THUNDER ACROSS THE REEF

a play by

ALLEN LYNE

 

 

 

©  1988 ALLEN LYNE

8 REDGATE COURT

MOANA HEIGHTS

SOUTH AUSTRALIA   5169

PH.  8 327 4142

0407 605 710

 

 


Devised with the

community at Port

Willunga July-Oct.1988.

 

 

 

 

THE AUDIENCE ENTERS THROUGH THE GRAVEYARD.

THE SPACE IS SET UP IN TRAVERSE. AT ONE END IS

THE GRAVEYARD WITH ELEVEN COFFINS REPRESENTING

 THE ELEVEN MEN WHO WERE BURIED AT ALDINGA

CEMETERY. AT THE OTHER END SCRAMBLING NETS,

ROPE LADDERS AND ROPES FOR SAILORS TO SWING

ON HANG FROM THE CEILING. THIS IS THE ONLY SET

USED. THE COFFINS BECOME DESKS, CHAIRS, CHURCH

PEWS, ETC. AS REQUIRED.

WHEN THE AUDIENCE ENTERS A DISCO IS IN PROGRESS

AT THE PORT WILLUNGA HOTEL. DISCO LIGHTS FLASH

AND THE WHOLE CAST WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE

GHOST IS ONSTAGE. THE SONG ENDS.

D.J.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Star

Of Greece celebration.  We're here tonight to celebrate the

tragic loss of the Star Of Greece one hundred years ago

tomorrow.  Yep, folks,  a century ago the sailors got wrecked

on the beach down there and we're going to get wrecked here

tonightso grab your partners and here we go.

SONG:  I AM A NERVOUS WRECK

AS THE SONG ENDS BARBIE, WHO HAS BEEN SITTING

IN THE AUDIENCE, ENTERS.

BARBIE

Oh for Christ's sake!

TIM

Hey,  come on!

BARBIE

I'm sorry I ever agreed to come here in the first place.

INTERJECTIONS FROM OTHER PEOPLE. WHOOPEE ...

HERE SHE GOES AGAIN ... LAND RIGHTS FOR GAY

WHALES ...WHAT ABOUT THE MARINA BARBIE ... ETC.

BARBIE

You ask me to come out with you and all you do is talk

surfing with your mates.

TIM

I like surfing.

BARBIE

Tim,  there are more important things in this world.

INTERJECTIONS: COURSE THERE ARE ... YOU TELL

HIM BARBIE ... ETC. TIM WALKS UP TO BARBIE.

TIM

I'm sorry ...really.

BARBIE

Oh .... You're hopeless.

SONG: I AM A NERVOUS WRECK. TIM AND BARBIE

DANCE. THE CROWD FORMS AROUND THEM CLAPPING.

THEY DANCE TO THE FAR SIDE, KISS, TAKE EACH OTHER

BY THE HAND AND RUN FROM THE SPACE. THE CROWD

WHOOPS IN DELIGHT THEN CONTINUES DANCING. LIGHTS

SLOWLY FADE ON THE SCENE AS THE SONG COMES TO

ITS CONCLUSION.

SCENE 2

THE FIRST PART OF THE FOLLOWING SCENE TAKES

PLACE IN DARKNESS. VOICES ARE ON TAPE.

TIM

Ooooooooor!

BARBIE

Mmmmmmmmmm!

TIM

Aaaaaaaaah!

BARBIE GIGGLES.

BARBIE

Have you got ... ?

TIM

mmmmmmmmmm ...Could we .... ?

BARBIE

Mmmmmmmmmm ... Yes!

TIM

Why don't I ... ?

BARBIE

Oh .... Yes !!!

TIM

Let's ....

BARBIE

Uh huh.

TIM

I want ....

BARBIE

Me too ....

TIM

Let's ....

BARBIE

But not here ....

TIM

Oh ....

BARBIE

No!

TIM

Don't you want ....

BARBIE

Mmmmmmmmm.

TIM

Then why?

BARBIE

No!

TIM

Oh, but ....

BARBIE

Not here.

TIM

Why?

LIGHTS UP TO SHOW TIM AND BARBIE GROPING

IN GRAVEYARD.

TAPE ENDS.

TIM

Come on.  Why?

BARBIE

Sacrilege.

TIM

What?

BARBIE

Doing it on dead people.

TIM

They won't mind ... Come on?

BARBIE

No!  Tomorrow ... Okay?

TIM

Can't tomorrow.

BARBIE

Why?

TIM

Going to be a swell down at Middleton.

BARBIE

Tim!  (she moves away)   Bloody surfing!!!

TIM

Come if you want to.

BARBIE

It's all you ever think about.

TIM

No it's not.

BARBIE

Surfies!  Park your brains with your surf boards.

TIM MOVES BEHIND HER AND PUTS HIS ARMS AROUND HER.

TIM

Now come on.  Don't start.  Let's ...

A SOFT HUM IS HEARD.

BARBIE

What's that.

TIM

What?

BARBIE

That noise?

TIM

Electricity.

BARBIE

Nah.

TIM

Probably me.

BARBIE

Sssssssh!

TIM

About to explode.

BARBIE

Sssssssssh!!

THE HUM INCREASES IN VOLUME.

TIM

Hey!

BARBIE

Hear that?

TIM

Sheeeeeet!

THE HUM GROWS LOUDER.

BARBIE

What is that?

TIM

I dunno.

THE HUM CLIMAXES. THE GHOST APPEARS.

GHOST

Ooooo arrgor blimey .... Why don't you two just get

it off together and stop making so much bloody noise?

TIM

Sorry?

GHOST

In my day if we were going to do it we just went ahead and did it.

BARBIE

Who are you?

TIM

An old drunk.

GHOST

Aye ... We didn't go on with all that cackle you've been

going on with  (mimics them)   Let's ... Ooooooooh no ...

Oh but I want to ...No. ... Why don't I ... You've got .....

BARBIE

Piss off!

GHOST

No!  In my day we just went ahead and did it.

TIM

Yeah?  Well that was your day.  This is now.  So piss off.

GHOST

No way to speak to your elders.  In my day ....

TIM

Look .... Piss off!!!

BARBIE

Your day?  When was that .... Exactly?

GHOST

Oh,  arr,  that's be ... err .... that'd be a long long time ago.

Let me see.  What's the time?

TIM

Three o'clock in the morning.

GHOST

No,  I mean the date?  The year?

BARBIE

Nineteen eighty eight.

GHOST

And the date?

BARBIE

Thirteenth of July.

GHOST

Well shiver me timbers that's .... Three a.m.  A century to

the day.  Well I'll be damned.  No I won't!

SEVENTEEN ROCKETS EXPLODE IN THE AIR.

TIM

What's that?  Fireworks?

GHOST

No, they be .... SHIP ASHORE.  HELP.  SHIP ASHORE!!

BARBIE

What are you doing?

TIM

What are you yelling about?  It's just fireworks.

GHOST

No no no.  You see, they be distress rockets.  Some poor

sailors be wrecked down there at Port Willunga.

BARBIE

No they're not.

GHOST

SHIP ASHORE, SHIP ASHORE ....They be wrecked

I tell you.  SHIP ASHORE SHIP ASHORE!!!

BARBIE

Shut up!  You'll bring the coppers.  Let me explain,

 I read about it in the Southern Times.  It's a commemoration.

TIM

A what?

BARBIE

A hundred years ago a ship ran aground down there.

GHOST

Star of Greece.

TIM

Oh,  the wreck.

BARBIE

Seventeen men were drowned,  so they fired seventeen

rockets over the wreck at three a.m.  One for each person

lost.  Bit romantic for me.

TIM

Oh,  I don't know.

BARBIE

Not romantic in that way,  stupid.

GHOST

Should have been eighteen rockets.

BARBIE

But only seventeen were lost.

GHOST

No!  Eighteen.  One were a stowaway and his body

never accounted for.

BARBIE

Who are you?

GHOST

Eighteen lost.  A hundred years ago.  Seems like yesterday.

BARBIE

Tim!

TIM

Look,  who are you?

GHOST

A hundred years ago today.  I were in the Star of Greece.

The twenty ninth man onboard and not accounted for in

no record books.

BARBIE

A hundred years?

TIM

You must be very old!

GHOST

A hundred .... Har har har .... No!  I never got no

older than forty nine.

THEME MUSIC HAS BEGUN UNDER THE LAST

PART OF THE GHOST'S PREVIOUS SPEECH.

LIGHTS FADE ON TIM AND BARBIE LEAVING

GHOST IN SPOTLIGHT

GHOST

The Star Of Greece.  Oh yes!  What a lovely ship

she was and how much pride we had in her. Built in

Belfast in eighteen sixty eight for the Corry Star

Clipper Line.  Held the Liverpool to Calcutta record

 along with the Cutty Sark.  Seventy seven days ....

A beautiful ship ...Aye beautiful.  Oh I were a sailor

alright and I shipped under Captain Legg in eighteen

eighty on her first trip to Adelaide. Jumped ship here

I did in eighteen eighty one and never planned to go

back to sea no more.  But I got into trouble see? 

Booze were always my problem and women. 

Ooooooooh, women!  Well I got into trouble and I was

in and out of clink and in eighteen eighty eight I was one

jump ahead of the law and this time I would have gone

down for a long, long spell.  Little matter of .... But never

mind.  That's all so long ago.  So I spies me old ship in

harbour and what with her making straight back to dear

old England,  I reckoned it were time to be getting back to

sea.  So I stowed away.  I figured that once out to sea

there was precious little Captain Harrower could do. 

Besides, he'd be getting an extra hand for no more than

the price of me grub.  So I took me chances.  Could've

 picked a better ship though.  Don't you reckon now?

LIGHTS UP TO SHOW BARBIE AND TIM SITTING

EITHER SIDE OF THE SPACE LISTENING. THEY STAND.

BARBIE

You were on the Star of Greece?

GHOST

In missy,  in.  We sailors be in a ship,  not on her.

TIM

You were on ... in this ship a hundred years ago?

GHOST

Aye ... The stowaway.  And nobody knew I drowned

...Don't take fright now.  I mean yous no harm. 

Never hurt no - one in me life.  Why should I start in me death?

TIM

Told you we shouldn't have come here.

BARBIE

Practically dragged me.

GHOST

Now,  no arguments.  Tonight of all nights there should

be no violence.

BARBIE

How did you ...?

GHOST

Die?  I jumped overboard in the early morning while it

were still dark.  Wanted to make shore and get clean

away.  No - one saw me go. ... Do you know the story

of the Star of Greece?

TIM

No.  Not really.

BARBIE

She ran aground in a wild storm and some of her crew drowned.

GHOST

Oh there were more to it than that.  Far more.  We put to sea

about six p.m. and passed the Semaphore about seven.  We

set sail and ran down the coast hoping to be passing through

Backstairs Passage at daybreak.  Around nine a really dirty

storm hit and the captain hove to,  put the main topsail aback

and put her head into the wind.  I could hear Captain Harrower

giving his orders to the First Mate and I remember thinking: "No,

no.  Put her on the other tack.  Stand out to sea and fetch up in

the lee of Kangaroo Island for shelter".  In the event I were right.

Fat lot of good it did me.  Harrower were in command,  not me.

THROUGH THE LAST SPEECH THE LIGHTS FADE TO ONCE

AGAIN LEAVE THE GHOST IN HIS SPOTLIGHT. DURING THE

LAST PART OF THE SPEECH THE STORM BEGINS SOFTLY

AND WE HEAR FAINT CRIES OF "ALL HANDS ON DECK."

"FURL SAIL. FURL SAIL. THE SPOTLIGHT FADES ON THE

GHOST AND THE STORM BUILDS IN THE DARKNESS.

SCENE 3

THE STORM BUILDS IN THE BLACKOUT. SMOKE AND DRY

ICE MACHINES COMMENCE. LIGHTS UP TO REVEAL

SAILORS IN THE RIGGING. THEY ARE STILL. DIALOGUE

FOR THIS SCENE IS ON TAPE.

CLAESSON

My God .... BREAKERS OFF THE PORT BOW.

WAUGH

What?

CLAESSON

Breakers, sir.  I hear breakers.

BELL SOUNDS.

WAUGH

All hands on deck.  All hands on deck.

HARROWER

What is it Mister Waugh?

WAUGH

Breakers off the port bow captain Harrower.

CLAESSON

Breakers getting louder.  Get some sail on.

HARROWER

Let go port anchor.

WAUGH

Let go port anchor.

SPLASH.

HARROWER

We should be twenty six miles off the coast ...

If the anchor doesn't hold ....

CLAESSON

White water ahead.  I see breakers.

HARROWER

Hard a'starboard.

THERE IS A GREAT CRASH AS THE SHIP GOES

AGROUND. THE MIST RISES. THE SAILORS BEGIN

TO SWING IN THE RIGGING. HOLD FOR FIFTEEN

SECONDS AND LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT.

SCENE 4

SPOTLIGHT HITS FANNY HOW STANDING ON TOP

OF COFFIN. SHE REGISTERS SHOCK AT SEEING

THE SHIP.

FANNY

Oh ... Oh .... Oh .... Thomas!

FANNY RUNS OFF RIGHT. KILL SPOTLIGHT.

LIGHTS UP ON SHORE. THOMAS MARTIN

RUNS IN FROM LEFT. HE LOOKS THROUGH

HIS TELESCOPE.

THOMAS

My .... God!

FANNY RUNS IN FROM LEFT. SHE IS OUT OF BREATH.

THOMAS

And I thought you were joking.

FANNY

Do you see anyone Thomas .... Do you?

THOMAS

Patience.

FANNY

Thomas.  Oh, Thomas.

THOMAS

There are four in the mizzen rigging and I see one

up near the bows.

FANNY

So close.

THOMAS

So rough

FANNY

Poor souls.

THOMAS

I'll ride to the telegraph office.

FANNY

SHIP ASHORE!  SHIP ASHORE!!.

THEY RUN OFF LEFT AND RIGHT YELLING "SHIP

ASHORE". STORM BUILDS UP AGAIN. MORSE

CODE IS HEARD. LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT.

SCENE 5

LIGHTS UP ON TELEGRAPH OFFICE. JANE MACHELL

IS HUNCHED OVER A MORSE KEY. THOMAS MARTIN

IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTER (coffin)

THOMAS

For God's sake, Jane ...

JANE

No use, Thomas.  The line doesn't open until nine.

SCENE 5A

LIGHTS FADE ON TELEGRAPH OFFICE. MORSE

CODE FADES. STORM CONTINUES BUT GRADUALLY

DECREASES IN VOLUME AS LIGHTS COME UP ON THE SHIP.

HARROWER

We must hold on lads.  Hold on.  Help will be at hand at daybreak.

REVELL

Do as you please captain.  I'm going while there's still strength in

my body.

SCENE 5B

LIGHTS UP ON SHORE WHERE WE DISCOVER FANNY HOW,

THOMAS MARTIN AND THOMAS LOVELOCK. REVELL DIVES IN.

STROBE AND DRY ICE MACHINES BEGIN. THOMAS LOVELOCK

DIVES IN. MOVEMENT SEQUENCE AS LOVELOCK SAVES REVELL.

LIGHTS DOWN ON SHIP AND SHORE. UP ON GRAVEYARD.

SCENE 5C

BARBIE

You beautie.

TIM

One saved twenty eight to go.

GHOST

(laughs)   No.  That was James T. Revell, Able Seaman,

forty years old and first man saved,  but some of us weren't

so lucky.

LIGHTS DOWN ON GRAVEYARD. UP ON SHIP.

SCENE 6

WAUGH

Revell made shore captain.  Should we go too?

CARDER

What should we do Captain Harrower?  What should we do?

MCBARNETT

What should we do Mister Hazeland?

HAZELAND

Hold on for now lads.  Help must come soon.

KEARNEY

We can't hold on much longer.  She'll break up.

HAZELAND

Hold on I say lads.

HARROWER

I'll try for shore.  Who is with me?

WAUGH

With you captain.

HARROWER

Well done Mister Waugh.

LIGHTS UP ON THE SHORE WHERE WE DISCOVER

ALL THE TOWNSPEOPLE. CONSTABLE TUOUHY

IS IN THE CENTRE. HARROWER AND WAUGH DIVE

IN FROM THE RIGGING. STROBE AND DRY ICE IN.

TUOHY DIVES IN. MOVEMENT SEQUENCE IN THE

MIST AND FLICKERING LIGHT OF THE STROBE.

TUOHY REACHES THEM AND ATTEMPTS TO RESCUE

THEM. HE FAILS. THEY DISAPPEAR INTO THE MIST

AND TUOHY, AFTER A STRUGGLE, REGAINS THE

SHORE. LIGHTS DOWN ON SHIP AND SHORE. A

SPOTLIGHT HITS REVELL ON THE CLIFF (coffin).

REVELL

... and what's more captain Harrower was drunk when

he came on deck during the middle watch

HAZELAND

(in spotlight on rope ladder)   How would you know? 

You weren't on deck during the middle watch.

REVELL

If Harrower had been sober the ship wouldn't have

gone aground in the first place.

HAZELAND

Rubbish!  Captain Harrower ran a teetotal ship.

REVELL

Harrower was a drunkard.  A drunkard.

HAZELAND

Lies.  Foul lies.

REVELL

Just after she foundered I came aft from the forecastle

and found Captain Harrower drinking repeatedly from a

bottle of brandy.  He was drunk before the ship ran

aground and he got drunker afterwards.

HAZELAND

Nonsense!  Captain Harrower ran a dry ship.  There was

 no grog aboard.

REVELL

Harrower was drunk!

HAZELAND

Harrower was sober!

SPOTLIGHTS SNAP OUT ON HAZELAND AND REVELL.

SPOTLIGHT UP ON FORMBY.

FORMBY

There is never a ship founders in South Australian waters

but someone says the captain was intoxicated.

SPOTLIGHT SNAPS OUT ON FORMBY.

SPOTLIGHT UP ON MRS. HARROWER.

MRS HARROWER

My son,  Henry Harrower,  he was captain of the

STAR OF GREECE and a good and dutiful son he

 was.  Henry got a lot of the blame for the loss of his

 ship and I suppose whatever happens that is the

captain's lot. He is in command and must take the

blame if things go wrong.  But Henry was a good man.

His name was blackened by that able seaman at the

enquiry.  Henry told me often that he didn't drink at sea

and insisted his men didn't either.  It is easy to vilify a

man after he is dead.  That is the coward's way.  I know

in my heart that Henry did his best on that terrible night.

There were other experienced seamen onboard who

would have said something if they thought Henry was

doing the wrong thing.  He wasn't a martinet or a

monster or anything like that.  The mates could have

told him if they thought he was wrong. I owe a debt I can

never repay to Mounted Constable Tuouhy.  He found my

son's body and risked his own dear life to retrieve it and

carry it up the cliffs.  I feel some comfort knowing that

Henry's body lies in a churchyard even if he is so far,

far away. I miss him.  Oh,  how I miss him

SPOTLIGHT SNAPS OUT ON MRS. HARROWER.

The rest of the script is available to read.

contact me and I'll send you a copy.

This play affected me like no other that

I have written.  I am a man of the sea and

the rhythms of the sea run deep in my

blood.  I could feel the agony of these

poor sailors trapped in their grounded

ship close to shore, yet unable to

confidently abandon her in the wild storm

and mountainous waves they faced.

The water was full of barrels, spars and

other flotsam, and to enter the water

from the ship or the shore was a lottery

with death.  It is a story of great heroism

on the part of some, and terrible incompetence

on the part of others.  The political

dimensions of the tragedy are covered in

later scenes.

Much of what is written in this play is what

happened according to the written and oral

research.  Some is my own invention or my

projection of what might have happened.

Whatever the construction, and granted that

there is some degree of 'gallows humour' in

the script, I have tried to be true to the memory

of the people and events that occurred.

The names used are the real names of the crew

And of the people ashore.

One final note... The ghost who was the 18th

man to die in the play is possibly real. The props

man at the Theatre Royal in Adelaide disappeared

the day The Star of Greece left Port Adelaide on

her doomed voyage. He was in debt and a bit of strife

with the law. he was also a former seaman. It is within

the bounds of possibility that he bribed Captain

Harrower to carry him without detailing his

presence on the crew list. This was a common

practice at the time. I like the connection made

between the theatre and the sea.