Nervously] The Castle?  What I think of it?  Me?  What do you mean?  The Castle is just the Castle, everpresent, everchanging, untouchable… [He leans back, gazing at the wall behind Tony’s head, lost in thought.] …the Castle is a part of the Village, and we, in turn are a part of the Castle…

Tony: Well, yes, but what I’m trying to get at here is the idea behind the castle, what it represents, the metaphor behind the reality if you will. [The Innkeeper nods cautiously.] I mean, look, there are a lot of possibilities, the bureaucracy, that’s one, the castle could be representative of our inability to penetrate the thick red tape surrounding us and preventing us from enjoying our daily lives.  Or, or… [Waves his arms in the air as if clutching for words] …it could all be a religious metaphor, the castle as heaven and all the people down below in the village looking for the best way to get to the castle, confused as to the best way in, distracted by all the earthly, that is to say, village diversions… [The Innkeeper nods again.] …it has to be that, right?  What do you think?

[The Innkeeper leans forward slowly, and Tony leans towards him, eager to hear his thoughts.]

Innkeeper: [Slowly] Do you know what I think the Castle is? [Tony waits expectantly.]  A big stone building – with bloody thick walls.  [Tony’s head thuds into the table, splashing into a puddle of beer.  The Innkeeper pats him on the shoulder and stands up to go.]  I’ll add that to your file…

To see how the story ends, click through to Part Three...