Excerpt: Burgess the Bushranger
Scene One
Nelson, New Zealand, 1866. Prison cell stage right signified by a line of steel bars towards the back. Through the bars and running the length of upstage there is the beginning of a construction. By the end of the play the construction will be finished – it will be a gallows for hanging three prisoners. The scene is lit by lamps. Burgess, aged 34, dressed in a suit. He is in shirtsleeves and vest with his jacket hung over the back of the chair he is sitting in. He is writing at a flimsy desk with a quill pen. There is a glass jar with some spring flowers in it on one side of the desk. He stops and reads out what he has just written.
BURGESS: Whoever thou art, whether brother or sister, as we all are in the sight of God, this sordid story is not told for your amusement. My motive is one of love and charity to the fallen and wretched. May you profit by knowing about my career of sin and wickedness. May you thereby flee, while you still have time, from the inevitable fate of eternal ruin.
Murphy, the guard, enters stage right.
MURPHY: There's a visitor for you. Though why a Baptist minister would want to waste his time on scum like you, I wouldn't know.
Reverend J. Davis, the Baptist minister, enters stage right as Murphy leaves.
DAVIS: Are you Baptist?
DAVIS: Why did you ask for me, a Baptist minister?
BURGESS: I think Baptists are more ... pragmatic.
DAVIS: I hope you don't mean we compromise our principles.
BURGESS: I mean you can understand there's more than one way of looking at the world.
DAVIS: Are you guilty?
BURGESS: I'm not as guilty as Sullivan. I want to make sure that villain gets his just desserts.
DAVIS: That's not contrition, that's revenge.
BURGESS: Breaks out. I don't thirst for revenge, I thirst for justice. Do you think I'm getting it here? They know Sullivan is lying. But they'll use his testimony to hang us all. Do you call that justice? Or do you call that revenge?
DAVIS: Society has to be able to protect itself.
BURGESS: Quietly. I see you favor revenge.
DAVIS: You don't believe in just punishment?
BURGESS: Cries out again. Oh yes I do! I deserve it, most assuredly. But so does Sullivan. Much more than me. I never in all my life allowed others to suffer for my evil deeds. Sullivan, he's accused two innocents, Kelly and Levy. He'll hang them both to save his own ugly skin!

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