So here’s a different approach, that is inspired, happily enough, by Neanderthaler’s Pygmy doc post. This version hews much more closely to the action, so stage directions are included in square brackets. W’ve only gotten as far as the first scene or two, but here’s where it’s at:
[The stage is dark. We hear wind whistling, and dripping water. We wait for awhile, and then hear a distant drum booming, approaching; soon we can make out a kind of moaning song and the occasional mournful groan of some tusk trumpet being played. Three shaggy characters enter, wearing furs and ornamented with peculiar artifacts: fetishes made of bone and twigs. One is burdened by an enormous drum, another by the horn, and the third bears a flickering torch which provides a dim light, by which we can make out their sloped brows and heavy shoulders. They go about their business as the narrator speaks: they light big fire in the middle of the stage, with great cermony, for in their minds they are enacting the birth of the universe; they shuffle about assembling their puppets and saying preparatory prayers to their heathen gods.]
[Documentary-style classical music begins to play.]
Since the dawn of history, human beings have gathered in dark places to tell each other stories about who we are, and where we come from – creation myths, about the first humans from which we all descended. There are countless versions of this story, but they’re all trying to explain the same thing. It’s really just one story, when you pare it down to its essentials: it’s the story of why we’re not happy.
It’s a story about how we ruined paradise, or were thrown out, or forgot where it was, which is a way of saying that there’s something wrong with us that we can’t quite put our finger on. Somewhere along the way we traded in our happiness, and we’re not quite sure what we got in return. But when did this happen? Ten thousand years ago? Twenty? A hundred? How long ago exactly was paradise?
Let’s take a journey back in time, and pay a visit to our prehistoric grandparents.
For them, the fall from paradise was no myth. It was a recent event, still alive in their memory, a story populated by real people. Let’s return to the womb of the cave once more, and imagine we’re part of an unruly tribe of savages, gathered to hear the tale of the birth of humanity, and the invention of misery.
[They are ready. They stand before the audience.]
These rough-looking fellows are prehistoric story tellers. The part of their brains that makes complicated sentences hasn’t developed yet, but that doesn’t mean they only grunt and shriek. Before we had words, we used musical tones to make our meaning clear, like birds or wolves. Shh – it looks like they’re trying to tell us something.
[They enact the creation of a prehistoric Adam: they gather the parts of the puppet, and use the great tusk to blow into its nostrils, bringing him to life. They dance with joy at their success, and react to the creature as if it is a living thing, cooing at it like a baby.]
It’s the first man. Life for our little prehistoric Adam is simple but overwhelmingly beautiful. There’s no word yet for each novel wonder that appears, and he sings to them with their new names.
[The puppeteers bring forth pretty bird puppets made from feathers tied to branches, and make them tweet and chirp, and Adam is delighted. They bring forth strange insects, and then some cave rats, which are puppets made from the skins of real cave rats worn as slippers; the puppeteers shuffle across the stage. Adam finds a club and bashes one of them. The guy wearing the rat puppet shrieks, but Adam gets the carcass and scampers over to a safe spot to eat it.]
Look! Our hero has caught a cave-rat. While the idea of eating a cave rat might seem revolting to us, in fact his digestive system is perfectly designed for a diet of mostly raw meat and whatever nuts and berries he could find. Our digestive systems have not evolved, not even slightly, even though we eat very differently. The advent of agriculture lies between him and us. If you see our history through the skeletons of our ancestors, you’ll see that the invention of farming led to widespread disease and premature death. So he’s healthy – but is our simple friend happy?
[‘What is a youth’ by Nino Rota begins to play.]
[Adam whines mournfully. Enter Eve, another puppet.]
Ah! The oldest problem in the book: love. Our little hero feels the pang of a first crush, little realizing, like we do, that it’s only a gland squirting in his brain, driven to squirt by evolutionary necessity. The survival of the species is at stake – but for him, it feels like so much more.
[They see each other, and are initially suspicious. Soon, though, they approach each other, and they have a touching scene of first love.]
[Big booming drum beats and howling interrupt them. They panic, and scamper to hide. Enter King Gog, the alpha male of the tribe; he is huge and primitive, closer to ape than Adam and Eve. It might be possible to use something that looks like a boulder for his head. He is dragging a half-eaten carcass.]
[One puppeteer handles both Adam and Eve, while the other two work Gog and a crowd of other tribe members, played by rocks tied to sticks.]
Uh oh. Our heroes are not alone in this prehistoric Eden. They’ve been born into a tribe of beasts, one step below them in the evolutionary chain. Although this fellow is none-too-bright, he is large and strong, and that gives him the advantage.