THEATRE

Theatre

(3)

1/3  The Pragmatic Adventures of Sissie Van Helsing — Blood Lust!

sissieA fond homage to the Gothic vampire genre and feminism, Sissie was written as a live ‘radio’ play 

SISSIE:   (NARRATING)  … As every door remained firm against us, my spirits sank in tandem with the setting sun.

MINA:     Sissie, darling?

SISSIE:   What is it, Mina?

MINA:     I know you will think me foolish, but I have a feeling in my bones so strong that I daresay it could be classed as scientific fact.

SISSIE:   And yet I fear the involvement of kittens.

MINA:     You are not the only one who can reason, Sissie.  La, sometimes I truly believe that you would wish to store up all the cleverness in the world and keep it for yourself alone.  But I too can think lostic, loglist, lolig—

SISSIE:   Logically.

MINA:     Yes. You forget that perched upon your shoulders I have a superior vantage point from which to see things more clearly.

SISSIE:   Why, yes, of course! Quick, tell me what you propose, for desperation is fast upon us.

MINA:     Well, you mind the wretched crone that you struck into the gutter, there to lie senseless amid the rancid filth?

SISSIE:   Yes, yes.

MINA:     Her wooden leg seems to me — if I cock my head upon one side and squint but not so severely lines form upon my brow — well, her wooden leg seems to me as if it points with some conviction towards a tavern set back in the shadows that hitherto we have not noticed.

SISSIE:   Her wooden leg.

MINA:     Indeed. It seems most emphatic.

SISSIE:   Mina, that is surely the most singularly foolish—

SFX:      TAVERN SOUNDS INC PIANO — UNDER TO “SHUT UP FRED”.

MINA:     Oh, fancy. A tavern.

SISSIE:   Why, Mina, I promise from this day forward I will never again cast aspersion on the integrity of divination with prosthetic limbs.

SFX:      DESPERATE KNOCKING.

SISSIE/MINA:  Hello, hello!  Help!  Hello! (AD-LIB)

SFX:      INNUMERABLE LOCKS AND BOLTS DRAWN BACK.  A CREAK.

INNKEEPER:    There’s nobody here. Go away.

SISSIE:       Please. Allow us entry.

INNKEEPER:    I can’t hear you, Miss, on account of there being nobody here. Go away.

MINA:     But we can hear music.

INNKEEPER:    (CALLING BACK) Shut up, Fred!

SFX:      PIANO LID SLAMS SHUT.

INNKEEPER:    No.  No music.

SISSIE:   My friend is in need of urgent medical assistance. Pray invite us into your establishment so she may rest.

INNKEEPER:    Invite you in, Miss? Invite you in? Oh-ho. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Miss? An invitation? Crossing my threshold at my inviting? Is that what you want, Miss, me to invite you in?

SISSIE:   Yes!

INNKEEPER:    No.  Go away.

SISSIE:   But, good sir — my friend. Every moment we spend here dangling on the string of your mercy brings her closer to certain death.  Mina?

MINA:     (COUGHS ONCE)

SISSIE:   Regard.

INNKEEPER:    Listen, Miss. I’m sorry for your predicament, I am. But I’ll be an elbow-licking fool afore I let you in this close to nightfall. You could be anyone or …

SFX:      DISCORDANT STRINGS.

INNKEEPER:    …  anything.

SISSIE:   Ah.

INNKEEPER:    Indeed, Miss. An “Ah” with vampiric knobs on.

SISSIE:   Sir, you are a modern man, a man of ideas, surely?

INNKEEPER:    Why, yes. I blush to mention it, Miss, yet I have around these parts a reputation as a man who knows what he’s having for supper afore he’s even had his breakfast.

SISSIE:   Exactly. A thinking man. A rational man. A man unbound by folklore and superstition.

INNKEEPER:    The very same. I see what is before me and I speak as I find.

MINA:     (COUGHS) Just ignore me.

SISSIE:   And good, dear, wise Innkeeper, I ask you — what do you see before you now? I ask not what you imagine or fear, but what do you truly see?

INNKEEPER:    Well. Mrs Alltheway and her not-so-lucky heather lying lifeless in the gutter behind you for a start.

SISSIE:   Oh.

INNKEEPER:    “Oh” with vampiric knobs on, I’ll be bound.

SISSIE:   No! You cannot suspect us vampires! For one, they are nothing but monsters proceeding from dreams and fables. And two, your Mrs Alltheway is not dead. Look! See how blood trickles yet from her nose? If she were dead I can assure you fresh blood would cease to flow.

INNKEEPER:    (PAUSE) I see before me also a lady with uncommon knowledge of the behaviour and habits of blood.

SISSIE:   Oh, please.

INNKEEPER:    Alright then, Miss No-I’m-Not-A-Vampire. How do you explain the pretty lady of corpse-like pallor with blood on her lips that clings to your throat as if her very life depended on it?

SISSIE:   Um.

MINA:     He means me, Sissie. (COUGHS) For I am pretty.

INNKEEPER:    And, excuse me, my very own eyes are at this minute fixed upon a lady of inhuman strength who supports not only the body of a full grown vampire-woman upon her back, but also three trunks, a portmanteau and a hatbox.

MINA:     He means you, Sissie. (COUGHS) For you are strong.  That is to say, not as pretty as I.

SISSIE:   Good Innkeeper, I really can explain.

INNKEEPER:    Oh, yes?

SISSIE:   Macramé. The tensile properties of a knotted cotton petticoat are legendary.

INNKEEPER:    Interesting how you would have me believe in your tall tales, Miss.  Good day to you, or should I say—

SFX:      OWL HOOT.

INNKEEPER:    —good night?  (CALLING) As you were, Fred.

Performed at The Maltings Theatre, Berwick-upon-Tweed by the Berwick Broadcasting Corporation, April 2011

2/3 The Rex Factor

tony blairA royal farce, complete with eavesdropping and mistaken identity. Set at the height of Tony Blair’s megalomania, The Rex Factor considers the question of how the Government would have acted if the Queen had abdicated without a suitable heir. Would it be possible to elect a new monarch? By means of a populist singing competition?

GORDON:   We have it on record that Queen Elizabeth II, Monarch of the United Kingdom and a few other random third world countries, feels there is merit in doubting the suitability of her heirs.

TONY:   We do?

GORDON:   I took notes.

TONY:   I’m impressed.  Boy scout?

GORDON:   Simply untrustworthy, Prime Minister.

TONY:   Well played, Gordy.

GORDON:   Thank you, Prime Minister.

TONY:   Now then, to recap.  Liz hops off the chair, Charles hops on, no-one else in the royal stable has the right buttocks to fit. In the words of our own QE2, it’s Baldy Prince Charlie or the Monarchy goes to hell in a handcart.

GORDON:   Which means—

TONY:   That finally after centuries of God’s anointed being chosen from the inbred, the undeserving and the unmeritorious—

GORDON:   Chosen from—

TONY:   —the sons and daughters of those who clambered to the throne on the backs and heads, the sweat and toil, the blood and tears of the common people — the wind of change is upon us.

(PAUSE. GORDON FEIGNS BLANKNESS)

GORDON:   May I ask from which direction it’s blowing, Prime Minister?

TONY:   You may, Gordy, you may. Finally God’s currently anointed has reached the conclusion that God’s next anointed is the last one worthy.

GORDON:  And again?

TONY:    For God’s sake. Old Queenie has just admitted her lineage is a busted flush, that her genes have failed to deliver any suitable heirs. (GORDON STILL BLANK) Great, a Chancellor with special needs, political correctness gone mad. Look, watch my lips — the Queen has just admitted that after Charles the hereditary monarchy has nothing further to offer. It’s over. Dead in the water. Kaput.

GORDON:   Oh, is that what she meant?  Of course I took notes but I really didn’t fully appreciate the implications.

TONY:   Which is why I’m Prime Minister and you spend your days hunched over an abacus. It means, Gordon, God’s currently anointed is proposing constitutional reform, yeah? Constitutional reform which we as the Government of the day have a duty to deliver.

GORDON:  Big stuff, Prime Minister. I’m not sure it was covered in the Queen’s Speech.

TONY:   It was, I just bloody heard her.

GORDON:   Really, Prime Minister? I’m afraid you’re one step ahead of me.

TONY:   Gordon, the Queen herself is calling for an end to the hereditary principle. It’s our job as humble servants to carry out her wishes.

GORDON:   Do you mean, the time is actually here, the time for …

(GORDON PLACES THE “TITS OUT” CROWN ON TONY’S HEAD)

TONY:   The People’s King.

GORDON:   Surely not, Prime Minister.

TONY:   Tradition is a wonderful thing, Gordy, but it’s a brave and forward-thinking nation that sheds it in a time of need. Our country is no longer at the mercy of clerics, monasteries, and the robber-barons of the Middle Ages. It’s time we put down the last vestige of a rotten system. This nation deserves better. The people of Britain deserve to choose their God’s anointed because the British people are the instruments of God. (LOOKING UP) No offence.

GORDON:   I’m all astonishment, Prime Minister.  Alistair’s away and you come up with a speech rousing, inspiring and insincere all at the same time.  (PULLS UP SLEEVE)  Look at that, goosebumps.

TONY:   Good, eh? Did you get it all down?

GORDON:    Alas and alack.

TONY:   What? You said you took notes. That’s what made you untrustworthy.

GORDON:   You misunderstood, Prime Minister. I take notes, but sadly I cannot be relied upon to take notes. It is this lack of note-taking that makes me untrustworthy.

TONY:   Bugger.

This project got as far as the read-through before internal politics sadly shelved it. A shame. I’d like to see Prince Charles sing Pulp’s ‘Common People’.

3/3  The Wicker Woman

wicker womanI’m shamelessly influenced by cult horror films, and The Wicker Man (Edward Woodward, not Nicholas Cage. Never Nicholas Cage) is one of the all-time greats as far as I’m concerned. But how could I adapt it for a cast of women and make it relevant to the locale? Of course. Set it on Holy Island and kill all the men. Sometimes the simplest solution really is the most obvious.

MAY:    Ah, now here’s my girl back home from school! Morgana. Come out of the rain and have a sherbet pentagram, candle of my eye.

HOWIE:   Your daughter? This is your daughter? But, you said you didn’t have a child.

MAY:   Why would I say such a ridiculous thing when clearly I have one there?  Look at her, prettier than a basketful of toads.

HOWIE:   Madam. You most definitely said you did not have a child.

BLODWYN:  Missing.

NERYS:    She doesn’t have a child missing.

MAY:   And if I did, mark you, I would be sure to ring the police. What sort of mother do you take me for?

HOWIE:   You’re playing with me. Fine. I’ll probably get more sense out of the child. Morgana, my name is Police Sergeant Howie. I’m here because a little girl has gone missing.

MORGANA:    You mean my sister?

HOWIE:   Yes. When did you last see your sister?

MORGANA:   But I don’t have a sister, silly Mr Policeman! (GIGGLES)

MAY:   On you go upstairs, my precious proof of love between a man and a woman.  Put your feet up before dancing-round-the-maypole practice.

HOWIE:    Dear God in Heaven.

BLODYWN:  So you’re a Christian man, Sergeant?

HOWIE:   I am indeed, madam.  Ultimately I answer to a power higher than the law itself — Jesus Christ our Lord.

NERYS:   Ah, now, that’s nice you’ve got a friend. Isn’t that nice, May?

MAY:   He’s fabulous. I mean, it’s fabulous. You’ll be seeing this tragic event as that of a poor lamb straying, for are they not all precious in the eyes of the Lord?

HOWIE:   Aye, Mrs Morrison.  Sinners and children alike.

BLODWYN:   What, even Diddling Dai?

NERYS:   Leave it, Blodwyn.

HOWIE:    The good Lord forgives all, madam. Do you not believe in a higher power?

MAY:   Oh, yes. I won’t lie to you, we’re all ever so religious.

ALL WOMAN:   (LAUGH RAUCOUSLY. STOP)

MAY:   That’s why we changed the island’s name to Holy, see?

HOWIE:   From what?

MAY:  Barry.

ALL WOMAN:   (LAUGH RAUCOUSLY. STOP)

HOWIE:   You’re insane. Mad. All of you.

MAY:   Why, yes, that is possible.

BLODWYN:   Probable.

MAY:   Possible and probable.

NERYS:   Quite bloody likely n’all.

HOWIE:   I’ve seen all I need to here. I’m leaving.

MAY:   What? I hope you’re not putting your violin in the attic already, Officer.

HOWIE:   Certainly not. I’m an officer of the law and while you may not take this badge seriously, I do. This investigation has only just begun, mark my words.

NERYS:   Where are you staying tonight?

HOWIE:   Staying? I’m not staying. I’m heading back to the mainland to type up my initial report. Your lack of co-operation will make for grim reading.

NERYS:   The only thing that needs reading on Holy Island, Sergeant, is the weather, the seasons, the tides and the pull of the moon in the sky.

MAY:   Only you’ve got to be careful with that last one cos it could be Huge Hew hanging his arse out the window. You’ll be staying at The Green Man I expect, Officer Howie.

PHONE RINGS TWICE .  PICKED UP.

BLODWYN:  Hello?

HOWIE:   Madam, are you deaf as well as evasive and duplicitous?

MAY:   Well, pos—

HOWIE:    Stop.  Don’t say it. Don’t even think it.

MAY:   I was just going to say I do suffer from waxy build-up. I only asked, Officer Howie, because you’ll not make it across the causeway at this time of day. The tide is against you.

BLODWYN:  That was The Green Man,  Sergeant, confirming the booking you made earlier.

HOWIE:   I didn’t make a booking.

MAY:   Well, now, that’s lucky then, isn’t it?

BLODWYN:   If you head over there now, Willow the innkeeper’s daughter will settle you in.

ALL WOMAN:   (LAUGH RAUCOUSLY. STOP)

HOWIE:   Right … right! Believe you me, ladies — and I use the term in the loosest sense — I will search this island from top to bottom. I will leave no stone unturned, no barn unsearched, no cellar unchecked. Something is very wrong here and by the love of God I will do everything in my power to find out what! I will not rest until that child is found even if it takes the last (WHEEZES)  breath in my body! Sorry, asthma. (LEAVES)

MAY:   Well, now, look you. There’s a man who understands the meaning of the word sacrifice.

ALL WOMAN:   (LAUGH RAUCOUSLY. STOP)

MAY:   Sherbert pip anyone?

Performed at The Maltings Theatre, Berwick-upon-Tweed,  May 2012