152: Marble

20 Aug

Marina Carr describes Marble as a “gift” of a play. “I got the story from Fiona Shaw one hot summer’s night in London over a mackerel dinner. Fiona Shaw got the story from Ted Hughes, who got it from an Icelandic poet, who probably got it from a seal, who got it from a wandering meteorite…” I can see the mythic and dreamlike appeal of the piece, the fantastic becoming real and the impossible, possible … but this play doesn’t quite get there for me.

marble statue

Marble is a story is of two couples: Catherine and Ben and Art and Anne. Ben and Art are friends but the couples haven’t had much to do with each other and Catherine and Art have barely spoken three words to each other. The play opens with Art telling Ben that he’s had an erotic dream about Catherine. Art doesn’t think the revelation is important, he doesn’t expect it to shake Ben the way it does. It’s just a dream after all.

ART: Do you mind me saying I dreamt I made love to your wife last night?
BEN: I’m not sure you shouldn’t have kept it to yourself.
ART: You’re very old-fashioned.
BEN: Am I?
ART: I didn’t realise you were so repressed.

When Ben gets home, Catherine tells him that she dreamt about Art, that there was “lots of marble” and “wild pleasure”. It turns out they’ve both dreamt the same dream. Each night Catherine and Art dream of a marble room and the most highly charged, erotic sex of their lives, with each other.

The joy of her dreaming life takes over Catherine, so that she can no longer bear to be awake. Her children are forgotten and all her routines are lost for the bliss of sleep.

BEN: I have a woman at home who sleeps twenty-four hours a day, she gets up in the middle of the night, eats crackers and hard-boiled eggs from their shells which she scatters around the carpets, the stairs. She hovers around windows, doorways, leans against the fence for an hour at a time and then sinks back into her catatonic dream of you.

Friendships are destroyed and marriages fall to ruins, all because of dreams of a marble room and the possibility of something extraordinary. The play raised questions about infidelity in my mind. When does the betrayal occur? Is it only when sex occurs, or can there be infidelity in dreams? And is the play just about sex, or is it about death, because that’s another possible reading of the marble room and the ecstasy it inspires…

CATHERINE: My reptilian brain is on the ascent, and I’m on a descent, a descent away from some marble room that cannot be reached. Why are we given such images, such sublime yearnings for things that are never there? A dream was given to me, inside me from birth, a dream of marble, a woman in a marble room with her lover. And all the waking world can do is thwart it and deny it, and say, no, it cannot be, childish, impossible, you must walk the grey paths with the rest of us, go down into the wet muck at the close. That’s your lot.

Publisher: Faber and Faber (published in Marina Carr: Plays 2)

Cast: 2M, 2F

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