tomwrightdreamer

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

Category: 28 Plays Later

8291

WARNING: I did almost no research on this one; that’s what happens if you write a play in a day – research and drafting fall by the way-side. But I think the idea holds true, even if the details are sketchy.

Also – swears

8291

KELLY, white, early 40s, is clearing up her breakfast in a family kitchen.

KELLY               Laura! You’ll be late for netball!

SIMON, a black man in his early 40s comes in, sifting post. Sits. Pours himself some sugary cereal and munches as he sifts. 

KELLY               Anything exciting?

SIMON            Bil, bill, circular, pizza menu, bill – ooh!

KELLY               ‘Ooh?’

SIMON            It’s come!

KELLY               What’s has?

SIMON            Our future! The deepest secrets hidden in our lives!

KELLY               Sounds awful. What are you talking about?

SIMON            You remember last month when I got you to do those mouth swabs?

KELLY               Yes?

SIMON            Well the results are in! The secrets of our DNA!

KELLY               Simon, darling, this will come as a shocking surprise to you but I wasn’t really listening when we did the swabs – I just went along with it to shut you up.

SIMON            I’d never have guessed!

KELLY               So, do you want to take it from the top?

SIMON            From the saliva sample I sent they can analyse your genetic make up – they map your whole genome and run it against they’re database and they tell you things about yourself.

KELLY               Such as?

SIMON            Well. . . gene 7912 mine says that genetically my heart is likely to be strong. I have 2413 a slight tendency towards weight gain.

Kelly reaches over the table and slides his cereal bowl away from him.

                        Ha, ha. (Pause) Oh. Oh no.

KELLY               What?

SIMON            Oh God.

KELLY               What?!

SIMON            Oh my –

KELLY               WHAT IS IT YOU ARSE?!

SIMON            5028. I have a mild intolerance for coffee. I think my life is over.

KELLY              Mild intolerance versus never being awake? Tough call!

SIMON            I will find a way to soldier on.

KELLY               Alright, then Professor, let’s see mine.

SIMON            Well, it says here that genetically you are beautiful but very annoying.

KELLY snatches it from him.

KELLY               7823. Relatively tall. Nailed it. 3103 slight hypertension – (Pushes her own coffee away from her.) 5067 green eyes. You paid how much for this?

SIMON            Doesn’t it say ‘green eyes, exceptionally beautiful.’

KELLY               Creep. Well, according to this I am genetically average in every conceivable way. How dull.

SIMON            Not to me you’re not!

KELLY               Thank you!

SIMON            You are definitely never dull.

She thumps him playfully.

Let’s see what Laura’s says.

KELLY               You did Laura?

SIMON            Yes.

KELLY               Without asking her?

SIMON            Well, she said yes to a swab.

KELLY               But did you explain what it was for?

SIMON            No, wanted it to be a surprise.

KELLY               Shouldn’t we wait till she comes down.

SIMON            C’mon, just a peak. Don’t you want scientific confirmation that our daughter is extraordinary?

KELLY               I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me that.

SIMON            C’mon. Let’s have a look!

KELLY               Alright, fine – get on with it.

SIMON            7823 – relatively tall.

KELLY               Boom! That’s down to me.

SIMON            5067 – green eyes.

KELLY               Double boom! Told you she took after me. Mama’s got strong genes.

SIMON            Oh god, this is a long one. 8291. ‘The protein encoded by this gene belongs to the ferlin family and is a skeletal muscle protein found associated with the sarcolemma. It is involved in muscle contraction and contains C2 domains that play a role in calcium-mediated membrane fusion events, suggesting that it may be involved in membrane regeneration and repair. In addition, the protein encoded by this gene binds caveolin-3, a skeletal muscle membrane protein which is important in the formation of caveolae. Specific mutations in this gene have been shown to cause autosomal recessive limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 2B.’

KELLY               What the fuck?

SIMON            Erm. . .

KELLY               No, seriously, what the fuck does that mean?

SIMON            Mutation in 8291 causes autosomal recessive limb girdle muscular dystrophy type 2B.

 

KELLY               What the fuck is that!

SIMON            Hang on! (Rifles through the papers.) Here it is! Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, type 2B is one of many forms of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, a group of disorders that affect the voluntary muscles of the hips and shoulders. LGMD2B is characterized by early weakness and wasting (atrophy) of the pelvic and shoulder girdle muscles in adolescence or young adulthood. The age of onset typically ranges from 15 to 35 years, and legs are usually affected first. Symptoms include the inability to tiptoe and difficulty walking and running.  Cardiac (heart) and respiratory involvement is uncommon. It is usually slowly progressive, with need of a wheelchair 10 to 20 years after onset.

Silence 

LAURA, mixed-race, 15, bounds on in her netball costume.

LAURA             Come on mum! We’ll be late!

Kisses Simon.

                        See you later Dad!

Grabs the car keys from a hook on the wall.

                        C’mon mum, I’ll be in the car!

She heads out. Kelly and Simon sit, unmoving.

End.

Now that we’re at the end I can unpack some of my thinking on this – reading it back I wondered if it was ableist, making the diagnosis of a condition into a tragedy. The day nine year-old me became diabetic felt like a tragedy. But to 40 year old me it’s more of a constant low-level irritation. Although I’d definitely not swap my diabetes for the condition here, I am very sure that there are people with Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, type 2B who are living full and happy lives and making a difference in the world. I’m sure there are others with the condition who feel they could be living full and happy lives if society offered them better support. In short, I think the snap-shot here is true – a diagnosis like this feels like a bereavement, a loss which must be mourned. But it would be interesting to revisit our three characters over the following years and see if that feeling evolves into something else.

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Boundary Issues

KIMMY is sitting on a JESSICA’s bed in student digs. JESS has put some effort into making her room feel at home – there’s study books but also posters, cushions, cuddly toys, maybe a pot plant. KIMMY is painting her nails.

JESS comes in, obviously having had a bad day, throws her bag down on the desk (which is line of sight from the door), then turns with a sigh – sees Kimmy, and jumps.

JESS:                Agh!

KIMMY:           Hey Jessie! Good day?

JESS:                You startled me!

KIMMY:           I came in to borrow your nail polish. That’s okay, right?

JESS:                Oh. That’s why I keep running out. Beat. Is that my t-shirt?

KIMMY:           Yeah, my stuff’s in the wash. Figured you wouldn’t mind.

JESS:                Right.

KIMMY:           So how was the meeting today?

JESS:                Yeah, the Prof was riding me a bit. About the last essay being late and all. Like, it’s fine, it’s just a bit. . . you know.

KIMMY:           Yeah. He’s a cock.

JESS:                I guess. I think it’s more about me getting my shit together.

KIMMY:           I suppose. But there’s no need for him to be mean about it.

JESS:                Yeah.

Silence

JESS:                I saw the groups for the practical module were up.

KIMMY:           Cool huh?

JESS:                Us being in a group together?

KIMMY:           Yeah!

JESS:                The other were saying that they were asked who they wanted to be in groups with.

KIMMY:           Yeah, it was that day you were all full of lurgy. So I signed us up together. Didn’t want to disturb you.

JESS:                Right.

Silence.

KIMMY:           What are we doing tonight then?

JESS:                Beat. Well, I’ve been invited to a party.

KIMMY:           Oooh! Where is it?

JESS:                Over in Goldeney.

KIMMY:           Oooh – Goldeney. What should I wear?

JESS:                Huh?

KIMMY:           I mean all my stuff is in the wash. Ooh – can I borrow your red dress.

JESS:                I’m wearing my red dress.

KIMMY:           That’s fine. I like your blue one too. What time Is it?

JESS:                Err, sorry, Kim, like, I’m going to the party, not ‘we are going to the party.’

KIMMY:           Beat. Sorry?

JESS:                Mark asked me. To go. With him. Me and Mark.

KIMMY:           Oh. Beat. Oh. Beat. Well, that’s fine. I’ll come with you and then just hang out till your done.

JESS:                I don’t think that’s going to work Kimmy. I’m going to be with Mark the whole time.

KIMMY:           Well I’m sure you won’t be with him the whole time, you’ll need someone to hang with when he’s talking to his friends.

JESS:                I’m not sure he’s planning on talking with his friends.

KIMMY:           Yeah, that’s what boys are like. You’ll need me. I’ll be your wing woman.

JESS:                Errr, or you could find something else to do?

KIMMY:           Like what?

JESS:                You could go down the union.

KIMMY:           Nah, don’t like it.

JESS:                Or Watershed, I heard some of the gang from the department are heading down there.

KIMMY:           Nah, don’t like them.

JESS:                Or you could catch up on Netflix.

KIMMY:           Nah, it’s not as good without you. I’d sooner come with you. It will be cool.

JESS:                Look, err Kimmy. . .

Kimmy does pleading eyes.

JESS:                Err, okay, but don’t get all moody when I’m spending time with Mark.

KIMMY:           That’s okay. I’m sure you wouldn’t abandon me completely.

Pause.

JESS:                Right, better go shower.

KIMMY:           Oh and Jess!

JESS:                Huh?

KIMMY:           You should wear your blue dress. Brings out your eyes.

JESS:                Okay.

JESS leaves for the shower.

KIMMY:           Painting her nails. And then I can wear your red one.

End

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Lights

I will be honest, of all of these plays, I really want to stage this one. Please someone commission me to do it!

MOVING LIGHTS

The stage is lit. It is empty apart from five moving lights which are fixed to the floor in semi-circle with the open-end to the audience. The lights are referred to here as 1 – 5, with 1 being SR and 5 being SL. There is just enough haze to make the beams of the movers clear when lit.

As the piece starts the house lights slowly fade out and the light on stage goes to a low level (so we can still make out each moving light.) 

The moving lights suddenly snap into sharp angles.

Europe’s The Final Countdown starts. Loud.

During the lead-in the lights turn on, narrow focus and make slow, graceful arcs with their tight beams of white light, across the space. Then when the guitar kicks-in they make bolder direct beams, snapping on and off. This goes on long enough (probably about the time the lyrics start) for us to be impressed and to get the gist of the light-show.

Gradually it becomes apparent that 1 has started to lag behind the others.

This becomes more and more noticeable; the others keep doing the precise and energetic light show until stated otherwise.

1 starts to drift down towards SR, tries to lift up to join the others, but slowly drifts down again.

Finally 1 settles with its beam on 5.

1’s beam softens and slowly turns pink.

1’s beam starts to gently pulse, like a heart beat, slower than the beat of the music.

5’s beam starts to flick down, as if distracted, then tries to keep up with the beat. This happens twice. 

5’s beam finally comes down all the way to focus, open white on 1.

Slowly 2 – 4’s lights also come down and focus on 1. The music stops

1’s suddenly goes to white and scans across 2 – 4. It then snaps up.

2 and 4 drift back up to position.

3’s light, looks at 1, then sharply at 5, then back at 1, it narrows and brightens. Then it snaps become up. The music comes back on.

As before, 1 is in time, then falls out, and quite quickly returns to bouncing a pink late off 5.

5 realises and shines back at him.

3 stops and snaps at 1. The music stops. 2 and 4 come down too and look at 1, then back at 5.

5’s beam on 1 slowly narrows, becomes pink, then starts to pulse with the same beat.

3’s beam widens and goes blood red.

2 and 4 look at 1, then at 3, then slowly look up and meander around the space.

1 starts to move his pulsing pink light over 5.

5 shudders.

5 starts to move her pulsing pink light over 1.

3 looks between them sharply, and becomes an even deeper red.

1 and 5 continue to run their lights over each other. 

3 starts to flick back and forward between them, then starts to vibrate.

Smoke starts to come out of 3.

A pyro behind 3 goes off sending sparks everywhere and 3’s light goes out.

1 and 5’s pink lights grow brighter and start to move off each other to dance together in the space, occasionally the beams caress each other.

2 and 4, still white, accompany as backing dancers.

Debussy’s Claire de Lune plays.

As the music swells 2 and 4 peel off and fade to black.

1 and 5 return to each other, wide pink, pulsing.

Their beams narrow.

The pulse slows.

Their light fades. 

Black.

 

 

 

 

Notification of Death

I actually did some research for this one, in that I read a pamphlet on how to break the news that someone’s loved one has died. It’s a thing I sometimes think about – would I be able to do it? How would I feel receiving the news? We talk about each moment being previous but this is a tangible moment where you measure your life before it, and your life after it, where everything is different. Anyway, this play isn’t about that, really, but that’s where it started in my head.

 

Notification of Death

The ground floor of a house. The front door is visible SR and it goes straight into an open lounge area – there’s a flight of stairs going up centre stage and then the door to the kitchen SL. The flat is clean and relatively tidy with a few signs of personality; a pink lace cushion, a shelf with Forever Friend ceramic bears on it, etc.

SARAH is passed out on the couch. She is wearing smart business clothes.

The door bell rings. SARAH doesn’t move.

The door bell rings. SARAH suddenly grunts and sits up. She’s bewildered.

The door bell rings again. SARAH realises it’s the door and unsteadily walks towards it.

The door bell rings again. She fumbles the keys, which are on a hook by the door, and then finally manages to open it.

On the other side are AISHA, and TIM, police officers in full uniform.

SARAH is suddenly rigid and wide awake.

AISHA: Hello. Are you Sarah Bolam?

SARAH: Yes.

AISHA: Mrs Bolam, may we come in?

ADREA: No. . . What. . . Why?

TIM: Mrs Bolam. I’m Officer Timothy Kent, and this is Officer Aisha Kazi. We need to speak to you. May we come in please?

SARAH stares at TIM then nods and walks away from the door, leaving it open.

AISHA: Thank you Mrs Bolam.

They enter, Aisha shutting the door behind them. They both look around the room as they come into the centre.

SARAH stops and turns to look at them.

AISHA: May we sit?

SARAH nods. AISHA gestures to the sofa.

AISHA: Here?

SARAH nods. They sit on the sofa; AISHA noticing the vodka bottle as she does so. SARAH stays standing.

AISHA: You should sit too, Mrs Bolam.

SARAH sits straight down on the armchair.

AISHA: I’m afraid we have bad news.

SARAH is unmoving. 

TIM: I am very sorry to tell you that Steven Bolam died a little under two hours ago.

SARAH stares at him.

AISHA: Mrs Bolam – would you like me to call you Mrs Bolam or would you prefer me to call you Sarah?

SARAH stares at TIM, and continues to do so throughout:

AISHA: Mrs Bolam, we would like to tell you what we know at present about your husband’s death. We understand that this may upset or disturb you. Please stop me at any time and feel free to interrupt me if there is anything that we say which you do not understand, dislike, or need repeating. You may take notes if you wish. Would you like to do that?

SARAH stares at TIM

At 5pm your husband left work and was driving back here using the ring road. His car was described as driving at high speed, in a manner consistent with brake failure. We believe that, in attempt not to hit an on-coming lorry, he swerved, lost control of the vehicle and struck a tree to the side of the road. The lorry driver pulled over and phoned for an ambulance. Unfortunately, by the time the ambulance arrived Mr Bolam had already passed away; it appears he suffered a fatal head wound on impact, although that will need to be confirmed by the coroner.

His body has been taken to the York City morgue. Once you have hired undertakers they will be able to collect the body there, as the autopsy should be complete by tomorrow.

Mr Bolam’s car was irrevocably damaged and has been taken away for analysis to identify if a fault was responsible for the incident and then it will be destroyed. We have here the case number of the incident for you to use when contacting the insurance company, and here (she proffers a carrier bag) are the personal effects we removed from the vehicle.

SARAH continues to stare at TIM. AISHA slowly places the bag on the sofa next to her.

TIM: Mrs Bolam. It was an accident. A tragic accident. And no one was to blame for it. We are very sorry for your loss.

AISHA looks at him sharply then looks back at SARAH

AISHA: Do you have any questions, Mrs Bolam?

Beat. SARAH suddenly stands.

SARAH: You must be thirsty. I’ll make you tea.

AISHA: No really, Mrs Bolam there’s no. . .

SARAH turns and walks into the kitchen and closes the door behind her. AISHA immediately turns to TIM.

AISHA: Why did you say that?

TIM: What?

AISHA: About no one being to blame?

TIM: Well, what? Nobody is to blame!

AISHA: That’s not up to us to decide – that’s up to the coroner.

TIM: Yeah, but it wasn’t anybody’s fault. Did you see the look on the poor lorry driver’s face? He’d have caved and told us if he’d been going too fast. The shakes on him.

AISHA: Not our call, Tim, stick to your training!

The sound of a kettle boiling off stage.

I do death notifications all the time. This is your first, right?

TIM: Yeah, and I appreciate you letting me come with.

AISHA: Don’t know why you were so keen.

TIM: Got to start using all that training sometime, right?

Pause. AISHA picks up the bottle of vodka. 

AISHA: There’s something not right here. 

SARAH suddenly comes back in.

SARAH: Biscuits?

AISHA: No, thank you.

TIM: No, no, thank you, Mrs Bolam.

SARAH abruptly turns and leaves.

Tim looks at the bottle.

TIM: So? She likes a drink?

AISHA: At 7:20 on a Tuesday evening?

TIM: Maybe she’s got a problem?

AISHA: That’s what’s weird. Does this look like the house of an alcoholic? Place is spotless.

TIM: Is that what they teach you when you become a family liaison officer? How to snoop into the public’s drinking habits?

SARAH comes back in with a tray which she puts on the coffee table. She is now wearing an apron with a large front pocket. She passes AISHA a tea, and then does the same for TIM. He nurses it. SARAH sits.

AISHA: Did you have any questions for us, Mrs Bolam?

SARAH (Pause. Not looking at Aisha:) Will I have to see the body?

AISHA: No. We were able to identify his body from the photo on his driving license so you won’t have to see Steven’s body until he’s been prepared by the undertakers. Or at all, if you’d prefer not to.

SARAH: I see. (Beat.) Do I need to sign anything?

AISHA: Not today, no. There will be paperwork at the morgue but the undertaker’s should be able to complete those on your behalf.

Pause

AISHA: I have this letter for you which details how to contact me if you have any further questions, and details when you can expect to hear from the coroner’s and about the inquest, which of course you are free to attend, but are not required to do so unless we inform you otherwise. I also have this leaflet about grief counselling services in the area.

AISHA offers the paperwork to SARAH who does not move, so she places them on the table. As she does so: 

AISHA: Black tea.

TIM: Sorry?

AISHA: Your tea is black. Mine’s got milk in it.

TIM: Yeah, I like mine black – lactose intolerant, you know that.

AISHA: I know that. But how does she?

SARAH: } He said –

TIM: } She asked me –

Beat

TIM: Just now.

Beat

AISHA: No she didn’t.

Silence

AISHA: Mrs Bolam, do you usually drink vodka at this time?

SARAH: Hmm?

AISHA: Where you at work today?

SARAH: Yes, you can phone the office if you like.

AISHA: Where is the office?

SARAH: Barretts and Johnson, Gillygate.

AISHA: What time did you finish work?

SARAH: Normal time. 5pm. I try and be strict.

AISHA: So you left work, came straight back here and drank most of this bottle of vodka?

SARAH: (Beat.) It had been a tough day.

TIM: Mrs Bolam, you don’t need to answer these questions, you’re not been accused of anything.

SARAH: (Looking at Tim.) Where did you go for lunch, today, Tim? We didn’t see you in the canteen. In fact, we didn’t see you between dropping off that shoplifter at Liddl and then you turned up at the car crash. You got there very quickly too. Almost like you knew it would happen. And the hour or so when I didn’t see you would be enough to go Mr Bolam’s place of work and cut his brake cables, wouldn’t they?

SARAH starts to reach for her radio. TIM reaches over and takes it off her.

TIM: Look Aisha, me and Sarah love each other. We’ve been together for years now but Steven wouldn’t give her a divorce, so –

AISHA: Timothy Kent, you are under arrest. You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.

SARAH takes out a large kitchen knife from her apron and lunges at AISHA’s back. 

Blackout.

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!

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: 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

 

NaNoWriMo

WARNING: Contains swears, apparitions and the end of humanity.

As I said in an earlier blog, one of the great benefits of 28 Plays Later was that it unlocked my creativity, and that it showed me that I could make the time to write even in busy circumstances, and it emboldened me to take on the even bigger challenge of NaNoWriMo, writing 50,000 words (apparently the average length of the first draft of a shortish novel, I’m assured that they grow with each draft) through the month of November.

That turned out to be an even more profound experience; there is something remarkable about investing so many hours in your own creativity, without a likely return of money, fame, adulation. It’s a way of saying to your inner creative voice; ‘you have inherent value and I’m going to invest time and energy in to you.’ And, I found, the voice reciprocates.

I’ll write more about both the process, and the resulting novel in later blogs, but I want to share two of the short plays from 28 Plays Later which helped develop my thinking towards the novel.

As ever, I can’t tell you what the prompts where that led to these, but hopefully they will pique your interest. (A quick note, WordPress does not love tabs and indents so I have deviated from the standard British script format for these and all future scripts.)

THE VOICE IN THE WIND

This is a story I’ve been carrying in my head for over 10 years, never finding the time to get it into the world. Even knowing it so well, I was surprised by some of the details which came out.

ALICIA, 12, mixed-race, frizzy hair in buns, jeans, jumper, backpack, comes in to the room. Her parents hover in the door way. The room is clean but faded and aged. Bare boards. Bed. Dresser, fire place, standing mirror covered with a dust sheet.

She throws her bag on to the bed, which creaks.

DAD: On Monday we’ll got to Homebase and choose some paint. Then we can get this place fixed up. Any colour you like?

Pause.

Pink?

MUM gently thumps him in the arm. ALICIA wrinkles her nose at him.

DAD: Okay. Well, we’ll let you settle in.

He lifts in a large suitcase and closes the door. Wind whistles through the fire place.

ALICIA goes over to the bed and throws herself on to it. The springs creak.

SILENCE

There’s a big gust of wind. The lights flick off. The sun has set but there’s a little bit of gloaming left before complete darkness.

ALICIA tuts.

Wind starts to howl louder.

ALICIA rolls over.

WIND: Alicia!

ALICIA leaps up in the half darkness.

Pause.

WIND: Alicia!

ALICIA creeps towards the fire place. She’s about to get there when her DAD suddenly opens the door to her room, carrying a torch. 

ALICIA shrieks.

DAD: Sorry! We’ve only got enough torches for me and your mother, but we do have some candles. Here –

He walks to the mantelpiece and places a saucer, candle and matches. He strikes a match and slightly melts the base of the candle. Then he lights the wick. A warm glow part-fills the room.

DAD: There you go!

He goes back to the door.

DAD: Dinner in a few minutes, I reckon. Luckily the gas is still working!

Goes, shutting the door behind him.

Pause

WIND: Alicia!

ALICIA continues slowly walking to the fire.

There is a sudden and much louder:

WIND: Alicia!

The candle flares brighter. She jumps.

Silence.

ALICIA listens. Nothing.

Then a crackling sound:

CANDLE: Alicia.

She draws really close to the candle.

ALICIA: Did you just speak?

CANDLE: Careful! You nearly blew me out.

ALICIA: Sorry!

CANDLE: It’s difficult to talk this way. Take the sheet from the mirror.

ALICIA looks around. She sees it and removes the sheet. She sees herself reflected.

CANDLE: Now draw the candle closer.

ALICIA carries the candle closer. It flickers slightly and suddenly ALICIA sees MARY, a 12 year old girl wearing torn and bloodied clothing circa 1830 in the mirror, staring back at her.

MARY: Help me!

ALICIA screams, accidentally blowing out the candle. And plunging the stage into darkness.

The dusty bulb in the middle of the room lights up. The mirror reflects the room.

ALICIA looks around, still holding the candle. 

DAD: (FROM OFF) Help me set the table, Alicia! Dinner’s nearly ready.

ALICIA throws the candle down and rushes out of the room.

The light bulb flickers out. Mary appears again in the mirror.

MARY: Please, help me!

Blackout.

NATURE

The antagonists in the story above were slightly hazy when I started writing but the short play below helped unlock them for me. This scene is based on Laban efforts, a popular technique for creating either natural, or subtly uncanny, movement, often taught in dance or drama schools.

CAST

(NB: There are 8 Laban efforts. Only five feature in this play)

Flicking: Flexible, Sudden, Light. Flicking is flexible in its use of space and it resists both Weight and Time. It is a movement with free flow. It is crisp, light and always brief. Flicking’s costume consists of chords and whip heads which can be cracked to illustrate lines and gestures. He speaks suddenly but gently, with a tease and a smile.

Slashing: Sudden, Strong, Flexible. This effort is usually performed with free flow. When we think of slashing, the general thought is a sword slashing towards an object and meeting resistance. When performing, this effort tends to fade into a float at the point it would meet resistance. Slashing’s costume consists of blades protruding along every major bone and jutting from joints so that the slightest move creates cuts in the air. She speaks with a sudden, strong voice and a scowl, cutting into the conversation.

Wringing: Flexible, Sustained, Strong. This primarily involves movement in the opposite direction, such as wringing out a towel where your hands will move in two opposite directions. Keep in mind that wringing is not restricted to the hands. The costume is gives the impression of boulders which scrape together with each movement on the joints. His voice wavers with effort, as of barely contained rage.

Gliding: Sustained, Light, Direct. This effort is a smooth movement, generally performed with bound flow. There is a high level of control in this movement which comes from muscular counter-tensions. This is the way in which this effort differs from floating; floating does not have that level of control. Gliding has wings of stretched material from leg to arm, like a power glider’s costume, and is attached to flying gear in the rig. His voice is high and smooth.

Pressing: Direct, Sustained, Strong. Pressing is applied to pushing, crushing and squeezing (pressing from both directions). It is efficient in its use of space and is performed with bound flow which means that the action can be paused but not completely stopped. However, there is still a sense of fluency similar to the glide. Gravity and weight are closely aligned with this effort as they can help or hinder you depending on the direction in which you are pressing. The costume seems to be made of solid slabs. She speaks very slowly and carefully, with great weight.

Source: https://savannahindigo.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/general-information-about-the-eight-basic-efforts-laban/

THE PLAY

There is a fog and a gentle but diffuse light – it is the gloaming time. GLIDE swoops gently around the stage, billowing the fog in his wake. He may gradually come to a stop and then begin again when speaking. All the characters fully embody their action rest and movement and above all in the quality of their voice when speaking.

GLIDE: I am here. Come my brothers and my sisters it is time for the moot!

PRESS enters steadily and upon finding a place to stop begins the slow process of settling which will take the duration of the scene. There is the sound of the ground being slowly crushed beneath her feet.

PRESS: I am here.

WRING enters, each move twisting upon itself.  

WRING: I am here.

Suddenly SLASH has cut onto the stage and then is still.

SLASH: I am here.

Flick darts into the space opposite slash. 

FLICK: I am here.

GLIDE: Brothers and sisters, we are here to discuss the human problem.

FLICK: Fuck ‘em.

WRING: Fuck them.

SLASH: Fuck them up.

PRESS: Crush them.

GLIDE: Noted. But we might need a more detailed plan if we are to rid the world of all of them.

PRESS: And return it to the old ways.

SLASH: Red in tooth and claw.

PRESS: Gray and black and moss covered.

WRING: Brown and green in twisting vine.

FLICK: Blazing white in lighting strike.

GLIDE: Unseen but howling with the wind.

WRING: They think they are the masters.

PRESS: Trampling our kind under foot.

SLASH: Raising our sacred places.

WRING: Tearing up the land.

FLICK: Burning our buried treasures.

GLIDE: Thickening our pure air.

PRESS: So, how do we take back what is ours?

SLASH: Disease. Let a contagion spread amongst them quick as fire.

FLICK: The Sun. Let a surge come. Turn their pretty toys to trash.

WRING: Heat ‘em up till they gasp for drinking water and war with one another for green land to farm.

GLIDE: Let’s suffocate them with their own poisoned air.

SLASH: Great waves rising from the seas to drown their cities.

FLICK: Great fires to burn away their homes.

PRESS: All of these, my brothers and sisters. All of these at once so that they are surrounded, by flame from the West, water from the East, plague from the North, surges from the South and slow death pressing on them from the skies. All of these, my brothers and sisters until the last one lies, broken and alone, screaming for mercy and then, they too will be crushed before our might, returning. And then there will be silence.

GLIDE: And then we will roam free, through the air.

WRING: And forest.

SLASH: And the waves.

FLICK: And the sunlight.

PRESS: And deep within the earth. Are we agreed?

GLIDE: Agreed.

WRING: Agreed.

SLASH: Agreed.

FLICK: Agreed.

PRESS: Then away. To work our terrible revenge.

GLIDE soars away, FLICK flashes off the stage, SLASH sweeps off, WRING twists away and finally PRESS rise like a mountain as darkness fills the stage.