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

Category: Review

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 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.


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.










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.)


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?



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.


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.


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.


WIND: Alicia!

ALICIA continues slowly walking to the fire.

There is a sudden and much louder:

WIND: Alicia!

The candle flares brighter. She jumps.


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!



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.


(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.



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.