It's the sound of the New Man, running down your back

I look to the forward and not to the back!

Look to the future, be finished with all that!

The sound of the New Man: A tragicomedy in four acts

Dramatis Personae

  • Rodney, Duke of Epsom
  • Don Don, The exiled prince of Torydom
  • Sir Roger, Keeper of the Sacred Flame
  • Maid Hillary, a naïf
  • A number of faceless minions

Act One

(An office. Rodney, Duke of Epsom sits behind a desk. A number of minions dressed in grey suits with white facemasks sit before him.)

Rodney: So, if I may summarise our position. Our troops are losing heart and deserting the field of battle. Our merchant supporters are refusing to grant us any more funds to advance our campaign. The peasantry regard us with ever growing scorn and openly laugh as we parade ourselves amongst them. And even the good will of our benefactor, King John the Necessary, seems insufficient to sustain our cause beyond the year's end.

Faceless minion: So it would appear, my liege.

Rodney: The times are grim indeed.  A lesser man, who has not faced greater travails than these, might wilt and forsake the field. But while in recent years I may have become a lessened man in some ways, my heart remains stout.

Faceless minion: However, my liege, there remains the small matter of the impending demise of all our plans.

Rodney: Yes. Grim times. Times that call for desperate measures. Perhaps, even ... (rises from behind desk and crosses to a cupboard, from which he removes a yellow blazer with the ACT logo on its pocket).

Faceless minions: (As one) No!

Rodney: (Beginning to put on the blazer) But will it not serve to remind of glories past?

Faceless minions: (As one) No!

Rodney: (With blazer on) But will not the media see it as a quirky gesture worthy of fawning coverage?

Faceless minions: (As one) No!

Rodney: Surely the good people of Epsom will ...

Faceless minions: (As one) No!

Rodney: (Removing blazer) Oh, all right then. But what are we to do instead? Come on you lot - for what exactly do the taxpayers fund you through generous parliamentary subventions if not to help me survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?

Faceless minion: (Entering from stage right (of course)) My liege, the Keeper of the Sacred Flame, Sir Roger, is come with news!

Rodney: Oh God, it better not be yet another of his interminable releases. Better send him in.

Sir Roger: (Entering) 'Sup, Dawg?

Rodney: Yo, blood. Been keepin' it real?

Sir Roger: Fo' shizzle, my nizzle. So, to business. We'll never get over 5 percent like this. Now, I've been studying the polls, using my mind and my imagination. And I can see it all now. The problem we have is not our policies - obviously the people of New Zealand are deeply desirous of returning to the glorious past of 1992, when they never had had it so good. Rather, the media have become so fixated on trivial ephemera like identity stealing MPs, botched leadership challenges and the like that our brand has been badly tarnished.

Rodney: All very interesting and erudite, Sir Roger, but what wouldst thou have me do?

Sir Roger: Well, if the messenger has become the message, then perhaps it is time we find a new messenger.

Rodney: I don't understand.

Sir Roger: We need to change the packaging, so that the product appears fresh and new.

Rodney: I don't understand.

Sir Roger: (Rolling his eyes) We have to get someone different in to front the party.

Rodney: (Bristling) Look! I've already told you that uppity bitch Roy will never get to sit behind this desk ...

Sir Roger: No, no ... not Dame Heather, nor any other in our present ranks. I am thinking of a standard bearer from times past, a man who has fought the good fight and shown his commitment to our glorious cause - before being treacherously struck down and exiled by that smiling knave who today sits on the throne. None other than Don Don, the exiled prince of Torydom.

Rodney: (Whining sulkily) But he's not even a part of our gang. And if he comes in, then I won't be the boss any more. And I like being the boss.

Sir Roger: No, no ... Don Don would need give us no more than his face. He'd be like Colin Meads with that nice bank company thingy ... what's it, Provinces or something. The real power would still rest with you. After all, you're the Duke of Epsom, the seat from which all our hopes spring. Look, just have a sit down with Don Don and see what he thinks. What could possibly go wrong?

Rodney: But where can we meet that would be safe from the prying eyes of our enemies in the liberal media? If it were known I was speaking with Don Don, then the vicious rumours that follow might prove fatal to our weak'nd cause.

Sir Roger: Fear not, my liege. I have a safe place that no self-respecting middle class latte drinker will ever enter.


Act Two

(A table at a Burger King. Rodney, Duke of Epsom and Don Don, the exiled prince of Torydom, sit on opposite sides. A faceless minion hovers alongside.)

Rodney: So Don Don, thank you for meeting with me here, at this place, on this day.

Don: That's quite all right. Glad to do it. Perhaps before we talk, we could order something to eat? I am rather famished.

Rodney: Of course - my minion can fetch it for us. (To minion) I will have one of Burger King's excellent salads, as I am now a fit and healthy man in body and soul. And for you, Don Don?

Don: Normally, I would be content with some corned beef and peas, but I might take the opportunity to try one of these "Big Mac" burgers made of ham that the young people seem so taken with.

Faceless minion: But sir, they don't serve Big Mac's here - this is a ...

Don: Silence, cur! Must I teach you the fundamentals of the market? I am a consumer with wants, who is prepared for you to pay to service them. Thus, a supplier automatically will arise to service my wants at the appropriate price, which you shall pay to him. So go to the counter and announce what it is I want, and await the inevitable result! (Minion leaves) Honestly, I don't know what  is wrong with people today that they seem so determined to ignore the rationally obvious.

Rodney: It is hard finding good quality faceless minions these days - they all seem to have gone to Australia. Something about the wages or the climate over there, apparently. Don't really understand it, myself.

Don: Yes, well, there's really nothing anyone can do about that, is there. Now, perhaps we can get to business whilst we await our food?

Rodney: Indeed, Don Don. I have asked you here, to this place, on this day, to put a proposition before you. I and others believe that our cause could be well served if you were to leave the pruning of your kiwifruit and again raise aloft the banner of purity and freedom. We wish for you to rally with us, at my right hand, to help lead a horde of true believers into the corridors of power. With your joining me at the head of such an army, we can demand that King John the Necessary turn his back on those cowardly advisers who have cautioned him against our demands and instead grasp our policies to his bosom for the greater glory and increased prosperity of our entire nation!

Now, I am aware that you are advancing in age and so will not wish to worry yourself overly with the details of the campaign. I would, of course, relieve you of any such burden by continuing to run things in the party, leaving you free to concentrate on getting your photo taken and the like. I am, after all, the Duke of Epsom, the seat from which all our hopes arise. But what say you, Don Don? Will you serve the cause one last time?

Don: That's a very interesting proposition, Duke Rodney. But may I suggest a different path?

Rodney: But of course. What is it?

Don: Why don't you just give me your party, and then piss off like a good little boy?

Rodney: (In shock) What did you say, Don Don?

Don: I think you heard me. Here's what I see. Your coming to me shows me that you know you have no future past this year's end. And so you need me to give you a future. But what do I need you for? You have lost the love of the people of Epsom - they would rather anyone be their Duke than you. So if I am to lead the cause, why would I do so harnessed to a dead horse?

What is more, by meeting with me here, at this place, on this day, you announce your weakness to the whole world. Once I let it be known you came to me on bended knee begging me to save you, then all will know that it is I who hold the real power. So, Duke Rodney, I'm afraid your time is up - and your party is mine.

Rodney: (Gasping) But ... but ... Don Don! We have been friends and comrades in the struggle for years!

Don: Well, that's very nice, Duke Rodney. But friendship is of no matter when rational decisions need to be taken. And here the rational choice is obvious. So, I'm afraid you really will have to piss off now - I'll be taking over.

Rodney: (Drawing himself up with an effort) Not yet, Don Don. You forget I am yet the Duke of Epsom, and my comrades in arms owe their places to me. Their loyalty runs deep and true.

Don: (Laughing) Loyalty? Oh, Duke Rodney. Who was it drew you to this meeting with me? And you really think Dame Roy will take your side over me? So your fate lies in the hands of Baron Boscawen and Maid Hilary ... how faithful will they be when I dangle hope before their eyes? And hope I can give them - a gift you never can.

Rodney: (Blanching) You bastard, Don.

Don: Come now, Duke Rodney. No need for anger here. There's the players and the played ... all in the game, yo. All in the game.

(Rodney storms off from the table)

Don: Now, where is that Big Mac?


Act Three

(The apartment of Don Don. Don Don lounges upon a divan, dressed in a silken kimono and stroking a long-haired white cat. Sir Roger sits in a leather armchair, cradling a snifter of brandy. Maid Hillary perches nervously on the edge of a sofa, tugging her skirt below her knees.)

Don: Oh, Maid Hillary, I do wish you would relax. There really is no reason for you to worry, you know.

Maid Hillary: But it just feels so wrong to be here with you. Duke Rodney is 100% my Lord, you know - the man to whom I owe everything.

Don: (Laughing gently.) Oh, I know that, Maid Hillary. Your loyalty is very commendable. All Sir Roger and I want is a little chat with you.

Sir Roger: Just listen to the man, my child.

Don: What is it you really want, Maid Hillary? I mean, when you look inside yourself ... really look inside yourself ... what is it you want?

Maid Hillary: I want what is best for our cause, of course. And to be true to my Lord. And I  ... I want ... I want to be able to keep serving the people so as to help them.

Sir Roger: (Laughing cynically.) Oh, yes. We all want to be able to do that.

Don: But don't you see, Maid Hillary, that you simply can't have everything that you want? You know that with Duke Rodney at the healm of your forces, you cannot hope to last beyond year's end. So your loyalty to him means that you are hurting the cause you purport to love, and denying your desires to "serve".

Maid Hillary: But perhaps Duke Rodney can still win back the people of Epsom. And as years end approaches, the people will tire of King John's charms and look upon us with more favour ...

Sir Roger: (Laughing cynically.) Oh really, Maid Hillary. You are not such a babe-in-the-woods as to believe that, now, are you?

Don: (Arising from the divan and speaking in a harder tone.) Maid Hillary, let me spell things out for you so there can be no misunderstanding between us. Only I can save you from having to become an ordinary person once again. To do that, I need either your support or that of Baron Boscawen, it matters not which. Whomsoever gives me that support, I shall look upon kindly. But the person who seeks to thwart me, I shall turn my face from them and they shall know my wrath. So let me ask you once again ... look inside yourself and tell me what is it that you really want?

Maid Hillary: I want ... I want ... you.

Don: (Looking at Sir Roger and smiling.) Excellent.


Act Four

(Duke Rodney's office. Duke Rodney sits behind his desk, with his head in his hands. A lessened number of faceless minions sit before him.)

Faceless minion: (Entering stage right (of course).) My liege, Sir Roger, Dame Heather and Maid Hillary are come.

(Sir Roger, Dame Heather and Maid Hillary push past the minion before Duke Rodney can respond.)

Sir Roger: (Menacingly.) Leave us, minions.

(The faceless minions depart.)

Duke Rodney: (Bitterly.) Sir Roger and Dame Heather I expected. But et tu, Hillary?

(Sir Roger lays a revolver on the desk before Duke Rodney. He looks at it aghast.)

Duke Rodney: Do I really have to ...?

Sir Roger, Dame Heather and Maid Hillary: (Together.) Yes.

Duke Rodney: But couldn't I just ...?

Sir Roger, Dame Heather and Maid Hillary: (Together.) No.

Duke Rodney: What if I were to ...?

Sir Roger, Dame Heather and Maid Hillary: (Together.) No.

Maid Hillary: It is time.

(Fade to black. A single shot rings out.)