LUKE & LAURA
Libretto by James Roy Blair Anderson
HENRIETTA (LAURA’S MOTHER)
CHORUS OF TOWNSPEOPLE
Locations: Bath, England
The story takes place some years earlier in the twenty-first century, in the city of Bath, which excels all cities of England on account of its beauty. Two young lovers, a girl who is not older than eighteen and a boy of the same age, between the Circus and Great Pulteney Street, who never met, send letters back and forth through the messengership of a small boy who carries the letters between the two across the city. The season is May, as blossom lifts its head, and the sunlight makes the stone glisten.
Enter CHORUS of Townspeople
We begin our tale, in the glorious town,
Of lovers untouched, known by renown.
Long known by those who still there dwell
This lay of Laura and Luke we tell.
Scene: Laura’s bedroom
Enter LAURA reading a letter
[Laura is in her room reading the letter she had received from Luke, in which he has detailed his intention for them to leave together. Having read the letter she stands back in shock, she writes a letter in reply and begins to sing]
Luke, if only I’d not seen what I had read!
That you suggest leaving so hastily.
Patience would be wiser used instead
Or it could, for two, end fatally.
Fatal not in bliss but in woe
If you decide on this to go.
I am put in a dilemma for my choice
To please my mother, or love’s friend
Neither speaks the kinder voice
I would please you both as I intend
There is one choice but outcomes two
If only pleasing one, pleased the other too.
[She hands a letter through a gap in the window to a small boy
In light hands carry for me this heavy treat
Passed through the innocent hands of a child
Who yet knows no scorn of love
But through whose eyes all life is sweet.
[Reading the letter, then taking a pen and paper in hand and writing a reply
Will I not see you in this season?
I wait in anguish for us to meet
I am left lost to cause or reason.
My only hope is that we greet
And be at last in one same place
And not in word but face to face.
I have the paper which had your touch,
The envelope which had your lips,
My skin deserves what these get much
Of caresses from your fingertips.
Am I denied these pleasures all?
Forced to wait, and love forestall?
Already you offered many promised days.
What passes through your days when I
Am passed over by your stubborn ways
And left to wait and on faith rely
Burdened by a love not yet realised
But hoped for, wished and fantasised.
Of faith, great faith, that I require
I have now come to hate the word,
I am lead on by blind desire
And if Love is blind, it’s, too, absurd.
I wait and wait on endlessly
Though not still, but restlessly.
[to BOY; handing BOY the letter
Take this where Love will not allow.
Enter LAURA; and BOY
[reading the letter
Oh, my resistance inflames his passion more. Tender is his heart that I could blow on it and it would bruise.
Enter HENRIETTA without LAURA’S knowledge
What’s this? How blushed her face, how troubled her brow under which secrets are hidden.
You stir aloud, what troubles you?
No trouble mama, lest you bring with your surprise some trouble of your own.
I had only thought your trip for Devon was perhaps now not desired.
Still I go.
Tonight say ‘still’?
Tonight and soon.
[HENRIETTA turns to leave
Without a word, her blush confessed. She is loved or is in love.
[She writes a letter
Bold as love but rash as hate
Is your manner of entreating.
Yes I love, but compelled to wait
Before we see our meeting.
Until then, dear, patience please
Let well alone and love at ease.
[Calls to messenger]
Then may time or silence give him patience.
To know her child’s life a mother needs not a thousand eyes, for all their time in silence are adventures in disguise. Youth dreams of knowing love too young, fears not heartbreak nor its heavy sorrow. I must protect her if I wish my happy daughter to be happy again tomorrow.
O let not another sun set to end a day that we are not together, the fresh morning gives me hope and night is a mocking laughter. That’s it!
[Taking pen and paper and begins to write a letter]
At an hour when neither night nor day
When neither lamps yet out or lark will sing
I’ll have a car prepared to steal away
And should we be seen I’ll not fail to bring
Masks to wear so we leave disguised
Known to us both yet go unrecognized
Though you had wings, fly swiftly, and make this your dart!
[They both exit
[Passing letter to LAURA’S Window which is intercepted by HENRIETTA
[To BOY; taking the letter and the mask in hand
You! Who are you? Why do you not speak? Is this from you? I will not shoot a messenger who carries his own weapons.
[BOY shakes his head and flees
[Reading the letter
This cannot be so! May God help me if it be so! This letter is confession. Now I see all that is wrong. She had resolved to leave, to take flight with who she, I must believe, is in love with this boy and youthfully naïve.
Enter LUKE wearing mask
This is the place where I await my girl, who I’ve aspired to want to see so long. For all on paper we began our song and now to be in flesh as we belong.
Enter HENRIETTA disguised as LAURA wearing mask
[They leave together
Enter CHORUS of Townspeople
This was the car, their metal tomb,
Sped off to none, away too soon.
No sooner the car’s exhaust had burned,
Than turned off the road and overturned.
Its passengers who’d struggled within
Lost control and no control could win.