tomwrightdreamer

Musings on creativity from Yorkshire's Gangliest Diabetic Buddhist Theatre Director

Month: February, 2018

Two plays about communication

I noticed, re-reading the plays I wrote in 28 Plays Later, that two of them were on a common theme; the emergence of new emotional tools. Here’s the first:

CLEAN

A white room, two white plastic chairs. Doors SL and SR

SAMEERA enters SL, wearing a white suit.

RUBY enters SR, identical.

The two nod at each other.

They sit neutrally.

SAMEERA: What is the topic?

RUBY: Gender equality.

SAMEERA: What assertions are you positing?

RUBY: One, despite substantial improvements in the last 120 years, women, on average are still disadvantaged in society.

Two, that this is not morally acceptable.

Three, that action needs to be taken.

SAMEERA: One. Define your terms.

RUBY: Substantial improvements would include that women-

SAMEERA: Clarification. Define the meaning of society in this assertion.

RUBY: The West.

SAMEERA: Clarify.

RUBY: Retraction. Britain.

SAMEERA: Clarify.

RUBY: Britain, circa 2017.

SAMEERA: Define ‘substantial improvements’ for women in Britain between 1897 and 2017.

RUBY: One, women in Britain are now able to vote.

Two, women in Britain are now legally protected from domestic violence.

Three, women in Britain are now able to own property.

Four, women in Britain are legally protected from discrimination in employment.

SAMEERA: Elaborate on ‘still disadvantaged.’

RUBY: One, women in Britain are more likely to suffer domestic violence.

SAMEERA: Clarify ‘more likely’ than who?

RUBY: Women in Britain are more likely to suffer domestic violence than men.

SAMEERA: Proceed.

RUBY: Two, women in Britain earn 17.5% less than their male counterparts.

SAMEERA: Clarify ‘male counterparts.’

RUBY: Men in equivalent roles in the same profession.

SAMEERA: Proceed.

RUBY: Three, women in Britain are more likely than men to encounter sexual harassment in the workplace.

SAMEERA: Define ‘sexual harassment.’

RUBY: Bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favours.

SAMEERA: Define ‘on average.’

RUBY: Oh, good –

SAMEERA slightly inclines her head. RUBY returns to neutral.

RUBY: On average means that while there will be individual cases where a man is disadvantaged in a particular situation versus a woman, that, on average, the significant advantage lies with men.

SAMEERA: Clarify.

RUBY: In any given situation, a man is more likely to have an advantage over women than a woman is to have an advantage over a man.

SAMEERA: What possible counter-arguments are there?

RUBY: Citing of individual examples where a man has advantage over a woman.

SAMEERA: Response?

RUBY: The assertion ‘on average’ acknowledges that there are some situations where a woman might have advantage over a man but the likelihood in any given situation is that the man will have the advantage over a woman.

SAMEERA: Define ‘morally unacceptable.’

RUBY: Pause. Further preparation required.

SAMEERA: Time required?

RUBY: One day.

SAMEERA: Nods. Till tomorrow.

RUBY stands and leaves. 

SAMEERA stands and leaves.

End

 

In the past I have encountered clean language: a therapeutic tool aiming to ‘reduce to a minimum any influence from the facilitator’s ‘map of the world’ via the therapee’s metaphors, interpretations or unwarranted assumptions.’ (My play in no way depicts actual clean language, though!) I have also been exploring coaching, and the power of questions to clarify thought. While I’m very interested in in gender equality, in the writing I was more interested about how one person could, by being as ‘clean’ and neutral as possible. enable another to develop their thinking. (Reading it back Sameera interrupts which is a big coaching no-no.) Of course, the real value of therapy or coaching also lies in actually having a human being listen to you, as Nancy Kline discusses in her book A Time to Think, but at the time part of me was yearning for a gentle, emotionally-cooler way of exploring ideas than the heated polemics on social media.

 

Then I explored a different idea, that sometimes the best communication between two people might be silent:

EYE CONTACT

Sasha enters the house, looking harassed. She’s wearing loose, comfortable clothing in light colours. The lounge is simple – no obvious screens, but there are some pictures on the wall, mainly landscapes. Abhin enters from the kitchen and looks at Sasha.

She sighs.

He takes both of her hands and they kneel together on a rug in the centre of the room.

They sit, cross-legged, holding hands. They look into each other’s eyes.

Several minutes pass during which something is happening, but there’s no obvious movement or expression.

Slowly they break, stretching life back into their limbs. They stand.

They hug and he kisses her gently on the mouth.

She sits on the couch with a contented sigh.

Abhin re-enters with a cup of tea and passes it to Sasha.

Abhin makes a gesture and music begins to play, the light shifts slightly, becoming warmer.

ABHIN: Good?

SASHA: Good.

End.

 When I’m teaching acting to students I lead an exercise where I ask them to stand completely still; no fidgeting, no raising an eye brow or the corner of a mouth, nothing, and then hold eye contact with each other and have a silent conversation. I’ve yet to see a group who felt that nothing was communicated in that time, and some have quite profound experiences. I must have been taught that exercise by someone but as I’ve been using it for 20 years I forget who!

I sometimes wonder what the effect of it would be in terms of a relationship, rather than a theatre workshop, hence the above vignette; imaging a world in which we are unafraid to be really present with another person in complete silence.

If anyone wants to see some of my professional work, Horace and the Yeti is out on the road, and my more Buddhist project, Generation Hope is thundering towards March 17th!

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Five Short Plays About Hope: 5

CONTAINS: Swears, Unreasonable expectations of empathy

(Best to read from the beginning if you haven’t already.)

I love theatre with something to say, which makes me think, gives me new ideas or ways of viewing the world. For example, last year, Rash Dash’s Two Man Show changed how I thought about gender (see it if you can!) However, I’m not in favour of hectoring an audience so I don’t think I would ever want the following piece staged! But as a companion piece to the previous four it throws up some interesting things for me. I’ll see you on the other side.

LEAST I COULD DO

Half a tube carriage. Half full. Specifically UZMA, LAURA and AMINA are sat on three consecutive seats. AMINA is reading a book, LAURA is on her phone.

UZMA starts to cry.

LAURA notices but goes back to playing on her phone.

UZMA completely breaks down.

LAURA looks at UZMA and then looks around – no one else has noticed. 

LAURA tries to go back to her phone.

LAURA gives up, rummages in her bag and tentatively offers UZMA a tissue.

UZMA takes it with a nod but carries on sobbing. 

LAURA wavers then goes back to her phone.

LAURA looks up again and opens her mouth to speak – but then goes back to her phone.

AMINA suddenly looks up and says to us:

AMINA: So, you’re probably expecting that this young woman on my right will, eventually ask this other woman, the crying one, what’s up with her. Because this is a play, right? It’s the inciting incident. There’ll be a heart to heart exchange. Possibly a great, emotional speech for the crying woman which will show of the playwright’s talents and tug at your heart strings.

AMINA goes back to her book.

LAURA plays with her phone.

UZMA sobs.

This carries on for a good thirty seconds.

AMINA: (Suddenly looking up again.) Yeah, she won’t. The phone woman won’t. Ask the crying woman what’s up. So, there you go.

Pause.

I know this because this happened on the tube yesterday and I’m just showing what happened. Phone girl does nothing for like seven stops. Then she gets off.

Pause.

This isn’t on phone girl either. Like, nobody else does anything. So it’s not just her.

Reads a bit.

Fuck it, I mean I was there and I didn’t do anything either.

Pause.

Would you have?

Pause.

I heard a great phrase the other day. ‘We all just need a good listening to.’

Grins.

It’s good isn’t it? Like ‘seeing to’?

Pause.

I liked it, a) because it’s smutty but b) because it’s true. Most of the time, we don’t want people to give us the answers. We just want them to be with us. Not try to fix, or solve, or advise, but to just sit us in our pain, and let them know that if we want to talk, they’ll listen.

Pause.

Fuck it. Let’s try it now.

Steps out of the train carriage, which is plunged into darkness. Lights up on the audience.

Right, find someone near you you don’t know.

Beat.

I’ll wait.

Beat.

No, seriously, get on with it.

Waits.

Right, quieten down. Now label yourselves A and B.

Wait.

Good, now A I want you to tell B a dream you’ve got. One item on your bucket list, something you’d love to do or achieve before you shuffle off. Yours is the easy job.

B your job is to listen. And maybe, if A starts to dry up, ask some good, open questions. But remember, mainly, your job is to listen. You’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason, as the philosophers say. No advice, no thoughts of yours, just listening and questions.

You’ve got three minutes.

3 minutes.

Great. Now swap over.

3 minutes.

Now, go back to the first way around; A – what are you going to have to change to achieve that dream. Like, in your life, maybe your circumstances, but better still in you. What do you have to change about you to achieve that goal. And Bs, no judgement, no advice. Just good questions and some warm nodding. Maybe even repeat what A has said to check you’ve understood.

3 minutes.

Now swap.

3 minutes.

I reckon to change the world we need three things. Courage, wisdom, compassion. And I reckon compassion might be the easiest. But if we care about other people, like the nice girl with the phone earlier did care about crying woman, what good is it if you’ve not got the courage to take any action towards it? I mean, then you need the wisdom to take action in the best way, but that’s the subject of another play. This one’s about compassion and courage.

So, yeah, I didn’t have the courage yesterday. But I’m going to try harder tomorrow. And you’ve just spoken to a stranger now, so how hard can it be, right?

Wanders back to the tube, which lights up, sits.

LAURA turns to UZMA.

LAURA: Hey. Are you okay? Sorry, I mean, you’re obviously not okay. I just. . .  if you want to, you can talk to me about it.

End.

For the record, I still wear massive head phones on public transport and avoid talking to anyone.

Hope has been very much on my mind of late; I was asked by SGI-UK to be Artistic Director of Generaton Hope, an event aimed at inspiring young people with hope in their ability to change the world (you’d be welcome to attend!)

It’s based on this remarkable poem by Daisaku Ikeda:

This is your age

The future rests in your hands

I hope you will make the twenty-first century truly wonderful

Please make it a century in which the life of each individual is cherished and respected to the utmost.

A century without discrimination, without bullying, war or murder.

A century in which no child cries with hunger, in which no mothers or children take their own lives in despair.

A century without environmental destruction.

A century free from academic elitism, greed and materialism.

A century in which human rights are upheld as the most precious treasure.

A century of true democracy, in which the people hold corrupt political leaders to account.

A century in which the people exercise sound judgement and pay no heed to the lies of the mass media.

I hope you will make it a century in which each of your precious dreams come true and your unique individuality blossoms to the fullest.

To realise these goals, it is vital that you achieve victory, that each of you

grow into people of philosophy and compassion, into people who possess

both real ability and the sincerity to understand the hearts of others.

Your victory will be the victory of the twenty-first century.

You are our only hope.

It’s an unprecedented event; thousands of guests meeting simultaneously in Manchester, Bristol and London. It’s the biggest, more bonkers project I’ve ever worked on, either as a Buddhist or a director. In order to make it, everyone working on it has had to dig deeper than ever before to really believe in the potential of the next generation to be able to stand up and clear up the messes of the previous generations. I’ve noticed that many of us have been confronted by the doubts and fears we hold in our hearts in the process of making it; we’ve been shown the things we don’t believe we can change in our own lives and the world. And sometimes, when those things are getting me down I read this poem and it’s terrifying; living up to it’s expectation feels like an impossible responsibility.

But then I dig deeper  than I ever have before, and strive to believe in the infinite potential of myself and every other living being, and I become more confident than ever that we can make the world a better place, that there is still hope if we are prepared to change and grow ourselves, and take action based on that spiritual growth. Then we can have a human revolution.

Thank you for reading Five Short Plays About Hope! Normal fortnightly service will now resume.

Five Short Plays About Hope: 4

CONTAINS: Implied torture.

(To follow this do read from the start!)

We have a quote in the SGI, ‘A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation, and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind,’ Daisaku Ikeda, The Human Revolution, Volume 1. 

The catch is that the single individual is you. It has to be you who changes. We can’t wait for someone else to change the world for us, sadly. But can I be that person? Can I stand up and change the world? Or will I run and hide?

WHAT WOULD I DO?

ADRIAN is brought in to an interrogation room by two large guards. He has blood on his shirt from a punch to the nose. He is barely standing. They place him in a metal chair, which is screwed into the floor, and attach restraints to his hands and legs.

Opposite him, sits SARAH who has not looked up and is calmly scrolling through a file on her laptop.

Silence.

Eventually:

SARAH: Adrian Scarcroft.

Pause. She looks up to eye Adrian.

ADRIAN: (With effort) Yes.

She looks back at the screen.

SARAH: Of 14 Wentworth Place.

ADRIAN Yes.

SARAH: Date of birth, 3rd  of the 4th 1988.

ADRIAN: Yes.

SARAH: Did you on the 17th of May, 2019, post a link to a petition by terrorist-organisation Avaaz on Facebook, calling for civil disobedience against this government?

ADRIAN: You know that I did.

SARAH: So, you plead guilty to treason?

ADRIAN: Wait, what?

SARAH: The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the His Majesty’s democratically elected government.

ADRIAN: Signing a petition is treason now?

SARAH: Not just signing the petition, but also ‘Inciting others, publically or privately, to actively support or passively condone the overthrow of His Majesty’s democratically elected government,’ which, since the passing of the Protection of Democracy Bill on February of this year, has been part of British law – (genuine frustration) sorry, English law. I keep forgetting that.

ADRIAN: It’s easily done.

SARAH: You may only speak to answer a direct question. (Beat.) Do you understand Mr Scarcroft?

ADRIAN: I do.

SARAH: The correct way to address a female representative of the His Majesty’s Government is ‘Ma’am.’

ADRIAN: I understand, Ma’am.

SARAH: Good. And since the Dissolution of the Judiciary for Undemocratic Actions Bill, the sentencing of such crimes has been passed to me.

ADRIAN: Sentencing – but I haven’t been tried yet. . .

SARAH: Did I ask you a question Mr Scarcroft?

ADRIAN: No, Ma’am.

SARAH: The right to trial by jury was suspended in the Emergency Measures Bill passed unanimously by Parliament last week. I find it very disturbing that someone who does not take the time to keep himself abreast of current affairs feels qualified to encourage his ‘Facebook Friends’ to treason and insurrection.

Pause.

The sentencing of treason is life-imprisonment in solitary confinement. Did you know that even as little as one week of solitary confinement has been proven to cause lasting psychological damage? I should also mention, as I’ve wandered off into trivia, that Parliament will debate a new act next week reintroducing the death penalty for select crimes, including treason, and there has just been added a fascinating amendment tabled allowing for this punishment to be awarded retrospectively, superseding the original sentencing. Do you understand everything I’m telling you Mr Scarcroft?

ADRIAN: Yes, Ma’am.

SARAH: I hear that your wife is outside. She is quite distressed. We had to point out that her distress was rapidly approaching the level of sedition. She’s quietened down somewhat but your youngest is still crying.

Pause

You’re the bread winner in your family, are you not?

ADRIAN: Yes, Ma’am.

SARAH: And you have three young children. And, I note, that you failed to pay off your mortgage before the housing crash, so your family finances must be hanging on a thread.

ADRIAN opens his mouth to speak.

SARAH: That wasn’t a question.

Pause 

You are, by your own admission, and the extensive digital evidence I have in front of me, guilty. You now understand the sentence I am authorised to give and how it will affect you and your family?

Pause

That was a question.

ADRIAN: I understand, Ma’am.

SARAH: However, I am empowered to offer leniency when I think it serves His Majesty’s Government’s interests. Obviously, we have access to the details of everyone who ‘liked’ your post, shared it, or clicked on the link to sign, and we are already bringing them in to have similar conversations, so there’s little you can offer us in terms of names or information. However, I might be prepared to suspend your sentence, indefinitely, if you were to publically retract your previous post, and strongly encourage your ‘Friends’ to do the same. We will, from time to time, send you other petitions, articles, opinions, we would like you to endorse and espouse, privately and publically. As you are probably, well aware, your every communication, like that of every other citizen in our fine country, and partner countries, is under constant surveillance, whether in the digital realm or the physical, via your personal devices or other devices we may have installed in your home, car, or office. If you failed to meet the required levels of enthusiasm you would find your sentence immediately invoked. Do you understand?

ADRIAN: Yes, Ma’am.

SARAH: And so, Mr Scarcroft, we come to my final question. Is your life and the well-being of your family, worth an ill-thought through Facebook post?

End

Five Short Plays About Hope: 3

CONTAINS: Swearing, Misplaced optimism.

(For this to make sense you may wish to read parts 1 and 2.)

I still didn’t have any of the answers, but I did have a desire. I desperately wanted someone to follow, someone to give me hope. I wanted:

THE WOMAN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD

The research room at a news radio station – lots of desks with computers and phones. Upstage is a sound booth, with glass walls to us, with interview and interviewee chairs and mics. There’s the background sound of talk radio coming over some speakers. Haseena comes in to the room – the attendants staff cheer and applaud her.

JESSICA: You did it! Ladies and gentleman – every radio station, television channel, newspaper, magazine, blog, fuck it, every single person on the street from here to Gretna Green wants to talk to one person. And who has our remarkable new Prime Minister said that she will give her first interview too? An exclusive, no less? Only fucking Haseena Ahad of LRC!

More whooping and cheers.

HASEENA: (Presidentially) Thank you, thank you, well, I couldn’t have done it without – seriously you flapping great bunch of twats we’ve got ten minutes until she’s here – stop whooping like pop heads and get to work!

Everyone rushes into action.

JESSICA: Seriously, Has, how did you pull this one off?

HASEENA: I’m not sure I did – she phoned me. She’s driving herself here now and she phoned on hands free. Apparently, she gave her own security the slip.

JESSICA: Shouldn’t she be heading direct to Number 10 or something?

HASEENA: Who knows? All I know is she’s coming here to see me. Right, 8 minutes to prep.

Goes through into the booth, leaving the door open behind her and puts on the headphones. Mun Yi goes over to the control panel on this sound, turns the radio chatter down and brings up the mic in the booth.

HASEENA: Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

MUN YI: All good, boss.

HASEENA: (Over the speakers) Hey, one of you shits, come in here and spit-ball with me!

A gang of five staff barge in.

HASEENA: Alright, fuck it, line up we can take it in turns.

ELOISE sits first.

HASEENA: Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us today.

ELOISE: (Posh) My pleasure.

SHARON: She doesn’t speak like that! That’s what’s ace about her!

HASEENA: Yup, sorry El, too posh, fuck off. Right, Shaz, you’re up.

SHARON sits in seat. 

HASEENA: Thank you for being here today, Prime Minister.

SHARON: Hiya!

HASEEN: Yup, that’s pretty good. Prime Minister, it’s been a remarkable few months. 2017 started as an absolute shi. . . pwreck of a year. For us it looked not just the country, but America, the EU and the world stood on the brink of an irrevocable descent into division, hatred and out-right fascism.

SHARON: Yeah, Has, and I was an ordinary housewife in Hulme.

HASEENA: Not so ordinary – look at everything you’ve achieved in seven short months. . .

SHARON: Yeah, but that’s the point isn’t it? That’s why she’s fucking amazing. She is just ordinary.

HASEENA: Bzzzzz! You’re supposed to be her, not talking about her, Shaz you’re fired. Next!

SHANIA takes the chair.

HASEENA: What was it that made you get up on the police car and make that amazing speech back in March?

SHANIA: I just wanted to speak out, yeah? Just had to speak the truth to power, didn’t I?

HASEENA: And you certainly did that. Your words galvanised a movement behind you. When I heard you – no, sorry – when some people heard you on the march they said that it changed them. That march had been made up of hundreds of different groups, all agreed that they weren’t happy with the way the country, and indeed the world was going, but all with their own individual fears and beliefs about how to make it better. And you – you were able to unite them into a common voice – in the same way as some other politicians had –

SHANIA: – united the people in hate, yeah. Well, I reckon that at heart, British people are good. Like, we fought a war against fascism, didn’t we? Seems a bit rich to just let it in by the back door. And we created the welfare state. We fought together, and then together we built a better country. But some people want to take that away. They want to take our openness, and our trust, and our belief in the inherent good in people. And I don’t want to lose that. I want us to grow our openness, grow our heart, be there for each other, and for the rest of the world. And I don’t see why we can’t.

HASEENA: Very good!

SHANIA: Yeah, and that’s why I wanted to come and talk to you first, because it’s about the people, isn’t it? And I hear there’s a boss girl working here called Shania, with this great hair –

HASEEN: Yup, you blew it! Next –

Karen sits

HASEENA: But it’s one thing to bring together a march and quite enough to form a political party from scratch, use that party to form a progressive coalition and then force the government to call a general election and then to win that election. How did all that happen?

KAREN: Well, Ms Khan, thank you for asking me that.

HASEENA: Na, that’s too politico for her.

KAREN: Oh right. Do I get another go?

Haseena thinks for a moment then nods.

KAREN: Ay, cheers for that, Has. Well, I read in this book once, that a great change in the heart of one person can change the world. Like, you know, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, and that other bloke. That sometimes, it just takes one person to stand up and challenge their own fear and weakness, and then that can cause a hundred others to stand up, a thousand, ten thousand. And that ten thousand can change the world. And I thought, well, fuck it, why not me? Why don’t I be that person? So I did. But it could have been anyone.

HASEENA: But it wasn’t anyone, Prime Minister – it was you –

MUN YI: She’s here!

Everyone scatters and takes up their positions.

HASEENA: Right, you bunch of malodourous bell ends, the woman who changed the world is coming to talk to her world through us so we better get this right!

All turn to face the door to the studio, expectant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Short Plays About Hope: 2

CONTAINS: Fanfic, Spoilers for Season Seven of the Greatest Television Series of All Time.

A variation on a theme, this one. The answer to the question ‘What would you do to stop Hitler,’ tends to be the glib one of ‘Go shoot him.’ Is that the answer? It begs another question, one I ask myself in times of deep distress:

WHAT WOULD BUFFY DO?

Or

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? 

We are in an alley-way. It’s dark.

BUFFY, petite woman in her 30s, tired, enters from one end of the alley. She’s wearing yoga clothing with a backpack and a knee-length coat. We can hear the chanting sounds of a political rally or parade in the distance. As BUFFY draws nearer to the sound she twists her wrist slightly and a four-inch wooden stake drops from her sleeve into her hand.

Behind her, by a dumpster, appears GILES, a late middle-aged English man with glasses and a three-piece suit.

BUFFY stops without turning around.

BUFFY: I can hear you.

Pause.

BUFFY: You’re not really here.

GILES:  Well that makes no sense.

BUFFY: (Still not turning round.) It makes complete sense. I hear you in my mind but you are not really here. Because you’re dead.

GILES:  You know better than anyone that being dead doesn’t mean I’m not here. You hang out with dead people all the time.

BUFFY: Un-dead people. And I don’t see that much of Spike at the moment. Trying to cut down on blood suckers in my life. (Beat.)  You’re different.

GILES:  In what way?

BUFFY: Because you’re properly dead. Rotting in a British cemetery. You’re not walking the earth, you’re just hanging around in my brain. I’m making you hang around in my brain.

GILES:  And why would you do that?

BUFFY: Because sometimes I get a yearning for good British manners?

GILES:  Or?

BUFFY: Because part of my brain is trying to tell the rest of me something.

GILES:  And what are you trying to tell yourself this time?

BUFFY: (Turning.) I don’t know, Giles, what am I telling myself?

GILES:  You could be telling yourself that what you are about to do is not the answer.

BUFFY: Yes, that’s why I know you’re not real. Because the real Giles taught me how to use this thing (flourishes the stake) and that I am the chosen one – chosen to use Mr Pointy here to make the world a better place.

GILES:  I also taught you to use your brain. And you far exceeded me. You changed the whole game. Not one slayer any more, but hundreds.

BUFFY: But I’m the original one. It’s on me. It’s always been on me. To save the world. And that’s what I’m going to do.

GILES:  Like this? Maybe there are some problems you can’t solve with Mr Pointy in a dark alley.

BUFFY: I’m not going to do it in an alley. Three minutes, his car will come past, he’ll be waving with that ridiculous grin of his. A couple of summersaults and a quick staking and it will all be over.

GILES:  But he’s not a vampire.

BUFFY: Isn’t he? Doesn’t he suck the life blood out of everything that’s good in my world?

GILES:  Clever word play won’t make this right. He’s not a vampire.

BUFFY: But I’m sure a stake to the hurt will kill him anyway.

GILES:  And won’t his security team then kill you? There’ll be a lot of guns out there.

BUFFY: I expected they will.

GILES:  And what about little baby Joyce?

BUFFY: She’s why I’m doing this, Giles! I’ve stopped hellmouths from opening and spewing forth evil, but he opens his hell mouth and all the evil that’s been hiding in men’s hearts across this country come pouring out, all the dark, petty hatreds they’ve been hiding for decades come bumbling up. Everyone who’s a little bit different, different colour, different language, different chromosomes, suddenly has to run and hide. If I let him win, then what was it all for? What did I save the world for? No, this way is better. I might not be around to see it but little Joyce will grow up in a better world, Xander and Dawn and Willow will raise her right.

GILES:  And what will she know of her mother? What she sees on Fox Documentaries? The woman who killed a President with a pointy piece of wood? And will she learn the same lesson, that there’s nothing that she can’t solve with some four inches of sharpened birch and some kick-boxing sessions? Is that how you want her to live her life?

BUFFY: Then what do you want me to do Giles? You were my Watcher, guide me!

GILES:  You already know.

BUFFY: No I don’t! Otherwise I wouldn’t be here, preparing to go all Lee Harvey Oswald.

GILES:  You did it before. You shared your power.

BUFFY: I can’t make any more Slayers. That was a one-time deal!

GILES:  No, but you can lead. You can inspire. You can empower. You can still be the Chosen one. But you’ll need to fight a different kind of war. In a different kind of way.

BUFFY: (Looking at Mr Pointy.) But this is all I know.

GILES:  There was a time when you didn’t even know that. But you learnt.

BUFFY: You taught me. You’re not here any more.

GILES:  There’s no manual any more, Buffy. You have to teach yourself. And you’ll fail. And you’ll pick yourself up, and learn to let others help you, and you’ll stand with them, and you’ll march, and you’ll save the world, again.

BUFFY: I’m scared.

GILES:  I know. We all are.

GILES melts into the shadow.

Pause 

BUFFY throws the stake down. And slowly walks back into the alley.

Five Short Plays About Hope: 1

CONTIANS: Swears, British and American politics, depression.

February 2017 was quite a fun time for me, I was taking part in 28 Plays Later, I was directing Handbagged, a play I loved with a great cast. I had a cold and was contending with the tube every morning (as we were rehearsing in London – a city I haven’t lived in for 7 years – oh how quickly one forgets what it’s like)  but otherwise my life was good. But, like many I know, I was also in shock at what 2016 had revealed about the world; the rising to the surface of the hatred which I now must acknowledge was always there, but which I was protected from seeing by my privilege.

After my country had an ill-advised referendum, I spent every waking moment, when I wasn’t working, on social media, reading articles, trying to understand how the basis of my reality had shifted so suddenly. Then The Man Whose Name Has Meant I Have To Find New Words For The Card Which Beats Other Cards In Card Games was elected, and I realised that I was in danger of making myself seriously ill. So, I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone, I stopped visiting news sites. For two months I stayed news free. Ignorance, it turned out, really was bliss. I could get through my day without facing the growing panic of the world I lived in.

Eventually though, I heard some words by Robert Harrap, General Director of SGI-UK, where he said words to the effect of, ‘I want to read about the world as it is, so I can see how our spiritual practice needs to change it.’ So I upped the amount of Buddhist chanting and study I was doing and started buying the Week. If you’ve never tried it, it’s a very soothing experience – it has a neutral tone and reports what different papers are saying. For example, one might read; ‘Yesterday one thousand people died of plague in the UK. The Guardian thinks this could have been avoided by reversing the under-funding of the NHS while the Daily Mail points out that some of those who died were asylum seekers, so it’s not all bad.’ You see? Much easier to stay calm reading that.

As I started to feel bolder my mind started to turn to what could I actual do to make a difference. This preoccupation bubbled up repeatedly throughout the plays I wrote, so this week, to shake things up, I’m going to publish one of those plays a day, as Five Short Blogs About Hope

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Lights up on an extremely lanky Yorkshireman in jeans, blue shirt, and a crumpled jacket. He looks up at the audience slightly startled.

ME: So, there’s this thing I’ve been thinking about. I’ve not fully got my head around it yet, but I thought I might as well share it with you and see where it goes. You find you’ve gone back in time to Germany, 1932. Hitler’s a big deal but he’s not yet Chancellor. Oh, and you can speak German. You’ve met up with some of your new friends, nice, well-meaning, middle class, vaguely artistic types. Not full-on Weimar republic hedonists, but still, pretty open. Not the sort to go smashing Jewish people’s windows. And they say to each other, and you, ‘Oh, I don’t know what to do! I’m scared. Scared for me, scared for my country, scared for my family, scared for people who are different from me, but who will suffer under what might come. I’m so scared I can’t really function, I’m struggling to work properly, I can’t concentrate, I’m getting depressed. I’m not really present, (except they wouldn’t say that, as that’s a late 20th Century thing at best, but for now, go with it, you get the gist), I’m not really present in my work, or with my family. I’m barely present here now. I’ve got all this worry, not sleeping at night, but I don’t know what to do. I’ve been on some polite marches, signed some petitions, I’m voting for other parties, I’ve even put their posters in my window, so, you know, I’ve stuck my neck out. But I know it’s not enough. So, do I not worry about it? Do I go back to focusing on being the best employee, family member, friend I can be, and block all the rest out? Or do I go all out and try and stop this evil? And what would that even look like?’ And you know, that in a few short months, Hitler will be Chancellor, then there’ll be a fire, and – boom – within a month, no more democracy. Nazis’ are the only party. And for millions of people it’s too late – a highly efficient system of killing will be developed – they are fucked. And the fate of the planet has changed, dragging in France, Britain, Russia, Japan. Bombs are developed, bombs are dropped. And you know all of this is coming. You know it all in detail, from books and endless documentaries and Oscar-bait films. And your new friends turn to you and say, ‘What should we do?’ They want to be good people, and if they can’t be good, they want to be happy, but now they’re just miserable and impotent. And what do you say to them? ‘Do something?’, ‘Do Everything?’ ‘Do Nothing?’

Because we know. Like they did, in their hearts of hearts, those nice well-meaning Germans of 1932. They know what’s coming. And we know what’s coming. So I’m asking you, as a nice, well-meaning man in the UK in 2017. What the fuck should I do?

Silence.

End