The play concerns the last expedition of Colonel Percy Fawcett who, alongside his son, Jack, and Jack’s boyhood friend, Raleigh Rimmel, vanished in the jungles of the Amazon in 1925 while searching for “The Lost City of Z” that Fawcett was convinced existed.
Mystic, scholar, legendary explorer of South America, Fawcett was a complex man whose obsession proved destructive. The play offers an understanding of events, based on documentary evidence, of what compelled Percy Fawcett on this fatal expedition. The opening scene is shown below.
Cold light. As the lights rise, Percy Fawcett, late fifties, stands in the centre of the stage, head bowed, almost contemplative, as he hears his son, Jack, and Jack’s boyhood friend Raleigh Rimmel, his sole companions on this last exploration to find “The Lost City of Z”, speaking, laughing, in shadow, stage left. He turns to face the audience, placing his rifle on the ground. Though exhausted, he finds an inner strength as the lights darken behind him as he speaks. His first thoughts are of his wife, Nina.
Fawcett: You need have no fear of any failure, Nina. These words may be the last that you will receive from me in any form. My letter, along with other correspondence and the photographs we have taken, have been sent back and will reach you months from now. Sleep is impossible on times. I have imagined myself back in France when I tried to slumber by envisioning a spiral in my mind’s eye that turned into a labyrinth and I followed the trail to the centre until I managed to doze with the unrest around me. (Laughs). There are many things I could not speak of. The boys have fared better than I ever hoped. Naturally, they were unused to the terrain and the cold nights once we started in earnest. It would make you proud to see how Jack and Raleigh have grown in stature at this point to the end of May. Their reticence is slowly receding. They understand my reasoning and, while we disagree, they trust me implicitly. (Pauses). My actions have unsettled them when they believe I am lost as I go on ahead. The secret is to remember distinguishing points of where one travels. My return journey was never in doubt. My detractors will have a field day when they realize I have deliberately misled them with my co-ordinates for Dead Horse Camp and we will take a different route to the one expected. I reiterate that no-one should attempt to follow us if we are not heard from in twelve months from now. The secret must be hidden. I told Brian this before we departed. Why I undertook this journey with such inexperienced travellers, if we are not heard from again, will bring such opprobrium that even you will fear for your sanity, Nina. (Pauses). I have never felt content when I am at home. The need for this quietude instils me. I had to leave you and the children, when they were so young, because this was the only contentment I could wish for. Brian and little Joan would never understand this. Our daughter will have your beauty. You will have to be cautious if no word is ever heard from us again. The letters from Jack will cheer you up no end, while all I do is ruminate while I try to sleep. It causes me anguish that the children, sadly, will have no remembrance of me, expect for faded photographs of a father they barely knew. (There is a cacophony of noise in the background as Fawcett, disturbed, turns to see what the commotion is. Satisfied, he turns again to face the audience when it ceases). I am convinced that there is a resonance of every remembrance of humanity, since the beginning of time, that can be accessed by those who can empathize. Every continent is instilled with this vitality. That which is forbidden may be discovered again some point in the future when all previous civilizations are dust. The silence I now hear is followed by the voices, long dead, that speak of what they perceive. (He sits down as the lights brightens slowly behind him). My father never had much time for me, but I do remember one or two discussions we had. He said to me one day: “If you had a thought, could it become a reality?” Perplexed, I gave the wrong answer, Nina. We argued and I begun to see what he meant. Somewhere ideas, dreams, thoughts, nightmares were compelled to travel, never forgotten, until they reappeared in the human consciousness decades, centuries, afterwards. Eventually, they would enter our conscience again and be understood by people. This idea enthralled me more than I could say. Without doubt, the leap in technological advances, from agricultural to industrial in the last century, could be based on this presumption. Why did such progress be made? Once such an idea is thought of, it must be understood by another similar mind before it becomes a concrete form. More importantly, it can never be altered. I will sleep now, Nina. My mind is weary and I am recalling conversations that have no importance whatsoever. (Laughs). The one I had with dear old Rider Haggard on the Thames Embankment, near Cleopatra’s Needle, a few months after the war is of consequence because I was listless. . .
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