Woman under a Train

Gultakin Sarabskaya, an actress, in her 70s

Khasay Muradov, a writer, in his 70s

Station Manager, a former member of the national security service, in his 40s

Sunflower Seeds Seller, a villager, in her 50s

Newsvendor, in his 30s

Beggar, an old man

Station Announcer, female, on station speakers Station Announcer, male, on station speakers Director

 

Young Actress

 

Also: Director's Assistant, Stage Crew, Passengers, Porters, Audience, Hawkers, etc.


A railway station concourse, dimly lit.

Stage left is a train timetable display. Stage right is a platform and rails with signal lights at one end.

Centrestage stands a pole topped with a round station clock. Around the clock pole are benches and concourse lamp-posts.

A gauze drape divides off the backstage area, through which can be seen the figures of passengers and porters walking to and fro with their baggage.

The silence is shattered by the sound of a train arriving, accompanied by the sudden hubbub of the passengers' activity along with the porters' trolleys and calls of “make way, make way!" through the crowd, all creating the familiar atmosphere of a bustling railway station.

Station Announcer (female): Passengers boarding trains at platforms three, four and six are asked to go through barrier B. Passengers are asked to go through barrier B. Passengers boarding trains at platforms three, four and six are asked to go from barrier B.

As the lights come up slowly, the noise of the crowd subsides until silence falls again across the station.

As music from Grieg's 'Peer Gynt' starts up, Gultakin


Sarabskaya enters. She wears a long dark dress and coat and has the evident bearing of an accomplished star of the stage. She has with her a large handbag and two bulky suitcases.

Struggling to carry the suitcases to the benches, she looks for a place to sit in the concourse. She sets the suitcases down by one of the benches and walks to the platform. Crossing the barrier she steps down from the edge of the platform, stands in the middle of the rails and gazes into the distance.

Gultakin: (shivering) God, it's cold... (looks around) Where am I exactly?

As she turns back to the platform, she slips on something under her feet. She bends down to pick up a colourful flier lying on the ground.

And what's this? (reads from the flier) ‘Woman under a train'... ha, what a title. (sarcastically) ‘Woman under a train'? (makes a face towards the audience) Basic plot, pathetic ending.

She crumples the flier up in her hands and throws it away. She calls out to a porter trundling past with a trolley.

Excuse me, dear, would you be awfully kind and offer me a hand to get back up. I appear to be rather stuck down here as you see.

With the porter's help she steps back on the platform and stands there smoothing down her clothing.

The porter exits.

Gultakin walks over to the timetable display. She opens her handbag and takes out a ticket. She compares the details on it with what is given on the display. She puts the ticket back in her handbag and walks over to her suitcases. There she sits on the bench and takes out a vintage compact to arrange her hair and makeup.

Khasay Muradov enters from the other end of the concourse. His clothing is ragged and dirty, his face lost in an unkempt beard. He looks like an alcoholic down- and-out. He does not notice Gultakin as he makes his way haltingly to the middle of the station and stands below the station clock. He rolls up a sleeve to look at a battered wristwatch, which he tries to set to the station time. But, because of weakness or perhaps drink, he is unable to stand in one place for long and he finds himself staggering away.

From a nearby platform comes the sound of a platform whistle. Khasay jumps at the sound. As a train is heard lurching out of the station, he watches it disappear.

He then wipes his eyes and blows his nose with a crumpled handkerchief. Done, he looks around for a spot to sit and notices Gultakin sitting at the opposite end of the concourse. He freezes for a moment but recovers himself and walks carefully to one side where he finds a station lamp-post to hide himself behind.

Gultakin does not see this.

Gultakin: (putting the compact back into her handbag, looks around sadly) So here we are. The station. A dreary place, reeking of separation and heartbreak. (suddenly changes, a forced smile over her face) Why so dreary? It so could just as easily be the opposite. The way of liberation ends all endless difficulties, doesn't it? (quietly, to herself) No, but it wasn't like that, was it?

A long pause as she tries to remember.

Khasay has been quietly listening, and watches her intently. The sound of another train moving comes from one of the platforms.

Gultakin sighs deeply and sadly.

(changing character) So here we are. The railway station. A dreary place of separation, reminding one of the tragic ending of a play. (quietly, a forced smile on her face) And why so dreary? Could it be that this place, which connects people with new loves, new liberties, has the reek of sadness? (she rises, a triumphant look on her face) Never! (sits down again) Sadness was in them... all that happened. (in a low voice) What happened... and in the past. (louder, to the audience) Those who don't keep anything in their mind apart from bitter sadness and difficulties, (grief-stricken) Those who didn't pass... those who continue to live with you, trapped within your souls and minds. (with a mad smile) Was it the end of all those sweet dreams, all those sweet hopes? (the mad smile stays on her face in cold silence)

The calls of young hawkers can be heard nearby.

Hawkers: (off) Sunflower seeds! Sunflower seeds! Tasty sunflower seeds! Try some, sir!

The music stops.

Khasay steels himself and moves from the cover of the lamp-post. He takes couple of hesitant steps towards Gultakin, stops, glances around and moves behind another lamp-post.

Gultakin still does not see Khasay.

Gultakin: (leans back and sighs deeply, sincerely) What was all that about? (gazes into the distance) A beam from a spotlight blinding you. (suddenly enchanted) There, before a dimmed auditorium, as silent as night, as deep as a bottomless gulf. (softly, pleased) And then a stream of love and reverence flows towards you through a vortex of soft air, flowing and embracing your legs, your arms, (closes her eyes) Then silence. Silence and darkness. (gazes upwards) Then the rustling of curtains that descend towards you slowly, like the executioner's axe. (suddenly acute) A tragic ending that smells of death, like someone's funeral...

She looks down and falls silent. Somewhere far off a long train whistle is heard.

And now all you need to do is to rush to the dressing-room. To take off... (angrily pulls at her coat) to take off what you have on you, as if you're peeling off your skin. To cast yourself off, to escape from that devil's nest... (pause, pitifully) Although you know that tomorrow you'll be back up there once more. And not just because you don't have anywhere else to go, but because... (falls silent, feeling the pain, then suddenly loudly to the heavens) because you don't want to be a truth-sayer any more!

An audience suddenly applauds off.

Audience: (off) Bravo! Bravo!

Music plays.

Gultakin stands, her hands covering her face. After a moment she starts to sway slowly, dancing, to the music, her hands still over her face. She moves towards the lamp-post where Khasay has hidden himself. He tries to avoid Gultakin but fails to move away in time. They bump into each other.

The music stops.

Gultakin, embarrassed, hurries back to her bench where she sits, surreptitiously watching Khasay.

Station Announcer (female): The 19:30 Baku to Tbilisi train on platform four is now boarding. The 19:30 Baku to Tbilisi train on platform four is now boarding.

Gultakin and Khasay attentively listen to the announcement and check their watches. Both fidget as silence once more falls on the concourse.

Khasay again decides to walk up to Gultakin. After a couple of steps he stops.


Gultakin takes out her compact again, as if nothing has happened. Humming and watching Khasay out of the corner of her eye, she checks her makeup.

This time, Khasay steels himself and moves from the cover of the lamp-post. After taking a couple of steps in Gultakin's direction, he stops.

Khasay: (nervously) I've, erm... been watching you for a while. I was saying... (quietly, smiles, looking down shyly) You do understand what I mean, of course?

Gultakin: (suspicious and suddenly bossy) Is it money that you want?

Not waiting for an answer, she opens her handbag and waves a large bill at Khasay.

Here.

Khasay: (shocked) Oh good lord, no. Please. What are you doing that for?

Gultakin: Take it. Go on, take it. No need to be shy, (sadly, to the audience) I know this filthy 'need' all too well.

Khasay: (embarrassed) No, you misunderstand me, madam. I'm not a beggar, (visibly upset) I don't want anything from you. I mean, this isn't my kind of thing at all. I just wanted to say that... all I wanted to say was... (stares at the ground searching for words, then looks up and exclaims to the audience) Now what was it I wanted to say?

Gultakin: (tired, shifting her suitcases around) What do you want to say? I can see it perfectly well without you having to say anything.

Khasay: (surprised) You can see what? What?

Gultakin: (examines him) Those black rings under your eyes. (kindly) You can't have eaten for days, you poor man.

Khasay: (touching his face) You, you... you mean... That's not black rings under my eyes.

Gultakin: No? What's the matter with you then?

Khasay: It's... look, it's just the way my face is. Always been like that ever since I was little.

Gultakin: (crossing her arms firmly, looking him over from top to bottom) You quite fancy yourself, don't you?

Khasay: Oh come on, madam, please don't insult me. I am an honourable man.

He suddenly looks as if he has been taken ill, and clutches his hands to his chest.

Gultakin: (to the audience) Dear me, when did giving away money become so insulting? (to Khasay) I pity you, and that's why I'm giving you some money. Of course, if you feel you don't need it, then by all means don't need it. Am I making myself clear?

She replaces the money in her handbag.

Suddenly realising that Khasay is in bad shape, she jumps up and leads him to the bench.

Oh dear, what's the matter? Are you okay?

Khasay: (raving) They all thought that as well. And now you're here thinking the same. But you're all mistaken. (pushes himself away from Gultakin, shouting angrily) Oh yes, mistaken! It was never that way. I was always loyal to my ideals. Now as well as then. Yes, even today!

Gultakin: (trying to keep him upright, quietly but sarcastically in his ear) I don't suppose you've had any problems headwise since you were a child?

Khasay: (struggling to get away from her) I didn't sell my soul either to anything or anyone... because... because I've always believed with faith in my heart... To the very end. Right up to the last day.

Gultakin: (supports and guides Khasay to the bench, quietly) Jaundice perhaps?

Khasay: (now alert, sitting straight properly, pitifully) I don't remember that exactly. But, hang on a moment... I do remember, once, yes, when I was a child... My head was completely bound up. Even my mother... yes... (enchanted) my mother somewhere up there was looking at me and crying.

Gultakin: (muttering to herself) Looking at you makes me want to cry I can say, let alone your mother, (waves at him with her hand, to the audience, pleased) This is the innate talent, I have. The instant I look at someone, I can see right inside them.

Khasay: (calms down, looking around frightened) Where am I? (checks his body, arms and legs, confused, to himself) What happened to me, eh?

Gultakin: (ignoring him, to the audience) Oh once, while waiting at a bus stop, I saw—

Khasay: (as if seeing Gultakin for the first time) Do accept my apologies, madam. And who... erm, exactly are you?

Gultakin: (stops and stares at Khasay indignantly) Who am I? (to the audience, with an angry smile) A mere traveller, a passer-by.

Khasay: (horrified) Traveller? A traveller?

Gultakin: Bismillah, bismillah... (to the audience) At that time I was frightened in exactly the same way. Exactly the same. My tongue just seemed to fold back inside my mouth... the tiniest space... only the tiniest space to fit into... (as she folds her tongue backwards her speech becomes hard to understand) my throat.

Khasay: Now I remember... I was, erm, saying something, yes. (trying to put his clothes in order) This minute, right now everything came into my mind. (suddenly, excited, to the audience) What happened then?

Gultakin: Then they called a doctor. The doctor looked at the whites of my eyes and declared, "It's jaundice." And my mother laughed - "Whatever are you talking about, my man, there's never been any 'jaundice' in our family." (suddenly angry) Everyone died in our family of anthrax.

Khasay: (happily) I remember now. I swear by that light, I remember now—

Gultakin: (interrupts him again, indignantly) What is it now?

Khasay: You know, what I wanted to ask you earlier. Your name... right from the start I've been trying to remember but just can't seem to get it. Right now, right now, it's on the tip of my tongue. I have an excellent memory... well, to be honest, I did have, (his spectacles slip off and fall to the ground)

Gultakin picks up the spectacles and set them carefully back on Khasay's face.

Gultakin: (with compassion) Why do you need to remember my name?

Khasay: Your name? (excited) Ah well, because you don't know... I... yes, I am... your greatest admirer.

Gultakin's face falls after hearing the word 'admirer' but tries not to show it.

Music plays again.

With your permission, (he gets up, putting his spectacles into his shirt pocket, then kneels before Gultakin) Please may I? (he takes her hand and kisses it)

Gultakin: (looking around anxiously) Get up, do get up, please. There's people around. Whatever will they think?

Khasay: Let them think whatever they want to think. You're such an artiste, in fact, you are a... (struggles for the right word)

Gultakin: (aside, angrily) A what?

Khasay: In fact, dear lady, everyone, the whole country indeed, should kneel at your feet, before the wonder of your art.

Gultakin: Calm down, please, I'm begging you, please, just calm down. (looks around, quietly although there is no one to hear) You have... most probably, confused me with someone else. (suddenly quiet, with a sad sigh, to the audience) But with whom, I wonder?

Khasay: I'm dreadfully confused. What on earth are you saying? Your voice! I would recognise that voice even if it were amongst a thousand of voices, (gets to his feet and, turning to the audience, recites loudly in a theatrical voice)"I died as a stone, grown as grass. / Wet as grass, resurrected as a wild animal."

Gultakin: Oh I understand now. I know who you're talking about. Probably that famous actress. That, erm...

She produces a large hat and a fan from one of the suitcases. She puts the hat on and poses, fluttering the fan.

Khasay: (amazed) Oh my gosh. Yes, yes, of course.

Gultakin: (abruptly putting the fan and hat back into the bag, she returns upset to the bench) But that's not me.

Khasay: Not you? (takes his spectacles from his shirt pocket and looks at Gultakin through them) What, not you? Well see here, those deep meaningful eyes, yes that confident look, full of both love and revenge. The same forehead, (steps back and appraises Gultakin) Yes, that beautiful, high forehead, (turns to the audience and recites) 'Two hearts struggle within my upset breast / Both with the intent that they should burst apart / One is dedicated to the earth with its all existence / The other flies from my breast to the heavens."

Gultakin: (in deep thought) It doesn't fly any more.

Khasay: I beg your pardon?

Gultakin: (sorrowful) Heart. My heart, (jumps from her seat, madly searching for something about her body) My poor heart, how long have you lain hidden in there, somewhere? (lowers her head, falling silent)

Khasay: What's the matter? Why've you suddenly gone all quiet?

Gultakin: (upset) "I don't wish that on my grave / Any friend of mine to weep / Just a little breath of the wind / and the cry of the rain is enough. / Let the cloud water my grave / Perhaps that I may grow again." (falls silent again)

Khasay: (impressed, stepping back) Oh my God, it's indeed the self-same voice. The same voice that flows within my veins. How many years have I not heard it? (excited) But why? You must tell me why!

Gultakin: (shaken from her thoughts) Why?

Khasay: Yes, I mean, why aren't you on the stage any more? You don't like the new playwrights of today or is it...?

Gultakin: (indignantly) What are these idiotic questions? Is this some sort of interrogation, is it? Or perhaps you fancy yourself as a barrister?

Khasay: (embarrassed) No no, not an interrogation. Oh no. I was just... just...

Gultakin: (tired, opens her handbag and rummages around)

Then stop interrogating me. The more you take, it seems, the more you want.

Khasay: 'More'? What did I say? Have I upset you in any way?

Gultakin: (closes her handbag with a snap, mutters angrily) Here we go. (to Khasay) Look, all I'm asking is for you to kindly mind


your own business. Was it such a mistake to want to pity you?

Khasay is visibly shocked and moves away, walking clumsily. Gultakin stands and angrily takes off her coat.

She removes the brooch from her collar and stuffs it into her handbag.

(muttering) You never know where to hide yourself from obsessive fans like this one. All you’re doing is walking down the street and there they are running up behind you. You pop down to the shops, and there they are, ready to pounce on you...

I swear you don't know where to turn to any more.

The Newsvendor enters lugging along a huge bag stuffed with newspapers and magazines.

Newsvendor: (walking across the concourse) Newspapers! Hot off the press! Magazines! Hot off the press! Politics and crime! Pop celebrities! 'Playboy'! ‘Life's Moments'! ‘Come, Be Mine'! Special offers!

He approaches Khasay and tickles his sides. Khasay moves away but whispers something to the Newsvendor.

Newsvendor: 'Healthcare', sir? For you 50p.

Khasay puts his hands in his pockets and walks away from the Newsvendor, who suddenly recites in character.

"Oh creator, where are you, give me a sign, / Give me the strength I need. / I have found no answers to my questions yet,

/ I have had no chance to return the ones gone. / I could not live the life you have given me yet. / Now tell me, is it possible now to return?"

Khasay: (to the Newsvendor, indicating Gultakin) Slow down, and a little less loud if you will.

Newsvendor: (ignoring Khasay, he strides the concourse still in character) "Even yesterday, life was attractive, how to know. / it's gone with the floods, how to know?" (noticing Gultakin, he walks up to her) For the ladies, ‘Care For Yourself, just two pounds, (he suddenly recognises her and freezes with excitement) Wait, wait... It's... I can't believe my eyes!

Gultakin: (turns away) Oh dear God.

Newsvendor: (takes a couple of steps towards her and stops, entranced) It's you. (to Khasay) It's her.

Khasay turns away and walks off.

(to Gultakin) My lord, what a coincidence!

Gultakin: (indignantly) And what exactly do you want, comrade?

Newsvendor: Me? Oh, nothing no more. "I can even, die just here / With the greatest of pleasure / Just say the word."

Gultakin: (harshly) If it's a magazine you're talking about, well I don't want one, thank you.

Newsvendor: (takes another step, stops) But... you don't know.

I...

He throws his bag to one side, spilling newspapers and magazine all over the ground.

I... (kneeling before her) I love you. (Gultakin and Khasay look on in surprise) If you only knew how you've changed my life. In the space of just one hour. With a simple gesture. Without you knowing it, without you being even aware. (changes his pose, cradles his chin in his hand like a young girl) "If darkness would hide my face / Because of you hearing what I say / I would have been burnt in my shame. / I would have denied what I said /

For the sake of good manners / But why is there a need for dishonesty? / Do you love me? I believe that / You will say ‘Yes' and that I know."

Gultakin and Khasay exchange glances.

Khasay: (takes the Newsvendor's arm and pulls him aside, quietly) Are you mad? Don't you see this is all making her angry? My friend, go do your business, and sell your newspapers elsewhere.

Keeping one eye on Guitakin, Khasay picks up the Newsvendor's bag from the ground and stuffs the fallen newspapers and magazines back into it. He hands the bag to the Newsvendor and escorts him towards the station exit.

Khasay: Now on your way, please.

Newsvendor: (struggling to get away from Khasay) No this is a dream. I swear it, it must be a dream. I can't believe my eyes.

The Newsvendor exits.

(off) After that show, I lay sick in bed for an entire week. I just couldn't get it out of my head. Everything was a whirl around me.

Guitakin: (enraged, to the audience) That's the railway station for you. The last means of escape, except it seems there isn't a way out here either, (grief-stricken, to the heavens) "Show me a place to go and hide. / Morning to evening, evening to morning to hide / Show me a place neither plain nor a grave / Under a stone, under a rock, I shall hide." (closes her eyes as if in pain)

Khasay: (carefully) He sells newspapers in the station. Don't blame him. He clearly loves the theatre rather a lot.

Guitakin keeps her eyes closed, whimpering faintly as if some part of her body is in pain.

Is there anything the matter with you, madam? Are you in pain? Guitakin: (eyes closed) Oh yes.

Khasay: Where?

Guitakin: My hair.

Khasay: Your hair? But it... I mean, hair can't feel pain, can it? (understanding dawns, he steps back, gazing at her with enlightenment) Ah yes, I think I'm starting to understand. This is... what I understand... this... what you said a minute ago. Isn't it from the play ‘Fate of an Actress'? One of the main character's monologues? Yes, yes, of course it is. (thoughtful) I remember. I remember it very well. She commits suicide at the end.

Guitakin: (opening her eyes) She commits suicide?

Khasay: And how you played that role, good lord! You made our blood freeze in our veins, (jumps on a bench, reciting to the audience) "Hatred to be to this humanity that every minute entraps itself in this abyss, through the wheels of greed and gluttony. Hatred to reign over all, the cheapest is human. Hatred to be to these beautiful parks, to the gushing oil wells that—"

Guitakin: What is all this? I mean, what are you going on about? (stares at him)

Khasay: Well that's from the same play, isn't it, ‘Fate of an Actress'?

Guitakin: ‘Fate of an Actress'? (shrugs) That's the first time I've heard it. (suddenly bursts into laughter)

Khasay: (steps back in wonder) Good lord, it's the same laugh. The same laugh I've been feeding my soul with down through the years in the theatre dark. Everything you could possibly need is in that laugh. Revolution. Victory. Great loss and victory once more.

Guitakin: (thoughtful, to the audience) Victory... you don't even know why you need it. (suddenly changes)

Music plays. She gets up slowly and stands with arms crossed.

"To be defeated? Or to gain victory? Which is the more honourable? To melt and disappear in the gruesome flow of frantic fate? Or to jump out of the flow and make a revolution?"

Khasay watches her, entranced.

(suddenly, as if in pain) "No! To die. To be ruined in the darkness of the sleep of death, (closes her eyes and holds her head with her hands and twists like a snake) And then to see victory in those dreams!

Somewhere an audience applauds.

Khasay: (clapping, entranced) So ingenious!

The sound of applause fades.

Station Announcer (female): Passengers for trains from platforms one and three please use the barrier at entrance six. Passengers for trains from platforms one and three please board at entrance six.

Gultakin: (fed up, turns back to sit on the bench and speaks to the audience, upset) Try to live now.

Khasay: (swaying as he walks towards Gultakin) When was the first time I ever saw you? And where was it? I can't seem to remember. Hm, but if I'm not mistaken...

Gultakin: (ignoring Khasay, to the audience) It’s always like this. (entranced) Even if it's just for a moment, you forget about the world as you fly up to seventh heaven on the wings of miraculous dreams. From up there you look down, (quietly but intensely) you see the deep dark ravines waiting there, ready to swallow you up.

Khasay: (his expression lightens) Ah, yes now I remember. It was in Yalta. Summer, a café out in the open. Do you remember? Then, you must have been about twenty.

Gultakin: (ignoring him) What can be done? It's written in the fate of everyone, (frightened, glancing around her) On one side, weightless pink clouds, and on the other swamps filled with toads and snakes.

Khasay: (ignoring Gultakin) And there was me, just like now, trembling with excitement, so nervous as I approached your table. Even from far off I spotted you the moment you entered the café.

The Station Announcer's voice can be heard from another platform. The sound shakes Gultakin from her vision.

Gultakin: (indignantly to Khasay) What's any of this to do with Yalta?

The Sunflower Seed Seller enters. She is dressed in a flowing gypsy-like skirt, so long that it trails on the ground as she walks. She goes up to Gultakin.

Seed Seller: Try my sunflower seeds, sister. Freshly roasted this morning. The best way to settle a stomach.

Gultakin: (sits back, turns her head away) Thank you, not today.

Seed Seller: (walks in front of her) Go on, buy a bag, you won't regret it, lovely sister. Travelling like you are, the least you can do is to eat a little something to help you while away the time.

Gultakin: (indignantly) I do believe I said thank you, not today, did I not? (searches in her handbag)

Seed Seller: But they're so tasty, once you pop them in your mouth they simply melt away.

Gultakin: (stops searching) Goodness! (to the Seed Seller) Dear sister, dear mother, I said no thank you. Tasty, or whatever it is,

I don't want any. Right? (to the audience) What a day I'm having.

As the women speak, Khasay notices a pile of cartons, folded out of newspapers to put sunflower seeds in. He goes over to them and, unobserved, picks one up and unfolds it back into a newspaper, which he starts reading. Something written there grabs his eye and makes him become over-emotional. He starts to weep silently.

Seed Seller: Why are you getting so angry? All you have to say is no thank you. (walks off and speaks to the audience) It's the way this station is, to be honest. You can't move for all the old loonies who this place seems to attract. Muddle-headed, slow- witted... (sees Khasay) Hey brother, I have some wonderful sunflower seeds. At least you can buy some.

Khasay: {stirring from his thoughts) Yes. Erm. At least what?

Seed Seller: (quietly watches him, then sings) "Separation nor death, neither should exist. (showing her stock of sunflowers seeds, quietly) Listen they really are tasty, you won't regret it if you buy some.

Khasay puts his spectacles on and waves 'no' with his hand.

Gultakin: (to the heavens, quietly) What is this melee you've dropped me in? Even at the railway station there's no escape.

Seed Seller: (directs herself to Gultakin again, carefully) I forgot to say, I have some ginger as well. I'll give you a good price.

(suddenly recognising her) Wait, wait, wait, just a minute. You...

Gultakin turns her face away.

Aren't you that artiste? The one dressed up in a shawl and spreads flour all over the ground. You are, aren't you?

Gultakin frames her head in her hands and turns around.

How are you going to pay for that? Oh gosh, you seem so real.

(puts her hands on her chest, reciting to the audience) "Do you love me? / Tell me the truth, don't sweat / If you want to know / You have easily taken my heart."

A roll of thunder is heard in the distance. Khasay and the Seed Seller look up at the sky. There is a strange wind-like whooshing and the light changes. Strange music plays.

The station fills with people: passengers with their children, and porters. They run along the platform carrying bags and suitcases, pushing, jostling, shouting, calling to each other.

Gultakin and Khasay find themselves among them. A porter's trolley piled high with bags trolley trundles towards Khasay. Before it can hit him, Gultakin pushes Khasay out the way and he falls to the ground.

The music stops.

Seed Seller: (picking up her paper cartons) My good lord, my good lord. We were all about to die.

Gultakin: (after the crowd) Excuse me, hey! What was that all about? What just happened there? You were about to kill the poor man. You're all going to go in any case, so why waste your time trying to kill each other?

She helps Khasay to his feet and dusts down his clothing with her hands.

A strange noise is heard, like a cable snapping. Darkness spreads from one side of the station like a huge cloud.

All three look to the sky.

Seed Seller: Did you hear that?

Gultakin: (confused) What was that noise?

Seed Seller: (watching the sky) They said it would rain tonight.

Gultakin: (looking up) It was as if something was breaking or cracking open somewhere.

Seed Seller: (walking off) That's why I was telling you, eat sunflower seeds and don't bother yourself with anything else.

Khasay: (looking up at the sky) It is getting darker, you know.

Seed Seller: (giggles irritatingly) Oh that's nothing. All sorts of things like that happen here.

The Seed Seller exits.

Gultakin: It's getting dark over on that side. (walks to one side) But this side the sky's light.

An owl hoots.

Khasay: (focusing in on the sound, in horror) That sounded like an owl. Did you hear that?

Gultakin: An owl? What on earth is an owl doing in a railway station? What does this look like to you, the theatre or a circus?

Khasay: (smiles) Theatre. Of course. It's pure magic.

Gultakin: (tired, falls back onto the bench, upset) Magic... but just see what they've done with that magic, the place of that sacred art. Nowadays, if you say the word 'theatre' all you get is the smell of vinegar. Some of them'll stab each other with a fork, others throw acid at others just to get a role. Just to get a name they'll kill each other. And everyone's a playwright, aren't they? (clutches her hands to her chest, in a shaky voice) "No, no. Don't say that, Afzaldin. If you would only let yourself be aware, even just a little, of the fire of love that burns in my heart, you would not deem my love so cheap. Then you would not cast my honest, innocent feelings underfoot." (with hatred, she spits to one side) Tfu! (angrily) And real art is cast to one side.

Falling silent, she looks at the rails. The sound of a moving train is heard.

(pointing at the sky) They have nothing to tell him.

Khasay: Now what you spoke, I think, and if I'm not mistaken, is Maeterlinck.

Gultakin: (not hearing Khasay, upset to the sky) "Wet passing cloud / Cloud, did you recognise me? / In the earth, my eyes are sand / Sky is my last hope / Cannot reach nor can be heard."

(silent, then to the sky) Are you listening? (quietly) I don't feel so right here. Would you take me?

Khasay: (entranced) Amazing, amazing. That! I mean, what you just did. It simply takes my breath away, (trying to remember) It sounds like Shakespeare and Homer as well.

Gultakin: (doesn't hear Khasay) Not listening to me.

Khasay: (suddenly, in a victorious voice) Goethe. 'Faust'. Of course it is.

Gultakin: (not hearing Khasay, mutters) Why? Tell me, why can't you live? Everyone lives - dogs, cats, mice, they're all alive. But you. Only you can't live. Why? Tell me, why? (suddenly angry, shouting) What is it that you want?

Khasay: (jumping at Gultakin's outburst) What's the matter with you?

Gultakin: (comes to with a start, stands and angrily turns around the bench) It's okay. The hardest part is making ready for the trip. The hardest part is to get your soul out of this horrifying human mill. Then all will be fine.

Khasay: (entranced) Human mill? How perfect she is. (sorrowfully, to the audience) Could there be anyone who survived that mill?

Gultakin: (planting her hands against her waist as if arguing with someone) No, of course this isn't my type of theatre. Of course I couldn't possibly give my all to miserable amateur dramatics like this. (suddenly sorrowful) But mind you I did protect it. My love for the art. Right here. (curves her arms as if holding a baby close to her) I protected it as I cared for my sick child... Throughout the years, (she falls silent, her head bowed)

Khasay: (moving closer to her, softly) Please, I do beg you, please listen to me. Maybe you are—

Gultakin: (ignoring him, to the audience) The sound of applause,

the love, filled with excitement, who else was at the centre of all this?

Khasay: (distressed) You’re not listening to me, you don't want to. I can see it, you're in character again. Again in your great role. You love the stage as much as you love life, that's clear. But... life isn't a stage, is it?

Gultakin: (ignoring him) But see, is there anyone who cares about art or the artist? (mimicking) Oh the theatre of your time is so different to the theatre of today. (turns to one side and spits) Tfu! It all seemed so theatrical but I'm not dying for your dusty old theatre. (suddenly, upset) No, no more. Not the applauses, not the excitement, filled with the love that can't keep me here any more. (tired) I'm going, (slyly) Forever.

Khasay: (jumping as if struck by lightning) What? What did you say?

Gultakin: (not hearing him) Well I can't stay here any more. (loudly, as if a formal announcement) Farewell! Farewell, 0 sun. Farewell, 0 fiery sky!

Khasay: But, but... you...

Gultakin: (changing tone, to the audience) Oh you don't believe I'm going? Really, and why can't you believe it? Right this minute in fact, (she puts her handbag on her knee and rummages around inside it in search of something)

Khasay: (visibly besides himself) You’re going? Going? Leaving us... your country?

Gultakin: (ignoring him, still searching her handbag) It was here. In my bag. My ticket, where did I put it?

Khasay: (worried and nervous) but what if...?

Khasay drops to his knees before Gultakin. Startled, she stops her rummaging.

In the name of those skies above us. Please don't do this, I beg you.

Station Announcer (female): Boarding commencing for the trains at platform two, six and seven. Passengers are asked to go to the entrance please. Boarding commencing for the trains at platform two, six and seven.

Gultakin: (shocked) What are you doing?

Khasay: (grief-stricken) Please, at least have some pity for me. Please think about this miserable country. At least, think about those who live with your love.

The Station Manager enters. Khasay spots him, jumps up from the ground and goes to sit next to Gultakin.

The Station Manager walks around the concourse, checking under the benches and station clock with a torch. He then goes to the timetable display where he takes a handkerchief from his pocket and starts cleaning the glass of the display.

Khasay: (watching the Station Manager, to Gultakin) The other day I was standing... no, sitting here when I suddenly saw someone, a tall man, like him, dressed in railway uniform.

Gultakin: (watching the Station Manager, to Khasay) Who is he?

Khasay: (in horror, quietly to Gultakin) That's him.

Gultakin: Who?

Instead of speaking, Khasay tries to explain with gestures which Gultakin does not understand.

Khasay: (finally, whispering) What I was trying to explain is that you're not even letting me. He... he is—

Gultakin: (cutting him off, to the Station Manager) Sir!

The Station Manager doesn't hear, and carries on cleaning.

Sir? Excuse me, sir!

Station Manager: (hears her and politely walks over) Good evening, my dear audience— I'm sorry, my dear passengers!

Gultakin: (looking top to bottom at controller, suspiciously)

Good evening. Is it us you're looking for?

Station Manager: (caught off-guard but hiding it) No madam. Why should I be looking for you? After all, I'm just carrying out my official duties.

Gultakin: (indignantly) Duties? Are you a window-cleaner?

The Station Manager is stuck for words.

What I'm saying is, are you responsible for cleaning here?

Station Manager: (confused) No, why should I be? Oh, all this...

(struggling for a reason, finally with fake sincerity) This is... my personal stuff.

Gultakin: Your personal stuff, indeed? Cleaning railway indicators? Don't you have anything else to do?

Station Manager: No, I am... (gently) oh I admit it's a silly habit, a hangover from my difficult childhood. I often find myself cleaning, polishing, wiping down. Anything really, I see it and I have to clean, polish, wipe down, (cheerfully) It's probably a manic, depressive thing, you know, that sort of thing, psychotic..

Gultakin: (indignantly) Are you psychotic?

Station Manager: (insulted) Not at all, madam. I'm afraid you didn't understand me correctly. I am merely... (bows his head down with false sorrow) I have lived this orphan life for a long time. I have worked every minute of it. I have cleaned windows, wiped floors, even... even... (suddenly touched, his voice cracks) I have even cleaned public conveniences.

Gultakin: All right, all right, all right. That's enough, stop it! (muttering) Son of a bitch, (back to the Station Manager) I have no idea why but I still don't trust you. I rather think I have seen you somewhere before, (tries to remember) In a film? Or was it a prison? Or where? (thinking) I don't seem to be able to remember at all.

Station Manager: Bless you, madam, what on earth are you talking about? Prison? I've been working here at the railway station ever since I was a child. It's been such a long time I can even say that I grew up here. I was appointed assistant station manager at the age of 16 and I've been looking after my orphan brothers and sisters ever since. (bows his head, falling into embarrassed silence)

Khasay: (pokes Gultakin, whispers) That is him.

Gultakin crosses her arms, regarding the Station Manager through narrowed eyes. For a while, the trio remain there silent

Gultakin: So what happens now?

Station Manager: (confused) I beg your pardon?

Gultakin: What I mean is, why did you stop?

Station Manager: (confused) I shouldn't stop?

Gultakin: By all means stop, if you want to.

Station Manager: Oh? Fine, well what can I say, if you want me to stop?

Gultakin: (mutters) Thanks to your animals, (to the Station Manager) What I mean, sir, is please carry on with what you're already doing.

Station Manager: (lost) What can I say, if you say carry on, I suppose I'll have to carry on then. Very well, good evening. (walks off) May God bless you.

Gultakin: (to the audience) What a hell this is! This our controller. There's nowhere in this country where I can find peace and quiet.


Khasay: He won't let us go in any case.

Gultakin: (indignantly, bossily) What? You mean that man?

Khasay: Oh you don't know him. And you don't know who he is. (nervously) He's., he's not a controller. He's... (frightened) No, I'm not a coward... To be honest, I didn't used to be a coward... but now... life, this life, which isn't really worthy of any of us, it does tend to make us anyone it wants to.

Gultakin: (to the audience, pointing at Khasay) He's gone as well, (regards him with pity)

Khasay: (looking over at the Station Manager) It doesn't matter if no one else knows that. But I know. I know the controllers at this sort of place. Their uniforms can be different.

Gultakin takes a plastic bag from a suitcase, and produces a boiled egg. She cracks the shell on the side of bench and starts to peel it

Gultakin: Last days... I've lost my nerves as well.

She puts some salt on the peeled egg and puts it in Khasay's hand. Khasay is stuck for words, with the egg in his hand.

Every minute, I want to cry for everything. The other day, when I was picking up my wages at the theatre, I just don't know what happened, my eyes suddenly went dark. And I saw... right here... (puts her hand to her throat) something like a claw sticking in here. I was choking.

Khasay listens to her intently.

Thank God I had a pill in my bag, I just had to have one.

Khasay: (biting at the egg, chewing it without enthusiasm) Life is so strange. Who would ever have thought? Who would ever have thought that, with you, here, in this place of separation, we would meet?

Gultakin: (ignoring him, starts to peel another egg) But I still couldn't see, and I was still choking. (her voice drops, stops her hand and remembers) Again, may he rest in peace, the deceased came and stood front of my eyes. (sorrowful with a deep sigh) Whenever I got angry, he would say, "If you ever see yourself getting angry, just spit. Spit it all away, imagine you're spitting all your anger, all your anger and pain away." (continues peeling the egg) Can anger and pain really go away by spitting it out? Life would be so easy if that really could help, (her eyes looking far, suddenly strong) There are pains which you just need to vomit out completely.

Khasay frightened, chokes on his egg. He starts coughing. Gultakin whacks him on the back to clear his throat.

God bless you, rest in peace, Aguli. (to the audience) He was our artistic director for thirty-five years. And all these new young tyros who think they know what it takes to be an artistic director! (bites into her egg)

Khasay: I was choking to death. (sorrowfully, looking at the egg in his hand) My mother always boiled eggs like that. Exactly the same way.

Gultakin: (ignoring him, eats her egg) I visited his grave the other day. (suddenly turns to Khasay, voice changed) You, did you know Aghahuseyn Aghaverdibekov? (without waiting for an answer, her mouth full of food) "Blood going to my head from anger / It seems I am losing my mind / If I take my hand, you shall not live I think / One of us shall die in any case." (out of character, to Khasay) Do you remember? (produces another egg and starts to peel it)

Khasay: (pleased, his mouth full of food) How could I ever forget this? You were in a long white dress, a garland upon your head. That was legendary, legendary, (his face lightens up) One day it'll come here. Probably even right here in this railway station. They'll put a statue of you up here. Don't you believe that?

Gultakin does not hear Khasay, but instead puts an egg into Khasay's hand and starts peeling the next.

Gultakin: It was his birthday. I was putting flowers under his picture. "You left me an orphan, Aguli!" I said, and then I cried until I couldn't cry any more.

She bursts into tears then takes out a handkerchief and wipes her eyes. Khasay starts coughing. From far off the sound of a train can be heard. Both suddenly stop what they are doing and listening to the train, then they check their watches. Gultakin starts crying again.

Khasay: (looking at the egg in his hand, to the audience) Tears are the cries of the heart. The heart only speaks in this language.

Gultakin: (stops weeping and speaks slowly as if telling a secret)

I just said that...

Strange music starts to play.

So I... Suddenly an icy wind started blowing. In the burning heat of that summer day. (quiet, with a meaningful smile) And in that moment I understood it was him. He wanted to comfort me. (with pity) He was always like that. He thought about everyone. (again on the point of tears as the thought overwhelms her)

Khasay: God bless him. (upset) I see you have no interest in listening to me. More precisely, you think I'm a chatterbox, a time-waster. But I am no time-waster. I'm like you. (suddenly) In fact... in fact we're both—

Gultakin: (ignoring Khasay) What I was about to say is that I saw (in a secretive whisper) that the wind had suddenly stopped. (softly) And I understood he was ashamed. The poor man. He was always like that. With every word he was sensitive and caring, (thinking) You don't find his sort anywhere nowadays.

Silence falls on the concourse. Dragonflies can be heard buzzing in the background.

The Station Manager appears, his hands behind his back, walking around the concourse. He starts making his way towards the bench where Gultakin and Khasay are sitting but halfway he stops, as if in fear, and listens to the stillness around him. He hides behind one of the lights.

Khasay: (noticing the Station Manager, hesitantly) Look, see what I'm saying. The other day... To be honest, a day like this.

(quietly, as if telling a secret) Right here, in this very station, it was one of the controllers at the time—

Gultakin: (ignoring Khasay, angrily). But, I said, not even once did you ever offer me the role of Cleopatra. Or at least Gertrude of Poland. Me! (upset) Didn't I live her life?

Music plays - Grieg's ‘Piano Concerto in A Minor'.

Gultakin twists like a snake, getting up on the bench and transforming strangely. As she eventually straightens up, she is in the character of Gertrude of Poland. The Station Manager watches her in shock.

Gultakin: "Why? Why did you hurt me, / Why did you insult your father, my son? / Why are you answering like an ignorant man? / Why are you lying so dishonestly? / Don't say: ‘You forgot me', I don't want to hear / I don't want your acknowledgement ‘unfortunately, you are my mother' / I don't want. / I don't want to hear ‘You are the woman sleeping with the man who killed your brother.'"

Khasay watches Gultakin in amazement but keeps an eye on the Station Manager behind the light. He suddenly gets up, wanting to leave. He turns to find himself face to face with the Station Manager.

Trembling with fear, he steps back closer to Gultakin.

Khasay: (looking at the Station Manager) "Blind love can't shoot the target. / Now it's sitting, under a tree, / Dreaming what if his lover / Would have been a grown medlar"

The Station Manager runs off and disappears into the darkness.

Gultakin: (looks angrily at Khasay) What's that got to do with the medlar fruit?

Khasay; (fairly) Look, it's Shakespeare not me. It just follows on from what you said a minute ago.

Gultakin: Shakespeare? (to herself) Was that Shakespeare?

(angrily, to the audience) What, they even squandered his work as well. In such a translation too! Oh, in this country serious art isn't better than a vase you put on the mantelpiece, used only to stuff with flowers on weddings and birthdays. If only a flower was so gifted. And nowadays... (shudders) that's all they need. A vase, (with hatred) Of course. Why do they need Gultakin Sarabskaya? Sarabskaya, who has seen and knows all that is in theatre. Who has flown so high and so mightily.

Khasay: Exactly, that's it. Gultakin Sarabskaya.

Gultakin: (not hearing Khasay) To hell with all of them and their demands. Sarabskaya doesn't need them either. Now it's Sarabskaya who decides who she needs, not them.

Khasay: (amazed) Sarabskaya. Gultakin Sarabskaya. (suddenly assertive) And in the lead role, Gultakin Sarabskaya!

Gultakin: (not hearing Khasay, slowly sits down, upset) In that case, why did all those meaningless victory marches end up in dark houses where no one was living?

Khasay: (not hearing her) Like I said, the name alone fills a person with awe: Gultakin Sarabskaya!

Gultakin: (not hearing Khasay) Every night, forced to speak all those fake monologues, it just made you want to vomit. Fake excitement, that long and meaningless life. What was it all for?

The sound of a train can be heard from far off.

Khasay: (hesitantly) Are you... still in character? Or it's the real you now? Thanks to the power of your artistry, I can't work out which is which.

Gultakin: (not hearing Khasay) I had such a clean, pretty house. A house full of love and comfort, where I watered flowers on the balcony. Cooked delicious apple pies, waited for my husband to come home after work. A balcony lined with lilies and bindweed. (her head bows in silence)

Khasay: (as if waking up) Lilies? Strange. The house, you say. (tries to remember) Yes. Exactly. A neat set-up, columns full of bindweed. Exactly as you say. I think I've seen that flat.

(excitedly) I think I've even lived there. But when? Where was it again?

Gultakin: (with a painful smile) Probably in that play. In the play that (upset) ends with that suicide.

Khasay: Yes, that it must be it. (remembering) A spacious balcony, full of sunlight. White lilies hanging from the window railings. Bindweed hugging the columns, (quieter) A pretty city apartment, full of pain and torment.

Both fall into deep thought. The sound of a train is heard from a nearby platform. An announcement echoes through from another platform.

Khasay: (waking up from his thoughts) But why did she commit suicide? Right at the end of the play. I didn't understand that bit. She had... I mean, the actress had everything. Who can want for more? A family, children, pretty house, a loving husband who was dedicated to her. Well, yes he did later fall in love with a much younger actress.

Gultakin: (with painful sarcasm) Fall in love? (with hatred)

What a disgusting expression, ‘fall in love'.

Khasay: Yes, but... these kind of things happen in marriages, don't they? Jealousy, cheating, you know. So what was the point of her killing herself over such small, excusable mistakes?


Gultakin: What, it was only her husband who betrayed her?

Music starts to play.

Wasn't her biggest betrayal to herself?

Khasay: To herself? You said "herself? I don't understand anything. (suddenly looks at her, horrified) But no... I think I do understand. Yes, I do. You’re in character again, again in someone's character. Those characters are all probably part of you. (with a painful smile, to the audience) It looks like it's not easy to get rid of them.

Music starts to play.

Gultakin: (upset) "I bent down, looked at waters. / I looked for my young face. / Waters flowed, waters flowed, / They took away my young face. / I ran, didn't notice the rock, stones, / I ran, couldn't catch it / My face flowing in waters. (She throws her head back and quietly weeps.)

Khasay: You... what happened to you? You're crying, (hesitantly goes towards her) I beg you, please listen to me until the end. I've listened to you all through the years. With the greatest pleasure, all through years, all the hours, I listened to you with my heart and my eyes.

There is a change in the light. Strange music starts to play.

Khasay, frightened, looks around him. The busy noise of the station rises again. Crying, grieving voices are mixed up with the usual station bustle. Gultakin raises her head and they both watch the activity behind the gauze backdrop.

People are saying goodbye to each other. Flowers are dropped on the ground. The loud departure of trains fills the air.

Gultakin: What on earth is happening here?

Khasay: (watches the crowd saying goodbye to each other, upset) The train's departing. People are saying goodbye to each other.

Gultakin: But why are they so sad? They're acting like they won't come back again.

Khasay: (sad) Everyone here is on their way. We are as well.

Gultakin: That's so sad. (entranced) Everything's shaking, losing its meaning. Or perhaps it's actually changing? (looks up at the sky) Even the rain isn't the same any more. (stretches out her hand to catch a couple of rain drops) It's not as liquid as it was, is it? (slowly, pitifully) Will there be anyone to take me away from this place? (Looks at sky) What should I do? (looks at the rails) Maybe I should jump under a train. Kill myself. (bows her head, quietly with returning spirit, to Khasay) And anyway, why am I telling you all this? Who are you anyway?

Khasay: Me? Oh just one of your admirers, one of the many thousands.

Gultakin: (sarcastically) An admirer? What did you ever find to admire in me? Why should you admire a miserable actress anyway, who tripped herself up and shattered into pieces? (sorrowfully, to the audience) "Don't know how I did live, / Whatever way if I die, forgive me. / I want to die secretly, / If you heard, forgive me. / I want to die in the morning, / If I die in the evening, forgive me. / I am afraid, you will not forget, / In case you forget, forgive me."

Khasay: (amazed) That's the... the poem by...

Music plays.

That poem from all those years ago, so full of love and faith to future!

The sound of a train is heard, abruptly replaced by the music of tango from the 60s. Khasay and Gultakin look at each other, as if they have just met. Khasay invites Gultakin to dance. They dance.

Station Announcer (female): Boarding for the Baku-Tbilisi train is on platform two. Passengers are asked to take their seats please. Boarding for the Baku-Tbilisi train is on platform two.

The music stops with the announcement, and the couple stop dancing and return to the bench.

Gultakin: (embarrassed, arranging her dress) Please could you stop it. What you said a moment ago, that's just a myth. The sort of thing that only happens in novels.

Khasay: You don't believe me? (frightened, he looks around, whispering furtively)I've got a secret to tell you. Here, this place, the one you think is a railway station. It isn't. (slowly, quietly)

It's not a railway station.

Gultakin: What do you mean, it isn't a railway station?

A long silence. A strange sound comes to them, like a heavy metal door grinding open. Gultakin and Khasay freeze, looking at each other in surprise.

Khasay: (in horror) Did you hear? What I just said to you? (afraid of being overheard) Here. This is the place where time goes vertically.

Gultakin: Vertically? What on earth do you mean?

Khasay: (puts his finger to his lips) Shhh! They're listening.

Gultakin: (hesitantly) What are you talking about?

Khasay: (whispering into her ear) I'm talking about the ones who've gone. The ones departing from this world. I'm talking about the ones who have passed to the other world but are still with us, in spirit and soul.

There are strange voices around them. Figures pass through the gloom, bearing a coffin. Gultakin and Khasay don't see them.

Khasay gets up and hesitantly walks around the bench.

He returns to sit next to Gultakin and carries on looking around with frightened eyes.

Gultakin: Did you have to start all over again? I am quite angry anyway. I am meant to be travelling.

Khasay: I know you don't believe me, but everyone's here,

(looks around in fear) around us. (to someone invisible standing next to him) Good evening. Please excuse me, I have been sitting with my back to you. So sorry, I didn't notice you. (again, pointing at someone invisible, whispers into Gultakin's ear) Him. Do you know who he is?

Gultakin: (sarcastic) Do I know who he is?

Khasay: (whispering) Surlakov.

Gultakin: (frowning) Who?

Khasay: My friend, from the Party. (loudly, as if for the benefit of listeners) The other day, I happened to go to the tombs of the Alley of Honour, when I saw a man in a black suit and with a parliamentary deputy name-tag on his chest walking slowly towards me.

Gultakin: What were you doing there? Did you lose your dog in the Alleys of Honour?

Khasay: (looks downcast, ashamed) I wasn't doing anything, just visiting. I often find myself walking around there, (suddenly entranced) Last time, it's like it calls me there. I even don't know how that happens. I wake up in the mornings and go out, (with horror) and then I see I am again at the Alley. And the last few days... the last couple of days... I planned to go to the Alley but then... I found myself here. No idea how that happened.

Gultakin: (suspiciously) Okay... (to the audience) Whatever they come looking for in the Alley of Honour, I can understand. Everyone wants to be buried there. It's like there's a secret passage under that cemetery. They all want to go there.

A beggar, dressed in rags, enters the concourse carrying a large bag on his back.

Beggar: (limping, walking across the platform) May God give you an easy trip. Have a safe journey. May you never complain of the place you sleep. May the ground you sleep on be as soft as eiderdown. (approaches Gultakin) May God grant you your wishes. May all your wishes come true!

Gultakin takes coins from her handbag and puts them in the beggar's hand. The Beggaras if blind, touches Gultakin's face with her fingers.

Beggar: (suddenly in character) "Tonight's lights are fearful, homeless, like street lights. / My small torch in my hand, like Gavroche. / I am walking in the streets."

Gultakin: Of course.

Gultakin places her hands on the Beggar's shoulders and turns her towards Khasay. The Beggar walks with small steps towards Khasay.

Even beggars of this country are theatre lovers.

Khasay takes some small change from his pocket and gives it to the Beggar. He then turns her likewise towards the exit.

Khasay: But he isn't a beggar.

Gultakin: Excuse me?

Beggar: (walking off) May God grant you what you desire. May you never see a bad day. Be one of those who have loved and who have been loved!

Khasay: He's a lecturer. A university lecturer. Quite an unfortunate person, really, since he used to work as the head of a university department. Then he became a parliamentary deputy.

Gultakin: (sarcastic) Oh yes, a deputy?

Khasay: Then all his property got confiscated. He was taking bribes all around from students and teachers.

Gultakin: (still watching after the Beggar) I see. And why did he need to take money from the teachers?

Khasay: Because they were marking the students without his permission.

Gultakin: (still looking after the Beggar) What about his eyes then? Why did he go blind?

Khasay: (still looking after the Beggar) He's not blind. He's only acting as if he is.

The Beggar reaches the exit where he takes out a wallet from his pocket and pours all the coins in his hand into it. He disappears into the gloom.

Gultakin: (wraps her arms around her in her heartbreak, looks around) Ah, who needs all this window-dressing, all those marble columns, those bronze lamps. These posh benches imported all the way from Italy, (pause, her voice lowers) You only remember about being human when you sit on them.

Khasay: (checking the material of the benches) The benches at the Alley of Honour are the same, you know. When you sit on them you feel like you're at the ministry.

Gultakin: (deep in her thoughts, upset) Sometimes... when I look in the mirror, I ask myself, "Who needs you Gultakin Sarabskaya? Who needs you? You sacrificed your whole life for them. What have they ever done for you?" (changes attitude, in deep emptiness) "Even in the cradle, even in the nappy, / We have heard this damnation. / ‘to travel foreign country, / To die, motherland is best' / To travel an outland / Never was a fortune to us / As a shroud this country / Tailored to our size."

Khasay: I am in absolute agreement with you.

Khasay looks as if he is about to cry. He takes a handkerchief from his pocket and dabs his eyes, as he walks before the audience.

When I'm walking in the street... I catch sight of myself in the shop windows. "Khasay?" I say. (sorrowful) "Khasay Niyazovich, is that really you? "

Gultakin: (putting her hands to her eyes, shouting out loud, in a theatrical way) Oh my life...! My eyes!

Khasay jumps up in fright. Gultakin also gets to her feet, and as a blind man checking the space around her with her hands as if she were blind.

(in a man's voice) "Alas, light world... (to the far distance) Farewell, you Sun, hey fiery Sky. / Bright mornings will not came again. / Flower-faced spring will not be seen again."

Khasay: (grabbing her shoulder) What's up with you? Open- open your eyes.

Gultakin: (stands straight, opens her eyes) What do you want? Don't you recognise the play? ‘The Blindman's Legacy' of course. (sits back on the bench, takes out another egg from her bag, starts shelling it) Weren't you the one saying, "I know all of them by heart"?

Khasay is silent. His head bowed down in shame.

Gultakin gives him the egg. He takes it, still ashamed, and sits next to her. Reluctantly he starts to eat.

Khasay: (barely audible) I don't remember. Probably... I didn't see that one.

Gultakin: (staring at him) Ah, your mother gave birth to you as well. She looked after your all night long until you grew, (adopts a merciful mother character) "My silk baby. / That's why your mother looked after you, / Waited for you all night long, keeping you in her arms. / Where should I know, how should I know / This blind judgment, written by the wind?"

Khasay: (jumping in, still with his mouth full) "If only I had known / The mark of the motherland, / Written by fate in pain and in weariness... (he does not remember the next line but he carries on regardless) have to know reality." (continues eating)

Gultakin: (indignantly) "Reality" of what?

Khasay: (bites into his egg, embarrassed) Erm, of the motherland.

Gultakin: Motherland? Is there a reality of motherland?

They both look at the audience, eating their eggs.

Pause. The noise of a train is heard.

Station Announcer (female): Boarding for the Astrakhan-Baku train is delayed for two hours due to bad weather. Boarding for the Astrakhan-Baku train is delayed for two hours due to bad weather. For further details please go to the information bureau on platform three.

Gultakin: (pointing at the loudspeaker) I'm fed up of those stupid announcements of hers. Inevitably bad news but perhaps she likes the sound other own voice. The poor girl, what can she do if she hasn't heard a better one? (in a different character, in an operatic voice to Khasay) "Stop! Stop!

Khasay is again amazed.

"Stop your feet. / If grief is our fate, / Then, without delay, we will lose, (jumps up, in a different voice) Come on my heroes. Come on to the arena..." (mutters quietly to herself) No, I got mixed up. This is... from 'Javanshir'. (remembers) Ah yes!

She jumps front of Khasay, who is trying to sneak away.

She speaks quietly into his ear.

"Laurence, Laurence, call Laurence. / Tell him there is danger, this midnight, / To see a traveller in the dream."

Khasay tries to get away from her. She doesn't let him and recites the rest of the piece.

"Tell him, not to be late, it is only hope. / If he does not go, a brave man shall perish." (out of character, she sighs deeply, to Khasay) So how does this sound?

Khasay: I think, if I'm not mistaken, that this would be Shakespeare.

Gultakin takes Khasay's arm and leads him back to the bench. He sits in the same place as before. Gultakin cannot restrain herself from speaking with the excitement of her character.

Gultakin: There was time whenever I spoke Juliet's monologue, the whole audience would weep. (walks to centrestage, in a young girl's character) "O Earth. O Skies. Who else, / What else, should I summon for help? Hell? / Don't beat my heart. Don't shake my knees. / My body. Don't grow old for a second / Let me stand to this punishment. / This place - the last end of the world / I have just forgotten you here. / My wish, my feeling, my need / My feeling, my conciseness. / All the wise words from the books / From the day I was born up until now. / I will sweep away everything. / Only your order - be assured - / Only your order." (falls to her knees)

Loud audience applause.

Strange music comes from the station loudspeakers. The light grows dim. The Station Manager watches them from behind the stage.

Gultakin returns to her seat on the bench. Evidently displeased, she takes out her fan and fans herself.

Gultakin: (to the audience) Look at the song they're playing.

This is their taste, evidently. People are on their way.

Station Announcer (female): "Will I fly without you? / Should I run without you? / I'm a bird, without wings. / Perched on the railway station."

Gultakin: (faltering, to Khasay) What was that? Was it you?

Khasay shakes his head.

Perhaps it was the radio getting picked up on the speakers.

Station Announcer (female): May we remind passengers not to drop sweet or ice-cream wrappers on the station premises. Please also recycle water and lemonade bottles in the special bins on the platforms.

The Station Manager enters. With one hand he carries a huge suitcase, with his other hand he pushes Khasay in front of him. Gultakin now stands on his way.

Station Manager: (with the air of authority) Dear passenger, please allow me to pass.

Gultakin: (blocking his way) May I ask, if it's not a secret, where you might be taking him?

Station Manager: It's not a secret at all, madam, (seriously) I'm taking this one to disinfection, (pointing to the loudspeakers) Didn't you hear the announcement?

Gultakin: (spreads her arms to block the Station Manager’s path) Whatever you've taken, just put them back. I told you, put them down!

Station Manager: (suitcase in one hand and Khasay in the other, stepping back) Madam, didn't you hear what they said just a minute ago? Do you seriously want to be infected by a disease?

Gultakin marches up to the Station Manager and grabs him by the collar.

Gultakin: (angrily) You! Just look at me! I probably look a soft touch to you and that's why you're thinking you can do whatever you want. I can see you are very active around this place. But I won't let you get away with it. So what's your problem?

Station Manager: Madam, please calm down.

Gultakin: (louder) I told you to put it all down, you bastard. Otherwise...

The Station Controller puts down neither the suitcase nor Khasay. His face and voice abruptly change.

Station Manager: (stubbornly) Otherwise what?

Khasay continues to dangle off the hand of the Station Manager as if he is on a clothes hanger.

Khasay: (weakly, to Gultakin) Please help me. I beg you. Please save me from this man.

Gultakin: (ignoring Khasay) Or otherwise, I shall play you such a game that even your own mother won't recognise you.

Station Manager: (sniffs dismissively) Oh wow. I'm so afraid of you.

Gultakin: So, you aren't really afraid of me, are you? Now let's see. Don't put them down if you are a man.

The Station Manager raises the suitcase and Khasay even higher. Gultakin grabs the Station Manager’s collar and shakes him with all her strength, kicking him in the stomach. This makes the Station Manager drop both the suitcase and Khasay.

Khasay falls flat on his face and stays there without moving.

Station Manager: (stepping back, pointing at Khasay) Madam, you were about to kill that poor man!

Gultakin runs to Khasay and rests his head on her lap.

Gultakin: (to the Station Manager) See what you've done, you son of a bitch? If anything happens to him, I'll kill you. (looks at Khasay, upset, to the audience) I... I don't even know his name.

Station Manager: (walking to the exit) I don't know how, but

you've managed to stick your finger in everything.

Gultakin: (listening to Khasay's chest for a heartbeat) It looks as if his heart isn't beating any more. (crying, looking far around her) People! Please help!

Station Manager: (at the exit, quietly) Don't shout, you bitch. (hesitantly, looking around) Don't bring the dogs out. We'll get this problem of ours sorted between us. (exits)

Gultakin: (resting Khasay's head on her breast, to the heavens) And you ask me "to endure, to live, to be patient". Tell me how? (looking at the light suddenly shining from above) You loved me, so what happened? (angrily) But don't say, "The same as I love all that I have created." (softly) You loved me differently. (lowering voice) But now all you're telling me is, "Endure. Endure until all has settled. The sun will shine again," you tell me. But that sun still stays behind the clouds.

As she falls silent, there is the noise of a train rushing by, loud audience applause, and darkness falls over the station.


 

 

 


The station. Night It is raining.

Only one of the lights is working. Gultakin sits on the ground under the light. She is in a black, long raincoat.

Khasay sits in a pool of light nearby. He has his spectacles on, reading a newspaper. He weeps as he reads.

There is the noise of a passing train.

Gultakin: (to the train) "Train, coming from far / Passed, didn't take us. / Train, coming from afar, / Tell us: how is far? / How are the flowers there? / How are the leaves there? / (to the sky) Would you take me from here? To far-far away?"

Lights up as the Station Manager enters.

Station Manager: (walks towards her) Madam, my sister. What are you doing here? What's the comedy here? What's here for you? Is this a theatre or a circus? It's not right this way, is it? Everything has its place, my dear.

Gultakin: (gets up, dusting off her dress, walks towards the Station Manager) Your disinfection hasn't finished yet, brother?

Station Manager: (halts, patiently) I didn't mean that, my sister. I mean poetry, things like that aren't meant for a railway station, are they? I mean, it's a public space, isn't it? All these people passing through. All day I've been watching you. You don't stop for five minutes. Collecting people around you. (looks around him cautiously, then shouts angrily) You're undermining the order of railway rules and regulations!

Gultakin: Railway rules and...? (to the audience) Look who's talking about rules and regulations. (shoves the Controller backwards) Poor boy, do you at least understand the meaning of "rule"?

Station Manager: (steps back, stops, hesitantly) Madam, who are you? I don't understand...

Gultakin: Who am I? (to the audience) Will you look at the impudence of this person. Instead of me asking him, "Who are you, why don't you let us sit here peacefully instead of all this toing and froing, telling us about disinfection, rules and regulations, and not even allowing us to finish our conversation?" - all he's doing is asking me who I am.

Station Manager: My mother, my sister. Your conversation never seems to stop. All day long. There aren't enough poems or songs left for you to sing. And then there's all those people you bring around you. You disturb people. One of you stops, another one starts.

Gultakin: (steps up to the Station Manager, bossily) It would seem that you really don't know me. (grabs his collar, shaking him) Don't you know me? Don't you know who I am?

Station Manager: (frightened, shakes his head) No!

Gultakin: (stops) Swear it that you didn't recognize me.

Station Manager: I swear I don't know you. But I think... (looks at her carefully) I think... you look like someone. You remember there was a famous actress. She hasn't been seen for such a long time. To be honest, I even don't know if she's alive or dead. Her name was also a bit strange, (tries to remember)

Khasay: (jumps up, looking at Gultakin, nervously to the Station Manager) What are you talking about? What do you mean there was? There is.

Station Manager: (looking suspiciously at Gultakin) Oh there is? Fine, very well. God bless her, then let her be alive.

Gultakin takes the Station Manager by the arm and walks by his side.

Gultakin: Look, I swear, if you tell me the truth, I promise I shall do nothing to you.

Station Manager: (looking at streetlamp, pathetically) Madam, as I told you, I only need his documents. Checking passengers' documents is my duty, madam, I swear it.

Gultakin: (indignantly) Your duty?

Station Manager: (hesitantly) I swear I told you the truth. Now God forbid, if my boss or someone from head office comes here now, I swear to you, in front of everyone, he'll sack from my position.

Gultakin: Oh well, excellent that you're not a boss yourself then. Otherwise you would have destroyed this station completely. Now even if you are looking after this miniscule place, it doesn't mean that we have to hide from you. It's not like your father owns the whole place.

Station Manager: (taking Gultakin to one side, slowly) You don't know him, madam, (pointing at Khasay) But we know him very well. He became a permanent resident of the station. Day and night, it's like he lives here. In fact, that's the reality of—

Gultakin: (interrupting) So what? He's just waiting. He's getting on your back, is he?

They both look over at Khasay. Khasay grows visibly suspicious at the attention.

Station Manager: (quietly) You think so, do you? He's not waiting for anyone. He doesn't have anyone. (whispering) That person is homeless.

Gultakin: Homeless?

Gultakin observes Khasay as he attempts to put his clothes in order.

Station Manager: (sighs deeply) This is the world. But there were times when he was working in higher positions and he received boxfuls of medals and honours. (voice changes) But now... (smiles meaningfully)

Gultakin: Now what?

Station Manager: The time has arrived.

Gultakin: What does that mean?

Station Manager: I mean, his time has arrived, now. Haven't you understood? (smiling happily, to the audience) When the time arrives, medals and honours can't help.

Gultakin: Medals?

She looks at Khasay, who stands up and puts his hands in his pocket He starts whistling and looking up at the sky.

You say he has medals?

Station Manager: Oh yes, a box full of them.

The Station Manager sneaks up on Khasay and suddenly opens his coat. Gultakin gasps in surprise to see the insides of the coast pinned full of medals. Khasay tries to close up his coat, muttering as he angrily does up the buttons.

Station Manager: (to the audience) What the hell... I see this is the end of service to your nation, isn't it? You spend your whole life working and here we are. Like Tolstoy, at the end you just come and sleep in a railway station.

Gultakin: (observing Khasay) What did he do?

Station Manager: Well... What do you think he did? The poor man, he was a writer. He wrote so many books but now they're not even used to sell sunflower seeds in. He wrote a trilogy, you know. His name was something like... Anyway... Just with that book you could box up a ton of sunflower seeds.

The Station Manager snatches a newspaper from Khasay's hand. Angrily he tears it up and throws it to the ground.

How much can a person write, my dear?

Gultakin: (looks at Khasay) I see. (suddenly recognising him) Hang on, wait a minute, it's...

Station Manager: (with false sorrow) It's him.

Gultakin: (with hatred) He had even a strange pen-name, yes...

It was something like... 'Kafgir'? 'Cibgir'?

Station Manager: (upset) Dilgir.

Gultakin: (glaring at Khasay) Yes... That's it. 'Dilgir'. We even used to make fun of him - 'Dillydally-Gear'.

Station Manager: He was always writing about oil drills, do you remember? (emotionally) "Love in my dreams, my lovely drill. Black beauty of my country." (different voice) Hellish.

Gultakin: Did he write that? (angrily looks at Khasay)

Station Manager: (continues) "My beautiful drill that gave black gold to my motherland." (turns suddenly to the audience, in an operatic voice) "My love Baku, my heart Baku, motherland. / You were created from the strength of Communism. / Your black blood shines as a light into darkness."

Gultakin: (indignantly, to the Station Manager) He actually wrote that?

Station Manager: Oh, no. Another customer wrote that, God bless him.

Gultakin: (whispering to the Station Manager) All right, now that's all passed. Whatever's happened has happened. He's an old man, about to die. Let him go.

Station Manager: That's why I'm doing all this, sister. God forbid. If he dies here then what am I supposed to do? How will I get out of that? Wouldn't they ask me, "what have you been up to?"

Gultakin: You don't have to worry, he won't die. His kind don't die easily. (observing Khasay, quietly) I know his relatives, I can call them and they'll come to collect him.

Gultakin goes to the bench, takes money from her handbag and hands it to the Station Manager.

Station Manager: (quietly putting the money into his pocket) Well, as you wish. No problem. If you're taking responsibility for him, that's fine. (walks towards the exit and takes a timetable and a light with him) Otherwise, reading poems won't help anyone, my dear.

Gultakin: (crosses her arms, gazing at Khasay) Well well well,

Mr Khasay. Mr Khasay Niyazovich.

Khasay looks for a place to hide in his shame.

I was wondering... where you got all these. ‘Unique actress',

‘Fate of an Actress'.

The noise of a passing train is heard.

Khasay: (embarrassed) You shouldn't think like that. This... all that I've said... it's all my sincerest thoughts.

Gultakin: (not hearing what Khasay is saying) I was thinking where all this praise and admiration has come from. You have enough talent to be an actor, Mr Khasay. Well done. Well done. (she walks towards him)

Khasay: No, you're mistaken, madam. I have always had such a wonderful opinion of you. (looking behind her to the Station Manager) And don't believe that person either. He's working for the state security service. Well he resigned, but everyone here's fed up with him because he can't get rid of his old habits.

Disturbs everyone. Always collecting evidence, the son of a bitch.

Gultakin: (suddenly grabs his collar and pulls him forward, hisses) At least now tell me, you idiot, it was you all through the years who forced me to play those roles, those repellant roles. It was you, wasn't it? (shaking him, loudly) Was it you?

Khasay: (squirming in her grip) You... What do you mean? I don't know what you're talking about.

Gultakin: Yes you do, you understand very well, you arsehole. Don't act like an idiot. There's nothing left unanswered in this world. You'll answer for everything you've done.

Khasay: (choking) Let me go. I can't breathe.

Gultakin: (continues to shake Khasay) Go on tell me. Speak, you crook!

Khasay: (still choking, sniffling) What's there to tell? Okay I will... Right now. Let me, know... But those... times.

Gultakin: Yes. Precisely those times. Where were you all that time... sitting in those government boxes, (shoves Khasay in the chest)

Khasay: (coughing) Boxes? What boxes are you talking about? I don't understand.

Gultakin: What boxes? (to the audience, smiling angrily) See how shameless people can be. (to Khasay) You don't remember, do you? I'm talking about boxes, the ones where you sit at the premieres, from where you look down on everyone from above. (in a different character) If you only heard my heart, beating with love for the motherland, if you understood the meaning of my love for these green forests, the wonderful springs, then without doubt you have dedicated your life to the battle of the ‘unit races', (out of character, spits) Tfu!

Khasay: (embarrassed) This. Is this... my work? But I don't remember.

Gultakin: Of course you won't remember. Of course. Who would remember those repellent lines? You wouldn't, would you? (stops, with sad pity, to the audience) It's only me who remembers them. They are still clotting in me like a lump of filth, somewhere in the back of my mind. (lowers voice) I have no escape from disgusting lines like that.

Khasay: Disgusting? (guiltily) If you mean that last play, I... If you remember, I worked on it later again, (coughing) I even added two new monologues, written especially for you, showcasing your talents. Do you remember what you said then?

Gultakin: (sarcastically) Talents? A woman, abandoned by her husband who lost at ‘unit races' for someone else who was working at the Oil Rocks. Was that my talents? What a hell!

Khasay: (ashamed) That's not fair. If you'd like to know my thoughts, you reached the peak of your artistry in precisely those years, (upset) Through those characters that you hate so much.

Gultakin: (not hearing Khasay, walking across the stage) Me... a half-human half-animal, who lost her mind and couldn't stay anywhere because of the fire burning her heart, the prisoner of her desires. (stops, glares furiously at Khasay) Look at what you have done to me.

Khasay: (in horror, steps back) That's not true. Those times, you even didn't want to listen to me. You were obsessed with Shakespeare.

Gultakin: (going towards him) You made me live a life I didn't want to... for the sake of your insignificant miserable ideas, for the sake of fame. You're the patient of fame. Where's your fame now? Come on, give me something to cover you from the cold.

Khasay: (nervously) That’s not true. Hear me out to the end. Those times, they were as they were, when literature was the tool of state ideology.

Gultakin: (still walking towards him, in a rage loudly) Killer! Killer! Killer!

The lights change, strange music plays, thunder rolls.

Gultakin: (stops, hears the thunder, grief-stricken) Me... I stayed in bed sick every night after performing that play. I tried to find a way to get rid of those knots of words that poisoned me, poisoning my blood...

Khasay: (unable to believe what he is hearing, in horror) What are you saying? But... please, I ask you, please, hear me out to the end.

Gultakin: (doesn't hear him) I was suicidal every night, and then in the mornings I went to you at the theatre. Where else could I go anyway? Is there anywhere in this meaningless life to go to find shelter?

Khasay: You never listened to me then and now it's the same old thing, (angrily) You don't listen to anyone, anyway.

Gultakin bows her head in silence.

Pause.

Gultakin: (suddenly in character) What is this? The most meaningless feeling that drags a human into the abyss. A love for life, (glares at Khasay) A love that should be replaced with hatred no more.

Khasay: (hesitantly) That time... I changed the last scene of the play... and threw it at your feet. But you... you just tore it apart in front of everyone and threw it away across the floor of the theatre. Just to embarrass me. In fact... I—

Gultakin: (interrupts him) Very well, end this conversation. It's all past now. At this moment neither am I in the theatre nor is your play on the stage.

Khasay: (embarrassed) I understand. I made a mistake. Please forgive me. I forced you to play roles you detested. As you said, to live a life you didn't want to. But I was forced as well. And I had the sharp sword of ideology hanging over my neck, ready to descend any minute. You need to consider that as well.

Station Announcer (male): Will passengers note that boarding for trains from platforms two, three and six is about to close. Please take your seats.

Gultakin: (alert now) It's us. Come on, quick!

She races to the suitcases, quickly tries to pack up.

Time to go. This could be the last train.

She stuffs the suitcases with everything she can find, but suddenly stops.

If it was that ungrateful man who was with me, what would I be doing here? I'd have to stay at home like everyone else, cooking and looking after the children.

Khasay: (hesitant) I'm sorry, you didn't say... (suddenly nervous) Where are you going?

Gultakin: (drained of energy, sitting back on the bench) "I changed so many skins. / This is my last skin. / This face is my last one / This face is my end. / (to the heavens) To love this wrinkle face / Give me strength, my God. / In this face, in this look, / Give me strength to love myself. (lowered voice) Even though no one loves me, / give me strength to be able to love myself. / Like a tree loves its last leaf, / To be able to love my last face."

The sound of an earthquake, loud thunder, a strong wind. All of Gultakin's baggage flies around the station.

Gultakin: (looks up at the skies, grief-stricken) He heard... he heard me. (her voice echoes around the station)

Khasay: (looking around in fear) You... What have you done?

The wind's roaring grows louder, its gusts picking up Khasay, who falls and whirls all across the concourse.


Gultakin: (falls to her knees, raising her arms to the heavens)

You who heard me. You, great creator... (lowers voice) You who pities those he created. Save me from this disgrace! (quieter) It's bad for me here...

The wind and thunder grow stronger as colourful gloves, hats and dresses fly across the concourse.

Somewhere in the distance a train can be heard.

Khasay picks himself up and walks in the direction of the train.

Startling lights appear, illuminating the rails as the train's horn gets closer and louder. The light changes.

Music starts to play.

Khasay walks towards the intense light and disappears into it.

Gultakin: Khasay... Stop! Where—?

The noise of the train drowns out her words. The light changes. Gultakin runs after Khasay and disappears into the light. The noise of the train disappears into the distance.

Darkness falls on the station.

Music plays from 'Peer Gynt'.

Gultakin walks to the centre of the stage. There is now nothing left in the station aside from her and a pile of suitcases.

Gultakin: (walks couple of steps, stops) It didn't happen. A creature called 'human' didn't understand you. Sins in sin created a hurricane of sins, (looking up at the heavens) Maybe, somehow, you'll get fed up and destroy this world. And then you'd like to create it all over again. Would you? Even though your loved one would be crucified again?

An expectant train horn is heard, along with the sound of trains on both sides of the stage. Gradually voices grow louder until they are replaced with a human shout. The light changes, the space becomes filled with people carrying candles in their hands - all are praying.

The noise suddenly stops. The stage and auditorium lights go up.

Gultakin rises.

The Stage Crew enter. They start building the set as it was at the beginning of the play. They carry in the lights, the station clock, then the benches and timetable display. All are placed as they were before.

Gultakin: Ah... Where...? (trying to see beyond the glare of the spotlight) Where am I? Where is this? (confused, looking around, then to the audience) I... please forgive me. It wouldn't even come to my mind, apparently. (confused, looking between the audience and the Stage Crew) But it has, evidently. I had a ticket.

I bought a ticket, (looking around) Don't you believe me? (indicating her suitcases) Look, there are my bags.

The Director enters, holding a script in his hand, with his Assistant. He stops on seeing Gultakin and turns angrily to the Assistant

Director: Who let her in again? (walks up to Gultakin) How much do we have to tell you, to explain to you that it's not possible, not possible to work like this, madam. I swear, it's just not possible. Yes, I know, you were that great actress. But everything changes, it all ends. Why can't you understand that? (pointing to the back of the auditorium) Is there any security out there at this theatre or not? (to the Assistant) Yes, I'm talking to you too, sort it! (he throws his script to the floor, and exits)

All the actors who have been in the show - Khasay, the Newsvendor, the Seed Seller, the Beggar, plus young

actors and actresses enter and stand around Gultakin in a circle.

The sound of a train is heard. The train's light approaches and can now be seen coming down the rails.

Gultakin walks towards the suitcases. She opens one and takes out a hat with a feather, puts it on her head and walks towards the rails. The light changes.

In the intense bleached-out lighting Gultakin throws herself under the train. People start shouting, mixed up with the screech of the train as it brakes too late. Within all this the isolated voices can be heard calling out,

"Doctor!" "Doctor!" "Call a doctor!"

Silence returns and darkness falls.

The lights slowly come up again to reveal the actors.

Khasay: (turns to the audience, grief-stricken) She was a great actress.

Newsvendor: (grief-stricken) This was the ultimate of her craft. Beggar: She was the last to work such magic.

Music plays.

The Director enters. He steps down from the stage into the auditorium and stands by the audience, grief- stricken.

Director: A great loss has befallen our cultural world. Our great, famous actress has suddenly passed away. She had played so many great roles.

Everyone, in grief, bows their heads. A long pause.

But what can be done? Life goes on. (to the actors and crew around him) Come on. Snap to it! The show's starting soon. Everyone take their position. (looking up) Lights! Curtain!

The stage is empty.

Music plays.

A Young Actress enters.

Young Actress: (walking across the stage, frightened, looking around) Where is this place? Where am I? (bends down to remove a poster that is stuck to her heel) And what's this? (she reads) "Woman under a train..."

Music plays.

The End