David Milner

David’s stories have appeared in Duality Books, Friday Flash Fiction, Spillwords Press and performed on Resonance FM radio (UK). He was commissioned to adapt and direct his short story ‘Into The Breach’ for the 2021 Rise of the Resistance festival, screened at Bloomsbury Theatre London, Wellcome Collection and available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzuj1-DJeSc . For several years he has worked in the public sector, mostly with homeless charities, in hostels and supported housing units. David was a founder member of punk band Vee V V (Edils Records). He finds his stories while he’s out and about, or they find him… He lives with his wife and family in London.

SHINWELL, or, An Extra Break for Breakfast

Emanuel ‘Manny’ Shinwell (October 1884 – May 1986) was born in the East End of London into a large family of Jewish immigrants. As a boy, he moved with his father to Glasgow. He became a trade union organiser and, as one of the leading figures of ‘Red Clydeside’ – a failed attempt to bring about a Bolshevik revolution – was jailed in February 1919.  

The play uses social realism in a non-naturalistic way, incorporating music hall interludes, dance, political meetings, to show a man coming to terms with what it means to be a socialist.

SHINWELL Or,  An Extra Break for Breakfast

By David Milner

Characters in extract:

Manny Shinwell

Fay Shinwell

Dentist

Captain E.A. Tupper

Havelock Wilson

Prison Guard

The play is set in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London.

The action takes place over several months in 1919.  

Extract from:  An Extra Break for Breakfast

Scene 1:          Duke Street Gaol, Edinburgh. February 1919.

Complete darkness. And the sound of a man shrieking in agony.

The light builds…. Manny in a chair. He is spattered with blood.

A decrepit old man bent over him – the Dentist – pulling a tooth.

On top a wooden table there are implements of extraction, bloodied and dirtied.

The Dentist coughs…spits upstage…takes a breather

Manny:            You…Evil swine…

Dentist:           Away, stop yer greetin’….Yer tooth’s comin’ out

Manny:            Rotten y’are {Attempts to bite him}

The Dentist is filling a pipe from a tobacco pouch.

Dentist:           You expect? Eh? The Royal – hahaha – Czarist treatment?

Manny:           Bastard

Dentist:           You’re a prisoner now, son.

Manny: (barely audible)               Bastard…

Dentist:              No’ the Saviour o’ Clydeside. And….

Manny:            …Aaaggh

Dentist:           Anaesthetics are for free men…only.

Tooth out, the Dentist puts the pipe in his mouth, and pats himself in search of light. He looks at the pathetic bloodied sod in the chair. Thinks the better of asking him for a match.

Dentist:           No’ so much the Loud Mouth, now, eh?

Blackout

Scene 2:          Duke Street Gaol, Edinburgh. February 1919                                   

Fay:                 Oh, Manny, my wee poor, Manny

The light comes up on a prison visiting room.

Comprising a table two chairs. On the table a package.

Opposite Manny his wife Fay. He is weakened, pathetic, staring into some abyss

Upstage, a uniformed Guard

Fay (indicating package):       I’ve brought you food…to eat…

Manny stares at her. Points to his mouth.

Struggles to speak…

Manny:            It’s over…it’s…

Fay:                 Manny. (She touches his hand)

Guard:             No touching the prisoner.

Manny:            Over… Gone.

Fay:                 No Manny….

Manny:            It hurts to breathe.

Fay raises from the seat, takes a step back. She addresses the Guard.

Fay:                 Look at this man. Look at him. No touching the prisoner? My husband. How old are you? (The Guard is unresponsive) He fights for you. He fights and fights for your rights, your rights as a working man, a human being. Open your eyes. See him.

Manny:            It’s over….gone…

.

Fay:                 My Husband. Emanuel ben Pesach.

Guard:             I know who he is.

Fay:                 Born into poverty, just like you. Am I wrong?

Guard:             I know who he is

Fay turns toward her husband. Manny begins to shiver.

Fay:                 You will – We will carry on this fight. We will prevail. Be our prisoner of hope, Manny, my Husband….

She stretches her hand toward him

Guard:             No touching the prisoner.

The light fades to black

Scene 3:          Trade Union Offices, London. February 1919.

The sound of Big Ben strikes, as two well-dressed, middle-aged men stride onto the downstage area. The younger of the two (Tupper) has a limp.

Both drink tea from fine china cups.

Havelock:        I would spurn all the tea in India, every last leaf, Tupper, to be a fly on the cell wall and watch as that bastard suffers. Five minutes that’s all I’d need.

Tupper:           Of course the irony in all this….

Havelock:        I don’t have time for irony. What was in his mind? He was supposed to be organising a strike!

Tupper:           The point I am trying to….

Havelock (Over him): I made him. I brought him in.

Tupper:           No doubt George Carson would have said the same.

Havelock:        That old coot was at death’s door when Shinwell first showed his face. I provided the opportunity, the Bigger platform. Without me Shinwell was nothing, he knew Glasgow and tailoring and bugger all else!

Tupper:           Yes

Havelock:        There was too much of the backstreet agitator in him, the chiselling Jew, scurrying around, busy in the slums.

Tupper:           I always said you gave him too much latitude.

Havelock:        Latitude? Shinwell would steal the boots from your feet then come back for the socks!  He was easily flattered.

Tupper :           Indeed. It’s the by-product of his self-esteem.

Havelock:        Oh, I admit, I’ll hold up my hands, admit that I needed him. Let’s not forget, as you full well know, Tupper, the dire straits the union was in. The shipping companies breathing down my neck, the money running out. Me on the verge of ruination, a Bankrupt. Shinwell appeared, as though from nowhere, a Golem conjured from the ether.  And he was just the type of agent required. He provided the strong presence on the Clyde. What the union would have been without that, I dread to think. He was a rock in the turbulent waters, quite magnificent. I’ll hold up my hands.

Tupper:           He put the fear of God into the ship owners.

Havelock:        Didn’t he! But this – Latitude, you say? He’s brought the might of the British Army bearing down. Tanks – Tanks! – and thousands of troops.

Tupper:           Young hot heads by all accounts.

Havelock:        On the streets of Glasgow!

Tupper:           Rat-atatatat  (Havelock stares at Tupper} If things get out of hand.

Havelock:        We need this contained.

Tupper:           Whilst keeping our distance.

Havelock:        Whilst keeping our distance. Let the courts decide what happens to Shinwell and his cohorts, the Kirkwoods and Gallachers. These stupid bastards have handed the Right Wingers in the cabinet just the ammunition they’ll need to crush all trade union activity. In this political and social climate? I can’t jeopardise my relationship with the ship owners.

Tupper:           No

Havelock:        We need the ship owners on our side.

Slight pause

Tupper:           I greatly suspect the plan grew out of all proportion, ran away with itself and, took on a life of its own.

Havelock:        We had the house under surveillance, didn’t we?

Tupper:           Constantly. If not us, the police. It was the same old faces, from the reports, coming and going, often in disguise…. (Amused)

Havelock:        Yet we still have a Bolshevik revolution to contend with!

Tupper:           I don’t know, Havelock, can we really refer to it as such?

Havelock:        Tanks! The press certainly refer to it as such. Lloyd George doesn’t equivocate on the matter. And I say this to you, I say this, I’m having long sleepless nights worrying that Shinwell comes out of all this a hero.

Tupper:            ….And this is the irony.

Havelock:        The Irony? To hell with it.

Tupper:           You were worrying enough when you thought Shinwell was becoming a respectable politician.

Havelock:        That is correct. But I’d prefer him comfortable and established, and damned well Knighted rather than see him become a martyr.

Tupper:           He’d have to die first.

Havelock:        I’m talking about the people. The mood and the will of the masses. What it will mean, what he might mean to them, having whetted their appetite for insurrection.

Havelock suddenly holds his stomach. Grimaces. Sits in a chair.

Tupper:           Havelock, listen to me, listen to me now, in my opinion, and for all his strengths as an organiser, Shinwell was not at the centre of this…

Havelock:        Oh, don’t tell me that – I want him finished! He stole funds from us, he appropriated materials. He’s an embezzler. For pity’s sake he’s been implicated in murder, still he wriggled off the hook – Oooh  (Rubs/holds stomach)

Tupper:           Calm yourself, old boy…you have a pill? I don’t have a Pepsodil on me…

Havelock:        Anymore news on the dead? How many dead?

Tupper:           Not as many as one might have thought.

Havelock:        No?

Tupper:           No. One thing we can be sure of with Shinwell, there will be notes….

Havelock:        Yes, he writes everything down.

Tupper:           Documentation.

Havelock:        Because he doesn’t trust anyone.

Tupper:           Times, dates, a veritable treasure trove, Havelock.

Havelock:        Substantial evidence.

Tupper:           And, come the trial, it will not matter a jot, what he is. Nor what he says he is.  Bear in mind, Shinwell is a man of no fixed position. He’s a pragmatist. After all these years the man has no ideology. Christ, if that’s a Bolshevik, Lloyd George is a celibate monk!

Havelock:        I want you back up there, Tupper.

Tupper:           My suitcase is packed.

Havelock:        We’ll get them, all our efforts will be concentrated on finding those documents.

Tupper:           He’s in a tight corner…

Havelock:        You get up there, do your stuff.

Tupper:           Like a sick animal.

Havelock:        Get the word on the street, the rumours spread. Pull in everyone you need to. Bring me those documents, Tupper.

Tupper:           What do you do with a sick animal?

Havelock:        Put it down.

Blackout

End of Extract

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