The Eeneid

A warrior from Gallipoli is spirited from the battlefield by gods of the Trojan war.

Cast

Aeneas McKenzie. Warrior at Gallipoli. New Zealander.

Aphrodite. Beautiful woman. A goddess.

Zeus. Very old man. A god.

Settings

1. A scrubby hill high above Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, New Zealand.

2. The Battle of Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli, August 1915

But it's literally a bare stage.

A SCRUB HILL HIGH ABOVE BANKS PENINSULA

A young Kiwi soldier, AENEAS MCKENZIE, charges on stage with a rifle and fixed bayonet tucked under one arm.

EENY: Come on ya pricks. Let's have ya. I'll send you back to Mohammed, ya buggers. You can tell him Eeny sent ya and there's more of you to come. Let's have ya. Huh? Where are ya? Huh? Hello? Good grief. What happened to the bloody war?

Suddenly, he clutches his hip in pain. He looks at his hand.

EENY: Blood?

APHRODITE: Ouch!

A very beautiful woman, APHRODITE, staggers on stage sucking her wrist, which is soaking wet.

APHRODITE: My wrist. My beautiful wrist.

She sees him. He sees her. He’s disoriented.

EENY: Good grief.

APHRODITE: Don't just stand there. Help me. I’m wounded.

EENY: Steady on. Where are you wounded?

APHRODITE: My wrist. Something stung my wrist.

He moves towards her and takes her by the injured wrist to look at it. She makes a deep agonised growl.

EENY: You’re not even bleeding, it’s just wet. It’s water.

APHRODITE (in agony): It’s my blood. That’s how I bleed.

EENY: Look love. I have so many questions. I don't know quite where to start.

APHRODITE: Can you start with my wrist?

Eeny tears off a sleeve, wraps it around her wrist and ties it off. He takes the bayonet off his rifle and uses it to trim the ends of the bandage so it’s neat. Aphrodite seems to find it very painful but bears it.

EENY: There you go. All better.

Eeny steps back and puts his hands on his hips to regard her. He winces with pain from his injured hip.

APHRODITE: Are you alright?

EENY: She'll be right. It's just a nick.

Suddenly ZEUS, a very old man enters, gasping for breath. He's barefoot, and dressed in nothing but a loincloth. He rests his hands on his knees and breathes very heavily.

EENY: Good grief. Who the heck are - ?

The old man raises a warning finger and gives Eeny a dirty look that stops Eeny speaking. Aphrodite moves towards Zeus and makes to speak. Zeus draws himself up and gives her an even dirtier look, and pushes out the palm of one hand towards her in a way that seems to have a powerful physically repelling effect.

ZEUS: I didn't even have time to get dressed before I had to drop everything and get here to… Where are we?

EENY: Gallipoli.

APHRODITE: New Zealand.

Eeny looks around too.

EENY: Well bugger me. So it is. This is the bush above my house. That's my parent's farm.

Zeus looks down the hill and squints.

ZEUS: Cattle?

EENY: Yeah.

ZEUS (like a true connoisseur): Nice herd.

EENY: Thanks. Hang about. What the heck is going on? Good grief, last minute I was in the middle of a battle on the other side of the world --

ZEUS: So was I.

EENY: And now I'm on the... other side of the world.

ZEUS: How do you think I feel? At least you got carried.

EENY: Bugger me. I'm dead.

Zeus kicks Eeny in the shin. Eeny hops in pain.

ZEUS: Do you feel dead?

Eeny rages and tries to stab Zeus with his bayonet. The old man disarms and incapacitates him with remarkable speed, strength and dexterity. Suddenly Eeny's on his knees with Zeus holding the blade to his throat.

ZEUS: You'll wish you were dead if you try to dishonor me.

APHRODITE: Dad!

Zeus pushes Eeny to the ground, where he lands painfully on his hip.

ZEUS: Don't rub it.

Eeny stops himself from rubbing, and looks questioningly at the both of them.

APHRODITE (to Eeny): You would be dead. If I hadn't intervened.

ZEUS: You're not allowed to intervene!

APHRODITE: I'm allowed to save Aeneas. This is Aeneas.

Zeus looks at Eeny, then back at Aphrodite.

ZEUS: Have you gone mad?

APHRODITE: Quick. Tell him who you are.

EENY: My name is Aeneas Walter McKenzie. Twenty-third Cantabs. But everyone calls me Eeny.

ZEUS: Eeny?

Zeus looks at Aphrodite in disgust.

ZEUS: You've always had a soft spot for strays.

APHRODITE: I'm allowed to save Aeneas.

EENY: I don't need anyone to save me.

ZEUS to Aphrodite: Do not intervene without sacrifice. When was the last time anyone made a sacrifice to you?

APHRODITE: People make sacrifices to beauty every day. This is about you, isn't it? You're jealous. No one thinks about you anymore. That's why you're fading away.

ZEUS: I'm as strong as I ever was.

APHRODITE: You look like an old man.

ZEUS: Well you're not a marble sculpture any more either.

APHRODITE: I'm as beautiful as ever. Aren't I Aeneas? Aren't I beautiful?

They are surprised to find Eeny on his feet pointing the rifle at them.

ZEUS: Do you mind? We are having a family discussion.

EENY: I've got one bullet left in this, and I'll be happy to put it into either one of you.

Zeus makes a small wave of his hand. Eeny's gun flips in his hand and the barrel slides into his mouth. It takes all Eeny’s strength to resist the physical urge to pull the trigger with his own thumb. Aphrodite drops to her knees.

APHRODITE: Dad!… Oh mighty Father. Your daughter begs you. Spare him!

The gun drops out of Eeny's mouth and onto the floor.

ZEUS: See. That's a bit more like it. Finally some respect. Right. What are we going to do with him?

EENY: I want to go back to Gallipoli.

ZEUS: Why? It's a bloody massacre. You're home now. (to Aphrodite).You. I am so angry at you. I have told you time and time again to stop meddling. War is not your thing.

With a wave of his hand, he heals her wrist. He gazes on her with great fondness.

I want to you concentrate on pretty things. Clothes and jewels and... furniture. I don't know. (to Eeny) You. This is the deal. How many cows have you got in that field down there?

EENY: I dunno, forty?

ZEUS: That'll do. I want them all. Sacrificed to me, on a pyre. I want the thighbones wrapped in fat, roasted, sent up with prayers, incantations, the lot. She'll fill you in on the details. Then you can stay here - alive. Do not try and shortchange me.

EENY: No.

ZEUS: Sorry. What did you say?

EENY: I said no.

APHRODITE: Aeneas, please. It's a wonderful blessing.

EENY: My name is Eeny. And I want to go back.

APHRODITE: You are back. Home.

EENY: I want to go back to Gallipoli. I'm in the middle of something.

ZEUS: You are an Aeneas aren't you?

APHRODITE: Eeny, please.

EENY: Some of the blokes I’m with are sixteen. They couldn't use a knife to shave.

ZEUS: OK. She'll take you back.

APHRODITE: No I won't.

ZEUS: She'll do what she's told and take you back IF you can answer this.

EENY: What?

ZEUS: What's it all about? What are you fighting for?

EENY: I just told you. My mates.

ZEUS: You're fighting for your friends, sure. But why? What's the bigger picture? Eeny is silent. Thought so. You don't even know.

EENY: You want me to tell you about the Dardanelles, and the Black Sea, and diplomatic bloody alliances, that sort of thing, right?

ZEUS: I want you to name your gods.

EENY: My God doesn’t have a name. And to be perfectly honest I don’t think he’s taking sides in this. It’s every man for himself, and we’ve all got to make our own meaning, so this is mine: I'm a New Zealander. Until this war began, the Poms thought we were a country full of rejects, their dregs shipped as far away as possible to live out here like peasants, and break our backs to send food 'home' to them. And until now, they were bang on. Since I was fifteen years old I've spent eight hours a day standing in a freezing works chopping up cows to pack on a boat. And no one cared. They didn't want us. Now they bloody need us. In Gallipoli we fight side by side with the Brits. We're a foot taller and brave as lions. They ask me 'where you from?' And I tell 'em. New Zealand. That's right. New Zealand. Remember? The last place on earth. Where you sent all the poor bastards couldn't even get a job in your factories. Well bugger what you used to think of us, bugger who we used to be. From now on we'll smash you on the rugby park and save your bacon on the battle field. I’m founding a new nation on that bloody mud hill. So send me back, you gods. You think I don't know who you are? Zeus. Aphrodite. You think I don't know where I came from? Where I got my name? I used to be British, and I used to be Aeneas. But I've got some new names now. I'm Eeny McKenzie and I'm a New Zealander. And I’ve got work to do. So send me back.

Zeus nods at Aphrodite, who is now even more reluctant.

APHRODITE: He's still Aeneas to me.

ZEUS: This one's different. This is not your son.

EENY: To be perfectly honest with you miss, I'm glad you're not my mother. Cos I tell you what, if I get out of this scrap today I'll be back in my cot thinking some fairly grubby thoughts about you.

Aphrodite is terribly flattered. Zeus gestures to her: 'send him back.' She can't bear to.

EENY: Hey. Aphrodite. What do you like? For a sacrifice?

APHRODITE: Dancing. I like dancing and athletic games.

EENY: Dancing, and athletic games. Well, I’m gonna make a sacrifice to you. To win your favor on the battlefield. I’m gonna dance for you.

He begins to dance with the bayonet; slicing the air with the practiced cuts of an expert freezing worker dismembering a carcass.

EENY: This is how I dance. I slit 'em like I carve a bobby calf. Clean and quick as a flash. There’s beauty in it, a well-dealt death. Oh mighty Aphrodite, goddess of beauty, pleasure and passion, I beseech you, take me back to Chunuk Bair. Let your Aeneas honour you through his dance of death, his game of war.

THE BATTLEFIELD OF CHUNUK BAIR, GALLIPOLI, AUGUST 1915

The height of battle. The overwhelming sound of war. Eeny soaks it in. He’s in his element.

EENY: Come on ya pricks. Look who's back from holiday. It's Aeneas McKenzie, the wily, the pious. Favored by the gods, founder of a nation and killer of cows. Say your prayers cos I’m coming for you now!

THE END