July 2021

Our Zoom meeting, for July, looked at producing realistic dialogue. The follow-up work was to write a play with five characters. The challenge was to bring out the personalities of these characters without any narrative.

HAPPY HOLIDAY!

Act One

MOTHER (JEAN)     Only five more days before we go, so you two ought to think

                                  about what clothes you ‘re taking and give me any that need

                                  washing before we set off.  

JOSH                        You know I don’t want to go.

FATHER (PHIL)         We’ve already been through all this Josh. I don’t know how

                                   many times we’ve told you that you are too young to be left

                                   at home on your own. Another couple of years or so and you

                                   can go on holidays with your mates. This isn’t my favourite

                                   type of holiday, I’ll admit, but it’s the best thing your Mum has  

                                  come up with whilst this Covid is still around.    

JOSH                         Hm!

EMILY                          I can’t wait to go. I’m really excited about it Dad. I’ve got my shorts and tee shirts out already. I’m going to take my Games Console and Esmeralda and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Fire which is the book I’ve just started.

GRANDAD                 Emily my dear, you’ll need to pack things for rainy weather too. You’ll need your wellington boots for when you go out of the van in the mornings across to the toilet block for a wash.

JEAN                           No Granddad, it isn’t like that nowadays. I know you haven’t stayed in a caravan since the early days of your marriage when you both used to go to Skeggie once a year. Nowadays caravans have their own loos in them and a little shower room. Things have moved on a bit since your days.

JOSH                           Ugh! I’m not going to use a smelly loo inside a caravan. Unhygienic!

PHIL                            Since when have you been concerned about hygiene Josh? Look at the state of your bedroom. Dirty mouldering cups and plates left under your bed for weeks on end and filthy clothes scattered all over your bedroom. You never even open a window.

JOSH                           It’s my room and you’ve no right to go peering in there.

JEAN                           Calm down the two of you. Josh please just let me have any clothes that need washing.

JOSH                           Hm! Haven’t got any.

EMILY                        Will we go swimming in the sea?

JEAN                           It might be too cold for that on the North Coast Emily but we will certainly be able to paddle and enjoy some days on the beach if it is warm and sunny.

JOSH                          Oh no! Not that crap! God, whatever next? Why have Granddad and I got a tiny caravan for just the two of us? And you lot have got a so called de-luxe one.

GRANDDAD             When I was a lad my family went on holiday once a year camping to Skeggie with an old army tent. My Dad used to insist on taking us three children down to the beach for a swim each morning whatever the weather, come rain or come shine and before breakfast.  We’d then walk back to our tent shivering in the cold and our Mum would be busy cooking breakfast for us all outside the tent on a small primus stove.

PHIL                           Oh yes Dad but we have moved on a bit from then and are now in the twenty-second century. Even you must admit that.

JOSH                          Not in this household, they haven’t. Two of my mates are going on holiday with their parents and staying in hotels. And they hope to go abroad for a holiday later on in the year.

JEAN                           Well I bet they won’t have as much fun as we’ll all have together in Yarmouth.

JOSH                          FUN! Get real Mum.

GRANDDAD             We’ll have a lovely holiday with all of us together again. I’m so glad you asked me to join you all. Since your Gran died earlier this year Josh, I’ve been very lonely at times. I’ve loved it Emily when you’ve popped round sometimes after school to see me. You and I have had some good games of cards together as well as me teaching you how to play Monopoly on my old board. Ah, now there’s an idea. Shall I pack the Monopoly set, a pack of cards and my Dominoes?

JOSH                          Oh no, no, no, NO! Bloody Hell Fire! Whatever next?

PHIL                           That’s enough Josh thank you. Just watch your language. Your Granddad is only trying to be helpful. A pack of cards could be useful Dad as there are all sorts of games that we might play with those in an evening. But there will be a little TV in each of the two vans and we can always get you your daily newspaper. Anyway the kids will have their handsets and Emily always has her nose in a book at every opportunity. She won’t ever be bored.

JOSH                          Oh Emily again. Getting all the praise as usual.

PHIL                           Well Josh, if you showed some interest in life instead of just lazing around all the time we’d…

JEAN                           Oh don’t start on that Phil. How about us all sitting down calmly now that Granddad is round and discussing what each of us would particularly like to do when we are on holiday together. By doing that we will all hopefully get a chance to enjoy ourselves.

JOSH                          You can count me out of this fucking discussion.

GRANDDAD             Oh come on Josh. Your Mum’s trying her best to plan a happy holiday for all of us.

EMILY                        I want to play on the beach and build a really fantastic sand-castle with a channel going right down to the sea, so the water will come up to it. And I want to swim in the sea.

GRANDDAD             How about us buying a kite Emily and trying to fly that on the beach? We can also go looking for lots of different shells for you to bring back home.

JEAN                           That’s a lovely idea Granddad. We can use pretty little shells for decorating all sorts of things Emily. You’ll enjoy that.

JOSH                          YUK! I really don’t want to go Mum. The whole thing is just not my scene.

JEAN                           Well Josh you have just got to come with us this year and make the most of it. So think about what you would like to do when we are all away together and we will try to fit in with that. What would interest you?

PHIL                           To stay in bed all day?

JOSH                          Yeh. Just about right Dad.

Margaret

MATCH DAY

Scene: West Country Football Supporters’ Club in 1959, 2 hours before kick off.

(GEORGE is sat alone at table 4 with a pint of cider.)

(FREDERICO (FRED) enters)

FRED ‘Buongiorno Georgio.  ‘ow are you?’

GEORGE, ‘I be fine.  Ow be ee, young whippersnapper?’

FRED ‘So, so tired.  ‘I ‘ad-a hard-a shift dis morning at dee forge.  Wish I was-a retired like-a you.’

GEORGE ‘Don’t be so bloody daft lad!  Mustn’t wish your life away like that!  So much to look forward to. You’m only seventeen! You never know, might even see City win in your lifetime!’ he says laughing.

FRED, (eyes looking up to the ceiling) ‘Like-a Juve?  Dat a be a nice.  But first I need a drink.  You wanna one Georgio? ‘

GEORGE ‘No ta, I be alright kidder.’

(FRED moves off to the bar.)

(In come STANLEY and ROBERT.)

ROBERT running towards George, ‘Grandad!’ he shouts excitedly.

GEORGE ‘Come ‘ere boy!  It’s your birfday innit?  Bis 5 baint ee?’

(ROBERT sitting on granddad’s lap, nods in agreement.)

GEORGE Look wot I got for ee.  A Fry’s Five Boy chocolate bar.  Now tell I, which face is we all gonna ‘ave at the end of today’s game? Crying? Sad? OK face? Smilin’? Or ‘Really Happy face?’

ROBERT ‘Really Happy face Grandad! We’s gonna win!’

GEORGE ‘Dat’s my boy!’ (then turning to STANLEY) ‘Awright son? ‘Ow’s Barbara?’

STANLEY ‘Weem bofe good tar. Not much work at the docks this week though.  Bit skint.’  (Pause) ‘Bis coming to dinner tomorrow dad?’

GEORGE ‘Be luvly son! Twelve o’clock, alright wiv you?’

(STANLEY nods.)

(FRED returns to the table with his drink.)

(Enter VICTORIA, Lady President of the Supporters’ club.)

GEORGE, ‘A’ernoon Madam President.’

VICTORIA, ‘Good afternoon George.  How are you, and how is your arthritis?’

GEORGE ‘I’m good fanks ma’am. Arfritis passable.’

VICTORIA ‘Pleased to hear it George.  May God grant that it stays that way.’

GEORGE ‘Thank ee again, ma’am!’

VICTORIA ‘Do you think we’ll win today?’

GEORGE ‘Ope so! Ain’t won for a while’

VICTORIA ‘Precisely George.  Let us hope we are due a change of fortune.’

GEORGE, ‘Let’s!’

VICTORIA,(turning to the others, she smiles and nods.)

‘STANLEY, FRED.’  Then she looks at ROBERT ‘And how is my favourite young supporter then?’

ROBERT, (shyly, and blushing)  ‘I’m ever so well, fank you Madam Lady Present.’

VICTORIA, (chuckling) ‘Splendid’  Are we going to win today Robert?’

ROBERT (indignantly) ‘Of course. Free nil! Williams, Jones and Smiff to score!’

VICTORIA ‘How prescient young man. I do hope so! Well, please excuse me gentleman, I have some guests waiting for me.  I hope you all enjoy the game!’

GEORGE, FRED, STANLEY and ROBERT all in unison. ‘Thank you ma’am! Goodbye.’

(VICTORIA exits leaving everybody wondering what prescient means!)

FRED, ‘We play  Notts-a County today, uh?  You know-a de story wid-a Juve?’

ROBERT ‘What’s Juve?’

STANLEY ‘It’s Juventus, an Italian football team son.’ turning to FRED  ‘What story be dat den FRED?’

FRED ‘Juve copy de Notts-a County shirt wen de old Juva shirt kept a-fading.  Disa was-a in 1890’s I think!  So it will be like-a watching Juve dis afternoon, playing City, my English team.  A dream!’

STANLEY ‘Good for you Fred.  But you’m gonna get ‘ammered you know?’

FRED ‘Wat-a ‘ammered’ mean Stan?’

STANLEY ‘You lose five nil!’

FRED ‘Mama mia! Impossible!  Dee a great Juva cannot-a lose a five a nil.  Dis is not possible!  You are mad Stan!’

STANLEY ‘Bloody eyeties.  Think you knows all about football! Notts County – your ‘Juve for the day’ is gonna lose five nil Frederico!’

FRED ‘ I bet you ‘alf a crown you wrong!’

(STANLEY looks crestfallen.)

STANLEY ‘Sorry.  Love to bet, but I’m skint Fred.’

FRED ‘You can owe me!’

(STANLEY contemplates.)

STANLEY ‘Alright then. You’re on!’

GEORGE ‘Now steady on lad.  That’s a lot of money to lose on a bet.’

STANLEY ‘But I ain’t gonna lose Dad!’

(STANLEY shakes FRED’s hand and the bet is sealed.)

ROBERT, wide eyed ‘Half a crown? That’s a lot dad!’

STANLEY ‘Be quiet son.  And not a word to your mother!  You understand!?’

(ROBERT nods and looks uncomfortable for being forced into something he feels instinctively is wrong.)

(Silence reigns.)

(GEORGE sips his cider and lights a cigarette.)

FRED ‘ We can undo de bet if you wanna Stanley.  I no wanna get you into trouble.’

GEORGE ‘Take his offer and buy him a pint son!’

STANLEY ‘I can’t go back on a bet dad!’

FRED ‘It’s OK.  We are friends.  Dat is a most importante!  No problemo!

GEORGE (sternly and assertively.) ‘ Do it Stanley!’

(STANLEY reaches over and he and FRED clasp their four hands together to undo the agreement.)

GEORGE ‘ Well done lad!’

(FRED smiles broadly at STANLEY.)

(STANLEY reciprocates with a weak grin.)

STANLEY ‘Want that drink now Fred?’

FRED ‘No thank you.  Next match!’

(STANLEY nods.)

(They all drink up and leave the club for the terraces to claim their usual places.)

(The game ends in a 5-0 win for City.)

(They all go back into the Supporters’ club and once more sit at table 4.)

FRED ‘Well-a, sorry Stan.  You would-a won de bet.  I buy a round of drinks to say-a sorry.’

(FRED goes to the bar.)

STANLEY, angrily ‘I could have been half a crown richer dad!’

GEORGE ‘An’ you could-a been in debt.  We don’t want no debt in this family, and we ain’t ‘avin none while I’m alive.  Gambling and debt brings misery!  Now I want’s to ‘ear no more about it!’

(ROBERT remains uncomfortable.  He doesn’t like this arguing.)

(FRED returns from the bar.)

FRED ‘Robert, it’s your a birthday ‘an I buy you a Coca Cola for a present.  You like?’

ROBERT wide eyed, ‘Wow, I love Coca Cola Fred.  Fank you.’

(ROBERT’s demeanour is happy again.)

GEORGE ‘Thanks Fred, that’s a really nice thing to do!’

STANLEY ‘Yeh, thanks Fred.  You’re a great guy…for a Juve fan.

Everybody laughs, including ROBERT, although he doesn’t know why!

© Bob Reader July 2021 – 999 words

                        GRANNY GETS A POODLE

The setting is in various rooms of an expensive London home.

LOUNGE OVERLOOKING A WIDE LAWN

               Ruth and David are seated and drinking wine 

                                   DAVID

                         She’s here now, so that’s the end

                         of it. Agreed? Not as if we can’t

                         find her a bedroom. Place has always

                         been too big for us. And Greg’s

                         missing most of the time now that

                         he’s seeing that young French

                         thing. Francis, was it? 

                                   RUTH

                         Francoise. You know damn well. Stop

                         trying to muddy the waters, David.

                         She’s not the issue. Betty is. She

                         was a pain in the neck before she?

                         began to lose it. And she’s twice

                         as bad now. I’m the one who is

                         going to be stuck here with her

                         while you bugger off to the office. 

                                   DAVID

                         Ruth! Mother has her moments I

                         know. Not that bad. Here, let me

                         top you up. A jolly fine red. we

                         can get some help in. Maybe an au

                         pair?

                                   RUTH

                         You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Not

                         happening, old man. She needs to be

                         in a home and not this one. Fill it

                         up to the brim. I need it.

                     GRANNY’S BEDROOM

               Packed suitcase by the door, Granny Betty is

dressed in outside coat, seated on bed. Swinging her legs.

On a table by the window is a large floral jigsaw completed

apart from a missing piece in the corner. Beside her, a large open box of chocs which she is methodically working through.

A quiet knock at the door and GREG enters. A casually dressed young man with a big smile.

                                   GREG

                         Morning Granny. Didn’t think you

                         would be up so early. It’s only

                         nine. did you sleep okay?

                                   GRANNY

                         Get out, they don’t allow us to

                         have men in our rooms. Go on get

                         out. I don’t want to get into

                         trouble.

                                   GREG

                         Granny, it’s me – little Greg.

                         Remember. Mr Rocking Horse. ‘Give

                         me a push, Granny!’ 

                                   GRANNY

                         Gregory? What are you doing here?

                         Be in trouble. Mummy will smack you

                         if she catches you. Do you want a

         chocolate. Found these next to the…

    you know – the jackdaw.

                                   GREG

                         Jigsaw. The jigsaw, Granny. No

                         chocs for me thanks. Oh you’re

                         missing a corner piece, shall I

                         find it for you? Maybe help you un

                         pack again. Maybe take your

                         coat off Granny, it’s a bit hot in

                         here.

 GRANNY

                         Do what you like but I’m not staying,

                         whoever you are. I’ll set my dog

                         on you.  I want to go home. I want

                         to go home.

                                   GREG

                         I know you do, Granny. I know.

I

                           LOUNGE AGAIN 

                                   RUTH

                         I think I can hear him coming down now.

                                   FRANCOISE

                         He texted me. Gregoire talked to his

                         Grand’Mere, this morning. She is

                         sad, I think.

                                   DAVID

                         Oh no, don’t think Mother is sad.

                         She gets a little confused that’s

                         all. It happens to us all. I

                         thought, my wife had opened a merlot,

   turns out it was a …

                                   RUTH

                        David! Enough excuses. 

               Greg Enters

                           GREG

                         Francoise, sorry…

                         Mum and Dad keeping you

                         entertained?

                                   FRANCOISE

                         Enter tanned? Bof. We have been

                         speaking of your Grand’Mere. I go to see

                        her…soon? Last time we talk about her dog.        

   She told me it has eaten your mother.

   No? She misses him

             RUTH

   Her alsation did bite me and we decided it

   should be re-homed! Maybe we should have

   re-homed them both at the same time?

                                  FRANCOISE

                        Pardon, I do not understand. 

DAVID     

                         My wife decided the dog was dangerous,

   Greg’s grandmother is not able to look

   after animals. I always struggled with

                        keeping my gold fish alive. A family trait.

   My aunt, well…

                                RUTH

   Best she forgets about the damn thing.

GREG

Mum! Poor Granny. She loved that dog.

I think she could do with some company, Dad.

Maybe show her the garden?

RUTH

And where are you two off to – while

your father fusses over Lady Elizabeth? Somewhere special? Far from this mad house.

FRANCOISE

   Does madame, your mother, not know?

   I choose for Grand’Mere a little

   French Poodle. Gregoire will bring him

   ‘ome, this morning. Grand’Mere will be

   so ‘appy, n’est ce pas, madame?

-END-

John

Residents’ meeting, Carisbrooke Close, Anytown

Gareth:                So what’s this all about? I haven’t much time. Rotary meeting later on.

Betty:                    Well I want to talk about the noise. It happened again last night. Must have been 10.30. Someone driving down the Close like Stirling Moss, waking everyone up. I’m fed up with it.

Mo:                        Like who?

Gareth:                Hardly late! Most of us aren’t in bed by that time you know, Betty.

Aleksandra:        No, she is right. I know. I got a five-year-old and a three-year-old. Hard to make them sleep. All that revving up is bad. It’s the Porsche at no. 23, I think.

Betty:                    People just don’t have any respect nowadays. I blame the parents. Children are allowed to do just what they like and then when they grow up …

Mo:                        Nice motor! Must have cost him!

Raymond:           In my honest opinion we should get that young councillor chappie involved. Labour man unfortunately, but fair’s fair, he got rid of those thugs that used to hang around the bus shelter.

Aleksandra:        Not thugs, I think.

Betty:                    Druggies, I believe the modern expression is. Good riddance!

Aleksandra:        No, they young people, do no harm. Nowhere else to go.

Raymond:           National Service, that’s what they need. Too soft for it now, not like in my day.

Mo:                        Come on, Grandad. What do you know?

Raymond:           Let’s me tell you, young man …

Gareth:                Oh, never mind that. We haven’t got long. Is the noise really that bad? I don’t want to stir up ill feeling in the Close for one little incident.

Betty:                    It’s not, it goes on all the time. There’s supposed to be a speed limit. You’ve got to nip these things in the bud.

Aleksandra:        I find dead hodgeheg by my gate. Run over. Kids upset.

Raymond:           It’s called a hedgehog, dear.

Gareth:                Of course it’s annoying occasionally, but live and let live, I say.

Betty:                    I don’t know why you’re chairman of the residents. You like to throw your weight about, but you never actually do anything. I can see up and down the Close from my window, and let me tell you, there’s a lot goes on, not just noise …

Gareth:                It’s me that does the admin. Minutes, all that. No one else’d do it.

Aleksandra:        Who is reading minutes?

Mo:                        I don’t like that guy at 23. If’s there’s any drugs going down, it’s him.

Betty:                    This isn’t about drugs, it’s about noise. We’re all entitled to a quiet life.

Mo:                        For me, I don’t give a fuck. If I’m in, I got the headphones on, listening to G.G.

Betty:                    Honestly, language …

Raymond:           What’s G.G.?

Mo:                        He’s a rapper, man. Wants people to live in peace, y’know?

Aleksandra:        I wish we could all do this, for sure. But loud noise make me nervous.

Gareth:                Mo, I’d be interested to know why you come to these meetings. You don’t look like a pillar of the community with all those piercings.

Mo:                        Ma can’t come, she’s got the wheelchair, so I’m like, OK Ma, I’ll let you know what’s happening. You think just because she’s from …

Betty:                    [interrupting] So have we decided anything? Or is it all talk and no action, as usual?

Raymond:           I’d go round to have it out with him, but I’m not as young as I was. Do you want me to telephone the councillor?

Gareth:                Yes, you do that, Raymond. I’m not apt to confront the fellow either. [Looks at his watch] I’m off. Let me know what he says and I’ll minute it. See you all in a fortnight.

Raymond:           Wish he was a Conservative! Law and order! But beggars can’t be choosers.

Betty:                    Meanwhile, everybody – look out for whoever’s churning up the grass verge near the snicket. It’s a sea of mud when it’s raining. Those children with their footballs …

Frances

No sushi for me thanks!

Act 1 Scene 1

A suite in a luxury hotel in Kyoto, Japan in 1996. Miles and Jo have just arrived back. He from the last day of the conference and she from a tour organised for the wives/partners of delegates.

MILES:            (chucking his jacket on the bed and taking off his tie) Phew what a day! These Japs don’t half go into everything in fine detail. I’m almost hoarse with having to keep answering their barrage of questions about research and future contracts etc.

JO:                 If you think you’ve had a busy day just wait till I tell you about mine….

MILES:            (interrupting) You’ve been on a jolly all day with those women. Not exactly hard work is it?

JO:                  I am absolutely knackered. We started off at 9am this morning with a tour of the pottery. Fine I thought. But then we were all garbed up and had to make one of the pots we had just seen in the demo. Have you ever used a potter’s wheel? Not exactly as depicted in Ghost. Took ages for us all to complete the task then they took us for lunch. You would have loved it. Sushi and Sashimi yum yum!

MILES:            Ugh! Glad I wasn’t there. The smell of it makes me want to vomit. They actually gave us a decent lunch with plenty of European choices.

JO:                  Bet there was plenty of sake to wash it down.

MILES:            Actually no. The Japs like to keep their heads clear for business. The sake comes later.

JO:                  You haven’t asked me what we did after lunch which, incidentally with all the small talk and the Japanese wives desperate to practise their English, took two and a half hours. No sake there either!

MILES:            I expect you all fell asleep on the bus coming back.

JO:                  No chance! Next stop the rickshaw ride. How those young students earn a few yen and, in this heat, too! Took us to a bamboo forest, which unfortunately reminded me of what the Japs used it for in the last war. Anyway, then on to the temples. Having to listen to their history standing in the heat some of us were about to pass out!

(sound of doorbell to the suite)

JO                   Who can that be? You didn’t order anything did you?

MILES             No. (He opens the door) Hi Jason! What can I do for you?

JASON           (Jason, a journalist friend covering the conference, enters) Hi just called to check when the taxi is picking us up. 7pm isn’t it? My minder is punctual to a second as you know.

JO                   Yes it’s 7pm. Our minder will be punctual too. Gets a bit oppressive, doesn’t it? Hiroki will be on the dot, but as none of us speak Japanese we will have to put up with it. They are lovely blokes though.

JASON           I asked Akito to call for us 1 minute later yesterday. I don’t think he saw the joke! Anyway, must dash. See you two later. Bye. (Jason exits)

JO                   Still haven’t decided which frock to wear. Anyway, must get in the shower.

MILES             Me next but first I need a G and T.

(Jo exits. Miles pours himself a large gin)

Act 2 Scene 1

The dining room of a very expensive restaurant on the outskirts of Kyoto. The food is traditional Japanese and there will be entertainment by geishas. These are not prostitutes but ladies trained to entertain and amuse with their singing and playing. Miles, Jo, Jason and his wife Sasha have arrived together

JO                   Gosh, this is really something isn’t it? What do you think Sasha?

SASHA           It’s like stepping back into another age. Taking your shoes off at the door, the demonstrations of arts and crafts downstairs and not to mention the Green tea ceremony.

JASON           I can’t say I enjoyed that cuppa. Pea soup comes to mind but the geisha was a bit of alright.

MILES             Yes have to agree there. Hope they’ve remembered I am a veggie.

JO                   Since when Miles?

MILES             Shhh! I can’t eat that blasted sushi as well you know.

SASHA           Have you been to the loo yet Jo? If not be aware!

JO                   Why is there a problem?

SASHA           We’ve no shoes on right? So, you get to the cubicle and there are wooden sandals in about four sizes, so you fit your feet into the one that best fits you then you go inside. It’s a hole in the floor.

JO                   No! seriously?

SASHA           Absolutely. With my gammy knee I had a real job not falling over, plus with a long frock you have to be careful holding it up while clinging onto the wall. No handles. Ha ha.

JO                   I’m hoping I can wait till we get back to the hotel but I don’t expect I will.

(Geisha Michiko appears at the table)

MICHIKO        May I pour you some more sake ladies and gentlemen?

(all nod in agreement)

JO                   Thank you so much. What is your name?

MICHIKO        My name is Michiko madam. I am honoured to be at your service this evening.

(Michiko pours the wine and bows out)

MILES             Sitting cross legged is killing me. I’m not feeling my feet now.

JASON           Yes it’s agony but I notice Jo and Sasha have manged to shove their legs under the table.

Act 2 scene 2

(the various courses of the meal have been served by Michiko but unfortunately she tripped and fell during the last course. The party are in the lobby getting ready to leave)

MILES             Thank the Lord that’s over. That screeching and playing drove me mad. Where’s the nearest McDonalds?

JO                   You’ve got to be joking Miles. I’m stuffed.

JASON           Well he’s hardly eaten a thing.

JO                   I’m more worried about Michiko. She fell badly serving us and I found her sobbing in the loo. She’s lost her job.

MILES             We can’t worry about her now. Here’s the taxi. McDonalds please!

Julia     

The Last Act.

Setting: a rehearsal space in a community theatre. Five chairs are set out and three of them are occupied. The door opens and a fourth person stands there as he dramatically unwraps his scarf.

Michael:    Darlings! I hope I’m not too late? (This is followed by some coughing.)

Jenny: (Waiting for the coughing to stop.) No Michael. Just the three of us so far as you can see. Harry should be here soon.

Michael:    Oh dear, upstaged again! Diane, you look ravishing as ever. Evening Frank. See your chair’s somewhat close to Diana’s. Anyone would think you two are having an affair! Oh, naughty Michael! (He sits down)

Frank:        Evening Michael. I see you still enjoy muckraking as ever.

Michael:    As I once said to Larry, I speak as I find.

(Door opens and in comes a young man.)

Michael:    Harry! Wonderful to see you my boy and looking fresh and youthful.   Oh, to be young again.

Harry:        Michael, you old queen! Hiya everyone. Have we started yet? Any more to come?

Jenny:       No, this is it, I’m afraid. Several people left messages to give their excuses, so it’s just the five of us. Oh, by the way, just to compliment you on our last production. Michael, your Lady Bracknell went down a storm – well done you.

Michael:   Many thanks, darling. That part was made for me…’A handbag….’ (He begins to cough)

Frank: (to Diane.) Yes, as camp as ever.

Diane:       Shush, he’ll hear you. You know how vindictive he can be. (Raising her voice.) Any idea as to the play, Jenny?

Jenny:      Well, I thought it time to tackle a Shakespeare. My A-level students are doing ‘Hamlet’ so, were we to put that on, we would be guaranteed an audience. Sadly, my wife Lynne, cannot do the costumes for us this time as she’s tied up with work at school, but I was thinking we could do a modern version.

Frank:       There’s sword fighting in that isn’t there? How’d we cope with that?

Harry:       Knife fights! Great!

Michael:   I’d love to tackle the part of Hamlet, the prince. I was once on stage when Larry gave a dazzling performance. ‘Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio…. (His words fade into another bout of coughing.)   

Jenny:      Sorry, Michael. I thought Harry would take Hamlet.

Harry:      Awesome!

Jenny: (Looking over at Michael with concern on her face.)     I’ve got you down for the old fool Polonius, Ophelia’s father as well as the ghost of Hamlet’s father. I need someone with dignity.

Michael:   Of course, darling. Two parts, how wonderful. A pity one’s dead and the other dies!

Diane:       I take it I’m Ophelia?  I’ve always loved that part – going slightly mad with flowers in my hair.

Frank:       You’d be sensational Di, with your clothes slightly ripped and one breast exposed and…

Jenny:       Frank! Enough! Remember you’re a married man. No, Diane will play Hamlet’s mother and you, Frank, will play Claudius, Hamlet’s stepfather. And, before you say anything further, there’s no rumpy-pumpy between them. I’m using one of my students for Ophelia. She needs to be young and innocent.

Michael:   You’ll be lucky finding anyone innocent from that school. A terrible reputation.

Diane:        I went there, thank you Michael.

Michael:    Point made, I think.

Harry:        How about making Ophelia a boy? It’s meant to be a modern version after all.               

Michael:    Good point, young man. I’m all for causing a sensation on the first night.

Jenny:        No Harry, no Michael. I’ve already promised it to a girl called Priscilla. Like you, Harry, she’s got a place in drama school in a year’s time. She’ll be perfect.  I shall direct and play the odd bit part – unless a few more decide to turn up.  All happy? (No response) Michael, no final comment from you? Michael, you’ve gone very pale. Michael!

(They all stare as Michael slowly slides off his chair and onto the floor.)

Helen