The Dreaming of Roger Casement: A Play

Author: Patrick Mason

Part One. Scene 1.

Darkness. Drumming. Figures gather in the murk. A shaft of light reveals Casement, standing apart from the others.

CASEMENT.  The System. That’s what he called it. The penal laws, the brutal clearances, the savage reprisals—all part of the System. Barely a week into my investigation, I could make no sense of the cruelty I had witnessed. I was bewildered by all I had seen and heard. But he was calm, measured—an old Africa hand, the German Consul General. “It’s the only language they understand: regrettable, of course, but the most effective way for a colony to prosper. Belgian, British, French or German—whatever Empire you serve, you’ll find the System to be the same. Villages burned, land seized, crops and minerals plundered, the people displaced–their culture destroyed. The price of Civilization as we know it.  And not without some benefit to the natives in the long run.”

I bade him good night, and retired to my room to write up my notes. I lit the lamp, hung the ragged mosquito net over the table, opened my ledger, and wrote, and wrote—until my hand ached, and my head cleared. He was right, of course. The barbarity was deliberate—systemic. What I had been prepared to classify as an aberration—the evil consequence of corruption, the deeds of a few unscrupulous rogues—was, in truth, the method and machinery of Empire itself: its secret force—its shameful purpose. And as I read and re-read my record of every ravaged field and mutilated corpse, of every ruined hut and starving beggar I had met on my way through the Congo—it came to me that I was reading the history of my own country. And I sat alone in that stifling room, and wept—pitiful, angry tears. That such a System should prevail.

The roar of the sea. The figures surge forward to create a tumult of waves. Casement is hoisted aloft, and tumbled through the surf. Men cry out after him.

CASEMENT.  Ireland!

MONTEITH.  Casement!

CASEMENT.  Ireland!

BAILEY.  Casement!

Casement crawls ashore and lies in the shallows, exhausted. Light on Bailey and Monteith.

BAILEY.  I made a grab for him as the boat went over—lost him again in the surf.

MONTEITH.  Search the strand—the water’s edge. Quick, man. Help me find him!

They run off to search the strand. The man in the shallows raises an arm to the sky.

CASEMENT.  Home! God’s will. I’m home.

He passes out. A wave breaks, and figures appear on the strand: Sir Ernley Blackwell and Sir Frederick Smith. Smith smokes a cigar, Blackwell is reading a report.

[For the full text the the play, follow the link below]

Mason, Casement