In 1995 I finished writing a musical about Mata Hari. In 1999 it was workshopped at The New Theatre Newtown with twelve actors playing parts meant for a cast of thirty. I wanted to present her story in a new way and fuse her life with the lives of artists of the day. I also wanted to prove her innocence as I believe she is a woman much maligned by history.
After arriving in Paris, having run away from her husband stationed in Java, Mata Hari ( Margarethe Gertrude Zelle ) meets with a Baron Capellen in an artists studio where she is having her portrait painted. The Baron buys her portrait and the idea is that he also buys the woman. He helps her in her chosen career as an exotic dancer and eventually manages to get her a booking at The Metropole in Berlin. On her opening night the Baron is called away on business and Mata Hari ( Zelle ) is handed a note which informs her that the performance will not go ahead because war has just broken out between France and Germany. She is then told by her maid ( Anna ) that her jewellry and furs have been confiscated by the costumier and have now become property of the theatre. Zelle confronts the costumier.
Zelle: Monsieur I have come to collect my things for I must return to Paris.
Zelle: Why my jewells of course.
Costume: I’m sure that there is nothing in my care that belongs to you madame.
Zelle: I beg your pardon! How dare you speak to me in this way! You have my costumes, my fursI myself placed them in your care for duration of my contract. That contract is now finishedand I demand that my property be returned.
Costume: Madame I’m afraid you are in no position to demand anything. The jewells and furs you refer to are the property of the Metropole Theatre and if you persist in your ridiculous demands I shall have to call the manager and have you thrown out.
Zelle: You insolent …. odious little man. I’ll teach you to threaten me. I have friends in very high places. Friends that will topple you from your pretentious little throne faster than you can say Kaput! Just the mention of my name ….
Costume: ( Laughs ) By all means go to your friends but I am of the opinion that your name no longer affords you any privileges. Now if you’ll kindly remove yourself from my presence I shall not be obliged to embarrass you further.
This is where all her troubles begin. Mata Hari’s prime objective is the return of her jewells. Stay tune for the next installment and find out how she is compromised by the powers that be.
( From ‘Eye Of Dawn’ by ©Renee Dallow. )