First published back in December of 1995, Clive Barker’s ‘Incarnations’ contained three of the author’s scripts from his early days writing and directing within the theatrical group – The Dog Company.  Since the publication of ‘Incarnations’ a second volume containing a further three scripts has been published entitled ‘Forms Of Heaven’ (1996).

The Painter, The Creature And The Father Of Lies: An Introduction – 8 pages
Barker begins the collection with this reasonably short introduction which places the particular time of writing the plays in Barker’s career as well as the concept behind the plays and their inspiration.  However, the introduction’s main goal is to set the scene, to whet the appetite for the stories to come, and to hopefully inspire the reader to get involved and once again bring to life the fantastical stories within.

Colossus - 148 pages
During the Peninsular War, in the countryside a few miles outside of Madrid in June of 1811, the stately home of Duke Damaso is hit by an artillery shell, reducing much of the building to nothing more than rubble.  Buried amongst the piles of stone are a number of dead and dying, as well as a small number of trapped survivors.  One such survivor who emerges from the rubble is the deaf artist Goya who was at the mansion at the time of the explosion painting a portrait of the Duke’s young wife, Duchess Sofia.

Whilst the Duke’s major-domo, Santiago, searches through the dusty rubble of the destroyed building, talk begins to commence as to the Duchess’ involvement with a thief just prior to the destruction.  Soon enough a second thief is uncovered from the rubble, with blood stained silverware hidden underneath his shirt. Meanwhile, in order to keep his true identity hidden, the actor and thief, Castropol, enters the remains of the building under the pretence of being a doctor and duly ensures the wounded thief’s swift demise.

And then, from underneath more collapsed masonry, a horrifically crushed body is uncovered.  An unrecognisable mound of blooded flesh and broken bone that is dragged up from the building’s debris along with the artist Goya’s glasses, palette, sketchbook and coat.  They instantly believe the great artist is dead.  However this is not the case, and when he is brought back to the Duke’s mansion by a group of worried nuns, the artist finds that he is met with the opportunity for anonymity, if just for a short time.  A case of mistaken identity that allows the artist to play out a different life for a short while; watching, observing and bearing witness to a multitude of bloody events…

Written in 1984, ‘Colossus’ was the third and final play that Barker wrote for the Cockpit Youth Theatre.  And it’s certainly a complex and intriguing mishmash of eccentric characters and often quite perplexing events.  The sheer volume of characters that come and go; arguing across themselves and jumping from one point of drama to the next, keeps the entire play in a dizzying maelstrom of absolute chaos.

Comical in an outrageously farcical way, the play’s manic tendencies and wacky characters make Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch-22’ (1961) seem like a straight-laced no-nonsense study on WWII.  However it’s a comedy that is incredibly difficult to feel a part of, with its slightly unnerving oddness making the whole weirdly-classical play feel like a destructive bombardment on the senses rather than a story that leads the audience from A to B.

Most interestingly of all is how the play’s story had been inspired and formed from the latter artwork of the Spanish painter Goya.  Indeed, the story itself attempts to document (fictionally of course) the troubling subject matter for the artist’s ‘The Disasters Of War’ and ‘Black Paintings’ which upon viewing alongside the play, provoke stark and disturbing images of the cruelty nestled behind purposefully out-of-place comedy.

However complex and imaginatively outlandish this character-rich play is, it does suffer immensely from the utterly maniacal state of the chaos.  It’s nigh-on impossible to follow the entire series of mayhem when merely sitting down and reading the script.  It’s a story that needs to be told by people, through acting, speech and dramatic costumes.  It needs to be brought to life by the theatrics in order to properly reflect the exciting lifeblood within it.  And as such the script by itself feels just too impersonal and dry.

The play also includes 2 pages of Production Notes which forms a further introduction to the play as well as 2 pages listing the various cast members.

Frankenstein In Love, or The Life of Death – 94 pages
In the vault beneath the palace of President Garcia Heliodoro Perez lies the operating room of Dr Joseph Frankenstein.  Here, amongst the human grime of countless atrocities, each one performed in the name of science, the cruel dictator Perez seeks refuge whilst the city above is in the final throes of death as it is overthrown by Cesar Guerrero’s revolutionaries.  When the rebel leader, popularly referred to as El Coco, arrives in the operating room along with the rebel, Juan Thomas Navarro (aka Cockatoo) of the People’s Revolutionary Militia, the extent of the horror that was performed in the vault is brought into question.  Perez is duly accused of allowing such crimes to take place, with the prisoner Veronique Flecker (who has been a prisoner in the vault for a year; subjected to rapes and experiments) adding further fuel to the president’s guilt.  And so Flecker is handed a knife and allowed to wreak her own bloody justice upon the president – killing Perez with a brutally slow stab with the knife.

However, the new inheritor of the city is not wholly human; more a stitching together of flesh and bone at the hands of Frankenstein.  An atrocious creation with cannibalistic tendencies and a remarkable affinity with fire.  Whilst half the city lays dead and the other half is in mourning, the city’s new successor, El Coco, begins to set down the manifesto of his new reign.  But love is in the thick stench of the air.  The palm-reader and fan-dancer, Maria Reina Duran has met with Cockatoo and their passion is awakening.  But it is not between these two that the last marriage on this dying world will be performed in all its gruesome glory.  Even the most despicable of creatures has a heart and a need.  As does the creator of such nightmares.  It’s a marriage made in the stink of hell…

Written in 1981whilst The Dog Company were performing their play ‘Paradise Street’, ‘Frankenstein In Love’ was the company’s first play to be written by Barker which was not also directed by him – instead it was directed by Malcolm Edwards.  The play itself is a horrific story of horror and love with a decidedly comical air to its delivery.  The audience (or reader in the case of the script) is purposefully meant to feel at odds with knowing whether to laugh or grimace at what is taking place.  Indeed, the play is certainly drenched from head to toe in a wealth of gore and grime – striking at the nerves with taboos that slip into the strange maelstrom of a perplexing love story.  And it’s all so incredibly compelling to follow.  There’s a ripped-raw humanity exposed to the very bloodied bones, along with an inevitable bleakness to the apocalyptic backdrop of the piece.  And it’s all encased within the loosely fitting patchwork-skin of Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ (1818); disturbing and blossoming out from the still-pumping heart of the story.

Okay, so again merely reading through the script doesn’t truly paint the active and energetic picture of what was originally envisioned for ‘Frankenstein In Love’.  But it still tells the story; igniting the reader’s imagination with the horrific wonders of Barker’s nightmarish theatrical B-movie story.  And within, the reader is given glimpses of what would later develop into aspects from the likes of ‘The Books Of Blood’ (1984-85) as well as ‘The Hellbound Heart’ (1986).  And with its unrelenting energy and darkly-ambient atmosphere, the play offers its audience one hell of an entertaining story.

Also included are 2 pages of Production Notes which briefly sets the mood and prepares the reader for the visceral feast of the play, as well as a further page listing the various cast members.

The History Of The Devil, or Scenes From A Pretended Life – 123 pages
On a morning like any other, the lawyer Samuel Kyle is greeted at his London home by the Demon Verrier who has come to take him off to Africa to act as the Devil’s advocate.  Having no real choice about the matter, Kyle is whisked away by the demon, arriving in the sweltering heat of Kenya mere seconds later.  And it is here, in the dusty grime of this godforsaken land, beside the crocodile infested Lake Turkana, that Satan himself will stand trial in front of a pure and invisible jury.  For the Devil is now up for parole, and by the terms of his exile, his appeal for a return to the City of God is to be judged by humankind.  If it’s found that his ministry tended more to evil than good, he’ll be condemned to earth indefinitely.  If, however, his advocate can prove his time on earth hasn’t adversely affected mankind, he will be judged innocent and returned to Heaven.

And so, under the blazing heat of the unrelenting African sun, Judge Felix Popper presides over the court proceedings, assisted by his clerk of court Milo Milo.  Acting as lawyers for the prosecution are the barristers Catharine Lamb and Jane Beck.  And here, with the tired and wearisome Devil eager to have the trial over, the court will look back at key events from the past in which Lucifer had played a part in the course of history.  And in the end, he will ultimately be judged for his actions and his eternal fate decided…

“History always begins with a cry”.  It’s one hell of an opening line.  So perfectly Barker that you know you’re in for a highly entertaining romp of a story.  And ‘The History Of The Devil’ certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Written back in 1980, with the script first published in the book ‘Pandemonium’ (1991), Barker’s deeply ambitious idea for a dramatic play, where the devil himself is put on trial, was nevertheless written with the Dog Company’s financial limitations in mind.  That said, when reading the script, Barker doesn’t hold back in thrusting his audience through a massive timeline in order to paint a picture of the Devil’s supposed involvement with humanity over a period of some thirty centuries.  And indeed, after having arrived in Africa, with the scene properly set and the court case having duly commenced, this is very much the course of the entire play.  Interspersed with comments and responses from the handful of participants in the open-air courtroom, we are taken through scene after scene from the past which end up painting a somewhat tragic picture of Satan.

Barker mixes in a thick helping of dry wit with elements of tragedy, horror and the downright perverse.  Much of the historical stories that are incorporated are warped and redefined to provide the story with a comically human touch, which embraces history (or a preferred history) and dreams up how the devil had a hand is so many of these events.

Barker’s humanising of Lucifer is an absolute key element to the entire play.  In doing this, and doing it so very successfully, Barker has produced a magnificently engaging and humorous parody on the Christian stories – taking much enjoyment from the light-touch of a charmingly charismatic antagonist who is shown as nowhere near the exaggerated beast we have been led to believe he is.

To say that this is an entertaining read is one heck of an understatement.  It’s as amusing as it is imaginative.  As a play generally defines, the story is almost entirely character and dialogue driven, with a great amount of attention put into defining these characters to bring out their individual charm.  And in the course of just one relatively quick and eventful act, Barker achieves this perfectly.  And from here on in it’s just an amusing romp through a history of tragedy and wrongdoing.  And it’s one hell of a tour.

Also included are 3 pages of Production Notes which forms a further introduction to the play as well as 2 pages listing the various cast members.

The book runs for a total of 376 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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