LYSISTRATA – by Peter Snow after Aristophanes
This play is, obviously, based on the original Greek play by Aristophanes. Whereas the original is very direct and uncompromising, this version uses more innuendo and suggestion, rather in the tradition of music hall and the Carry-On films.
Some characters and scenes have been added to help a more contemporary approach, in particular, the character of Gaythelos, the highly camp servant to Lysistrata, and the two old men.
The theme, however, is the eternally serious one of the desirability of love over lust and peace over conflict.
Age – 16 upwards
LYSISTRATA an Athenian woman
LAMPITO a Spartan woman
GAYTHELOS a slave
MAGISTRATE of the city of Athens
COXIAS an old man
NICODIKE another Athenian woman
CALYKE another ditto
CRATYLLE yet another
ISMENE a young wife
CINESIAS a young man dying for love of his wife MYRRHINE
SLAVE to CINESIAS
CASSANDRA an old woman
HERALD 1 a herald
HERALD 2 another
PEACE a beautiful goddess
Scene 1 – GAYTHELOS, LYSISTRATA, CLEONIKE, LAMPITO, MYRRHINE
GAY: (Enters looking back over his shoulder. Addresses audience directly) Honest to Zeus, I don’t know what’s got into her! Ever since the men all went off to the wars, she’s been so grumpy. She’s been going round chatting to all the old women of the city, plotting and planning, though Zeus knows what! And now it’s even worse! She’s got a bunch of women in there today from all over Greece! Oh yes! Sparta, Beotia, Anagyras, you name it! And the weird thing is, all those provinces are at war with each other! Yes, I know! Crazy, isn’t it! The men all knocking lumps off each other and those women are in there drinking herbal infusions and eating honey cakes! Absolutely daft! If you want my opinion: (looks over his shoulder to see if he’s overheard, then loud stage whisper) I think it might be the change! (Normal voice) No, cos they can go funny at that age, can’t they. I remember when her down the road started getting hot flushes, she was –
LYS: (off) Gaythelos!
GAY: Whoops! Coming madam. (turns to exit, but meets LYS coming out, followed by CLEO, LAMP, MYRR) Oh no, I see; you’re coming.
LYS: I want this place spick and span! We’re going to perform a solemn oath. (she crosses to GAY to give instructions sotto voce)
CLEO: Eh? What sort of solemn oath, Lysistrata?
MYRR: (girly) Ooh, I love surprises!
LAMP: (a bit butch) Yes, but don’t start shrieking, dear.
MYRR: What? I don’t shriek!
CLEO: You do.
MYRR: (shrieking) I DO NOT! Ooh!
CLEO: You’re doing it now, look.
MYRR: Well, everyone does that. It’s just the excitement.
LAMP: Yes, well. Some of us learn to contain ourselves, dear.
LYS: (leaves GAY sweeping and crosses back to the women) Now, where was I? Oh yes! The war!
CLEO: Oh don’t! I’m sick to death of it!
LAMP: Such a bore! No sooner are they home from one campaign than it’s on with the gear again, and off out to fight another one!
MYRR: I always ask him to bring me back something nice, and he never does!
CLEO: Oh, I don’t know. Homecomings have their compensations…
LAMP: (severely) Like what?
CLEO: (suggestively) Well, you know…
LYS: No, I don’t. Like what?
MYRR: I know what she means. (They nudge and giggle)
LYS: Oh no! This was just what I was afraid of!
LAMP: Well come on, Lizzie. Tell us your big idea.
LYS: All right. How would you like to stop our men going to war altogether?
LAMP: Capital idea.
CLEO: It would be rather good.
LYS: Rather good? Rather good? Is that all you can say?
CLEO: Well, all right, it would be maaaaaahvellous. But how could we ever stop them?
MYRR: They like it too much. All that going off with a lot of blokes and getting stuck in to a big ruck.
CLEO: Singing in the big soldiers’ bath afterwards, all lads together. They love it!
GAY: Mm. I bet they do. (women give him a severe look) Ooh. Sorry I spoke. (carries on sweeping)
LYS: While they’re off fighting, what are we doing?
CLEO: Looking after the house, looking after the business…
MYRR: Looking after the kids.
LYS: Exactly! They leave us to do all their work – which we do far better than they do, and our own work – which they could never do, and look after their children – which they would run a mile rather than do – and they treat us like one of their bloody conquests!
MYRR: She’s right, you know!
CLEO: She is!
LYS: (imitates husband) Bring me some wine, bring me my dinner, show me the accounts, get your kit off…
MYRR: And not always in that order!
LAMP: Even if you’ve been cleaning out the cess-pool. (Moment where the other women look at her in disgust) What?
LAMP: Well someone’s got to do it, and it’s no use waiting for himself to come home from the wars to do it, is it?
MYRR: Haven’t you got any servants to do that?
LAMP: In Sparta, dear, we don’t need cosseting.
LYS: Cosseting! That’s it! That’s the key. Girls, do we want our men to stop going to war?
LYS: Then here’s my plan: a sure-fire way of keeping them at home.
MYRR: Well come on, then!
LAMP: Spit it out, gel!
LYS: We refuse them their so-called conjugal rights!
CLEO: Oh, you are joking!
LAMP: How would that work?
MYRR: What would we refuse them? (CLEO whispers) Oh. (Horrified) Oh no!
LYS: Oh yes! After all, we’ve got to show them who’s boss!
CLEO: Yes, but within reason!
LYS: Ah, I might have known! What the poets say about us is right, after all. We’re a wanton, vice-ridden sex, good for nothing but lust and lewdness! I might just as well have saved my breath!
LAMP: You’re right, Lysistrata. It’s a hard thing to have to sleep alone, but after all, peace must come first!
CLEO: But if we refrained from heughmagandie, would it really bring peace?
LYS: By all the goddesses, of course it would!
LYS: Just picture it: your man comes back from the wars, and there we are, all in our clingiest, filmiest negligees, a wee touch of perfume behind the ears…
CLEO: A wee drop wine, candles, a whiff of incense…
LYS: And in he comes, raring to go, and we say: Not tonight darling. Maybe another night.
MYRR: Zeus! My man would go bonkers!
CLEO: Mine would be chewing up the carpets and climbing the curtains!
GAY: Zeus alive! What has she married? A cross between a moth and a monkey? A sort of mothney! Mothney! (he laughs)
LAMP: (to GAY) Quiet, you! (to the others) They say Menelaus threw his sword away when he saw Helen for the first time, naked as nature intended!
LYS: Yes, and he picked it up again as soon as she went off with Paris. We have to keep them on the boil if it’s going to work.
MYRR: But what if they go off and work out their frustrations elsewhere?
LYS: That won’t happen, as long as we women stick together and don’t weaken!
CLEO: Yes, it’s got to be all for one and one for all, and no backsliders!
MYRR: I still worry about them finding…other outlets…? (they meaningfully look at GAY)
GAY: Don’t look at me! I don’t cater for coach parties!
LYS: (approaches him menacingly) Are you with us or against us?
GAY: You know you can trust me, madam…Don’t you? (they look at him suspiciously) Well, don’t take a vote on it! Honestly!
LAMP: (approaches GAY threateningly) If we thought you’d betray our cause – what’s his name?
LAMP: If we thought you’d betray our cause, Gaythelos, do you know what we’d do to you?
GAY: I shudder to think!
LAMP: When we’d finished with you, you’d be no more than half the man you are now.
GAY: That leaves me a small percentage, anyway. Honestly, ladies, I’m on your side! Sisters doing it for themselves, and all that!
MYRR: Ahh! He’s sweet, isn’t he.
CLEO: I’d like to take him home with me.
GAY: Very flattering, I’m sure. But don’t get your hopes up.
LYS: So what about it, girls? Are you ready to take the oath?
LAMP: There’s a flaw in your reasoning, Lizzie.
LYS: What’s that?
LAMP: As long as there’s treasure stored in the temple of Athene and the Athenian ships are seaworthy, you’ll never stop your warlike Athenians from going to war!
LYS: Aha, but I’ve thought of that! All the old women of the city are already on our side! We’ve got it all organized.
LAMP: Well! You are a power to be reckoned with! Fair play to you!
LYS: They’ve gone up to the Acropolis, pretending to bring sacrifices, but in fact they’re going to seize the citadel! All it needs is your support!
MYRR: Oh Lizzie! You’re so masterful! I do like strong women!
LAMP: Excellent! Damn fine planning, gel!
LYS: So, are you ready to take the oath?
LAMP: Sooner the better.
MYRR: Ooh, it’s exciting!
CLEO: As long as we really are all in it together? I don’t want to take the oath and find out later that things have been going on behind my back!
GAY: Takes all sorts, dear.
LYS: Gaythelos, fetch the full wineskin and the big bowl.
GAY: I’m gone. (exits)
LAMP: Shouldn’t we sacrifice something? What about a horse?
LYS: What, in here?
MYRR: What about a cock?
GAY: Honestly, some people have a one-track mind!
LYS: No, it’s enough to swear the oath over the bowl of wine, and then share the wine. That’s binding.
GAY: Ooh, I know! Wine does that to me sometimes!
GAY: Yes, yes! Coming, coming madam!
(GAY pours the wine. The women all lay their hands over the bowl)
LYS: I hereby solemnly swear…
ALL: I hereby solemnly swear…
LYS: I shall have nothing to do with my husband…
ALL: I shall have nothing to do with my husband…
LYS: Or lover…
CLEO: I was afraid of that!
LYS: (severely) Or lover!
ALL: Or lover…
LYS: No matter in what state of excitement he approach me…
MYRR: Ooh, you do make it difficult, Lizzie!
LYS: Come on! No matter…
ALL: No matter in what state of excitement he approach me…
LYS: I shall keep him in a state of ardent longing…
ALL: I shall keep him in a state of ardent longing…
LYS: To the end that war may cease and our men see sense and reason!
ALL: To the end that war may cease and our men see sense and reason.
LYS: Hear us, O Goddess Persuasion! Receive our sacrifice and be merciful to us poor women!
(They all drink)
GAY: (Weeping) Oh that was beautiful! That was so lovely!
LAMP: What’s the matter with you?
GAY: I always cry at ceremonies. I can’t help it!
LYS: Go and clean the cess-pool.
GAY: Yes madam. (exit. Sudden noise of shouts and cries off)
CLEO: What’s that?
LYS: It’s the old women! They’ve occupied the Acropolis! Lampito, hurry back to Sparta to organize your women! All of you; let’s get going!
CLEO: Power to the sisters!
ALL: (Triumphantly) All for one and one for all!
Scene 2 – 1st OLD MAN, 2nd OLD MAN carrying bundles of wood
1st OM: Cor, this stuff’s heavy!
2nd OM: You’re telling me!
1st OM: Mind you, there was a time when I could carry three times that amount and not break sweat!
2nd OM: I can remember when a tree trunk fell across the road just outside the city, and I dragged it clear all by myself. Had to, you see. Wasn’t anyone else to do it.
1st OM: When I was in the army, we had to carry boulders the size of a hippopotamus all day, at the double. Woe betide you if you ever stopped for a breather or dropped it!
2nd OM: I was at the Battle of – what’s it called? Terrible stramash that was. At the end of the day I carried off two of my mates who were wounded, one on each shoulder.
1st OM: I had to carry three. All in their armour, too.
2nd OM: Now to look at me, you wouldn’t think I once carried an elephant over a river, would you?
1st OM: (pause) Did you?
2nd OM: (realizing he was overdoing it) Er…No. Not really. I rode it over.
1st OM: So it carried you, if you look at it squarely.
2nd OM: Well, if you want to be nitpicking about it, yes.
1st OM: So you rode an elephant.
2nd OM: Yes. Well, I say elephant…
1st OM: Go on?
2nd OM: More of a, well, more of a donkey, really.
1st OM: So you once rode a donkey over a river!
2nd OM: Well, it had a long nose. And big flapping ears. It might have been an elephant!
1st OM: And you rode this elephantine donkey over a great rushing river?
2nd OM: I suppose, to be scrupulously accurate, it was more of a puddle, in actual fact.
1st OM: Are you telling me that you once rode a donkey through a puddle?
2nd OM: All right. Yes…(trying to get some kudos back) But it didn’t want to go! Oh no! I had to show it who was boss! Hell of a job!
1st OM: Mind you, you tell young people today about how it was in the old days, they’d never believe you!
2nd OM: Young men these days, they haven’t got the grit!
(Enter NICODIKE, CALYKE, CRATYLLE with baskets of vegetables for supplies. They stand upstage chatting)
1st OM: They haven’t got the character!
2nd OM: We’d have soon sorted out these women!
1st OM: A damn good hiding’s what they need!
2nd OM: I’d put that Lasticgarter woman over my knee and give her a good spanking!
1st OM: Wallop wallop wallop!
2nd OM: Spankety spankety spank! (They cackle with glee)
NICO: Coming through grandad!
CAL: Make way!
CRAT: Shift yerselves! (They charge on past, knocking the old men flying)
1st OM: Aagh! You ignorant hussies!
2nd OM: You ghastly harridans!
NICO: Take it easy old man. You might do yourself a mischief!
2nd OM: I’ll do you a mischief, you…you…
CAL: This I must see! Come on, grampa! Strut your funky stuff.
CRAT: Show us your moves, big boy!
2nd OM: (picks up lump of wood and approaches CRAT) You just come over here and…
NICO: ( crosses behind 2nd OM and takes the wood from his hand) Be careful old timer. You might hurt someone.
CAL: What are you doing with all this wood, anyhow? Building a log cabin?
1st OM: Ha ha! Just you wait! We’re going to smoke you out from the Acropolis! This is us: Smoke smoke, crackle crackle! And this is you: (fake girly voice) cough cough, splutter splutter; please don’t send us any more of your nasty smoke, men. We’ll be good little girls and come out!
2nd OM: Er, I don’t think you ought to give the game away quite so fully, mate.
1st OM: Ach, what can they do about it? It’s too late.
NICO: Oh really? Right girls, let them have it! (They pelt the old men with vegetables. OM 1 & 2 exit. Enter from ACROPOLIS LYS & GAY)
LYS: What’s been going on here?
CRAT: Oh, just a couple of old men trying it on.
LYS: At their age? Disgusting! Gaythelos, get this lot gathered up. (GAY gathers the vegetables in a bucket)
CAL: No, she means they were getting ready to smoke us out.
LYS: The cunning old baskets! We’ll have to be on our guard, girls. There’s no telling what kind of stunts they might try to pull. Anyway, listen. The Magistrate’s on his way up here. I’m going to explain why we’ve taken over the Acropolis.
NICO: The Magistrate? Coming here?
CAL: Shall we take him hostage?
CRAT: Tie him up; put a bag over his head!
NICO: Make him swear to give in to our demands, or else!
LYS: No, no! Honestly, girls, you’re as bad as the men! No, we’re going to reason with him! Make him see sense!
CRAT: But Lysistrata?
LYS: The Magistrate’s a man.
NICO: They’re incapable of seeing sense.
LYS: Trust me, girls. He’ll soon see things our way. Look, that’s him coming up the hill now. Get inside, quick.
(NICO, CRAT & CAL exit.)
Scene 3 - Enter MAG followed by 1st & 2nd OM)
MAG: Oh, you women! You terrible women! I stand up to tell the people: We must sail against Sicily! And straight away there’s a dreadful outcry from women on the rooftops, crying aloud to Adonis! I get up to tell the people that we must take arms against Zacynthus, and a host of awful women start crying: Weep for Adonis, weep for Adonis! Aren’t you ashamed, you dreadful creatures? Aren’t you full of self-loathing and disgust at your ridiculous posturings?
2nd OM: They insulted us!
1st OM: They threw vegetables at us.
MAG: Vegetables? What vegetables?
GAY: (bringing the bucket and being very cringingly respectful of MAG) These vegetables Your Worship.
MAG: Take them away!
GAY: At once, Your Worship! (Crosses to stand behind LYS)
MAG: So, you think you can occupy the Acropolis, eh?
LYS: I don’t just think so, I already have, my friends and I.
MAG: (to 1st & 2nd OM) You there, bind her and bring her to the prison.
1st OM: Bind her?
2nd OM: And bring her to the prison?
MAG: Well, don’t just stand there, get on with it!
2nd OM: Yes. Er…Do you think we might have a bit of help?
MAG: Help? You there! (to GAY) Seize that woman round the waist and bring her here to be bound hand and foot!
GAY: Yes, of course, Your Worship. (Hesitates then crosses to MAG) There is just one small thing, Your Worship…
MAG: Well? Speak up, man.
GAY: (embarrassed and cringing) Well, it’s just that she is my boss, you see, and it might make things a bit awkward? You know? Later? Like if I ever want a reference, or something like that?
MAG: Are you disobeying a direct order from your Magistrate? Do as you’re told! At once!
GAY: Rightio! (Crosses to LYS, gets right up to her, and without stopping, does a U-turn and crosses back to MAG) You’re absolutely sure, are you? You don’t think you might reconsider? No? Oh well. (Crosses back to LYS, same movement as before) I was just wondering, perhaps, you might give me a reference? You know? Just in case of any unpleasantness? I mean, I don’t like to ask, but –
MAG: For Zeus’s sake, get on with it! Oh, never mind! You two! Seize her and bind her!
(1st & 2nd OM move towards LYS, at which CLEO, MYRR, NICO, CAL and CRAT charge out and subdue 1st & 2nd OM, and sit on them)
MAG: You! Do something!
GAY: Yes! I’ll go and put the kettle on for a nice herbal infusion. (exit into Acropolis)
MAG: (addressing the heavens) Is there never a man in all Athens to do my bidding?
LYS: No there isn’t. And you know why?
LYS: They’re all away at the war!
2nd OM: (plaintively) Can we get up now?
LYS: Let them up, girls. (NICO, CAL & CRAT & the others let the old men up)
2nd OM: Ooh! I’m aching all over!
1st OM: Here you know what?
2nd OM: What?
1st OM: I was beginning to enjoy that!
2nd OM: You what?
1st OM: I haven’t been that close to a woman since the City Dionysia last. I’d almost forgotten what it was like.
2nd OM: I’d rather forget what that was like. That big one’s awful bony!
NICO: Who are you calling bony, you old scarecrow?
2nd OM: (backing away quickly) No offence, dearie.
LYS: So what do you think of the manpower that’s left while our husbands and young men are away fighting?
MAG: You wouldn’t understand about war. It’s men’s work. We have to make sacrifices. Noble sacrifices.
LYS: Oh yes? And you don’t think that losing a husband, or the child you’ve reared with love and care all those years isn’t a sacrifice? We suffer more than you do!
MAG: Look, I’m not going to be dictated to by a woman in a veil!
LYS: I’ll take it off. Here, you try it on! (she wraps her veil round MAG)
CAL: Here, you can make yourself useful. Get carding some wool while you talk. (hands MAG a pair of wool carders)
CRAT: You’d better wrap this round your knees to keep yourself warm. (she wraps a cloth round his waist)
NICO: Here, you’ll need a girdle to keep it up. (wraps a girdle round his waist MAG now looks quite feminine)
1st OM: Well! If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I’d never have believed it!
NICO: Come on, get carding! (MAG starts carding wool in a nervous manner)
MAG: But, madam, why have you taken over the Acropolis?
NICO: That’s where all the money is!
MAG: But we need it to fight our wars!
CRAT: Oh no! That’s the point! We’re not allowing you to fight any more wars!
MAG: But you don’t know anything about economy! How will the city be run?
LYS: We’ll run it. And as for economy: who do you think runs the household? We know more about economy than you men! We do it all the time!
MAG: But…But…It’s not just about economy, I mean…You’re taking over the whole running of the state! You don’t know anything about it! You need us men!
LYS: Yes! So why do you keep sending them away to fight and come back wounded?
CAL: Or not come back at all! What becomes of us poor widows then?
CRAT: A man can always get a wife, even an old codger like them. (indicates the old men)
2nd OM: Steady on!
CRAT: But we have to keep on consulting oracles who promise us husbands, and does a husband come along?
CAL: Does he heck!
MAG: But you just don’t understand about the business of running a state!
NICO: Oh, here we go again!
CRAT: Just like my husband! Ask him what he’s been doing at work and it’s: (deep voice) Don’t bother your pretty head about men’s affairs, darling.
CAL: You’re lucky! If I insist on knowing what he’s been up to, he threatens to give me a back-hander! Mind you, I’d like to see him try, the weedy little gink.
LYS: Look, Your Worship; have you ever done any weaving?
MAG: Weaving? No, of course not! The very idea! What’s that got to do with it?
NICO: That’s a pity, cos if you did, you’d know a lot better how to run things.
CAL: First, you wash all your wool, to get rid of impurities and filth.
CRAT: Like the skivers and crooks.
NICO: You comb it out so you can use it, every strand in the right place.
CRAT: Organizing things the way they should be.
NICO: We draw all the strands together; the Spartan strand, the Anagyran strand, and so on.
CAL: And we weave them all together into one perfect piece of high quality cloth. And there we are.
NICO: Every part united in peace for greater prosperity.
LYS: See? What we’re doing is not only for us women. It’s for the good of men, too!
NICO: That’s right. Women’s freedom frees men, too!
MAG: That’s a bit deep for me! But anyway, all right, you’ve got the Acropolis. How long do you think you can hold out against us men?
LYS: You’re not reckoning with our greatest weapon.
MAG: Weap…Weapon? What do you mean, weapon?
CRAT: What does a man most look forward to on his wedding night?
MAG: But…You don’t mean…Surely, you can’t be serious!
LYS: We shall withhold our favours until and unless you men agree to stop the wars and unite all Greece in peaceful and prosperous harmony.
NICO: Do you get it now, Your Worship?
CAL: Cos that’s all you will be getting.
CRAT: Unless. And until. Not before! (enter GAY with herbal infusion in cups)
GAY: Here we are, nice hot cuppa! (LYS, NICO, CRAT & CAL each take a cup)
LYS: So you can take the message to the magistrates of Athens. We mean what we say.
NICO: May the gods speed you!
CRAT: And here’s a little anointing to help. I anoint you in the name of Aphrodite. (she pours her cup over MAG. The other women follow suit)
LYS: There! Off you go!
MAG: Look at me! I’m all wet!
GAY: (aside) You’re in a class by yourself round here, then. (crossing hurriedly to MAG) Shall I fetch you a towel, madam? (MAG takes off veil) Ooh my gawd! It’s him! I’m so sorry, Your Worship! I had no idea they were going to do that!
MAG: These women are impossible! You can’t talk sense to them at all!
GAY: Yes. You won’t hold it against me, will you? I mean, in the future? (exit MAG)
LYS: Gaythelos! Go and sweep up the atrium.
GAY: Yes madam. (hurries off)
LYS: Hoy! You two old geezers! What are you waiting for?
1st OM: Thought you might like to come and sit on us again?
LYS: Gercha! Go on! Off you go! (exit old men) Right. Come on girls, back inside. We’ll await their answer.
(women exit, leaving old men)
Scene 4 – GAY
GAY: (starts to cross the stage, but stops, and comes downstage. To audience) I shouldn’t be doing this really. I’ll get into frightful trouble. Ooh, you wouldn’t believe how tough she can be. (confidentially) I think she works out. Muscles you just wouldn’t believe! You know, sometimes, I get quite jealous. But she mustn’t catch me here! You see, the thing is (stage whisper) I’ve been entrusted with a message. One of the women in the Acropolis. Wants to make an assignation with her husband. Her own husband. Between you and me (looks from side to side to make sure he isn’t overheard. Stage whisper again) Gagging for it. She said: Gaythelos, you’ve got an honest face. Well, I have. I get it from my father. He was a banker. Oh, not here; no. He was from Caledonia. His name was Creditus Shreditus. So anyway, she says: You’ve got an honest face; will you do me a favour? I said what? She said take a message. I said where to? She said to my husband, he’s back from the war, and he lives near the fishmarket. I said that explains it. (Enter LAMP, unseen by GAY) She said what? I said the smell. She said: You can go off people, you know. I said: Go off’s about right. And she used martial arts on me! Yes! A dead leg and a Chinese burn! Then she got my arm up my back and made me promise! Didn’t half make my eyes water! Anyway, I took pity on her, and so –
LAMP: What are you doing here, you unspeakable little man?
GAY: AAAAAAAGGGHHHHH! Just going…
LAMP: Ah. Must you? So soon? And where are you off to, my little petal?
GAY: I’ve got to go and fetch…something…from town.
LAMP: (takes him by the ear) And what have you got to fetch, my delicate blossom?
GAY: Ooooooh! Fish!
LAMP: Fish? What for, Tinkerbell?
GAY: For supper!
LAMP: Fish. For supper. Somehow, I don’t believe you, my egregious little worm. Shall we get your aunty Lysistrata out here and find out?
GAY: Oh no! No no no! It would spoil everything!
LAMP: Spoil what, insect?
GAY: The surprise!
LAMP: Surprise? What surprise?
GAY: It’s meant to be a surprise. Fish for supper. Her favourite.
LAMP: Well, we’ll soon see. This fish sounds fishy to me.
GAY: (laughing weakly) Ahahaha. Very good!
LAMP: And if it’s just a red herring you’ve had your chips.
GAY: (laughing weakly again) Ahahaha. Stop. I’ll crack a rib!
LAMP: Lysistrata? Lysistrata! (enter LYS. They embrace)
LYS: What’s all the fuss? Lampito! You’re back!
GAY: I’ll be off then. (tries to exit)
LAMP: (grabs him by the ear again) Come back here! Now what have you got to say for yourself?
GAY: I’m sorry, I’m really sorry. I promise I won’t do it again. Please don’t do that awful thing to me that you said you’d do.
LYS: What’s the matter? What is going on?
LAMP: I caught this little butterfly flitting away.
LYS: Gaythelos? What’s happening?
GAY: It wasn’t my idea, honestly! She made me! She got my arm right up my back!
LYS: Stop wittering, man! Who made you do what?
GAY: I don’t know her name. She wanted me to pass on (mouths without sound) a message.
LAMP: Wanted you to pass on what?
GAY: (softly) A message.
LYS: A what?
GAY: (shouting) A MESSAGE! (softly again) A message.
LYS: A message? Who to?
LAMP: To whom?
LYS: Yes, to whom.
GAY: I don’t know. Her husband. (surrendering altogether) Here: read it yourself.
LYS: Oh no! This is just what I hoped wouldn’t happen. (ISMENE tries to sneak past them)
LAMP: Oy! You! Where do you think you’re going?
ISMENE: I was only stepping out for a bit of fresh air, honest! ((THEONOE tries to sneak past, a big bump under her skirt)
LYS: Ismene, come over here! And you, Theonoe! Where do you think you’re going?
THEO: I’ve got to get help! I’m pregnant. I think I’m about to deliver!
LYS: Pregnant? You weren’t pregnant yesterday.
THEO: Well, I am today. (LYS feels her belly)
LYS: Good Zeus, that’s hard!
THEO: Yes, it’s a man-child. (LYS reaches under THEO’s skirt, and brings out a soldier’s helmet)
LAMP: What’s this, then? Part of the baby-shower?
THEO: I was going to catch the baby in it.
LYS: All right, call all the girls together. General assembly.
GAY: I’ll just go and put the kettle on, shall I? Herbal infusion anybody? Anybody take honey with it?
LAMP: You stay right where you are, precious!
(Enter CLEO, MYRR, NICO, CAL, CRAT)
LYS: Sisters, I’ve called you all here together because I know what you’re going through. Believe me; I know what it’s like to miss the touch of your husband’s hand in the long nights. I know what it’s like to long for love and have to forgo the pleasures of the marital bed. But this is for all of us. This isn’t just for Athenian women. This isn’t just for Athens. It’s for all of Greece. It’s for peace and prosperity, and working together. It’s for keeping our husbands at home, safe, to be part of the family and fathers to their children.
ISMENE: I’ve got flax that I need to strip!
LYS: Your flax can wait!
MYRR: Oh Demeter! I think I left the bread in the oven!
LAMP: (severely) Let it burn!
THEO: It’s so hard, Lysistrata!
LYS: Of course it’s hard! Did I tell you it was going to be easy? Do you think the greatest causes are easily won? Don’t be naïve, girl! We sacrifice sentiment and our petty feelings for the greater good! This is a wonderful thing that we’re doing!
ISMENE: How do we know it’s even going to work?
LYS: How do we know? I tell you this; I know it won’t work if we weaken and give in now! Think of your household with your man there for sure, teaching your son a decent trade instead of how to brandish weapons. Think of your son growing up with the hope of a long and fruitful life, rather than coming home in a body bag!
MYRR: It sounds great, Lysistrata, but how can we be sure it will happen?
LYS: How can we be sure? (sudden inspiration) Look! I sent to the Oracle to ask how our enterprise might thrive. Do you want to hear what the Oracle replied?
ALL: (ad lib) Yes! Tell us Lysistrata! Read it out! Tell us!
LYS: (reading the message she took from GAY) The Oracle promises us success if we stand together and don’t weaken!
CLEO: What does the oracle say, Lysistrata?
LYS: Silence then! And open your ears to hear the words of the Oracle.
GAY: Here! That’s the message I gave her! That’s not from the – (LAMP thumps him in the stomach. He doubles over without a word)
LYS: (pretending to read) When it cometh to pass that the swallows, fleeing before the hoopoes, shall all have flocked together in the self-same place, and shall turn aside from the sweet communion of the rites of Aphrodite, then shall be the end of all the sickness of the world. Yea verily; Zeus who thundereth in the heavens shall place above what was below.
CLEO: Does that mean that girls will be on top?
LYS: But if quarrelling and dissension doth arise among the swallows, and they fly from the Holy Temple, it shall be as a watchword to the world that there never was a more lustful and wanton bird in all creation!
(pause – they look at each other, mystified)
NICO: Well! That’s clear enough.
LYS: What do you say, sisters? Shall we return to our posts?
ALL: (ad lib) Yay! One for all and all for one! Sisters unite! (general exit into the Acropolis)
LYS: Cleonike, Nicodike?
CLEO: Here, Lysistrata.
LYS: You two keep watch, and make sure none of the weaker vessels go astray.
NICO: Right on, sister. (exit LYS)
CLEO: Chilly night, isn’t it.
NICO: Perishing! (two beats) You know what I hate about the Acropolis?
CLEO: That enormous snake that guards the sanctuary?
NICO: What? Snake? I didn’t know there was a snake?
CLEO: Huge great thing! Gives me the creeps!
NICO: In the sanctuary?
CLEO: Oh, it’s quite safe. But just the thought of it sends the shivers down my spine.
NICO: I shan’t sleep a wink! Not that I was sleeping anyway.
CLEO: The owls?
NICO: Owls! Hooting all night long!
CLEO: Wait! What’s that?
CLEO: I thought I heard a noise. (pause)
NICO: No. You imagined it.
CLEO: Maybe. No! There it is again! Over there! Come on, let’s investigate! (they creep across to where 1st & 2nd OM are hiding)
NICO: All right, Hercules. Out you come! And you.
1st OM: Hello darling!
CLEO: (outraged) What!?
2nd OM: We brought you some flowers! Look. (offers a straggly bunch of flowers)
CLEO: You brought these for us?
2nd OM: Thought you might be lonely.
1st OM: Thought you might need a little company.
2nd OM: We may look old, but just because there’s snow on the roof, it doesn’t mean there’s no fire down below!
1st OM: Many a good tune played on an old fiddle.
2nd OM: So what about it, girls? Fancy a little touch of romance?
1st OM: I mean, not exactly spoiled for choice, are you!
2nd OM: You won’t get a better offer this week.
1st OM: Or next week. So come on; what do you say?
NICO: (softly and girly) What do I say? Ooh! I hardly know what to say! Do you, Cleonike?
CLEO: I’m quite overcome with the romantic atmosphere!
NICO: Though there is one thing that springs to mind.
1st OM: And what’s that, baby?
NICO: Well, it’s get lost before I give you a swift kick in the Castor and Pollux!
CLEO: Seconded! Go on! Scram! Just think yourselves lucky it was us you started oiling up to, and not Lampito.
1st OM: Lampito? The Spartan woman?
2nd OM: Here! That’s it! It’s all a plot! The women in the Acropolis have gone over to the Spartans! Traitors!
1st OM: Oh, shameful! Treachery! Betrayers of their country!
2nd OM: They’ve sold us down the river!
1st OM: Did you ever hear of anything so disgraceful and shameful in your life!
CLEO: Don’t you dare call us traitors! We’re working for the good of all, men and women alike!
NICO: And you old buffers have the brazen effrontery –
CLEO: The infernal neck –
NICO: You come up here and accuse us –
CLEO: To our faces!
NICO: Yes, to our very faces, of being traitors! You wouldn’t know a good cause if it jumped up and bit you in the bum!
CLEO: I wouldn’t mind their disgusting suggestions so much if they weren’t such pathetic, smelly old morons! But as for being traitors – faugh! Get off back down to the city and take a long cold bath.
NICO: But don’t die of pneumonia.
CLEO: As if we cared.
NICO: Go on! Buzz off! (CLEO & NICO retire upstage, angry)
1st OM: We’re definitely in there with a chance.
2nd OM: Did you see the way the dark one looked at me? No worries. Just give it time.
1st OM: Aye. Still got it.
2nd OM: The old magic. Never fails.
1st OM: Come on. Let’s go back to the city and have a couple of jars. Put some lead in our pencils.
Scene 5 – CINESIAS, SLAVE with baby
SLAVE: Are we there yet, sir?
CINE: Of course we are! Can’t you see? It’s the Acropolis! Everyone knows the Acropolis! There it is! Right there! Open your eyes!
SLAVE: All right, keep your hair on! Honestly!
CINE: Making fatuous remarks. (imitates) Are we there yet! (own voice) It’s only the biggest landmark for miles. It’s not as if we were looking for a pile of soot in a dark, unlit cave!
SLAVE: What would we be looking for soot for?
CINE: It’s an expression! Stop being so irritating!
SLAVE: Someone got out of bed the wrong side this morning.
CINE: You’ll be getting out of…a job…Oh I don’t know! Shut up!
SLAVE: I’m not from these parts. I’ve never seen the Acropolis before. Is that it?
CINE: (sarcastic) Yes, that’s it! Well done!
SLAVE: So where are all the women?
CINE: I don’t know, do I?
SLAVE: You know, you really should calm down, sir. You’ll do yourself a mischief with all this stress.
CINE: I’ll do someone a mischief – (approaches SLAVE in a threatening manner)
SLAVE: Now now! Look, I’ve got your baby son here! You wouldn’t hit me, would you?
CINE: (hesitates, then turns away) Doh! Call them in there! See if anyone answers.
SLAVE: Ask me nicely.
CINE: JUST DO IT!!
SLAVE: All right, all right. (calls) Hello in there? Is there anyone there? My poor love-starved master would have speech with one within!
CINE: Love-starved master? Would have speech? What’s all this guff?
SLAVE: Well, I thought Acropolis, special place; you need to talk all poetical.
CINE: Stand aside. (calls) Hello? Anybody in? Oy! Wakey wakey! (OLD WOMAN appears at the door)
OW: Who’s doing all the shouting?
CINE: I wish to speak to my wife!
OW: Well, the least you can do is be a bit polite! That other one, now, that was nice. That was a bit poetical. That was the way to do it.
SLAVE: Ooh. Thanks.
OW: Some people just have no respect.
SLAVE: You’re telling me! You’ve no idea what I’ve had to put up with lately. Ever since his wife came up here, he’s been like a bear with a sore head!
CINE: Do you mind? Look, I want to see my wife! Bring her out here!
OW: I think Mister Manners must be asleep.
SLAVE: Or perhaps he’s on holiday!
OW: It’s a pity he’s not here, because without Mister Manners, some people won’t get anywhere.
CINE: Look, you old bat, if you don’t bring my wife out here with all speed, Mister Boot is going to have a nasty rough game with Mrs. Arse!
OW: Is he always like this?
SLAVE: No. Only since the women took over the Acropolis.
OW: Has he signed the agreement in the council about abolishing war?
SLAVE: Shouldn’t think so.
OW: Then he doesn’t stand a chance. Who’s his wife, anyway?
CINE: Myrrhine! My wife’s Myrrhine! Bring her out –
OW: Up bup bup! Was I talking to you? Go to the back of the queue and wait your turn.
CINE: AAAAAAGGGGHHHH! I’m going mad!
OW: Who’s his wife?
SLAVE: Myrrhine. Good-looking girl.
OW: And he wants to talk to her, does he?
SLAVE: Talk? Well, not exactly. There may be some talking involved.
OW: I’ll see if she’ll come out. (calls off) Myrrhine? There’s an uncouth lout here to see you.
CINE: Uncouth lout? I’ll give you – (enter MYRR – abrupt change of style in CINE)) Myrrhine! Darling! Oh, I’ve missed you so much!
MYRR: Have you darling? Ooh. Poor diddums.
CINE: I can’t eat, I can’t sleep! All I hear is your name, wafting in the wind: Myrrhine! Myrrhine!
MYRR: Oh, Cinesias, you’re such a –
MYRR: Such a romantic! Have you really missed me?
CINE: It’s been pure torture without you! Even now, I can hardly contain myself! I just want to rush the walls and batter them down with my bare hands! Just to take you in my arms again!
MYRR: It’s hard, isn’t it, darling!
CINE: What is? Oh! Yes, without you, life is terribly hard!
MYRR: And is the house all right?
CINE: It’s missing your touch! Look, our little son needs his mummy!
MYRR: Oh, Cinesias! Why did you bring the baby all the way up here? He’ll catch his death! You idiot!
CINE: (to SLAVE) All right, take the baby home.
SLAVE: Take the baby home? After I’ve climbed all the way up here?
CINE: Don’t argue; just take him down to the house.
SLAVE: I’ve come all the way from the Street of a Thousand Households with this kid, just to be told to take him all the way back again?
CINE: Look, just do it, will you?
SLAVE: You’re bloomin mental, you are! I don’t have to put up with this kind of treatment, you know! We slaves are getting organized! Oh yes! We’re taking a leaf out of the women’s book! We’ve got rights too, you know!
CINE: No you haven’t! Go on, trickle off!
SLAVE: This doesn’t stop here! You’ll hear more of this!
CINE: Yes yes. Write me a poem about it, but go away.
SLAVE: Right. I’m gone. Ungrateful ratbag! (exit)
CINE: Myrrhine, darling! Please, won’t you come out of there and talk?
MYRR: (looks conspiratorially at OW) Well, just for a little while, then.
OW: (whispers) Don’t forget, bring him to the pitch of excitement, and then…(exit)
MYRR: Drop him like a hot brick. I know. It does seem a bit cruel.
OW: You’ve got to be cruel to be kind, sometimes, dear. (MYRR goes out to CINE) And he could do with a bit of cruelty!
CINE: (runs to MYRR and takes her in his arms) Oh, darling! At last!
MYRR: Have you missed me?
CINE: Have I missed you? I’ve missed you like the cup misses the wine; like the fish misses the sea! I’ve been lost without you! A broken reed, a dry leaf, blown hither and thither in the wind.
MYRR: Poor baby!
CINE: Look, let’s make ourselves comfortable over here!
MYRR: Over there? You can’t expect me to lie down on the hard rough ground. Just a moment, I’ll be right back!
CINE: What? Wait! Come back! Ah, no! (MYRR exits and returns with a mattress) Oh, I see! Darling, you think of everything!
MYRR: Now, let’s get ourselves comfy. (they lie down together) Oh, no! I forgot the pillow!
CINE: I don’t need a pillow!
MYRR: No, but I do, sweetheart! Don’t worry, I won’t be a second. (exits and returns with a pillow) There! That’s better!
CINE: Now, come to me, my angel!
MYRR: Here I come. Oh! Wait a minute.
CINE: (exasperated) What is it now?
MYRR: Essential oils, of course! A little bit of nice smellies. Shan’t be a tick!
CINE: Hurry back, precious! (MYRR exits and returns with bottle)
MYRR: There we are! Now, get yourself up.
CINE: I’m about as up as I can manage, now!
MYRR: Come on, sit up so you can rub some of this on your skin. (she pours out a few drops into the palm of his hand) There now! Isn’t that nice? Oh, silly me!
CINE: What! What now?
MYRR: I’ve brought the wrong bottle. I’m so scatty! Just a ticky-wee momentita! (she exits and returns with another bottle) Now. Isn’t that lovely!
MYRR: (seductively) Cinesias…
CINE: (enjoying a massage with the oil) Ye-e-e-es?
MYRR: You know that agreement that the men have been asked to sign in the council?
MYRR: You know, the one about stopping fighting?
CINE: Yes, what about it?
MYRR: Are you going to sign it?
CINE: Me? Sign that? You must be joking!
MYRR: Bye then. (exits with all speed)
CINE: All right! I’ll sign it! I’ll sign it! Anything! But please come back!
MYRR: (from Acropolis) Come back when you’ve signed it, darling! Bye!
Scene 6 – GAY
GAY: Here! You wouldn’t believe it, but it’s working! I’ve just been down to the town! Honestly, they’re all talking about signing the agreement. And what a state they’re in! I really had to watch my back, I can tell you! No, honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it! They’re all so stressed and grumpy. The whole place looks like it might explode any minute! The men are running round looking as if they’re training to toss the caber. (stops, uncertain whether people understand him) Toss the caber? (stops, realising that some might not understand. Starts to explain) It’s like a big log, and you sort of – (mimes. Then dismisses the whole idea) It’s a Caledonian thing. Anyway, they’re in the most ghastly condition. She sent me down to take a highly confidential message to the Magistrate. Of course, I couldn’t possibly tell you what was in it. (looks right and left to see if anyone’s listening) Oh all right. It said: Have you signed the agreement yet? I know! Exciting, isn’t it! It’s great to be at the cutting edge of events. There are heralds here from Sparta and everywhere. The whole of Greece is in the same condition! It’s like a big amphora of fizzy wine about burst and fizz and froth all over the place! I mean, this is 420 BC, and already things are looking up! Who knows what 419 might bring! (Enter 1st & 2nd OM)
1st OM: Oy, you! Flowerdew!
GAY: I’ve got a name, you know!
2nd OM: Well, don’t tell us it.
GAY: No need to ask if you won first prize at the Charm Olympics. Don’t worry; I’m not thinking of drifting into a relationship of redundant intimacy with you!
1st OM: Listen, I’m Coxias, and this is Boxias. What we want to know is if the women are ready to yield to a force more powerful than they can imagine!.
GAY: And you’re telling me that the force is with you?
2nd OM: Coxias and I have got the whole thing sewn up. We’ve got a cunning plan to overcome the women, and nip this whole thing in the bud.
1st OM: They’re not dealing with young lads with no nous.
2nd OM: We’ve been around. We’ve seen the world. We’ve knocked about a bit.
1st OM: There’s not much we don’t know about the psychology of the individual.
GAY: So you’re going to spoil Lysistrata’s little plans, are you?
2nd OM: She won’t know what hit her!
1st OM: We’re a force of nature! (enter OW)
OW: Cor lummy! Look what the cat dragged up the hill! Who are these old reprobates?
GAY: This is Coxy, and he’s Boxy, and they’re a force of Nature.
OW: Force of Nature? Them?
1st OM: That’s right, Missis! You’ll feel a mighty rushing wind blowing through your world, soon.
2nd OM: And it’ll be us!
OW: Well, do like Pythagoras said, and lay off the beans. You’ll soon feel better. What are you doing up here, anyway?
1st OM: Aha! Ha ha!
2nd OM: Yes! Aha!
1st OM: You think your girls up there are all united behind Dolly Garter –
2nd OM: Lasticgarter.
1st OM: Yeah, whatever. But there are some who are softening!
2nd OM: That’s right. Some of them are weakening!
1st OM: They long to feel the touch of experience.
2nd OM: And that’s what we’ve got!
OW: That’s about all you’ve got!
2nd OM: Madam, I’ll have you know, that I was known as quite a force majeure with the ladies!
1st OM: I had my moments, too!
OW: Aye, that’s the trouble! It was all over in a moment!
1st OM: Here, do I know you?
OW: You’re Coxias the Cobbler, aren’t you.
1st OM: And you’re…You’re…
OW: Yes, I’m Cassandra from the Street of the Candledippers. And I know one or two things about you, Coxias!
GAY: I love reunions! They’re so sentimental!
2nd OM: What, you know this old boiler?
OW: Here, here, here! Less of the old boiler, if you don’t mind! I’m a respectable woman. And he’s no better than he ought to be.
2nd OM: What’s she talking about?
1st OM: Nothing! Nothing at all! Come on, we’d better get back to the city.
2nd OM: Why? What have you got on him?
OW: I know all about Piraeus and the dance on the mirrors. That’s all I’m saying!
GAY: (shocked beyond measure) Oh! Kinky old devil!
2nd OM: But what about the girls up there? The ones we’re going to lure away with our masculine charm?
1st OM: Not tonight, I don’t feel like it. Come on, let’s go. I’ve changed my mind. My lumbago’s playing up a bit.
2nd OM: Now you come to mention it, my sciatica’s giving me gyp!
1st OM: I’ve been thinking a lot about this agreement. Perhaps we’d better sign it after all, you know. (exit 1st & 2nd OM, still talking)
GAY: Honestly! Who’d have thought it! It’s always the quiet ones.
OW: Him? Quiet? He’s about as quiet as a cartload of pots and pans crashing into a drum factory with a work force of excited gibbons. Did you deliver the message?
GAY: Oh yes! You can rely on me. (heroic) I know when to do my duty and stand firm, shoulder to shoulder with the forces of righteousness.
OW: Who’s this coming up the hill?
GAY: (leaping for protection behind OW) Oh ye Gods, who is it? (enter MAG & two HERALDS)
MAG: I have come!
GAY: You’re -
OW: Quiet! Don’t you dare!
GAY: Don’t worry, I wouldn’t touch it with a dung fork. (beat) You won’t catch me going for easy laughs.
OW: Yes? You were saying?
MAG: I am here with a delegation representing the whole of Greece! We are here to talk terms.
OW: Terms? You’re here to say you’ve signed the agreement, or you can just toddle off, me old cock!
MAG: I am not here to bandy words, madam! Fetch forth your leaderene.
OW: You’d better be ready to talk turkey! (exit OW)
GAY: Old cock? Talk turkey? She’s got poultry on the brain!
HERALD1: But will she see reason? Will she stick to her word?
HERALD2: Will she agree to allow men to see their wives again now that we’ve signed the agreement for all of Greece?
MAG: We can only hope so. Here she comes now. (enter LYS and all the women)
LYS: Well, Your Worship? Gentlemen? How can we help you?
MAG: It behoves me on this auspicious occasion –
OW: Get on with it!
MAG: Yes. Er, harrumph. Of course. This gentleman here is from Sparta, and this gentleman is from, er…And we are here to say that we have signed the agreement! (women all cheer)
HERALD1: But you must promise to send the women back to their husbands.
LYS: And you must promise not to make war on each other!
HERALD2: And there must be no further incidences of this sort!
LYS: You keep your side of the bargain and we’ll keep ours! Show me the paper!
MAG: Here it is! (LYS crosses to MAG and they scrutinize the paper together. Enter CINE)
MYRR: Cinesias! But where’s the baby?
CINE: He’s safe at home, being well looked after! I just came to say…
MYRR: Yes? What?
CINE: Just that…Whatever you do, whatever you decide, I’ll support you as a good home-loving husband should! I love you, Myrrhine!
MYRR: Oh, Cinesias! (two beats, and they fall into each other’s arms)
ALL: (sentimentally) Aaaaaahhhhh!
GAY: (starting to blub) I always cry at happy endings.
LYS: Ladies and gentlemen, our strife is now at an end. And here to put her seal on the contract is someone who’s been longing for war to cease. (LYS crosses to Acropolis and leads out PEACE, in long white dress, very beautiful. All kneel before her)
PEACE: Yes, I have watched from Olympus with sorrow as you make war on each other. But now, through the courage and steadfastness of these women, Reason has returned to her throne, and I, Peace, am content at last. Let there be a festival of peace, and let no man or woman be apart from the feast!
ALL: (Big cheer. Dance)
LYS: (to audience) Ladies and gentlemen, where we live, on this side of the stage, all things are possible. But if you agree with us that love is better than lust and peace better than war, then take a little bit of our side of the stage with you when you go. Thank you all!
(Reprise of dance for finale)