HE SAID / SHE SAID by David Butler

  • a two-hander taking place on a university campus. It gives the serious topic of rape dramatic life by reversing the expected roles. The play was shortlisted last year for the Billy Roche Short Play Award 2018, and will be performed as part of ‘Short + Sweet, Dublin’ later this year, 

David Butler’s novel City of Dis (New Island) was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year, 2015. His play Blue Love was published in 2018 in the Kenyon Review. Literary prizes for drama include the Scottish Community Drama, Cork Arts Theatre and British Theatre Challenge awards. His radio play ‘Vigil’, broadcast on RTE Radio, was shortlisted for an Irish Writers Guild ‘ZeBBie’ in 2018.

He Said/She Said


Danny (20s) – a final year Arts student

Emer (20s) – his ex, an Engineering student


A table in a university canteen.

Brief Synopsis

Danny, a final year Arts student, hasn’t seen his old flame Emer in months, that is until his friend Debbie accuses Emer’s little brother, Charlie, of having raped her at a party.


A table in a university canteen. DANNY (20s) seated, open textbook, pen and notebook, and a half-eaten burger on a tray before him. EMER (20s) approaches unseen, carrying tray on which a salad bowl. When she is within range, she flicks carrot-sticks or similar at the back of his head until he notices her.

DANNY                     (turning) Emer! Jesus!

EMER                        (mimics ‘wise-guy’ accent) Hey mistah, ya mind if I, uh, siddown at your, uh…?

DANNY                     What, they don’t have a canteen in the Science block anymore?

EMER                        They do, babes. But they use engine oil to cook in. (She sits facing him. Prods his burger, doubtful.) How’s your “burger”?

DANNY                     You’re not about to give me another spiel about meat is murder. You needn’t be worried. I swear, there’d be more meat in a plywood sandwich. (Beat) How’s your rabbit food?

EMER                        Meh… A plywood sandwich begins to sound tempting.

DANNY                     Seriously, what has you in the Arts block?

EMER                        Variety, babes. You know me.

DANNY                     Of an old day. You’ve changed. (Beat) New haircut?

EMER                        Ten out of ten! Veerry observant.

DANNY                     Suits you.

EMER                        You look…what’s the word?

DANNY                     Phhhh! Like a bag of shit?

EMER                        Now you mention it… you’re probs eating too much plywood.

DANNY                     Hunh! How’s the studies?

EMER                        Fucking electronics, I swear to God!

DANNY                     That good, yeah?

EMER                        So every year, (right?), Dee scraped through. I mean scraped. Every year she’d to repeat electronics in the autumn. I can’t get my head round the fucker either. And now Charlie’s as bad.

DANNY                     (winces at ‘Charlie’) Yeah?

EMER                        Reckons he’ll have to repeat it this time round.

DANNY                     So your contention is, bad wiring runs in the Foley family?

EMER                        The Foleys are genetically unfit to cope with electronics. That’s my contention. (Flicks idly through his textbook) How’s you?

DANNY                     Hunh! Can we go back to talking about your rabbit food?

EMER                        Pesky wabbit!

DANNY                     Gedaway fwom my cawwots

EMER                        Ha! (Trying to sound casual.) How’s Debs?

DANNY                     Ah!

EMER                        What?

DANNY                     I’d a feeling we weren’t here to discuss my studies.

EMER                        (Pause) So? How is she?

DANNY                     Debbie? (Beat) How would you imagine she is?

EMER                        Look. I know she… went. (Looks around, lowers her voice.) To the Rape Crisis Centre.

DANNY                     Yeah?

EMER                        Charlie told me.

DANNY                     I see.

EMER                        Danny. I don’t know what Debs has told you… (Beat) Look, how is she? I mean, has she said anything to you?

DANNY                     About…?

EMER                        About what she intends to do.

DANNY                     No. No, she hasn’t.

EMER                        (not believing him) Yeah?

DANNY                     She hasn’t, Emer.

Awkward silence. DANNY picks up pen and squints toward notebook. EMER stares hard at him.

DANNY                     Look. I really have to…

EMER continues to stare at him until he sets down pen.

EMER                        Danny, it wasn’t rape.

DANNY                     Oh.

EMER                        I was there.

DANNY                     You were there..!?

EMER                        At the party. Earlier on, I was there. She was well out of it.

DANNY                     Out of it?

EMER                        Off her fucking… Drunk. High. You know how she gets.

DANNY                     I’ll tell you what I know. What she knows. (Looks about, then leans forward.) When she woke up next morning, she’d no clothes on her. Not a stitch. Whoever had put her to bed had… had thoughtfully helped her out of them. (Beat) Then she found her tampon. Tossed in a corner, it was.

EMER                        Gross!

DANNY                     Yeah! Gross. She’s hazy about a lot of the night, but it was your baby brother put her to bed. That much she remembers. Being lugged up the stairs by him. (Quieter.) Other bits, too.

EMER                        Ok. So why didn’t he put her into his bed. If he was planning to…you know. Why did he put her in the spare room, under all the coats, where anyone might walk in?

DANNY                     I don’t know what was going through his mind.

EMER sets her cutlery down and pushes the barely tasted bowl to one side.

EMER                        Dan. Listen to me. Charlie’s not the type.

DANNY                     The type?

EMER                        He wouldn’t do anything like that. (Tense pause.) He says she was all over him, actually.

DANNY                     Right!

EMER                        You need to take her down off that pedestal, babes.

DANNY                     Correction. What Charlie Foley said was that nothing had happened. Nada! It was only after he heard she’d been swabbed that he admitted anything happened between them.

EMER                        (Beat) That still doesn’t make it rape.

DANNY                     So what would you call it?

Awkward pause. EMER is struggling not so much to find the argument as to speak it.

EMER                        Did Debbie say she tried to resist?

DANNY                     She was hardly in any condition to consent, Emer.

EMER                        Ok. You know what I think happened? (Beat) You’ve…never done anything you’re ashamed of?  Woke up and thought ‘Oh, holy fuck!’

DANNY                     I’ve never woken up and thought ‘Oh holy fuck I’ve raped someone,’ no.

EMER                        That’s not what I’m asking.

DANNY                     What are you asking?

EMER                        I think your pal Debbie woke up and thought ‘Ah Christ, here we go again.’ Cos people were in and out of that room all night. Getting their coats. (Beat) I hate to tell you babes, cos I know how much you like her. But Debbie Delaney’s fast getting the reputation as the college skank.

DANNY                     (coldly) I’m not seeing your point.

EMER                        For all she knows, there could be photos on everyone’s phone. She needs to cover her arse.

DANNY                     So she… what? Makes up this cock-and-bull story about your brother? Kinda farfetched, wouldn’t you say?

EMER                        Yeah? (Beat) Ok. The night we got together.

DANNY                     What about it?

EMER                        What do you remember about it?

DANNY                     I was amazed it had happened at all, is what I remember. To be honest, it came as much less of a shock when you dumped me three weeks on.

EMER                        I didn’t dump you.

DANNY                     No? What did you do?

EMER                        I broke up with you.

DANNY                     Semantics.

EMER                        I broke up with you when it was obvious you were in denial about your feelings for your pal, Debs.

DANNY                     My pal, Debs. You said it yourself.

EMER                        I don’t buy that. Friendship, when the two of you are like Tweedledum and fuckin’… But that’s not my point. My point is, what do you remember about that actual first night?

DANNY                     It was the Halloween ball.

EMER                        Yeah. And?

DANNY                     We were both wankered. (Beat) We went back to mine.

EMER                        Then?

DANNY                     We got it on.

EMER                        Ok. (Beat) Did you ask?

DANNY                     Ask?

EMER                        (Glances about. Intense.) Did you explicitly ask did I want to have sex with ya?

DANNY                     What is this? We went out! Three weeks, we were together…

EMER                        But that first night… did you ask?

DANNY                     So what are you saying, Emer? Now I raped you?

EMER                        I’m just trying to show you babes. How easy it is to cross a line.

DANNY                     (Pause. Pushes aside unfinished burger and gathers textbook, notebook and pens.) Why are you here, Emer? Why did you come here?

EMER                        I want you to… talk to her. She’ll listen to you.

DANNY                     And tell her what, exactly?

EMER                        Tell her not to press charges.

DANNY                     It’s not up to her to press charges. It’d be up to the DPP to press charges. If they think there’s a case. (Beat) She’d be a witness.

EMER                        Whatever! Jesus! (Beat) I mean, does she really want to put herself through all that? Besides which, the DPP would tell her, the whole thing is a load of my arse.

DANNY                     No it’s not, Emer.

EMER                        You were there?

DANNY                     I know Debbie.

EMER                        And I know my brother.

DANNY                     So where does that leave us?

            Another tense standoff. EMER is playing each card as though reluctantly.

EMER                        That night we got together, yeah? Ok. We’re in bed, together. The room’s spinning. First time, I didn’t pull your hand away. I give you that. I let you…you know. Turn me on. But the second time?

DANNY                     What? (Beat) The second time, what?

EMER                        Dan, I woke to find you at it again!

DANNY                     You didn’t object.

EMER                        I was asleep.

DANNY                     Only to begin with.

EMER                        And that’s ok, is it?

DANNY                     But after. You didn’t object after.

EMER                        I’m objecting now.

DANNY                     Emer. That was six months ago.

EMER                        And? There’s no statute of limitations if it’s sex.

DANNY                     So what are you saying? I tell Debs to drop the whole thing or you’ll go the guards, is that it?

EMER                        No! Jesus! What I am saying, things happen. Between people. (Beat) I’m not going to the guards, Danny. Or the Rape Crisis Centre for that matter. It never entered my head to, to be honest. But saying I did go, think what a hell your life would be.

DANNY                     It still sounds like a threat to me.

EMER                        Sorry if you take it that way.

DANNY                     How d’you expect me to take it?

DANNY rises energetically, scraping the chair backwards.

DANNY                     This is bullshit, Emer. And you know it.

EMER                        You’re going?

DANNY                     (Picking up tray.) Lecture.

EMER                        Really?

DANNY                     We still have lectures. In the Arts block.

EMER                        Right. (Beat) Look, Dan. Talk to her, would you do that? (Their eyes meet for a long moment.) For me, babes.

DANNY                     And say…?

EMER                        Just talk to her.

DANNY                     (shakes his head) Hunh!

DANNY walks away. EMER watches him go, then takes out mobile and begins to type message. She doesn’t see that DANNY has returned until he is at the table.

DANNY                     Ok.

EMER                        (Long pause, suspicious.) You will?

DANNY                     I said ok.

EMER                        Hey! Thanks.

DANNY                     Yeah.

EMER                        Thanks, Danny. I mean it.

DANNY                     I know you do. (Beat. He begins to go.) See you round, Emer.

DANNY exits. EMER remains seated. EMER stares at mobile, shivers involuntarily, and putting it away, she slumps as though in defeat.

Slow Fade


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