Henry Bladon is based in Somerset in the UK. He is a writer of short fiction and poetry with a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Birmingham. He is the author of several poetry collections and his work can be seen in Poetica Review, Pure Slush, Truth Serum Press, Lunate, and O:JA&L, among other places.
Un-uttered Play for an Abandoned Theatre
The original play (not showcased here as the cast never got going) is actually called The Unexamined Ethics of Scrutiny and is about the importance of privacy in the age of creeping surveillance.
Cast: The Impresario, Reporter, Prompter, Weatherman, The Musician, The Starlet, Theatre Historian.
(Outside the old town theatre, The Impresario grins as he walks past a poster of his play. A local reporter asks for an interview. The Impresario agrees and tells the reporter that he has high hopes for the new play.)
Reporter: ‘Do you think there is a public appetite for the play, or do you think it will flop like the last one?’
The Impresario (grinding his teeth and dashing into the theatre): ‘Fuck off.’
(Inside, the Overture is played by a lone musician on a xylophone. The music is heard over the clink of ice in a glass.)
(Prompter can be overheard urging endeavour.)
(The lights go up as The Starlet arrives, lightly brushing the boards with her dainty feet. The musician in the orchestra pit plays a gentle melody through a muted trombone. Starlet sits on the arm of a green sofa.)
(Weatherman appears with a leather-covered hip flask he has borrowed from the props department.)
‘Ah, you’re here. Was it raining outside as I had predicted?’ (His words are slightly slurred. He squints because of the floodlights)
(The Starlet says nothing, shakes off her umbrella and throws it into the orchestra pit, hitting The Musician on the head.)
The Musician: ‘Ow!’
The Impresario (talking through the medium of wireless amplification): ‘Did you know that I’m starting a campaign to control illegal party houses?’
The Starlet (standing and taking off her raincoat): ‘Such a shame. I love a good party.’
The Impresario (shaking his head): ‘Revellers clogging the air with their laughter… Music at all hours. There’s only so much Beethoven one can bear.’
(Weatherman belches): ‘Or Bach.’
(From the orchestra pit, The Musician stops playing his violin):
‘It’s wrong to vilify the white male titans of musical history,’ he says.
The Impresario: ‘Who said anything about titans?’
Weatherman (wobbling slightly and still slurred as he pours from the hip flask): ‘Aha! Tonight there is likely to be a meteor shower in the Virgo constellation.’
(As The Starlet sits again, she can almost be heard crash-dieting (even though she is thin enough, according to her stepmother). She kicks a loose green bottle under the green sofa.)
The Starlet: ‘Shooting stars, how lovely. They’re so glittery when you see one.’
Weatherman (sniffing): ‘And a Sturgeon moon.’
Prompter (to self, but heard by cast): ‘I prefer salmon myself.’
The Starlet:‘I prefer salmon myself.’
(Laughter from the sole audience member: a theatre historian from Preston who is sitting in the balcony, eating Walkers chips (cheese and onion variety)).
The Impresario: ‘Listen, I’m not talking about the night sky. And I’m not talking about some tool of oppression. I consider this a public emergency.’
(The Impresario exits, the stage goes silent.)
Prompter (in a hissed tone): ‘Weatherman…’
(Weatherman looks at the footlights and shades his eyes with his left hand as he holds up the hip flask.):
Prompter (annoyed): ‘I knew the props man should have emptied that flask first.’
(The Impresario looks at The Starlet expectantly. The Starlet opens her mouth, but before any words emerge there are muffled noises from Weatherman offstage.):
(There is a brief silence. Then Weatherman, who has been out to top up his cocaine levels, has just returned):
‘Where’s the detective?’
‘There is no detective.’
(There is irritated grunting from the sole audience member.)
Theatre Historian (now on his feet and shouting, hands placed either side of his mouth):
‘When is this play going to start?’
‘It wasn’t like this in rehearsals.’
‘Weatherman…opening line “The storm over the beef ban in the town…”.’
Weatherman (swaying gently):
‘Oh, yes. “The storm over the…” Oh dear, I’m sensing a kaleidoscopic decline in my bones…my brain seems to be going down a blind alleyway. If only I had completed that PhD I would have a job as a senior weatherman rather than a shadow-chasing actor.’
The Starlet (ignoring protocol and apparently addressing Weatherman):
‘I abhor the idea of promoting academic excellence in favour of other ambitions. I’ve watched friends and their children panic about grades and university clearing systems. It’s time we were promoting diversity.’ Pauses. ’Is there a more laudable aim than saving the planet?’
(A groan is heard from the prompter.)
The Musician (stares open-mouthed at The Starlet):
‘It was something I read somewhere. I’m good at remembering lines.’
(Weatherman has passed out from drinking gin. The cocaine missed his nose and is in a white trail on his collar. The Musician plays the opening bars from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92 on the comb and paper. His timing is off but nobody cares.)
(In the wings, The Impresario, who wandered off stage, is distracted and spots an advert in the paper: Landlords we’ll buy your property quicky…)
The Impresario (sotto voce, reading from advert):
‘Any type of property, eh? Confidential service. That’s the one for me, I’m sick of all the hassle.’
‘Weatherman? Are you okay?’
(Prompter coughs quickly and waves disapproval to the actors.)
(The Impresario re-enters):
‘You are all criminally ignorant
to what is going on. Life imitates art.
We are all facing increased scrutiny;
you’ve read the script, there are secret
police trials, people are facing secret
identity checks. It’s all too much.’
‘I thought you were worried about the illegal parties?’
‘Fuck that. Allow me to proffer some advice.’
Prompter and The Starlet:
(Derisory laughter from the sole audience member.)
The Impresario (leaving the stage):
‘I’m done with this shit.
I’m off to live in, Argentina
I suggest you all do the same.’
(The props man demands the return of his flask.
It is a little late because Weatherman
has been sick on the green sofa.)
(The Starlet, The Musician, and Prompter all look at Weatherman and then each other):
‘Shall we forget the play, then?’
The Impresario (heard laughing in the wings):
‘That’s showbiz, folks.’
(Curtain descends. There is the sound of one person clapping but also booing.
The Musician plays Nessun Dorma on a Theremin.
There’s a bang from a confetti cannon, followed by fluttering from coloured strips of paper.
Exeunt all to bar over the road, including Weatherman, who claims to have found a second wind.)