Bez Kinte Company



Bez Kinte Company

April 2017

Edited by Louisa Sanfey



1 – Musical Intro

MUSICCow call snippet (lower pitch than stage version)

CLIP“No murderess of the age has inspired that much literature, or for that matter, that much hatred.” (Susanne Kord)

GERMANIch that nur eben, was ihr alle thut,

Nur besser; drum, begehret ihr mein Blut,
So thut ihr gut.

CLIP“By all accounts, not least her own, Gesche Gottfried had no motive for her murders.” (Susanne Kord)

GesinaI was born a woman and so was kept stupid. I remained a child while I watched your world grow up. And I didn't understand. Isn't it time for you all start looking at yourselves, and judging the lie that you live in? The lie that casts you as the victims and me as the monster. You look at me and you think how evil. How unnatural I am. Unfit. You say I'm broken. But I am only what the world made me. I am only a reflection of you. You put importance on life. Well, my life has never been important to anyone. Life is frail. You see how easily I watched so many slip away. I have tried. I have done my best to get along in your world. But I never had a chance. Who would choose to be born a woman?

2 - Soundbites

GescheLike a beautiful little doll.

AngelShe’s so pretty!


Angel Play nice.

Gesina Be a good girl and do as you're told.

GescheBe yourself, but not too much.

AngelBe the nice, sweet, cute, polite girl next door.

GescheSexy, but not slutty.

AngelApproachable but not easy.

GesinaTake up less space.

Angel Be invisible.

GescheBe graceful.

GesinaBe grateful.

Angel Be proud of your bruises!

GesinaBind, starve, crush, deny, control, purge, cut, suck! Tighter!

3a – Calm Down Dear

GescheCalm down dear.

Angel What’s wrong with you?

GescheWhy are you getting so emotional?

GesinaI can’t listen to this any more!

GescheI don’t understand.

GesinaWomen are not shrubs! We can’t be trimmed down into some impossible idea of perfection.

AngelSpeak for yourself.

GesinaWe’ll never be equal until we are allowed to be complex. The good the bad and the ugly.

GescheLeg hair and belly rolls?

Gesina I’m talking about rage! We have to stop behaving ourselves.

GescheWomen are the fairer sex. Gentler, softer, more nurturing.

Angel Less inclined to violence.

GesinaWe have always been killers.

GescheFemales just don’t have it in them.

GesinaErr… Aileen Wuornos, Rose West, Myra Hindley……


GesinaMonsters can be women too.

GescheYou make it sound like a career choice.

AngelWhat are you saying? Let’s go out and slaughter the menfolk because we haven’t equal pay yet?

GesinaThis world denies us our anger. How can we understand what we are capable of if we suppress the reality of all we can be?

AngelWell how do we re-frame our reality?

GescheWhat do you suggest?

3b – The Plan

GesinaWe need to claim our full potential. Learn our herstory.

GesinaTake Gesche Gottfried: The Angel of Bremen.

GesinaFor more than a decade she systematically poisoned everyone in her life.

AngelAn angel on a killing spree.

GesinaAs the body count mounted, she layered herself in thirteen corsets.

GescheSeems a bit excessive.

GesinaShe disguised herself as the perfect woman.

GescheBut what does she have to do with us?

GesinaWe talk about equality but we don’t understand what it means. We don’t understand ourselves. Two hundred years ago, when Gesche lived, women took the roles society gave them: daughter, wife, mother. They wore their corsets and they did what they were told. Now, we think we’ve come so far, we’ve won so many battles. And yet we’re losing the war every single day. The rules are different but we’re still following them and it’s crippling us. Gesche twisted her society’s expectations and made a mockery of them! Yes, she’s an extreme example, but perhaps in studying her crimes we can find a dark reflection of us. How can we explore our full potential for good if we’re denying our true capacity for evil?

AngelI suppose an explanation is not an excuse.

GescheDoes understanding a killer make what they did ok?

GesinaNo. It makes them human.

AngelLet’s play it out. See where it takes us.

GescheCan I play Gesche?

GesinaI’m clearly Gesche.


AngelWe’ll all be Gesche. That way we can all have our say.

GescheInspect every angle.

GesinaWe want to know why.

AngelAre you ready Gesche? Gesche?

OthersAffirmative noises

4 – Welcome to Bremen!


GERMAN“Wilkommen in Bremen!”

AngelWelcome to Bremen! Please don't think the locals rude if you see them spitting. It probably means you are in the vicinity of the ‘Spuckstein’ or 'spitting stone'. This stone was set into the pavement of Domshof Square to mark the spot where Gesche Gottfried was executed in 1831. The spitting stone allows locals to convey their disgust for the poisoner to this day.

CLIP“Germany’s most famous female serial killer, Gesche Margeritta Gottfried, she was born in 1785 and died in 1831. She was a model mother and wife, later of course widow….” (Susanne Kord, 7:05)

AngelKnown as the Angel of Bremen, between 1813 and 1828 I murdered a total of 15 people with arsenic including my parents, children and two husbands. I was also accused of a further 15 poisonings, theft, embezzlement, attempted abortion, multiple adulteries and of being a sham, a gruesome emptiness, a dead wasteland inside.

GERMANWarum ich diesen knaben langer leben liess als die anderen kinder, weise ich nicht. Ich habe mir nie daruber Rede gestanden.

AngelDespite two years of interrogation, my motives remain the subject of speculation. I never gave a reason.

SONGPoor Gesche

A widow, an orphan

A childless mother

Poor Gesche,

She’s had more than her fair share of cares,

More than her share!

More than her share!

Don’t forget her in your prayers,

Up the stairs! Say your prayers!

GesinaBorn Gesche Timm, my father’s daughter. Died Gesche Gottfried, my husband’s widow.

GescheDear Gottfried, my second husband. We married as he lay dying. As I nursed him. He made me promise I’d never marry again.

GesinaDid he know what I’d done?

AngelI never gave a reason.

GesinaI don't know how it happened. I acted without thinking.

GescheI've never been able to come up with a precise reason. Even to myself.

Angel I cannot give you a better reason than this. Maybe…

GesinaI don’t know.

GescheI have to…

AngelI wanted…

5a - Miltenberg

Gesche October 1st. 1813.

GesinaMiltenburg. My first husband.

Gesche Two doses. Zwieback and meat soup. I acted without thinking.

AngelTo be able to marry someone else.

Gesina That was not the reason.

AngelTo be free of him.

GesinaThat was not…

GescheI didn’t kill him!

Others scoff.

GescheI’m not prepared for this. I need some time to think.

AngelFaithless, feckless.

GescheShe’s very friendly with a number of men on the street.

Angel Pick ups, good time girls, loose women, prostitutes, whores, sluts - they spread disease!

GesinaHe was the one…

GescheHis wages went straight to the tavern keeper’s pocket.

GesinaHis whores lived off my housekeeping money!

Angel Jealousy is the primary motive for murder.

Gesche Was it about the money?

GesinaThat’s not the whole story!

Angel No. He was so ill. He was so awful.

GesinaHis pestilence passed down through me to our children.

Angel Chancres, swelling, rash, fever, sores, seizures, mental collapse.

GesinaLittle Johanna was named after the older sister she never knew.

GescheIn sickness and in health.

Angel Until death do us part.

5b - Marriage

GesinaIt’s every girl’s dream to get married.

AngelNobody wants to be left on the shelf.

Gesina"Aren't you funny! Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You might not marry a girl just because she is pretty, but my goodness doesn't it help?" (Marilyn Monroe, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)

GescheYou should smile more. Boys don't like girls who look cross.

Angel Boys don’t like girls who are too clever.

GesinaGirls shouldn’t talk too much about themselves.

GescheBe a good girl and do what you're told.

Angel No man will want you if you don't look pretty.

GescheNo man will want to marry you if you look like a slut.

Angel No hymen, no diamond.

GesinaUh oh. Here comes Bridezilla.

GescheDon't let yourself go just because you're married.

Angel A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!

GesinaGet back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich.

GescheKnow your place.

ALLI married a wife on Sunday,

She began to scold on Monday,

Bad was she on Tuesday,

Middling was she on Wednesday,

Worse was she on Thursday,

Dead was she on Friday,

Glad was I on Saturday night,

To bury my wife on Sunday.

5c – Domestic Violence

Angel (Whisper) Babies, syphilis, broken ribs.

Gesina Endless days are all the same.

Gesche Why doesn’t she just leave?

Angel (Whisper) Babies, syphilis, broken ribs.

Gesche Gesche has the patience of a saint.

Gesina…or a doormat.

GescheIf it's so bad why does she stay with him?

GesinaThere she goes again. Nag, nag, nag..

Angel But he’s such a nice guy.

Sound of thump, fist against flesh. Angel’s breath as she’s hit.

GescheMaybe you did something to provoke him?

GesinaLife may not be perfect but your outfit can be.

Another thump.

AngelWhat did you do to provoke him?

GesinaHe’s such a charming man.

GescheShe never could keep that husband of hers under control.

AngelCut him some slack: men’s brains aren't designed to hear women.

Gesina What did you do?

ALLWhat did you do?

5d – “Scene 3”

GERMAN“Im schrank vor der Hoftur fand ich ein Papier, worauf geschrieben stand “Ratzekraut.””

Sounds - Breath, laugh, fabric twirling, giggle, hands catch shoulders.

AngelThe wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband.

Breath, hands stroke face, heavy breathing, buttons, fabric slips off skin, breath, fabric slides down body to floor, shiver, stays pulled out, corset to floor.

AngelAnd likewise the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

Following dialogue repeated gently underneath soundscape. Gasp, struggle, inhale, intake of breath, grunting, expanding inhale, straining, muffled screams, distant baby’s cry. Body slam to floor, kick, scrabbling, struggling breath, cupboard, paper rustling.

Gesche as MotherI’ve brought you some arsenic for your problem.

If you have mice that’s the best thing for it.

OrI’ve brought you some arsenic for your problem.

It’s the perfect thing for killing rats.

Gesina as GescheThank you, mother.

Gesche as MotherKeep that somewhere safe. Out of sight. How is your husband?

Gesina as GescheHe’s the same. He doesn’t come down much these days.

Gesche as MotherI’ll keep you in my prayers.

Sprinkling, stirring. Pause. Silence.

AngelTwo doses. Zwieback and meat soup.

6 – Morality Check

GesinaDo you think what I did was wrong?

AngelOr was it always going to end that way?

GescheIt wasn’t the end. It was the beginning.

GesinaIf I’d stopped there the world would judge me very differently.

AngelA justified kill.

7a - Mother

GescheThere was nothing justified about Mother.

AngelMother. May 2nd. 1815, with the poison she gave me to kill the mice.

GescheLemonade. One pint of water, half a pound of sugar.

Gesina The Good Lord put the idea into my head.

Gesche The juice of eight lemons

Gesina He said my mother would laugh in heaven.

Angel God told you to do it?

GesinaI… I need to think about it.

GesinaI'm sure I can think of a reason.

GescheDo you always need a reason?

7b – Puppy Fat

Sound of fabric rustling.

AngelSing sing what should I sing?

Gesche Gottfried, tied up in string

GesinaLike links on a chain, each generation laces the next into submission.

Gesina She laced me so tightly that hours after I undressed I could still see the creases etched into my flesh. Was that not an act of violence?

GescheThis is for your own good, Gesche.

AngelDoesn't she look just like her mother.

Gesche She’s a real heartbreaker.

AngelYour dad's going to have to fight off all the boys when you grow up.

GesinaNot lost your puppy fat yet!

GescheReal women have curves.

Angel Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

GesinaKnee fat’s a thing now.

GescheYou’d be so much happier if you just lost a stone or two.

AngelAre you beach body ready yet?

GescheThis is for your own good, Gesche.

GesinaI can’t breathe. Tighter!

GescheSilly little girl.

AngelSing sing what should I sing?

Gesche Gottfried, tied up in string

Hey-Ho, what should I do?

Her corset bones are turning her blue!

GesinaBut that’s all right, that’s OK,

You want to look good it’s the price you pay.

Forget the pain, ignore the aches,

Don’t ask why, them’s the breaks!

7c - Leibchen

Sound of corset laces.


GesinaMother always wore five layers of leibchen under her clothes. We're cold blooded in my family, though that's not why I wear them. She taught me to layer my corsets like secrets over my skin. Tighter!

AngelI learned from infancy that my female body was both the thing that give me worth and the proof that I was worthless. I knew that no matter what else I achieved, I was a failure if I was not beautiful. But how could I ever feel beautiful? Tighter!

GesinaMother taught me to starve, crush, stuff, twist, break myself into the shape I needed to be. The shape of an angel. She made my body a weapon and I went to war.

AngelLike links on a chain. I wanted to break that chain.

8a – Real Talk

Performers fall out of drama for a moment.

GescheWait, I don’t know if I believe that.

AngelWe’re only exploring.

GesinaIt’s only a story.

GescheIt was her life. It was all their lives. They were real. And she killed them.

GesinaWe’re trying to understand.

GescheThere’s so much more to think about. We’re talking about these murders as if they were inevitable. But she had a choice. We always have a choice. What about her cruelty? Look at what she did to Marie Heckendorf.

AngelOhh we don’t have time for every detail! We’ll be here all day.

GescheWhat if we’re shaping her life to fit our narrative?

GesinaWe’re using her own words where we can.

AngelHow else can we play it? When I speak as Gesche, I don't know how else to be.

Gesina We can only tell this story as we are now.

GeschePlenty of women had to wear corsets. Why didn’t they all go on a rampage?

GesinaNot everyone is the same. Gesche was an extreme.

AngelI’m tempted to go on a rampage on a regular basis. Pretty much every time I see an advert. Every time I see a celebrity photoshopped beyond reality. Whenever they ask women who they’re wearing. When they circle the fat in the magazines. When ‘she’s legal now’. When the camera watches the woman’s arse as she walks. When they only make eye contact with the men in the room. When men make decisions over our bodies. When women have internalised this toxic culture so deeply they don’t even realise we’re attacking ourselves. And every damn time I have to hide my tampon up my sleeve not to embarrass any poor innocent soul I happen to walk past on the way to the loo!

GesinaWatch out, she's on the warpath.

GescheNot very lady-like.

GesinaWhy are you getting so emotional?

GescheMust be her time of the month.

8b - Periods

Angel Uh-oh, shark week! Carrie at the prom! She’s fallen to the communists! The painters are in! Ride that cotton pony! Surfing the crimson wave! She’s on the rag, on the blob, got the Curse! Ahhh her little friend! Aunt Flo is visiting and Cousin Red too, they’re here for the red wedding! It’s Mother Nature’s gift! She’s in her flowers! That’s women’s business. Or, you know, the blood coursing from our uteri like a crimson landslide. Wow Bodyform, bodyformed for you.

GesinaFeeling better?

9 – Mother & Baby

GescheLook, I just don’t understand how it’s possible for a woman - a mother - to kill without a reason. Women should nurture, not harm. We are the vessels for life. No matter how badly we're treated, our voice should not raise and our blood mustn't boil. What perversion, what evil could break those sacred bonds?

AngelYou make us sound like incubators.

GesinaWe’re more than our biology.

GescheAren't you worried you'll feel unfulfilled?

AngelIt’s not enough.

GescheYou'll be a great mother.


GescheYou're glowing.

GesinaShould you be eating that?

AngelEating for two now.

GesinaShould you be drinking that?