The three-act play tells the story of the life of Dr. William Price of Llantrisant (1800-1893). Episodic in nature, it touches on important events, culminating in his fictional meeting with Edward Bennett, a reporter from the Western Mail in 1891. Price practiced at Natgarw,Treforest, and Pontypridd as a physician and surgeon. He also carried out drudical rites on the rocking- stone in Pontypridd. He was a Chartist leader, escaping to France dressed as a woman, dug up his father's body to prove his insanity in a lawsuit, practiced free-love, railed against religion, opposed vaccination, and vivisection. The 1884 case in which he was tried for the burning of the body of his son Iesu Grist led to the law for cremation being established. His last companion was Gwenllian Llewelyn, who bore him a son and daughter. Iesu Grist the Second and Penelopen. Price died in 1893 and his body was cremated according to his strict instructions. I have included an extract from the play below.

The lights rise; in the centre of the stage stands Edward Bennett, late twenties, staring at the walls of the small living-room. Price’s dogs bark in the distance as Bennett glances at the papers which are on the desk in the centre of the stage. There are two chairs placed haphazardly beside the table. Bennett doesn’t really read what is on the sheet as Price enters stage right. Bennett turns. He is embarrassed.

 

 Bennett:   I hope you didn’t mind me waiting in your study.

 

 Price takes his fox headdress off and places it on the table. Bennett points at the imaginary wall.

 

 Bennett:   Are those certificates authentic, Doctor Price?

 

Price stares at them as he sits.

 

 Price:    I was the youngest member ever of the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1821, when I was twenty-one years of age, I received that great honour as well as being a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. I’m not going to devour you, Edward.  I have been waiting for this opportunity to take place for over six years and I never really got round to it until now. You will feel more relaxed if you are seated.

 

 

Bennett:      You left an equation on your desk which was has not yet been completed.

 

 

Price:    The answer to which is?

 

 

Bennett:    Twice the half of two and half is two and a half.

 

Price:    You are fond of equations?

 

 

Bennett:    Some I can answer and others I cannot.

 

 

Price:    That was a perfect way for us to be introduced. What do you hope to achieve from this confabulation?

Bennett:    People are curious about you, Dr. Price. You seem to care little for convention and morality. I have heard the tales my parents told of your wanderings and mischief-making.

 

             

Price:      Should I feel flattered by your description?

 

 

Bennett:    I did not mean for my last remark to be misinterpreted. Being in your presence has undermined my confidence.

 

 

 Price:     Would you rather speak to Gwen? You two got on rather well from what she told me. Gwen won’t hide the truth as you think I may. You will be surprised at what she has to say. Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions. I don’t say that I’m going to answer them.

 

 

 Bennett:    I was warned about you. (Price laughs). How do you see yourself?

                

 

 Price:    I am a blank slate which is filled with different perceptions and ideals whatever my circumstances. I never see things the same and forget inconsequential happenings. Why remember something so mundane? I still take Gregory’s powders for my constipation and they also clear my muddied thoughts.

 

 

Bennett:    Does it hurt you to know how you were perceived by your contemporaries?

 

 

 Price:    I have never given a damn about idle gossip as long as it isn’t said in my presence. Well, most of my so-called friends are long dead and I have had the last laugh.

 

 

Bennett:    Why speak now after so long a silence?

 

 

 Price:     Because I am aged and my life is drawing to its natural end. I haven’t spoken to any broadsheet for years. There is nothing mischievous in that. I am not senile. I will answer whatever question you ask to the best of my ability.

 

 

Bennett:   My editor will have the final say on what is published.

 

 

 Price:     Naturally. You may find me forthcoming on any event in my past. I have said  certain things before and they have been wildly misconstrued. This was the fault of the person I spoke with, not with what I told them. Friends, if I can call them that, said untruths which I did not like. I swore that I would never be so forthcoming again. My past can be as contradictory as I wish it to be.

 

 

Bennett:    Your escapades have made many men jealous.

 

 

 Price:   Editors will distort anything to sell their broadsheets.

 

 

Bennett:   The story of your encounter with Heinrich Heine and the stone you saw in the Louvre bearing the image of a primitive bard staring at the moon was true?

 

 

 Price:   The moment I saw the stone gave me an understanding of the lemniscate that multiplies with thought. It led to my reawakening with the death of Iseu and I believed I would never get over the despair of my child’s death. Death need not be fearful; it has a fascination for me because I know the soul survives afterwards. Why do people allow this silly fear to invade their subconscious and it haunts them every day because there is only one outcome after life and that is the failing of the body with age. Your eyes betray you because you are like the others. Accept the inevitable and you may create whatever paradise you wish to inhabit when you do sleep.

 

 

Bennett:    We never spoke of dying when I was a child in our family. Mother always used to say someone has passed over. Death was never broached.

 

 

Price:   Tell me of the recurring dream you have of death.

 

Bennett gets up quickly and walks slowly around the table, touching the papers, reassuring himself.

 

Bennett:   How did you know that? (Price doesn’t answer as Bennett visibly blanches, leaning against the table). I am scared of dying, Dr. Price. The dream starts as usual in my father’s old house, long since demolished. I am sitting in the hallway and the clock strikes the hour. I get slowly to my feet as the door to the library opens and my grandfather, who is in the shadows beckons to me. I hesitate as I walk toward him and stare into the kind eyes of the grey haired man who was dead long before I was born. He fiddles with his spectacles, blowing on them. I follow him into the library and talk to him about my parents, brothers, and sister. He then sits at his writing bureau, scribbling away, as the library door opens and dead relatives enter. They smile at me and talk amongst themselves. I am excluded every time from the conversation. Then I hear the sound of Jenny giggling and skipping. She wants me to play with her.

 

 Price:    Jenny?

 

 Bennett:   She was a pretty little girl I used to play with for hours with in our street. She died of diphtheria when she was ten. I never see her face. (Takes a deep breath, and then sits down). All I sense is that she is happy and plays all day. (He looks at his hands). I don’t have that dream so much now. It is not as frightening as I first believed.

 

 

Price:     There will be a solution to it one day.

 

 

Bennett:    I’m not particularly religious. I don’t care what happens to me when I die.

 

 

Price:     Never be ashamed of what you feel. Death is part of life and will remain so. You have many years to live yet.

 

 

Bennett:   I wish I could be that confident.

 

 

 Price:   I accepted death years ago when I first studied medicine. I’ll welcome the darkness, before the light, when I will awaken. You should look at the old stories, for they say that life is continuous.

 

 

 Bennett:    My throat is parched.

 

 

 Price:    Gwen will bring some lemonade in a little while. We understand each other, Edward. You are inquisitive. Perhaps you will be able to fashion a story from my ramblings. Insanity is only for those who accept convention. An outlandish act will bring more spectators to your door.

 

 

Bennett:    You claimed your father suffered from melancholia?

 

 

 

Price:      My words were used against me on this occasion as well. . .

 

 

 

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