Libretti

Grace (2019) To be performed July 2019 at Milton Court Studio Theatre, London

A Chamber Opera in three weddings (developed with Maeve McCarthy)

(Excerpt: For full libretto please use the Contact form) Copyright: Sophie Rashbrook

GRACE

PART ONE

Chorus 1: Irish Ballad

The Priest, Prison Guard and Soldier enter as three storytellers/Chorus and perform a ballad in the tradition of the ‘noble call’, popular in Irish gatherings – it should have the feel of a performance in itself.

PRIEST

As we gather in the chapel here

before the Trinity

We tell a tale of love denied

of love that could not be

PRISON GUARD

Our hero, Joseph Plunkett

was a gifted man of words

He vowed to marry Grace, his love,

But then this call he heard:

PRIEST, PRISON GUARD & SOLDIER

Hoorah for Irish freedom

At the rising of the moon

All the wind that shakes the barley

Cannot break our rebel tune.

PRISON GUARD

The battle for this country’s soul

That was our hero’s fight

PRIEST

So the rebels

SOLDIER

No, the traitors

PRISON GUARD

No, the martyrs

PRIEST, PRISON GUARD AND SOLDIER

Did unite

PRISON GUARD

Fuelled by centuries of foreign rule

by Kings across the sea

In 1916 seven men

proclaimed their liberty:

PRIEST, PRISON GUARD & SOLDIER

Hoorah for Irish freedom

At the rising of the moon

All the wind that shakes the barley

Cannot break our rebel tune.

SOLDIER

With his seven rebel brothers

Joseph battled six long days

They might not have surrendered

If they hadn’t been betrayed

PRIEST

A tale of love and duty

Now plays out for all to see

PRISON GUARD

For what greater battle is there

than the one, for history?

Wedding I

The Prison Guard, Priest and Soldier now transform out of their Chorus roles into character.

This is the romanticised/heroic/tragic view of the wedding as seen by the pro-Irish side. Joseph and Grace are preparing for their wedding, split-stage – Grace is excited and nervous, Joseph is putting on his tie as he reminisces, full of love. Joseph is a romantic hero, Grace his devoted supporter. The Soldier (British, anti-Irish) and the Prison Guard (Irish, pro-Irish) are present in the ceremony as witnesses to the wedding.

GRACE: Where are the rings?

A wedding may be holy without church walls

A bride needs no dress of white

But two bands of gold must loop two souls

JOSEPH: When we lay in the valley of Gleann na Scath

The shadow shone like new fire

Wild between us drove the keening rain

Burning bright desire.

I was never meant to be this happy

Joseph’s Aria

[Turning to the audience out of time]

They will tell you

That I was a hero, a coward, a traitor

But Ireland’s time had come

I cannot wish my deeds undone

It wasn’t until our wedding day that I saw

The life we might have had together

[Going back into the ‘present’ of the wedding ceremony]

GRACE

The rings

JOSEPH

That she could love a man like me

With my scars and my patriot’s vow

I’m sorry we don’t have more time

But let us marry now

PRIEST: We gather in the chapel here

GRACE:               Joseph first

JOSEPH:              Grace first

PRIEST: If anyone here knows of any reason

JOSEPH:              Grace last

GRACE:               Joseph last

PRIEST: Why these two may not be joined in holy matrimony

You are to declare it now

SOLDIER, PRISON GUARD, GRACE, JOSEPH & PRIEST

Silence

GRACE:               Joseph first and Joseph last and Joseph over all

JOSEPH:              Grace first and Grace last and Grace over all

PRIEST: I now declare you married – you may now kiss your wife

[Grace and Joseph kiss]

PRIEST: Sign here.

The SOLDIER and PRISON GUARD sign the documents as witnesses and withdraw, giving the illusion that Joseph and Grace are almost alone together.

JOSEPH:              My Grace, my ideal

GRACE:               You signed your name

You made a Proclamation

JOSEPH:              I cannot wish my deeds undone

GRACE:               Nor I, nor I.

A memory of you, my darling Joe

will grow within me

SOLDIER:            Time

GRACE:               More time, we need more time

SOLDIER:            Time

GRACE:               Still time

Joseph is led away by the Soldier as the Priest comforts Grace. The music should give a sense of the impending execution.

JOSEPH:              [Singing defiantly as he is taken offstage]

Hoorah for Irish freedom

at the rising of the moon

All the wind that shakes the barley

cannot break our rebel tune

PRIEST:               Come now, come now

GRACE:               My Joe

There is an evocation of a gunshot, and the Priest, Prison Guard and Soldier immediately snap back into their chorus roles. The Priest leads Grace back to her starting position, and the staging inverts, so that the couple is upstage, and the Soldier, Prison Guard and Priest are downstage in Storytelling mode.

Chorus II: A Remnant of the Ballad (Continued from the opening)

PRISON GUARD

A tragic bride and a sacrifice

A truly romantic tale

This will surely provoke sympathy

On an international scale

 

SOLDIER (Interrupting sarcastically. A Prelude to the verse)

A sacrifice and a tragic bride?

They’re taking you, matey, for a ride

When you’ve come from the trenches in Wipers

And you’re in Dublin dodging the snipers

Soon you’ll find you’ll croon a different tune…

BRITISH WW1 SONG

SOLDIER, PRIEST AND PRISON GUARD [Like a Kitchener recruitment poster]

We’ll beat the Irish like we’ll beat the Germans

We’ll win on the Western front be-

‘Cause we’re fighting for King and country

And we won’t let them do it

For the Empire, we’ll get through it

Rule Britannia another day!

 

PRIEST: While Britannia’s guard was down

The Irish rebels went to town

PRISON GUARD: (Covering the Soldier’s eyes) They thought they’d pull the wool over their eyes

SOLDIER (Shoving the Prison Guard out of the way) Oi!

But King George’s troops are strong

And we’re here to prove them wrong

And those traitors, well, they’re in for a surprise…

 

SOLDIER, PRIEST AND PRISON GUARD [Chorus]

So when the Irish try to tell their story

They’re likely to blame old Blighty

And to shame our red-blue-and-whitey

But there’s rather more to it

And those newlyweds, they blew it

Rule Britannia another day!

 

PRISON GUARD (Indicating Joseph): If he wanted to marry his girl

He should have thought of that before

PRIEST: Before he joined the Irish rebels and unleashed the dogs of war

PRIEST, SOLDIER and PRISON GUARD: Woof! [Pause]

SOLDIER: He wasn’t so victorious

A bridegroom quite inglorious

And I heard the “tragic bride” had a naughty secret to hide…

PRISON GUARD and PRIEST: (Scandalised) Oo!

The Priest slaps the Prison Guard. The Prison Guard slaps the Soldier. There is an awkward pause, in which the Priest and Prison Guard recover from their involuntary outbursts, and the Priest re-casts himself as the peace-maker in a slow ‘middle eight’.

PRIEST: Now history can be muddling

PRISON GUARD: And a tragic story, troubling

SOLDIER: But let’s see the way that ‘tragic wedding’ was

(Pointing to the Prison Guard) Ignore his ‘take-the-piss’-tory

The victors write the history

PRISON GUARD, SOLDIER, PRIEST: This is how it happened and it’s all because…

Instead of the ‘We’ll beat the Irish’ chorus restarting, Grace’s voice cuts across them all, like a lightning bolt.

GRACE: The rings

Prison Guard, Priest and Soldier immediately snap back into their Wedding characters.

PART TWO

Wedding II