- 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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
DANNY We got it on.
EMER Ok. (Beat) Did you 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.
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.
EMER (Long pause, suspicious.) You will?
DANNY I said ok.
EMER Hey! Thanks.
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.