The Travelling Theatre

By Anna Rybníčková

The theatre arrived just as the village was preparing for its every-night prayer, pee and a story before bed. Or at least the young ones did. And the very old ones, too, to keep this story on a truthful side.

It sat quietly on the low hill on the very outskirts of this small town (for it was, factually, a town as its two hundred inhabitants had a church at their disposal, which is one of the key factors when identifying a town).

Nobody paid much attention to the theatre, or at least not at first. The events of that night were soon to change that, though.

At first there was a soft, humming sound that spread through each and every house. Gradually, it turned into a low rumble which shook the foundations of the whole town. The theatre stayed dark and quiet as if it was expecting what was to come. As the rumble grew into a roar, the ground in front of the church broke open and the houses standing nearby shook so violently that you could hear the window panes rattle and then, finally, they shattered into tiny pieces.

The whole town gathered on the hill and watched, terrified, as their houses were being swallowed up whole until they all disappeared underground.

Then, just as the sun settled on the horizon and disappeared for the night, the petrified people noticed there was something moving in the vast hole where, only moments ago, their church stood. Something that was most definitely alive.

An old man of gargantuan proportions, with a beard so long he put even the proudest of the town’s elders to shame, elegantly climbed out of the hole he just created for his grand entrée. “I am terribly sorry for the inconvenience. I just so love this particular piece. Just wait and you’ll see for yourselves. It is simply magnificent!”

The stunned folk looked at each other in bewilderment but then only shrugged their shoulders and sat down in the grass in front of the festively decorated theatre. Since they had no homes to return to in the first place, they might as well watch the play, they reckoned.

As soon as the night cloaked the world in its soothing darkness, the theatre came to live. A tall person in a colourful costume stepped in front of the audience. His face was covered with a mocking mask with a long nose and a grotesquely shaped mouth. For a moment, he stood perfectly still and then, in a clear ringing voice he announced: “Signore e signori! Welcome to our grandiose commedia dell’arte! Please make yourselves comfortable and, by all means, feel free to fall asleep!”

And so, in front of the townspeople’s eyes, a peculiar play started to unfold. It told a story about the origins of the Earth and of many other Earths as well. It showed the people how in the centre of each and every planet is a giant (or, depending on the gender of the planet, a giantess), tirelessly turning the wheel so as to keep the world moving, for all eternity. The story was heart-wrenching as the giants were bound to their planets, never able to leave and socialise with others of their kin, or perhaps even find love. And so only when they came closer to each other on their lonely journeys through Space, they would shout greetings at each other. The Earth giant is destined to a greeting with Venus once every 584 days and with Mars only once every 11 years. “It can truly get awfully lonely down there.” Sighed the giant and wiped away a tear the size of a large tortoise. But nobody heard him because the story took such a long time to finish all the people fell asleep eventually. The giant looked at them all and smiled. “Even though, it’s all worth it my little ones.” And then he silently climbed down the hole, back into the centre of the Earth.

When the shy dawn peeked across the distant mountains and the first sun beams tickled the sleeping people, there was no sign of the theatre or of the enormous hole out of which the giant appeared only few hours ago. The small town lay in front of them in the morning mist as if nothing has ever disrupted its peaceful dwelling. And so the folk yet again shrugged their shoulders and went about their daily business as usual. All with a peculiar whiff of a dream about a giant and a travelling theatre in their minds.


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