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The worst village in England

Posted décembre 13, 2019 By admin

A comedy by Jean-Pierre Martinez

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

The last survivors of a dying village, forsaken by God and bypassed by the motorway, decide to take matters into their own hands and create an event that will drive traffic to their village. But it’s not easy to turn the worst village in England into the next must-see tourist attraction.

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The Worst Village in England

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

The last survivors of a dying village, forsaken by God and bypassed by the motorway, decide to take matters into their own hands and create an event that will drive traffic to their village. But it’s not easy to turn the worst village in England into the next must-see tourist attraction.

Characters

Derek: pub landlord (male)
Jackie: pub landlady (female)
Charlie: school teacher (male or female)
Benedict: priest (male)
Felix Blatherington-Smythe: mayor (male or female)
Jason: teenager, celebrity wanna-be (male or female)
Wendy: reality tv producer (female)
Catherine: journalist (male or female)
Ramirez: inspector (male or female)
Sanchez: constable (male or female)

Act 1

The Red Lion in Sodgibbon Cross, a typical small village pub. Behind the bar, Derek, the landlord is a middle-aged, working class Sun Reader-type. He is thumbing the local paper, while Jackie, the landlady, wipes glasses absentmindedly. Felix Blatherington-Smythe, the mayor, enters the pub. He looks very much like the last branch of a dying aristocratic family tree, dressed with quaint elegance and worn clothing.

Felix – Hello Derek. Mrs. Jackie, my respects.

Derek, looking surly, barely lifts his eyes from his paper. Jackie appears to snap out of her daydream and her face lights up a little.

Jackie – Mr. Mayor… How’s things?

Felix takes his place at the counter.

Felix – Well, my dear… I have a positively ruinous headache this morning, I’m afraid. I simply have no idea what brought it on…

Derek – Really? You were three sheets to the wind last night. It’s called a hangover…

Jackie looks at Derek disapprovingly.

Jackie (very friendly) – And what can I get you, Felix?

Felix – I’ll have a Fernet-Branca. That should right me…

Derek – Hair of the dog… Good call…

Jackie serves Felix, who thanks her with a smile.

Felix – You look stunning today, dear.

Jackie – I had a colour rinse. Nice of you to notice, because my husband…

Felix – Oh yes, it’s certainly very….

Derek – Blue.

Felix – Dearest Jackie, your husband really doesn’t deserve you. This colour suits you perfectly.

Jackie – I fancied a change…

Derek observes the small talk, annoyed.

Derek – Your hair color is the only thing that ever changes in Sodgibbon Cross… (he puts the paper down on the counter) Can you believe this? This place is so dead we don’t even feature in the local paper any more.

Jackie – Really?

Derek – Look for yourself! It used to be that even if they didn’t actually write about us, Sodgibbon Cross was right there, next to Greenfield Wellsand Sodgibbon Pews. Now, nothing. We’ve been dropped from the menu!

Felix (sighing) – What can you do, my poor Derek… We are the castaways of the great rural brain drain. Today we’re off the menu and tomorrow we won’t even be in the specials. Soon, we won’t even feature on maps, like a desert island lost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far from any shipping lane.

Jackie – At least we’d have a beach… You’re right Felix. Castaways among potato fields. That’s what we are.

Felix – Watching powerless as the small bit of land we’re clinging to is being slowly submerged under the rising seas…

Derek – Round here you’re more likely to be swept by a mud slide…

Felix drinks his Fernet-Branca.

Jackie – That’s all so very sad… But what can you do, right, Mr Mayor?

Felix – Mayor… I’m not sure I’ll be mayor for very long yet…

Derek – Surely you’re not afraid you won’t be re-elected! You’ve always been the only candidate in the mayoral elections at Sodgibbon Cross. And given the number of voters left, if you vote for yourself that’s almost twenty percent of the votes.

Felix – No, it’s not that… I just received a letter sent to the council… they’re thinking of amalgamating us with the next town over.

Derek – Sodgibbon Pews?

Jackie – But that’s over twenty miles away!

Felix – Twenty-three as the crow flies… Twenty as the crow walks.

Derek – Yes, the road is straight like a laser across the fields…

Jackie – There’s so much nothing around here. I can’t imagine why we’d need a bend in the road.

Derek – We’d settle for a hill, woods, even a large bush.

Felix – It’s been a concern of mine… I considered a crest for the town but I don’t know what to put on it…

Derek – A spud.

Felix – Regardless, this isn’t the time to crow about it. And it could be my last term. Consolidation, that’s what they call it.

Derek – After more than thirty years as mayor…

Jackie – So what’re we going to call you now, if we can’t call you Mr Mayor?

Felix – Mr Blatherington-Smythe I suppose… But you, Jackie, you can still call me Felix of course…

Derek – They’ve already removed the last park bench and the last phone booth. Now we won’t even have a town hall.

Felix – We’re witnessing the slow death of the public service…

Jackie – And to think of all the good you’ve done for Sodgibbon Cross…

Derek – Yeah, right…

Jackie – What?

Derek – More like the good that Sodgibbon Cross has done to his shady little business deals… Know what I mean?

Felix – Shady business deals? What business deals?

Derek – Right, because as our elected representative you’ve done so much for the municipality. That must be why they want to get rid of it…

Jackie – You’re being unfair, Derek. We don’t have much going for us to start with, at Sodgibbon.

Derek – And that hasn’t stopped you from enjoying all the perks that come with the job, has it?

Felix – I don’t know what you mean…

Derek I mean the grant you managed to get from the regional council…

Felix – Oh, that…

Derek – To restore a manor in which, according to a legend that no one had ever heard of, Boudica spent a night back in 60 AD.

Felix – I can show you the book in which this legend is documented!

Derek – You wrote it!

Felix – Last time I checked, writing books was still allowed…

Derek – A manor that just you just happen to own, and that was entirely refurbished at tax payers’ expense, allegedly to turn it into an AirBnB… Fitting, since air is the only thing that ever fills this bed and breakfast. Well, that and Boudica…

Felix – You have no idea of the responsibility that comes with owning a listed building, my poor Derek…

Derek – Boudica… If at least she’d shagged in that bed.

Jackie – Derek, please…

Derek – And let’s not mention the grant to restore the village chapel.

Felix – But of course Sodgibbon Cross needed an actual chapel!

Derek – A chapel whose priest just happens to be your cousin. The rectory was entirely refurbished thanks to our taxes. Now it looks like a Moroccan Riad. There’s even a jacuzzi in the patio…

Felix – A jacuzzi… Please… It’s an ornamental pool.

Derek – Let’s call it an ornamental whirlpool.

Felix – Derek, I honestly don’t know what you’re getting at…

Derek – Oh, I don’t know… Maybe that this kind of money could have been used to improve the town…

Felix – Oh yes? How so?

Derek – Off the top of my head… We could have installed CCTV cameras.

Felix – To watch what? The potato fields?

Derek – We could have restored the school!

Charlie the school teacher, visibly camp, enters.

Charlie – Ladies, gentlemen…

Jackie – Speaking of the devil. Here’s the school teacher. Hello Charlie.

Charlie – Oh, I see it’s rush hour at the Red Lion.

Derek – Yep… it’s almost a full house.

Charlie – I see lords and commoners. As soon as the Lords Spirituals join us, the Parliament can be in session…

Felix – You think you’re joking, Charlie. But our democracy is in danger.

Derek – And Boudica isn’t here to fight for us anymore…

Charlie (to Felix) – Are you finally under investigation, Mr Mayor? It’s very trendy, you know.

Jackie – It’s much worse than that…

Charlie – You’re going to have to officiate your first gay wedding? Although, as far as I know, no one’s asked for my hand… at least not to put a ring on it…

Felix – Sodgibbon Cross is going be amalgamated with the next town over.

Charlie – Amalgamated?

Jackie – And that’s just the beginning, mark my words.

Felix – The beginning of the end, for sure.

Derek – Hitler started with Poland and look what happened next. If we just stand by and watch…

Charlie – You think you’re joking…

Charlie takes his place at the counter, looking visibly concerned.

Jackie – Don’t tell us you have bad news too?

Charlie – They’re talking about closing the school, believe it or not.

Jackie – Really?

Derek – That can’t come as too much of a surprise… there aren’t any pupils left. When we run out of patrons we’ll have to close down the pub too…

Jackie – No pupils left? Did Jason finally get his O Levels?

Charlie – O Levels… that’s so last century, my poor Jackie. No, but he’s over 18 so I couldn’t justify keeping him back in primary school yet another year.

Jackie – They also got rid of O Levels? What is the world coming to, I ask you. What can I get you, Charlie?

Charlie – A Sea Breeze, as usual.

Jackie makes his drink.

Jackie – So what’s Jason going to do now?

Charlie – Good question…

Jackie – Speaking of which, we haven’t seen him this morning. I don’t know where he’s hiding.

Derek – Hey Charlie, if they close the school you’re going to have a hard time finding another position…

Felix – I thought there was a shortage of teachers…

Derek – That may be, but with his criminal record…

Charlie – Criminal record… You always loved a hyperbole.

Derek – Well, it did involve the Vice Squad…

Charlie – Yes but… It didn’t have anything to do with children…

Jackie – Still.

Charlie – So what, I enjoyed teaching dressed as a woman once in a while. No one got hurt…

Jackie – Still, it must have been a wee bit disturbing for the kids. A school master one day, a mistress the next…

Derek – What did they call you again?

Charlie – Mrs Doubtfire.

Felix – That must be why they transferred you to a school without pupils… while they decide on your case.

Benedict, the priest, enters the pub. He looks more like an ageing playboy then a priest, except for the small cross he wears discreetly on his lapel.

Charlie – Father! We were waiting for you to open the Parliamentary session.

Benedict – Good morning, children.

Derek – Children… With a priest like him, you never know if he means it literally…

Jackie – Derek…

Derek – Hey Charlie, isn’t life funny? If you were a priest you could wear a dress without fearing the long hand of justice. While this one, he never wears anything but street clothes.

Charlie – That’s a shame. I’m sure you would look fabulous in a dress, Benedict.

Jackie – What are you drinking, Father?

Benedict – Dry white wine.

Felix – So, Father? I hope you are the bringer of the good news we’ve been waiting for…

Benedict – I’d love nothing more, Mr Mayor… But alas…

Derek – I won’t ask you if anyone died. Apart from Jason, every last soul of our ghost village is in this room.

Benedict – Worse… The Church is talking about closing down the parish…

Jackie – No?

Benedict – Unfortunately, God is insolvent. Apparently, the Church needs to ‘strengthen its core business and capitalise on the future’ too.

Jackie – Shameful, that’s what it is… Whatever next? It’s only a matter of time before the Chinese start buying stock in the Vatican.

Benedict – On the other hand, no one ever came to service in Sodgibbon.

Derek – Despite all the trouble you went through to increase the parish population.

Jackie – Derek… Please, at least show some respect for religion…

Derek – It’s not bread loaves he multiplies, but buns in the oven.

Felix – No town hall, no school, no church… At least we still have the Red Lion.

Derek – But for how long?

Charlie – You’re not thinking of closing, are you?

Jackie – I wouldn’t mind selling myself. If we found a buyer…

Benedict – Come on, you’re not going to leave us, are you?… What would you do without a pub, eh Jackie?

Jackie – Ha, I’d start by going on a holiday. You won’t believe this, but I’ve never seen the sea.

Derek – Might as well wait for the sea to come to us, with global warming and all. It’ll be quicker than finding a buyer.

Charlie – I think you mean a sucker.

Derek – Who would ever buy a pub in this place? We don’t even have customers…

Felix – Even the last inbred, alcoholic farmers have been replaced by drones controlled from Hackney.

Jackie – If we could only get a handful of tourists, at least during the summer.

Charlie – Why would tourists ever come to this hole? There’s literally nothing to see for a hundred miles around.

Felix – For sure, it’s the ideal place to rest.

Derek – Yeah… If you’re hoping for eternal rest…

Benedict – Potato fields as far as the eye can see. A few crows. You really do need the faith to stay here…

Charlie – Crows over potato fields… Sounds like a Van Gogh painting…

Jackie – At least if Van Gogh came here to kill himself it would have put the place on the map.

Derek – That’s not a bad idea, actually. If assisted suicide became legal in Britain, Sodgibbon Cross would be the best place to set up the first practice.

Charlie – And if everyone suffering from depression came here to kill themselves, it would blow a bit of life back into our lovely town…

Benedict – Come now, children, we must keep the faith. God always answers our prayers…

Derek – Right, well this round’s on me. Let’s drink to forget that everyone, God included, has abandoned us in the middle of an ocean of potatoes… Jackie, break out the sparkling wine.

Felix looks at his pocket watch.

Benedict – Ok, but quickly then.

Felix – Oh my… look at the time.

Derek – What’s going on? Why are you both overbooked all of a sudden?

Jackie opens a cupboard and cries out in shock as she sees Jason curled up inside.

Jackie – Good Lord… One of these days he’s going to give me a heart attack…

Felix – Does he do that often?

Jackie – Since he’s a wee boy. He likes to practise hiding in the most unexpected places.

Derek – We even found him inside the washing machine once. But he’s too big to fit there anymore…

Jackie – I’ll never get used to it… You, come out of there!

Jason crawls out of the cupboard. He’s meant to be 18 years old but appears slow and detached from real life, obsessed with his only life goal of becoming a reality-tv celebrity. The others treat him like he has learning difficulties.

Jason (to Derek) – Hi Uncle Derek.

Derek answers with a nod.

Charlie – Hello Jason.

Felix – I see your cousin is still a few sandwiches short of a picnic…

Benedict – I thought he was your nephew.

Jackie – It’s complicated. I find it hard to keep track myself…

Jackie takes a bottle of sparkling wine and drops it in an ice bucket.

Charlie – I see… That would explain a few things…

Derek – I’m also his godfather, so let’s just call him my godson.

Jackie – I mean, we just call him Jason, it’s easier.

Charlie – Or JC for short.

Benedict – Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Felix – The last young person in the village…

Charlie – He does look like he’s carrying more than his fair share of DNA.

Derek – According to a legend I recently uncovered, he’s actually the last direct descendent of Boudica…

Benedict – I had him do his First Communion last year, just in case…

Jackie – Now that they’ve dropped O Levels, his baptism certificate might be the only certificate he’ll ever get…

Charlie – According to a study by some ologists, children named Jason who born after the year 2000 only have a one in a hundred chance of getting their A Levels.

Felix – So what are you going to do now, son?

Benedict – If he leaves too, I won’t have any altar boys left…

Derek – And since you haven’t got any female parishioners anymore…

Jason – I want to go to London and prepare for auditions.

Felix – Auditions? You mean job interviews?

Charlie – You want to apply for a job?

Felix – Maybe he wants to be a mailman, like his father.

Benedict – His father was a mailman?

Derek – Why? You thought he was a priest?

Jackie – He’s got it in his head to audition to be a candidate on a reality-tv show.

Charlie – What show?

Derek – Britain’s Got Incredible Talent.

Benedict – No, really?

Felix – What talent can this muppet possibly have?

Jackie – He’s a contortionist. Well, according to him anyway.

Derek – Remember that time when the binmen found him asleep in a wheelie bin? A few seconds later and he would have been on his way to the recycling center.

Jackie – Maybe his parents were hoping he’d get picked up with the bulky items…

Jason steps a few feet away from the group to play darts with a distinct lack of dexterity, which could become dangerous for the rest. Felix drains his glass.

Felix – Listen, I think I’ll take a rain check for that champers… There’s an urgent matter I need to attend to at the town hall.

Derek – Urgent?

Felix – I need to reply to that letter.

Charlie – Oh that’s right, the takeover bid launched by Sodgibbon Pews for Sodgibbon Cross…

Benedict – I’ll come with you, Mr. Mayor. I need to plead for my cause too…

The mayor and the priest leave the pub. Jackie shows the bottle of sparkling wine to Charlie.

Jackie – A glass of bubbly?

He signals that he isn’t interested either.

Charlie – Thanks, but no thanks. And it’s not even noon…

Jackie – All right, I’ll put it back in the fridge… Save it for a special occasion…

Derek glances at the door of the pub with a look of surprise on his face.

Derek – I think we may have one now…

Wendy and Catherine enter the pub. Their appearance is very London hipster chic and makes a stark contrast with the locals. Wendy looks like a depressed celebrity and hides behind oversized sunglasses. Catherine is dressed elegantly but more practical and less feminine. Catherine’s demeanour is determined, positive and enthusiastic, while Wendy is pessimistic bordering on suicidal. Wendy looks around her.

Wendy – Did we just land in the intro sequence of an episode of the Twilight Zone?

Catherine – Do you want to sit down for a few minutes?

Wendy doesn’t reply but drops on a chair.

Catherine – Hello everyone… I apologise for interrupting your cute meeting but… Can I ask you something?

Jackie – Yes…?

Catherine – Where are we? Precisely?

Silence.

Derek – Precisely? Well, Madam, we are precisely at Sodgibbon Cross.

Catherine – Oh yes, it’s…

Charlie – In the middle of nowhere…

Catherine glances at the screen on her smartphone.

Catherine – Even the GPS doesn’t even know where it is…

Jackie – It’s a lovely, quiet place…

Catherine – You don’t say… I thought we were in… Do you know, I think we’re a little lost…

Charlie – It’s quite unusual for anyone to come here of their own free will, you know…

Catherine looks around her, appalled, especially when she notices Jason who is still playing darts with a visible lack of talent.

Derek – Can I get you something to drink?

Catherine – Hmm… Sure, why not? Wendy, do you want something to drink… (Wendy doesn’t answer) We’ll have two Cokes. No ice, please.

Jackie – Good call, I hadn’t gotten around to plugging the freezer yet. With this weather…

Derek – For sure, spring is rather late this year.

Charlie – Last year it came around the middle of August, and two weeks later it was Autumn.

Jackie pours their Cokes.

Derek (trying to be friendly) – Are you vacationing in the area?

Catherine – Yes… Well, actually… More like a short break… (quietly, aside) My friend had a… she suffers from exhaustion. We had to move away from it all for a bit.

Charlie – Well you found the right place…

Jackie – Sodgibbon Cross is the perfect place to rest and recuperate…

Charlie – It’s because there isn’t a whole lot to do…

Catherine – Yes, it’s… It’s charming, isn’t in, Wendy?

Wendy – Hmmm… Looks like a good place to spend one’s last days…

Jackie – Yes, we have a big retirement community…

Wendy – No, I meant a good place to put an end to your life…

Awkward silence.

Jackie – So you’re planning to relocate to the countryside?

Catherine – We haven’t really had time to talk about it yet, but… why not… There is a sense of serenity here… Like in a church…

Wendy – Yes… or a cemetery.

Derek – We only have a chapel, but you’ll find that it has been entirely refurbished. It looks like it was built only yesterday…

Catherine – Life in London is so stressful… Sometimes the thought of leaving it all behind and moving to a small village, far away from everything…

Wendy – Oh we’re far away from everything alright… We don’t even know where we are…

Wendy takes several pills and swigs a mouthful of Coke to chase them down.

Catherine – Remember what the doctor said? No more than one at a time.

Wendy – You’re right… Actually, I think I’ll go and vomit…

Charlie – I was like that when I first got here… But then you get used to it, you’ll see…

Jackie, concerned for her tiled floor, points towards the toilets.

Jackie – This way, please…

Wendy leaves. Catherine looks a little embarrassed.

Catherine – It’s probably the change of scenery…

Derek – For sure, the air is different here…

Catherine – Indeed, our lungs are used higher carbon monoxide concentrations. We’ll need a bit of time to recover from withdrawal symptoms…

She sneezes.

Charlie – Either that, or the pesticides they dump on the potato fields. It takes time to build up a tolerance…

Catherine – Pesticides?

Charlie – If you have the opportunity to see it, don’t miss it – it’s spectacular. One of the few attractions the area has to offer. When the choppers rise out of the fog to spread their Monsanto stuff, music blaring… you’ll feel as if you’re in a scene straight out of Apocalypse Now.

Catherine – Isn’t it toxic?

Charlie – They say it isn’t, but… I wonder if that’s not part of the reason for Jason… On top of his stunted family tree, obviously…

Derek glares at him furiously. We hear the sounds of loud vomiting. Light embarrassment.

Derek – And what do you do, in London? If you don’t mind me asking, of course…

Catherine – I’m a journalist.

Derek – Journalist? Really?

Jackie – And you’re writing an article on the area?

Catherine – We’re on a vacation, but who knows? If I find something interesting to write about… Actually, I’m thinking of writing a book…

Derek – Oh. A book. Why not.

Jackie – We have a mayor who books too.

Catherine – How nice for him…

Derek – Actually, he’s more into history books.

Jackie – And your lady friend? I mean, your friend? Is she a journalist too?

Catherine – Not exactly… She’s a television producer (confidentially) WC Productions, that’s her…

Jackie – WC?

Catherine – You’ve never heard of Wendy Crawford? WC, that’s her initials…

Derek – So she works on the telly?

Catherine – I’m sure you’ve heard of a show called Britain’s Got Incredible Talent?

Jackie – Have we…? Incredible Talent? But of course!

Catherine – Well, that’s her! She’s the show’s producer.

Jason – An Incredible Talent?

Everyone turns towards Jason, whose presence had been forgotten. But he doesn’t say anything else.

Catherine – It’s been going for ten years. Naturally, there’s a lot of pressure. She burned out.

Jackie – Burned out…? What’s that? Like a third-degree burn?

Derek – A BBQ accident?

Charlie – Back when we still had O Levels, we used to call that a nervous breakdown.

Catherine – Actually, the tv commissioner decided to cancel the show. If she doesn’t want to shut down her production company, Wendy needs to come up with something more modern. Unfortunately, her last show wasn’t a success…

Derek – Ah yes…

Catherine – And then there’s the matter of that little incident with the submarine in the Baltic Sea… You must have heard about it…

Derek – Yes I… Probably…

Catherine – It was a totally new concept… We rounded up a gaggle of celebrities from the ‘70s, all suffering from claustrophobia, and sent them to the bottom of the sea in a yellow submarine. To help them face and conquer their fears.

Jackie – I think I read something about it in a magazine at the hairdresser’s.

Catherine – Unfortunately, the submarine pilot was an ex-airline pilot with an undiagnosed case of severe depression and he wasn’t able to come back from the depths…

Jackie – That’s horrible… But what can you do, it’s fate…

Charlie (with emphasis) – Man’s greatness is to accept his fate, without believing in it’s fatality.

Catherine – Are you a professor?

Charlie – A teacher… in between jobs at the moment…

Catherine – Anyway, WC is going through shit times. So I decided to take Wendy out to pasture for a while, so she doesn’t blow a gasket…

Renewed vomiting sounds.

Charlie – I hope she’s going to flush that.

Catherine – I thought that spending time away from London would inspire her to find a concept for a new show. But so far she just seems to want to shut down the company and start over.

Derek – I know the feeling… We all have those moments where we’d like to start over.

Charlie – Except that since we’re already over, we just want to start something…

Catherine – Actually, my plan is to write a biopic.

Derek – A biopic?

Catherine – On WC. To tell the story of her life… You have no idea how fascinating the life of a television producer can be. So if we could find a quiet place to stay for a few months, far away from the hustle and bustle of London…

Jackie – Well, you’ve found the right place. We don’t even get mobile reception or the internet, we’re in a white zone…

Charlie – Sometimes it feels more like a black hole…

Catherine – Or maybe even buy a secondary residence…. To put down some roots.

Jackie – Oh, you’ll take root alright, quicker than you think…. And then you won’t be able to leave…

Jason – Do you want to see me hide in a fridge?

Jackie (mildly rebuking him) – Jason…

A moment of uncertainty.

Catherine – This place is really special, isn’t it? I’ve never seen anything so…

Derek – Authentic.

Catherine – No… That’s not the word I was looking for, but…

Derek – Why don’t you stay in our village for a few days… or even longer?

Catherine – This is a hotel, too?

Derek – It could be…

Jackie and Charlie look at him, intrigued. Wendy returns.

Catherine – Do you hear that, Wendy? This gentleman is suggesting that we rent a room here in the Red Lion. What do you think?

Wendy – I think I’m going to be sick again…

Jackie – Who knows, you might even end up buying the place…

Catherine – The pub is for sale? Do you hear that, Wendy? Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

Wendy – Wonderful. And we wouldn’t have to worry about customers interrupting our work.

Derek – It’s a little quiet at the moment, for sure. But the tourists won’t be long now…

Jackie – It’s peak season soon…

Catherine (surprised) – In March? They come here for…?

Derek (not sure what to say) – Well… I mean… Because in the Spring…

Charlie –… the potato fields are in bloom. It’s very romantic, you’ll see…

Catherine – Potatoes… How interesting… Do you hear that, Wendy?

Wendy – I didn’t even know potatoes had flowers. But if you want a bouquet for your birthday…

Charlie – Or how about a perfume, even? Spud by Givenchy. It’ll stand out on the shelves.

Catherine – You’re right, the tulips in Holland get all the press, no one ever thinks of the potatoes…

Charlie – In Sodgibbon Cross.

Catherine – But then the season must be very short…

Jackie – It depends on the type of potato.

Derek – Actually, we get flowers all year round.

Charlie – Especially from the transgenic ones, which are Beacon’s special export.

Jackie – No, there really isn’t an off-season to speak of.

Jason joins the group.

Jason – I can also fit in a wheelie bin, do you want to see?

Jackie – Come now, Jason… Stop bothering the nice lady… Why don’t you go and practice outside? Look, I just took out the wheelie bin to the curb.

Derek pushes Jason outside.

Jackie – I’m sorry… He’s not very bright.

Derek – It’s a pretty good deal, you know.

Catherine – Wendy’s right… It’s a little dead around here, no?

Charlie – Well, now that they build the motorway to go around the village…

Jackie – It’s because they’re all having a nap.

Wendy – It’s not even noon yet… They start napping early around here…

Jackie – If you’d been here an hour ago, you’d have seen what peak time looks like…

Derek – Or you could turn it into a secondary residence in the country, and invite your London friends. There’s a nice flat on the first floor.

Catherine – In a real life, working pub, that would be a riot, wouldn’t it?

Wendy – Do you have anything stronger?

Jackie – Would you like to taste our local specialty?

Derek – We do a mean potato hooch.

Charlie – And believe me, you always remember your first time.

Derek – Like love.

Charlie – And like love, it can make you blind…

Wendy – You’ve convinced me.

Derek pours her drink.

Catherine – I don’t think, with the pills…

Wendy – We all have to die of something…

Derek – Would you like one?

Charlie – The recipe was invented by the defrocked monk who allegedly fathered one of Boudica’s daughters in a barn when she stopped in our village in 60 AD.

Derek – The first one is on the house…

They empty their glasses.

Catherine – Oh, yes, that’s brutal…

Wendy – You can really taste the potatoes.

Charlie – Spot on! And if it doesn’t kill you right away, you’ll feel full of beans.

Derek – And nothing but natural ingredients.

Charlie – And 100% organic compounds… Organic chemistry compounds…

Jackie pours a second round.

Jackie – The second round is sponsored by the Tourist Board of Sodgibbon Cross.

Derek – You won’t need your pills any more after that one, believe you me.

Wendy – I’m sure, it feels like a much quicker way to commit suicide.

Derek – And get this, it’s completely legal.

Charlie – Our mayor is the alchemist who distills this nectar in his cellar, with his illegal still.

Jackie – And this divine beverage is blessed once a year by our priest. A holy man if there is one…

Jason returns, looking confused and covered in rubbish.

Jason– I couldn’t get in the wheelie bin, Uncle Derek. It was already full.

Derek – Jesus wept, what a loser…

Wendy – Does he want to drink some of the magic potion too?

Jackie – Absolutely not. He was given plenty when he was teething.

Derek – Go on, go play outside. The adults are talking!

Jason (disappointed) – You’ll see, one day I’ll go to London…

To everyone’s surprise, Jason, disappointed, starts singing a verse from the song “There’s no business like show business” while performing a few dance steps from the film:

There’s no business like show business like no business I know
Everything about it is appealing, everything that traffic will allow
Nowhere could you get that happy feeling when you are stealing that extra bow

Jason leaves the room. The others don’t mention the incident, perhaps thinking they just experienced a collective hallucination from the potato spirit.

Jackie – The region is gorgeous, you know.

Derek (leers at Catherine) – And, just like a gorgeous woman, it knows not to reveal its assets all at once.

Jackie – And pub landlady is a noble job. Contact with customers and all that.

Derek (to Wendy) – Surely that’s just what the doctor would order for a depressive victim like you. Much better than being alone with your thoughts.

Catherine – I know it sounds crazy, but it could be fun, don’t you think?… You’re always saying how you want to start a new life…

Wendy – Well… I meant, changing for a better life…

Everyone is beginning to be considerably drunk.

Jackie – Come on, I’ll show you the flat upstairs. You’ll see, it’s very cozy…

Charlie – And very convenient. No need for public transport. Your commute will be walking down a flight of stairs. A nice change from the Tube.

Jackie takes Catherine and Wendy to the staircase that leads to the first floor.

Jackie – After you…

Derek – Be careful, the staircase is rather steep.

Wendy (swaying) – I think I’m holding a steep one too.

They leave.

Derek – Talk about a gift from heaven…

Charlie – More like a miracle.

Derek – And I think they might be receptive to the magic of this place.

Charlie – Either that or they’re feeling the effects of the potato booze. It gave me hallucinations once.

Derek – We absolutely must find a way to get them to stay the night.

Charlie – Right, I’ll leave you to it. I have to get changed…

Derek – You’re right, we need to make a good impression.

Charlie leaves. Felix and Benedict return.

Felix – Who are these two beautiful young women I saw entering your establishment?

Benedict – And what have you done with them?

Derek – They’re from London. Jackie is giving them a tour of the flat upstairs.

Felix – London?

Derek – One of them is a journalist, and the other one works on the telly! Can you imagine?

Benedict – What are they doing upstairs?

Derek – If they decide to move here, they could do for Sodgibbon Cross what Ed Sheeran did for Framlingham! The capital of Hipsterland!

Felix – You think?

Derek – I’m going to try and flog them my pub.

Benedict – That might be harder than it sounds…

Felix – Do you really believe they’re thinking of living here?

Derek – The one who works in reality-tv looks completely out to lunch, you know, anxiety-depression style. The other one’s the same, but the opposite.

Benedict – How do you mean, the same but the opposite?

Derek – She’s also out to lunch, but she thinks everything’s amazing! Even Sodgibbon Cross! Can you imagine?

Benedict – How on Earth did they did they end up here?

Derek – It’s a gift from heaven, I tell you. I almost found my faith again. They’re looking for a quiet place to recuperate mentally and write their memoirs.

Felix – Quiet? They certainly won’t find anything better. So you really think that…

A man wearing a Zorro costume enters the pub, holding a gun (we later learn that it’s Jason)

Jason – Hands up. This is a hold up.

Derek – Fuck. What now…

Felix – A hold-up? Really?…

Benedict – Beacon sure is full of excitement this morning…

Felix – And you told them it was a nice, quiet place.

Derek – What’s this wanker doing? He’s going to fuck everything up.

Jason – The moolah, and hurry up…

Derek – Sure thing, little man, stay calm…

Derek bends down behind the counter, pulls out a hunting rifle and points it towards the man who cocks his gun.

Benedict – Aha… Snap!

Jason – Heh! Watch it! Mine’s a toy gun.

Derek – I know, I gave it to you for your First Communion, moron. Along with your Zorro costume and your diving watch.

The man removes his masque. It’s Jason. Derek puts his rifle away.

Felix – What a fucking idiot…

Derek – The hipsters will be down any minute now, what do we do with this one?

Jason – I just wanted a little cash to take the train and make it to the competition in London.

Benedict – The competition?

Jason – An Incredible Talent…

Benedict – Shouldn’t we be calling the cops?

Felix – Or the asylum…

Derek – No time for that. And we can’t risk frightening the ladies with the presence of cops…

Derek points the freezer to Jason.

Derek – You, get in there!

Jason – In there?

Derek – I thought you were a contortionist?

Jason – Yes, but…

Derek – I’m sure the lady from the telly will be very impressed that you can fit in the freezer…

Jason – You think?

Derek – Do you want to be in that show or not?

Jason – Oh, alright…

Benedict – He’s an eager beaver…

Felix – Yes… I can see how his parents managed to talk him into hiding in a green wheelie bin…

Jason steps into the freezer.

Derek – Don’t worry, it’s not plugged in. We use it to keep the Cornettos in the summer but it’s not the season yet.

Jackie comes down from the first floor with Catherine and Wendy. Derek quickly closes the freezer.

Derek – Ladies, let me introduce you to our mayor, who wanted to personally welcome you to our lovely village…

Catherine – Sir… Very happy to meet you.

Felix – Ha! See, it’s funny because that’s my name… Felix… It means happy in Latin.

Catherine – Oh, right…

Derek – And this is our priest, who…

Benedict – My child…

Derek – … who was just stopping by. So, what do you think of our little love nest?

Catherine – Yes, it’s…

Wendy – How do you say again?

Jackie – Cozy.

Catherine – That’s it… It’s cozy. Isn’t it, Wendy?

Wendy – Yes, it’s… That’s exactly it.

A moment of silence.

Derek – It must be quite a change from London, of course.

Catherine – On the other hand, since you’re looking for a new reality-tv concept… a short stay here could be the occasion to reconnect with grass-roots England.

Wendy – Never mind grass roots… Any lower and we’ll need a shovel… to dig us six feet under.

Jackie – There’s a bit of work to finish the decoration before anyone can move in , of course, but…

Catherine – We’ll think about it, won’t we Wendy?

Wendy – That’s right, we’ll think about it… And while we do that we’ll need a place to sleep… I’m crashing…

Catherine – Do you know if there’s a hotel in the area? Because this room, no offence but…

Wendy – Like you said, there’s still a bit of work to be done… like installing a bathroom for example…

Felix – Unfortunately… For the moment we don’t have anything else… apart from a few AirBnB rooms. But it will be my pleasure to…

Benedict – If it’s just for a couple of nights, I would be happy to offer you the hospitality of the rectory.

Catherine – The rectory…? What’s that?

Benedict – I am the humble shepherd of this herd of tormented sinners.

Catherine – A herd of what now?

Wendy – The man is trying to tell you he’s a man of the cloth…

Catherine – A priest, of course! You told me earlier… But since you’re not dressed like…

Benedict – Ah… But you should know that not all priests are cut from the same cloth…

Catherine – But that’s very chivalrous of you… I mean… A rectory… Is that amazing or what?

Wendy – Yes. Spending the night in a rectory sounds exactly like something a woman must do at least once in her life…

Benedict – But it’s only natural. Pure Christian charity.

Catherine – And we’ll be staying with a priest, what’s the worst that could happen?

Derek – I’ll let you be the judge of that…

Felix – Right, so it’s settled. You’ll see, you won’t regret it…

Benedict – If you’d like to follow me…

Catherine and Wendy follow Benedict. They are about to leave the pub together. They bump into Charlie who is returning, dressed like a woman. Catherine doesn’t recognise him but Wendy looks at him suspiciously.

Catherine – Madam…

Charlie (to Wendy) – Looks like our local fresh air is already working it’s magic on you…

Wendy (to Catherine) – Are you sure they’re not taking us to the motel from Psycho?

They leave.

Derek – A journalist and a television producer! How lucky is that?

Felix – Do you really think these two hipsters are going to buy an insolvent pub in Sodgibbon Cross?

Jackie – It’s very common for celebrities to buy cafes and turn them into show-biz canteens.

Charlie – Robert De Niro even owns a set of high-end Japanese restaurants.

Felix – And then there’s those who move to the country to reconnect with their peasant roots…

Jackie – Sting makes olive oil. And Brad Pitt has his red wine.

Charlie – But strangely, I’ve never heard of celebrities interested in growing transgenic potatoes.

Jackie – We’re trailblazers…

Derek – Ok, you’re right, they won’t buy this shit pub. But they work for the press and the telly! They could talk about our village so people will hear of it.

Felix – What could possibly be of interest to them here…

Jackie – We’ll find something. There’s plenty of small towns with nothing going for them that are famous for something…

Felix – Like what?

Derek – Off the top of my head, Bethlehem or even Windsor!

Felix – Windsor has a famous family.

Jackie – So does Bethlehem.

Charlie – In Sodgibbon Cross we only have JC…

Derek – The trick is finding a way to get people to talk about us! If we build it, they will come.

Jackie – And they’d know where to find us on a map.

Charlie – There will be no more talk about amalgamation with the next town!

Felix – We’d keep our mayor, our teacher, our priest…

Jackie – And we’d gain a few customers!

Derek – Ok, but right now what we need is an idea to keep them here.

Jackie – At least temporarily…

Charlie – Just long enough to convince them that Sodgibbon Cross’s most vibrant place isn’t the cemetery on All Saints Day…

Felix – He’s right… We need to attract people to create a sense of excitement… But how?

They think.

Derek – How about a happy hour?

Charlie – There isn’t a single customer within 20 miles… Who’s going to drive 40 miles both ways for a free refill of potato booze?

Felix – And that’s if they survive the first glass…

Jackie – I’ll leave you to think about it… I’m going to the shops… If we’re going to have company I need to fill the larder… And it’s not next door…

Jackie leaves. Benedict returns.

Felix – So?

Benedict – They were in the jacuzzi when I left…

Derek – Don’t you mean the ornamental pond?…

Benedict – Whatever… They seem to be enjoying themselves…

Felix – I’m sure it’s amazing but it’s hardly going to be enough to get them to move here.

Derek – The media is already here, we just need to find something about Beacon that they can talk about…

Benedict – How about a fete?

Derek – Fuck’s sake… Why not throw a parade while you’re at it?

Charlie – No, what we need is a nice, juicy gossip story.

Felix – You’re right! People would come and check it out for themselves, if it was in the papers.

Charlie – Good point… The sea port where the Costa Concordia sank can’t get rid of the tourists since the accident. It’s become an actual place of pilgrimage!

Derek – On the other hand, the odds of a highliner coming ashore in Sodgibbon…

Charlie – No chance of a plane crash either. Even the flight path was diverted.

Benedict – Except for the planes who spread the pesticides on the potato fields.

Charlie – And there isn’t a pilot depressed enough to come and crash here of his own will…

Felix – We have to face reality… We’re more in the independent film category, budget-wise. We’re going to need to something less spectacular, but very unusual…

Benedict – An accident…

Derek – Or a gruesome crime…

Benedict – You’re not thinking of killing someone and cutting them up just to get people to come to Sodgibbon Cross!

Felix – We narrowly avoided an armed robbery, maybe there’s something there…

Charlie – A dimwit with a toy gun and a Zorro face mask… I don’t think it’ll be enough for a front page spot.

They hear banging noises.

Derek – Shit, we forgot Jason in the freezer…

Derek opens the freezer and helps Jason out of it.

Jason – So? How did I do?

Derek Very good, excellent…

Charlie – Good thing the freezer wasn’t turned on.

Felix – Yeah…

Derek – Fuck me! I just had an idea!

Benedict – You’re scaring me…

Derek – Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Charlie – On the other hand, a body found in a freezer…

Felix – A freezer, yes, that’s good… And it’s within our means…

Benedict – As far as attracting tourists, a pub freezer with a body in it… you really think that’s a good idea?

Charlie – We just need a good story to go with it. Context matters.

Derek – I can already see the headlines.

Felix – Catastrophic accident in Sodgibbon Cross: Incredible Talent fan freezes to death practicing for the show heats!

Derek – I bet our telly hipsters will love it!

Everyone turns towards Jason.

Jason – What? What did I do?

Benedict – What’s wrong with you! We’re not going to sacrifice this poor innocent soul just to give our village a bit of press coverage…

Derek – But he won’t actually die. Well, not completely anyway.

Benedict – What do you mean, not completely?

DerekJason, how do you feel about becoming a celebrity?

Jason – Are you kidding? My destiny is to appear on television!

Derek – Yeah… Maybe even in the London Evening Standard or the Manchester Evening News.

Jason – And what do I need to do?

Felix – Virtually nothing…

Charlie – Just be dead.

Jason – No way, I want to be a celebrity in my lifetime!

Derek – Do you want us to call the cops? Armed robbery, do you know how much you’ll get?

Jason – No, how long?

Derek – I don’t know, but that’s not the question.

Felix – Besides, you won’t actually be dead.

Derek – We won’t set the freezer on high.

Jason seems to hesitate.

Jason – And you’ll pay for my train ticket to London?

DerekJason, I promise. Do you trust your godfather or not?

Jason – Ok… But I don’t quite understand. I’ll be dead for how long?

Felix – You’ll be dead at first.

Derek – But then, not any more.

Jason – Oh, just like Jesus then, right Father?

Benedict – That’s right… Just like Jesus…

Charlie – Everything will be fine, you’ll see…

Felix – And at the end, you’ll come back from the dead, just like Jesus.

Charlie – We’ll film everything and we’ll put it on YouTube, it’ll be the bomb.

Benedict – It’ll be sick, bro. It’s going to be viral!

Derek – Jason, this is your moment, show everyone your incredible talent…

Jason – Um, alright…

Jason goes back into the freezer. Charlie is filming with his phone. Derek turns the freezer on.

Benedict – You’re really going to turn it on?

Derek – Just on low, don’t worry. Enough to give him a light hypothermia, for credibility purposes.

Felix – He’ll come out cool as a cucumber… a different man.

Derek – I’ll set it on two…

Benedict – But what if he does die? Have you thought about that? You’ll be accused of murder, Derek! It’s your freezer after all!

Felix – But he isn’t going to die! Worst case, maybe he catches a bad cold.

Charlie – Or he loses a finger. Two at the most. Like those mountain climbers who trek the Himalayas. You can’t be a hero without making a sacrifice…

Benedict – Yes… here we’re only talking about staying in a freezer…

Charlie – Just between us, given what he does with his fingers… Even if he loses a couple he’ll still have plenty to pick his nose…

Derek – He’ll only stay in there long enough for us to make a bit of noise about the incident and get the village in the media.

Charlie – But the cops, they’ll be able to tell he isn’t dead!

Derek – That’s true… You might have found the flaw in our plan.

Felix – The cops? You know how they are! A couple of drinks and they’ll think your wife is Miss England…

Derek looks at Felix, menacingly.

Derek – I don’t how to take this…

Charlie – He means that if they were sober they’d think she was Miss World.

Derek – We can even put a few ice cubes on top, to make it look more real…

Jason pokes his head out of the freezer.

Jason – Is my hair ok?

Derek – Yes, yes, it’s fine.

Jason – What about my t-shirt?

Charlie is still filming.

Derek – Go on, back in your box. Jackie won’t be long now…

Jason – It’s a bit nippy in there.

Derek – It’s a freezer, you numpty!

Jason – And it’s very dark…

Benedict – I always wondered if the light really went off after you closed the fridge door.

Charlie – You should be wondering if there really is life after death…

Felix – Well, today we’ll have an eyewitness… If we can thaw him out, that is…

Derek – Worst case, the journalist can write about that…

Charlie – I can just picture Krishnan Guru-Murthy reading the evening news: Does the light really go off in your fridge when you close the door? A brave resident of Sodgibbon Cross tries a unique experiment to bring a definitive answer to this deeply unsettling question…

Jason – The evening news? Ok, I’m going back in…

Jason sits back in the freezer. Derek takes the ice bucket and pours the contents on top of him.

Benedict – How long are you going to leave him in there for?

Felix – One night should be enough.

Derek – We should leave Jackie out of this, that way she can be the one to find him tomorrow morning. Credible deniability and all that. She’s a terrible actor.

Felix – Don’t worry Benedict. See… if anything goes wrong he can easily get out on his own…

Derek – Alright, now you should leave before Jackie returns. I’m not convinced of your acting skills either…

They all leave. Jackie returns with the shopping which she starts to put away.

Jackie – I’ll put the cornettos away first before they melt… (She puts the ice cream in the freezer without seeing Jason) Oh, I need to turn it on… Ah, Derek’s already done it… But that’s not high enough… I’ll set it on ten… (She closes the freezer door and places a bag of potatoes on top) Right, I’ll do the chips tomorrow, I’m knackered…

She’s about to leave but glances at the freezer once more.

Jackie – I always wondered… does the light really go out after you close the door ?… Ah well…

She turns off the light and leaves. We hear banging coming from inside the freezer.

Black. Ellipsis for the night. Intermission (optional).

Act 2

Light. Jackie enters, yawning, and goes through the motions of opening the pub, like she does every morning.

She takes the bag of potatoes from the top of the freezer and starts to peel and cut them into chips.

Jackie – We hope it’s chips it’s chips…

Derek enters.

Derek – Good morning love, sleep well?

She looks at him, taken aback.

Jackie – What’s wrong? Are you alright?

Derek – No, no, everything’s fine. What are you doing?

Jackie – I’m peeling potatoes, aren’t I.

Derek – Oh right…

Jackie – I’ll freeze them. In preparation for this summer…

Derek – Do you want a hand peeling those potatoes?

Jackie looks at him again, this time suspiciously.

Derek – That way you can prepare a brunch for the Londoners…

Derek starts to peel the potatoes. Jackie looks at him, now stunned.

Jackie – Are you sure everything’s ok?

Derek – Of course, why?

Jackie – I don’t know… It’s the first time ever I’ve seen you peel potatoes…

Derek (looking towards the door) – Ah, here they are…

Jackie – Brunch… Why not served in bed while you’re at it…

Catherine and Wendy enter.

Derek – Good morning ladies! Did you sleep well?

Catherine – Like a log!

Wendy doesn’t say anything, but it doesn’t look like she had a restful night.

Derek – Told you, you’ll end up setting roots here.

Wendy – For now I’ll take an Earl Grey with a splash of lemon.

Catherine – Same for me.

Jackie – Coming right up…

Jackie prepares the tea.

Catherine – Do you have any croissants?

Jackie – Uh no… But I can make you some chips if you want. Freshly cut.

Wendy – No thanks, we’re good…

Jackie – Two Earl Grey with lemon, coming right up… But unfortunately, we’re out of lemon.

Catherine – As long as the water is hot, it’ll be fine…

Derek – No worries there… Around here we always boil the water… We have to, it’s safer that way…

Jackie – While the water is boiling, I’ll check if my freezer is cold enough to freeze the potatoes…

Derek smiles stupidly.

Derek – Please sit down, it won’t be long now…

The two women sit at a table.

Wendy (aside, to Catherine) – You’re right, let’s get out of here… It’s very authentic but… they all look a little inbred, the lot of them…

Catherine – Remember when the priest joined us in the jacuzzi last night… what was that about…

Wendy – At least if he had been wearing something…

Derek continues to peel the potatoes.

Derek – I think it’s going to be a gorgeous day.

They smile politely.

Wendy – Look at that one, with his long knife, peeling their transgender potatoes…

Catherine – Transgenic.

Wendy – You’ve got to wonder how many times it was used to slit their guests’ throats. What’s the name of this place again? The Red Pub?

Catherine (laughing nervously) – Stop, you’re starting to creep me out…

Wendy – I wonder where they keep the bodies…

Catherine – In the cellar maybe…

Wendy – Or the freezer.

They both stifle nervous laughter.

Catherine – Alright… We drink our tea and we’re out of here…

Catherine jumps when Jackie screams as she opens the freezer.

Jackie – Oh my God! What is… that?

Derek (feigning surprise) – What’s going on?

Jackie – There’s a stiff in the freezer!

Derek – What?

Catherine looks at Wendy, aghast.

Derek (badly faking surprise) – A stiff? But who is it?

Jackie – I don’t know… I didn’t want to look, did I! I just saw two eyes staring straight at me through the ice cubes!

Charlie enters.

Charlie – What’s going on?

DerekJackie found a body in the freezer!

Charlie – No way! Anyone we know?

Derek – We’re not sure yet…

Charlie films the scene with his phone.

Catherine – What a bunch of wackjobs. Come on let’s go…

Wendy – Hang on… give it a few minutes! It’s just starting to become interesting…

Jackie – We need to call the police…

Derek – What a mess…

Wendy – Can I have my tea, when you’re done?

Derek – I’ll take care of it right now… Tea for two and two for tea …

Jackie picks up the phone.

Jackie – Hello, emergency services? Please come quickly. We found a body in our freezer. No, not a baby, I wouldn’t be calling you for so little.

Derek serves the tea.

Derek – A dash of milk?

Jackie – Yes… Sodgibbon Cross. Where is it…? Around mile 22, between Sodgibbon Pews and Greenfield Wells… Thank you, we’ll be waiting…

Derek – So?

Jackie – They’re sending two forensic specialists…

Catherine – Forensics? What do you think this is, a good American tv series…?

Charlie – Isn’t that what they call an oxymoron?

Wendy – CSI Sodgibbon Cross… Doesn’t have quite the same ring as CSI Miami, does it…

Catherine – Maybe, but I still think we’ll soon hear about this dump in the local paper…

Wendy – It’s like Andy Warhol said: everyone gets their fifteen minutes of fame…

Felix and Benedict arrive.

Felix – Good morning ladies, everything ok?

Charlie – We’ve just found a body in the freezer.

Benedict – A body? You mean a human cadaver?

Charlie – Yes, a human cadaver… Not a cow cadaver cut up in handy burger packs.

Jackie opens the freezer again.

Jackie – Look! He left a note on the inside of the door…

Benedict – A note?

DerekHe did?

Jackie – Well, it’s more like a message scratched in the ice. A suicide note maybe…

Felix – So it’s a suicide?

Charlie – To my knowledge, this would be the first time anyone commits suicide by locking themselves up in a freezer.

Felix – I believe you might be right… I think I’ve read of a case where it happened in a sauna, but never in a freezer…

Charlie moves closer to the freezer.

Charlie – Or he left this message to guide the police to his murderer…

Felix – No way…

Derek (to Jackie) – Well, go on, what does it say?

Jackie – It’s full of spelling mistakes…

Charlie – I bet it is.

Jackie – I’m having trouble reading the first bit…

Benedict – The teacher might be able to help, he’s used to reading poor handwriting.

Charlie looks inside the freezer.

Charlie – Weird… That handwriting looks familiar…

Derek – So?

Charlie – Hang on, give me a second… Oh, yes, I can see it: Derek killt me…? (Everyone turns toward Derek, shocked) No, I’m kidding…

Jackie – Please, this is not the time for jokes.

Charlie – Let’s see… (reading) “I have an incredible talent… but I’m freezing my nuts off”

They all look at each other, dismayed.

Act 3

We hear the sound of a helicopter.

Benedict – What’s that? Monsanto doesn’t normally start spraying for a few months yet.

Ramirez and Sanchez, two cops, arrive. They look more like two bumpkins than elite forensic cops. Ramirez, the inspector, can even vaguely look like Columbo.

Derek – Ah, the forensic police are here…

Jackie – Well, that was fast.

Charlie – They’re special forces. They must have been parachuted…

Ramirez – Inspector Ramirez. This is Constable Sanchez. We came by helicopter to be more quickly on the scene, but we had trouble finding your stupid village.

Sanchez – From the chopper we used the road as a reference point. But it stops dead in the middle of a potato field.

Felix – Ah yes, it’s the old A road. It was downgraded to a track road a few years ago when they built the motorway.

Derek – Which greatly affected the businesses of Beacon, believe you me.

Ramirez – Businesses? What businesses?

Sanchez – We didn’t even know there were still people living here.

Benedict – Before the war we still had a grocery store… At least according to local lore…

Felix – Now we go to the big Tesco once a month and we store everything in the freezer.

Ramirez – Speaking of which… What’s the deal about this freezer?

Sanchez – Cherchez la femme… Like the French say…

Derek – This way please, but surely you must have time for a quick drink first?

Jackie – Because let me tell you, it’s not a pretty sight…

Ramirez – I don’t know if… That bad?

Felix – He’s in the freezer! He’s not going to spoil…

Ramirez – In that case… Just the one then. For the road, right Sanchez?

Derek – How about you, ladies? Instead of the lemon in your tea?

Wendy – Why not…

Catherine – At this point …

Derek pours a drink in both tea cups and leaves. Catherine looks at her cup.

Catherine – Did you see that? The tea turned clear like water.

Wendy – Yes…

Catherine – It might be toxic.

Wendy – Or they forgot to put the tea bag in the water.

Catherine – Oh, and the water’s started to boil again…

They look at each other, worried.

Ramirez – That’s not bad…

Sanchez – Oh boy, you can really feel it going down.

Ramirez – Wakes you up…

Sanchez – I’m seeing things out of focus, is that normal?

Charlie – Don’t worry, it’s temporary. Usually.

Benedict – There’s been a few cases reported of permanent loss of vision, but it’s extremely rare.

Sanchez – Right. Sounds more like a hard drug than a liqueur.

Ramirez – As long as it’s legal…

Sanchez – Clears the lungs too.

Ramirez – It’s not flammable, is it?

Charlie – I used to know a firebreather who used this instead of lead-free petrol because it was cheaper.

Felix – I have been known to put some in my 4×4 myself, and I haven’t noticed any reduction in performance.

Ramirez – I’m sure… I’ve never drunk diesel myself but I imagine it has a similar taste.

Benedict – I bet if you were to drink drain cleaner after this, it would taste like holy water.

They all drain their glasses.

Ramirez – So, about this human cadaver?

Derek – This way, please Inspector, Sir ..

Ramirez – You go ahead Sanchez. You know how I feel about dead bodies. (To the others) If I ever leave this job, it will be because of the dead bodies…

Derek opens the freezer. The teacher films.

Sanchez – Oh you weren’t kidding, he’s hard as wood.

Felix – Pardon?

Sanchez – Come have a look, Sir.

Ramirez – No, no, I trust your judgement.

Derek, Felix and Benedict come closer to check.

Benedict – Jesus Christ… He’s actually frozen…

Ramirez – You look surprised, Father… Surely you’re seen your fair share of stiffs…

Derek – I don’t understand! I set it to the lowest…

Derek, Felix, Benedict and Charlie are dismayed.

Jackie – I wacked it up to ten last night. So it would be cold enough to freeze the chips this morning…

Sanchez – What if it was another case of frozen babies, Sir?

Ramirez – It’s a baby?

Sanchez – No. It looks more like a man, early twenties…

Ramirez – So how…

Sanchez – Maybe he survived all these years by eating whatever he could find in the freezer. And when the food ran out, he died of hunger?

Ramirez – Interesting theory, Sanchez… What did you keep in this freezer?

Jackie – Nothing. We keep it unplugged all winter…

Ramirez – I see…

Sanchez – Sir, I think he tried to draw something on the inside of the lid.

Ramirez – Really? Okay, I need to see this…

Ramirez comes closer.

Ramirez – So he did… It’s like cave paintings in there…What does it mean?

Sanchez – I don’t know… Looks like Egyptian hieroglyphics…

Ramirez – Take pictures of everything, Sanchez. And close the door before it all melts. We’ll get it analysed by an Egyptologist.

Sanchez – What for, Sir?

Ramirez – To better understand the victim’s personality.

Sanchez – Shouldn’t we be trying to understand the murderer’s personality…?

Ramirez – Don’t you start trying to confuse me, Sanchez. Are you trying to teach me my job?

Sanchez – Of course not, Sir. I’ll take pictures of everything, right away…

Ramirez – We’ll ask the lab for carbon dating. When we know when he died, we’ll be able to build several hypotheses on the circumstances of his death…

Derek – Are we suspects, Inspector?

Ramirez – Well, the body was found on your premises.

Jackie – But we’re the ones who called the police!

Ramirez – You’d be surprised the number of criminals who call the police after committing their murders…

Felix – And in your opinion, Inspector, when do you think he died?

Ramirez – It’s always difficult with the frozen ones. Time of death could be anywhere between 24 hours and six thousand years.

Sanchez – I hope you all have good alibis between the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods…

Jackie – But listen, I told you this freezer was only switched on last night…

Sanchez – What do we do, Sir, do we take him out of the freezer?

Ramirez – Leave him there for now… We have to be very careful to not break the cold chain…

Sanchez – So what do we do, boss?

Ramirez – What’s gone into you, Sanchez?

Sanchez – What do you mean, boss?

Ramirez – You used to call me Sir, why are you calling me boss now? I don’t condone this flaunting of the rules.

Sanchez – I’m sorry Sir, you’re right.

Ramirez – This isn’t an episode of Midsomer Murders, Sanchez. We are the elite police force: the forensic police!

Sanchez salutes him.

Sanchez – Sir, yes Sir!

Ramirez – As you were.

Sanchez – So, what do we do, Boss?

Ramirez – Why don’t you search this hovel… (aside) Go ahead and fuck up the place even if it’s not necessary… It never fails to impress the suspects.

Sanchez – Of course, Sir.

Sanchez starts searching the pub, moving as many things around as he can and making as much noise as he can.

Ramirez (to Jackie) – So, Madam. You’re the last person to see the victim, is that right?

Jackie – Er…no. I’m the first one to see him dead.

Ramirez – That’s what I meant. So you found the body. That makes you our prime suspect.

Derek – Inspector, are you serious?

Ramirez – I suggest you keep your mouth shut until we tell you to open it. Understood?

Sanchez – Sir, I think I found the murder weapon.

From behind the counter, he pulls the plastic toy gun that Derek took from Jason.

Ramirez – It’s a toy, Sanchez. Can’t you tell?

Sanchez – You’re right, Sir… And the victim didn’t die from gunshot wounds…

Ramirez – That will be for the autopsy to tell. He could well have been shot with that gun before being placed on ice in the freezer.

Sanchez – But you just said yourself it’s a toy gun…

Ramirez – Don’t try to confuse me, Sanchez. (He freezes like he’s having a vision) I just had a flash… And I think this case is a lot more complicated than it looks.

Sanchez – I think’s it’s quite complicated enough…

Charlie – A word of caution, Inspector, the flash could be a side effect of the potato booze…

Sanchez continues his search.

Sanchez – Oh great, there’s another one.

He retrieves the hunting rifle.

Ramirez – Is this your hunting rifle?

Derek – What if it is, is hunting illegal now?

Ramirez – No, but it’s suspicious. You know what they say… He who steals an egg will steal a chicken. Start as a hunter, end as a killer. Is there a flat above?

Derek – Yes.

Ramirez – Come Sanchez, we’re gonna check it out… (Looking towards the two Londoners) This pub has all the hallmarks of a brothel…

Sanchez – No one moves until we get back, alright?

Ramirez – You, the madam, you go first.

Jackie – If you’ll follow me, Inspector…

Ramirez points his chin towards the two Londoners.

Ramirez (to Sanchez) – We’ll interrogate the two whores later.

Catherine and Wendy look at each other, dismayed. The two policemen leave with Jackie. Derek, Felix and Charlie are so concerned they forget the two Londoners, who’ve been sat there watching it all without saying anything.

Derek – Just what we needed… Now we have a dead body on our hands.

Felix – We? But I didn’t do anything!

Derek – What? No, we all agreed!

Charlie – He’s right though, it was mostly your idea, Derek…

Catherine and Wendy are stunned.

Catherine – So you knew about this?

Wendy – You’re all in on it!

Catherine – You’re all accomplices…

They turn toward the women, knowing they’re busted.

Felix – No, but… It’s not at all what you think…

Charlie – I can see how this might look…

Benedict – And how you might have misinterpreted what we said…

Felix – Worse case, it’s involuntary manslaughter.

Derek – Possibly even just a workplace accident.

Catherine – Did you, or did you not put this bloke in the freezer?

Charlie – It’s a little more complicated than that…

Derek – We just wanted to break the monotony.

Felix – To show you that things did happen in Sodgibbon Cross.

Charlie – So you would have enough material to write an article about us. Even a short one.

Benedict – Actually, it was to help you out really.

Felix – Unfortunately, accidents happen.

Catherine – Wackjobs, I tell you…

Derek – You won’t say anything to the police, will you?

Catherine – Come on Wendy, let’s get out of here…

They stand up to leave just as the cops come back with Jackie.

Ramirez – No one leaves without my say so.

The two Londoners sit back down.

Ramirez – What do you think, Sanchez?

Sanchez – Yes, it’s rather cozy…

Ramirez – I’m not talking about the flat, idiot! I’m talking about our investigation!

Sanchez – Oh sorry… What I think, Boss… To be honest…

Ramirez – I see… I can tell I’m going to have to find the key to this mystery on my own, guided by my sole instinct.

Ramirez turns towards the group and feels their awkwardness.

Ramirez – And my instinct tells me that these fuckwits all fit the profile of a perpetrator. Take my word for it, Sanchez.

Sanchez – You’re right, Sir. I’d even say they all fit the profile of the murderer…

Benedict – Gentlemen, please! You’re talking to a minister of the faith.

Ramirez – Don’t let that impress you, Sanchez. A minister of the faith is to the Catholic hierarchy what a General is to the Salvation Army: a pompous title for someone with no real authority.

Felix – As for I, Inspector, I think you’ll find that I am the highest magistrate in this municipality.

Sanchez – But of course. And I’m a peace keeper, does that make me a Blue Helmet?

Ramirez (to the others) – Alright, that’s enough. If you bunch of nitwits have anything to say, now is your last chance.

Derek – Well…

Felix – You see…

Charlie – No, I don’t think so…

Sanchez – I’m betting on the priest, Boss. He looks like butter wouldn’t melt, but look at him, he’s a pimp if I ever saw one.

Ramirez – Very well, since no one wants to spill the beans, we’re going to proceed to the identification of the body. Who knows, that might trigger some memories…

He opens the freezer.

Jackie – Wait, I’ll remove the chips…

Ramirez (to Derek) – You, come over here. Do you recognise the victim, yes or no?

Derek – With that layer of ice over his face I can’t be sure.

Sanchez – Great, we’re going to wait for the Spring thaw…

Ramirez catches sight of the two Londoners.

Ramirez – Right, let’s try something else… Who’re these two skanks?

Sanchez – You’ve got a moonlighting gig as a pimp is that it? A little dough on the side?

Derek – They’re tourists visiting the region, Inspector.

Ramirez – Tourists? Do you really expect me to buy that? The last time there were any tourists in the area, they were Roman. They wore armor and they left after a week, fighting a mild depression.

Sanchez – This case gets stinkier by the minute, Sir.

Jackie – I don’t want to cause trouble but for what it’s worth, before these two showed up, this was a quiet, fairy tale village.

Charlie – Without a happily ever after.

Catherine – Oh, the cheek!

Ramirez – You slags, bring your asses over here.

Catherine comes forward, followed by Wendy. Ramirez forces Catherine’s head in the freezer.

Ramirez – So you don’t recognise the victim either?

Catherine – Oh my God, how gruesome!

Wendy looks too.

Wendy – His face does look familiar…

Sanchez – Must be a local, Sir. He looks a little slow in the head. Also, no one ends up accidentally in a hole like this place.

Ramirez looks at the Londoners again.

Ramirez – Tourists, you say…

Derek – I swear, Inspector. They really are from London. One of them works for the press, the other for the telly.

Ramirez – That’s not incompatible with being a whore. What do you think, Sanchez?

Sanchez – I think it’s a menage a trois gone wrong.

Ramirez (to Felix) – He was your wife’s lover, is that it? That’s why you killed him?

Felix – I’m not married, Inspector.

Sanchez – Too bad for you. You could have claimed temporary insanity during a crime of passion…

Ramirez (to Derek) – So you’re the sucker?

Sanchez – He does have a nice sucker face.

Derek – But of course not! I mean, yes, but… the priest, he’s me wife’s lover.

Ramirez – I see… (he turns towards the two Londoners) And you didn’t see anything, of course? You’re not very observant, I thought you were journalists …

Catherine – Actually, I did… From the window of the flat above, I thought I saw a man, looked like Zorro, come in the pub.

Sanchez – Zorro?

Ramirez – What were you doing up there?

Sanchez – Shagging the landlord probably…

Wendy – The landlady was showing us the flat, it’s for sale.

Ramirez – So you saw Zorro walk in the Red Lion…(ironically) Maybe he’s the killer, Sanchez! Why don’t you check and see if Don Diego de la Vega has any priors…

Sanchez – Right away, Sir… Can you spell the name?

Ramirez sighs.

Catherine – I meant a man wearing a mask, Inspector.

Wendy – Maybe it’s a robbery gone wrong?

Catherine – They could claim self defence.

Ramirez – Go ahead and lead this investigation, why don’t you?

Catherine – Not at all, Inspector.

Wendy – Even if I think the investigation would progress faster…

Ramirez – Alright, Sanchez, go ahead and proceed to the collection of a DNA sample for the purposes of identifying the victim…

Sanchez – I’ll do it right away, Sir…

Ramirez – We’ll also need DNA samples from all the suspects.

Sanchez – What for, Sir?

Ramirez – Why do you think?

Sanchez – To find out who’s the father of the baby who grew up in the freezer?

Ramirez – No, idiot… To find out which one is Zorro… Take them to the town hall for the collection… and send the samples to the lab.

Sanchez – Come on, follow me…

The two Londoners are about to follow him.

Ramirez – Not you… I still have a few questions to ask you…

The others leave.

Ramirez – Right, now that we’re alone, how about you tell me what you’re really doing in the region? The press rarely reaches a crime scene before the cops. Especially around here…

Catherine – It’s a complete coincidence, Inspector, I assure you…

Ramirez – But of course… Wrong place at the wrong time… (to Wendy) Do you have anything to add? You’re seriously lacking in the imagination department, for a television producer. Who do you work for?

Wendy – Mainly for the BBC…

Ramirez – I see… BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 3, BBC 4… Clearly imagination isn’t the main asset of BBC television producers.

Catherine – Oh really? And what do think it is?

Ramirez – Cup size?

Wendy – Now you’re the one talking in clichés, Inspector. With all due respect.

Ramirez – Don’t tell me you’re here to cast characters for a new show…

Catherine – No, but it’s a shame because there’s quite a choice here. Have you seen their inbred faces?

Ramirez – Yes, you have a point.

Wendy – You included, Inspector… Has anyone ever told you that you could be on television?

Ramirez – You think?

Wendy – Definitely… Movies probably not, but television… I’ll leave you my card if you want.

Ramirez looks at both women for a beat.

Ramirez – Can I ask… What is the exact nature of your relations, you two?

Wendy – Our relations?

Ramirez – Yes, well… You know what I mean…

Catherine – Is this… relevant to your investigation?

Ramirez – Not at all, just inappropriate curiosity…

Derek, Felix, Charlie and Benedict return, looking embarrassed.

Ramirez – Alright you can go now, but don’t leave the municipality until further notice.

Wendy and Catherine move away.

Felix – Inspector, we need to talk… As the First Magistrate of this municipality…

Ramirez – Skip the foreplay…

Felix – We’re a little in over our heads here… After discussing the situation among us, we believe there are certain facts that you should be made aware of…

Ramirez (ironically) – Well, what do you know…

Derek – We know who the victim is.

Ramirez – Well, well, well… And it just came to you, did it?

Benedict – It’s Jason, his nephew.

Felix – You mean his cousin.

Derek – Let’s say my godson.

Felix – He’d been training for years to appear on Incredible Talent.

Benedict – He’s a contortionist.

Derek – One time we found him in a suitcase.

Ramirez – Yea, well now he can play Otzi the Iceman.

Charlie – No but because it’s an accident…

Ramirez – Did you or didn’t you put him in this freezer…

Derek – We did…

Benedict – And we didn’t…

Derek – I didn’t know the freezer was on.

Ramirez doesn’t quite believe him.

Ramirez – What would you think if you were me and heard this story?

Sanchez returns, followed by Jackie.

Ramirez – Right, so we’re going to take all of you down to the station in the chopper, and you’ll be able to explain everything. You might even remember more after your skulls have repeated, brief encounters with a phone book.

Charlie – Do you really think we’ll all fit in the helicopter, Inspector?

Felix – You could always start by torturing the landlord and landlady. It’s their freezer, after all.

Benedict – And their godson. At the end of the day, it’s really just your garden variety family affair…

Derek – Right on brand, Father. I see the Blatherington-Smythe family tradition of raising priests and rats is still alive and well.

Benedict – Inspector, I beg you to show some humanity. At least let me give this poor innocent soul a final blessing.

Ramirez – Ok, but hurry up.

Felix moves closer to Ramirez conspiratorially.

Felix – Look, maybe we can come to an agreement to avoid complications. The justice system is so overloaded…

Ramirez – This gets better all the time… Are you attempting to bribe an officer of the law?

Felix – But not at all, Inspector! Since we are both at the service of the state! Technically it’s not possible for a Civil Servant to bribe another. I was only suggesting an arrangement serving the interest of our nation…

Ramirez – Well, put that way… How much?

Felix – Let’s say…

Benedict opens the freezer and crosses himself.

Benedict – Oh, my God!

Ramirez – What now?

Benedict – The body… it’s resurrected…

Sanchez looks at the body which is now thawed.

Sanchez – He’s right, Sir. He opened an eye.

Derek – Looks like the ice melted.

Jackie – The freezer must have broken down. Thank goodness I hadn’t put all the chips in yet.

Ramirez – I don’t know… He doesn’t look very fresh…

Charlie – It’s like you said before… When the cold chain is broken…

Jason rises out of the freezer like Dracula from his casket.

Benedict – Dear God Almighty! (he crosses himself) Just like Jesus rising from the grave…

Charlie – Captain Igloo edition.

Jason – Show me the money, Uncle Derek!

Sanchez – That, on the other hand, is not canon…

Jackie – What money?

Derek – I’ll tell you later, Jackie…

Ramirez – Never mind her, it’s the police you should be explaining this to…

Felix – Please forgive us, Inspector, it’s just a stupid bet.

Benedict – We wanted to put the video on YouTube.

Ramirez – And him? He was a willing participant?

Sanchez (to Jason) – Do you want to press charges?

Jason – What I want is to be on the telly.

Charlie – Come on Inspector, you can see he’s perfectly fine.

Sanchez – I don’t know… he looks a little confused. He could be scarred for life…

Jackie – Oh no, that’s just how he is, Inspector.

Felix – Actually, I think he even looks sharper than before, don’t you think?

Derek – Give him a glass of potato booze, to help with the thawing…

Jackie pours several glasses.

Charlie – I use this as antifreeze in my car’s radiator. There’s nothing better.

Derek gives the bottle to Jason who drinks directly from it.

Ramirez – Alright, we’re done here, Sanchez… If there’s no body there’s no crime…

Jackie – How about a refill, Inspector?

Ramirez – Oh, go on then.

Jackie hands a glass to Ramirez who drinks it all.

Ramirez – Oh yes, I can see how that’d wake the dead.

In fact, Jason is now fully alive. He takes a few tentative steps.

Benedict – Are you seeing this? He’s walking! It’s a miracle.

Charlie – A miracle? Do you think it could be recognised by the Vatican?

Benedict – A case of miraculous thawing? I’m not sure…

Felix – Of course… A miracle! Maybe that’s what we need!

Derek – Like with Jesus! A bloke everyone thought was dead has come back to life!

Jackie – Do you think it’ll work?

Catherine – The last time they tried it was 2,000 years ago and it’s still very popular.

Derek – We’ve hit gold, I can feel it… JC come back from the dead…

Wendy – More like come back from the frozen burgers, but sure…

Felix – You’re right… this is a sign from above. The nudge we were hoping for from the Man Upstairs. We’ll make Sodgibbon Cross a pilgrimage destination.

Jackie – What do you make of it, Father?

Benedict – But… it’s a fake miracle, we should know.

Derek – On the other hand, real miracles don’t actually exist, right?

Benedict looks at Jason.

Benedict – You know what, you’re right. God has sent him. Jesus even said: Blessed are the poor in spirit…

Felix – We’ll turn this retard into a Saint. Saint Jason. And we’ll turn this village into the next Lourdes.

Charlie – Jason, aka JC. Even his name is a sign.

Felix – I can already see the headlines in the Catholic Times and the Daily Mail: victim of pesticides and freezer accident miraculously comes back to life!

Benedict – Monsanto Subito!

Derek – Glory be to God in the Highest! This is the beginning of a new era for Sodgibbon Cross!

Felix – We are living a historic moment, dear friends.

Charlie – In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an Annus Freezeris.

Benedict – For the pilgrimage, we’re going to need a statue of Jason somewhere in town…

Charlie – Jason coming out of his freezer, like Christ coming out of his tomb? Now, that would be the dog’s bollocks.

Felix – If only we could get the press to buy into this…

Derek – But the press is already here!

Benedict – Glory be to God, this village will finally get a second life!

Catherine and Wendy observe the excitement, a little overwhelmed.

Catherine – They’re all wackjobs, I tell you… In the middle of a spectacular mass hysteria… Come on, let’s split before one of them feels the urge to sacrifice a chicken… or a human…

But Wendy seems to be caught in the excitement too.

Wendy – What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see what’s going on? You should write about this!

Catherine – You think?

Wendy – Trust me. Within three days it’ll be like the grotto in Bethlehem around here. And we’re the first ones here! Can you imagine the audience numbers if there’d been a journalist on site back then!

Catherine – You’re right… This kind of thing only happens once every two thousand years… We can’t afford to miss it…

Catherine walks to Jason.

Catherine – Hello Jason. They call you the Messiah of Sodgibbon Cross. Are you thinking of founding a new religion?

Jason – Would I be on the telly?

Wendy – And how! If we play our cards right you may even get your own show.

Jason – Like Graham Norton?

Catherine – Maybe even your own channel…

Sanchez’s phone rings and he picks up.

Sanchez – Inspector Sanchez here… Affirmative… Understood, I’ll pass it on… (he puts his mobile away) We have the results of the DNA tests, Sir.

Ramirez – Yes, so what? We already know who the victim is. Well, we know who his godfather is.

Sanchez – Yes, but now we also know who the baby daddy is…

Jackie – Jason’s dad? So who is it?

Sanchez – Apparently, Father…

Everyone turns to look at Benedict.

Benedict – I don’t understand… There must be a mistake…

Ramirez – Or another miracle…

Catherine sighs.

Catherine – This is definitely the worst village in England…

Wendy – That’s it! I got it!

Catherine – Got what?

Wendy – My new reality TV concept!

Catherine – Celebrity Rectory?

Wendy – The Worst Village in England! Any village in England can participate in the competition and at the end we invite celebrities to spend a month in whichever place has been voted asshole of nowhere… What do you think?

Catherine – Hmm, yes that might work even better than Celebrity Farm.

Wendy – Hallelujah! WC Productions is safe from bankruptcy!

Catherine – Will you excuse me for a minute, I think this is the right moment for another exclusive interview…

Catherine walks to Benedict.

Catherine – According to our sources, you are the father of the new Messiah… Have you considered going freelance by any chance?

Benedict – Freelance?

Wendy – You’ve been working for The Man for thirty years, you know, the Vatican.

Benedict – And all I got for my trouble is that they wanted to shut down my parish…

Wendy – As the Messiah’s father, you could set up as a Sole Proprietorship…

Catherine – And if you do, you’re going to need a good Communications Director.

Jason looks at Benedict with a stupid look.

Jason – Dad?

Wendy – And for the show, this one’s really going to need a coach…

Catherine – Are you ready for a new adventure, Father?

Benedict – Tell you what, Sister, for you I’ll always be ready to be defrocked.

Black

End

About the author

Born in 1955 in Auvers-sur-Oise (France), Jean-Pierre Martinez was first a drummer for several rock bands before becoming a semiologist in advertising. He then began a career writing television scripts before turning to theater and writing plays. He has written close to a hundred scripts for television and almost as many plays, some of which have already become classics (Friday the 13th, Strip Poker). He is one of the most produced contemporary playwrights in France and in other francophone countries. Several of his plays are also available in Spanish and English, and are regularly produced in the United States and Latin America.

Amateur and professional theater groups looking for plays to perform can download Jean-Pierre Martinez’s plays for free from his website La Comediathèque (comediatheque.net). However, public productions are subject to SACD filing.

For those who prefer reading or working from books, printed versions of his plays can be purchased from The Book Edition for a price similar to that of photocopying this document.

Other plays by the same author translated in English:

Casket for two

Critical but Stable

Friday the 13th

Him and Her

Running on Empty

Strip Poker

All of Jean-Pierre Martinez’s plays are available to download for free from his website: www.comediatheque.net

This text is protected under copyright laws.

Criminal copyright infringement will be investigated

and may result in a maximum penalty of up to 3 years in prison

and a EUR 300.000 fine.

Paris – December 2019

© La Comédi@thèque – ISBN 978-2-37705-280-6

http://comediatheque.net

Play available for free download

Running on empty

Posted mars 15, 2019 By admin

A comedy by Jean-Pierre Martinez

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

A journalist visits a playwright on the down and out for an interview that could launch his comeback. But in the world of theatre, appearances can be deceiving…

 

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This text is available to read for free. However, an authorization is required from the author prior to any public performance, whether by professional or amateur companies. To get in touch with Jean-Pierre Martinez and ask an authorization to represent one of his works :

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Running on Empty

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

A journalist visits a playwright on the down and out for an interview that could launch his comeback. But in the world of theatre, appearances can be deceiving…

Characters

Author

Visitor

© La Comédi@thèque

 

A messy living room. A man (or a woman) dozes in an armchair. The phone rings, partially waking him. He answers the phone, still half asleep.

Author (unfriendly) – Hello? (Without listening) You better not be calling to tell me the meeting is cancelled! (Waking a little) Building Society? (More pleasant) Oh sorry, no it’s because I’m expecting a journalist for an interview you see, and… Yes, a small overdraft, I know, it’s on my statement… Large? Let’s call it medium then… potayto, potahto… Don’t worry about it, it’s being taken care of… I received an advance for my next play and the cheque’s in the mail, and… Yes, a play. Do you like the theatre?… No, of course that’s not the question… Listen, you’re breaking up… Oh, there’s someone at the door, it must be the journalist… Of course, I’ll call you right back… Oh dear, now I can’t hear you at all, I’m afraid… I’m hanging up now…

The author hangs up and sighs. He is waking up slowly, still a little dozy, and gets out of the chair. His demeanour and his clothes are unkempt. The doorbell actually rings. He hesitates a little. Looks in a mirror, adjusts his clothes and runs a comb through his hair. The doorbell rings again.

Author – Yes, all right, I’m coming

He goes to the door and returns followed by a woman (or a man) that is younger, dressed more fashionably, and generally fitter and much better looking than him.

Visitor – Thank you for having me, Mr Tellerman.

Author – Letterman.

A little taken aback by the mess.

Visitor – Pardon?

Author – Not Tellerman. Letterman. Charles Letterman. That’s my name. How do you not even know that?

Visitor – Of course, I’m sorry. A pen name, naturally?

Author – No, why?

Visitor – Oh, I… Letterman for a writer… Never mind, let’s just say it was fate, then.

Author – I don’t need a pen name… If I want a best seller, I’ll just call my book “Late Night with”…

Visitor – Right… (Looking at the author with concern) I didn’t wake you, did I?

Author – Wake me? Of course not! What makes you say that?

Visitor – Er, I don’t know, I…

Author – Actually, what time is it?

Visitor – I’m sorry, I don’t have a watch.

Author – Well, that would explain your tardiness.

Visitor – Tardiness? But… you don’t even know what time it is…

Author – Typical journalist… always have to have the last word. So, are we going to do this interview or not? I haven’t got all day, unlike some.

Visitor (muttering to herself) – If you say so…

Author – Pardon?

Visitor – Nothing, I was just saying… Yes, let’s start! That’s what we’re here for, right?

Author – Actually, you’re very lucky. I never give interviews.

Visitor – Do you get asked often?

Author – Not as often as they used to, it’s true… but back when they used to ask me, I would refuse them all.

Visitor – Yeah, right…

Author – Are you implying that it’s easy to play hard to get when no one is after you?

Visitor – Not at all… I mean, yes but… That’s not what I was trying to…

Author – What were you “trying to”, then?

Visitor – No, nothing…

Author – Yes, you did! You said: that’s not what I was trying to… So that means you were “trying to” something!

Visitor – I misspoke, that’s all.

Author – A journalist who misspeaks… This is going well.

Visitor – I apologise.

Author – Then why did you ask me that question?

Visitor – What question?

Author – You asked me if I did a lot of interviews.

Visitor – I don’t know… I’m here to ask questions… That’s how interviews work, isn’t it?

Author – Real questions, yes… Not asinine ones.

Visitor – I think you mean journalist questions.

Author – I hate journalists…

Visitor – Yes, famous people tend to hate journalists…

Author – I wonder why…

Visitor – Even though it’s often journalists that brings them fame in the first place.

Author – That depends on your point of view.

Visitor – From the point of view of a journalist.

Author – Famous people sell papers.

Visitor – Absolutely, the role of a newspaper is also to talk about famous people… so they don’t fall into oblivion…

Author – Did you come see me to talk about the entertainment industry or to ask questions about my work?

Visitor – Don’t worry, I’m getting there. (Looking around the room) May I sit down?

Author – Please…

Visitor – Thank you…

She sits. Awkward silence. He collects himself a little.

Author – I’m sorry, we started on the wrong foot.

Visitor – It’s quite all right…

Author – I’m not really used to being around people any more. I’ve become quite the anti-social ogre, I’m afraid…

Visitor – Please, there’s no need to apologise… It’s quite a normal reaction… After all I just turned up on your doorstep…

Author – What would you like?

Visitor – Thank you… I was hoping to get some answers.

Author – I meant something to drink.

Visitor – Oh yes, sorry… Er… I wouldn’t turn down a coffee.

Author – I’m out of coffee. Well, I have coffee but I don’t have a coffee maker anymore. It’s broken… Happened a while back, actually. For several months I managed by boiling water in a saucepan and making coffee filters out of tissues. But then I ran out of Kleenex and decided it was an opportunity to reduce my caffeine intake.

Visitor – That’s all right, no worries.

Author – I can make you a herbal if you like. Chamomile? But I’m out of sugar.

Visitor – Tempting, but no thank you… I’ll pass.

Author – Ok, well in that case… I’m all yours…

Visitor – Thank you. My first question is… do you write with a pen or on a computer?

The author is taken aback for a few seconds.

Author – I’m sorry… I didn’t quite get that. Which paper did you say you work for?

Visitor – Well… Actually… It’s not technically a paper. I mean, not a paper on paper, like The New Yorker.

AuthorThe New Yorker?

Visitor – It’s more like… a digital medium, as they say.

Author – I see… you mean a website…

Visitor – More like… a web magazine. Living Theatre.

Author – Living Theatre?

Visitor – That’s the name of the magazine. You don’t like it?

Author – It’s fine… It sounds like a magazine for OAPs… On the other hand, only retirees go to the theatre anymore…

Visitor – Whatever…

Author – Living Theatre… Unfortunately, very few people still manage to make a living from the theatre, you know…

Visitor – That’s why our website strives to highlight the work of contemporary playwrights. This interview would allow our readers to get to know you better. As a playwright anyway…

Author – I see. And… your first question is whether I write with a pen or on a computer?

Visitor – That’s right.

Author – I’m sure the answer is keeping your readers on the edge of their seats.

Visitor – So?

Author – So? So as you can probably guess from my age, when I started my career I used a pen. Printing had only just been invented a few years earlier, so computers wouldn’t be around for a while yet.

Visitor – Of course.

Author – I remember it well… It was a Mont Blanc fountain pen given to me by my godmother for my first communion. With a gold nib. I was very fond of it.

Visitor – I see. Like a sort of… transitional object.

Author – That’s it… A replacement for a mother if you prefer. You know, writing is a form of psychoanalysis.

Visitor – Of course…

Author – It’s just as useless but instead of spending money, there’s always the chance that you can earn some. In theory, anyway.

Visitor – I see…

Author – I know what you’re thinking… Given the state I’m in, you’re thinking my therapy sessions might not have been as successful as I’d hoped…

Visitor – No, not at all…

Author – Would you say I look fulfilled?

Visitor – Fulfilled isn’t the first word that comes to mind, but… So what happened next?

Author – Next, the fountain pen broke.

Visitor – Like the coffee maker.

Author – Exactly. And with the royalties from my first play I bought a typewriter, like the ones you see in old black and white films. Have you seen Sunset Boulevard?

Visitor – Yes, maybe, well… A long time ago, I think…

Author – Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find an ageing film star to support me in exchange for writing them a comeback script.

Visitor – I love it, it sounds like a novel… Do you still have the typewriter?

Author – It ended up broken, too.

Visitor – Shame…

Author – So I replaced it with one of the very first electric typewriters… It was a revolution at the time, you know? It had a small screen, like on a computer, with room for only a couple of lines. You could make a few changes before the machine typed the text. It meant you could save quite a bit of ink and paper. I used it for a few years, and then…

Visitor – The electric typewriter broke, and you got a Mac.

Author – No, it was me who was broken, so I hired someone to ghost for me.

Visitor – A ghost?

Author – He’s the one who used the computer. At first I would dictate a little, naturally, but then very quickly he started writing on his own.

Visitor – The computer?

Author – The ghost-writer!

Visitor – Oh?

Author – He was very gifted, you know.

Visitor – I see.

Author – You’ve heard Buffon’s quote: “style is the man himself”.

Visitor – Yes… no

Author – Well that ghost-writer was totally my style.

Visitor – Oh yes.

Author – He was Swedish.

Visitor – Who was?

Author – The ghost-writer!

Visitor – Oh right, sorry…

Author – You ask me a question and… I have the feeling you’re not that interested in my answers.

Visitor – Oh no, I am! Very much so, but… this ghost, do you still have it?

Author – Unfortunately not. That’s why I haven’t written anything for years…

Visitor – Maybe he went back to Sweden.

Author – No… He died.

Visitor – Blimey… I mean… It’s such a strange story.

Author – Yes, and I was very fond of him, too. But what can you do? He was starting to think he was a writer. I had to get rid of him.

Visitor – Get rid of him?

Author – A daily dose of arsenic in his chamomile. He died like Madame Bovary.

Visitor – I see…

Author – It’s just like Flaubert wrote: “Madame Bovary, c’est moi”. Well, a little part of me died with Antonio that day.

Visitor – Antonio?

Author – My Swedish ghost-writer! After he left us, I lost my style for good, never recovered.

Visitor –That’s when you stopped writing.

Author – Correct… I never finished my 124th play.

Visitor – I’m very sorry to hear this.

Author – I went through a very difficult phase. To try and recapture the inspiration from my early days I bought myself another Mont Blanc pen, with the last of my savings.

Visitor – But it wasn’t enough…

Author – I was on the verge of committing suicide… I didn’t even have enough money to buy cartridges.

Visitor – For your shotgun…

Author – For the fountain pen!

Visitor – Of course…

Author – I found an old syringe from when I was a heroin addict. I would draw blood every morning and fill the pen. A client had commissioned a comedy but blood-red ink is more conducive to writing noir fiction (Noticing the journalist’s astonishment) Shouldn’t you be taking notes?

Visitor – Yes, yes, I have everything here… (She pulls out a small recorder.) But maybe you want this off the record…

Author – So you actually believe all the bullshit I just told you?

The visitor realises the writer has been taking the piss.

Visitor – Of course not, it’s a joke, I knew that. Pretty funny, too… A Swedish ghost… I didn’t know you were a comedy writer.

Author – That must be why they sent a comedy journalist to interview me… Still no to chamomile?

Visitor – With or without arsenic?

The visitor starts a forced laugh, then stops.

Author (very serious) – Next question.

Visitor – Yes, I… I loved your last play. Have you written anything since then?

Author – Pardon?

Visitor – I mean… on your own, not with your Swedish ghost. (She laughs again at her own joke.) Just kidding.

But the author still isn’t laughing.

Author – I have written 123 plays.

Visitor – 123! That’s quite the number. And… what are they about?

Author (scandalised) – What are they about? You come here to talk about my work and you haven’t read my plays?

Visitor – Not all 123, obviously, but…

Author – And how many have you read, precisely?

Visitor – I’d say… One… The first one… Well, the first pages anyway. This assignment came very late… I am filling in for a journalist from Living Theatre who killed himself yesterday.

Author – How many pages?

Visitor – To be totally honest… I didn’t have the time to read beyond page 5.

Author – The text of the play starts on page 6.

Visitor – I really liked the title…

Author – Oh, you did, did you? (Ironically) And what was the title of my first play? I’m drawing a blank right now.

Visitor – I can’t remember either, but I remember I loved it.

Author – Can I see your credentials?

Visitor – Er… Yes… (She goes through the motion of looking through her bag) Actually… I wonder if…

Author – You’re not a journalist…

She hesitates a moment before answering.

Visitor – No.

Author – I see. You’ve come to burgle me, is that it? It’s very common, apparently. The burglar pretends to be from the gas company or whatnot, and they leave with the cash that was hidden under the mattress. It’s called theft by deception, I believe.

Visitor – Deception?

Author – You’re right, that doesn’t fit… You aren’t clever enough to pull off deception. And you wouldn’t have chosen to impersonate a journalist anyway.

Visitor – Actually, I…

Author – Let’s see… You would have been more convincing as a pizza delivery guy.

Visitor – That’s true…

Author – Now, if you’ve come here looking for money… We can look together if you want?

Visitor – I’m an actress.

Author – If you came here looking for a role, you’re even more fucking stupid than I thought. And believe me, I had set the bar quite high.

Visitor – It’s the first time I play a journalist. And I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the role.

Author – Let’s not exclude the possibility that you are a mediocre actress just yet. So? Who is the director of this bad comedy?

Visitor – Your agent.

Author – My agent? I didn’t know I still had one…

Visitor – He thought an interview would be a good way to puff up your ego and get you back to the writing desk.

Author – He’s even more fucking stupid than I thought, too.

Visitor – Everyone knows you aren’t writing any more… He’s been waiting for your next manuscript for almost a year.

Author – What can I say? I have severe writer’s block. Do you know what that’s like? It’s like forgetting lines for an actor. You never know when it’s going to happen, or how you’re going to get yourself out of it.

Visitor – But a year… that’s a long time to forget your lines…

Author – You haven’t read the first of my 123 comedies, but you’re going to beg me to write a 124th?

Visitor – Personally, I couldn’t care less. But it sounds really important to your agent. Enough that he gave me a hundred pounds to set up this little comedy.

Author – A hundred pounds? I hadn’t realised I was worth that much to my agent.

A time.

Visitor – Right, so what do we do?

Author – What do you mean, what do we do?

Visitor – I am not a journalist. Now that the cat is out of the bag, I don’t think you’ll want to continue the interview.

Author – Why? Do you have any more riveting questions to ask about my work? I don’t know… How about… Whether I wear y-fronts or boxer shorts? Do I put the jam or the cream first? Marmite hater or Marmite lover? Do I bat for the other team?

Visitor – Right, I get the message, you don’t want to play along. So what do I tell him?

Author – Who?

Visitor – George, your agent!

Author – That’s your problem. Tell him whatever you want.

Visitor – It’s just that… He was going to give me another hundred pounds after the interview.

Author – I see… Half up front and half on delivery… so he actually thought you could deliver…

Visitor (showing him the recorder) – I was supposed to bring him the tape.

Author – Don’t tell me you actually want to go through this interview thing?

Visitor – We could share.

Author – Share? Share what?

Visitor – A hundred pounds each.

Author – Unbelievable. You’re really something else…

Visitor – No, I’m just hungry. And from what your agent told me, you’re not raking it in either. You’re not writing. Your plays aren’t being produced.

Author – Thank you for the subtle reminder.

The visitor gives the room a deprecating look.

Visitor – I don’t know… you could use the money to freshen up the paint…

Author – If you know a painter who’ll do that for a hundred pounds, even cash-in-hand, please give me his number.

Visitor – A hundred pounds will get you a few pots of paint and a roller.

Author – And who is going to use this roller? You?

Visitor – Why not? For a fee, obviously…

Author – Enough! Don’t you get it? You don’t have to be an optimist to write comedies, but you do have to believe that taking the piss out of assholes might just lead some of them to become better people.

Visitor – You’re just feeling sorry for yourself…

Author – You think?

Visitor – Come on… Writing plays isn’t the end of the world… there are worse jobs, don’t you think?

Author – Yes, probably…

Visitor – Probably? Do you know there are people who get up every morning to press themselves against strangers’ sweaty bodies in the tube for an hour, and work the till at Morrison’s, and all for minimum wage?

Author – And it’s to avoid such an ordeal that you chose a career in apartment theatre?

Visitor – I take what I’m offered… and my agent hasn’t given me any big roles yet.

Author – He must be as shit as mine. Who is it?

Visitor – Same as you.

Author – I see… (A time) You know what, maybe you’re right. Even with the IQ of a barnacle you’re better equipped than me to survive in this world.

Visitor – Thank you…

Author – I think therefore I am… Descartes is an idiot. What a load of crap. It’s obvious that in order to survive in this world of shit, the first thing to do is stop thinking.

Visitor – Yes…

Author – But here’s the rub… Not thinking is like quitting smoking. It’s a lot easier to do when you never started.

Visitor – Are you saying for that me? Because I don’t smoke…

Author – Actually, now that I think about it… I might have a small job for you.

Visitor – Oh? Why not, if it’s my range.

Author – No, let’s not look at it that way, it would reduce the realm of possibilities to barely nothing.

Visitor – So?

Author – Would you consider working as my ghost-writer?

Visitor – Pardon?

Author – For reasons I don’t understand, my agent is determined that I should write a new play. You could write it for me.

Visitor – But… I’m not a playwright.

Author – Just between us, you’re not an actress either.

Visitor – Well… that’s a matter of opinion… Ghost-writer… How much does it pay?

Visitor – That is directly related to the reputation of the author who signs the work.

Visitor – That doesn’t sound very attractive… You were never very well known… and according to your agent, no one remembers you anymore.

Author – And you said he paid you to lift my spirits…

Visitor – I’m just realistic, that’s all.

Author – So, are you interested or not?

The doorbell rings.

Visitor – If you’re expecting someone I should probably leave.

Author – I’m not expecting anyone.

He goes to open the door. The visitor starts to pack her recording device and put on her raincoat. The author returns with an open envelope in one hand and a piece of paper in the other.

Author – It was a courier.

Visitor – I’ll leave you to it…

Author (with authority) – Sit down!

Surprised, she sits without a word. The author examines the paper he is holding, confused.

Visitor – What it is? Your gas bill?

Author – Gas bill? They cut off the gas a long time ago… If they hadn’t I don’t know whether I’d still be here talking to you.

Visitor – So?

Author – It’s from my agent, a contract for an exclusive deal for my next play.

Visitor – A contract?

Author – He wants me to sign it and return it immediately. This is really strange. (He pulls a cheque from the envelope.) There’s even an advance…

Visitor – How much?

Author – Five hundred.

Visitor – Five hundred pounds! He’s not kidding.

Author – I don’t know… I’m not sure… Since your arrival it’s become difficult to tell who’s been led…

Visitor – Well, now that you received this advance you don’t have a choice anymore. You’re going to have to write this comedy.

Author – I can always return the cheque. I haven’t signed the contract. I imagine this fake interview was a ploy to convince me to go along with this scheme.

Visitor – You’re not going to sign it?

Author – I can’t write under duress… But this pile of unpaid bills over there demands that I take a little longer to think about it, because if I want to kill myself in a painless way I’m going to need the gas to be turned back on.

Visitor – And what about my two hundred pounds?

Author – Didn’t we agree to share them?

Visitor – But now that you’ve a working author again, getting commissions and everything… you don’t want to look cheap.

Author – Not so fast. I still have to find the subject of the comedy.

Visitor – Come on, for five hundred quid even I could write anything.

The author looks at the visitor.

Author – How about two hundred and fifty?

Visitor – What about two hundred and fifty?

Author – Half of five hundred! You haven’t rejected my offer yet either.

Visitor – What offer?

Author – To work as my ghost-writer.

Visitor – Oh, hold on, I was joking. I said I could write anything, but not a play. Certainly not a masterpiece.

Author – Write anything? But that’s exactly what I need you to do.

Visitor – Pardon?

Author – To be completely honest with you, the only thing I can write are masterpieces. Writing just anything, I don’t know how. That’s the problem, do you understand? (A time) Looking at your moronic face, I don’t think you do…

Visitor – Well, it’s just that…

Author – Ok… My agent paid me an advance to write a play but, alas, I have lost the inspiration needed to write a real one. With me so far?

Visitor – I think so.

Author – I could write anything and still earn this cheque, like any other playwright would do, but unfortunately, I am unable to write just anything.

Visitor – How so?

Author – Most likely some good old Judaeo-Christian guilt… And my agent knows it perfectly well. He’s Jewish.

Visitor – So?

Author – So for you, writing just anything is right up your street!

Visitor – You think?

Author – Take it from me… you’re a natural.

Visitor – But why not hire a ghost who can actually write?

Author – If I could get one for two hundred and fifty pounds I would have hired one a long time ago.

Visitor – Sure…

Author – Sure? That means you’ll do it?

Visitor – No… Sure means, yes I understand…

Author – So?

Visitor – So… I could really write just anything?

Author – What else could you write?

Visitor – But your agent, I mean our agent, he’ll be able to tell it’s a load of crap!

Author – My agent? My agent setup this absurd comedy to trick me into writing one after I told him I wasn’t going to. I see it as paying him back in kind.

Visitor – He’s more likely to see it as a kind of payback.

Author – See, you can even be funny when you try! So, what do you think?

Visitor – Maybe… What’s the worse that could happen?

Author – Getting egg on your face?

Visitor – I can live with that.

Author – Yes, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of practice.

Visitor – Ok… So when do you want me to start? Let me see… (She pulls out a day planner and starts flipping pages.) This week’s all booked up… Maybe if I can free some time… How about next Monday?

The author rips the diary out of her hands and quickly glances at it.

Author – There’s so many white pages in this diary you could use it to write the play. Ah, my bad… you have an eye doctor’s appointment in three months.

Visitor – They have a very long waiting list. (The author looks at her impatiently) Ok… so when do you want to start?

Author – No better time than the present, and since you’re already here…

The phone rings. The author doesn’t move.

Visitor – You’re not going to get that?

Author – It’s probably the bank, wanting to chat about my overdraft.

Visitor – I see… We must have the same bank.

Author – The Coop Building Society.

Visitor – The only thing they’re building is an increasing number of overdrafts.

We hear the voice of the person leaving a message.

Voice – Hello, this is Quentin Hustlewell-Swindlelots, president of the Critics Sphere Awards. It is my pleasure to let you know that our foundation has decided to award you this year’s lifetime achievement prize. Please call us back at your earliest convenience so we can work out the details of the ceremony.

The author listens to the message with visible astonishment.

Visitor – Do you think this is another joke from your agent?

Author – It’s not out of the question…

Visitor – What else could it be?

Author – Is it that far fetched to think I am actually the recipient of a lifetime achievement award?

Visitor – How should I know… I haven’t read any of your plays…

Author – It’s a shame you’re not really a journalist. You missed a scoop. You would have been the first to interview the latest Critics Sphere Awards winner.

Visitor – Sorry, never heard of them…

Author – You’ve never heard of them? But this award is to comedy writers what the Pulitzer prize is to journalists!

Visitor – Never heard of that either…

Author – Oh, that’s right, you’re not a journalist. Let’s see… it’s like a Bafta for an actor.

Visitor – Oh, you mean… like a literary Nobel Prize?

Author – Let’s not get carried away.

Visitor – Yeah, I didn’t think so…

Author – Let’s just say that, combined with the right cover this award could nicely boost the sales of my next play.

Visitor – Even if the play isn’t very good?

Author – Even with your lack of domain expertise, you couldn’t have failed to notice that the biggest literary successes are rarely masterpieces. Most of the time the books aren’t written by their authors, even much less read.

Visitor – Yeah… but usually, while the authors are morons, those who actually write the books are real authors.

Author – Well, in our case it’ll be the other way around.

Visitor – It’s not very ethical to do that to your agent.

Author – I don’t think you quite get the situation.

Visitor – What do you mean?

Author – This crook knew before I did that I was going to win the award, so he sent me a contract to sign immediately that would grant him exclusive rights to my next play. And for a paltry five hundred pounds! When he knew damn well that the kind of publicity the award would draw would turn me into a successful author. What were you saying about ethics again?

Visitor – I have to say, when it comes to ethics… I don’t have that much experience.

Author – And don’t get me started on this ridiculous interview scenario to convince me to get back to work.

Visitor – When you look at it that way…

Author – So, are you going to write the play or not?

The visitor thinks for a moment.

Visitor – All right… but I also want the two hundred pounds for the interview.

Author – I thought we agreed to share.

Visitor – You said so yourself: you’re now a successful author.

Author – All right. Get to work, then.

Visitor – I’ll have that chamomile now, I think…

Author – To be honest, I don’t recommend it… I keep it next to the arsenic… but if you want a writer’s tip, I can recommend something else. (He pulls a bottle of whiskey and puts it on the table) That right here is the magic potion that conjures up inspiration. Unfortunately, I built up a tolerance…

Visitor – Why not…

She pours herself a glass, downs it in one, and pulls a face. She looks at the label.

Visitor – Swedish whiskey? Are you trying to poison me too?

Author – Not before you’ve finished writing this play. (He hands her a pen.) You are now the official curator of my Mont Blanc pen. May the force be with you. There’s paper on the table. Sit down and write.

She sits.

Visitor – I’m not sure I can write a whole book, even writing just anything…

Author – It’s just a play! Fifty pages and we can fool anyone.

Visitor – Fifty pages?

Author – Think of it as sitting your A Levels and you’re writing a rather long essay…

She looks at him, embarrassed.

Visitor – A Levels…?

Author – You don’t have any A Levels. Of course you don’t.

Visitor – I could have gotten them, but I missed my train.

Author – Look at it like a very long letter then.

Visitor – I mostly write tweets…

Author – A play is all dialogue! You start a new line at the end of each sentence, and you skip a line every time. Half of what makes a play is what’s in between the lines… It’s mostly blank paper!

Visitor – That must be why they call you Letterman…

Author – There you go, we’ll write this play with four hands: I’ll give you the letters and you put them in the correct order.

Visitor – And you sign the whole thing.

Author – Do you think Michael Angelo painted all the pictures he signed? He had staff, too. He just added a few details at the end.

Visitor – Still, I’m not a writer.

Author – But everyone can be a writer! And a playwright even more so. It’s so easy they don’t even have degrees for it. It’s one of the few jobs, along with pizza delivery and psychoanalyst that you can’t get a degree in. Actually, I’m not sure about pizza delivery, you need to drive a moped.

Visitor – But it’s still a lot of work.

Author – You can write a play with a single cartridge. For a novel, you’d need four or five.

Visitor – Ok…

Author – It’s the world’s laziest job, take my word for it. Unless you count poets. Wankers write five lines of three words each on a page and lots of space around and they’re geniuses.

Visitor – Maybe I should be ghost-writing for a poet then.

Author – Good luck with that. There isn’t a universe where poets can afford to pay ghost-writers, even in instalments.

Visitor – All right… I’m not sure where to start though…

Author – The beginning is always the hardest, of course. Especially in comedy.

Visitor – Oh, we’re writing a comedy.

Author – Yes, a boulevard comedy. Or maybe just a high street comedy.

Visitor – Funny… I still can’t picture you as a comedy writer.

Author – It was a long time ago. Why do you think I need a ghost-writer now?

Visitor – I don’t know if I can be funny.

Author – I don’t expect you to be intentionally funny. We’re aiming for natural comedy…

Visitor – That’s not helping.

Author – Let’s see… Is there someone you’d like to kill?

Visitor – Kill?

Author – That’s the point of comedies! It’s illegal to kill your mother-in-law, so you write a play where you roast her.

Visitor – I’m not married. Do you have in-laws?

Author – Not any more, unfortunately. My wife left me. Some days I find myself almost missing my in-laws, that’s how depressed I am. How am I supposed to write a good comedy in these conditions?

Visitor – I don’t know… Let me think… Oh, right… I used to hate my sister.

Author – Good, that’s a start…

Visitor – Unfortunately she died… I’m guessing that as far as comedies go…

Author – It depends, some deaths can be hilarious. What did your sister die of?

Visitor – Cancer.

Author – I see. No… That’s not going to work, I’m afraid. It’s very difficult to joke about cancer. Especially when it affects a family member.

Visitor – Oh, really? Crap… That’s unfortunate…

Author – It’s one of those subjects that are incompatible with comedy. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the part about the long illness. On stage, the funniest deaths are always the quickest. If a man talks about his wife getting hit by a train on her way back from her pilates class, everyone’s laughing and he hasn’t even finished the story. If he talks about how she died of colon cancer after three years of chemo, no one’s laughing. Go figure.

Visitor – Ok…

Author – Having said that, if you want to give it a try…

The doorbell rings.

Visitor – You’re expecting someone else?

Author – It must be the courier guy. He said he’d come back for the signed contract. Can I have that pen?

He takes the contract.

Visitor (worried) – Are you sure?

Author – I don’t know why but I believe in you… (He signs the contract and hands her the pen.) If you feel an idea coming on while I talk to the courier guy, don’t wait for me, just start writing.

He leaves the room. The visitor’s mobile phone rings and she takes the call.

Visitor – Yes… No, I’m still with him… Yes, yes don’t worry, he just signed the contract… Listen, I can’t talk now… Ok, I’ll call you back…

She puts her phone away. The author returns.

Author – Right… So now we can’t turn back. I just sold your soul to the devil for five hundred pounds. Even in your wildest dreams you wouldn’t get such as good deal.

Visitor – There’s nothing to brag about… I thought you had a stronger moral fiber…

Author – You know, most authors only write so they can pay last year’s taxes with the advances they get for the books they’ll write next year. If authors are ever made to join Pay As You Earn, there’s going to be a whole lot less books written.

Visitor – I wouldn’t know, I’ve never earned enough to pay taxes.

Author – Lucky you… Taxes are a downward spiral, stay out of the system as long as you can. Where were we?

Visitor – Nowhere, I’m afraid.

Author – Yes, that’s what I feared.

Visitor – What if we wrote the story of a writer with severe writer’s block?

Author – I see… And then this bird knocks at his door, and she pretends to be a journalist…

Visitor – Why not?

Author – Theatre in theatre… I swore I would never fall that low…

Visitor – But you said we could write anything!

Author – I did… And how would it end?

Visitor – I don’t know… I’m not even sure where it goes after that…

Author – Have another glass…

He does as he says and pours her another whisky.

Visitor – I don’t know if…

Author – Bottoms up!

She downs the shot.

Visitor – I think I’ll take a quick nap. I’m sure ideas will come to me more easily while I’m asleep.

Author – Oi! I’m not paying you to sleep!

Visitor – You haven’t paid me anything yet… Actually, speaking of payment, a small advance might motivate me…

Author – Even if I wanted to, I doubt the Coop Building Society would agree to increase my overdraft… My god, you’re really no good as a ghost-writer! I told you to write anything and you can’t even do that!

Visitor – I have a reputation too, you know! I don’t want to become a laughing stock by publishing just anything…

Author – But no one will know your name! I will sign the book!

Visitor – That may be so, but I’ll know who really wrote it. There is such as thing as self respect, you know.

Author – Fine. No one is stopping you from writing a masterpiece.

Visitor – You don’t think I can? I’m not as stupid as you think I am.

Author – Go on then, surprise me…

Visitor – Yeah… But with all that whiskey you gave me, I’m getting peckish. Do you have anything to eat?

Author – I hired you to write, not to attend a cocktail party.

Visitor – You know what they say: hunger is poor counsellor.

The author finds a packet of biscuits and gives it to the visitor.

Author – Here, I have a few chocolate digestives left.

Visitor – Thank you. (She starts to eat one.) They’re a little soft.

Author – Would you like me to drop everything to go to the shops and buy fresh ones?

Visitor – No, they’ll do… (She stuffs a second biscuit in her mouth.) I have an idea!

Author (jumping) – You almost scared me…

Visitor – Boy loves girl, but their families hate each other.

Author – That’s Romeo and Juliet.

Visitor – Boy loves girl, but they both end up marrying other people.

AuthorWuthering Heights.

Visitor – I love that song.

Author – No, the book.

Visitor – It’s a book?

Author – Indeed.

Visitor – Boy loves girl but it’s really a man.

AuthorSome like it hot.

Visitor – Never heard of this play.

Author – It’s a film.

Visitor – Are you sure?

Author – Quite sure.

Visitor – A man loves another man but it’s really a girl.

AuthorVictor Victoria.

Visitor – A woman loves another woman but it’s really a man.

AuthorTootsie.

Visitor – Bloody hell… I didn’t think it would be so difficult to be a contemporary writer. Has everything already been written then…?

Author – Everything…

Visitor – All the good stories for sure…

Author – They stuffed their faces and now we’re left with the crumbs.

Visitor – Mother fuckers.

Author – Shakespeare, Chekov… They had it easy… Nothing had been written then. Good ideas were just lying around for the picking. Anyone who could read and write was miles ahead of everyone else and had a pretty good shot at posterity.

Visitor – That’s true. If there was room for another Shakespeare today we’d know about it.

Author – That’s why I’m not even attempting to write a masterpiece, and I’m only asking you to just write anything.

A time.

Visitor – I’ll take that whiskey in the end.

She drinks it thirstily straight from the bottle.

Author – Maybe you should slow down a little…

She sighs satisfactorily as she puts the bottle down.

Visitor – I got it!

Author – Really?

Visitor – Let’s see you link that one to Christopher Marlowe or George Bernard Shaw.

Author – I’m all ears.

Visitor – A couple are having a friend over for dinner whose husband just died in a plane crash. And while they’re consoling her, they find out they won the lottery.

Author – Excellent! Bravo…

Visitor – See, when I try.

Author – That’s my first play.

Visitor – Oh yes…

Author – The one you haven’t read.

Visitor – Great minds and all that…

Author – Indeed, had you been born before me you could have been the one to write it. It’s actually my most popular play…

Visitor – I must have read about it in Time Out.

Author – I stopped writing the day I started to plagiarise myself.

The enthusiasm dies down. A time.

Visitor – Any more chocolate digestives left?

Author – You scoffed them all!

Visitor – The paquet was already opened. I’d rather not know for how long, either. I hope I don’t get food poisoning.

Author – If you do, just call in sick. But you do realise that us authors don’t get sick leave… when we don’t work we don’t get paid. So for ghost-writers, imagine…

Visitor – Whatever. I’m still hungry.

Author – You’re obsessed with food, aren’t you?

Visitor – Only someone who has never really known hunger would say something like that.

Author – All right, I’ll go and see if I can find something in the fridge…

Visitor – One more thing…

Author – What now?

Visitor – I don’t like this word… ghost-writer.

Author – You don’t?

Visitor – I find it offensive.

Author – Offensive? For who?

Visitor – For me!

Author – So what do you want to be called? Stand-in writer? Famous actors have stand-ins for the scenes they don’t want to shoot. Authors could have stand-ins for the scenes they don’t want to write…

Visitor – I don’t know… How about… personal assistant?

Author – Personal assistant?

Visitor – When we’re out and about and you have to introduce me, you can’t very well say, and this is my ghost.

Author – I have to admit… I hadn’t considered the possibility of us going out together…

Visitor – In any case… I need a cover, don’t I?

Author – A cover?

Visitor – Speaking of cover… A ghost-writer who moonlights… that’s not very legit. I’d like to be able to claim benefits. I have to think of my future.

Author – But of course, and what about pension contributions while you’re at it?

Visitor – Fine… Let’s start with personal assistant.

Author – Right. And in lieu of pension contributions I’ll go and see if there’s a piece of cheddar in the fridge.

He is about to leave the room when the phone rings. The visitor picks up, to the author’s surprise.

Visitor – This is the office of Charles Letterman. How can I help you?

The author signals that he doesn’t want to take the call.

Visitor – Oh, I’m sorry, he can’t come to the phone at the moment… Why? Well… because he’s dead. Yes, pretty sure. The doctor was just here, and believe me, it’s not a pretty sight. Oh yes? No… Yes, yes of course, it’s good news, but… in that case it will have to be posthumously. Listen, I’m sorry but I have to go, the autopsy is about to start… And the same to you.

The author stands frozen, stunned.

Author – Who was it?

Visitor – John Frowner, president of Subsidised Starving Playwrights. Apparently, you’re being considered for an O.B.E. by the Ministry of Culture.

Author – And you told him I was dead?

Visitor – You didn’t want to talk to him… It’s the first thing that came to mind.

Author – I see…

Visitor – Oh come on, let’s get real. I’m not going to write this play, and neither are you.

Author – So?

Visitor – So if you’re dead, your agent won’t come and ask you to pay back the five hundred pounds he gave you for a play you haven’t written.

Author – But dead…? Isn’t that a little… extreme to avoid paying back five hundred pounds?

Visitor – It’s part of this plan I have…

Author – See, when you put your mind to it…

Visitor – Between your death, the award and now the O.B.E., you’ll be famous again!

Author – I know I asked you to surprise me, but you’ve exceeded all expectations…

Visitor – Thank you.

Author – It wasn’t meant as a compliment. There’s more than one way to surprise people.

Visitor – Do you have any family?

Author – Only my wife. And I’m not sure she considers me family anymore.

Visitor – So basically you’re alone. No wife, no family, no friends… This award and this medal, I could receive them in your name.

Author – But of course… I hire you as a ghost-writer, you can’t write a single line, and now you want to receive all the awards I won. Do you want my pin code too?

Visitor – Actually, that might be best. After all, you’re supposed to be dead.

Author – I could always come clean.

Visitor – Think about it. At the moment, you’ve got everything to gain by pretending to be dead.

Author – How do you figure?

Visitor – I bet that by tomorrow you’ll be all over the papers. Probably not the front pages, let’s be real. But all of a sudden, the New Yorker will remember who you are.

Author – Being able to read my own obituary in the papers… tempting.

Visitor – Everyone will say you were a great author. Your books will sell like hot cakes… maybe even until the end of the week.

Author – You think so?

Visitor – I may not be a journalist, but I’ll still get you in the papers!

Author – Right, so what do we do now?

Visitor – You play dead, and… I’ll take twenty per cent of your royalties.

Author – My agent only took ten!

Visitor – But with him you weren’t selling anything, and your plays were never produced.

Author – And to think I was getting used to the idea of retiring.

Visitor – Retiring?

Author – I had already started to remove everything from my life that upset me. I don’t write. I talk only when necessary. I don’t share my opinions with anyone and I am working on not having any opinions at all.

Visitor – Do you really think you could do that?

Author – Not have any opinions?

Visitor – Retire! Are you sure you can afford it?

Author – According to the Coop Building Society, it seems it’s debatable…

Visitor – What I’m offering is better than retirement, I am offering death!

Author – It’s tempting for sure, but… If it’s okay with you I think I’ll take a few minutes to think about it first.

The phone rings again. The author is about to answer out of habit. The visitor stops him.

Visitor – Are you crazy! You’re supposed to be dead, remember! (She picks up.) Hello? Yes. The Coop Building Society? No, I’m sorry, Mr Letterman has passed away. Yes. He took his own life. Yes, he killed himself… he drank a bottle of Drano… That’s right, the stuff to unclog toilets. A huge hole in his stomach. Caustic soda. Yes, he could be very caustic too. Maybe that’s why he chose to leave us in this manner… Why? Oh, who knows with artists… And as you’re well placed to know, he was deeply in debt. It was the only way to avoid bankruptcy. Yes, of course there are things more important than money, I’m glad to hear you say that… In any case, thank you for calling… That’s right. Good bye. Of course, I’ll pass on your condolences to his family.

The visitor hangs up. The author looks at her, stunned.

Author – It takes a while to get you started, but once you’re warm you’re unstoppable! So now I committed suicide.

Visitor – I thought it would be more romantic for a writer, better than cardiac arrest or colon cancer.

Author – More romantic? A bottle of drain cleaner?

Visitor – I improvised… that’s what came to mind.

Author – Improvised… From now on, please stick to the script!

Visitor – What script? You’re unable to write anything!

Author – Oh all right… There’s no need to be unpleasant… Ok, so I committed suicide… It’s true I was feeling a little down recently.

Visitor – See?

Author – So what do we do now? Do we organise my state funeral?

Visitor – An author’s death usually results in a 10% increase in sales, at least. For a suicide it can go up to 20%. (The phone rings again.) Sounds like we’re in business.

Author – For sure… this phone hasn’t rung that much in the past ten years… combined.

The Visitor picks up.

Visitor – This is the office of Mr Letterman. How can I help you? Yes, Madam, it is. I can confirm, your husband died this morning. Please accept my condolences, as well as those of the Coop Building Society. A bullet to the head, yes. Yes, if you saw him I’m not sure you would recognise him. Half the top of his head… It’s not a pretty sight, believe me…. Very well, I’ll let him know… I mean, yes, thank you… Good bye Madam. (She hangs up.) That was your wife.

Author – My wife? What did she want?

Visitor – Pay her respects, apparently.

Author – I haven’t seen her in years. Ironically, she used to complain I wasn’t showing her enough respect…

Visitor – The dead are always much more popular than the living. You’ll see, there’s only upsides to being dead.

Author – So now the story is that I shot myself in the head.

Visitor – I use every opportunity to improve.

The phone rings again.

Visitor – At this rate, we’re going to need a receptionist. (She picks up.) This is Mr Letterman’s beneficiary speaking, how can I help? Yes, that’s right, I hold the rights to all his plays. We were married a few months before his death. That makes me his only beneficiary… Yes… Yes… Yes… Yes, he just finished a play that will surprise you. I think it’s a masterpiece, if I say so myself. It hasn’t been seen by anyone yet, no. Yes… Yes… Yes… Of course. Where can I reach you? (She scribbles something on a piece of paper.) Very well, I’ll take a look at your file myself and give you my answer as quickly as I can. Yes, speak soon.

Author – So now we’re married…

Visitor – It’s easier that way.

Author – Easier…?

Visitor – To explain how I came to hold the rights to your plays.

Author – Of course.

Visitor – And as your widow, it stays in the family.

Author – If you say so… And can I ask who that was?

Visitor – A theatre in London, asking about producing your last play.

Author – A theatre? Which theatre?

Visitor – I was going to write it down but you interrupted me… Something to do with EastEnders…

Author – EastEnders?

Visitor – And also something to do with being young…

Author – The Young Vic?

Visitor – That’s the one!

Author – But they only put on plays by living playwrights!

Visitor – Your body’s still warm, surely that’s good enough?

Author – Right… So what are you planning to do?

Visitor – I’m going to let them stew a little. Let them think they’re not the only ones interested.

Author – You should have been my agent…

Visitor – We could even consider a retrospective of your entire body of work, what do you think?

Author – Why not… But when you say my last play, do you mean…

Visitor – The one you haven’t written yet.

Author – How does that work since I’m supposed to be dead?

Visitor – You heard, I told them you had a play no one had seen before.

Author – Yes… But I don’t have one…

Visitor – But since you’re not really dead, you can write it.

Author – But I told you I had writer’s block!

Visitor – But that was before!

Author – Before? Before what?

Visitor – Before you became a successful writer again.

Author – You mean a dead writer.

Visitor – Yes, that too… Now that you have your whole death ahead of you, you’ll have plenty of time to write this play. I’ll handle everything else.

Author – I’m sorry to ask you this but… I’m going to stay dead for how long? Approximately?

Visitor – For now, let’s say long enough for you to write this 124th play. Then we’ll see.

The Author appears to be a little overwhelmed by the situation.

Author – Ok… So… Well… I’ll get on it then…

Visitor – How about a cup of chamomile tea?

Author – I think I’ll stick with Swedish whiskey… (He takes the bottle and goes to leave the room.) You’re staying?

Visitor – Someone has to stay for the wake and answer the phone.

Author – Ok then…

The author leaves. The visitor makes herself at home, takes out her mobile phone and punches a number.

Visitor – George? It worked. I think he’ll write the 124th play… Yes, maybe we’ve overdone it with the Critics Sphere Awards and the O.B.E… He’s certainly going to be disappointed when he finds out he isn’t getting either… It’s for his own good… And you never know, if his new play really is good… Yes, of course, if he isn’t dead first… Speaking of which, I wanted to tell you. I had to improvise a little…

The author returns and she hides the phone.

Author – I’ve run out.

Visitor – I’m sorry?

Author – I’ve run out of ink. My pen is empty. And good luck finding a Mont Blanc replacement cartridge at this hour…

Visitor – What about the typewriter?

Author – The typewriter? It’s like me, it’s running on empty.

The visitor takes a biro from her pocket and hands it to the author.

Visitor – Use this for now.

The author appears disappointed to see his excuse hasn’t worked. He leaves. She picks up the phone.

Visitor – This is going to be harder than I thought… I can’t leave him out of my sight so I think a small raise would…

We hear a bang.

Visitor – Oh… Sounds like he found his cartridges… I’ll call you back. (She hangs up.) Looks like I’m going to have to write this play myself after all.

The author returns carrying a champagne bottle, the popped cork in his other hand.

Author – I’m also out of whiskey, but look what I found in the fridge. I was saving it for a special occasion. Getting a prize and a medal in the same day, surely that qualifies… Will you have some?

Visitor – Why not? But only if you promise to get back to work right after.

Author – Oh no worries there. Learning I was dead gave me a new lease of life.

Visitor – That’s great to hear… So you have an idea?

Author – It’s always best to start from real life situations. So fuck principles and let’s go with theatre in theatre. It’s the story of an author with severe writer’s block. One day, a journalist comes to see him…

Visitor – Yes, that rings a bell… And for the title?

Author – How about… “Running on empty”?

Visitor – Hasn’t it been used before?

Author – What now? We have to come up with a unique title as well…?

Visitor – All right, let’s go with “Running on empty”

Author – I’ll dictate, you type. It’ll go faster that way. (He places an old typewriter in front of the visitor.) Here, I found a new ribbon.

Visitor – I’m listening…

The author starts to dictate, very inspired, as if he was visualising the scene.

Author – A messy living room. A man (or a woman) dozes in an armchair. The phone rings, partially waking him. He answers the phone, still half asleep. Hello?

Black.

End.

 

The author

Born in 1955 in Auvers-sur-Oise (France), Jean-Pierre Martinez was first a drummer for several rock bands before becoming a semiologist in advertising. He then began a career writing television scripts before turning to theatre and writing plays. He has written close to a hundred scripts for television and almost as many plays, some of which have already become classics (Friday the 13th, Strip Poker). He is one of the most produced contemporary playwright in France and in other francophone countries. Several of his plays are also available in Spanish and English, and are regularly produced in the United States and Latin America.

Amateur and professional theatre groups looking for plays to perform can download Jean-Pierre Martinez’s plays for free from his website La Comediathèque (comediatheque.net). However, public productions are subject to SACD filing.

 

For those who want to read the texts or work from a traditional book format, a paper copy can be purchased from Amazon.

Other plays by the same author in English

 Casket for two

Critical but stable

Friday the 13th

Him and Her

Strip Poker

 

This text is protected under copyright laws.

Criminal copyright infringement will be investigated

and may result in a maximum penalty of up to 3 years in prison

and a EUR 300.000 fine.

 

Paris – March 2019

© La Comédi@thèque – ISBN 978-2-37705-259-2

https://comediatheque.net

Play available for free download

 

 

 

Casket for two

Posted janvier 30, 2019 By admin

A comedy by Jean-Pierre Martinez

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

When two candidates in a local by-election cremate their spouses on election day, conditions are rife for spoiled ballots and stray bullets. Especially when the funeral director’s newly hired temp has a mind of her own…

 

FREE DOWNLOAD THE SCRIPT OF THE PLAY BUY THE BOOK
Plays scripts pdf printable free Plays scripts pdf printable free

 

Jean-Pierre Martinez

A semiologist and a writer, Jean-Pierre Martinez has created a unique theatrical universe borrowing and blending elements from light comedy, black humour and the absurd. A powder-keg of a mix that is seducing an ever increasing audience. A script-writer for the French television series Avocats & Associés (France 2), he has written over a hundred television screenplays and seventy comedies for the theatre. He is one of the most frequently played contemporary playwrights in France and his plays have been translated in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Friday the 13th is his biggest play and has been performed in theatres all over the world, from Paris to Broadway and from Buenos Aires to Mexico. All his plays are published by La Comediathèque and are available online (http://comediatheque.net). Originally from Paris but in love with Provence, he spends the best part of the year in Tarascon where he registered the Compagnie Libre Théâtre, of which he is a director along with Ruth Martinez.

 

This text is available to read for free.  However, an authorization is required from the author prior to any public performance, whether by professional or amateur companies. To get in touch with Jean-Pierre Martinez and ask an authorization to represent one of his works :

https://comediatheque.net

CONTACT FORM 

 

Casket for two

 

Characters :

Edmund
Candice
Francis
Beatrix

 

PROLOGUE

(Optional) 

The reception area of a funeral parlour, identical to the bland, generic reception area of any company. The two female characters in this prologue are played by the same actors playing Candice and Beatrix in the play. They are both in mourning with black veils covering their faces – this will prevent the audience from recognising them later in the play. Care must also be taken to ensure that both characters dress and speak very differently from one another.

The first woman enters the room. She takes a handkerchief out of her bag, wipes a tear and blows her nose. Her mobile rings. She answers with a very posh accent.

Woman 1 – Yes…? Oh, it’s you… Yes, yes, I’m at the funeral home now. I hadn’t seen him for years but, you know. It’s still a shock. I wished to see him one last time…

The second woman enters, also in mourning, also wearing a veil over her face.

Woman 1 – I’m sorry, I’ll have to call you back. My sister just arrived. Thanks for calling…

Both women embrace coldly.

Woman 2 – Thanks for letting me know. I didn’t receive the death notice. Is he here?

Woman 1 – Yes.

Woman 2 – Have you seen him?

Woman 1 – Yes.

Woman 2 – It’s been at least ten years… Has he changed much?

Woman 1 – He’s dead.

Woman 2 – Yes… I’m not sure I want to see him, actually. I’ve never seen a dead person before. Maybe I should preserve the memory I have of him the last time we met. Full of life…

Woman 1 – Come on, dear. Do it for him. I’m sure he would have loved to see you one last time.

Woman 2 – If you say so.

She walks away without enthusiasm and exits stage left.

Her sister is left alone and wipes another tear.

The other woman returns shortly, a little confused.

Woman 1 – Are you ok…?

Woman 2 (embarrassed) – Did you say the first door to the right?

Woman 1 – Yes, why?

Woman 2 – It’s not him.

Woman 1 – You haven’t seen him for ten years. Of course he’s changed.

Woman 2 – He hasn’t changed gender has he? That’s a woman in that casket.

Woman 1 – Are you quite sure…?

Woman 2 – And she looks nothing like him… Didn’t you see her?

Woman 1 – I was so upset this morning. I dropped my contacts in the sink. Maybe it’s the door to the left. They have two viewing rooms… I’ll go check.

Woman 2 – It’s best if I go…

She exists stage left, leaving her sister even more distraught, and returns quickly.

Woman 1 – So…?

Woman 2 – It’s not him either.

Woman 1 – Are you sure?

Woman 2 – Not unless he managed to hide the fact that he was black… Let me see the obituary, maybe you got the wrong address. There’s so many funeral homes.

Woman 1 – Oh my God… It was already so upsetting to learn of his passing, and now we won’t even be able to attend his funeral…

She takes the obituary from her handbag and hands it to her sister.

Woman 2 (glancing at the obituary) – No, this is the right place, I don’t understand… (reading out loud) It is with great sadness that the family of… But that’s not his name!

Woman 1 – What are you talking about? Let me see…

She takes the obituary that her sister is handing her, squints at it to compensate for the absence of contact lenses.

Woman 1 – Oh, crap! That’s the neighbour’s name… We get their post about once a month. Ramirez, Martinez… it’s an easy mistake to make… I didn’t check.

Woman 2 (dismayed) – So he’s not dead…

The other woman looks at her sheepishly.

Woman 1 – I am so sorry…

Embarrassed silence.

Woman 1 – What do we do with the flowers?

Woman 2 – I don’t think we can return them…? Imagine if florists started giving people their money back after funerals… Why don’t we leave them here for the grave of your neighbour’s deceased.

Woman 1 – Especially since they don’t seem to miss him a whole lot… There’s no one to see him.

Woman 2 – That’s because you received the death notice.

Woman 1 – Oh bugger, of course. How am I going to tell them…?

Woman 2 – Ah, yes… It’s going to require diplomatic-grade thoughtfulness and consideration.  

Woman 1 – Oh well, silver linings and all that… he’s not dead! (sighing)… I had already reached the fourth stage of grief…

Woman 2 – Consider it a head start.

They make to leave.

Woman 1 – Oh my God …

Woman 2 – Are you going to see him?

Woman 1 – Who?

Woman 2 – Him!

Woman 1 – Why would I want to see him?

Woman 2 – I don’t know. You were so keen to say your final goodbyes, you could do it while he’s still alive…

Black.

Short interlude with funereal music.

ACT 1

 

The reception area of a funeral parlour, identical to the bland, generic reception area of any company. On the desk, a phone rings. Edmund, the owner, is dressed in a very conservative manner. He walks in, grumbling.

Edmund – Coming, coming… Why is everyone in such a hurry… We haven’t even started our sales yet… They’ll end up killing me, I tell you… (He answers the phone with a commercially fake politeness.) Birdseye Funeral Parlour, how can I help…? Yes, Mr. Mortarfield, we expect it this morning… That’s right, oak with gold handles and apple green lining… yes, from this year’s fall-winter collection… You know, the Elizabeth 2 is a classic model. Timeless. It’s not cheap, that’s true, but appearances were important to Mrs Mortarfield. Trust me, this model never disappoints. We’ve never had any complaints… We’ll see you Tuesday then, Mr Mortarfield… It’s a pleasure, Mr Mortarfield… I mean, er… Tuesday then… And once again, please accept our most sincere condolences… (He hangs up.) I must be getting tired… (The phone rings again.) Damnit… Birdseye Funeral Parlour, how can I help…? Oh, it’s you Yvonne… Did the doctor come by…? The flu, of course… It’s epidemic this winter… Very aggressive strain this year… The phone is ringing off the hook here… Thankfully I should be getting the new collection delivered this morning, so I’ll have some stock available, you never know… Oh, I didn’t mean for you… I am completely buried. No, it really isn’t a good time for you to fall ill… There’s too much for me to do on my own… No, the temp isn’t here yet. I don’t know what’s keeping her, she should have been here at 9:00. Not a great start… (glancing through the display window) Oh, someone’s coming, it’s probably her. Got to go. Take care of yourself. Love you too…

Candice enters the stage. She is a young woman dressed extremely inappropriately for the job she is coming to temp for (either sexy or grunge or goth, for example).

Candice – Hi! Sorry I’m late…

Edmund – Indeed… Alarm didn’t ring, on your first day?

Candice – Oh no! The alarm rang on time, and I got up and everything. But I fell asleep on the bus. The driver woke me at the end of the line. I had to take the bus all the way back in the other direction… (her mobile rings) Sorry… Hey Pam… No I just got to work… for Birdseye! Oh God, you don’t want to know… The one time I get up on time and everything… you’re not going to believe this, I fell asleep on the bus…

Edmund – Excuse me, we’re not done.

Candice – Look, I’ll call you back later when it’s more quiet, ok? (She puts her mobile away.) That was my BFF Pam.

Edmund – And you, what’s your name?

Candice – Candice.

Edmund – Candice?

Candice – Is there a problem?

Edmund – No, no… I mean… Candice, it sounds a little… You know what I mean…

Candice – No…

Edmund – Let’s say that in our profession we are used to names that are more discreet.

Candice – Like what?

Edmund – I don’t know… Like Nicola, Emma… Michelle even… or Carole. My wife is called Carole… Do you really think you can replace her…?

Candice – Replace her…?

Edmund – Do people call you Candice?

Candice – Well d’uh, it’s my name.

Edmund – And what’s with these shoes…?

Candice – These shoes are made for walking…

Edmund – I’m not so sure… Did they tell you your position would require talking to clients?

Candice – Well yeah… They told me I would be at reception.

Edmund – You need to understand that to work in our establishment, a more… sensible outfit would be more appropriate.

Candice – Oh…

Edmund – Have you had any training? Or previous experience in our industry?

Candice – I have a beautician diploma. And I worked in Tesco’s three months ago.

Edmund – Beautician… Yes, that could come in handy. Maybe.

Candice – Really…?

Edmund – Tesco’s… Do they have a funeral planning department?

Candice (surprised) – No… Fish counter.

Edmund – Well here at Birdseye we don’t do discounted products. Whatever next? Online shopping?

Candice – Sure, why not?

Edmund – Tesco’s and us, we are not in the same business, understood?

Candice – Understood…

The phone rings.

Edmund – This is a good time to show what you can do… Might as well throw you in the deep end because we sell them as fast as they come in at the moment. I won’t have time to give you any training. You should be able to manage answering the phone, right?

Candice – No problem… (She picks up the phone with confidence.) Birdseye Frozen Foods, how can I help…? I’m sorry Madam, but I’m afraid you have the wrong number… No problem, Madam… You’re welcome, Madam… Good bye Madam…

Candice, satisfied with her performance, turns towards Edmund who stares at her, petrified.

Candice – What’s wrong?

Edmund – Is this a joke? It’s a joke, isn’t it. Candid Camera. I knew it.

Candice – Huh? It was an old dear in tears who thought she was calling a funeral home…

Edmund – We ARE a funeral home!

Candice (distraught) – No…?

Edmund – The temp agency didn’t tell you?

Candice – They mentioned cold meat… And since your company is called Birdseye…

Edmund – This is a nightmare… (Regaining control of his emotions) Ok, unfortunately I don’t have a choice.

Candice – So here, this place, it’s… a store for the stiffs? But I’ve never done that before…

Edmund – Look, all you have to do is answer the phone and take messages. When someone comes in, call me. And most important of all, don’t take any initiative. Understood?

Candice – Understood.

Edmund – Right, now I have to go back to work on my local MP…

Candice – The local MP?

Edmund – Lakewell. The by-elections… You haven’t seen the posters on the cemetery wall? The polls open today! And since the incumbent MP isn’t running…

Candice – The incumbent MP?

Edmund – Yes… And you could say he’s hung up his shoes for good. I’m in the process of making him look more presentable over there in the back. And believe you me, that’s not an easy task…

Candice looks through the display window towards the posters.

Candice – Mrs Lakewell… On the posters she doesn’t look too bad…

Edmund – Not Mrs Lakewell, her husband! He’s the incumbent MP. His wife is running to save his seat in Parliament.

Candice – Oh, I see…

Edmund – Mr Lakewell’s funeral is later today. But I’m struggling to make him look presentable. His body was submerged in water for a long time, so obviously…

Candice (horrified) – Submerged?

Edmund – Actually, if you could take over and handle the finishing touches. Usually it’s my wife who takes care of that part but since she’s not here…

Candice – Well… I mean…

Edmund – Didn’t you just say you had a beautician’s diploma?

Candice – Yes, but no…

Edmund – I see… ok… Do you think you can manage the phone?

Candice – Yes, yes of course…

Edmund – In that case I’ll leave you to it… Oh, by the way, I’m expecting a delivery this morning. When the goods arrive, let me know immediately please…

Candice – The goods? (Horrified) You mean you’re expecting stiffs?

Edmund – Miss, take note that we don’t call our clients ‘stiffs’ but ‘our dearly departed’.

Candice – Sure…

Edmund – Furthermore, we don’t consider their arrival here a ‘delivery’ but a last visit they make to those who prepare them for their final voyage.

Candice – Okay…

Edmund – Just pretend you’re working in a travel agency. Our clients are booking a cruise, so to speak. Except the return ticket isn’t included.

Candice – I see… So what’s the delivery then?

Edmund – I’m expecting a casket delivery. The new collection. The catalogue is right there beside you!

Edmund leaves. Candice glances at the catalogue.

Candice – Fuck me… A cruise, indeed… (She calls someone on her mobile) Pam? You’re not going to believe this… Guess where those bastards at the Job Center sent me? I’m an undertaker! The things you do to earn a living, I tell you. Oh, for now it’s rather quiet. I’m at reception… (The phone on the desk starts to ring.) Sorry, I have to go… (She picks up the phone.) Birdseye Foo.. Birdseye Funeral Home, how can I help?… Yes… Yes… (taking down notes) The monthly special, absolutely … the Basic Pine model… 99 Pounds, VAT included… Very well, I’ll tell him Mrs Lakewell… You can count on me… Goodbye Mrs Lakewell.

She hangs up and gives a sigh of relief. Relief that is short lived as a man walks in and comes to the desk.

Candice – You’re here for the delivery…?

Francis – Er… No… Francis Martino. I have an appointment with Mr Birdseye. To select a model…

Candice (putting on a salesman smile) – I’ll call him… Please take a look at our catalogue while you are waiting… (She hands him the catalogue.) Is it for a gift?

Francis – It’s for my wife…

She looks at him while he glances at the catalogue without much interest.

Candice – I knew you didn’t look like a delivery man…

Francis – Yes…

Candice – I’m sorry, but… You look familiar, are you famous?

Francis – Yes, my picture is all over town.

Candice – You’re wanted by the police?

Francis – Not yet… For now I’m only a candidate in the elections… (pointing at the posters outside) That’s me on the posters…

Candice – Francis Martino! Mrs Lakewell’s opponent!

Francis – Well, the one running against her…

Candice – You’re the Tory, right?

Francis – No, that’s Mrs Lakewell’s party… I’m from the Center party. But you know what they say: the center is everywhere but our constituency is nowhere…

Candice – Wow… I didn’t think I’d get to meet celebrities in this job…

Francis – Everyone dies you know. Even celebrities.

Candice – So you lost your spouse too?

Francis – Yes, I did…

Candice – Snap!

Francis – Pardon?

Candice – With a death in the family right before the elections, Mrs Lakewell had an advantage. But this levels the playing field.

Francis – You think?

Candice – If Obama’s grandmother hadn’t died right before the elections, do you think he would have been the United States’ first black president?

Francis – Maybe not…

Candice – And if Hillary had lost something, anything, even her poodle, history would have taken a much different course…

Francis – Maybe…

Candice – Unfortunately for her, not only was she not bereaved in any way but her husband is a womanizer and people don’t side with those who get cheated on. It’s not fair but what can you do?

Francis – I see you’re a fine analyst of political systems… Er… Is Mr Birdseye here?

Candice – Yes, of course, I’ll call him right away. (She glances on her phone and reads the different labels.) Let’s see… cold storage… kitchen area… Thanatopraxy… I don’t know what that means but I’ll try that… (she dials the extension and waits until Edmund eventually picks up.) Bingo! Mr Birdseye? Francis Martino is here for you… (She hangs up.) He’ll only be a minute.

A slightly uncomfortable silence. Francis flips through the catalogue just to have something to do.

Francis – And what about you, have you made your choice?

Candice – That’s not very nice of you Mr Martino. I’m still very young to be choosing a casket…

Francis – I meant for the elections… Today’s vote. Have you voted yet?

Candice – Er… No, not yet…

Francis – Oh, so I still have a chance then… Are you familiar with our manifesto?

Candice – You have a manifesto? I thought you were from the Center Party?

Edmund enters.

Edmund – Hello Mr Martino. Please accept my condolences…

Francis changes his expression to one more suited to the circumstances.

Francis – Everything happens for a reason…? C’est la vie, isn’t it…?

Edmund – At least she had a good death.

Francis – You think…?

Edmund – She didn’t?

Francis – She was run over by a Southern Rail train…

Edmund – I’m sorry, I must be confusing with Mrs Mortarfield… She died in her sleep. She was 91 years old.

Francis – Ah, yes… My wife was a little younger than that…

Edmund realises that Candice is listening to their conversation with indiscrete curiosity.

Edmund – Would you get us a couple of coffees please, Candy…

Candice – Candice…

Edmund – Yes, whatever… You know how to make coffee…?

Candice – I can try…

Francis – Very strong for me, please.

Candice – Strong… Like the turnout today, am I right or am I right Mr Martino…?

Vague smile from Francis. Edmund is visibly exasperated.

Edmund – The coffee machine is over there…

Candice disappears.

Edmund – It’s so hard to find competent staff these days… And my wife is in bed with the flu. You know it’s very bad this year…

Francis – Yes, I know… it killed my wife…

Edmund – I thought she got run over by a train.

Francis – On her way to the pharmacy to get a flu jab…

Edmund – I always thought there was something fishy about this jab… And believe me, I know what I’m talking about… I even made my wife promise not to get it…

Francis – Mrs Birdseye is doing well?

Edmund – She’s a little bit under the weather but she’ll be up and about in a few days. It’s best to let nature take its course, isn’t it?

Francis – Unfortunately, my wife is a bit under the train.

Edmund – Have you made your choice, Mr Martino? As you can see from the catalogue, the new collection is absolutely gorgeous…

Francis (barely looking at the catalogue) – Hmm…

Edmund – It’s like I always say: the price of the casket represents the love we had for our dearly departed.

Francis – I was thinking something quite simple, actually…

Edmund – I see… Something elegant yet discreet… Did you have a particular model in mind?

Francis (pointing in the catalogue) – What about this one…

Edmund (not overjoyed) – Basic Pine. Our entry model. Currently on sale.

Francis – 99 Pounds including VAT, is that right?

Edmund – That is right, Mr Martino…

Francis – I figured, since we’re cremating her…

Edmund – You’re right. Pine will be fine. You’re in luck, I only have one left. It’s a very popular model… And for the options, we can offer…

Francis – The basic model.

Edmund – Basic Pine, no options. Of course. Did you want to have a look at anything else?

Francis – No, I’m good for now, thank you…

Edmund – Perfect. Thank you Mr Martino. I’ve got it written down.

Candice arrives with the coffee. She gives a cup to Francis and another one to Edmund.

Francis – Thank you Miss…

Candice (flirtatious) – Candice….

Francis empties his cup in a single gulp and makes a face. Edmund, curious, dips his lips carefully in his and glares at Candice.

Edmund (with an apologetic look at Francis) – A little too strong, maybe…

Francis – Ah yes, it’s…

Edmund – Strong enough to wake the dead…

Candice – Would you like a treat with your coffee, Mr MP?

Francis looks at her, tempted.

Edmund – I think Candice means to ask you if you’d like something to eat? We have cookies. My wife makes them.

Francis – If your wife is in charge of treats I think I’ll abstain…

Candice – An MP choosing abstinence on election day…

Edmund – I think Candice means abstention.

Francis – And I’m not MP yet…

Francis’ mobile phone rings. The ring tone sounds like an old fashioned alarm clock.

Francis – Excuse me… (taking the call) Yes…? So you have the advanced poll results? Yes… Yes… Yes… Oh… Very well, I’ll be right over… No, the ceremony isn’t until 11:00… That’s right, in an hour… But it will be a small, intimate gathering… I don’t want to exploit this terrible tragedy to gain the sympathy of the voters… Speaking of which, did you remember to call the press? Perfect, thank you… See you soon…

Edmund – So, how is the electoral campaign going? How are things looking so far?

As if by rote, Francis puts his mobile on the reception desk and pulls out two information leaflets from his pocket.

Francis – As you know, my wife was the one who wanted to run for this election. But because of this tragedy…

Edmund – Of course…

Candice – I’ve heard of ‘zombie voters’ when the dead cast votes, but I don’t think they ever elected one in Parliament…

Edmund – On the other hand, given how few MPs attend Parliament sessions I’m not sure we’d even notice…

Francis (handing the leaflets to Edmund and Candice) – Here, at least let me give you some information on our manifesto.

Edmund – Oh, you have a manifesto… I thought you said you were… Never mind…

Francis – Truth be told, I don’t have any political experience. But the Center Party is desperate for candidates…

Candice – For sure… It might be the only party with fewer members than candidates…

Edmund glares at her.

Francis – Anyway, they twisted my arm and I let them do it… Alright, I have to go… Something came up that I need to take care of.

Edmund – Nothing bad I hope?

Francis – I couldn’t find anyone else so I asked my cleaning lady’s daughter to be my running mate. But I’ve just been told she was arrested for solicitation…

Edmund – If the candidates can’t proposition their constituents on the open market, democracy is doomed.

Francis – I know, right…?

Candice – If you’re looking for a new running mate I could help you out…

Francis – Why not…? I promise to think about it…

Edmund – So we’ll see you later for the ceremony…

Francis – Perfect.

Francis leaves. Edmund looks reproachfully at Candice.

Edmund – What did I tell you?

Candice – What?

Edmund – You were supposed to just answer the phone!

Candice – I was just trying to be nice to the customers…

Edmund – The delivery man still hasn’t come?

Candice – No…

Edmund – At this rate we’ll soon run out of stock…

Candice – Speaking of phone, I forgot to tell you. You’re going to be proud of me, I made my first sale.

Edmund (worried) – I told you not to take any initiative…

Candice – Mrs Lakewell called. The MP’s widow. She chose the Basic Pine model.

Edmund – Basic Pine?

Candice – Yes, I know, it’s the cheapest but still… a sale’s a sale.

Edmund – But we only have one left and I just sold it to Mr Martino for his wife!

Mrs Lakewell arrives.

Beatrix – Mr Birdseye. I wanted to see you.

Edmund – Hello Mrs Lakewell… and please accept my sincere condolences for your husband. But I’m sure he’d approve of your decision.

Beatrix – For the casket you mean? You’re right, he was a man of the people, with very simple tastes…

Edmund – I meant for your candidacy! Running in his place in the elections…

Beatrix – Oh you know, I can’t really focus on politics at the moment. (She nonetheless has the presence of mind to hand Edmund and Candice two leaflets.) If my husband’s voters hadn’t insisted that I run to save his seat… But I came here to talk to you about the funeral arrangements…

Edmund – Let me guess… you changed your mind and you want a different model… After all, Basic Pine, for an MP, that’s a little…

Beatrix – No, no, not at all. Pine is fine. Especially since I have decided on a cremation.

Edmund – Oh, you too…

Beatrix – Pardon?

Edmund – No, I mean… It’s a choice that is proving increasingly popular… Did you want to look at our catalogue again?

Candice (in full salesman mode) – It’s our new collection. A quick glance can’t hurt…

Edmund (showing her the catalogue) – Let’s see… This Queen Victoria model for example… Mahogany…Thirty year warranty…

Beatrix looks at the catalogue without interest.

Beatrix – No thank you, really… And don’t get me wrong, but Queen Victoria, Elizabeth 2, Prince Albert… that’s not very democratic…

Candice – On the other hand, Basic Pine… that’s a bit Ikea, no?

Edmund – Of course, if you choose a model that’s a bit more expensive we would be willing to work on the price for you. Take your time and think about it.

Beatrix – Listen, I don’t have a lot of time, and I’ve already thought about it. Basic Pine is fine…

Edmund – Well, to be totally honest…

Beatrix – Is there a problem?

Edmund – I’m terribly sorry, Mrs Lakewell, but I’m afraid this model is temporarily out of stock.

Beatrix – But… this young lady here told me on the phone earlier that…

Edmund – But since then I sold the last one we had to Mr Martino…

Beatrix – Martino? My opponent!

Edmund – It’s a terrible misunderstanding and I beg you to please accept my deepest apologies… This young woman is new to the job and…

Beatrix – Out of the question!

Edmund – I can suggest another model… I’ll give you a good price… Like an airplane upgrade if you like…

Beatrix – You should make this offer to Mr Martino.

(Just then Martino comes back)

Francis – I think I left my mobile phone here. (He is surprised to see Beatrix.) Mrs Lakewell…

Edmund – You two know each other, I think…

Beatrix – A little… Mrs Martino ran against my husband in the last by-elections…

Edmund – Oh… We’re almost among family then…

Francis – I will take this opportunity to present my deepest condolences, Mrs Lakewell…

Edmund – Mr Martino is a gentleman. He will surely agree to let you have it.

Francis – Pardon?

Beatrix – It would seem, Mr Martino, that we aren’t just competing for a seat in Parliament…

Edmund – My assistant promised Mrs Lakewell that she could have the last Basic Pine casket that we had…

Candice (playfully) – Oh come on, it’s not that bad… It’s not like you politicos never make promises you can’t keep…

Francis – I’m sure we can find an arrangement… Can’t we, Mr Birdseye?

Edmund – But of course… I am actually waiting for the new collection to be delivered any time now…

The phone rings and Candice picks up.

Candice – Birdseye Froz… Birdseye Funeral Home, how can I help you? Please hold. (To Edmund) For you…

Edmund – Please excuse me for a minute… (taking the phone) Yes…? No…! Your delivery man has the flu? Is that a joke? When? This afternoon? But it’ll be too late! This isn’t over, you’ll hear from me soon enough…

He hangs up, appalled.

Francis – Right, let’s not spend the whole day on this… For Mrs Lakewell I am happy to choose another model… What can you offer?

Edmund – Well, I… I just heard that the delivery I was waiting for is being delayed by several hours…

Francis – So?

Edmund – That Basic Pine casket is the only casket we have in store…

Francis – The only casket? You mean that…

Edmund – I’m sorry but I don’t have any other casket available right now… Unless we put Mrs Mortarfield back in the freezer… But she’s already in the viewing room with her family…

Candice – Ah, yes, that’s would be a little uncouth…

Everyone is dismayed.

Beatrix – My husband’s funeral ceremony starts at 11:00!

Francis – My wife’s too.

Edmund (to himself, crushed) – A casket for two… whatever next…

Beatrix – You’re not seriously thinking of burying my husband and this man’s wife in the same casket?

Francis – That wouldn’t be good form.

Edmund – Maybe we can postpone one of the ceremonies until tomorrow morning…?

Candice – After all, they’re not in a rush…

Beatrix – But I am!

Francis – I can’t do tomorrow either… the press has already been called…

Beatrix – For my husband too… There’s no reason why I should let my opponent take center stage!

Edmund – Right, so what do we do?

Francis – My wife, does she really need a casket…?

Edmund – Pardon ?

Francis – I mean… the casket is only for the cremation. That only lasts a few minutes.

Candice – It’s true… None of that is very environmentally friendly… cutting down oak trees to just to make caskets that we then set fire to…

Francis – And don’t get me started on greenhouse gases.

Candice – Maybe we could do it India-style, on a pile of dead wood, next to the Thames.

Beatrix – Yes, I think the press would love it…

Black.

ACT 2

 

Francis and Beatrix wait together in the reception area with appropriately somber faces. Francis glances at his watch.

Francis – How much longer do you think this is going to take…?

Beatrix – I don’t know… I’m not too familiar…

Francis – I know it’s weird… but something reminds me of being in a maternity ward, waiting to find out whether it’s a boy or a girl… I don’t know why…

Beatrix (looks at hims, worried) – Yes, it is weird…

Francis – Do you know what you’ll do with it?

Beatrix – Pardon?

Francis – Your husband’s ashes… Where will you put them?

Beatrix – I haven’t died yet… decided… (a beat) It’s… How big is it?

Francis – I don’t know… I think I’ll keep it in a cabinet…

Beatrix – In the Cabinet…?

Francis – I mean a small cupboard…

Beatrix – Oh, right…

Francis – Yes… How fitting for an MP… To end up in a cabinet…

Beatrix – And you?

Francis – I don’t know, but I won’t keep it on the mantelpiece… it would be weird, wouldn’t it ?

Beatrix – Yes…

Francis – Maybe I’ll spread them in the garden… Is that allowed?

Beatrix – I think so… No one’s ever gone to prison for dispersing ashes in the garden…

Francis – Except Harold Shipman…

Beatrix – Hmm…             

Francis – On the other hand, knowing that your spouse is all over the turf between the trampoline and the BBQ… it’s a bit creepy don’t you think?

Beatrix – Yes, maybe…

Francis – It’s an important decision. You have to think carefully beforehand, because once it’s done…

Beatrix – For sure… Unless you have a Dyson…

Francis – Do we really have to take them with us?

Beatrix – I think so… Like in a maternity ward…

Just then, Edmund and Candice arrive each carrying an urn.

Edmund – Where are the labels? Which one is the MP?

Candice – Crap… The labels…

Edmund – What about them?

Candice – I forgot to put them on the urns…

Edmund – But I told you to… There was a post-it with their name on each urn! You only had to screw in the plates!

Candice – I am really sorry…

Edmund – Do you at least remember which one contains the MP?

Candice’s embarrassed silence tells all. But Edmund doesn’t have time to react. Francis and Beatrix turn towards them with the faces of two grieving spouses. Edmund barely hesitates then hands his urn to Beatrix, so Candice gives hers to Francis.

Edmund – We’ll give you a minute to reflect on your spouses’ lives… (he glares at Candice) I should incinerate you too…

Candice – If it wasn’t for me going to that cheap place to get the pine casket that you were missing…

Edmund – A flat pack casket, I didn’t even know there was such a thing…

Candice – At least they weren’t out of stock…

Edmund – Yeah, yeah, yeah, all right…

Candice – And now look at them… Birdseye or cheap flat pack… no one can tell the difference…

Edmund – You can say that again… There’s a 50/50 chance that Mrs Lakewell is currently mourning over Mrs Martino’s ashes.

Candice – And Mr Martino over those of Mr Lakewell…

Edmund – And the flat pack wasn’t easy to put together either…

Candice – Yes… From that point too it felt a lot like Ikea.

They leave. Francis and Beatrix each look at their urns, deep in their thoughts.

Francis – Ashes to ashes…

Beatrix – Dust to dust…

Francis – How did your husband die again?

Beatrix – He drowned…

Francis – He drowned?

Beatrix – It’s a fishy story. He must have fallen off his boat. They didn’t find his body for six weeks.

Francis – And he couldn’t swim…

Beatrix – He never said… But I never did see him swim when he was alive.

Francis – Most people don’t brag about not being able to swim…

A beat.

Beatrix – And your wife?

Francis – A road accident.

Beatrix – Ah, yes…

Francis – At a dangerous level crossing… Her car stalled on the tracks… She didn’t have time to drive away…

Beatrix – If I am elected I promise to fix this level crossing.

Francis – Thank you… And if I win, I promise to pass a law making swimming lessons mandatory for fishermen.

They remain quiet for a moment, contemplating the urns.

Francis – To think that they were opponents in the last elections. And now look at them. Each in their urn…

Beatrix – Yes…

Francis – Politics doesn’t become them…

Beatrix – No…

Francis – I hope we won’t end up the same way.

Beatrix – At least not any time soon…

Francis – Speaking of which, have you seen the last polls?

Beatrix – Yes….

Francis – It’s very close.

Beatrix – But I should still have the advantage… My husband can rest in peace…

Francis – Hmmm… During the last elections your friends were accused of ballot stuffing…

Edmund and Candice come back.

Edmund – Look at them, they’re becoming friends…

Candice – It’ll end up with a wedding, mark my words. (Edmund looks at her reproachfully.) What? They’re both widowed, aren’t they?

Francis and Beatrix spot them.

Beatrix – Right, we’ll leave you to it…

Edmund – Please take your time… you can stay as long as you want…

Candice – And you’ll always be welcome here…

Edmund looks at her reproachfully.

Francis – Can I drop you off somewhere? I have a mini van…

Beatrix – I don’t know if…

Francis –You’re right of course… I’m sorry… People will talk…

Candice walks over to Beatrix.

Candice – Let me help you… These things are a little heavy…

Beatrix – I’ll be fine, thanks.

Candice awkwardly tries to grab Beatrix’s urn, knocking over the one Francis is holding which falls to the ground. Part of the contents spill on the floor. Edmund is aghast.

Beatrix – Oh my God!

Edmund (devastated) – It’s a nightmare…

Candice – I’m so sorry… I’ll fix this right away…

Edmund – Don’t touch anything, I’ve got it…

Edmund disappears.

Candice – It’s never happened before, I promise…

Edmund returns wearing a novelty apron and carrying a broom and dust pan.

Edmund – I’ll take care of it.

Under the astounded looks of the other three he sweeps the ashes, pushes them on the dustpan and is about to pour them back into the urn. But he goes for the wrong urn.

Francis – Err, no, that’s her husband.

Edmund – My bad… (Edmund pours the ashes in the other urn). There, this little accident is now behind us.

Candice picks something up from the floor.

Candice – Oh look… What’s this?

Edmund (embarrassed) – Sometimes there are… parts… Lead fillings, for example…

Candice – Yeah, well… Whoever’s in that urn was full of lead alright. Looks like a bullet… Large caliber…

General dismay.

Edmund (looking more closely at the bullet) – Oh, yes…? Did your wife die in a hunting accident?

Francis – Er, no… I told you, a vaccine accident…

Candice – More like a suppository accident!

Edmund – Looks like lead-shot…

Candice – Whoa, Mr Martino… If it turns out you mistook your wife for a wild boar… that’s not going to help your election bid…

Francis takes the bullet from Candice and looks at it closely.

Francis (embarrassed) – I don’t understand, I really don’t…

Embarrassed silence.

Candice – Actually… Now would be a good time to tell you… I’m not entirely sure this is your wife’s ashes…

Francis – Excuse me?

Candice – I may have mixed up the labels…

Edmund – What she means is that this bullet could just as well come from the MP’s urn…

Francis glances at Beatrix, who looks destroyed

Francis – I see…

Beatrix – I can explain…

Francis (surprised) – Oh, can you now…?

Beatrix (to Edmund and Candice) – Could you give us a moment, please.

Edmund and Candice leave discreetly.

Francis – Do you have something to tell me?

Beatrix goes to grab the bullet from Francis.

Beatrix – Give me that!

Francis – Not so fast…

Beatrix falls apart.

Beatrix – Alright, I killed him…

Francis – You?

Beatrix – My husband didn’t drown.

Francis – But you made it look like an accident…

Beatrix – Yes…

Francis – Why?

Beatrix – So I wouldn’t get caught, why do you think?

Francis – No, I mean… why did you kill him?

Beatrix – Don’t tell me you didn’t know?

Francis – Didn’t know what?

Beatrix – My husband was having an affair.

Francis – And how would I know that?

Beatrix – Because he was having an affair with your wife! You really didn’t know?

Francis (distraught) – No, I didn’t…

Beatrix – I killed my husband with his hunting rifle. And then I made it look like a fishing accident…

Francis – Wow, that’s twisted…

Beatrix – It almost worked… If the body had remained at the bottom of the sea, like I had planned…

Francis – Unfortunately, the past always comes to the surface…

Beatrix – I thought that with a cremation it would be over once and for all… But of course the bullet didn’t burn.

Francis – Wasn’t there an autopsy?

Beatrix – Our family doctor signed the death certificate. He’s old. And near sighted. He didn’t look too closely.

Francis – I see… But this is a crime of passion, judges can be rather understanding. Are you sure you didn’t kill him to take his seat in Parliament?

Beatrix – The only reason I am running is to get parliamentary immunity, you never know, in case it turns out I do need it…

Francis – A sort of comprehensive insurance…

Beatrix – Are you going to go to the cops?

Francis – That depends on you. (Showing the bullet) No one else knows but me…

Beatrix moves close to him with a suggestive look on her face.

Beatrix – I am yours to do as you wish… I will be your plaything…

In doing so, Beatrix trips on the other urn whose contents partially spill on the floor.

Francis – You can start by dropping out of the elections…

Black

 

ACT 3

 

Edmund is busy at reception. Candice enters.

Candice – Hello, hello…!

Edmund – You’re improving… Only 30 minutes late… You didn’t fall asleep on the bus today?

Candice – Oh no, I did… But I woke up a couple of stops before the end of the line… You can’t do this without me, am I right?

Edmund – Hmmm…

Candice –So, Mr Birdseye? How’s business?

Edmund – Rather quiet this week. Last week we were buried.

Candice – Buried?

Edmund – Just a manner of speaking…

As she takes her coat off, she looks towards the election posters outside.

Candice – Oh, did you see that? In the end it’s the bloke from the Center Party who got elected.

Edmund – Yes… Mrs Lakewell pulled out of the election…

Candice – But she’s now working for him as a Parliamentary Assistant.

Edmund – Too bad for you. That position is now filled.

Candice – I told you it would end with a wedding.

Edmund – You’re very good at reading people…

Candice – Your wife is here?

Edmund – Next door.

Candice (disappointed) – So you don’t need me any more then.

Edmund – Well, I mean… She’s there but… My wife died following complications from the flu…

Candice – I’m so sorry… Please accept my condolences…

Edmund – Thank you.

Candice – When did it happen?

Edmund – Last night. I should have let her get the flu jab in the end…

Candice – At least, with you here she’ll get a beautiful funeral…

Edmund – Mmm… yeah…

Candice – You can show her how much you loved her. It’s like you always say : the price of the casket represents the love we had for our dearly departed…. Which model did you choose?

Edmund – Basic Pine…

Candice – Oh, right, it’s… Natural wood is a very warm material.

Edmund – Very easy to burn too. I chose to cremate her.

Candice – Of course.

Edmund – So naturally… I’m going to need to replace her… Permanently.

Candice – Replace her…?

Edmund – Here, in the shop.

Candice – Oh, of course… So I’m not a temp anymore…?

Edmund – I can give you a three month contract to start with. With my wife dead I also need someone to handle the thanatopraxy…

Candice – Thanatopraxy…

Edmund – My specialty is the larger jobs. Sometimes they’re more like puzzles… with missing pieces…

Candice – Like with Mrs Martino… You did such a great job with that one…

Edmund – You can say that again… When they brought her in, after the train ran over her car… She looked like a Bacon…

Candice – Like streaky bacon?

Edmund – Anyway… My wife used to do the detailed work… So now that she’s gone, if you’re interested…

Candice – I don’t know if I could…

Edmund – It’s not very complicated you know. It’s a little like being a beautician, but our clients never complain…

Candice – Why not…

Edmund – And there’s no such thing as a typical day at the office. As you saw yourself, there’s always something to challenge you…

Candice – And you get to meet celebrities…

Edmund – That’s the thing… Rich or poor, famous or not, everyone ends up in our capable hands…

Candice starts sweeping the floor.

Candice – And what are you planning to do about the bullet we found in the MP’s urn?

Edmund – What can we do… We’re not the police… And we are bound by the undertaker-client privilege… since our jobs require that we become intimate with families and their secrets…

Candice – Really?

Edmund – You have no idea what we find in the dearly departed’ pockets… Once I even found a winning scratch card.

Candice – His widow must have been happy…

Edmund – Oh, as you can imagine I didn’t tell her anything. It would have been out of place…

Candice – Of course…

Edmund – That’s how I got the espresso machine, actually… Speaking of which, do you want a coffee?

Candice – Why not…?

Edmund disappears briefly to go get the coffees.

Edmund (off) – Just last week I found a pair of scissors in Mrs Mortarfield’s ashes.

Candice – Was she assassinated too?

Edmund – Surgical scissors! She was just in hospital for an appendicitis… she died of complications…

Candice – Remind me to ask you for the name of the hospital… In case I have to be hospitalised.

Edmund returns with the coffee.

Candice – I wanted to thank you for giving me a chance. I won’t disappoint you, you know…

Edmund – I already got to sample your skill-set…

Candice notices something in the dust that she is sweeping.

Candice – What’s this…?

Edmund comes closer and looks at the object she is holding in his direction.

Edmund – A second bullet?

Candice (profoundly) – There was a second shooter involved in Mr Lakewell’s killing… It’s not a murder it’s an assassination!

Edmund – You spend too much time watching television, Candice… He was an MP, sure, but he wasn’t Kennedy. (Thinking) What if this bullet came from the other urn…

Candice – Well done, Detective… Do you think Mr Martino could have filled his bird with lead…

Edmund – Before he made her take the 5:23pm Southern Rail to Brighton…

Candice – In the face… in her car.

Edmund – Yes, it’s a possibility…

Candice – But why?

Edmund – Jealousy! You didn’t know his wife had slept all over town…?

Candice – No…

Edmund – Their marriage was a train-wreck.

Candice – Unless he killed his wife only so the electors would feel sorry for a widower… to get more votes.

Edmund – Go figure…

Candice – Well, in any case, he’s now got parliamentary immunity.

Edmund looks through the display window.

Edmund – Speaking of the devil…

Candice –… brings the devil to the door

Francis and Beatrix come in the store.

Candice – Looks like business is picking up.

Edmund – Mr Martino, Mrs Lakewell. What brings you here? Not another bereavement I hope?

Francis – No, no, thank goodness…

Edmund – Please let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election, Mr Martino.

Francis – Thank you, Edmund.

Candice (to Beatrix) – Not too disappointed?

Beatrix – I am his Parliamentary Assistant… That means that if anything were to happen to Mr Martino, his seat would become mine. I follow his every move, ready to step in.

Edmund – Like a sort of understudy…

Candice – Stay safe… Watch out for stray bullets… They come out of nowhere when you’re out fishing.

Edmund – Or when you’re safely stopped at a level crossing…

Beatrix looks at Francis suspiciously. He changes the subject.

Francis – No, this time it is us who come to present our condolences.

Edmund – Who died…?

Beatrix – Your wife!

Edmund – Oh, that’s right… I’m sorry, I am so distraught…

Francis – Yes, well, life goes on…

Beatrix – Speaking of which, we also came to share our good news.

Candice – You’re having a baby?

Beatrix – Not yet…

Francis – Beatrix and I are getting married.

Beatrix – We can now look to the future and over our shoulder at the same time.

We hear the sound of a kitchen oven’s timer going off.

Beatrix – You’ve got something in the oven? You should go check, it smells like it’s burning.

Edmund – Er, no, it’s… it’s my wife.

Francis – Your wife?

Edmund – Well, her ashes.

Beatrix – Oh, I see…

Edmund – Could you go check, Candice? I don’t think I can handle this right now…

Candice – Of course Mr Birdseye.

Francis – Right, I think we’ll let you go.

Beatrix – We just came for the wreath.

Edmund – A wreath? For your wedding?

Beatrix – For your wife’s funeral.

Francis – Make sure it says it’s from the MP.

Beatrix – And his Parliamentary Assistant.

Edmund – Of course.

Francis – I’ll let you choose… Just sent the invoice to my office.

Edmund – Thank you Mr MP. Thank you Mrs Parliamentary Assistant. Know that I am very moved by this respectful gesture during my very difficult time.

Beatrix – Good buy Mr Birdseye.

Francis (shaking his hand) – Edmund…

Francis and Beatrix leave.

Edmund – Right, that’s done…

Candice comes back.

Candice – They left?

Edmund – You were right… It ends with a wedding…

Candice looks through the front window.

Candice – They are such a great match… It was obvious from the start…

Edmund – Hmm… What about us? We make a good couple too, don’t we?

Candice – You think?

Edmund – And now that I am a widower…

Candice – Speaking of which, I found this in Mrs Birdseye’s ashes… (She shows a third bullet) I thought your wife died of the flu…

Edmund – I told you… the flu is devastating this year…

Black.

End.

 

The author

Born in 1955 in Auvers-sur-Oise (France), Jean-Pierre Martinez was first a drummer for several rock bands before becoming a semiologist in advertising. He then began a career writing television scripts before turning to theatre and writing plays. He has written close to a hundred scripts for television and almost as many plays, some of which have already become classics (Friday the 13th, Strip Poker). He is one of the most produced contemporary playwright in France and in other francophone countries. Several of his plays are also available in Spanish and English, and are regularly produced in the United States and Latin America.

Amateur and professional theatre groups looking for plays to perform can download Jean-Pierre Martinez’s plays for free from his website La Comediathèque (comediatheque.net). However, public productions are subject to SACD filing.

 

For those who want to read the texts or work from a traditional book format, a paper copy can be purchased from Amazon.

 

Other plays by the same author in English

Critical but stable

Friday the 13th

Him and Her

Strip Poker

 

This text is protected under copyright laws.

Criminal copyright infringement will be investigated

and may result in a maximum penalty of up to 3 years in prison

and a EUR 300.000 fine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris – January 2019

© La Comédi@thèque – ISBN 978-2-37705-250-9

https://comediatheque.net

Play available for free download

 

Him and Her

Posted septembre 16, 2018 By admin

A comedy by Jean-Pierre Martinez

About the exciting adventure of living together…

 

DOWNLOAD THE PDF FOR FREE BUY THE BOOK
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This play has already been represented in Paris, Madrid, Montevideo…

Him and Her, Interactive Monologue Him and Her, Interactive Monologue
Him and Her, Interactive Monologue Him and Her, Interactive Monologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Pierre Martinez

A semiologist and a writer, Jean-Pierre Martinez has created a unique theatrical universe borrowing and blending elements from light comedy, black humour and the absurd. A powder-keg of a mix that is seducing an ever increasing audience. A script-writer for the French television series Avocats & Associés (France 2), he has written over a hundred television screenplays and seventy comedies for the theatre. He is one of the most frequently played contemporary playwrights in France and his plays have been translated in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Friday the 13th is his biggest play and has been performed in theatres all over the world, from Paris to Broadway, and from Buenos Aires to Mexico. All his plays are published by La Comediathèque and are available online (http://comediatheque.net). Originally from Paris but in love with Provence, he spends the best part of the year in Tarascon where he registered the Compagnie Libre Théâtre, of which he is a director along with Ruth Martinez.

***

FULL TEXT OF THE PLAY

Him and Her, Interactive Monologue

A comedy by Jean-Pierre Martinez

For one, two, three, four… couples.

About the exciting adventure of living together.

The text of this play is to free download. However, an authorization is required for any public representation. To get in touch with Jean-Pierre Martinez and ask an authorization to represent the play :

CONTACT FORM

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FULL TEXT OF THE PLAY TO READ AND PRINT

HIM AND HER, INTERACTIVE MONOLOGUE

Artists Entrance

1 – Wedding night

2 – Cherry time

3 – TV breakdown

4 – Quarantine

5 – Definition of love (through what it is not) and meeting again

6 – Carpaccio and Bacon

7 – Disappearance

8 – The world of sport

9 – Small talk

10 – Where do we go when we die ?

11 – Nightmare

12 – Furniture

Emergency exit

Artists Entrance

Dark. As if the show is about to start. However nothing happens long enough for the public to become unsettled. The light appears in a corner where two spectators, a man and a woman – strangers – are sitting side by side. The man looks nervously at a cinema/theatre guide, and then at his watch. The woman picks pop corn out of a huge bag, noisily stuffing handful after handful into her mouth.

Him – Sorry… Do you know what’s going on ?

Her – I guess we are waiting for the actors…

Him – Until now, only the audience were late for shows. If actors start doing the same…

Silence.

Her (worried) – Can I have a look at your guide ? In case the play has been cancelled…

He gives her his guide. But she doesn’t know how to take it, with her pot of pop corn in her hands.

Her (showing him the bag of popcorn) – Do you want some ?

He has no choice but to take the bag. She looks at the guide, but seems to be lost in it. He eats some pop corn with disgust.

Her – Sorry, I’m used to Time Out. I can’t find anything…

Him – And I don’t like pop corn…

She gives him back his guide, and takes back her pop corn.

Her – Anyway, it’s too late for a movie… We’re better off to waiting.

Him – I hope it’s worth it…

Her (worried) – Bad critics ?

Him (looking towards the public) – There aren’t many people…

Her – Well, the critics… They don’t mean much.. Sometimes, you see things, glorified by the critics. It lasts hours… but no one dares say they’re bored, for fear they sound like an idiot. Afterwards, they’ll tell you :  » That play was so deep, the proof : you didn’t understand a word of it… »

Him – Comedy is a different kettle of fish. If people don’t laugh during the show, they won’t tell you after : « Only a critic can understand how hysterically funny it is ».

Her – Are you a critic ?

Him (astonished) – Not you ?

Her – Actress…

Him – Of course…

Her – Only actors and critics go to the theatre nowadays… One in two spectators is an actor. It’s hard to tell where the stage is these days…

Him – You know the play ?

Her – Oh, no… But a friend of mine is performing in it. I came to see her… To do her a favour…

Him – Is she a famous actress…?

Her – She mostly does theatre…

Him – In that case… (Suspicious) You really are an actress?

Her (worried) – You don’t think I’m a good one ?

Him – Oh, no… You are very good.

Her – Actress by night and… museum attendant during the day.

Him – If you consider the modernity of the repertoire, it’s more or less the same job, isn’t it…?

Silence.

Her – I have no more pop corn.

Him – We might die before the show starts.

Her – Yes… It seems that they have forgotten us…

Him – In a few years, a cleaner will find our skeletons lying side by side, hand in hand…

Her – Hand in hand…?

Him – I think as the end grows near, we’ll become more affectionate towards each-other. We are like two shipwrecked souls on a desert island, aren’t we ? We don’t have much choice…

Her – You think they will give us our money back ?

Him (astonished) – Don’t tell me that you paid for this…

Her – Of course, not…

Him – Then…

They stand up in order to leave.

Him – We can always come back another time…

Her – If the play is still on. Which seems very unlikely…

Him – We could go to see another one.

Her – Is that an invitation…?

Him (showing an invitation) – For two.

Her – I hope that this time, it will start on time… What is it ?

Him (reading the invitation) – Him and her…

Her – Looks boring too…

Him – Sorry, I have to turn my mobile on…

Her – Oh, yes… I forgot to switch mine off…

They leave. Lights down.

1 – Wedding night

Him and her fall down on a couch, obviously exhausted.

Her – I thought they would never leave…

Him – They say that seven out of ten couples don’t have sex during their wedding night. Now I understand why…

Her – We could try to improve the average…

Him – You forget that we take off at 6.45 AM… From Luton…

Her – From Luton ?

Him – I told you ! I got the tickets on ebay…

Him – Why do the low cost companies have to take off from the most depressing town in England…? On the other hand, it’s true that when you leave from Luton, it makes anywhere look like a dream destination. Even Bratislava…

Him – They say that Bratislava is very beautiful… In spring…

Her – Don’t you mean Prague…?

Him – Similar region ?

Her – The Seychelles are beautiful all year round.. And don’t forget that spring starts only in two months…

Him – Oh, The Seychelles… Everybody goes there…

Her – It’s true that a honeymoon to Bratislava is a lot more original… We won’t meet lots of honeymooners on the plane… The only couple who mixed up Bratislava with Brasilia resold their tickets on ebay…

Him – We will treat ourselves with the Seychelles in a few years… For our wedding anniversary…

Her – Yeah. Our silver anniversary… When I won’t be able to get into my swimsuit… (Sigh) Life is unfair. We should inherit at 20, start working at 50 when we’ve finished our retirement, and procreate at 70, to have some company in our old age… And marriage would be at the end, a final vow…

Him – On the other hand, a lifetime without a mother in law… Is it really worth it…?

Her – Do you think I will still love you in 20 years ?

Him – Will you still have the choice…? When you can’t find a swimsuit that fits…

Her – I know a girl who said « no » on her wedding day, for a joke. She wanted to say « yes » immediately after but the mayor did not like the joke at all. She had to wait six months to get married for real…Turns out there’s a legal delay. Like for a driving licence. When you screw up, you can’t take it again right away. Did you know that ?

Him – No…

Her – This wedding was as boring as hell, wasn’t it ?

Him – People don’t marry just for the fun…

Her – Don’t tell me that they do it to go to Bratislava from Luton in the middle of the night. Or I’ll start asking myself why I said yes… What country is Bratislava in ?

Him – Well… Prague was the capital of Tchecoslovaquia…

Her – Then you don’t even know which country you’re taking me to for our honeymoon ! My mother was right : I really don’t know were I am going with you…

Him – Wait… Prague is now capital of Tchequia… Bratislava should be capital of Slovakia. Or Slovenia… Anyway, it’s in Europe ! We don’t even need a passport…

Her – And you, will you still love me in 20 years…?

Him – How could I not love my whole life long a girl who is ready to follow me to an unknown country of the EEC…?

She – If it’s a test then…

They kiss each other.

Him – I don’t want to hurry you, but our plane takes off in two hours. And it’s quite a long way to Luton…

2 – Cherry time

A couple, sitting on a couch.

Her – Did you see ? The cherry tree is in flower.

Him – Another year has past…

Silence.

Her – We’re happy, aren’t we…?

Him – Yes… (After a moment) We’re bored stiff, aren’t we ?

Her – Together ?

Him – Generally.

She thinks about it.

Her – We could buy another couch…

Him – What would we do with the old one ?

Her – Take a vacation…

Him – To go where ?

Her – Organise a party…

Him – To celebrate what ?

Her – The flowering of our cherry tree !

Him – They say that Japanese people do that, in spring. Invite friends round to contemplate their cherry tree, sipping tea…

Her – We should better hurry up. Some petals are already falling…

Him – So is some of my hair…

Her – Your hair ?

Him – It starts by one, and then you go bald before you know it… (After a moment) And who would we invite ?

Her – Friends !

Him – Friends…? We’ve got friends…?

Her – Probably…

Him – Anyway, people are always busy…

Her – You just need to give them notice.

Him – You invite them for a drink, they get out their diary… Instead of having a drink, you discuss about a possible date. Then they call you back to cancel and fix a new date… When I go for a drink, it’s right on the spot. In three weeks, I might not be thirsty anymore. There is no more improvisation !

Her – Maybe because people are afraid of being bored…

Him – You’ll see ! They will be busy. They will discuss a possible date. Meanwhile, the cherry tree’s petals will have fallen down…

Her – A carpet of petals is pretty too…

Him – Today it is sunny. But what the weather will be like in a month ? In addition to matching agendas, you have to consult the weather report. Inviting friends becomes even more complicated than foreseeing an eclipse. No… Instead of taking a chance on having fun with all this people in a month, I’d rather the guarantee of being bored with you right now.

Her – That’s so sweet…

Him – A few days ago, my best friend leaves me a message. I had not heard of him for months. I call him back right away to invite him for a drink. He tells me that he is busy, that he will call me to fix a date. I am still waiting. I never knew why he called me in the first place…

Her – Maybe he felt a little down…

Him – I don’t know if he did not feel so lonely after he called… In six months, he will probably call me again, and it will be the same. Is that what we call friends, now ? The same with the web ? They tell you that it is «friendly». You don’t even say hello to the guy next door, but with your computer, you will be able to chat with the Chinese in Esperanto. Do you know many Chinese people ?

Her – When I was a child, I used to communicate with my little neighbour by night, in Morse, with electric lamps. Even then it didn’t work very well…

Him – People are overbooked all the time. What can they possibly have so interesting to do, not to have a single moment to drink a coffee with their best friend without notice. I try to stay available. But nobody else ever is. So I get bored… You never get bored ?

Her – With you, never…

Silence.

Him – What about having this drink anyway ?

Her – The two of us ?

Him – Would you be available ?

Her – When ?

Him – Right now.

Her – Why not ?

Him – I’ll get the glasses.

Her – I’ll take care of the peanuts.

Somebody rings the bell.

Him – Are we expecting somebody ?

Her – No. Who can that be ? It’s almost dinner time.

Him – People are so bad-mannered. They won’t leave you alone, even at the week-end.

Her – I’ll go to see who it is…

Him – I’m not here for anyone.

She turns to him.

Her – And what if it’s a friend ?

He thinks about it.

Him – Tell him that our Japanese cherry tree is still in flower, and that he should come back when it has cherries…

3 – TV breakdown

A couple sitting on a couch, staring into space.

Her – Anything interesting on TV tonight ?

Him – I don’t know. Why ?

Her – Just like that… (After a while) You really don’t want us to buy another one ?

Him – When we had a TV, we couldn’t help watching it !

Her – That’s why a TV is made for, isn’t it ?

Him – We were totally moronic with the TV ! We didn’t do anything else !

They keep staring into space. Not doing anything.

Her (ironical) – What shall we do now ?

Him – What do you want us to do ?

Her – Nothing…

Him – It’s still better than watching TV… When there was only one channel, at least… But now, with the satellite…

Her (nostalgic) – When I was a child, we had no TV. I used to go watch it to at my neighbour’s…

Him (ironical) – You want me to ask the neighbour if you can go watch TV with him ?

Silence.

Her – We could talk.

He looks at her, upset.

Her – Since we no longer have TV, we could use the time to talk.

Him – Well… You first.

She tries to think about something.

Her – Do you love me ?

Him (shocked) – Could we do this… progressively.

He thinks about it.

Him – What do we have for dinner, tonight ?

Her – Wednesday, fish.

Him – Fish ? It should be Friday…

Her – Friday is chicken.

Him – A bit fishy, isn’t it…?

Silence.

Him – What kind of fish do you want ?

Her – I’ll go. I need to get custard, too… What about cod, for a change…?

Him – It’s a bit salty, isn’t it ?

Her – Not à la Française.

Him – That doesn’t involve custard does it ?

Silence.

Him – If ever you cheated on me, would you tell me ?

She looks at him, surprised.

Her – You mean : if you cheated on me, would I want you to tell me or not ?

Him – Also, yes…

Her – Why do you ask ?

Him – Just making conversation… Since we don’t have TV anymore.

She thinks about it.

Her – How do you want me to answer this ?

Him – Yes or no !

Her – Do you really think it’s that simple ?

Him – No ?

Her – Answering is already accepting the possibility that you could cheat on me.

Him – So ?

Her – It’s like if you asked me : if I murdered you, would you prefer me to go surrender to the police right after, or try to escape from justice ?

He doesn’t seem to understand.

Her – It supposes that I actually consider the possibility that you could murder me. That is the real question. The rest is irrelevant.

Him – But still, adultery isn’t a crime.

Her – It sometimes leads to crime…

He seems a little worried.

Him – If I cheated on you, you could kill me ?

Her – Anyway, if I did, I would most certainly surrender to the police. Justice has always been very lenient towards crimes of passion…

Silence.

Her – So, you actually consider the possibility of cheating on me.

Him – Ninety-five per cent of animals are polygamists. The rest form couples only for as long as it takes to raise their offspring. Proof that fidelity is not a natural thing…

Her – We are not animals. At least, women are not…

Him – There are still five per cent of monogamists among the animals ! It doesn’t make humans out of them. Why would fidelity be a criterion of humanity ?

Her – It is the foundation of the family, which is the foundation of society…

Him – So you won’t cheat on me solely to remain a good citizen ?

Silence.

Her – Is it that difficult for you to stay faithful to me ?

Him – No… I was just wondering if fidelity had the same meaning for men and women.

Her – So ? Why are men faithful, in your opinion ? When they are, of course…

He thinks about it.

Him – To avoid complications…?

Silence.

Him – Perhaps we should buy another TV.

4 – Quarantine

She is sitting on the couch. He arrives.

Him – It’s incredible. I just received another call from a friend of mine inviting me to celebrate his fortieth birthday. Unbelievable, isn’t it ?

Her – If you all were twenty at the same time, it is not so strange that twenty years later you could be forty more or less at the same time…

Him – I mean, what’s crazy is that I had no news from all this people for years… And all of a sudden, the phone doesn’t stop ringing !

Silence.

Her – Are you planning to go ?

Him – It scares me a little. They might have changed, it’s been a long time.

Her – Physically, you mean ?

Him – Physically, mentally… I hope they’re not too dishevelled.

Her (simpering) – What about me ? Are you sure I am not too dishevelled ?

Him – It’s different with you, I see you every day, you age little by little. But them, all of a sudden… It’ll be like The Return of The Living Dead… It’s weird, isn’t it, this sudden need to get together when people get close to their fortieth birthday…

Her – It’s called a birthday party, isn’t it ?

Him – They say that animals move closer to humans when they feel that the end is coming. It must be something like that. A kind of herd instinct. What could I possibly offer him ?

Her – A funeral contract…?

Him – It’s expensive, isn’t it ?

Her – I’m joking… What about you ?

Him – Yes, sure.

Her – No, I mean : Do you plan to do something about your fortieth anniversary ?

Him – What do you want me to do ? Any idea to preventing it ? Anyway, please, don’t organise a surprise party, okay…? If I haven’t seen all these people for years, there must be a very good reason.

Silence.

Him – How old are you, exactly ?

She looks at him, shocked, but does not answer.

Her – We should invite the neighbours for dinner one day.

Him – What for ?

Her – For nothing !

Him – They never invited us.

Her – Maybe they didn’t dare…

Silence.

Him – Just because we’re neighbours, it doesn’t mean that we need to be friends…

Her – The only friends we have live three hundred miles from here ! It could be nice to have friends next door…

Him – Well… From a practical point of view… It would cut travelling expenses. And hence reduce pollution. One could almost say that it is ecological to make friends with one’s neighbours.

Silence.

Him – What does he do, exactly ?

Her – I don’t know. Every morning, I see him leave home with a briefcase. Who knows where he goes. I’ll ask him next time, if you like…

Him – What about her ?

Her – They’re very discreet…

Him – Sounds like this dinner will be fun. If we don’t want to be intrusive…

Her – You’ll can always talk about yourself.

Him – They’ve got children, haven’t they ?

Her – Every day, three of them leave the house to go to school. I suppose they are theirs.

Him – Oh yes… A little, a medium and a big one… (Worried) Do we have to invite them too ?

Her – Oh, no ! I’ll specify that it’s a strictly adult evening. That way there’s no ambiguity.

Him – You were speaking about the neighbours in front, right ?

Her – The side neighbours ! The ones in front moved six months ago, after their divorce. Didn’t you see the sign « For Sale » ?

Him – No.

Her – And anyway, they didn’t have any children.

Him – Really…?

Silence.

Her – It wouldn’t be cleaning day, by any chance ?

Him – I’m afraid it is. (With a sigh) Housework is the foundation of the couple…

Her – That’s probably why a couple is called a household.

Him – And a triangle a « ménage à trois ».

She looks at him, surprised.

Him – Ménage means household, in French… When a man lives with two housewives…

Her – Three, in a house, can also be a couple with a child…

Him – Everyone has his own fantasies.

Silence.

Her – So ?

Him – You really think that now is the right time to have a baby ?

Her – It’s not a question of money, and you know it… Besides, we’re not so poor…

Him – We will be with a bunch of kids…! Look what happens in Africa, with the galloping population growth… I read a book years ago : «Black Africa Had A Bad Start». Well, it hasn’t got any better ever since… Today, nobody seriously thinks that Africa is in motion… Apart from the continental drift… The more babies people have, the poorer they are…

Her – Are you sure it is not the other way around ?

Him – Anyway, if poor people don’t have any children, the next generation, everybody would be rich… Look at the Chinese. They’re not allowed to have more than one baby, and they’re already much better off…

Her – Then, let’s start with one…

Him – When would we take care of this kid ? We don’t even have the time to sweep the floor !

Her – We would hire a cleaner.

Him – But we don’t have any room for this child !

Her – You could set up your office in the basement…

Him – That’s what I call a bad start… What about you ? Are you planning to stop working ?

Her – We’ll hire a nanny.

Him – In addition to the cleaner ? That’s no longer a « ménage à trois », it’s a small business ! I’m not sure I’m that entrepreneurial…

Silence.

Him – We won’t be able to go out in the evening anymore.

Her – We’ll hire a baby-sitter.

Him – I never realised just how much of a direct effect population growth has on employment.

Her – And consumerism…

Him – Diapers, baby-food, toys, medical care…

She – New car…

Him – Finally, you’re right. This baby will bring an end to the economic crisis…

5 – Definition of love (through what it is not)

Him – How long have we known each other ? Twenty years, at least ? (Silence) Why didn’t we ever sleep together, by the way ? We get along well, don’t we…? We could even have married ! It’s weird, I see you a bit like an ex. Though we never went out together… We almost did once, remember ? You forced me to drink. Or perhaps it was the contrary. We ended up at your place, completely drunk. We laughed our heads off all night long, but we forgot to sleep together. Maybe because we get along too well, precisely. It wouldn’t be spicy enough. We would get bored, in the end. It’s true, we laugh a lot together, but… I can’t imagine making love to a girl who is laughing. Well, there are different kinds of laughter. I can make a girl laugh to sleep with her. But sleeping with a girl who makes me laugh…! No, if I slept with you, I would feel like I was sleeping with a buddy. I mean a girl, but… Besides, I don’t like blondes. I know, you are not blonde. But you were when I met you… I didn’t know that it wasn’t your natural colour ! Doesn’t hang on much, does it? It is not that I don’t like blondes, but… It depends. It must have been the colour. You were too blond for me. Girls who are too blond, I don’t know, it puts me off. Physically. I don’t know why… It must be something to do with the skin-type. And now it’s too late. I will always think of you as a blonde who dyed her hair to become a brunette. Besides your are not really dark-haired… It is not light-brown, either. I don’t know how to call it… It’s neither blonde nor dark. It’s not that I don’t think you are sexy, right ? Anyway, all the guys think you are sexy. Usually, it’s rather motivating. But in this case… Really, I can’t think exactly why I never felt like sleeping with you… Is that what we call love ? I mean, the «je ne sais quoi» that makes us feel like fucking together, or more if inclined. We figured out what it is, can you believe it ! Through what it is not… Now, why did I marry my wife rather than you or another one ? Well, she liked me. It was easier. If she hadn’t liked me right from the beginning, would I have held onto her…? And if I had held onto her, would she have liked it…? We will never know. Mutual love is easier, of course, but it’s not so… How can I say…? Conquering without a battle makes the triumph modest. Besides, I wonder what she liked in me ? Have you got any idea… ? I could ask her, of course, but… If she asks me back… Sometimes, there are matters that are best left alone. A bit of mystery in the couple can’t hurt. Well, within reason. Once I went out with a girl. After a year or so, she ditched me. I asked her why. She told me that she was bored stiff in bed with me. A whole year ! Isn’t that taking discretion a bit too far… Now why did she go out with me for a year ? It didn’t even occur to me to ask… There must have been a reason ! Unless she lied. About my sexual performances, I mean… As a form of revenge… I’m not saying that because it hurts my male pride, right ? It just surprised me a little, that’s all. It’s true, I am a reputedly good lay. What about you ? No, I mean, really, don’t you want to tell why you never fancied going out with me ? (Worried) You don’t have to answer that, hey ?

And meeting again

She arrives, with a big smile on her face.

Her (pleased) – Do you recognise me ?

Him (turning to her, embarrassed) – No…

Her (knowingly) – It was years ago, but still…

Him – Oh, yes, maybe…

Her (offended) – Maybe ?

Him – I mean, of course, I remember now… How are things going ?

Her – Not too bad… What are you doing here ?

Him – Well, nothing. What about you ?

Her (upset) – Did I change that much ?

Him – Oh, no ! Absolutely. Why ?

Her – You didn’t seem to recognise me a while ago.

Him – Sorry, it is just that I didn’t expect to see you again, that’s all.

Her – Anyway, you didn’t change, I can tell you.

Him – Thank you…

Her – So, what’s up ?

Him – You know, same old things…

Her – Still very talkative, hey ?

He doesn’t know what to say.

Her – Did you come back a long time ago ?

Him – From where…?

Her – Well… From there !

Him – Oh, yes… I mean, not really.

They stupidly smile, embarrassed.

Her (moved) – I’m very pleased to see you again.

Him – Me too…

Her (knowingly) – I have to go, now. Someone is waiting for me…

She hesitates for a while.

Her – We’re not going to shake hands are we ?

Him – Okay…

Taking him by surprise, she French kisses him.

Her (pathetic) – We might meet again some other time…

Him (upset) – Maybe, yes…

Her – Well… So long Paul !

She lets go of him, with tears in her eyes.

Him – So long.

She leaves, turning around one last time. They wave good-bye from afar. He remains alone.

Him (taken aback) – Paul ?

6 – Carpaccio and Bacon

A couple admiring a painting that we can’t see, and that is hung on an invisible wall.

Him – Panini, isn’t it ?

Her – Let’s see.

She gets closer and, leaning forward, reads the name of the painter above the frame.

Her – Not quite, it’s… Carpaccio.

Him – Of course…

They admire the painting for a while, and then move on to another one.

Her (playful) – Want to give it another try ?

Him – Okay…

He looks the painting carefully.

Him – Picasso…?

She glances at him to make him understand that he is wrong.

Him – Pissaro…?

Her – Pissaro… Picabia !

Him – Oh yes… I always mix them up.

They proceed to the next painting.

Him – Your turn ?

She looks at the painting carefully.

She – Manet…?

He reads the name above the frame.

Him – Monet !

She – Well…! It’s about the same, isn’t it ?

They go on.

She – Look ! They have got a lot of Bacon too…

He looks at her a little, not sure to understand. Then they go and look at the painting.

Her – It’s good, isn’t ?

Him – Yes, it’s…

Her – It’s Bacon.

Him – Yes…

Silence.

Her (thoughtful) – Sometimes, I wonder…

Him – What ?

Her – If I didn’t know it was Bacon, would I find it so good ?

He looks at her, surprised.

Her – If I didn’t know that these paintings are worth millions ! Let’s be frank. Imagine that you have never heard of the Mona Lisa. You come across at the flea market. For sale. Three hundred pounds. Can you say for certain that you would hang her up above the fireplace ? This dope with her silly smile ?

He thinks about it.

Him – We do not have a fireplace, anyway…

Her – No, let’s be honest, even if we have visited dozens of museums and hundreds of exhibitions, would we really be able to see the difference between a piece of shit and a masterpiece…?

Him – We’ll never be able to tell. You don’t see anything but masterpieces in museums. It’s not fair, by the way. In all museums, they should save a room to expose just really crap stuff. The principal of the placebo test, you see ? Just to check out if the other paintings are really beautiful, or if we find them so just because they told us that they were.

Her – Anyway… Going to museum, it’s like going to church, isn’t ? One goes there for the atmosphere above all.

Him – Fortunately, you can practice even if you don’t believe… The same as for love…

She looks at him, not sure she’s understood.

Him – I mean, the same applies to marriage… Look at us… We married in church… However, we don’t really believe in God.

Silence.

Her – Do you remember our honeymoon to Paris ? You took me to the Picasso Museum…

Him (nostalgically) – Of course, I remember…

Her – We were so excited… It’s only half round that we realised that it was the Carnavalet Museum…

Him – Yes… They’re both in the same area…

Her (smiling) – I did wonder why the preliminaries were taking so long…

Him – The preliminaries…?

Her – I mean, Picasso… His first period…

Him – Oh, yes, of course…

Silence. They start to leave.

Her – Did you heard of that artist who paints under the sea ? (He is not sure he understands). He puts on a wet suit, goes into the sea and paints corals.

Him – I must say I never heard of him. Any good ?

Her – Well, pretty good, actually…

7 – Disappearance

A couple, sitting on a couch. They seem to be bored. He starts looking for something.

Him – Do you know where the remote control is ? It seems to have disappeared…

She looks at him, surprised.

Her – But… we don’t have a TV anymore !

Him – Oh yes, quite right..

Silence.

Him – What would you do if I disappeared ?

She looks at him, astonished.

Her – Like the remote control, you mean ?

Him – Not like the remote control ! If I disappeared, you see what I mean…

Her – You don’t feel well ?

Him – I’m fine, it’s just a hypothesis.

Her – Haven’t you got a happier one ?

Him – I am older than you. I will probably croak first.

Her – You’re hardly three years older…

Him – Women live longer than men, anyway ! Besides, I could have an accident. A heart attack. Cancer.

Her – Me too !

Him – Maybe, but I asked first.

Her – Well I don’t know. Do I have some time to think about it ?

Him – Prevention is better than cure…

She looks at him, not sure of understanding.

Him – I mean, it’s better to forewarn.

Silence.

Him – Anyway I can tell you, I would rather be cremated.

Her – Why do you tell me that now ?

Him – Well, I won’t be able to tell you after, will I ? (After a while) It’s my nightmare, that is, to be buried alive. Not you ?

Her – It probably doesn’t happen very often.

Him – Well, once is enough.

Her – And to be burned alive, doesn’t that scare you ?

He looks at her, worried.

Him – I never thought about that… (After a while) Do you believe that there is a life after death ?

Her – Is it really something to hope for…?

Him – You wouldn’t have to worry about money, you know…

Her (surprised) – If there was a life after death, you mean ?

Him – If I were to depart !

Her – Oh, yes… I wasn’t worried.

Silence.

Him – I wouldn’t be mad at you if you married again, you know.

Her – Thank you.

Him – Well, you wouldn’t necessarily have to marry him though..

Her – Him ?

Him – The guy you would get hitched with. You’d better keep your independence.

Her – What independence ?

Him – It’s funny, though. I can hardly imagine you with another guy…

Her (offended) – Do you think nobody would want to live with me ?

Him – Oh, no. On the contrary. In fact, I think I would be jealous.

Her – When you’re dead, you’ll be jealous ?

Him – Absolutely…

Her – And what if I were to… depart before you do ?

Him (fake) – Well, there you’ve caught me unprepared. (After a while) If I were to get hitched again, would you be mad at me ?

Her – I wouldn’t be there to see it.

Him – But you would be jealous…?

She looks at him, suspicious, but does not answer.

Him – Who do you imagine me with ?

Her – Do you want me to introduce you to a girlfriend of mine, just in case ?

Him – For the children, there are godfathers and godmothers… For members of parliament, it’s is the same. There are substitutes. If one gets sick or dies, you’ve got a new one at the drop of a hat. It’s all organised…

Her – Yes… And for cars, there are a spare wheels… (Upset) You are not telling me that you’ve already found my replacement, are you…?

Him – Well, it’s not that easy, you know ? (After a while) Silence. The good thing about bigamy, is that in case of death, one is only half-widowed.

She looks at him, astonished.

She – Indeed…

8 – The world of sport

She is reading a women magazine. He is bored. After a while, he hesitates, takes out a sports magazine, and starts reading it. She notices it and looks surprised.

Her – You buy sports magazines, now ?

Him – Why wouldn’t I ?

Her – Well… And… you’re really going to read it ?

Him – I leaf through… To make up my mind…

Her – About what ?

Him – I don’t know. A lot of men read this on the tube. I just wondered what was so interesting…

Her – So, did you find out ?

Him – No…

She looks dismayed.

Her – Are you interested in sports ?

Him – Not much…

Her – Then it’s not very surprising that you do not find any interest reading sports magazines…

He puts his magazine away.

Him – Well… To be interested in sports is one thing. To feel every morning an irrepressible need to know if Luton beat Bratislava 3 to 1 or if the match ended in a draw is another thing. I don’t even know where Bratislava is…

Her – It’s the capital of Slovakia, isn’t it…

Him – Are you sure ?

Her – Or Slovenia…

Him – Slovenia ? Do you really think they can afford a football team ? It’s a very small country…

Her – Well, the Vatican is another one. And they’ve got a lot of money…

Him – Don’t tell me that the Vatican has also got a football team…?

He goes back to his sports magazine.

Her – But why does it matter so much for you, all of a sudden, to understand why men read sports magazines ?

Him – It would seem that I need to be reassured about my manhood…

Her – Well, too bad…

Him – Thank you.

Her – Listen, you can be a man without reading sports magazines.

Him – Really…?

She thinks about it.

Him – I don’t know… Do you want me to subscribe you to a car magazine ?

He looks at her, wondering if she is making fun of him. She goes back to her womens’ magazine.

Him – What about you ?

Her – Me ?

Him – What interest do you find reading womens’ magazines ?

She glares at him.

Her – You read them too…

Him – Well… Only for fun…

Her – I don’t read sports magazines… Even for fun…

Him (disturbed) – Do you find me effeminate, is that it ?

Her – But, no… All men read their wives’ magazines. It’s common knowledge. Why do you think there are so many advertisements for cars in womens’ magazines ?

Him – Well you don’t see many advertisements for washing machines in sports mags.

Her – And yet, football is a very dirty sport… You only have to see the number of football players in the advertisements for washing machines.

She goes back to her magazine. But he still seems preoccupied. She notices.

Her – Is there still something you are worried about ?

Him – No, I was just thinking about the differences between men and women…

Her – So…

Him – Take the clothes, for instance… Pants are no longer a male monopoly, but the skirt is still a woman’s privilege.

She looks at him, incredulous.

Him – The same with colours. You women can wear grey or pink as well. We have to stick to grey. Or brown… (After a while) You blame us for not liking shopping… But do you realise how depressing a men’s shoe store can be ?

She looks worried.

Her – You would like to be able to wear a pink miniskirt with stilettos ?

Him – No ! It’s just a simple statement of fact… You have stolen the best of our male attributes, and we did not receive anything in exchange. (He huffily goes back to his sports magazine) At least, we still have sports magazines.

9 – Small talk

She is reading. He stares into space. She notices.

Her (surprised) – What are you looking at that way ?

Him – TV…

Her – But we don’t have one anymore !

Him (with a sigh) – I know, but… It’s like if my legs had been amputated and I still had pins and needles in my feet…

She stares at him, and then goes back to her book. After a while, she looks at him again.

Her – It’s weird, today, I received a call for you on my mobile…

Him – Oh, yes, sorry, I forgot to tell you. I put your phone number on my answering machine at the office, so people I work with can join me during the holidays…

Her – The holidays ? But it’s a week from now !

Him – Well… At least, they have it.

Her (staggered) – My mobile phone number !? And meanwhile, for a whole week, I’m going to receive calls from « people you work with »…?

Him – I don’t know… Tell them to call me back during the holidays…

Her – Don’t you think it would have been easier for you to get one ?

Him – Me !? A mobile ! When I’m not at work, I like people to leave me alone. I don’t want them to bother me…

Her – So you prefer that they bother me !? I was right in the middle of a disciplinary committee at college, when a guy called me to ask when I – I mean when you – planned to submit your article titled « The wearing of G-string in the workplace is a human right » ? Don’t you think it doesn’t bother me ?

Him – You don’t switch off your mobile during disciplinary committees ?

Her (ironical) – Sorry, I forgot… Listen, a mobile is something very personal. You cannot lend it to anybody. Even your husband. I don’t know how to explain… It’s like a toothbrush…

Him – A toothbrush ? Well… If you want to use my toothbrush during the holidays, no problem…

Her – Well, a computer, then ! Would you let me use your computer if mine was disabled by a virus ?

He does not answer.

Her – And after the holidays ?

He seems not to understand.

Her – I’ll still receive calls for you !? It’s a good thing you don’t have anything to hide…

Him – After the holidays, I’ll tell them that I lost this bloody phone. Or even better, that it was stolen from me ! Mobiles are often stolen…

Her – Perfect ! That way, if somebody reaches me anyway, he will call me a thief ! Do I have to remind you that this phone is mine ?!

Him – Well, if you prefer, you can let me have it. And you can buy another one…

Her – Of course ! And then, when the people I know will call me, they’ll get in touch with you…

Him – I’ll give them your new number, and that’s all…

Her – You’re right, it’s much easier than you simply buying a phone for yourself. (Suspicious) Don’t tell me you’re using mine just to spare you the trouble…?

He does not answer. Silence.

Him – You’ll never guess what the butcher called me this morning…

Apparently, she doesn’t care.

Him – « Young man »… (Imitating the butcher) « And for the young man, what will it be today ? ». It’s the first time he’s called me that…

Her – Well, it’s the male equivalent of  » And for the young lady, what will it be today ».

Him – It’s scary, isn’t it, that the butcher could see us as « the young man and the young lady » ? It’s a good thing that we don’t go shopping together. He would be able to call us « the young couple ». (Imitating again the butcher) « And for the young couple, what will it be today ? ». Then, I think I would become a vegetarian on the spot.

Silence.

Him – Anyway, I’ve always found meat a little disgusting, haven’t you ?

Back to her book, she doesn’t answer. But he proceeds all the same.

Him – Chicken, at a push… True, it’s scary, a butcher’s shop, if you think about it. Bleeding flesh spread out everywhere. Entire animal carcasses in the cold room. All those innocent cows locked up in camps in the countryside, surrounded by barbed wire, sometimes even electrified; waiting to be dragged out to the slaughterhouse and be cut up… Poor beasts. At least, they don’t know what’s going to happen to them. When I see those huge guys, with those kind of white shrouds on their heads, taking the bodies of their victims out of the refrigerator truck, carrying them on their shoulders… Looks like the Ku Klux Klan…

She still does not react. He turns to her.

Him – Did you know that sikhs were strictly vegetarian ?

She finally looks up.

Her – Oh, by the way, no need to go to the department store for a bathroom neon. I dropped in this afternoon. (After a while) I came across our neighbour from in front. She was buying a huge suitcase…

He looks at her, seeming not to understand. A mobile rings. She answers.

Her – Yes…?

Her smile vanishes.

She (with pretend amiability) – No, this is his secretary speaking, but hold on a second, I’ll patch you through right away. Whom do I have to announce ? (She holds the phone out to him, exasperated) It’s for you. Your buddy Peter…

He takes the phone as if nothing had happened.

Him – Hello !

He seems to be a little embarrassed.

Him – How does this thing work anyway…?

10 – Where do we go when we die ?

They are sitting on a couch.

Him – Did you see the postman, this morning ?

Her – You’re expecting something ?

Him – Not really… But I always hope for a miracle when I open the mailbox. To be told I won a competition I didn’t go in for. That an old and loaded aunt I didn’t even know about died with no heirs. That they awarded me the Nobel Prize in advance for my future work… Every day, opening the mailbox, I am like a child in front of the tree, on Christmas Day.

Her – That’s right… Growing up, we don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore, but we still believe in the postman. Besides, there are some similarities… They both wear a uniform. They come by with a sack. They drop off packets, and you never get to see them…

Him – Well, the postman, you can see him on Christmas day, precisely, when he comes for his tips… (With a sigh) I hate Christmas. Every new year, there are less greeting cards in the mailbox, and more funeral announcements… (After a while) But why am I waiting for the postman as if he was the Messiah…? On the other hand, the Messiah’s father might very well have been the postman, right ? Because this story about the Immaculate Conception… Unless you believe in Santa Claus too…

Her – To get letters, you have to write some. Most people just receive answers. If you never send letters, don’t be surprised not to get any… I think I never received a letter from you…

Him (ironical) – Do you want us to write each other once in a while ?

She looks at him, wondering if he’s serious or not.

Him – What could we possibly have to say each other any way…? I would feel like I were writing to myself. Besides, we always write more or less to ourselves, don’t we ? There are people you write endless letters to… And when you finally meet them, you realise that you don’t have anything to tell them. No, definitely, writing has something to do with onanism…

She treats herself to a drink and lights a cigarette.

Him – You smoke now ?

Her (surprised) – Well, yes… I have been smoking for twenty years. Didn’t you ever notice ?

Silence.

Him – Did you know that every cigarette reduces your life by ten minutes ? (She does not answer) How many cigarettes a day do you smoke ?

Her (ironical) – According to my calculations, I should have died six months ago. Maybe I am…

Silence.

Him – The same with the mobile, right ? Not very healthy. They say that if you use it more than an hour a day, you are sure to get brain cancer. You better not go over your monthly contract… (After a while) By the way, you know what your daughter asked me this morning, while I was brushing my teeth ?

Her – No.

Him – Where do we go when we die ?

Her – What did you answer ?

Him – What do you think I answered ?

Her – I don’t know.

Him – Right. It’s exactly what I answered.

Her – So ?

Him – She told me : But dad, when we die, we go to the cemetery !

Her – And then ?

Him – Then, she went back to eating her corn-flakes. Apparently, she was happy to have taught me something; and a bit surprised that, at my age, I still didn’t know what was waiting for me… Incredible, isn’t it ?

Her – What ? That she asked you that ?

Him – No, that children are so able to accept simple answers to simple questions. A philosophy teacher would have spoken of metaphysics, immanence, transcendence, the whole damn lot… even God. Children are much more pragmatic. Besides, they are naturally atheist.

Her – They believe in Santa Claus.

Him – Well… Because theirs parents tell them that he exists, and that he will bring them gifts. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have invented him by themselves. If somebody told you that an anonymous benefactor would pay you a bonus at Christmas every year, you wouldn’t question his existence. But God never brought us anything for Christmas, and some adults still believe in him… Do you believe ?

Her – In Santa Claus ?

Silence.

Him – What’s incredible, too, is that it wouldn’t scare her.

Her – What ?

Him – The prospect of being buried ! You and I… we are wetting ourselves… Why not her ? (After a while) I’ll have to ask her tonight what she means exactly by «when we die, we go to the cemetery »… What do you think she means by that ?

She looks at him, embarrassed.

Her – Well… that.

Him – What… that ?

Her – When we die, we go to the cemetery…

He looks at her, astonished.

Him – Then you believe that too…?

Her – You don’t ?

Him – Well, of course… I mean…

He laughs at her.

Him – Wait, don’t tell me that it’s as simple as that for you too !

Her – In a way… It is.

He looks at her, mocking.

Her – I don’t know, a while ago, you thought it marvellous not to worry about anything. To be satisfied with simple answers to simple questions.

Him – Well yes, but… You’re not five years old !

Her – Ok, then. Go on. I ask you the question : Where do we go when we die ?

Him (taken aback) – Well… It’s not as simple as that…

Her – I’m listening…

Him – I don’t know, it’s… as a fact of matter…

Her – Fact of matter..? You mean as a matter of fact ?

Him – Where do we go when we die…? We go nowhere !

Her – We go to the cemetery !

Him – Well, if you want…

Her – Even if I do not !

Him – But, look… We go to the cemetery, it doesn’t mean anything ! One can perfectly well go to the cemetery whilst still alive, have a little walk around, leave the cemetery and go get lunch in a Chinese restaurant. What does that mean, go to the cemetery ? Besides, one can die and not go to the cemetery. When they don’t find the body ! You see ? In that case, you can’t say : When we die, we go to the cemetery. Can’t you see that it is not as simple as you think it is ?

Her – Well… Then if your daughter asks you again, what will you answer ?

Him – I don’t know… (He thinks about it) I will answer… When we die, we go to the cemetery… usually. If they find the body… When you are alive, you can also go to the cemetery… But when you are dead, it’s for ever.

Her (coughing) – Yes…

11 – Nightmare

He arrives wearing a blond wig, carrying a football ball, and acting like a child. After a while, she arrives behind him, wearing a man’s jacket and a moustache like Hitler or Chaplin.

Her (loud) – Guten Tag…

He jumps seeing her.

Him – But… Who are you ?

Her – I am… the baby-sitter.

He looks terrified. She brings out a packet of cigarettes.

Her (holding out the packet to him) – Do you smoke ?

He is about to take a cigarette, but prudently renounces.

Him – No, thank you.

Her – Natürlich. It’s forbidden… There is an ashtray, but it doesn’t mean a thing ! It’s only to avoid law-breakers burning the carpet… The same old things. They promulgate laws, but always have an afterthought in case they’re not respected… (She brings out a chewing-gum packet) Would you like a chewing-gum ?

Him – It gives me wind…

Her – You know why the subway’s cicadas are an endangered species ?

Him – There are cicadas, in the subway ?

Her – Or crickets, I don’t know. Well it’s because they ate cigarette butts. Since they prohibited smoking in the subway, of course, they are starving. Do you realise ? A whole ecosystem has been turned upside down… Well, they could start eating old chewing-gum…

Him – Not long ago, I saw an exhibition about animal life in urban surroundings. It’s not very well known, but there is an incredible fauna, in big cities like London. Even wolves. But thousands of them, you know ?

Her – Wolves ?

Him – Of course they only go out by night, in parks…

Her – You mean… foxes ?

Him – Oh, yes, maybe… Anyway, I never saw any of them…

Her – Because most parks close at night…

Sound of a door closed and locked. He looks scared.

Her – The cleaner locked the door… and took the key away.

Him – There are no windows… We won’t even be able to call for help…

Her – Don’t you have a mobile…?

He goes through all his pockets, and finally smiles with relief while bringing something out of a pocket.

Him – Oh, yes ! (His smile vanishes while he realises that it is not a mobile). Gosh, it’s the remote control I was looking for everywhere…

Her – Besides… there is not even a TV in here !

Him – Well… I guess we just have to wait for the postman to set us free tomorrow morning…

Her – Tomorrow, it’s Christmas Day.

Him – Oh, yes, that’s right, fuck…!

Her – You might be willing to lie down…?

He looks at her, terrified. She brings out a white sheet.

Her – If we are planning to see Christmas together, we better get comfortable… Which side do you prefer ?

Him – I have no preferences…

Her – Then, I will take this one…

She slips under the sheet. He does the same.

Her – Merry Christmas, then !

Him – Well, yes… Merry Christmas…

After a while, he screams and wakes up with a start. She wakes up too. He is no longer wearing his blonde wig, nor she her moustache.

Her – Are you all right, darling ?

Him – Well, yes… I must have had a nightmare. I dreamt it was Christmas Day…

Her (looking at him, surprised) – But darling… It is Christmas Day !

12 – Furniture

The stage is totally empty. He is there, standing. She arrives from outside.

Her (looking around, astonished) – But… Where is the furniture ?

Him (proud of himself) – You will never guess.

She stares at him, waiting for an explanation.

Him – A guy knocked at the door, this morning. An antique dealer…

Her (worried) – So ?

Him – At first, of course, I told him that we did not have anything to sell…

Her – And then…?

Him – Then I told myself that it didn’t hurt to ask him to value the whole stuff. The estimation was free. You’ll never guess how much he offered me for all this shitty things.

Her – How much…?

Him – More than enough to buy others.

Her – Then why did you sell them ?

Him – For a change ! You told me that you wanted to buy another couch.

Her – So…?

Him – You know perfectly well that if we had changed the couch, we would have had to buy another table to match it. Then, we would have to have changed the chairs, and so on…

Her – Well, maybe…

Him – It would have cost a fortune ! And what would have we done with our old furniture ?

She does not answer.

Him – This way, it’s much easier.

Her – And… meanwhile ?

Him – Meanwhile what ?

Her – Meanwhile we buy new furniture…

He looks the empty space around him.

Him – As far as I am concerned, I never liked over-furnished rooms.

Her – Well, now, it’s not over-furnished at all…

Him – Aren’t you happy ?

Her – Not to have furniture anymore…?

Him – But… you told me that you didn’t like our old couch !

Her – I never said that I didn’t want any furniture at all ! We don’t even have a bed anymore !

Him – But I just told you that… I thought you would be happy !

Her (conciliatory) – Listen, we will have dinner in a restaurant tonight, then we will spend the night in a hotel, and tomorrow we will go buy furniture. Alright ?

Him – Alright…

Silence.

Him – We still have to choose the style.

Her – Since we have to change, we better go for modern, don’t you think ?

Him – Okay… But then, we will have to redo the paintwork…

Her – Don’t you think you’re are a bit too perfectionist ?

Him – Modern furniture with this dirty paintwork ? It will clash…

Her (ironical) – We’d better move, hadn’t we ?

Him – Do you think so ? (After a while) At least, that way, it would be done very quickly… We turn the water and the electricity off before we go out, and we wouldn’t even have to come back.

She suddenly worries about something.

Her – Did you think about emptying the drawers ?

Him – Of course.

Her – What about your wedding ring ?

Him – My wedding ring…?

Her – The one you were keeping in the bedside table drawer !

Him – Oh, shit…

She does not add anything, but she looks staggered. So does he.

Him – It has been there for so long. I didn’t even think…

Silence.

Her – Have you got this antique dealer’s address ?

Him – No… He gave me cash, put the whole stuff in his truck, and left. (After a while, unconvinced) If he finds it, he will probably give us a call…

Her (bitter) – Yes… And if he doesn’t, you’ll always be able to change your wife… You’ll just have to choose a more modern one, to match the new paintwork and the new furniture.

Him – I’m really sorry…

Her – Why didn’t you ever wear the wedding ring anyway ?

Him – I did ! Before we got married… Remember ? I bought our rings in a bazaar in Yemen; to make them think we were married. Otherwise, they didn’t want to rent us a hotel room.

Her – Well, now that you sold our furniture, including our bed, we won’t have any other choice but to find a hotel tonight…

Him – Don’t worry. We live in a civilised country. They won’t ask for our marriage certificate…

Her – And after the wedding ? Why did you leave your ring in the drawer ?

Him – Well… I was afraid of losing it.

Silence.

Him – Are you angry…?

She does not answer.

Him – Come on, let’s go !

Her – Where ?

Him – To the hotel ! It will be like another honeymoon ! No more rings, no more furniture, no home anymore… We’ll start all over again !

Her – I still have my ring…

Him – You better take it off.

Her – Why ?

Him – You look married, I don’t. In the hotel, they will think we have an illegitimate relationship…

Her – So you’re giving me the choice between celibacy and adultery, are you ?

They leave.

Her – You have got a strange idea of marriage.

Emergency exit

Light on a couple, about to leave. He puts on his coat. She takes out a cigarette.

Her (enthusiastic) – So…?

Him (categorical) – Crap.

Her (shocked) – Crap ?

Him – Load of crap.

Her – You didn’t understand anything, then ?

Him – There was something to understand ?

Her – Oh, yes, of course…

Him (looking at her) – Of course what ?

Her – You get your revenge…

Him – What revenge…?

Her – This time I liked it, then you don’t… That’s really mean, don’t you think ?

Him – Wait, I didn’t like it, that’s all ! I’m not going to tell you that I liked it just to please you !

Her – You didn’t say that you didn’t like it, you said that it was crap. It’s not exactly the same !

Him – Well, I don’t really see the difference…

Her – It was crap, I liked it, so I am crap.

Him – You said it…

Her – I didn’t say it, Plato did.

Him – Plato says that you’re crap ?

Her – It’s called a syllogism. All women are mortal, I am a woman, so I am mortal.

Him – If Plato says so, then… As far as I am concerned, I just said that I found this thing dead boring. (After a while) Besides, I’m not even sure that your syllogism stands up.

Her – That’s right, go on…

Him – But… what did you like ?

Her – Everything !

Him – That’s rather vague, isn’t it ?

Her – What did you not like ?

Him – Well, I’d rather not get into details. You’ll get upset again…

Her – Me, upset ? Wait, I don’t care you didn’t like ! I liked it, that’s all. I feel sorry for you if you were bored…

Silence.

Him – We’re not going to argue about that, are we ?

Her – Sometimes, I wonder what we’re doing together…

He takes her gently by the shoulder.

Him – Come on…

Her – Next time, I hope we will both like it…

Him – Or at least that we will agree…

She looks at him.

Him – We might both get bored.

Her – Well yes… It’s a minimalist idea of harmony…

They leave. Dark.

Paris – Novembre 2011 © La Comédi@thèque – ISBN 979-10-90908-31-4

www.sacd.fr

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Critical but stable

Posted novembre 15, 2017 By admin

A comedy by Jean-Pierre Martinez

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

Raymond is in a deep coma following an accident on a Boris Bike. His long lost relatives are called to his bedside to decide what to do and avoid prolonged therapeutic interventions. But this collective decision becomes even more difficult when the patient turns out not to be who everyone thought he was. And is the keeper of a secret that could make everyone very rich…

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A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR

The worse tragedies often make the best material for comedies… Euthanasia is an old socio-political chestnut that regularly finds its way in the news (and hospital rooms). I took this play on as a personal challenge to get laughter from an audience with the story of a man in a deep coma – I had to produce comedic content from a tragic situation. When a patient falls in a deep coma their relatives are asked whether to keep them on life support. In this comedy, two siblings are contacted by a doctor after an accident sent their brother in a coma, but since they haven’t spoken to their brother in a long time they aren’t sure what to do – especially since they don’t really care all that much and have their own problems to deal with. And then someone presumed to be the brother’s life partner shows up and provides more information about the circumstances of the accident. These new elements are given to the audience piece by piece and cause the siblings to cynically alternate between wishing to maintain life support and wanting to ‘unplug’ their brother. Life is a joke, and when someone dies or is about to die it becomes a tragicomedy whose components are defined by the social hypocrisy that governs our behaviours in such solemn circumstances. Society forces us to respect, even sacralise death. The problem of course, is that except for the Pope, the living do not become saints simply by taking their last breath, and when people die they tend to leave money. Sometimes even dirty money… This tragi-comic aspect of life makes it difficult to keep a straight face when confronted with death. The best fits of laughter are those you get at funerals. Or in a theatre. I hope I have written a comedy where you will laugh yourselves to death…

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Jean-Pierre Martinez

A semiologist and a writer, Jean-Pierre Martinez has created a unique theatrical universe borrowing and blending elements from light comedy, black humour and the absurd. A powder-keg of a mix that is seducing an ever increasing audience. A script-writer for the French television series Avocats & Associés (France 2), he has written over a hundred television screenplays and seventy comedies for the theatre. He is one of the most frequently played contemporary playwrights in France and his plays have been translated in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Friday the 13th is his biggest play and has been performed in theatres all over the world, from Paris to Broadway and from Buenos Aires to Mexico. All his plays are published by La Comediathèque and are available online (http://comediatheque.net). Originally from Paris but in love with Provence, he spends the best part of the year in Tarascon where he registered the Compagnie Libre Théâtre, of which he is a director along with Ruth Martinez.

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This text is available to read for free. However, an authorization is required from the author prior to any public performance, whether by professional or amateur companies. To get in touch with Jean-Pierre Martinez and ask an authorization to represent one of his works : http://comediatheque.net

 

Critical but stable

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

 

Raymond is in a deep coma following an accident on a Boris Bike. His long lost relatives are called to his bedside to decide what to do and avoid prolonged therapeutic interventions. But this collective decision becomes even more difficult when the patient turns out not to be who everyone thought he was. And is the keeper of a secret that could make everyone very rich…

 

6 characters (male or female)

Quentin: Raymond’s brother (or sister)

Beatrice: Raymond’s sister (or brother)

Peggy: Raymond’s partner

Doctor Killhem: the doctor

Nurse Diggold: the nurse

Detective McManigal: the police officer

 

© La Comédi@thèque

 

A hospital room. The body of a patient lies on a hospital bed, slightly reclined, with an IV drip and several machines and monitors. His face is covered by a sheet. Since this isn’t a speaking part, a mannequin will be used. Doctor Killhem (male or female) and Nurse Diggold (male or female) enter the room, both wearing white coats.

Killhem – Hospitals are always overheated. Makes me want to open a private clinic just for the air conditioning.

Diggold – No wonder germs thrive in hospital environments.

Killhem – They always go on about the cost of health care. Maybe if they stopped heating hospitals during the summer it would help.

Diggold – And it would reduce the chances of getting one of those hospital-acquired infections, Doctor Killhem.

Killhem – Actually, I think I may be incubating a nice little MRSA myself. Or maybe a tropical disease. You, on the other hand, Nurse Diggold, look like a picture of health.

Diggold – Thank you, Doctor. I’ve been eating carrots, for the carotene. I’m not too orange, am I?

Killhem – Not at all, my little bunny. So, what do we have here?

She hands him a medical file.

Diggold – Raymond Mariani, forty years old. He’s in a deep coma following an accident on a Boris Bike.

The doctor glances at the file.

Killhem – Helmets should be mandatory for push bikes.

Diggold – Actually, he was wearing a helmet. Unfortunately, it didn’t help when he was hit by a bus and met the pavement at forty miles per hour.

The nurse lifts the sheet and we can see the patient’s head in a full-face helmet.

Killhem – But now the only danger is falling off the bed, so why is he still wearing his helmet?

Diggold – It’s such a mess inside… We didn’t dare remove it for fear brain matter would spill all over the pillow.

Killhem – Hmm, then there’s little chance he’ll wake up soon …

Diggold – Respiratory arrest most likely triggering loss of oxygen to the brain.

The doctor looks at the file again.

Killhem – I see… Flat EEG… probably brain dead. Shouldn’t we ease his suffering?

Diggold – It would free up a bed for sure, but…

Killhem – You’re right, we should speak to his relatives first. Did you contact his family?

Diggold – Yes, they should be here soon.

Killhem – Perfect.

Diggold – No other recommendations for this patient, Doctor?

Killhem – Let me think… Leave the visor closed so the flies don’t get inside.

Diggold – Oh, Doctor Killhem, you’re really something else…

Killhem – Something else! Exactly! That’s why I will soon join the two-tier medical system my dear. The public sector doesn’t have the means to pay me what I am worth… Would you like to join me in my new private clinic, as head nurse?

Diggold – I would follow you to the ends of the Earth, Doctor Killhem… Even the university hospital in Scarborough if you wanted me to. So a nicely air conditioned private clinic in Belgravia sounds even better.

Killhem – I can feel we’ll do great things together, Nurse Diggold… I just need to find some generous donors to fundraise for my project!

Diggold – I think I have an idea…

Killhem – Really? You’re wonderful, Nurse Diggold.

She pulls the sheet over the helmet.

Killhem – Why cover his face with the sheet? When I came in I thought he was dead.

Diggold – Sometimes he opens his eyes. Must be a nervous reflex. It’s to protect them from the light.

Killhem – It’s true, strip lighting is so harsh on the eyes… In our private clinic I’ll have them install pearlescent lighting. It’s much more flattering on the complexion.

Diggold – Especially for those getting end of life care.

Killhem – Don’t worry, my private clinic will only admit patients that are credit-worthy and in perfect health. I’m thinking of transitioning to plastic surgery.

Diggold – The rich are also entitled to have access to medical care to solve their little problems… No one is perfect. (Looking down at her chest) In fact I was thinking of a bit and nip and tuck myself.

They make their way out.

Killhem – I’ll take a closer look later, Nurse Diggold. A very close look. Who’s the next patient?

Diggold – A homeless man that was found last night in an alcohol-induced coma. He probably won’t wake up either.

Killhem – In this heat we shouldn’t keep him here long, or he’ll stink up the place… Do they have room in the kitchen freezer? They could tuck him in behind the processed meats, that’d keep him cool.

Diggold – Oh Doctor, you’re too much! You make everything so funny… I’m the one who’s going to die of laughter!

Killhem – With the jobs we have, if we can’t laugh a little…

They leave the room. Immediately, Quentin (or Quentine), a boho chic man (or woman), enters with a mobile phone glued to their ear.

Quentin – Listen, I don’t know everything yet. I just got to the hospital, but I went to the wrong room. I found some poor guy suffering from hypothermia who didn’t smell very nice. But now I’ve found him, I’m standing right in front of him…

He notices the patient on the bed.

Quentin – He doesn’t look too well either, actually… He’s got tubes and wires everywhere… Like a mini substation. Actually, I’m not entirely sure it’s him. His face is covered by a sheet… Yes, I know, it’s not a good sign… Well, the doctor will be here soon, I’ll find out more…

Beatrice, a Sloane Ranger type, arrives.

Quentin – Sorry, I have to go. My sister just came in. Ok, I’ll call you when I know more, but don’t wait for me for lunch… Love you too…

He puts his mobile phone away and greets his sister (hugs or kisses).

Beatrice – Hi Quentin.

Quentin – Hello Beatrice.

She notices the patient with the sheet over his face.

Beatrice – Oh my God! Don’t tell me I’m too late… Is he dead?

Quentin – I think if he was dead they’d have unplugged all of this.

Beatrice – Are you sure it’s him? I got the wrong room at first…

Quentin – You too? I don’t know why they have a room 13 and a 13 a…

Beatrice – Maybe it will bring him luck.

Quentin – What will?

Beatrice – Number 13!

He looks at the chart at the foot of the bed.

Quentin – Raymond Mariani. Yes, that’s him.

Beatrice – Maybe we could remove this sheet from his face, no?

Quentin – It does look a little like a shroud, but… I don’t know if…

Beatrice – You’re right. It’s best not to touch anything until the police arrive.

Quentin – You mean the doctor…

Beatrice – I bumped into him in the hall, he said he would be here shortly.

Quentin – What an unbelievable story… It’s been so long since I heard from him… To see him again today, like this… in this state… And you? How are you?

Beatrice – I’m ok.

Awkward silence.

Quentin – Do you still live in Windermere?

Beatrice – I’ve never lived in Windermere.

Quentin – Really?

Beatrice – I live in Windsor.

Quentin – Oh, that’s right…

Another awkward silence.

Beatrice – Are you still working for that ad company?

Quentin – I’m in finance.

Beatrice – Oh, that’s right…

Quentin – How about Raymond, were you in contact?

Beatrice – No more than you… The last time I saw him was at Dad’s funeral. Which you didn’t attend, if I remember correctly.

Quentin – Something came up at the last minute. But you have to admit that our family… doesn’t really have a sense of family.

Beatrice – It’s awful… He never had any luck.

Quentin – No… Poor Raymond… Just his first name…

Beatrice – What about it?

Quentin – Don’t you think it’s strange that he’s named Raymond?

Beatrice – Plenty of people are called Raymond.

Quentin – Not people like us. And not his age.

Beatrice – That’s true … And to my knowledge we don’t have any grandparents or uncles that he could be named after.

Quentin – I don’t know… Maybe he was adopted…

Beatrice – It would explain a lot…

Quentin – He always was the ugly duckling…

Beatrice – That’s true… He doesn’t even look like us.

Quentin – There’s something Asian about him, don’t you think?

Beatrice – Asian?

Quentin – Just a touch, mind you.

Beatrice – You think he’s adopted and they let him keep his first name?

Quentin – I don’t think there’s a lot of Asians called Raymond…

Beatrice – No…

A beat.

Quentin – On the bright side, if it turned out we weren’t from the same family, if he needed a kidney we wouldn’t be compatible…

Beatrice – There’s that.

Quentin – Speaking of which… Here’s the doctor… (Quietly to Beatrice) And given his name, I’d be surprised if he brought good news…

The doctor and the nurse arrive with appropriately gloomy faces.

Killhem – Doctor Killhem. And this is Nurse Diggold.

Beatrice – Hello Doctor.

Quentin – Nurse…

Beatrice – We came as soon as the hospital contacted us.

Killhem – You’re the patient’s brother and sister, am I right?

Quentin – Yes, well…

Killhem – I am sincerely sorry for what happened to your brother.

Beatrice – Is it that bad?

Killhem – I won’t lie to you, his condition is extremely worrying. He’s in a critical state and we don’t know which way it’ll go.

Beatrice – You think there’s still hope?

Killhem – Mr Mariani suffered a catastrophic head trauma and unfortunately the skull has been severely damaged. He is currently in a deep coma, and is on life support. We are going to do more tests but it would seem he is already brain dead.

Quentin – You mean he’s a vegetable…

Killhem – I studied medicine for 14 years. I wanted to give you some context and more information to justify my astronomically high salary. But yes, that’s what he is. A vegetable.

Beatrice – So there’s no chance he’ll ever wake from his coma?

Killhem takes the x-ray that Diggold took out of a file, and shows it to them.

Killhem – This is an x-ray of Mr Mariani’s skull. As you can see, there are numerous lesions and several fractures.

Quentin and Beatrice look at the x-ray pretending they understand what they are looking at.

Beatrice – Indeed, it’s not pretty.

Quentin – But the skull looks intact… the curve is perfect…

Killhem – That’s not his skull, that’s his helmet.

Beatrice – His helmet?

Diggold – The skull is so damaged that we chose to leave the helmet to keep the brain in place.

Killhem – At least what’s left of it…

Quentin – Do you mean that without the helmet…

Killhem – Imagine spaghetti in a broken colander, in a saucepan. We felt it was safer to keep the saucepan under the colander so the spaghetti didn’t spill in the sink.

Quentin – Oh, now I understand.

Killhem puts the x-rays away.

Killhem – I am very sorry to have to ask you this so bluntly, but… Do you know whether Mr Mariani had made any provision for continued care and organ donation, particularly in the case where he would need to be kept artificially alive?

Beatrice – I don’t know… We never had the chance to discuss that particular subject… We didn’t see each other very often, you see… (To Quentin) Did he mention anything to you?

Quentin – No… The last time I saw him was at your wedding. I imagine he didn’t think the circumstances were ideal to bring it up. Although… Who hasn’t considered assisted suicide during the Birdie Song? Honestly?

Killhem – I don’t want to rush you of course. But you’ll need think about it now.

Diggold – And if it becomes relevant, there’s also a decision to be made regarding organ donation.

Quentin – Organ donation? Oh no, but… We need to tell you, Doctor… We have reason to think that Raymond is our adopted brother… Therefore we wouldn’t be compatible for an organ donation…

Diggold – I think Doctor Killhem was talking about donating Raymond’s organs…

Quentin – Raymond’s… Of course… Yes… Personally I am totally in favour, of course. If it can help save another life…

Killhem – In any case, we would also need Mrs Mariani’s agreement. She just called, she’ll be here soon.

Beatrice – Mrs Mariani…

Diggold – His wife. Your sister-in-law.

Quentin – Of course…

Killhem – I will leave you with your brother… You can talk to him, of course, but we’re not sure he can hear you.

Quentin – Thank you Doctor.

Killhem – Let me know if you have any other questions… And if you need anything you can ring and a nurse will come… or a priest.

The doctor and the nurse leave the room. Quentin and Beatrice turn toward the patient.

Beatrice – Did you know he was married?

Quentin – No…

Beatrice – He could have at least told us. I don’t know that I would have gone to his wedding but you know… Don’t you think?

Quentin – I don’t know why but I can’t picture him with a wife.

Beatrice – Yeah… I’m curious to see what she looks like…

Quentin – According to the doctor it won’t be long before we find out…

At that moment, Peggy, Raymond’s presumed wife, arrives. The character can be played by a woman who looks and moves in an unfeminine way, or by a man dressed as a woman.

Peggy – Oh my God! Raymond!

Quentin and Beatrice glance at each other, intrigued.

Peggy – Don’t tell me I’m too late?

Quentin – Don’t worry, he’s still alive. Well, so to speak…

Peggy – Peggy. I am Raymond’s partner. Who are you?

Quentin – I’m his brother…

Beatrice – And I’m his sister…

Peggy – Strange… He never mentioned either of you…

Quentin – He never told us he was married either…

Peggy – He always was very discreet. I mean… He’s still very discreet.

Quentin – For sure, in his condition, he couldn’t be more discreet.

Peggy – Did the doctor say whether there was still any hope?

Beatrice – He wasn’t very reassuring, actually… We are just as distraught as you are… Do you have children?

Peggy – Not yet, unfortunately… I would have had something left of him…

Beatrice – Of course.

Peggy – But they are going to fix him, aren’t they?

Quentin – I think they asked us here to see whether we were in agreement about putting him out of his misery…

Peggy – Putting him out of his misery?

Beatrice – Raymond is unfortunately in a deep coma following this accident.

Peggy – His accident? What happened, exactly?

Quentin – That’s true… What happened, exactly?

Beatrice – We forgot to ask…

Quentin – A traffic accident, maybe.

Peggy – Raymond didn’t drive.

Quentin – Regardless, I think that Doctor Killhem is waiting for the greenlight to unplug him…

Peggy – Unplug him? This isn’t a toaster you’re talking about! Raymond is your brother!

Beatrice – To be honest, it’s been years since we last saw him…

Quentin – I even wonder why they asked us to come.

Beatrice – We are his only family, apart from you, but to ask us to make such an important decision…

Quentin – I’m not a believer so I don’t have anything against euthanasia… In fact, don’t you think it’s a sign?

Peggy – A sign?

Quentin – Euthan-asia.

Beatrice – We think that Raymond might well have come from Asia.

Quentin – I think it’s a sign.

Beatrice – Maybe you should be the one to make the decision. After all, you knew him much better than we did…

Peggy starts sobbing in an unconvincing manner.

Peggy – No, I am not ready to… to unplug him… Not just yet anyway…

Beatrice – We totally respect your decision. Don’t we, Quentin?

Quentin – Of course… (He glances at his watch) Actually, I have to go soon… Since we can’t do anything for the moment…

Beatrice – Me too… I have guests for dinner tonight and…

Quentin – Actually, I don’t think that our presence makes a big difference, the state he’s in…

Peggy – I’ll stay with him, if that’s ok with you…

Beatrice – But of course… You are his wife after all…

Quentin and Beatrice are about to leave but the nurse comes back.

Diggold – Oh, you must be Mrs Mariani…

Peggy – Yes… Could you give me some more information on Raymond’s condition?

Diggold – We are waiting for the latest results, but to be honest we are not very optimistic.

Peggy – Is he getting worse?

Diggold – No, not really. His condition is stable.

Peggy – In that case maybe there’s still hope.

Diggold – Unfortunately, my dear, in this instance stable isn’t a positive.

Quentin – A vegetable is also in a stable condition.

Diggold – Mr Mariani is indeed in a vegetative state. There are very few chances of his condition improving.

Peggy – Are you sure?

Diggold – Unfortunately. I think you should start thinking about what would be best for him.

Beatrice – Do you think he’s in pain?

Diggold – Hard to tell, but… kept alive in this sort of state, that’s not much of a life, don’t you think?

Beatrice – The nurse is right, Peggy. I understand your pain, but we can’t leave him like this…

Diggold – Your sister-in-law is right. Of course the departure of a loved one is one of our Lord’s greatest tests, but at some point you must start the grieving process, get a move on and face things head on. There’s lots of paperwork to fill in. And the inheritance of course. There’s no need to drag things on.

Quentin – Inheritance?

Beatrice – But of course… the inheritance… We’d forgotten about that…

Quentin – Who are the beneficiaries?

Diggold – Well, typically… (To Peggy) You’re his wife, aren’t you?

Peggy – Yes, well, yes, I mean …

Diggold – If your husband came to die, you would inherit… Actually, since you’re the patient’s spouse I would need to get you to sign some forms while you’re here…

Peggy – Well… Actually, we weren’t married yet…

Diggold – Oh… And you didn’t have any children either?

Peggy – No…

Diggold – In that case, it’s his brother and sister who are the beneficiaries… But I don’t think that’s your main worry right now.

Quentin (dreamily) – No, of course not…

Diggold – I’ll let you talk it over as a family…

The nurse leaves the room.

Peggy – Sorry, nature’s calling.

Peggy leaves for the bathroom.

Quentin – So we’re the beneficiaries…

Beatrice – We are his only family if he isn’t married…

Quentin – That’s crazy…

Beatrice – Yes…

Quentin – Do you think he had a lot of cash?

Beatrice – I doubt it, but… Who knows… We hadn’t seen him for years.

Quentin – I don’t even know what he does for a living.

Beatrice – I’m going to guess he’s on benefits.

Quentin – I don’t know… maybe he does work.

Beatrice – Well, I doubt he makes it past the income tax threshold.

Quentin – We should ask his wife… I mean, Peggy… She would know…

Peggy comes back.

Beatrice – Feeling better?

Peggy seems to be looking for something.

Peggy – I’m ok… Do you know where they put his belongings?

Beatrice – His belongings?

Peggy – Didn’t he have a suitcase when they brought him in?

Quentin – If he was hospitalised following an accident, I wouldn’t have thought he’d had time to pack a suitcase…

Beatrice – It’s not as if he was heading for a stay in the maternity ward…

Quentin – Why do you want to know if he had a suitcase? I don’t think he’s going to need one for a while…

Peggy – No, of course… I’m sorry… I’m not myself…

Quentin – As you were living with him… could you tell us a little about his life? I mean, since we hadn’t seen him for a long time…

Beatrice – Yes, how were things going for him?

Peggy – What do you mean, things?

Beatrice – Business… Did he have a job?

Peggy (distracted) – A job? Raymond?

Quentin – I knew it…

Peggy seems preoccupied by something else.

Peggy – I’ll go ask the nurse if they stored his suitcase somewhere…

She leaves the room.

Quentin – She seems rather upset, doesn’t she?

Beatrice – That’s understandable.

Quentin – In any case, apparently he didn’t have a fortune… So for the inheritance…

Beatrice – He may not have earned a fortune… but three years ago when Mum died, he would have inherited his share of Mum and Dad’s estate.

Quentin – Shit, you’re right…

Beatrice – We could at least get that back… I mean, it makes sense that it should come to us. We’re his family after all.

Quentin – Especially since Raymond may not have actually been part of the family. If he was adopted from Bangladesh. Or even Birmingham.

Beatrice – I wouldn’t mind some money right now. We’ve just bought property in Provence, right next to Cliff Richard’s place…

Quentin – No, really? Provence is stunning. The light. The lavender…

Beatrice – The thing is there really is a lot of work to do before it looks like Cliffy’s house. Right now even Lulu wouldn’t take a summer holiday there.

Quentin – I see. And since he’s lying here like a vegetable…

Beatrice – Unplugging him would be the compassionate thing to do.

They are lost in thought for a moment.

Quentin – What if he’d already blown it all?

Beatrice – You think?

Quentin – This is Raymond we’re talking about…

Peggy returns.

Peggy – Apparently he didn’t have a suitcase…

Beatrice – But other than that, everything was good? He didn’t have any financial troubles?

Peggy – Financial troubles?

Quentin – I think he recently came into a small inheritance. I hope he would have managed the money sensibly.

Peggy – Sensibly? Raymond?

Beatrice – Oh, that’s right…

The nurse comes back.

Diggold – So? Have you been able to have a family discussion about the best course of action for your loved one?

Quentin – Well, actually…

Beatrice – We haven’t made a decision yet.

Quentin – And we’re not necessarily in agreement…

Beatrice – Peggy isn’t quite ready for…

Peggy is still looking for something.

Peggy – So, he didn’t have a suitcase when he arrived?

She even looks under the bed.

Diggold – Having said that, if Mr Mariani wasn’t married, it’s up to his brother and sister to decide what’s best for him.

Quentin – Actually… we would like a little more information.

Diggold – On his medical condition? Well, as I was telling you earlier…

Quentin – We were thinking more in terms of the finances.

Diggold – Don’t worry about that. Euthanasia is not covered by the NHS yet but we consider this medical procedure a charitable and Christian act that we perform without charge. However, if you insist on making a donation, Doctor Killhem is considering creating a foundation in Belgravia for…

Beatrice – We were thinking more about the inheritance aspect of the finances.

Diggold – The inheritance. I see. Well, of course.

Quentin – Did you know whether Mr Mariani was a man of means?

Diggold – He was comfortable enough to have a subscription to Boris Bikes… But you should really ask his most recent partner…

Peggy wasn’t paying attention but reacts when she hears her name.

Peggy – Pardon?

Diggold – You need to know that in accepting your brother’s inheritance you agree to take on his potential debts as well as his assets. That includes his hospital fees…

Beatrice – You’re kidding…?

Quentin and Beatrice consider for a moment the patient and all the medical apparatus that surrounds him.

Quentin – Private rooms costs a packet, right?

Diggold – A fortune, indeed. His care is covered under the NHS but by rights if he hasn’t got private healthcare he should have been out on the ward with the rest of the great unwell.

Beatrice – Did Raymond have private healthcare?

Diggold – I’ll have to check with accounts… But if you’re not sure you can always refuse the inheritance and make Doctor Killhem’s foundation the beneficiary…

Quentin – But of course… I see…

Diggold – In any case, with regards to the life support decision, I would advise you to carefully weigh the pros and cons… Because he could stay in a coma for years and who knows how much that will end up costing.

Beatrice – In that case we may have to put him quickly out of his misery. What do you think, Quentin?

Diggold – I’ll give you a few more minutes to decide…

She leaves the room.

Beatrice (to Peggy) – What do you think?

Peggy – Isn’t there a small chance that he could wake from his coma?

Quentin – After all, if we renounce the inheritance, whether he lives or dies…

Beatrice – True, we don’t need to rush his death. It’s not very Christian…

Quentin – I need to talk to my solicitor, but I wonder if the hospital bills aren’t the family’s responsibility even if we turn down the inheritance.

Beatrice – But we hardly even know Raymond!

They move close to the patient.

Quentin – You think he can hear us?

Peggy– Go figure…

Beatrice – What about the organ donation, what do you think about that?

Quentin – Donating his organs?

Beatrice – What? You want to sell them?

Quentin – I don’t know… How much do you think we could get for them?

Beatrice – It could go towards the hospital bills… I’m kidding, my nerves are shot.

Quentin – Are you sure he can’t hear us?

Beatrice (to Peggy) – Do you know where he stood on organ donation?

Peggy – No…

A beat.

Beatrice (to Peggy) – Would you consider marring Raymond, before we unplug him?

Quentin – And before we remove his organs, naturally.

Beatrice – That way you could have his name. Think of it as a souvenir.

Quentin – Since you don’t have children.

Beatrice – Post-mortem artificial insemination would be one step too far.

Quentin – I’m not sure you can marry someone in a coma… That’s another question for my solicitor.

Peggy – Yeah, right. I see what you’re up to… A few minutes ago I wasn’t part of the family and now you want me to marry him so I can foot the hospital bills.

Beatrice – That’s such a negative way to see things…

Doctor Killhem enters the room.

Killhem – So, everything good in here? I mean… Given the circumstances. Did someone offer you a coffee? Or a danish? Oops, I forget I’m still working for the NHS. A rich tea and a Nescafe perhaps?

Beatrice – Oh, Doctor! Perfect timing, we need your advice.

Killhem – Please, we are here to help.

Quentin – It’s about Raymond’s private health care.

Killhem – Unfortunately, your brother didn’t have private healthcare. And I don’t want to worry you but some sort of admin error means that he was placed in a private room and has already incurred some considerable expenses.

Beatrice – It’s ok, we’re already pretty worried anyway…

Killhem – I understand… Seeing your brother… Or your life partner in such a state… It’s difficult to comprehend, I know.

Peggy – But you think there’s a chance he might talk again one day?

Killhem – Talk? Dear God… A miracle is always possible, but you’ll have to send the request much higher than me (looks skyward). And while miracles are not guaranteed to work they are free… euthanasia on the other hand is a dead cert but not covered by the NHS.

Beatrice – Thank you for these comforting words, Doctor…

Killhem – Oh, before I forget, the police are waiting at reception.

Peggy – The police?

Killhem – I told them the patient wasn’t able to answer questions, but they are keen to talk to friends and family. I told the officer to come to the room… Anyway, if you change your mind about coffee and danish there’s always Deliveroo.

The doctor leaves.

Quentin – The police? Why are the police here?

Beatrice – Maybe they’re investigating the circumstances of the accident… it would make sense…

Quentin – Of course. Actually, we still don’t know anything about this accident.

Beatrice – The nurse said something about a Boris Bike…

Quentin – You don’t know what happened, do you?

Peggy – Well… I… No, not really.

Beatrice – Maybe this police officer will be able to tell us more.

Quentin (seeing Peggy very uncomfortable) – You don’t want to find out?

Peggy – Look, I don’t have time to explain, but please, don’t tell the police about me, ok?

Quentin – Why not?

Peggy – I… I’m not Raymond’s wife… I mean, I’m not his life partner either.

Beatrice – Really? So who are you?

Peggy – I’m his partner… His business partner.

Quentin – Business partner? What kind of business?

Beatrice – The kind of business that the police shouldn’t know about, apparently…

Someone knocks on the door.

Peggy – I’ll tell you later. I’ll go and hide in the bathroom until they leave.

Detective McManigal (man or woman) comes into the room.

McManigal – Detective McManigal (wiping his brow) It’s hot in here, isn’t it? You must be the family, I presume…

Quentin – His brother and sister, yes.

McManigal – I am investigating the case your brother is involved in.

Beatrice – A case? There’s more to this than an accident with a Boris Bike? Did he fail to return it within the two-hour limit?

McManigal – It’s a little more complicated than that, actually…

Quentin – Really?

McManigal – I thought you already knew… Your brother is in a coma following an armed robbery.

Beatrice – An armed robbery?

McManigal – The Post Office next to where he lived.

Quentin – I see. Raymond never did like banks.

Beatrice – Either that or he was picking up his benefits.

Quentin – He was riding by on his bike and was hit by a stray bullet, is that it?

Beatrice – Deep down I’m not surprised.

Quentin – Our brother never had any luck…

McManigal – Actually, that’s not what happened… Your brother is involved in the armed robbery… he was the robber.

The other two are dumbfounded.

Beatrice – Raymond? He robbed the Post Office?

McManigal – Yes, he did. With an accomplice.

Quentin – Armed robbery… That’s so unlike him.

Beatrice – An armed robbery on a Boris Bike? With a full helmet?

Quentin – Actually, that is more like him.

McManigal – Did you know anything about his illegal activities?

Beatrice – Of course not. It’s been years since we last saw him…

Quentin – On a Boris Bike… That must be grounds for an insanity plea, no? Either that or an award for inventing the eco-friendly robbery.

Beatrice – So it’s not a traffic accident?

McManigal – Yes and no… Your brother got hit by a bus after a police chase through London.

Quentin – A police chase? He was on a Boris Bike! What were the cops riding? Roller skates?

McManigal – This isn’t a joke, Mr Mariani. We’re talking about an armed robbery.

Beatrice – No one is taking this more seriously than we are, Detective. I will remind you that our brother is between life and death…

McManigal – I am genuinely very sorry… Especially since his accomplice escaped and he could have given us her name.

Quentin – Her name? So it’s a woman…

McManigal shows them a piece of paper.

McManigal – This is her e-fit. Have you seen this woman before?

Quentin – Unfortunately I don’t have my reading glasses… (He pretends to have difficulty reading) You know what it’s like when you get older…

McManigal (to Beatrice) – And you?

 

Beatrice – Who? Me? Oh you know… I’m terrible with faces… It’s very simple: I can’t tell people apart. I once went to a swinger’s club on the Kingsland Road and came home with my own husband. It was only when he took the dog out the following morning the penny dropped.

McManigal – I see…

Quentin – Lucky you…

McManigal steps closer to the bed.

McManigal – I spoke with the doctor earlier… According to him there’s little chance that Mr Mariani will wake from his coma any time soon.

Quentin – If he wakes up he’ll go to prison… That’s hardly a great motivator to step away from the light.

Beatrice – What will he get?

McManigal – If he were to give us the name of his accomplice, return the money and show remorse, the judge might be lenient…

Quentin – How much?

McManigal – Well, the gun was fake but that doesn’t make any difference. In theory, up to twenty years.

Quentin – No, I meant the money… How much?

McManigal – Three million.

Quentin – Three million pounds?

Beatrice – I see.

Quentin – And there I was thinking Raymond didn’t have any ambition… I’m almost impressed…

Beatrice – And you say you still haven’t found the money?

McManigal – Witnesses have confirmed that it was your brother who was holding the suitcase after the robbery… But when we found him after the accident, the suitcase had gone…

Quentin – So what happened, exactly?

McManigal – After the robbery, the two suspects split to make it harder to follow them. We lost her but your brother was later spotted near King’s Cross station.

Beatrice – Spotted…

McManigal – A bloke on a Boris Bike with a full helmet is easy to spot…

Quentin – Obviously not enough for the bus driver who ran him over…

McManigal – Regardless, before his accident he had time to get rid of the suitcase.

Beatrice – The suitcase…

McManigal – You know something about the suitcase?

Beatrice – No, no, nothing…

McManigal – In any case, know that your brother is under arrest. In principle I should stay here and stand guard in case he wakes up, but…

Quentin – The state he’s in, he’s not going to run away…

McManigal – And to be honest with you, hospitals depress me…

Quentin – I know what you mean… And they say they’re full of germs that resist all antibiotics these days.

Beatrice – Quite. There’s that saying about hospitals: you might know what you come in with but God only knows what you’re taking home.

Quentin – Same if you’re just visiting… I refused to attend all three of my children’s births for that very reason.

McManigal – Really?

Beatrice – Absolutely, in terms of germs and viruses, hospitals are one big, petri dish playpen.

Quentin – And you know the tropical disease ward is right next door. Doctor Killhem was just telling us that just last week they had the first case of malaria in over a century.

Beatrice – Didn’t he say ebola?

Quentin – Possibly…

McManigal – He told you that?

Beatrice – Just between us, I think this hospital is on the verge of being quarantined. Apparently, the nurses are dropping like flies.

McManigal now seems in a hurry to leave.

McManigal – Right, in that case I’ll leave you to it… I’ll come back to check on him once in a while…

Quentin – Thank you for your kindness, Detective.

Quentin holds out his hand that he can’t refuse to shake.

McManigal – Do you mind if I wash my hands before I leave?

Beatrice – Where?

McManigal – In the bathroom!

The other two are dismayed.

Quentin – Well, I mean…

Beatrice – No, no problem at all…

McManigal enters the bathroom. The other two exchange worried looks.

Quentin – We’ll just say that she threatened to kill us if we said anything…

Beatrice – With her fake gun?

Quentin – We didn’t know that then!

McManigal returns.

McManigal – You know, I’ve been feeling a little peaky since I’ve arrived. I hope I haven’t caught something nasty… You’ll let me know if your brother wakes up, won’t you?

Beatrice – Of course we will, Detective…

McManigal leaves.

Beatrice – How did she do that?

Quentin – Maybe she hid behind the shower curtain. They do that in horror films all the time.

Quentin – Well, I think that we can forget about the inheritance. If Raymond was reduced to robbing the Post Office on a Boris Bike, he obviously wasn’t flush.

Beatrice – But there’s the loot…

Quentin – Right… The suitcase…

Beatrice – That’s why Peggy didn’t want to unplug Raymond before he told her what he did with the money…

Quentin – Now I understand why she was so intent on finding out whether Raymond had any luggage when he arrived…

Peggy returns.

Peggy – Thank goodness the bathroom is shared between both rooms.

Quentin – The patient next door wasn’t surprised to see you?

Peggy – He’s in a coma, too…

Beatrice – Oh that’s right, room 13a…

Peggy – I overheard everything.

Beatrice – So?

Peggy – Yeah, ok, I’m the accomplice.

Quentin – No kidding… Actually the e-fit is a perfect likeness.

Beatrice – It’s going to be difficult to convince the Detective that we didn’t recognise you if he finds out we saw you here…

Peggy – Thank you for your discretion…

Quentin – We could still be in real trouble…

Beatrice – And what’s in it for us?

Peggy – Ok, if you help me find the money we’ll share. One million each…

Beatrice – We split it three ways?

Quentin – Now we just need Raymond to tell us where it is.

Peggy – In the state he’s in…

Beatrice – Precisely. It’s not going to be easy to get him to tell us what he did with the money.

Peggy – He might confide more easily if it’s his family asking.

Quentin – And then?

Peggy – If we can get him to spill the beans, we can unplug him right after. Rather than let him live like a vegetable. And three million split four ways that’s not a round number anyway…

Quentin – And he won’t be tempted to shop you to the cops, right?

Peggy – It’s my understanding that you weren’t very close. It would also ensure you don’t have to pay his medical bills for years to come…

Beatrice – I would really be more comfortable if I were sure he couldn’t hear us…

Quentin – You think he could be faking?

Peggy – Faking a deep coma? Is that possible?

Beatrice – He was always a natural. Do you remember when we were kids? Sometimes he would sleep so soundly… in the morning we often thought he had fallen in a coma.

They all come around the bed.

Peggy – Maybe this little shit wants to keep the money for himself…

Beatrice – Raymond, can you hear us?

Quentin – The helmet isn’t helping.

Beatrice – The doctor said that if we removed it, his brain may spill on the pillow…

Peggy – We could just open the visor.

She opens the visor.

Quentin – Raymond, this is your brother, Quentin…

Peggy shakes him a little roughly.

Peggy – Raymond? Raymond? Where the fuck is the fucking money?

Beatrice – Careful, you’ll kill him!

Quentin – He opened his mouth…

Peggy – Shit, he did.

Beatrice – It looks like he wants to tell us something…

Quentin – Maybe it’s a reflex…

Peggy – Look, it’s… there’s something in his mouth!

Beatrice – Yes there is…

Peggy sticks her hand through the visor.

Peggy – Spit it out god dammit!

Quentin – All right, gently.

Peggy – The fucker, he bit me.

Quentin – I hope for your sake he’s not contagious.

Beatrice – So, what is it?

Peggy removes a key from Raymond’s mouth which she holds for all to see.

Peggy – Fuck me! It’s a key!

Beatrice – A key?

Peggy – It looks like a key to a train station locker… Maybe he had time to hide the suitcase in a train station somewhere…

Beatrice – And he tried to swallow the key knowing the police would catch him.

Quentin – Great… It’s not like there’s only a couple of train stations with lockers in London…

Peggy – The detective said his accident happened near King’s Cross station.

Quentin – Wow… Do you think that’s where it might be? It’s like we’re in a whodunit movie.

Beatrice – Or a play…

Peggy – I can’t go. The police are looking for me, and they have my e-fit.

Quentin – And a very lifelike one, too.

Peggy (to Beatrice) – You should go.

Beatrice – Me?

Peggy – Yes, you. In that stuck up yummy mummy garb of yours you’ll blend right in.

Beatrice – Thanks a lot… What if I get arrested?

Peggy – Tell them it’s for the kid’s school fees.

Quentin – This is three million pounds we’re talking about… Think about all the home improvements you’ll be able to afford for your place in Provence.

Beatrice – Why don’t we go together?

Peggy – That’s right, so you can both leave with the money? Not a chance. (She takes out a gun and points it at them) He stays here with me.

Beatrice – Oh come on… The detective told us it was a fake gun.

Peggy – Alright, but screw me over and see what happens.

Quentin – And in any case, one of us should stay with Raymond, or it will be look odd.

Beatrice – I’m still not sure… You don’t think we should call the police?

Peggy – And send me to prison?

Quentin – And there might not be anything in that locker. If we do find something we can work out a plan from there.

Beatrice – Yeah, well whatever we find if we keep it that’s fencing…

Quentin – Just focus on what you could do with a million pounds.

Beatrice – Yeah…

Quentin – You could turn your wind mill ruin into a castle! With a swimming pool even bigger than Cliff Richard’s!

Beatrice – Alright, I’m going.

She leaves. The other two exchange embarrassed looks. Quentin’s mobile phone rings, he answers. Peggy steps closer to the patient.

Quentin – Yes… No, I’m still at the hospital… It’s just that… Let’s say it’s more complicated than we thought… Listen, silver lining and all that, it might just be good news in the end… Raymond? Oh no, he’s still in a coma… Listen, I’ll tell you more… I can’t talk now… No, no, don’t wait I won’t be home for dinner… OK, me too…

Peggy – Looks like he’s breathing better since we removed the key from his mouth, don’t you think?

Quentin – Maybe we saved his life…

Peggy – Let’s not get carried away.

Quentin – Shouldn’t we tell the doctor?

Peggy – So the cops can throw him in prison?

At that moment, the nurse shows up briefly.

Diggold – Everything ok?

Peggy – Well, it’s… stable.

Diggold – Do call me if you need anything.

She leaves.

Quentin – Right, so what do we do?

Peggy – For now, we wait.

They each sit in a chair and start to doze off. We assume they fall asleep for a short while. Ellipse can be suggested by the changing of the light. Quentin’s mobile phone rings again. He wakes suddenly. Peggy is still asleep.

Quentin – Ah, Beatrice… Did you find the locker? A suitcase! Wowzers… No, you’re right, better not open it on the tube, it’s full of pickpockets so if the suitcase is full of bank notes… Peggy? No, she’s asleep here… Listen, I don’t know if… I can’t just sneak out, like that, without saying anything? We made a deal with her… True, robbing a robber isn’t really robbing, but still…

Peggy wakes up and hears the last part of the conversation. Quentin notices and changes tone.

Quentin – I think you should come back here as soon as you can and we’ll sort this out together. Ok? See you soon…

He puts his mobile phone away. Peggy looks at him suspiciously.

Peggy – You’re not looking to double cross me, are you?

Quentin – Not at all! Beatrice has the suitcase! She’s on her way…

The doctor returns.

Killhem – What lovely family scene… Raymond is very lucky to have such caring relatives… Sadly, it’s not always the case you know…

Quentin – Yes, I… After all, you only die once, don’t you?

The doctor studies the machines that surround the patient.

Killhem – Sadly, there is no change. The EEG is still flat.

Quentin – What control data are you using? I’m not sure that before his accident Raymond’s brain showed more activity… I’m kidding.

Killhem – You’re right. Joking helps one cope. It’s like I always say to my patients in hospice care: we’re all dying…

Quentin – You such a way with words, Doctor Killhem. I’m sure it makes them feel so much better…

Killhem – Why, thank you. It’s not just a job but a God-given vocation… You know where to find me if you need me…

Peggy – Thank you doctor…

The doctor is about to leave. Beatrice returns with a suitcase and is face-to-face with the doctor. A moment of uncertainty.

Killhem – You went to get him some clothes. That’s very nice of you. Although I’m not sure that in the state he’s in… I’ll tell you what, I’ll leave you to it.

The doctor leaves the room. Beatrice puts the suitcase at the foot of the bed. They look at it, fascinated.

Quentin – So? Did you look inside…?

Beatrice – I wanted to wait to open it here, it’s safer, isn’t it?

Peggy – Good idea.

Beatrice – And there’s a code…

Quentin – A code? What a shit… He must have been wary of thieves.

Beatrice – What are we going to do?

Peggy – Don’t worry, I know the code.

Peggy takes the suitcase and enters the code.

Quentin – 007? So creative…

Peggy opens the suitcase. Deception on everyone’s face. Beatrice calls out the contents of the suitcase.

Beatrice – A few pieces of clothing… A bathing suit…

Quentin – And a book to learn Dutch.

Peggy – This bastard tried to double cross me. He must have planned to escape to Holland with the money.

Beatrice – From King’s Cross?

Peggy – Well the money isn’t there…

Quentin (to Beatrice) – You aren’t trying to double cross US, are you?

Beatrice – Me? But I didn’t even have the code!

Peggy – Come on, let’s keep calm… It’s your sister you’re talking about… And we’re almost family now…

Beatrice comes close to the patient.

Beatrice – He opened his eyes!

Quentin – There’s still hope.

Beatrice – To find the money, you mean?

Quentin – Yes, that too…

Peggy – Maybe it’s a reflex?

Beatrice – Raymond, can you hear us?

Quentin – He blinked!

Beatrice – Maybe that means yes…

Quentin – You’re right. That’s how they talk to patients in a coma. I saw it in a film. Once for yes, twice for no. Or the other way around, I can’t remember…

Beatrice – Raymond? Listen carefully and try to answer this question with either yes or now: is your name Raymond?

Quentin – That’s a stupid fucking question…

Beatrice – It’s just to check that he understands the code.

Quentin – Did he blink or not?

Peggy – It’s not easy to see with the helmet on. Maybe we could try and remove it?

Beatrice – You want to kill him, is that it?

Peggy – Of course not!

Quentin – And it could be very messy…

The nurse comes into the room. Peggy slams the helmet visor shut.

Diggold – I just wanted to let you know that Detective McManigal was downstairs. He’ll be here momentarily…

Beatrice – Very well, thanks for letting us know Nurse Diggold…

The nurse leaves.

Quentin – I think you should hide again.

Peggy – I’ll take the suitcase with me, so he doesn’t see it.

Beatrice – Why don’t we put it under the bed?

She takes the suitcase and slides it under the bed. Peggy looks resentful.

Beatrice – Alright, go! What are you waiting for?

Peggy goes to hide in the bathroom. McManigal walks into the room. He is covered with either red blotches or spots.

Quentin – Detective McManigal, how are you?

McManigal – Not very well to tell you the truth… I’m still having hot flushes…

Beatrice – Please, sit down…

McManigal – Actually, I came for a consultation with Doctor Killhem… You haven’t seen him by any chance?

Quentin – I’m sure he’s around. You should ask nurse Diggold, they seem very close.

Beatrice – Where do you get that from, that they’re very close?

Quentin – I don’t know… masculine intuition… And also when I arrived I walked in the wrong room and I thought I saw Doctor Killhem ploughing Nurse Diggold in 13a.

Beatrice – Disgraceful… Thankfully the patient in that room is also in a coma…

McManigal – And what about your brother, any change?

Beatrice – Not in the right way, to tell you the truth.

Quentin – If things continue the way they are we’re going to have to have him put down…

Beatrice – And what about your investigation, any progress?

McManigal – We’re not dealing with Bonnie and Clyde, here. I’m sure I won’t surprise you if I told you that you brother had the IQ of a carrot. It would appear that his accomplice organised everything. She was the brains.

Quentin – A carrot?

Beatrice – Fitting for someone now in a vegetative state…

McManigal – She set him up knowing he had limited chances of escaping and hoping to get her hands on the money. Unfortunately for her… and for your brother, things didn’t quite happen the way she planned.

Quentin – I see…

Beatrice – He never was the lucky one.

Quentin – Anything else?

McManigal – Witnesses say they saw Raymond drop off a suitcase in a locker at Kings Cross. We searched the lockers but didn’t find anything…

Beatrice – Kings Cross… Maybe that will bring him luck…

McManigal – How do you mean?

Beatrice – Kings Cross! Protected by the cross of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour!

McManigal – Yes… Well, I’ll try and locate this Killhem doctor… (wiping his brow with his handkerchief) I’m feeling worse and worse by the minute… I’ll let you know if I find anything else…

Quentin – Thank you Detective… And do take care of yourself…

McManigal leaves. The nurse enters.

Diggold – I don’t want to rush you, but I’m going to need you to make a decision about your brother… We just received a request for a liver. He could save someone’s life…

Beatrice – Alright… I promise we’ll give you the answer you want to hear. Could you give us some privacy for a last goodbye with just the family?

Diggold – But of course…

She leaves the room. Beatrice loses it and shakes Raymond to wake him up.

Beatrice – God dammit Raymond, wake up! Do you really want to end up with just one lung?

The other two look at each other, a little worried.

Quentin – I think she said liver.

Peggy – Right, I’ll leave you to it, you’re his family after all… And I need to not be here when the cop comes back…

Quentin – Do you think he’s playing dead to avoid going to prison?

Beatrice – And keep the money for himself!

Peggy – I can take the suitcase with me if you want. For you it doesn’t represent anything, but for me it has great sentimental value…

Quentin – Sentimental value?

Peggy – This suitcase, it’s… it’s a gift from Raymond…

Beatrice – You’ve been after this suitcase from the very beginning.

Quentin – That’s right, even before we had the code.

Beatrice – So you knew the money was inside…

Peggy – But you can see for yourselves that it isn’t!

Beatrice – Maybe we didn’t look carefully enough…

Beatrice tries to grab the suitcase from Peggy, who doesn’t want to give it up. A tug of war ensues and the suitcase breaks in two pieces. Quentin comes closer.

Quentin – There’s a false bottom…

Beatrice – And the money’s inside.

Quentin – You knew it and you wanted to double cross us!

Peggy – Ok, so I did know… So what do we do now?

Beatrice – We split it, just like we said!

Peggy – Why should I share with you?

Quentin – I don’t know… to ensure we don’t report you to the cops? So that you don’t leave this hospital to serve at Her Majesty’s Pleasure for twenty years.

Peggy – Alright, you convinced me…

Quentin removes a few bank notes from the suitcase.

Quentin – Three million pounds.

Beatrice – I feel like I’ve just won the lottery…

Peggy – Can I remind you that this is still dirty money?

Quentin – Dirty, and in small used notes.

Beatrice – Just what I need to pay the renovations on my house on the black market…

The nurse returns with a syringe.

Diggold – Alright, I am ready…

Quentin – Ready?

Beatrice – Oh God, Raymond! He’s still our brother after all…

Diggold (with a scary face) – Don’t worry. I’ve never had a patient complain.

Black.

Peggy – What’s going on?

Diggold – Power cut. I don’t understand, the backup system should have kicked in… I’ll go check …

Quentin – Yes, please do. Because in the dark… You don’t want to inject the wrong person…

The nurse leaves the room.

Beatrice – Well, we’ll soon find out if he really needed all this equipment to stay alive…

Quentin – I’m not staying here in the dark with a living-dead. It gives me the heebie jeebies.

Beatrice – Me too.

Peggy – Let’s go.

They leave the room.

We hear music on hold, Vivaldi’s Four Season style. Ellipsis.

The lights come back on. Quentin, Beatrice and Peggy return to the room. Then the nurse.

Diggold (very upset) – Oh my God! The backup system also broke down. This shouldn’t ever happen… We fixed it now, but…

Quentin – What?

Diggold – Your brother’s life support depended on several machines… and they all need electricity…

Beatrice – And?

Diggold – And I’m afraid that the question of whether to unplug him or not doesn’t need an answer any longer.

Peggy – He’s dead?

Diggold – He hadn’t been very much alive for some time, but now… I’m afraid he’s completely dead. I’ll check anyway…

She comes to the bed and checks the patient quickly.

Diggold – Yes, it’s over… It didn’t happen exactly the way we would have wanted but perhaps it’s for the best after all? I’ll leave you alone. The doctor will be with you in a moment.

She leaves. The others are stunned.

Beatrice – How awful…

Quentin – He was our brother after all…

Peggy walk to the bed.

Peggy – I think we can remove his helmet now.

Quentin – I’m not sure… It’ll make a mess…

Beatrice – Well, we can’t bury him with his helmet…

Peggy – At least we can open the visor… So we can say our goodbyes…

She opens the visor.

Quentin – Did he have green eyes?

Beatrice – He would be the only one in the family…

Quentin – Which is just another proof that he isn’t actually part of the family…

Peggy looks as well.

Peggy – No!

Quentin – What now?

Peggy – This isn’t Raymond!

Beatrice – This isn’t Raymond? But a few moments ago it was Raymond.

Quentin comes closer.

Quentin – Yeah, well now it’s not Raymond.

Beatrice – So who is it?

Peggy – This bloke looks a lot like the living-dead I saw in the room next door.

Quentin – That’s right! I saw him too when I arrived at the hospital. It’s him!

Beatrice – He didn’t walk himself into this bed…

Peggy – So where’s Raymond?

Quentin looks under the bed.

Quentin – Raymond isn’t the only thing that’s disappeared…

Beatrice – The suitcase! It’s gone!

McManigal arrives.

McManigal – Doctor Killhem has decided to keep me in for observation and a checkup… You were right: hospitals, you know what you get admitted with…

McManigal turns and ends up face to face with Peggy.

McManigal – You look a lot like someone whose e-fit I have in my pocket.

Peggy – Did you grass me and hide the money too?

Beatrice – What? No!

Quentin – I assure you, Detective, we have no idea what she’s talking about.

McManigal (suspicious) – But you told me earlier you didn’t know her.

Beatrice – But we don’t know her. At all. This is the first time we see her. Isn’t it, Quentin? Actually, who is she?

Quentin – We’re very upset, Detective, you can understand that.

Beatrice – And I would ask that you respect our family’s privacy at this difficult time.

Quentin – Our brother has just died.

McManigal – Well he won’t go to prison, but this one is coming with me. And as for you two, I’ll deal with you later. I am going to ask you to drop by the police station to make a statement. For now, I offer my condolences.

Beatrice – Thank you Detective.

McManigal (to Peggy) – As for you, as they say in Hawaii Five O, you have the right to remain silent, everything you say can and will be held against you…

McManigal handcuffs Peggy and they leave.

Quentin – I don’t understand.

Beatrice – What do you think happened?

Quentin – Do you think he could have faked being in a coma all this time?

Beatrice – And he would have used the power cut to put the homeless corpse in his bed so to make us believe he was dead so we would leave and drop the whole thing?

Quentin – Well, that would explain why his eyes were a different colour…

Beatrice – It would also explain why the money’s gone…

Quentin – Maybe Raymond wasn’t so stupid after all…

Beatrice – Yes… that’s why I don’t buy it.

Quentin – What colour were his eyes?

Beatrice doesn’t seem to know.

Beatrice – He was ginger I think… They don’t have green eyes…

Quentin – Raymond was ginger?

Beatrice – Wasn’t he?

The doctor arrives.

Killhem – I am so very sorry for what happened. I want to present the hospital’s and my own heartfelt apologies and of course our deepest sympathies for your loss.

Beatrice – Thank you…

Killhem – Since you were already considering helping your brother leave this world sooner rather than later, I do hope we can rely on you to not take this minor mishap any further… After all, we saved you from making a very painful decision.

Quentin – Don’t worry. We have enough troubles as it is…

Killhem – Consider it fate… Or even the hand of God…

Quentin – Hang on a minute. Are you saying it’s the hand of God that cut off the electricity in the whole hospital?

Killhem – More like the workers’ union… I think it’s an unplanned strike.

Quentin – In exchange for our understanding, Doctor Killhem, perhaps you could agree that as a gesture of goodwil…

Killhem – A gesture of goodwill?

Quentin – In consideration of the hospital fees accrued by our dearly departed. Because if you had a ‘100% satisfaction or your money back’ guarantee …

Killhem – Yes, of course, we’ll waive the fees. Consider it done.

Beatrice – We would also like to ask you, if possible, to spare our brother an autopsy. We feel he has suffered enough.

Killhem – Of course, thank you for your understanding and please come and see us soon. There will always be room for you here.

The doctor leaves, relieved. The siblings turn their head towards the bed.

Beatrice – At least, as far as he’s concerned, all is well that ends well.

Quentin – But it’s not him!

Beatrice – I know! That means he’s not dead!

Quentin – You’re right. And since the cops think he’s dead they’ll leave him alone.

Beatrice – And with his three million they won’t find him any time soon.

Quentin – Shame, I was starting to like him…

Awkward moment. If desired, the song ‘He ain’t heavy he’s my brother’ by Neil Young can be played here: So on we go / His welfare is of my concern / No burden is he to bear / We’ll get there…

Beatrice – Well, he double crossed us, this brother whose welfare is our concern.

Quentin – Yep… It’s like they say: Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s swimming naked.

Beatrice – Quentin Tarantino?

Quentin – Warren Buffet.

Beatrice – Never heard of this philosopher…

Quentin – He’s an American billionaire who earned his fortune playing the stock market… But aren’t the kings of the finance world the philosophers of the 21st century?

Beatrice – Still. Ripping off his siblings. How ungrateful can you be…?

Quentin – I’ve told you, he never had any family values.

They make for the door.

Quentin – So where exactly is your house in Provence, the one next to Cliff Richard?

Beatrice – Bidet-sur-Mer

Quentin – Never heard of it.

They leave. The doctor and the nurse return. She pushes a small medical cart covered by white linen.

Diggold – Good, they’re gone.

Killhem – At last. Can I see the baby?

The nurse uncovers the cart and we can see the suitcase full of bank notes.

Killhem – This is it! We can finally open our private clinic Nurse Diggold!

Diggold – Please call me Scarlet…

Killhem kisses her.

Killhem – Scarlet, you are my guardian angel! So you knew from the start he wasn’t in a coma?

Diggold – I struck a deal with Raymond as soon as he was admitted. We reported he was in a coma so he wouldn’t go to prison, and he would give us two thirds of the money.

Killhem – The helmet was a genius idea. It almost fooled me too, at first…

They laugh.

Diggold – But going to the train station that was too risky. So much better to get them to bring the cash to us!

Killhem – By dangling the locker key right under their noses…

Diggold – Or rather, on Raymond’s tongue!

Killhem – And what do we do about him now? I mean, the real Raymond, the one in the room next door…

Diggold – When he’s feeling better, and when the police have forgotten about him, we can hire him as a gardener in our new plastic surgery clinic in Belgravia.

Killhem – And we’ll give him a facial reconstruction for free, of course…

Diggold – He can be your first patient! You could use the practice…

Killhem – You’re right. Especially since we promised him he’d be a majority stakeholder.

They laugh.

Killhem – And your suggestion to fake a power cut, that was brilliant. Have you ever thought of writing thrillers?

Diggold – Or plays!

Killhem – I told you, together we’ll accomplish great things, Nurse Diggold.

Diggold – Please, call me Scarlet…

They kiss. Black.

Killhem – We don’t need another power cut now, it’s all over. You’re overdoing it a little, don’t you think?

Diggold – Doctor Killhem, I think this time it’s a real power cut.

Killhem – Poor Raymond is still under respiratory support…

Diggold – Indeed… If the power doesn’t come back soon… He won’t even be claiming his share…

Killhem – In that case, we should just wait a little longer…

They kiss again. We hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

They leave the room.

Light.

For a happy ending, we can see Raymond with his helmet on (played by the actor playing Quentin, for example) in the room next door quickly poke his head through the bathroom and then run out in the corridor.

 

The author

Jean-Pierre Martinez is a French playwright and scriptwriter. He was born in 1955 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. He wrote 62 comedies, three of them (Friday the 13th, Strip Poker and Him and Her), translated in English.

Jean-Pierre Martinez experienced first the stage as a drummer in various rock bands, before to become a semiologist in the field of advertising. He worked afterwards as television scriptwriter, and came back to the stage as a playwright. Today he is among the most played contemporaries playwrights in France, and several of his plays have already been translated in Spanish and English.

He graduated in Spanish and English litterature (Sorbonne), in linguistics (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales), in economics (Institut d’Études Politique de Paris) and scriptwriting (Conservatoire Européen d’Ecriture Audiovisuelle).

Jean-Pierre Martinez made the choice to offer all the texts of his plays to free download on his website : comediatheque.net

 

Other plays by the same author in English

 Friday the 13th

Him and Her

Strip Poker

Casket for two

 

 This text is protected under copyright laws.

Criminal copyright infringement will be investigated

and may result in a maximum penalty of up to 3 years in prison

and a EUR 300.000 fine.

Paris – November 2017

© La Comédi@thèque – ISBN 978-2-37705-113-7

http://comediatheque.net

Play available for free download

Friday the 13th

Posted février 10, 2016 By admin

A comedy by Jean-Pierre Martinez

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc 

John and Christine have invited two of their friends for dinner in their London home. Natalie arrives without her husband, distraught, having just heard that the plane bringing him home crashed at sea. With the potential widow they wait with baited breath for news confirming whether her husband is among the survivors … and learn that they are the winners of that evening’s super jackpot lottery draw. From then on, the operative words are “controlling emotions”. And that is just the beginning of this eventful evening, with twists, turns and revelations galore.

This text is available to read for free. However, an authorization is required from the author prior to any public performance, whether by professional or amateur companies. To get in touch with Jean-Pierre Martinez and ask an authorization to represent one of his works : 

 CONTACT FORM

 

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“Vendredi 13”, une valeur sûre du théâtre de boulevard à New York

***

Jean-Pierre Martinez

A semiologist and a writer, Jean-Pierre Martinez has created a unique theatrical universe borrowing and blending elements from light comedy, black humour and the absurd. A powder-keg of a mix that is seducing an ever increasing audience. A script-writer for the French television series Avocats & Associés (France 2), he has written over a hundred television screenplays and seventy comedies for the theatre. He is one of the most frequently played contemporary playwrights in France and his plays have been translated in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Friday the 13th is his biggest play and has been performed in theatres all over the world, from Paris to Broadway and from Buenos Aires to Mexico. All his plays are published by La Comediathèque and are available online (http://comediatheque.net). Originally from Paris but in love with Provence, he spends the best part of the year in Tarascon where he registered the Compagnie Libre Théâtre, of which he is a director along with Ruth Martinez.

***

FULL TEXT OF THE PLAY

This text is available to read for free. You must obtain the proper authorisations from the SACD (www.sacd.frprior to any public performance, whether by professional or amateur companies.

 

Friday the 13th

 

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

 

John and Christine have invited two of their friends for dinner in their London home. Natalie arrives without her husband, distraught, having just heard that the plane bringing him home crashed at sea. With the potential widow they wait with baited breath for news confirming whether her husband is among the survivors … and learn that they are the winners of that evening’s super jackpot lottery draw. From then on, the operative words are “controlling emotions”. And that is just the beginning of this eventful evening, with twists, turns and revelations galore.

                                                                                                                     

Characters

 

John – Christine – Natalie – Patrick (optional)

 

Alternate versions of this play are available

for 2 men and 1 woman

and for 2 men and 2 women

  

The living room of a chic boho flat still showing a few signs of its past splendor. An avant-garde painting is propped up against the back wall. Everything else is already packed in boxes. In a corner, a decorated Christmas tree. The stage is empty. The phone rings and we hear the recorded message:

 

John (off) – Hi! You have reached John and Christine. We’ve been held up at the fraud squad for a tax evasion investigation but leave us a message after the beep and we’ll get back to you when we’re released from custody. Over to you …

 

We hear the beep, followed by the message that the caller is leaving on the answering machine:

 

Patrick (off) – Hey, it’s Patrick. How are you? Oh shit, of course you can’t hear me … Listen, we’re still on for tonight but …

 

John enters the room, a Lidl bag in one hand and an ASDA bag in the other. Having no free hands he doesn’t pick up the phone, but stands listening to the rest of the message.

 

Patrick (off) – … we’ll arrive a little later than planned, maybe 8:30pm. My plane lands in Luton. I’ll take a train home, drop off my suitcase and jump in the car with Natalie … Thanks for the suitcase, by the way. I’ll bring it back with me. Right, see ya! And keep it simple guys … It’s just a casual dinner between friends …

 

John drops his bags in the kitchen and returns with house wine in a wine box. He removes his raincoat and takes a decanter from a cupboard. He opens the wine box, places a funnel on the decanter and starts to fill it. Christine enters the room.

 

Christine – Hi! How was your day?

 

John – Patrick called, they’ll be a little late.

 

Christine – Oh good, we could use the extra time, we’re not quite ready …

 

She removes her coat.

 

Christine – It’s freezing, isn’t it? It’s even colder in here than outside …

 

John – I turned off the heating. I thought we agreed we should try to save money?

 

Christine finally notices what he’s doing.

 

Christine (surprised) – What are you doing?

 

John – As you can see, I’m decanting the wine. Wine should breathe. Makes it taste better. Apparently.

 

Christine – Did you really need to splash out on a vintage …? Because all things being equal, I’d rather save on wine than heating …

 

John – It’s a house wine. Don’t ask me whose house. Not a local one for sure. £1.24, a liter at Lidl. A Christmas promotion…

 

Christine – So why are you decanting it?

 

John (narky) – It was recommended by the sommelier at Lidl. It will ensure this precious nectar releases all its subtle aromas of red fruit and vanilla. With a hint of grape finish … (seriously) Why do you think? Do you want me to put the wine box on the table and serve it from the tap?

 

Christine – Oh, right …

 

John – And anyway, it can’t hurt this plonk to get some oxygen. House wine is like tap water. It’s safer if it’s had time to rest before drinking. So the toxic fumes evaporate and the heavy metals fall to the bottom …

 

Christine – Did you remember to buy something for dinner?

 

John – I got an artichoke quiche from Iceland, just needs defrosting.

 

Christine – An artichoke quiche?

 

John – It was another promotion … We can serve it with a lettuce salad …

 

Christine – I’ll prepare the drinks.

 

Christine takes out the glasses.

 

Christine – Did you stop at the job center?

 

John – Yeah …

 

Christine – And?

 

John – They offered me a work experience placement …

 

Christine – Work experience …?

 

John – Restoration work …

 

Christine – But … you are a computer engineer!

 

John – Apparently one must be flexible to find work nowadays …

 

Christine – Well sure, but … Before you lost your job you were in management. What will you manage holding a can of turps and an old rag?

 

John – More like how will I manage …

 

Christine – Did you go to the interview?

 

John (speaking about the painting propped up against the wall) – I took the opportunity to have our painting appraised …

 

Christine – Oh, yes … the piece of shit you bought for a fortune decades years ago from your friend from art school …

 

John – It was right after his first suicide attempt … To help him out. And I thought it could only gain in value …

 

Christine – Well if it means we can afford to pay for heating … So, how much did he appraise this masterpiece for, your art expert?

 

John – A little over a hundred pounds …

 

Christine – But you bought if for 1,500!

 

John – Ah, but you know how much Van Gogh’s paintings increased in value after his death!

 

Christine – Let’s just hope your genius painter friend succeeds at killing himself before we die of exposure… (Sighing) We can’t even hope that the frame will be worth anything because there isn’t one …

 

John – That’s the problem with modern art …

 

Christine – Speaking of which, I hope Patrick will pay us back the 1,000 Pounds you generously loaned him. It would pay for the storage unit while we wait for the council flat that Labour Party cousin of yours promised us… Did you remind him?

 

John – About the council flat?

 

Christine – Patrick! About the 1,000 Pounds!

 

John – I’m not sure it’s the right time … It’s not easy for him either at the moment. You know that British Telecom just relocated him to a call center in Manchester? Can you imagine? Manchester! He was head of HR in the City … and Natalie only has her part time teaching job …

 

Christine – What about me? Financial advisor for Wonga.com isn’t exactly a stable position … Try telling clients how to invest their money when you work for a company whose bad working practices are bringing it close to bankruptcy…

 

John – Okay, I’ll remind him tonight …

 

The phone rings.

 

Christine – That must be them … (She picks up the phone) Hello …? Yes, hi Natalie, how are you? … Oh, okay … No, no … No worries, Natalie … Okay, we’ll wait for you … See you in a minute, Natalie … (She hangs up) That was Natalie.

 

John – I don’t know why, but when you picked up the phone and said ‘Hi Natalie’ I immediately thought it might be her …

 

Christine – Patrick’s flight is delayed so she’s driving here on her own …

 

John – What about Patrick?

 

Christine – She left a message on his voicemail for him to meet us here. We’ll start the drinks without him.

 

John – I don’t understand why he had to take a plane to come back from Manchester …

 

Christine – Especially since they land in Luton. But you know, now with low cost airlines a return trip to Manchester is cheaper than a Tube ticket…

 

John comes close to her and takes her in his arms.

 

John – Come on, we’ll get through this.

 

Christine – I know … And as long as we’ve got each other nothing bad can happen, right?

 

John – I’d rather drink house wine with you than sip Cristal champagne with anyone else.

 

Christine – Our fortune will turn, I can feel it. It’s almost Christmas. And it’s Friday the 13th today, isn’t it?

 

John – Maybe we’ll win the lottery.

 

Christine – We don’t play …

 

John – I bought a ticket the other day when we went to visit your mother in Brighton … I played my job seeker’s number …

 

Christine – I feel better already…

 

They kiss.

 

John – What about Natalie? Is she on her way?

 

Christine – She’s been driving around for 15 minutes looking for a place to park …

 

John – I know, poor thing, it’s really hard to find a parking space when you’re driving a Smart … I have an idea: she could learn how to parallel park and then she’d have more options …

 

Christine starts placing bottles on the table. The doorbell rings.

 

Christine – See? Don’t be mean… Can you get the door …?

 

John opens the door.

 

John – Hi Natalie! What happened? You look like you’ve seen a ghost …

 

Natalie enters with John. She has a bottle of champagne in one hand and does look like she’s about to collapse.

 

Natalie (in tears) – You think you’re joking …

 

Christine walks over to Natalie, panicked.

 

Christine – What’s wrong Natalie?

 

Natalie – I was about to turn off the radio in the car before stepping out … It was the news … (a pause) Patrick’s plane crashed in the Channel …

 

John – The Channel?

 

Christine – Are you sure it was his plane?

 

John – He was flying from Manchester …

 

Natalie – It was a low cost carrier, with a stopover in Brussels. They gave the flight number and the name of the company. There’s no doubt. The plane disappeared over the Channel …

 

Natalie bursts into tears. John and Christine exchange desperate looks, not knowing what to do.

 

Christine – Look, they might still find him …

 

John – The Channel isn’t that big …

 

Christine – Maybe the pilot managed to land the plane on the water …

 

John – Between two oil tankers …

 

Christine – It’s happened before …

 

John – Not very often, but it has happened …

 

Natalie (weakly) – You think so …?

 

Christine – What did they say on the radio? Did they say there were no survivors?

 

Natalie – They don’t know yet …

 

Christine – See? There you go!

 

John – And flying remains the safest way to travel! According to statistics when you fly you only have about one chance in a million to die. About as much as winning the lottery so…

 

Christine looks at him, appalled.

 

Natalie (crushed) – Why did it have to be Patrick … I told him not to fly on Friday the 13th …

 

John – On the other hand it’s only the Channel … On the plus side they’ll be able to find the black box …

 

Natalie breaks down again.

 

Natalie – Oh my god, but what will I do without him? With two children and a mortgage …

 

John and Christine, powerless, look at each other, at a loss for what to do.

 

Natalie (pathetic) – And we still owe you 1,000 Pounds …

 

Christine – What are you talking about? That doesn’t matter!

 

Natalie hands the bottle of champagne to John.

 

Natalie – Here, I brought a bottle of champagne to thank you. If only I’d known …

 

John – Cristal … Shit, that’s the good stuff.

 

Natalie – It’s a nightmare … Tell me this isn’t happening!

 

John (suddenly suspicious) – It’s not a joke, is it?

 

Christine throws daggers at him.

 

Christine – Come, sit down. Let’s see if we can catch the news on TV and see if we can find out more.

 

Christine turns on the TV. It’s the adverts.

 

Advert (off) – Can you tell the difference between these two caskets? It’s the price! Use PriceComparison.com, because life is expensive but death doesn’t have to be …

 

Christine quickly changes the channel.

 

Voice (off) – Leo, this isn’t your lucky day …

 

Natalie – I’m a Leo …

 

Voice (off) – Avoid travelling …

 

Christine – But it wasn’t you on the plane …

 

Voice (off) – But if you really must travel, then take the train rather than flying …

 

Natalie – Patrick is a Leo too …

 

Christine – Let’s listen to the radio instead …

 

Voice (off) – … 60 million Pounds. That’s the amount that the winner of today’s Friday the 13th super draw will take home. Stay tuned for the draw that will take place in a few minutes …

 

Christine changes the station.

 

Newsreader (off) – We are still without news from flight 31 ½ from Discount Travel flying from Manchester to London, via Brussels and Dublin …

 

Natalie – See, it’s really him …

 

Newsreader (off) – The pilot appears to have triggered a distress signal just before the plane disappeared off the radars. Of course we’ll keep you informed as soon as we have more information …

 

Christine turns off the radio.

 

Christine – We should wait … There’s nothing else we can do for now … Let me get you a drink, it’ll make you feel better.

 

John – Maybe not the champagne …

 

Natalie (seeing the decanter) – I’ll have a glass of wine. Since it’s already open …

 

Christine – Are you sure you don’t want something else?

 

Natalie – Wine’ll be fine, really …

 

John pours a glass and hands it to Natalie who drinks it all in one go. The other two watch her, a little worried.

 

Natalie (to John) – See, with all that’s happening to me I can’t appreciate anything … I can’t even taste a good vintage …

 

John – Yeah …

 

Natalie (suddenly panicked) – Oh my god, my mother!

 

Christine – She was in the plane too?

 

Natalie – The children are with her. If they’re watching TV …

 

Natalie grabs her mobile and presses some buttons.

 

Natalie – Hello, Mum? Yes, I know, I know … Are the children watching TV? They’re in bed? (Breathing a sigh of relief) I really don’t want to talk about it now… I’ll call you back, okay…? Listen, keep your condolences for later … He isn’t dead yet…! Yes, it’s likely but it’s not confirmed so if you would please … You’ve always hated him anyway … How many times have you told me he wasn’t the right man for me … that I could have done better … Oh, piss off!

 

Natalie hangs up, furious. John and Christine look at her feeling both a little sorry and a little embarrassed.

 

Natalie – She could never stand Patrick … I’m sure that, deep down, she’s happy this is happening …

 

Christine – Come on, you don’t mean that …

 

Natalie – On our wedding day she pretended my father was ill so they didn’t have to come to the ceremony.

 

John – But your father was really ill, wasn’t he? Didn’t he die a few months later …?

 

Natalie – Yes, on the day I gave birth to Max … Just to piss me off …

 

Christine – Do you want me to get you a sedative?

 

Natalie – I’m sorry to bother you with all this … I don’t want to ruin your evening. (She stands up to leave). It’s best if I leave.

 

Christine – What are you talking about, Natalie? We’re friends, aren’t we? What are friends for if you can’t count on them in situations like this?

 

Natalie (sitting back down) – I knew I could count on you … And I’ll admit that I wasn’t looking forward to staying at home all alone, staring at the Christmas tree, hanging on to every word coming out of the radio, waiting for the verdict …

 

John – Speaking of which, we should probably try again in case there’s more news …

 

Natalie – I wonder if I really want to know … (A pause) Go on, turn it on …

 

Christine – Okay.

 

Christine turns on the radio.

 

Newsreader (off) – …planes flying over the area have spotted a large oil slick on the surface of the water. It’s not clear whether it comes from the plane of the Not Too Expensive Travel Discount Airways which, as you know, crashed in the Channel just under an hour ago. We are on stand-by for an update from our roaming reporter who joined one of the rescue helicopters … Meanwhile, in other news, the lottery numbers …

 

Natalie – An oil slick … That means the plan did crash … How can there be any survivors?

 

John and Christine don’t know what to say to lift her spirits.

 

Newsreader (off) – … and the winning numbers are 1 5 2 7 9 6 and the bonus number is 10.

 

John stops in his tracks.

 

Christine – If the pilot managed to land the plane on the water, it’s possible that some passengers were able to exit before it sunk to the bottom …

 

Newsreader (off) – And the lucky winner will pocket the tidy sum of 60 million Pounds. Enough to plan the future with …

 

Christine turns off the radio.

 

John – It’s …

 

Natalie – What?

 

John – No, nothing …

 

Christine – You’ve been on a plane before. Remember what the flight attendants tell you before takeoff? The oxygen masks that fall automatically, the life vests under your seat, the emergency exits on both sides of the aircraft, the evacuation slides, you know …? They don’t have emergency procedures for nothing … They plan for everything …

 

John takes out a Jobcenter card and looks at it more or less discreetly.

 

Natalie – Flight attendants … Ha … Sure, Patrick looks at them…But listening to what they have to say? … You know men …

 

John (to Christine who isn’t paying him any attention) – Fuck!

 

Natalie – Take John for example. Do you know what they say?

 

John is totally taken by surprise.

 

John – What? Who?

 

Natalie (to Christine) – See … What did I tell you …

 

Christine (to John) – The flight attendants, what do they say before takeoff? In case of … loss of cabin pressure, for example.

 

John (losing his mind) – They … the parachutes are under your seat, the snorkel will fall from the ceiling, the flippers are in the glove box, is that what you mean?

 

Christine looks at John reproachfully.

 

Christine (to Natalie) – And no one called you?

 

Natalie – Patrick is probably at the bottom of the Channel by now. How is he supposed to call me?

 

John is miles away and has turned on the TV again.

 

Newsreader (off) – Once again, the winning numbers for tonight’s draw, Friday the 13th, are 1 5 2 7 9 6 and the bonus number is 10. The jackpot of 60 million Pounds is…

 

John checks his Jobcenter card once again.

 

John – Oh fuck …

 

Christine turns off the TV.

 

Christine – No, I mean … There must be a support unit … In these cases there’s always a support unit … To notify the families … Support them … You know …

 

John (to Christine) – Can I have a word?

 

Christine – What?

 

John – In private …

 

Natalie’s mobile phone rings.

 

Christine – See, that’s probably them right now …

 

Natalie – I’m not sure I want to know …

 

The phone continues to ring.

 

Christine – Do you want me to take the call for you?

 

Natalie – Oh, would you …?

 

Christine takes the call.

 

Christine – Hello … Yes … No … Oh, okay … Oh, right … No, no … Yes, yes, of course we’re very happy. Right, thank you …

 

Christine puts the phone down.

 

Natalie – So?

 

Christine (in a trance) – It was your gynaecologist … With your blood results …

 

Natalie – Well?

 

Christine – Well … You’re pregnant …

 

Natalie (falling to pieces) – Oh my God …

 

Christine – Do you want another glass of wine?

 

Natalie – Yes, please…

 

Christine refills Natalie’s glass.

 

John (to Christine) – Err … I really need to talk to you about something …

 

Christine (to John) – Do you really think this is the time?

 

John – It’s very important, I promise …

 

Natalie notices the painting.

 

Natalie – It’s very strange, this painting, don’t you think …?

 

Christine – Um … Yes, a bit, I guess …

 

Christine hands the glass of wine to Natalie.

 

Natalie – The painter must have been seriously depressed. (To John) Is it a friend of yours?

 

John – Yes, sort of … He’s Hungarian, I think.

 

Natalie – Oh yes, you can tell. (To John) Did he kill himself?

 

Christine – Not yet, unfortunately …

 

Natalie empties her glass in one gulp.

 

Natalie (to Christine) – Here, pour me another one …

 

Christine – I don’t know whether you should be drinking that much. In your condition …

 

John (who doesn’t know what to say) – So, you’re expecting a little one?

 

Christine glares at him.

 

John (to Christine) – I really need to speak with you …

 

Natalie – You’re right, I’m getting dizzy. I’m going on the balcony for some fresh air.

 

Christine – Do you want me to come with you?

 

Natalie – Thanks, but I need to be alone for a while …

 

Christine – Sure.

 

Natalie goes out onto the balcony. John waits impatiently for her to disappear from view.

 

John – You’ll never guess what just happened…!

 

Christine (absentmindedly) – Pregnant … Can you believe it?

 

John – You’re pregnant? But that’s wonderful! See, only fifteen minutes ago I would have likened this to a natural disaster. But now I see the positive side of everything. Do you know why?

 

Christine – I’m not the one that’s pregnant!

 

John – Oh that’s right … My bad …

 

Christine – It’s true, you actually don’t listen to a word we say…

 

John – Who’s pregnant then?

 

Christine – Natalie! Can you imagine? On the same day, she finds out that her husband has disappeared in a plane crash and that she’s having his child …

 

John – How do you know it’s his?

 

Christine (gobsmacked) – I don’t know … Call it female intuition…? Since the first two children are his, and Patrick is her husband, it’s the first name that came to me. I know, stupid, huh?

 

John – Anyway, that’s not the point … Guess what?

 

Christine – What?

 

John – We won!

 

Christine (looking towards the balcony) – Oh my God!

 

John – I know … shocking, right?

 

Christine – Natalie! She’s going over the railing!

 

John turns around and sees the situation.

 

John – Oh bloody hell! What a pain in the ass, this one … Let her jump so we can get this over with. We’re on the first floor anyway, she won’t get hurt, not really …

 

Not listening to him, Christine moves towards the window.

 

Christine – Natalie, please! Don’t do it! Think of your children! It’s Christmas after all …

 

Natalie – Promise me that you’ll take care of them if I jump. That you won’t let them be taken into care?

 

Christine – Yes, I promise …

 

John – Great, what next…?

 

Christine – I mean, no don’t jump! (To John) Say something!

 

John – Couldn’t your mother take the kids?

 

Natalie – I’d rather they went into care.

 

Christine – We should probably call emergency services …

 

John – Hang on, it’s not a matter of life or death. I’ll get her down.

 

Natalie – Don’t come near me or I jump!

 

Christine – What do we do?

 

John – Hang on, I’ll be right back …

 

Christine – Don’t leave me alone!

 

John disappears in the hallway.

 

Natalie (poignantly) – I’m going to crash land too … Like a plane without wings … I’ll be reunited with my Patrick …

 

Christine – Do you really think that’s what he would have wanted? I mean, he would probably prefer you stay alive to take care of the children. And what if he isn’t dead. Imagine if he rings the doorbell only to find you mangled under the balcony.

 

It’s not the doorbell that rings but Natalie’s mobile phone.

 

Christine – See? I bet it’s him … Go on, take the call …

 

Natalie (hesitating) – Yes …?

 

Christine (in the direction John left) – I hope it’s not her gynaecologist again. To tell her it’s twins …

 

Natalie – Yes, this is she … Are you sure? Okay. No, no, don’t worry. Sure, thanks, I’ll stay by the phone …

 

Christine – What is it?

 

Natalie – It was them … The support unit …

 

Christine – And?

 

Natalie – They found a few survivors … Patrick could be one of them …

 

Christine – But that’s wonderful! See? Imagine you’d jumped, in a moment of desperation …

 

John returns.

 

John – Yes, imagine that … She might have sprained an ankle or something …

 

Christine – Come on, get down from there … (To John) The support unit just called. They found some survivors …

 

John – I know …

 

Christine – You heard?

 

John – I’m the one who called her.

 

Christine – What?

 

John – I had to find a way to get her down …

 

Natalie walks into the room.

 

Natalie – You’re right … I have to keep hoping for the best. I have to believe Patrick is still alive. I know I do …

 

Christine glares at John.

 

Christine – Maybe don’t get too carried away just yet… And how do they know Patrick might be among the survivors?

 

Natalie – They spotted a bloke hanging on to a suitcase. He’s shouting: Natalie! Natalie!…

 

Christine glares at John again.

 

Natalie – How do they know my name?

 

Christine – Good question, how do they know your name …?

 

John – I’ll just shut the door, alright? And don’t let her near it again, okay?

 

Christine – What are we going to tell her when the real support unit calls?

 

John – There’s bound to be more than one passenger on board whose wife is called Natalie. Not to mention their lovers …

 

Natalie – I completely forgot to take down their phone number … I wanted to ask them if I could come help with the search. Oh wait, I can press redial …

 

Christine (authoritative) – I wouldn’t do that if I were you …

 

Natalie is surprised.

 

Christine – They must be completely overwhelmed, you know. As soon as they have concrete news they’ll call you …

 

John – I really need to speak to you.

 

Christine – Go ahead …

 

John – Privately …

 

Christine – We can’t leave her alone. Imagine if the police call to confirm Patrick’s death and she decides to really jump over the balcony?

 

John – Then let’s go talk on the balcony!

 

Christine – I’m disappointed, John. Very disappointed … I thought you were a better friend than that. This is Patrick we’re talking about! Your friend from school! And Natalie, my best friend! They were best man and maid of honor at our wedding. I think we can give up an evening together to help her in her pain and misfortune!

 

John – We won the lottery.

 

Christine – How much?

 

John – 60 million.

 

Natalie – I’ll have that second drink, in the end. All these emotions …

 

Christine (harshly) – Well, you know where the decanter is by now, don’t you? Or do you want me to bring you the wine box with a straw?

 

Natalie takes it on the chin.

 

Natalie – Okay, I think I’ll leave you to it … I don’t want to overstay my welcome.

 

Christine pulls herself together.

 

Christine – I’m sorry. That’s not what I meant. (She pours Natalie another glass of wine) We’re all a bit in shock, aren’t we? You should eat something too, or you’re going to be sick … (To John quietly while Natalie empties her glass) I think it’s time to offload your artichoke quiche …

 

John leaves for the kitchen.

 

Christine – We were very close to him too. So naturally we’re also deeply upset by Patrick’s death (Correcting herself) I mean, by the possibility of his disappearance … At the same time, one should know how to move on, don’t you think? You only live once, and all that.

 

John returns with a slice of pie and hands it to Christine.

 

Christine (handing the slice of pie to Natalie) – You have to learn to enjoy the good things in life …

 

Natalie takes a bite of pie.

 

Natalie – It’s not bad … What is it?

 

Christine (hypocritical) – John does the cooking. What is it again…?

 

Natalie (with her mouth full) – Oh, as long as it’s not artichoke. It’s the only food I’m allergic to. I can’t even remember what it tastes like. The only time I ate some was at my grandmother’s in Wales. I had to be taken to A&E …

 

The other two look at each other with dismay.

 

Natalie – The good thing about artichoke is that you’re not about to eat one without knowing…

 

Christine rips the slice of pie from Natalie’s hand and mouth.

 

Christine – Right, are you ready for dessert …?

 

Natalie, caught off-guard, doesn’t seem to be feeling well.

 

Natalie – I think I’m going to throw up … See, normally I can hold my drink without any problem. Especially with delicious food like that … Must be the stress …

 

She leaves in the direction of the bathroom.

Once Natalie is out of earshot, Christine unleashes her excitement.

 

Christine – Are you sure?

 

John (showing his Jobcenter card) – My Jobcenter number! They drew the same numbers! They just announced it on the radio! Didn’t you hear? 60 million Pounds, can you believe it? We have enough to buy an Airbus! Well, maybe a second hand one. But in good condition …

 

Christine – But that’s crazy!

 

John pours two glasses of wine and gives one to Christine to toast.

 

John – Here, have a taste of Lidl’s house wine for the last time, to remember what it’s like. Because you’re not about to have it again any time soon …

 

They toast.

 

Christine – It’s unbelievable … It’s not a joke, right?

 

John – I find it hard to believe too. But I checked three times. I swear, it’s ours! We won! Friday the 13th Super Draw is ours!

 

Natalie comes back.

 

Christine – You’ll never guess what we just found out!

 

Natalie – They called? It was really him in the water? He’s alive?

 

John (embarrassed) – Err, no … They aren’t quite sure yet …

 

Christine – But they spotted a suitcase that looks a lot like his. A Vuitton suitcase. Floating on the surface …

 

Natalie – So what’s the good news?

 

Christine – Well … It’s … (Very excited, bordering on hysterical) We’re going to get the suitcase back!

 

John tries to calm Christine down with a hand motion.

 

John – Forgive her … Her nerves …

 

Natalie – You’re right. This wait is unbearable … Even if Patrick is still alive, just picturing him all alone, clinging to his suitcase, in the middle of the Channel, in the depths of winter … While we’re sitting comfortably here in the warmth … it leaves me cold … (A pause) Actually it’s not that warm, is it? Or is it me?

 

John (with a knowing look) – We’ll be able to turn the heating back on, right, Christine? I’ll crank it right up.

 

He leaves to turn on the boiler.

 

Natalie – How long do you thing one can last, in December, in the freezing Channel waters?

 

Christine – It depends … He was rather sensitive to cold, wasn’t he?

 

Natalie – Oh my God…

 

John returns.

 

John – I’ve turned the heating right up… (Winking in Christine’s direction) That way, if we have to leave unexpectedly for warmer climes we won’t suffer from thermal shock …

 

Natalie – You’re going on holiday…?

 

John – No, well…Actually, why not?

 

Natalie – If I were you I’d avoid flying …

 

Christine – Yes, it’s probably safer … Sod’s Law and all that… After all, a nice spa break at the Best Western in Saint Ives isn’t bad either … Recharge our batteries ready for a new life …

 

Natalie – You’re right to enjoy it while you can … You never know what life will throw at you… You’re having dinner with friends on a Friday evening and, just like that, you become a widow…

 

Christine – Yep … (Hysterical) Or multimillionaires!

 

Natalie – Oh no, we couldn’t afford life insurance … Actually, he had mentioned it recently … So the children would be able to afford university if something happened to him … He must have felt something … A bad feeling perhaps ..

 

John – Yeah … Well, I can tell you we certainly didn’t feel it coming … It came right out of the blue …

 

Christine (to Natalie) – You know what they say: the darkest hour is before the dawn …

 

John – Being unprepared, it’s quite a shock … You have to find a way to cope …

 

Natalie – Do you have one?

 

Christine – One what?

 

Natalie – Life insurance! Or death insurance, more like …

 

John – We have better than that, believe me.

 

Natalie – I swear that if he makes it, I’ll see life entirely differently …

 

Christine – So will we, I promise.

 

Natalie – All those little sacrifices that we impose on ourselves daily, thinking we’ll reap the benefits later … Bollocks to that … We’d be better off living hand to mouth … Without thinking of tomorrow …

 

John – You’re right. Tomorrow I’ll quit my job.

 

Natalie – I thought you were on the dole …

 

John – Yeah, well I’ll stop looking for work.

 

Natalie – At the same time, we need to earn a living. And save a little. Because if we rely on government pensions … Oh my God … I have a feeling that Patrick isn’t going to cost the government a whole lot, pension-wise …

 

Christine – Come on, don’t say that …

 

Natalie – How am I going to make ends meet, with two little ones…

 

Christine – We’re here for you… Right, John…? If you want, we can take one off your hands, lighten your load a little!

 

John (not enthralled) – Yes, well …

 

Natalie – That’s nice of you but … We already owe you 1,000 Pounds…

 

Christine – You know what? Consider it a gift. We won’t miss it, will we? Right, John?

 

John – Yeah, well, no… All right … Go ahead, it’s yours…

 

Natalie (touched) – That means a lot to me, to know that I can count on friends like you … I know how much that 1,000 Pounds means to you … Especially now. With John out of work. You know, if I asked the bank for a 1,000 Pound loan I’m not sure it would be approved. And with all the profits they make off our backs … And you … You don’t even have the means to turn on the heating in December … Except when you have guests … Actually, it’s getting a little warm in here now, don’t you think? I wouldn’t want you to end up with an eye-watering heating bill on my behalf…

 

John – I’ll turn it down a bit …

 

John leaves for a few seconds.

 

Natalie – What am I going to tell the children…

 

Christine – Aren’t they asleep?

 

Natalie – But they’re bound to wake up one day …

 

Christine – Listen, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I can’t believe he died. Not tonight …

 

Natalie – Why not tonight?

 

Christine – I don’t know, it’s … like you said before about your Dad. That he died on the day your son was born. Just to piss you off.

 

Natalie – You think Patrick decided to be in a plane crash tonight just to ruin our evening?

 

John returns.

 

Christine (happy to change the subject) – Maybe we should turn the TV back on, to get confirmation … There might be a repeat of the lottery draw … I mean, the news …

 

Natalie’s mobile phone rings, interrupting Christine who was making for the TV. Natalie, frozen, considers not answering, then picks up.

 

Natalie – Yes …? Yes, this is she … (To Christine and John) It’s them! The support unit …. Yes…? Yes, I’m listening …

 

The other two look very uncomfortable.

 

Natalie – But you had told me that … All right … Okay … Thank you …

 

She hangs up.

 

Natalie – They spotted five survivors, hanging to pieces of the plane … Maybe a sixth one …

 

John – The bonus number.

 

Natalie – They’re attempting a helicopter rescue but the weather conditions are very bad over the Channel … They haven’t ID’ed them yet …

 

Christine – They’ll let you know as soon as they proceed with the draw … I mean the rescue!

 

Natalie – Yes, you’re right … It’s exactly like gambling. This wait is unbearable. I feel like I’ve played the lottery and I’m waiting to see if my numbers come out …

 

Christine – I know … That’s also how I felt when I married John … I mean … How many were they in the plane?

 

Natalie – I don’t know … It was a small plane … London-Manchester …

 

John – Let’s say they were a hundred passengers. If there’s five survivors … That’s 20%. Much better odds than the lottery.

 

Natalie – I never had any luck gambling …

 

Christine – You know what they say: You have to be in it to win it …

 

Natalie – Thank goodness you’re here, otherwise …

 

Christine – You don’t want to go and rest a little in our bedroom?

 

Natalie – What if they call back …?

John – It could be hours, you know … What with the storm and all… A sea rescue like this one is a very delicate operation … They’re not even sure they’ll get to them alive. And in water that is only two or three degrees as well…

 

Natalie – Anyway, I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

 

Christine – I can get you a sleeping pill, if you want.

 

Natalie – I don’t think that’ll be enough. In the state I’m in …

 

Christine – You could take two or three. They’re very light …

 

Natalie – That’s very sweet, but I don’t want to take over your bedroom on top of everything else …

 

Christine – We won’t be able to sleep either, so it doesn’t matter …

 

Natalie – Thank you … Honestly, I didn’t think it would upset you as much as me … (Checking her mobile) Shit, I set it to silent mode. Out of habit … I’ll check and see if I have any voice mail …

 

She moves away to check her mailbox.

 

John (to Christine) – We’ll never be able to get rid of her …

 

Natalie – No, nothing …

 

Christine – Well … given that they only called five minutes ago …

 

John – And to be honest, you know … 20% … Might as well start preparing yourself for the worst …

 

Natalie – But you were just saying that …

 

Christine – We wouldn’t want to raise your hopes … Right, John?

 

John – I have to say, it looks like he’ll be sleeping with the fishes tonight …

 

Christine – What John is trying to say, in his own words, is that if Patrick is really dead, you’ll find out soon enough … Really, you should go home and lie down a bit … Do you want me to call you a taxi?

 

Natalie – No, I drove here, in the Smart.

 

Christine – Oh that’s right …

 

Natalie – But I don’t know whether I’m fit to drive right now.

 

John and Christine exchange looks of exasperation.

 

Natalie – You’re right, I’ll go and lie down for a bit. I won’t be able to sleep but … I think I need to be alone for a while …

 

John – So do we … I mean, of course, we understand how you feel. Right, Christine?

 

Natalie – I’m going …

 

Christine – Right …

 

Natalie leaves the room under John and Christine’s sympathetic gaze who, as soon as she’s disappeared from view, explode with glee.

 

John – Fucking hell! 60 million!

 

Natalie walks back in the room. John and Christine freeze.

 

Natalie – I forgot my mobile …

 

Natale leaves the room again.

 

Christine – I won’t be able to believe it until I see the winning ticket. Show me …

 

John – I’ll get it … (He makes to leave the room) Shit, it’s in the bedroom … With any luck she’s falling asleep and will get off our tits for a while. Let’s not wake her up … How about we open this bottle of Cristal while we wait? To celebrate …

 

Christine – In the bedroom? I didn’t see anything … Tell me you didn’t lose it, this ticket? Imagine if it fell from the bedside table … and ended up in the Hoover. I changed the bag yesterday, and I emptied the bins this morning.

 

John – No worries … It’s safely tucked away. (About to open the champagne) I’ll try not to make too much noise with the cork … don’t want to wake her up.

 

Christine – Safely tucked away where?

 

John – In my suitcase. Top of the wardrobe … Inside pocket … I didn’t think to take it out when we came back from Brighton … I didn’t even remember I’d played the lottery to be honest …

 

Christine (haggard) – Not the Vuitton suitcase?

 

John – Yes, of course … My suitcase … My only suitcase … Don’t tell me you also hoovered the inside of my suitcase … (Finally seeing Christine’s anguish) What?

 

Christine – Patrick needed a suitcase to go to Manchester … So Natalie asked if I could lend him one …

 

John releases his grip on the champagne cork which pops loudly.

 

John – You lent him my suitcase? You let him take my Vuitton suitcase on this shitty plane from this shitty low cost carrier?

 

Christine – Okay, well for starters the Vuitton, I remind you, is a fake … A counterfeit that we bought in Rome on the way back from that ‘Islands of Italy’ cruise.

 

John – With our 60 million Pound ticket inside! We could have bought the factory that makes the real suitcases …

 

Natalie returns.

 

Natalie – I heard like a bang … It woke me up … (Seeing their fallen faces) What’s wrong…? You have news, is that it? You have bad news and you don’t know how to tell me?

 

John (sulking) – Yes, actually …

 

Natalie – Oh my God…!

 

Christine – Not really, I mean, it’s not about Patrick …

 

John – I wouldn’t say that …

 

Christine – John didn’t know that I had given Patrick his suitcase … So it’s only natural that he would be shocked … Emotionally shocked I mean … Imagine your very best friend hanging on to your suitcase in the middle of the Channel … And the sharks circling in …

 

Natalie – There’s sharks in the Channel?

 

Christine – I don’t know, probably …

 

Natalie – Oh my God, that’s right, the suitcase … We already owe you 1,000 Pounds that we’re not about to pay you back, and on top of that you’ll never see your Vuitton suitcase again. Thank goodness it was a fake …

 

Christine – But there’s still hope, right? (Looking at John) I mean, that they find Patrick … with the suitcase.

 

John – You think…?

 

Christine – A suitcase floats much better than a corpse! Remember those images on TV after a plane crash. What do you see floating on the surface of the water? Suitcases!

 

John – If they’re not too heavy, maybe …

 

Christine (to Natalie) – Was Patrick’s suitcase very full?

 

Natalie – He was only spending one night at the Travel Lodge hotel in Manchester, so he didn’t take much …

 

The other two regain some hope.

 

Natalie – Apart from all his sales catalogues, obviously. Paper weighs a ton. I couldn’t even lift the suitcase in the boot of the car when he left. Thankfully it was the kind with wheels. You know, for a fake it really was good quality. You were right. Why waste your money on the real stuff … Why do you want to know the contents of his suitcase?

 

Christine – Well … If it can float then Patrick might be using it as a floating device. Like a life ring …

 

Natalie – Oh, well no … Might as well have been hanging on to an anvil … And in any case, the luggage goes in the hold, doesn’t it? Sinks like a stone with the rest of the plane …

 

John glares at Christine who is devastated.

 

Christine – Sometimes they manage to locate the wreck and they bring it back to the surface. To find the black box, determine what caused the crash, and retrieve the suitcases – I mean the bodies – so the families can grieve …

 

John – You think so …?

 

Christine – Yes, of course! I don’t know why but I’m still hopeful. Right, Natalie?

 

Natalie – Yes, well …

 

Christine – It’s Friday the 13th after all!

 

Natalie – I never understood if you’re meant to have good luck or bad luck on Friday the 13th

 

Christine – Obviously a little bit of both!

 

Jerome (to Natalie) – Are you 100% sure that’s how he traveled?

 

Natalie – With Very Low Cost Travel Discount Airways? Yes, unfortunately … I even bought his ticket on the internet …

 

John (hysterical) – With my suitcase, for fuck’s sake! With my fucking suitcase!

 

Natalie is a little unsettled. Christine signals to John to calm down.

 

Natalie – Okay, I think I’m really going to leave now … I’ll spend the night at my mother’s. At least I’ll be with the children when they wake up. And if I have any news, good or bad, I’ll let you know. Promise.

 

John – 60 million … 60 milllion for fuck’s sake! Tell me this is a nightmare …

 

Christine (to Natalie) – Yes, it might be best …

 

Natalie – Right, I’ll let you two go to bed …

 

John – Because you really think we’re going to be able to sleep now?

 

Natalie – I’ll call you tomorrow morning … You’ll find out soon enough … Me too actually. You’re right Christine. It could be hours. I’ll take a sleeping tablet when I get to Mum’s…

 

John – Oh no you won’t! Call us right away! Right, Christine? We’re not going to sit here and wait like a couple of fucking idiots …

 

Natalie – Honestly, I am very touched … that you are that upset. I know that Patrick was a friend … but I didn’t think that his disappearance would affect you that much.

 

John – I’m turning the TV back on …

 

Newsreader (off) – And the winning numbers are …

 

John – Yeah, alright, we get it …

 

Natalie (worried, to Christine) – Maybe you should give him a sedative too?

 

John changes the channel.

 

Newsreader (off) – It has now been confirmed that there are no survivors following the Super Low Cost Travel Discount Airways crash. The few people who had been spotted clinging to a makeshift raft, and where previously thought to be survivors, only turned out to be refugees trying to reach the UK by sea. They were naturally immediately put on a plane back to their home country. A plane from the same airline, actually. The least we can do is to wish them a safe flight home … In other news, the winning ticket for the lottery still hasn’t been claimed and …

 

John turns off the TV, devastated.

 

John – Oh fuck … No survivors …

 

Natalie’s mobile phone rings. She pulls it out and looks at the number.

 

Natalie – If it’s my mother, I’m not answering …

 

John – My Vuitton suitcase …

 

Natalie – It’s him …

 

Christine – Him who?

 

Natalie – Patrick … Someone’s calling from his phone …

 

Christine – No way …

 

John (impressed) – What’s your mobile carrier?

 

Christine – Well go on, answer it!

 

Natalie, white as a sheet, takes the call.

 

Natalie – Yes …

 

John and Christine are hanging to her every word.

 

Natalie – Patrick? But where are you calling from? Listen, I can barely hear you … You sound like you’re calling from very far away…

 

John – No shit … They said there weren’t any survivors …

 

Natalie – Can you hear me …? Patrick …? Hello…? Hello …? (She turns to the others with a dramatic look on her face) We were cut off …

 

Deadly silence.

 

Christine – Are you sure it was him?

 

Natalie – I don’t know … The connection was very bad …

 

John – I bet …

 

Natalie – In any case, the call came from his mobile. It’s his number…

 

John – The bonus number …

 

Christine – Maybe he fell out of the plane … and managed to hang on to something …

 

John – His suitcase maybe …

 

Christine – And he’s using the last of his battery to call you.

 

Natalie – Oh my god … But they said there weren’t any survivors … I was just getting used to the idea …

 

Christine – A miracle is always possible.

 

John – A miracle … They would have to locate him before the sharks start eating him …

 

Natalie – Can you imagine Patrick, in this storm, alone, in the middle of the Atlantic…

 

John – The Channel …

 

Christine – The Channel isn’t that large …

 

Natalie – In the middle of the night, hanging on to your suitcase, lost in this ocean …

 

John – The Channel, for goodness’sake!

 

Natalie – He might have drifted … How are they going to find him …?

 

John – Might as well look for a suitcase in a haystack …

 

Natalie – I’ll try to call him back … Even with a low battery he might have time to describe where he is. It will help the search parties …

 

Christine – On the other hand, if he’s lost in the middle of the Pacific …

 

John – The Channel, for fuck’s sake!

 

Natalie dials the number and waits anxiously.

 

Natalie – It’s ringing … Oh my God, it’s going to his voicemail. I feel like I’m hearing a voice from beyond the grave … Hello, Patrick? If you get this message, know how much I love you. And the children too. Patrick, please try and hang on. For me. For your children. For you too, of course. Just long enough for the rescue teams to find you. I love you lots, darling …

 

John and Christine look at each other, moved. But Natalie hesitates and doesn’t hang up.

 

Natalie – I wanted to tell you something else, Patrick. To get it off my chest. Because I may never have the opportunity again. Or the courage. I cheated on you once. Just once. But it didn’t mean anything, I swear. And I promise that the child I am carrying is yours. Well, I’m pretty sure it is. I can feel it. But we can do a test if you want. Oh yes, because I meant to tell you. I’m pregnant, Patrick. You’re going to be a dad again! So you see? You have to hang in there!

 

Natalie hangs up, overwhelmed. The others exchange a dismayed look.

 

Chistine – Well that should help him get through this …

 

Embarrassed silence.

 

John – The phone …

 

Christine – I can’t hear anything …

 

John – No, I mean Patrick’s phone. They should be able to use his mobile to track him down! You must notify the rescue teams immediately. There’s even hope they’ll find the suitcase … I mean find Patrick … What’s their number?

 

Natalie hands him her mobile.

 

Natalie – Here, the phone number is in the recent calls.

 

John takes Natalie’s mobile and presses the redial button.

 

John – Shit, I don’t have enough bars. I’ll try on the balcony …

 

John leaves the room.

 

Natalie – I’m not sure it was the best time to tell him.

 

Christine – You think …?

 

Natalie – It was about three months ago. With my dentist. In his surgery. I don’t know what took me. Or maybe it was a side effect of the anesthetic …

 

Christine – That’s what you should say … That this mother fucker drugged you to molest you …

 

Natalie – On the other hand, it was only a local anesthetic … For a small filling, you know … Because for the rest let me tell you, I felt everything … More than with Patrick, that’s for sure … What about you, you’ve never cheated on John …?

 

Christine – Not since we’ve been married …

 

Natalie – But you’ve only been married six months. After living together for fifteen years …

 

Christine – Yeah, well, no …

 

John returns, conveniently preventing Christine from finishing her answer.

 

John – Sorted. They’ll put things in motion right away. And they’ll call us as soon as they find anything.

 

Christine – I saw that in a cop show on TV. It’s really easy to locate someone with their mobile. And it should be really quick. Of course, in this case it’s in the middle of the Atlantic, but you know …

 

John – The Channel.

 

Natalie – Oh my God. I don’t know if my heart can take any more. This roller coaster of emotions …

 

Her mobile rings.

 

Natalie – Already?

 

Christine – I told you …

 

John – Go on! Pick up!

 

Natalie – Hello? No Mum, I haven’t received official confirmation of his death, sorry … No, I don’t have Auntie Adele’s new address. Don’t you think it’s a little early to start thinking about death notices…? Look, I’ve got to go. I can’t be on the line right now. I’m waiting for an important call … That’s right … Flowers? Listen, do whatever you want, I don’t give a shit, ok? (She hangs up, furious) Life is really unfair … It should have been her on the plane instead of Patrick …

 

The phone rings again. Beside herself with anger, Natalie takes the call.

 

Natalie – Leave us the fuck alone …! Oh, I’m sorry, I thought it was my mother … Yes, yes, of course I’m listening … No, I promise it’s not a prank … My husband was in that plane and … Yes, all right, thank you. Will you call me back if you hear anything…?

 

She hangs up, confused.

 

Natalie – It was the support unit … They located Patrick’s mobile phone …

 

The others are hanging to her every word.

 

Christine – And?

 

Natalie – The call came from Manchester train station …

 

Now it’s John and Christine’s landline that rings. Christine picks up without thinking.

 

Christine – Hello? (Devastated, handing the phone to Natalie) It’s him …

 

Natalie grabs the phone.

 

Natalie – Patrick? Where are you? Everyone is looking for you in the middle of the Atlantic …! No way, I can’t believe it…! (To the others) He missed his flight! He’s on the slow train to London!

 

John – So there is a God …

 

Natalie – So you don’t know (To the others) He doesn’t know … The Cheap Travel Discount Airways plane you were meant to take crashed above the Med … There are no survivors … Thank God, it’s a miracle…! (To the others) He was stuck in the toilets at Manchester airport for two hours … Couldn’t open the door … Of course the terminal for Too Low Cost Airways in Manchester isn’t exactly Business Class … Okay … Call me back as soon as you get to London, all right…? Love you lots darling … (She’s about to hang up but changes her mind) Er … Patrick…? Did you get my message? No, no, it’s not important … Actually, go ahead and delete it … Now that I know you’re not dead …

 

Natalie hangs up the phone.

 

Natalie (glowing) – I think this is a good time to open that champagne I brought!

 

John and Christine are slightly uncomfortable since they’ve already opened the bottle. But they are overjoyed nonetheless.

 

Christine – But that’s wonderful! Right, John?

 

John – You get your husband back, and we get …

 

Christine – Our friend!

 

John – What time does he get to London?

 

Natalie – In less than an hour … This nightmare is almost over … Thank you … I don’t know how I would have managed without you … (She makes as if to leave the apartment) I think we’ll save the champagne for another time … I’ll pick him up at the train station and then we’ll go straight home … After this ordeal you’ll understand that we have a lot to talk about …

 

Christine – Especially if he listens to that voicemail you left …

 

John – But that’s out of the question! We’re going to celebrate together. Right, Christine?

 

Natalie – Now that I think about it, he’s the only survivor … I don’t know if … I can imagine the distress of the families that weren’t as lucky as I was …

 

John – Life is a lottery! You just need to choose the right numbers! It’s unfortunate for those who don’t win, but tough. C’est la vie! And honestly, you’re not fit to drive. Wound up like you are you’d never manage to park at the station on a Friday night. I’ll call him back. I’ll tell him to jump in a cab when he gets off the train and to come here. With his suitcase…

 

Natalie – A cab …? You know, I’m not sure we can afford it …

 

John – But we can! Right, Christine?

 

Christine – We also have some good news to share with you … Might as well tell you now … Go ahead John …

 

As John is about to speak, the landline rings. Christine takes the call.

 

Christine – Yes … Oh, Patrick … We were just about to call you to … (Her smile freezes) Sure, here she is … (To Natalie) It’s Patrick. He got your voicemail …

 

Natalie, distraught, takes the landline handset and moves towards the balcony.

 

Natalie – Patrick, listen, I can explain everything … Oh, don’t take it like that! … Honestly, after what’s just happened to us can’t you put things in perspective? You just cheated death by the skin of your teeth! What’s important is that we are both alive and well! You’re a survivor, Patrick!

 

She goes out onto the balcony to continue the conversation.

 

John – Oh, shit … Just what we needed …

 

Christine – It won’t be so easy to get him over here to crack open the champagne with us.

 

John – Imagine that after learning he’s a cuckold, he decides to jump into the Thames when he gets to London. With my suitcase …

 

Natalie returns, haggard.

 

Christine – So…?

 

Natalie – He doesn’t want to come home … He talks of divorce …

 

John – But he can stay here until you sort things out! Right, Christine? And he already has a packed suitcase.

 

Natalie – Oh, about the suitcase … Never mind, that’s not important right now …

 

The two are stunned.

 

John – What about it?

 

Natalie – Well, see … Patrick missed the flight but the suitcase didn’t … It was already checked in … So unfortunately you can forget about it … It’s in the cargo hold of the plane …

John – What a fucking idiot! (To Christine) Please tell me this isn’t happening!

 

Natalie – True, but thankfully it wasn’t a real Vuitton … You know that possession of counterfeit items is now illegal … I saw a documentary on TV … Patrick could have had serious problems going through customs …

 

Christine – Going to Manchester from London?

 

Natalie – With a stopover in Brussels …

 

John – If she doesn’t leave right now I’m going to kill her …

 

Natalie is a little surprised by John’s reaction.

 

Natalie – Don’t worry, I’ll get you a new one, a real one, as promised … I owe you that much …

 

John – Sure, along with the 1,000 Pounds you owe us already…

 

Natalie – Okay, I this time I really have to go. Right, Christine? We’ve all had our share of emotions today.

 

Christine gently guides Natalie towards the front door to get her out of reach of John’s fury.

 

Christine – Don’t worry, it’ll pass … Call me tomorrow, okay?

 

Natalie – Sure, I’ll let you know how it goes …

 

Natalie is about the cross the threshold but turns back one last time.

 

Natalie – By the way, what’s this good news you wanted to tell me …?

 

Christine pushes her outside for good.

 

Christine – I’ll call you tomorrow …

 

Natalie leaves. John and Christine are alone. They crash on the sofa. Heavy silence.

 

John – 60 million Pounds …

Christine makes a tender move towards him.

 

Christine – Come on, it’s not so bad … What’s important is that we’re alive. And that we’re together …

 

John relaxes a bit.

 

John – You’re right …

 

Christine – And what would we have done with 60 million anyway?

 

John – I ask myself the same thing …

 

Christine – Would our relationship even survive such a storm …

 

John – Not to mention our friends … Look, we almost had a falling out with Patrick and Natalie …

 

Silence.

 

John – Do you really think that if we had won the 60 million we would have gotten a divorce?

 

Christine – It can go to your head … When all of a sudden you realise you’ll be able to satisfy all the secret desires you’ve been repressing…

 

John – You’re right … Frustration is the cement that holds couples together… When I think that we almost became multimillionares … Sends chills down my back …

 

Christine – Come on, let’s have a low key evening, just the two of us in front of the telly …

 

John – You know what would really help me unwind …

 

Christine (full of hope) – Tell me … I am ready to satisfy all your desires. Consider it compensation … for the loss of your fake Vuitton suitcase.

 

John – A documentary about animals … On the reproductive habits of large lizzards …

 

Christine’s enthusiasm is considerably dampened.

 

John – They’re very much into group sex, lizzards are … The female shags several males and the eggs contain the genetic material of all her partners … Imagine Natalie’s kid. Half Patrick and half dentist.

 

Christine (depressed) – There’s a little bit of house wine left … Well, whatever Natalie left us … Do you want some? We’d better get used to it …

 

She pours two glasses while John turns on the TV.

 

Newsreader (off) – … The authorities just located flight Travel Discount Airways 32 ½ that was previously thought to have crashed in the Channel. It turns out the pilot simply fell asleep in the cockpit and instead of landing in Dublin, the plane continued until it reached Alaska where it ran out of fuel and had to crash land on an ice floe.

 

John – It’s funny, all this feels like it’s happening to another person now …

 

The landline rings and Christine gets up like a zombie to pick up, while John remains glued to the TV.

 

Newsreader (off) – Here are some images taken from the rescue plane sent by the Mexican army …

 

Christine – Yes…?

 

Newsreader (off) – We are still without news of the passengers inside the plane, but these images show, with a stunning clarity, a couple of penguins playing with a suitcase …

 

Christine – No …!

 

Stunned, Christine hangs up and walks towards the sofa.

 

John – Who was it …?

 

Christine – Natalie’s gynaecologist … Well, mine … We have the same…

 

John – And…?

 

Christine – He mixed up our files … She’s not pregnant, I am!

 

John (lost) – Do you also have the same dentist?

 

Christine (overjoyed) – It’s yours! I am going to have your baby, John!

 

John (not particularly happy) – But … I thought we couldn’t have children … Your doctor said that with my wonky sperm we had a chance in a million!

 

Christine – It’s Friday the 13th!

 

Black.

 

End.

 

 

DIFFERENT ENDING FOR A FOURTH CHARACTER (PATRICK)

 

John doesn’t have time to say anymore: the doorbell rings.

 

John – If it’s her again, you ask her in and I’ll throw her over the balcony myself…

 

Christine opens the door reluctantly.

 

Christine (surprised) – Oh, Patrick …! Did you have a good flight? I mean … We weren’t expecting you anymore. ..

 

Patrick (sinistre) – Am I disturbing you?

 

Christine – Not at all, why would you think that …

 

John – You couldn’t make things any worse.

 

Patrick steps into the room, beside himself.

 

Patrick – Hey John, you’re here …

 

John – As you can see. You may remember that I live here …

 

Patrick – I know it’s late. But what with everything that just happened to me …

 

John – Come on, your train didn’t crash on the ice floe, did it?

 

Patrick – No, I meant Natalie. I’m still in shock.

 

Christine – We’re so very sorry Patrick … Right, John…?

 

John – Mmm …

 

Christine – Come in, sit down, please. Do you want to drink something?

 

John – A tall glass of arsenic? Or strychnine…?

 

Christine pours him a glass of house wine.

 

Christine – Do you want ice …?

 

Patrick doesn’t reply. He sits and empties the glass without batting an eyelid, under the stunned gaze of the other two.

 

John – Wow … He must really not be well … He doesn’t even react to the house wine …

 

Patrick – We’ve been married for ten years … Can you believe what she did? I would have never though Natalie capable of doing that …

 

Christine – Come on … Don’t you think you’re being overly dramatic…?

 

John – He did just find out he was a cuckold …

 

Christine – I always hated that word …

 

Patrick – You think you know someone and then …

 

Christine – Everybody makes mistakes …

 

John – Sure … but sleeping with her dentist …

 

Patrick – Actually, he was my dentist.

 

Christine – What matters is that she had the courage to tell you, doesn’t it? It takes a lot of courage to do that, you know …

 

John – Takes a lot of stupidity more like …

 

Christine – It proves she trusts you … And trust is very important in a couple … Right, John?

 

John – Bullshit, she thought he was dead …

 

Christine – Come on, you’ll see … Things will work out…

 

Patrick – I don’t know … I think I’ll need some time …

 

John – Just how much time…? Because like you say, it’s already late … I’d like to hit the sack …

 

Christine – What John is saying, in his own words, is that we’ve all had our fill of emotions for the day … But it’s normal that you need to take time to think about it … Why don’t you sleep here on the sofa … And tomorrow you’ll see things more clearly.

 

John – We’re not promising that things will be better tomorrow, right? Just that you’ll see things more clearly…

 

Patrick – Thank you … I knew I could count on you … It’s during the hard times that you find out who your real friends are …

 

John – Yeah, yeah … That’s what your wife told us all evening …

 

Christine – I’ll get you some sheets … John, grab a blanket from the wardrobe …

 

John and Christine leave for a moment. Patrick gets up and moves towards the balcony. He steps to the railing and leans over a little. Christine returns and sees him; she freezes assuming he is thinking of jumping.

 

Christine – Patrick, no!

 

Patrick turns around, a little surprised.

 

Patrick – Huh…? I was just taking in the view …

 

Christine – Oh my God, you scared me … I thought …

 

Patrick – I never noticed that if you lean over a little you can see the Pink Oboe from here …

 

Christine (worried about his mental state) – The pink oboe …

 

Patrick – It’s a club.

 

Christine – A jazz club?

 

Patrick – Actually, yes … but more importantly, a gay club.

 

Christine is a little disconcerted. John returns with the blanket and throws it on the sofa.

 

John – There. I’m not tucking him in or kissing him goodnight.

 

Patrick looks at him with ambiguity.

 

Christine – You promise you won’t do anything stupid?

 

Patrick – Promise.

 

Christine – Right, so we’re all going to bed. We’ve had a hard day too …

 

The landline rings. John picks up.

 

John – Yeah…? Yes, he’s here … Sure, here you go … (He holds the phone in Patrick’s direction) It’s Natalie. She wants to talk to you …

 

Patrick takes the phone reluctantly.

 

Patrick – Yes … Listen … No … I don’t know … No … I’ll tell you tomorrow, all right … Yes, well I need to think about it for a few days, surely you can understand that …?

 

John (worried) – A few days …?

 

Patrick – That’s right, we’ll talk later …

 

He hangs up.

 

Christine – I’m sure your couple will overcome this hurdle … and that you’ll come out even stronger!

 

Patrick – I slept with the dentist too …

 

Christine (after a short hesitation) – Well you see, you shouldn’t give her a hard time …

 

John looks at her with utter bewilderment.

Christine (to Patrick­) – Oh, I didn’t tell you! (To John) Shall we tell him?

 

John – What?

 

Christine – I’m the one that’s pregnant, Patrick!

 

John – Oh yes, that’s right …

 

Christine – Is that good news or what?

 

John – For you, the good news is that you wife is not having your lover’s child.

 

Christine – Because after all that’s happened to us today as well…We were just saying earlier, with John. What’s important is to stay together, no matter what … To overcome hardships … Together … So you know, in the end the money isn’t very important!

 

Patrick – The money?

 

Christine (to John) – Shall we tell him about that too? (John doesn’t reply, overwhelmed) You’re not going to believe this but in the suitcase you borrowed to take to Manchester …

 

Patrick – The fake Vuitton suitcase …

 

Christine – There was a lottery ticket …

 

Patrick (absently) – Oh really, a lottery ticket …

 

Christine – We found out tonight watching TV that we had picked the winning numbers …

 

Patrick – How much?

 

John – 60 million.

 

Patrick – Oh, that much …

 

Christine – Needless to say we’ll never see this ticket again …

 

John – Unless the penguin who found my suitcase takes it to the nearest newsagent to cash it in.

 

Christine – You see? We just lost 60 million Pounds but we also just won a baby that we weren’t hoping for anymore!

 

John – You know that they say: lucky in love, unlucky at cards …

 

Patrick – I’m really sorry … I mean for the 60 million… It’s sort of my fault …

 

John (threatening) – Sort of…?

 

Christine – This time I really think we should all go to bed. Are you coming, John…?

 

Christine drags John towards the bedroom. Patrick is left alone. He goes on the balcony and thinks for a moment. Then he takes his mobile phone and calls someone.

 

Patrick – Hello…? No, I’m not dead … I’m sorry to disappoint you once more, dearest mother-in-law … May I speak to Natalie? Thank you … (After a quick pause) Natalie? It’s Patrick … Listen, I’ve been thinking and … Yes, already, what can I say … Usually you complain I take too long to think … So I wanted to tell you right away … I will never be able to forgive you for having slept with my dentist … Natalie, I am going to ask for a divorce … Yes, I know, I’m a loser … Yes, I know, your mother had warned you about me … Okay, my dentist will send you the divorce papers … Yes, my lawyer, that’s what I said. That’s right, go fuck yourself too … Good night, Natalie.

 

Patrick hangs up, thinks for a second, then takes a lottery ticket out of his shirt pocket and looks at it.

 

Patrick – 60 million … Christine was right … It’s not tomorrow morning yet and already I see things more clearly … (Realising the full extent of the situation) 60 million Pounds! (His hand is shaking, the lottery ticket falls on the edge of the railing) Shit … I can’t believe it … Fuck …

 

He feverishly steps over the balcony railing. Suddenly, he slips, cries out, loses his balance and freezes in a falling position.

As if in a dream, we hear the rest of the dialogue recorded on an audio track.

 

Natalie – What can you do against fate…

 

Christine – Nothing …

 

John – It’s unbelievable though…

 

Natalie – Patrick was the only passenger not in the plane and in the end he was the only casualty …

 

Christine – Did you call emergency services?

 

John – They should be here any minute.

 

John – Do you really think he committed suicide?

 

Christine – You don’t just fall off a balcony …

 

John – If only he was the artist who did my painting …

 

The siren of an ambulance getting closer.

 

Natalie – Here they are … They’re going to be able to confirm whether he’s really dead…

 

John – He looks very dead.

 

Natalie – You can always hope for a miracle …

 

Christine – It is Friday the 13th!

 

Black.

End.

 

A script writer and playwright, Jean-Pierre Martinez is the author of over sixty comedies (and counting), regularly produced in France and abroad.

All of Jean-Pierre Martinez’ plays are available for free download on

http://comediatheque.net

This text is protected under copyright laws. Criminal copyright infringement will be investigated and may result in a maximum penalty of up to 3 years in prison and a EUR 300.000 fine.

Paris – November 2011

© La Comédi@thèque – ISBN 979-10-90908-04-8

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Strip Poker (in english)

Posted janvier 27, 2016 By admin

A comedy by Jean-Pierre Martinez

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

Asking the new neighbours over for dinner to get to know them: a risky move that could end up costing more than it’s worth and a perfect opportunity for a poker comedy where every player must eventually show their hand.

This text is available to read for free. However, an authorization is required from the author prior to any public performance, whether by professional or amateur companies. To get in touch with Jean-Pierre Martinez and ask an authorization to represent one of his works : 

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This play has already been represented in Paris, Madrid, Miami, Montevideo…

Strip Poker Strip Poker
Strip Poker Strip Poker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

Jean-Pierre Martinez

A semiologist and a writer, Jean-Pierre Martinez has created a unique theatrical universe borrowing and blending elements from light comedy, black humour and the absurd. A powder-keg of a mix that is seducing an ever increasing audience. A script-writer for the French television series Avocats & Associés (France 2), he has written over a hundred television screenplays and seventy comedies for the theatre. He is one of the most frequently played contemporary playwrights in France and his plays have been translated in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Friday the 13th is his biggest play and has been performed in theatres all over the world, from Paris to Broadway and from Buenos Aires to Mexico. All his plays are published by La Comediathèque and are available online (http://comediatheque.net). Originally from Paris but in love with Provence, he spends the best part of the year in Tarascon where he registered the Compagnie Libre Théâtre, of which he is a director along with Ruth Martinez.

***

FULL TEXT OF THE PLAY

This text is available to read for free. You must obtain the proper authorisations from the SACD (www.sacd.frprior to any public performance, whether by professional or amateur companies.

Strip Poker

A comedy by Jean-Pierre Martinez

English translation by Anne-Christine Gasc

Characters

Dave – Victoria – James – Pam

 

ACT ONE

 

Victoria, a blond, rather sexy, woman is in her living room. She is dressed up and is setting a fancy table for four. Her mobile rings. She takes the call.

 

Victoria (pleasant) – Hello …? (Annoyed) No, sorry, this isn’t Dave, it’s Victoria, his wife … This is my mobile … Can I take a message …? Very well … No, no it’s no problem …

 

She resumes the dinner preparations, a little overexcited. Her mobile rings again.

 

Victoria (even more annoyed) – Hello …? (Pleasant) Oh hi John … No, no I’m fine … Did I tell you I quit smoking …? Well since this morning … No I’m not pregnant don’t worry … But I had a two pack a day habit. Given the cost of cigarettes, in a year I’ll have saved enough for a safari in Kenya. If I last just one week I can still get a bus pass. Just with the two packs I saved today I bought a large jar of Nutella … (sighing) I didn’t think it would be so hard … What can I say … Even the cemetery is a no-smoking zone now… Dave is good. Until something better comes along… No I mean his job … Look, I have to go, my roast pork is drying in the oven. Speak to you soon? Ta ta…

 

Victoria hangs up, sniffs the air and turns towards the audience, worried.

 

Victoria – Can I smell gas…?

 

She runs to the kitchen to check on the roast pork. Dave, an educated middle-class man, comes in from the street whistling, wearing a raincoat and The Independent tucked under his arm. He removes his raincoat, sits on the sofa and thumbs through The Independent whose first page reads: Mobile Phones Linked to Cancer? As Victoria comes out of the kitchen he quickly drops the paper on the table and makes a tragic face.

 

Victoria (happily) – Hi!

 

Dave (despondent) – Hi …

 

Victoria (noticing his face) – Is something wrong?

 

Dave – I’m going to be made redundant …

 

Victoria – Redundant! Why?

 

Dave – Decentralisation …

 

Victoria – Oh no … I’m so sorry …

 

He collapses on the sofa.

 

Dave (pathetic) – You aren’t going to leave me, are you?

 

Victoria comes to the sofa and takes him in her arms to comfort him.

 

Victoria – What are you talking about? I still have a job! Look, I even quit smoking. With the savings we’ll make you’ll be able to work part time – well almost. And if we have to tighten our belts, we’ll tighten our belts. (With a hand on her belly) I’ll quit Nutella.

 

Dave (hamming it up) – I don’t want to be a burden you know … I’d rather end it all …

 

Victoria – What are you talking about …? We’re married, Dave! For better or for worse! We’ll just save the better for last … But it’s crazy that they decide to decentralise just like that without notice …

 

Dave – Nothing is safe from decentralisation.

 

Victoria – Yes but still … decentralising the British Library … Where are they going to put it? It’s rather a large building.

 

Dave – China … They’re going to crate it all up and then rebuild it in a commercial zone outside Beijing. They have already started taking down one of the reading rooms.

 

Victoria (horrified) – Really?

 

Dave – Yes …

 

Victoria – But what are the Chinese going to do with all those books? They can’t read them! They won’t even be able to alphabetise them …

 

Dave – They are going to use computer programmes to translate the entire English body of literature into Esperanto and then they’ll digitise everything and store it in a huge central computer shaped like a pagoda. The paper will be recycled. At least it will save the last acres of eucalyptus forest left in China. (Sighing) If my sacrifice means a few pandas can be saved …

 

Victoria (devastated) – I can’t believe it …

 

Dave tries to keep his composure a little longer, but breaks into laughter

 

Dave – I’m kidding! I’m kidding! Did you actually believe this nonsense?

 

Victoria, feeling both furious and relieved hits him with the sofa cushions.

 

Victoria – You shouldn’t be joking about that …

 

Dave – You’re right, it’s not the right time to lose my job. It’s rather well paid … and it gives me plenty of time to write … Speaking of which, I have good news to share. Strictly Confidential Publications have agreed to publish my play!

 

Victoria (faking excitement) – Strictly Confidential? Wow!

 

Dave – Yes … Well … At the author’s expense … So I have to sell at least four thousand copies to recoup the publishing costs … Four thousand copies, that’s doable, right?

 

Victoria – Sure, if you include your parents and mine … and if they take a thousand each!

 

Dave rubs his hands together with a satisfied smile.

 

Dave – Right, let’s eat? It’s Strip Poker tonight …

 

Victoria (confused but possibly tempted) – You want to play strip poker?

 

Dave – No, you know … Strip Poker, the reality show on TV!

 

Victoria – No …

 

Dave – They get couples together and every time one of them chooses to not answer the question asked by their spouse they take off a piece of clothing.

 

Victoria (sighing) – I don’t understand how you can watch these stupid shows …

 

Dave – Oh, come on … it’s the final tonight!

 

Victoria – Yes well final or not it’s not going to happen …

 

Dave – The TV is broken?

 

Victoria – No … but you aren’t going to be able to watch it …

 

Dave – You’re revoking my television privileges …?

 

Dave notices the table, set for four.

 

Dave – Don’t tell me you’ve invited your parents?

 

Victoria – The neighbours.

 

Dave – The neighbours? But they left a month ago …

 

Victoria – The new neighbours!

 

Dave – The new neighbours? But we don’t even know them!

 

Victoria – Exactly. I bumped into the woman when I was taking down the rubbish … I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet them.

 

Dave – What for?

 

Victoria – Just to get to know them.

 

Dave – To get to know them for what?

 

Victoria – It’s always a good idea to get to know your neighbours … You never know when you might need favours …

 

Dave – Favours …? What kind of favours?

 

Victoria – I don’t know … Water the plants when we’re not here …

 

Dave – Your cat ate the only plant I had in my office, last Sunday when we were having lunch with your parents.

 

Victoria – Well, there you go! If we had had someone to feed my cat, he wouldn’t have eaten your plant. Speaking of which, I haven’t seen the cat all day … strange …

 

Dave sighs.

 

Dave (worried) – They have children, don’t they?

 

Victoria – Three, I think …

 

Dave – Don’t tell me you invited them too?

 

Victoria – I’m sure they’d rather stay at home. (Ironically) They won’t want to miss the Strip Poker final …

 

Dave – Rub it in, why don’t you …?

 

Victoria – And they’re just next door …

 

Dave – You weren’t talking about the neighbours across the street?

 

Victoria – The neighbours across the street killed themselves six months ago! Remember all those fire engines, in the middle of the night? Flashing lights? Sirens?

 

Dave – No …

 

Victoria – It woke me up. I’ve had nightmares since … they turned on the gas … they almost blew up the whole block.

 

Dave – Some people are so selfish … Why did they kill themselves like that? Together?

 

Victoria – Go figure … Maybe there was nothing good on TV that evening … (hinting) Maybe if we had asked them over …

 

Dave (can’t believe her bad faith) – Don’t tell me you’ve invited the neighbours tonight so you don’t feel guilty if they decide to kill themselves later?

 

She shrugs.

 

Victoria – Oh, by the way, I’ve been getting phone calls for you on my mobile all day.

 

Dave – Oh right, sorry, I don’t know where I left mine … So I left your number on my answering machine at the office … In case a producer tries to reach me, for my play … It’s best if they can reach me at all times … you understand …

 

Victoria (astounded) – My mobile number? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just buy another phone?

 

Dave – Hmmm … At the end of the day you can live just fine without a mobile, don’t you think?

 

Victoria – Sure … when you have a wife on receptionist duty.

 

Dave – Look, you decided to quit smoking, I decided to quit mobiles. Let’s see who breaks first.

 

Victoria (exasperated) – But I don’t ask you to smoke them for me!

 

Instead of replying, Dave goes back to reading The Independent. The audience can see the headline (Mobiles Linked to Cancer?) but Victoria can’t. She looks at him, infuriated.

 

Victoria – Are you going to change before they get here?

 

Dave – Who?

 

Victoria – The neighbours!

 

Dave – Oh right, I forgot about that …

 

Dave, resigned, stands up to go change.

 

Victoria – I’m going to check in the kitchen in case the stove turned itself off. I think I can smell gas, can you?

 

Dave shrugs and leaves the room in the direction of the bedroom. Victoria also leaves but returns a few moments later with bottles and glasses to prepare drinks. Dave joins her shortly after in a very relaxed outfit.

 

Victoria (not believing her eyes) – You changed into your pyjamas?

 

Dave – They’re not pyjamas! They’re … jogging bottoms for staying in.

 

Victoria – And your grandpa slippers, they’re not slippers either…?

 

Dave – Look, if the goal is to get up close and personal with the neighbours, we might as well hit the ground running.

 

Victoria – What if he’s wearing a three piece suit and she’s wearing a frock?! … I didn’t tell them we were having a slumber party.

 

He sighs and leaves. She continues to prepare the room. He comes back in a more suitable outfit.

 

Dave (narky) – Is this ok?

 

Victoria (not overly thrilled) – It’ll do …

 

Dave looks at the mail on the coffee table.

 

Dave – Dramatic Publishing, Samuel French, Applause …

 

She looks at him quizzically.

 

Dave – I’m kidding, unfortunately … (thumbing through the three envelopes) Phone, electricity, water bill. (Sighing) It’s triple word count, today.

 

Victoria (to lift his spirits) – Royal Mail may be on strike again… when that happens they prioritise the bills.

 

Victoria’s mobile rings and she picks up.

 

Victoria – Yes…? (With faked politeness) No this is the reception but please hold, I’ll put you right through. (She hands him her mobile, at her wits end) Your friend, Patrick.

 

He takes the mobile as if nothing had happened.

 

Dave – Hi Patrick … How are you … Yes long time no see… Tuesday? Sure, why not… Hang on, I need to check with Victoria. She’s busy right now. Can you call me back tomorrow? And um, if I’m not at home, try the mobile …

 

Exasperated look from Victoria.

 

Dave – Right, bye then …

 

He hangs up.

 

Dave – What a dick.

 

Victoria – What did he want?

 

Dave – We’re invited for dinner Tuesday. It’s his wife’s birthday.

 

Victoria – I thought he was your best friend …?

 

Dave – Birthdays depress me … You don’t see me inviting him to your birthdays, do you?

 

Victoria – You’d have to remember the date for that …

 

Dave – Really I would be much better off without a mobile. Right, what are they doing, these neighbours of ours … they can’t say they were held up by traffic, they live across the street!

 

Victoria – Next door …

 

Dave – Even better, they don’t even have to cross the road!

 

Victoria – It’s not that bad, it’s not that late …

 

Dave – Normally we’d have finished dinner by now. I’m getting really hungry … (Surprised) Especially since something smells so good. (Curious) What did you make?

 

Victoria (proudly) – Roast pork with prunes. I found the recipe in Marie Claire

 

Dave – Hum … Are you sure this is the best time to try out new recipes?

 

He pauses.

 

Dave – I don’t even know their names.

 

Victoria – She is Pam and he is James, I think.

 

Dave – Oh, I see you’re already best mates … What’s their last name?

 

Victoria (thinking) – I can’t remember … it’s like a brand of washing powder…

 

Dave – Daz?

 

Victoria shakes her head.

 

Dave – Persil?

 

Victoria shakes her head again.

 

Dave – Please tell me it’s not Fairy.

 

Victoria (finally remembering) – Ariel! (Not so sure anymore) Or Mariel …

 

Dave – Wait, which is it Mariel or Ariel?

 

Victoria – I don’t know. She said “Hello! My name is Pamariel”… we’ll find out soon enough. Does it matter?

 

Dave – Well hello! If it’s Ariel your roast pork isn’t going to have much success… I guess they can still eat the prunes. One of their five a day.

 

Victoria (horrified) – I hadn’t thought of that …

 

Dave – That’s what happens when you invite people you don’t know…

 

Victoria – How was I supposed to know? James and Pam that’s not …

 

Dave – Not all Muslims aren’t called Mohamed.

 

Victoria – You think they’re Muslims?

 

Dave – Even if they were it wouldn’t make any difference for the roast pork.

 

Victoria – Maybe they lapsed …

 

Dave – You should probably start defrosting a pizza … preferably a vegetarian one …

 

Victoria sighs. The doorbell rings. She freezes, panicked.

 

Victoria – What do we do?

 

Dave – I think you should open the door. That’s usually what one does when one has invited guests and they are at the door … (hopeful) Or we turn off all the lights and we watch Strip Poker in the bathroom.

 

Victoria – I’ll get it.

 

She disappears in the hallway to open the door and greet the neighbours.

 

Victoria (off) – Good evening … Come in … Welcome … (taking what the neighbours are handing over) Oh you shouldn’t have, you really shouldn’t have …

 

Dave (aside, sighing) – And the soap opera begins …

 

Victoria returns to the living room with a bunch of flowers, followed by the neighbours.

 

Dave (mimicking Victoria’s forced politeness) – Hello, good evening … How do you do, how do you do…?

 

Victoria – What are they? Daisies? Look at those enormous petals!

 

Pam (uncomfortable) – They’re tulips …

 

Victoria – Of course, they’re beautiful!

 

Pam – I think they suffered a little heat stroke …

 

The flowers are indeed seriously flabby.

 

Victoria – I’ll put them in water right away …

 

Dave – It might bring them back to life …

 

The neighbours step into the living room. Pam is a slim brunette, middle aged but still very attractive, dressed smartly but strictly with a suit and bun. James, chubby and heavy set, carries a bottle and wears a suit as flabby as the flowers. They are a conventional-looking couple and stand out next to the younger and more relaxed Dave and Victoria. Victoria makes the introductions.

 

Victoria (to James) – This is my husband (stressing the surname) Dave Gammon …

 

Both husbands shake hands.

 

Dave (sinister) – Happy to meet you …

 

Victoria (to James) – And you are…?

 

James (smiling) – James …

 

Victoria – Just James, very well …

 

James hands the bottle to Dave.

 

James – You should put it in the fridge …

 

Dave – Blue Nun Sparkling Wine…! Thank you so much James.

 

James – Served chilled they say it tastes just like Champagne.

 

Dave (sarcastic) – So why go for the real thing? I’ll pop it in the freezer … that way it’ll taste even better …

 

Dave takes the bottle to the kitchen.

 

Victoria (embarrassed) – Did you find it easy?

 

The look on the face of the neighbours who live next door.

 

Victoria (back pedaling) – No, I know you live next door … I mean, umm … Did you have trouble finding … (adlibbing) a babysitter for your children?

 

Pam – Oh yes! The oldest watches the others … And if it’s ok with you we might pop back later to check …

 

Dave returns.

 

Victoria – What are your children’s names?

 

Pam – Sarah, Esther and the youngest is Benjamin.

 

Victoria visibly tries, and fails, to work out the neighbours’ religious affiliations.

 

Victoria – Benjamin … of course … the youngest …

 

Pam – Am I right in thinking you don’t have any children …?

 

Short, uneasy silence.

 

Victoria – Not yet … (Diving in) I’m sorry but your surname, is it Mariel like the first name or Ariel …?

 

Dave – Like the washing powder …

 

James – Mariel …

 

Victoria (relieved) – Whew! We were afraid you might be Jewish!

 

The guests are appalled. Victoria, horrified, corrects herself.

 

Victoria – I’m so sorry, it’s just that I made roast pork … but we’ll find something. I’m sure I have a pizza in the bottom of the freezer … it won’t be anything fancy …

 

Dave – Or we can take a rain check …

 

Victoria glares at him.

 

Pam (relaxing a little) – Oh, don’t change anything for our benefit. Roast pork will be just fine …

 

James (deadpan) – However, the prunes … are they kosher? (satisfied with Victoria’s embarrassed look) I’m kidding … as long as they’re stoned! Like I always say, it’s better for your teeth … What’s your surname again? Bacon?

 

Victoria – Gammon …

 

James – Oh, shame.

 

Neither Dave nor Victoria get it.

 

James (pleased with himself) – Because, you know … David and Victoria Bacon … (the others still don’t get it) David and Victoria Beckham!

 

Pam doesn’t find the joke funny either.

 

Victoria (forcing a smile) – I am happy to see you have a good sense of humour … and after all, Jewish or Muslim what’s the difference?

 

Dave – Exactly, it could have been worse! You could have been a dentist or in IT …

 

Another uncomfortable silence …

 

Victoria (to break the awkwardness) – Drinks anyone?

 

Blackout.

 

 

ACT TWO

 

Both couples are nursing drinks. Dave and Victoria are already bored shitless but are actively listening to James’ dull stories.

 

James – The problem is that dentists today spend more and more time filling in paperwork than filling teeth. And since everything is done on computers nowadays … Like I always say, they taught me to use a drill, not a mouse. I’m lucky that my wife can help me. IT is her job, but for me …

 

Dave and Victoria nod politely.

 

James – I mean really, today private medical professionals are crushed by corporate taxes … Speaking of which, stop me if you’ve heard this one.

 

Dave and Victoria take on a politely interested look.

 

James – A dentist is on a cruise in the Pacific Ocean with his wife. They get shipwrecked. The ship sinks …

 

Victoria burst out laughing. The other three are confused.

 

James – I’m not done …

 

Victoria composes herself.

 

James – They drift for a week before washing up ashore a deserted island. Naturally, the wife is very worried. She says to her husband: they’ll never find us!

 

Victoria bursts out laughing again.

 

James – I’m still not done …

 

Victoria composes herself once more.

 

James – The husband asks: did you pay HMRC before we left? His wife: no! Her husband says: then don’t worry, they’ll find us!

 

James guffaws loudly at his own joke. Victoria, burned, doesn’t laugh.

 

James – Now I’m done …

 

Victoria forces a stupid smile. James pulls out a pack of cigarettes and offers it to Dave.

 

James – Cigarette?

 

Dave – I don’t smoke, thanks …

 

James turns the pack towards Victoria.

 

Victoria – I quit this morning…

 

Pam glares at James who puts the pack away.

 

James – OK, I won’t subject you to passive smoking then … You know, they say about how bad cigarettes are but mobiles aren’t much better for your health, are they? I read an article in The Independent this morning. Apparently after 15 minutes a day you’re pretty much guaranteed a brain tumour.

 

Victoria, intrigued, takes The Independent that Dave brought from the coffee table and reads the headline: Mobiles Linked to Cancer?

 

James – You better not use all your minutes!

 

Victoria glares at Dave who looks innocent.

 

James – I smoke but I don’t have a mobile!

 

Victoria (sarcastic) – My husband either. He’d rather I get the tumour for him …

 

James – Do you know the most annoying part of my job?

 

Dave and Victoria pretend to think about it.

 

James – Washing your hands all the time, in between patients. Look at my hands. They’re desiccated! I could wear gloves, but … can you imagine … it’s very fine work, dentistry. Have you ever tried to thread a needle with boxing gloves?

 

Dave – Never … Actually I sew very little … I prefer knitting myself…

 

James – It’s like I always say, us dentists we have it better than shrinks: my patients also lie down and open their mouth … but they have to listen to me!

 

Pam – You’re boring everyone with your stories …

 

Victoria – Not at all …!

 

Pam – Why don’t you tell us a little about you … (to Victoria) You’re a teacher, is that right?

 

Victoria – I teach music theory … but I’m not sure it’s more interesting …

 

Dave makes a face that she has put her foot in her mouth again.

 

Pam – Ah, music theory … I did that for more than 10 years when I was young …

 

Victoria (trying to look interested) – You played an instrument?

 

Pam – I wish … My parents must have thought that music theory was to be learned like classical languages. Like Latin or Greek. So when I turned 18 I out my food down and said enough.

 

Dave (feigning to be impressed) – Wow, you sure were a rebellions teen …

 

Pam – Then I signed up for ballroom dancing classes.

 

Victoria – That’s quite a change …

 

James (tenderly) – That’s where we met.

 

Victoria (feigning interest) – Really?

 

James – Believe it or not I used to be a very good dancer … Still not too shabby now if I say so myself … Apparently 40% of men meet their future spouse by asking them to dance … (to Dave) Is that how you met your beautiful wife?

 

Dave – Not at all … I ravished her savagely in a back alley on a stormy day after offering my umbrella … Apparently it’s quite an unusual way to meet one’s future spouse …

 

Embarrassed silence.

 

Victoria – My husband is joking of course …

 

Dave – She hates it when I tell that story …

 

Victoria – Would you like another drink?

 

Pam – Well … maybe a finger …

 

Dave – Before or after the drink?

 

Victoria throws daggers at Dave and refills her guests’ glasses.

 

Pam – We enrolled Benjamin, our youngest, in the infant school next door … Do you know whether it has good reputation?

 

Victoria – I don’t know, I don’t have children.

 

Pam – Oh that’s right. I’m sorry …

 

Dave – Well, it’s not really your fault, is it?

 

Silence.

 

Pam – How about you Dave? What do you do for a living …

 

Dave – Me? Nothing …

 

The neighbours make an appropriate face.

 

Pam (sympathetic) – On the dole …?

 

Dave – Oh no, I don’t scrounge… I’m more of an … inactive employee. It’s very difficult to get to the point where you look like you’re working when you don’t have anything to do. You have to be a very good actor.

 

Pam (awkward) – Well … what do you do when you’re not working…? I mean, when you are not in the office?

 

Dave – Actually, I am an actor! Well, part time anyway …

 

Pam (intrigued) – An actor? I knew you looked familiar… Have I seen you in anything?

 

Dave – Do you watch Loose Women?

 

James (impressed) – Sure, sometimes! It’s on when I take my nap …

 

Dave – Have you seen the ad for funeral protection plans that comes on just before?

 

James doesn’t look like he has.

 

Dave – You know the one  … it comes on after the advert for hearing aids and before the one for stair lifts.

 

James – Um … maybe …

 

Dave – I’m the man in the casket.

 

James (disconcerted) – Really…?

 

Dave – Not so much a bit part as a body part …

 

Victoria glares at Dave, who is very proud of himself.

 

Pam (embarrassed) – And aside from that, are you working on anything else…?

 

The doorbell rings.

 

James – Are you waiting for more guests?

 

Victoria – No, no … We’re not expecting anyone else …

 

Dave goes to open the door.

 

Dave (off) – Already? … Excuse me, I’ll be right back …

 

Dave comes back with a box full of poppies.

 

Dave (awkward) – It’s the Scouts, selling poppies for Remembrance Day …

 

Dave – Wow, they’re really early this year… are you sure it’s a real Scout?

 

Dave – Well, he’s wearing a Scout uniform and looks a lot like the boy who sells us poppies every year.

 

James – Oh …

 

Dave – You wouldn’t happen to have a tenner would you? I don’t have any change. I’ll pay you back after he leaves.

 

James, reluctantly searches his pockets.

 

James – You know what … I used my last fiver to buy the wine. I have a quid or two if you want…

 

Dave – Right … I’m going to give him the bottle then … You don’t mind, do you?

 

James – Not at all … Go ahead …

 

Dave hands James the box of poppies.

 

Dave – You get to pick one then …

 

While Dave goes to find the bottle of wine in the kitchen, James pulls out his reading glasses and looks at the poppies with affected seriousness.

 

James – I think I like this one with the felt petals … it’s nice … what do you think, Pam?

 

Pam doesn’t reply. Dave returns with the bottle of sparkling wine.

 

Dave – You can keep the poppy of course… since the Scout is taking your bottle.

 

James – Thank you …

 

Dave leaves with the box of poppies and the bottle of sparkling wine.

 

Dave (off) – Here you go … it’s nice and cold … Lest we forget …

 

Dave returns.

 

Pam – Poppies … in September … the cheek …

 

Dave – Must be global warming … all the seasons feel the same … even the Scouts can’t tell.

 

Victoria – I’m going to check on my roast pork. I think I can smell gas …

 

James (standing) – I’m going to pop back home to check on the kids. Before we sit down for dinner …

 

Victoria – Of course …

 

James – Please don’t get up, I know the way.

 

Pam (standing as well) – Could you show me where to wash my hands … It’s the nuts … It’s always a little greasy …

 

Victoria – Sure, straight down the hall …

 

James and Pam leave the room.

 

Victoria – Why on Earth did you tell them you played a corpse in a funeral plan advert? (Mocking Dave) Not so much a bit part as a body part …

 

Dave – Look, I was trying to set the mood because this party isn’t exactly getting started, is it? And we haven’t even started the meal yet … I won’t last until dessert, I’m warning you … We have to come up with something to make them leave …

 

Victoria – I know, they’re not very interesting … But it’s too late to cancel. We won’t invite them again, that’s all.

 

Dave – But don’t you realise they’re going to want to return the invitation…? It won’t be that easy to end this relationship. You’ve started a chain of events, can’t you see?

 

Victoria understands, but tries to minimise the problem.

 

Victoria – Oh come on … In any case, let’s get this dinner going … Can you open the wine …?

 

Dave – At least I managed to get rid of his sparkling wine. It gives me gas…

 

Victoria leaves towards the kitchen. Dave grabs the bottle of wine. Pam comes back.

 

Pam – It’s really nice to make the effort to meet us … I used to live in the area, a long time ago, when I was in high school, but I don’t know anyone any more … Also, you never know when you might need a helping hand from your neighbours.

 

Dave – That’s what my wife says … (He gets an idea) Speaking of which, I’m glad you said that … Because I have something I wanted to ask you.

 

Dave hands over the bottle.

 

Dave – Do you mind opening it? I don’t think I have the strength …

 

Pam, intrigued, tries to open the bottle clumsily. She deploys super human efforts to pull out the cork.

 

Dave – I didn’t want to dampen the evening, but … I have cancer …

 

Pam pulls out the cork violently. Dave catches the bottle and starts pouring while he shares more information.

 

Dave – I just found out I had a tumour … I must have used all my minutes and then some…

 

Pam – Your minutes…?

 

Dave – My mobile phone minutes … the … um … radiations. It must have been an old model …

 

Pam (compassionate) – Your brain …

 

Dave – Worse …

 

Pam stares, wondering what could be worse.

 

Dave – The testicles …

 

Pam (horrified) – No…!

 

Dave – Hands free kits, they keep radiation away from your head, but they just move the problem elsewhere …

 

Pam – I am so very sorry …

 

Dave (raising his glass for a toast) – Anyway, cheers … We shouldn’t let this wine spoil …

 

They toast grimly.

 

Pam – But … Aren’t there treatments nowadays …

 

Dave – Yes there are … actually my surgeon is considering a graft … (Pregnant pause) And that’s the reason I wanted my wife to invite you over … You and your husband …

 

Pam is confused.

 

Dave – Another one?

 

Pam, in great need of an alcoholic pick-me-up agrees. He pours her a large glass that she drinks in one go.

 

Pam – Ah, that’s the good stuff, isn’t it?

 

Dave – Have some peanuts …

 

Pam helps herself.

 

Dave – So the thing is … I need a donor …

 

Pam – A donor …?

 

Dave comes close to her and puts his hand on her shoulders.

 

Dave – You can live perfectly well with a single testicle you know … The operation is quite safe and a week later you don’t even think about it anymore. You can’t even see the scar …

 

Pam (puzzled) – I mean … I’ll have to talk to my husband … I don’t know if …

 

Victoria returns and sees them in this awkward position.

 

Pam (embarrassed) – I’ll go and check how James is doing with the children … You know men …

 

She leaves quickly.

 

Victoria – Well, it looks like you’re getting friendly after all…

 

Dave – Oh please, it’s a nightmare, we’ve got to find a way to get rid of them …

 

Victoria – What do you want to do? We can’t throw them out, we invited them!

 

Dave – When you say ‘we’ …

 

Victoria – Ok, I made a mistake but now they’re here… we have to see this through… Rats, I left the bread in the kitchen.

 

Before leaving for the kitchen, Victoria glances at her roast pork.

 

Victoria (disappointed) – It doesn’t look as nice as it did in Marie Claire …

 

Dave – Women in the street also don’t look like Marie Claire models … I don’t see why it should be any different for your roast pork.

 

Victoria shrugs and leaves, upset, but turns towards Dave before entering the kitchen.

 

Victoria – Please try and be nice …

 

Dave – So they feel welcome and stay even longer?

 

Victoria – They could be our neighbours for the next twenty years. We don’t want to argue with them so soon after their arrival …

 

Dave (despairing) – But the best way to avoid arguing with the neighbours is to never speak to them …

 

Victoria is about to return to the kitchen but turns back for one last question.

 

Victoria – By the way, have you seen the cat?

 

Dave (a little uncomfortable) – Not since this morning …

 

Victoria – I hope your potted plant wasn’t toxic.

 

Victoria leaves. James returns.

 

James – Pam is putting the youngest to bed. The other two are watching telly …

 

Dave – Strip Poker …?

 

James – Schindler’s List … My favourite film … Yum … Something smells really good!

 

James puts both hands on Dave’s shoulders.

 

James – I am sure we’ll get along splendidly… And the good thing about dining next door is that you don’t have to drive home … We can stay late … and not worry about alcohol tests!

 

Dave (suddenly inspired) – Tell me James … Can I call you James?

 

James – Of course, Dave. We’re neighbours after all …

 

Dave – I feel we’re getting along so well. I have a proposition for you. I should say we have a proposition, my wife and I.

 

James (intrigued) – Yes?

 

Dave – Have you heard of … swinging?

 

James (dumbfounded) – A little …

 

Dave – See, my wife and I … I mean, if you wanted … Don’t feel like you have to. Usually it happens after the meal, before dessert … So if you aren’t interested … Just make your excuses before we serve dessert. My wife and I will understand.

 

James, taken aback, doesn’t have time to reply. Pam returns.

 

Pam – Well, that’s done! Now nothing will interrupt our evening, just the four of us …

 

Pam notices the face James is making.

 

Pam – Is something wrong?

 

James (embarrassed) – No, no … We were talking … about open markets. Globalisation, decentralisation, all that stuff … Did you know that my wife is an ardent defender of open marriages…?

 

Pam (correcting him, uncomfortable) – Open markets …

 

Embarrassed silence. Victoria returns from the kitchen with the roast pork.

 

Victoria – Well, if you don’t have any objection to eating pork, dinner is served …

 

They gather around the table, in an awkward silence.

 

Victoria – Pam, will you sit next to my husband …?

 

Pam does so while James looks on, worried. Victoria serves her guests.

 

Pam – This looks delicious …

 

Victoria is about to fill Dave’s plate.

 

Dave – No thank you …

 

Victoria – You’re not hungry?

 

Dave – Not really … and meat has always made me feel a little sick. Not you…?

 

James and Pam look at him, stunned.

 

Dave – Did you know that the pig is the animal that is genetically closest to Man? Only a handful of chromosomes separate us from pigs. (Looking towards James) Some of us even less so …

 

The guests, taken aback by the conversation, pick at their food with little appetite. Victoria tries to change the subject.

 

Victoria – What about you, Pam? You haven’t told us what you did …

 

Pam – It’s always delicate to say … It’s not very popular these days …

 

Dave – Are you a stripper … or a car mechanic?

 

Pam – Worse … I am a … (pompously) Cost Killer.

 

Dave and Victoria do not understand.

 

James – Like a Head Hunter … but literally: she actually hunts the heads to cut them off.

 

Victoria – What do you do, exactly?

 

Pam – Well … Struggling companies ask me to consult with them to identify the dead wood that should be cut, so that the young, healthy branches can flourish …

 

James – It’s like I always say, head hunting is actually the opposite of recruiting … My wife makes heads roll by cutting costs!

 

Victoria (hand on her throat, impressed) – It sounds very interesting …

 

James – My wife is the Che Guevara of the Liberal Revolution … an ardent defender of open marriages …

 

Pam (correcting him) – Open markets …

 

James – Um … yes, that’s what I meant …

 

Victoria – And whose branches are you thinking of pruning with your chainsaw?

 

Pam – In the past I worked mostly with private companies. But recently I have been called upon to work with the public sector. In fact, I have just been given a new project …

 

Victoria (trying to joke, a little worried) – Don’t tell me you’re going to work for the Board of Education … Because I imagine that music theory teachers will be the first to get the chop …

 

Pam – You’re joking but it’s probably going to happen eventually. Right now it’s another dinosaur that I have been asked to tear apart.

 

Victoria – Not the Labour Party?

 

Pam (looking pleased with herself) – The British Library …

 

Dave chokes.

 

Dave – The British Library …!

 

Pam – Obviously, this is strictly between us … I start tomorrow morning and no one knows about this yet. I will identify which employees are the most productive … The rest will be replaced with computers …

 

James – My wife is a killer. In the trade they call her Osama. When she’s done with the British Library they won’t need the reading room any longer.

 

Victoria is speechless and Dave is about to pass out. Their guests don’t notice anything.

 

Pam – I am boring you with my stories … The roast pork is truly delicious. Will you give me the recipe?

 

James stands up.

 

James – Excuse me … I need to use the bathroom before the next course … Must be the prunes …

 

Pam – Good idea … I’ll go check on the children, make sure they haven’t found a way to watch dirty movies on cable, even though we don’t get cable.

 

While James and Pam are away.

 

Dave (crestfallen) – That’s it. I am sure to get the chop. I’ll be in the first batch …

 

Victoria – Why did you have to brag about not doing anything…? (Mocking him) You need to be a very good actor …

 

Dave (outraged) – Hang on! How was I supposed to know she was a Cost Killer? She looked tame enough … And you invited her! If you had told me that we were having Mrs Pol Pot for dinner I would have been more circumspect …

 

Victoria – I don’t know how to make things up …

 

Dave – Especially since I just suggested a foursome after dinner …

 

Victoria – Excuse me?

 

Dave – It was meant to make them leave early …

 

Victoria (hurt) – Gee, thanks … So not only is she going to think you are a parasite but also a pervert … And what if they had agreed?

 

Dave – I only spoke to her husband … Actually he didn’t say no … And since now we have to do everything we can to make them stay and fix this …

 

Victoria, about to have a nervous breakdown, lights a cigarette.

 

Victoria – This wasn’t the day to quit.

 

Victoria inhales deeply.

 

Victoria (sensual) – Ah, this feels good …

 

Dave looks at her, unsettled, then regains control.

 

Dave – Right, listen, at this point there’s only one thing we can do …

 

Victoria – Turn on the gas, like the neighbours across the street?

 

Dave – She doesn’t know I work for the British Library yet … We have to use the rest of the evening to find something we can hold against her.

 

Victoria – And how are you going to do that? You’re not thinking of asking me to go along with the pervy proposition you made to her husband just so you can blackmail them and keep your job?

 

Dave – Hopefully not if we can avoid it … For starters maybe we can make her drink … She’s got to have something to hide, little miss goody two shoes.

 

Victoria – Get her drunk…? You really think that’s all it will take to get her to jump on the table and make a public confession Cultural Revolution-style…? No, to make her confess … Apart from sticking her head in the oven, I can’t see how … (Day dreaming) I could lure her in the kitchen while you stall her husband …

 

Dave isn’t listening and continues his train of thought …

 

Dave – A public confession … I have an idea …

 

Victoria – Yes…?

 

Dave – Strip Poker!

 

Victoria – What now? You want to play strip poker with them?

 

Dave – Strip Poker, the TV show! When she’s nice and drunk we suggest to play the same game.

 

Victoria (worried) – What same game?

 

Dave – The player who forfeits has to answer an embarrassing question. Like truth or dare! She’s a player. With a few drinks down her I’m sure she’ll be up for it.

 

Victoria (worried) – But I don’t know how to play poker …

 

Dave (surprised) – Do you have anything to hide?

 

Victoria – Not really, but …

 

Dave – Well there you go! Nothing to worry about.

 

James and Pam come back.

 

James – Ah, I feel better!

 

Victoria – So, who’s ready for dessert …?

 

James is visibly embarrassed.

 

James – It’s getting late, isn’t it? We don’t want to impose …

 

Pam (surprised) – Come on James, we can’t leave like that …

 

Dave, desperate to get them to stay to fix things, changes behaviour entirely.

 

Dave (friendly) – But you aren’t imposing at all! After dessert we can play a party game together… Do you like games?

 

Pam – Oh my, you’ve found my weak spot! I love playing games … don’t I, James?

 

Blackout.

 

 

ACT THREE

 

The scene is like a smoky bar. All four are sitting around a poker table, smoking and bedraggled. The table is lit with a lamp like in films. As James and Pam look on, impressed, Victoria shuffles the deck with the ease of a casino croupier.

 

Dave – So, is everything clear for everyone? At the end of each game, the player with the most buttons can ask a question to the player with the least buttons …

 

The others nod their head yes.

 

James (trying to joke) – As long as it’s not the buttons holding my trousers. Apart from what they’re covering I don’t have anything to hide …

 

Dave (threatening) – We all have something to hide … if you look hard enough … You just need to ask the right questions …

 

The atmosphere is heavier. The game starts. The four players bet. James cuts the deck. Victoria deals the cards (five each) and Dave pushes a bottle towards Pam.

 

Dave – Another night cap …?

 

Pam (already tipsy) – Go on then, if you can’t overdo it once in a while …

 

James – Are you sure this is reasonable? (Trying to joke) Did you know that you are now legally responsible if you let your guests leave drunk …

 

Dave – But you said so yourself: you don’t have to drive anywhere. You live across the street …

 

James – Next door …

 

Dave – See, you won’t even risk getting run over crossing the road … (Hinting at James) But if you’d rather stay the night with us …

 

James looks embarrassed.

 

Pam (finishing her drink bottoms up) – Ah … You can really taste the pear …!

 

James’ smile freezes. Victoria finished dealing the cards. They all look at their cards, and at each other.

 

Dave – Two …

 

Victoria deals his cards.

 

Pam – Three …

 

James – One …

 

Victoria – Served …

 

They look at their new hand. They look at each other surreptitiously. And they take turn speaking.

 

Dave – I fold …

 

James – Me too …

 

Pam – I’ll raise you two.

 

Victoria – To see.

 

Pam shows her cards with childish excitement.

 

Pam – Four aces! Anyone got better?

 

Victoria (grim) – Three jacks …

 

Pam takes the pot. Everyone looks at the buttons in front of them.

 

Pam – I get to ask a question …

 

The others count their buttons, uneasy. Victoria’s face falls when she realises she has the least.

 

Pam – To Victoria!

 

Dave and James are visibly relieved.

 

Pam – You have to tell the truth …

 

Victoria (worried) – Go ahead …

 

Pam – Have you ever shoplifted, in a store?

 

Victoria is almost relieved.

 

Victoria – Yes … Once … A tent …

 

James – You attempted to steal something?

 

Victoria – No! A tent, as in ‘camp’!

 

Pam – A camp man?

 

Victoria – A tent to go camping!

 

James – Oh … I wouldn’t have thought you could steal something like that! It’s rather bulky, isn’t it, a tent?

 

Pam – A tent…? Was it … out of necessity? Did you need somewhere to sleep …

 

Victoria – It was to go camping! I was in a shopping centre … I went to the till to pay. They told me to go to another till and I realised I had walked right out of the store, straight through the security barriers, without noticing. Since I was already outside …

 

Dave – Technically that’s not stealing … Since you didn’t have the intention to steal this tent …

 

Victoria – I didn’t go back to pay for it … I was actually afraid that I’d trigger the security barriers walking back in. It would have been really stupid to get caught while trying to sneak the tent I had stolen by accident back in the store to pay for it … Can you imagine trying to explain this to the security guards? They don’t look like they have that kind of imagination …

 

Faces of the others picturing the situation.

 

Pam – Was that the only time?

 

Victoria – Yes …

 

Pam – You’re quite an honest woman then …

 

Victoria – You know, most people are honest because they don’t have the courage to be dishonest … For me the risk always appeared greater than the benefits …

 

James (loosened up by alcohol) – Like cheating on your husband …?

 

Victoria – I think that counts as a second question…

 

James – You’re right …

 

A new game starts. Same thing. They bet. Dave deals the cards.

 

Pam – One …

 

James – Nothing …

 

Victoria – Nothing …

 

Dave – Two please …

 

They bet again.

 

Pam – Call …

 

James – I’ll raise you one …

 

Victoria – I fold …

 

Dave – I’ll see you …

 

They show their cards.

 

Dave (triumphantly) – Full house!

 

James – Flush!

 

Dave’s smile freezes. Victoria looks at him ironically.

 

Victoria – Well … that’s a good start …

 

James takes all the buttons in the pot.

 

James – My turn to ask a question …

 

The others are on the defensive, counting their buttons.

 

James – To Dave …

 

Dave looks defeated.

 

James – Have you ever had the desire to kill someone?

 

Dave – Before tonight you mean?

 

James – And actually started to execute the plan, of course … Or it doesn’t count … If we locked up all the husbands who wanted to kill their wives more than once a week … the prisons are already overpopulated.

 

Pam throws daggers at him. Dave tries to remember.

 

Dave – No, I don’t think so … (Giggling) Actually … well it wasn’t premeditated but … In high school … there was this fat chick with glasses we would pick on. One day at the pool we threw her glasses in the deep end. She couldn’t swim. But in her panic she forgot. She jumped in to get her glasses back. We were laughing like hyenas. Of course, after several minutes, when we didn’t see her come back up, we called the life guard … It was hilarious … I can’t remember this poor girl’s name …

 

Pam – Pam Robert …

 

Dave (stunned) – Yes, actually …

 

Pam – The fat chick with glasses. That was me …

 

Dave – Really…?!

 

Pam – I was sure I knew you from somewhere …

 

James steps in to lighten the atmosphere.

 

James – Right, let’s play another round.

 

Another round is started. Without enthusiasm. And in a heavy silence. Pam deals.

 

James – Fold.

 

Victoria – Served …

 

Dave – I fold too.

 

Pam – Raising you ten …

 

Victoria – I’ll see your ten and raise twenty …

 

Pam (betting) – Call.

 

Pam and Victoria show their hand. Victoria’s satisfied smile. Pam’s decomposed face.

 

Victoria – Ha, this time it’s my turn to ask a question … to Pam …

 

Pam is worried.

 

Victoria – Have you ever committed a grave professional mistake, one that you’ve never told anyone about?

 

Pam is deeply unsettled. She walks to the front of the stage as if for a confession. But instead of talking, she removes her top.

 

Blackout.

 

The lights come back and Pam is still in the hot seat, at the front of the stage. We understand that she has lost another game.

 

Victoria – Same question as before … Have you ever committed a grave professional mistake …?

 

Pam is about to remove her skirt … but she changes her mind and speaks in a voice barely audible.

 

Pam (very quietly) – Yes …

 

Victoria – I’m sorry?

 

Pam – Yes!

 

Victoria – Tell us more.

 

Pam – Well … It won’t leave this room …? Promise …?

 

Dave and Victoria nod hypocritically.

 

Dave – We might as well be in church taking your confession …

 

The smoky dive atmosphere is far from that image.

 

James (bemused) – A church…?

 

Victoria – Or a synagogue if you prefer.

 

Pam – They have confessions in synagogues?

 

Dave (impatiently) – I don’t know … Pretend you’re on Jeremy Kyle …

 

Pam – Ok then … It was six months ago, give or take … During one of my interventions I had a manager and his partner fired. They both worked in the company I was auditing … I was sure they were stealing from the company … He couldn’t take it. He had been working in that company for twenty years. He killed himself … and his wife …

 

Dave and Victoria exchange a satisfied look. They now have enough to compromise Pam.

 

Pam – He gassed them both …

 

Dave (aghast) – The neighbours from across the street…!

 

Pam – I’m sorry?

 

Dave – Never mind …

 

Pam – I realised they were innocent right after the funeral … I had made a mistake adding up the numbers … I didn’t tell anyone … I didn’t do anything to restore their good name … I am so ashamed … (in tears) I never make mistakes adding up numbers …

 

James is comforting her.

 

James (to Dave and Victoria) – She always gets upset when we talk about this … (Trying to console his wife) Do you want to go home, honey …?

 

Dave and Victoria share a look showing they agree with that decision, since they now have what they need.

 

Victoria – Yes, maybe we’ve had enough …

 

Pam (chin up) – No, no, I don’t want to ruin the evening … I’ll be fine … (Hoping for her revenge) Besides, you don’t quit a poker game just like that … (With a worrying look) Some of us have yet to answer questions …

 

Pam finishes her drink in one go to drown her remorse.

 

Dave – Let’s go …

 

James deals the cards … They start playing in silence. The atmosphere is heavier by the minute.

 

Victoria – One …

 

Dave – Served …

 

Pam – Raise …

 

James – To see …

 

They reveal their cards on the table.

 

Pam – Two Jacks…

 

James – Three tens …

 

Victoria – Four sixes …

 

Dave (triumphantly) – Four kings!

 

The others are uneasy.

 

Dave – James …

 

James keeps his poker face.

 

Dave – Do you know what happened to the cat I saw near the bins this morning …

 

Victoria is dumbfounded. James and Pam are uncomfortable.

 

Dave – You have to tell the truth …

 

James moves to the front of the stage as if to start a confession. Instead of speaking he takes off his trousers revealing boxer shorts.

 

Blackout.

 

The lights come back on and James is still being questioned at the front of the stage. We understand that he lost a second time.

 

Dave – So, about the cat?

 

James is about to remove his boxer shorts but Pam answers for him.

 

Pam – He had already eaten three of the potted plants on the balcony … so I watered the fourth one with arsenic.

 

Victoria bursts into tears.

 

Dave – Oh my god! These words are razors to my wounded heart …

 

General unease.

 

James (to break up the tension) – One last game? Give me a chance to win it back …

 

Pam – Sure, but then we’ll all go to bed.

 

The look on the faces of the others who aren’t sure what to make of her last comment.

A new game. The players bet. Victoria deals the cards again. The players bet more. Everyone’s face shows even more tension than before.

 

Dave – One.

 

Pam – One.

 

James – Served.

 

Victoria – One.

 

James bets all his buttons.

 

James – All in!

 

Victoria – Fold …

 

Dave – Fold …

 

Pam – Me too …

 

James collects the pot. His face lights up. Victoria realises with horror that she has the least buttons.

 

James – My turn to ask a question …

 

Victoria (panicked) – But you didn’t show us your hand …!

 

James – I don’t have to! You all folded!

 

He looks at the other three in turn to keep up the suspense.

 

James – Victoria has the fewest buttons … So here goes …

 

Victoria is very uncomfortable.

 

James (without pity) – Have you ever cheated on your husband?

 

Victoria is speechless. Dave looks at her, worried.

 

Pam – Come on, we all had to answer. You have to tell the truth …

 

Victoria walks to the front of the stage. She removes her top.

 

Blackout.

 

Light.

 

James (without pity) – Have you ever cheated on your husband?

 

Victoria, increasingly uncomfortable, removes her skirt and is now wearing a slip.

 

Blackout.

 

Light.

 

James (without pity) – Have you ever cheated on your husband?

 

Victoria goes to remove her slip but chooses to answer instead.

 

Victoria – Once … Just once … It was … a mistake.

 

Dave is aghast.

 

Pam (cruelly) – A mistake? Like the tent?

 

Victoria – In a way …

 

James (hammering it in) – No really … You don’t end up with the wrong partner like you dial a wrong number.

 

Pam – And even if you do dial a wrong number you can always hang up without starting a conversation …

 

Victoria – Let’s say that hanging up didn’t come to mind … I am very talkative on the phone …

 

Pam – Had you told your husband, before tonight?

 

Victoria – No …

 

Pam – Why not?

 

Victoria – I managed to walk out without triggering the security gates … and I didn’t have the courage to go back and pay what I owed …

 

Unease. Dave and Victoria avoid looking at each other.

 

James – Ok, well … Let’s call it a night …

 

Dave (to James) – You were bluffing?

 

James, feeling very proud of himself, reveals his hand.

 

James – I only have a small pair …

 

Another silence. Pam and James leave the table and get ready to leave.

 

James (to Dave) – I have a last question to ask you …

 

Dave – The game is over.

 

James – But I showed you my pair …

 

Dave – Ask away …

 

James – Are you really an actor?

 

Dave – No, but I am a playwright. During my work hours … (Looking at Pam) at the British Library …

 

Pam – I see … Can I count on your discretion …?

 

Dave (innocently) – About the neighbours across the street …? If your report mentions that I am the most productive employee in the organisation, and that a computer couldn’t possibly begin to fill my role …

 

Pam takes the blow.

 

Pam – Do you mind if I go get a glass of water from the kitchen? I don’t feel so good …

 

Victoria – Please do …

 

Pam leaves for the kitchen.

 

James – Next time we’ll have you over … We can play Scrabble, for a change…

 

Pam is back.

 

James – See you soon?

 

Dave (to Pam) – Maybe even tomorrow …?

 

They leave. Dave and Victoria are alone. They avoid looking at each other. They look around at the messy apartment.

Victoria’s mobile phone starts ringing.

 

Dave – Aren’t you going to answer?

 

Victoria – I don’t even know if it’s for me or for you. You gave my mobile number to all your friends …

 

Dave – Because I trust you …

 

Victoria is embarrassed.

 

Dave (more seriously) – Who was it … your wrong number?

 

Victoria (cringing) – John

 

Dave – Oh, wow … I wouldn’t have thought he was a risk…

 

Victoria hugs Dave to ask for forgiveness.

 

Victoria – So, how about this strip poker now?

 

Dave – All in!

 

Moody music. She starts to strip. He is looking at her, turned on. He sits to watch her performance and pulls out a large cigar which he is about to light with a match he takes from a matchbox.

For a second the audience can glimpse Pam’s face spying on them … she is wearing a gas mask from World War II over her face. Then she disappears.

Victoria stops abruptly, along with the music.

 

Victoria (worried) – Can you smell gas?

 

He waves off her concern and strikes the match for his cigar.

 

Blackout followed by a bright flash and the sound of an explosion.

 

End.

 

A script writer and playwright, Jean-Pierre Martinez is the author of over sixty comedies (and counting), regularly produced in France and abroad :

All of Jean-Pierre Martinez’ plays are available for free download on

http://comediatheque.net

This text is protected under copyright laws. Criminal copyright infringement will be investigated and may result in a maximum penalty of up to 3 years in prison and a EURO 300.000 fine.

Paris – November 2011

© La Comédi@thèque – ISBN 979-10-90908-06-2

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