1/3 Ruby Do!
The Beeb were quite taken with this one, just not enough — boo-hiss — to commission it. They said: “Ruby Do! is a lively, witty sitcom, which shows off the author’s linguistic dexterity to good effect … Ruby is an engagingly unorthodox lead female character … sharp, witty edge … author’s somewhat anarchic gift for comic invention.”
See? Good things happen when you grow up so poor you only read RDAs on boxes of own-brand cornflakes.
So the premise of Ruby Do! is an overweight reflexologist called up to fight against Penultimate Evil. Think Buffy Summers only with stretch marks, stress incontinence and a non-violent nature.
RUBY CALMLY ENTERS, DRIPPING BLOOD LIKE SISSY SPACEK IN CARRIE. SHE SQUELCHES ACROSS TO THE DESK, WHERE PORTIA, RECEPTIONIST AND TRAINEE THERAPIST, IS ARRANGING CRYSTALS IN SIZE ORDER.
PORTIA LOOKS UP AND COOLLY APPRAISES RUBY.
PORTIA: You seem different.
RUBY: (GAMELY) In a good way, I hope.
PORTIA: Time of the month?
RUBY: Honestly? That bad?
SHE PINCHES HER CHEEKS.
RUBY: What about now?
PORTIA: Oh no, you look fine, forget I said anything. (SHRUGS) You’re fat.
RUBY: Nothing to do with cutting off my dead husband’s head with a ring-pull as he tried to prise off the top of my skull to scoop out my brains, then?
RUBY FISHES AROUND IN HER POCKET.
RUBY: I put it down to the stress of finding, as of today, myself and my seven-year-old daughter swelling the ugly statistics of the officially homeless, having sold our home at the same time the owner of our new home decided, actually, that he was a complete arse-hole and wished to continue living his rectally replete life exactly where he was.
PORTIA: (YAWNING) Make the transfer.
RUBY: Oh. Right. But then, then I found this…
RUBY THROWS A BENT AND BLOODY RING-PULL ONTO THE DESK. IT RATTLES TO A STOP. PORTIA GASPS.
PORTIA: The Ring-Pull of Power! I thought it was only a legend, I never believed … it can’t be. This is going to change everything!
RUBY TURNS TO A LITTLE OLD LADY WAITING PATIENTLY IN RECEPTION AREA.
RUBY: Sorry to keep you, Doris. Give me a minute to, er, clean up and I’ll be right there.
DORIS: No bother, love, just bear in mind each breath could be my last.
RUBY: Well, see how long you can hold it. Starting from … 3, 2, 1, now.
RUBY TURNS TO PORTIA.
RUBY: (WHISPERING) Are you telling me this is real, it actually happened? I’ve sawn off a zombie’s head with a tiny, teeny piece of recyclable metal?!
PORTIA PRODUCES A MAGNET. THE RING-PULL STICKS.
PORTIA: So it would seem.
PORTIA: Vimto or Fanta?
PORTIA: Only some swear by Diet Pepsi, but personally I find there’s too much give in the ring-tab nexus.
RUBY: Oh, erm, there was an Irn Bru can lying nearby.
PORTIA: Ah, yes. That would make sense.
RUBY: It would?
PORTIA: Oh God, totally. Explains everything.
RUBY: It does?
PORTIA BECKONS RUBY NEARER.
PORTIA: You. Are. Retarded. Now leave me alone to fire silver staples into the cold dead heart of Mrs Overall over there.
PORTIA WAVES AT DORIS, VIGOROUSLY CLICKING HER STAPLER. DORIS SLOWLY TOPPLES SIDEWAYS OFF HER CHAIR. UNFAZED RUBY GOES TO HELP HER UP.
RUBY: (TO PORTIA) Ha-hardly funny. (TO DORIS) Up you get, Doris. D’you remember what I told you — those bright flashing lights meaning breathe again or face death, slash, partial paralysis?
THEY LEAVE PORTIA CHUCKLING TO HERSELF. SHE FLICKS THE RING-PULL INTO THE BIN, WHERE IT GLOWS FOR A MOMENT BEFORE FADING.
2/2 This is Spinal PTA
They say a writer should always base their material on actual experience. I never got as far as actually joining the PTA and I didn’t have a spinal to give birth. Happily I am a fan of This is Spinal Tap so it all worked out in the end.
IT’S OCTOBER 1985, AND THE ANNUAL PTA RECRUITMENT DRIVE AT SPECTACULARLY FAILING INNER-CITY SCHOOL, ST HUBBINS, IS UNDERWAY. A SIGN STANDS BY THE ENTRANCE HALL:
* FREE ALCOHOL *
P.T.A. RECRUITMENT MEETING TONIGHT, 8.00PM
* FREE ALCOHOL *
ST HUBBINS NEEDS YOU
* FREE ALCOHOL *
HEADMASTER BOB FULTON, BLACK, LATE 40s, RESPLENDENT IN 1970s AMERICAN MOTORCYCLE COP OUTFIT, GLAD-HANDS HIS WAY THROUGH THE ROUGH-LOOKING PARENTS. HE STOPS AT A TABLE PILED WITH MELTING MOMENTS AND STELLA ARTOIS. IT’S MANNED BY PUPILS, ONE OF WHOM POPS A CAN AND POURS CONTENTS INTO A TEA CUP.
EVANS: (PASSING CUP) Sir.
BOB: Evans. Thank you.
NEWMAN: (OFFERING MELTING MOMENT) Sir.
BOB: Evans’ colleague … Evans?
EVANS: Newman, sir.
BOB: (DUNKING MELTING MOMENT) Newman.
EVANS: Newman was wondering about the lockdown, sir.
BOB: Was he indeed? I don’t know or pretend to care what they did at your last school, Newman, but here at St Hubbins we don’t use the term ‘lockdown’. It has negative connotations with restrictive implications.
BOB: So, establish security around the hall at … eight-ten, that should allow for stragglers. Don’t let them out unless you see smoke and hear screaming. Here, you’ll need these.
BOB THROWS KEYS TO NEWMAN AND TURNS TO FIND CHASTITY FLYTE, COLDLY BEAUTIFUL PTA CHAIRWOMAN, IN HIS FACE WAVING A LETTER. HE SPILLS STELLA DOWN HIS FRONT.
CHASTITY: And just when were you planning to tell me about this?
BOB: How did you … The lock. You picked the bloody lock again, didn’t you?
CHASTITY: It takes six weeks to break a habit and forge new neural pathways. You gave me an hour before elections. What can I say, I succumbed.
BOB: Wet Wipe?
CHASTITY: Hand drier in the toilets. This so-called ‘consultation’ can’t go ahead, Bob, I’ve told Wanda she’s a shoo-in for treasurer.
BOB: Wanda? Wanda Bristow? Didn’t she get a suspended sentence for embezzle—
CHASTITY: Don’t judge, Bob. She’s good with numbers.
BOB: Other people’s.
CHASTITY: She can count to ten without moving her lips and using nine fingers. We don’t get many over-achievers at St Hubbins, we should use her talents. And as using comes naturally to you …
BOB: And there it is. Look, this silly little bit of paper isn’t going to change anything between us, is it? (SEXILY UNBUTTONING SHIRT)
CHASTITY: (READING FROM LETTER) How about “accessibility”?
BOB: Ha, ha. Nothing will happen for years. No need to withdraw sexual favours, not yet, not until we see how the land lies, eh? (PAUSE) Nine fingers?
CHASTITY: Art room guillotine. And this — “parental choice”? Laughable. How many of this lot chose parenthood? Please. It’s something that just happened, like trapped wind or death by misadventure.
BOB: For God’s sake, Chastity, hoick a leg up and get over this. You’ll find Parent Teacher Associations have very little input in the area of national policy reform unless, of course, the important people have need of a nice cup of tea and a sponsored HobNob.
CHASTITY: You’re forgetting yourself, Bob.
CHASTITY: Mess with me, Bob, and it’s the difference between getting what St Hubbins needs and what I say it needs.
BOB: Blah, blah, blah.
CHASTITY: This time I mean it. The lap-timed leapfrog was most lucrative. Resurfacing, and let’s see … marking out the netball courts.
BOB: I should probably bite your hand off, shouldn’t I? And if I wasn’t taking early retirement next year, it’s true to say I probably would give a bigger shit.
CHASTITY: You’re what?!
BOB: Did I not …? Oh, I’m sure I mentioned it. Certainly in my head we’ve had this conversation.
CHASTITY: You beer-soaked bastard.
BOB: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
CHASTITY: Our deal, our bloody deal! Brenda?!
CLOSE-UP OF A DEEPLY UNATTRACTIVE CHILD, LIGHT GLINTING OFF HER MOUSTACHE, GLASSES AND DENTAL BRACES.
BOB SMILES AT NEARBY PARENTS.
BOB: Do help yourself to a melting moment, Mrs Bates. Er … that’s not a drug reference.
CHASTITY: (COMPOSING HERSELF) But the kids. The darling kids, their education, their future? Do you even care?
BOB: My SAGA holiday brochure says ‘no’, and please, Chastity, don’t pretend you do.
CHASTITY: Care? Of course I care. I’ve channelled a lot of PTA money into—
OVER THE MELTING MOMENTS, EVANS DEMONSTRATES A SLICK ASSEMBLY OF AN AK-47. HE SLAMS HIS WEAPON DOWN.
NEWMAN FLOURISHES A STOPWATCH.
—appropriate vocational training. Don’t say I don’t care. (PAUSE) What could they be looking for, what could they want?
BOB: According to the last memo, closure. I’ve got sticky nipples. Tempted?
BOB: (PUTTING FINGERS OVER NIPPLES) Oops, private and confidential.
CHASTITY: Not to mention rhetorical, you dickhead.
BOB: Closure-ish. Unless we get student numbers up. (LAUGHS) Oh, who are we kidding? That’s about as likely as me getting a long service award. Now, what do you say, eh? You, me and my schlong service in the boys’ toilet before we kick this show off.
CHASTITY: But Bob, Brenda?
BOB: God, white noise, white noise. Get a grip, Chastity, you’re beginning to sound just a little bit whiney.
3/3 Midwick Cuckoo
Ah, not only do I draw on real experience in Midwick Cuckoo but the literature of the magnificent John Wyndham too. All my predilections laid bare, I’m naked before you. This pilot is set in a village more inbred than a Crufts’ winner, and focuses on the members of the local am-dram group as they struggle to put on their own adaptation of The Wicker Man. (I can’t let it go, can I?)
THE COMPANY OF MIDWICK ENTERTAINERS IN SHABBY ORIENTAL COSTUME ARE HUNCHED MOROSELY OVER THEIR DRINKS: ANDY BLACK, 40, THE LOCAL MINISTER; CAMPBELL CAMPBELL, 49, JAW-WIRED PROPRIETOR OF THE VILLAGE SHOP; NORRIE MITCHELL, 25, GARDEN CENTRE EMPLOYEE; ELSA BEADIE, 26, PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHER & BEARD OF NORRIE, CLARE FELCHINGTON, 43, AND HER P.A., BARBARA (NOT IN COSTUME).
CLARE IS CHECKING HER FACE IN A COMPACT. SHE’S THE ONLY ONE WHO LOOKS STUNNING.
ANDY: (WATCHING CLARE) And how did you get your eyes to look like that?
CLARE: Tit tape, darling. A little secret us girls use when we need some hidden support.
NORRIE: And you didnae think to lend it us? Christ, Clare, we were the biggest tits alive up there tonight.
BARBARA: Well, you were. Clare was sensational, she was the only one really committing as far as I could see.
NORRIE: Wrong as usual, Barbara love. The audience was all but committing suicide. Did you not notice?
NORRIE, ANDY AND CAMPBELL LAUGH. BARBARA GLOWERS.
ELSA: (THOUGHTFULLY) It’s a sin isn’t it, Andy? Suicide? You could’nae bury any of our audience who went and killed themselves now, could you?
ANDY: Technically speaking. But then if I shot them, hen, Our Good Lord might see it as a mercy killing, so nae bother.
CLARE: Oh for God’s sake, would you listen to yourselves! “But then if I shot them …” They deserve to die, cretinous inbred peasants, no offence, blah, blah. I was bloody fabulous—
BARBARA: You were Clare. Quite exquisite when you—
CLARE: I’m speaking.
BARBARA: Of course.
CLARE: Try to expand their bloody horizons and all they want is something ‘entertaining’.
THERE’S A PAUSE.
CAMPBELL: (TENTATIVELY) I’m no sure that’s a bad thing, Clare. I mean, we are called the Company of Midwick Entertainers. There’s a kind of, eh, ‘entertaining’ implication there.
NORRIE: Exactly, darling. Like Fred and Ginger, C.O.M.E. and clap go well together.
EVERYONE SNIGGERS EXCEPT FOR CLARE AND BARBARA.
CLARE: Once again could we move beyond schoolboy sperm references, do you think? It’s an acronym — See-Oh-Em-Ee. Grow up.
ANDY: Well, Clare, you have to honour your side of the bargain. While feng shui may work as a way of fleecing people unable to place a chair in front of the telly, as a two-act play it bombed. Choice of the Lammas production is now down to us I believe. I vote for The Wicker Man.
NORRIE: Sound of Music.
CAMPBELL: Ready, Steady, Cook.
ELSA: Jude the Obscure. So much death …
THEY ALL LOOK AT HER FOR A MOMENT, THEN BARBARA OPENS HER MOUTH. ANDY SWIFTLY CUTS IN.
ANDY: I’m sorry here Barbara, but you’re not a member, merely Clare’s note-taker.
BARBARA: P.A., actually.
NORRIE: Mm, it’s marvellous how your voice carries.
CAMPBELL: Ah, come on everyone. Let’s all get along, that’s the ticket. There’s no need for nastiness.
CLARE: (GETTING UP) And at this rate that’s just what the Lammas production will amount to. Populistic, mediocre nastiness for the proletariat! When I took on C.O.M.E. — and not one snigger from you, Norrie Mitchell — I imagined we’d push back theatrical boundaries, smash dramatic conventions, not pander to the herd with a production of the bloody Wicker Man!
ANDY: Seconded then. All in favour.
ANDY: (BANGING EMPTY GLASS ON TABLE) Carried. The Wicker Man it is.
CLARE GROWLS AND FLOUNCES OFF TO THE BAR. BARBARA SHOOTS THEM ALL A FILTHY LOOK AND FOLLOWS.
CAMPBELL: The Wicker Man, Andy? An odd choice for a minister, if you don’t mind me saying.
ANDY: I can appreciate a good pair of tits as much as the next man, Campbell. (PUSHES GLASS ACROSS TABLE) Mine’s a pint of heavy.