PLAY #340: QUIET PLEASE, YOU’RE MAKING RATHER A FUSS (NOV 30)

London, November 29th 2015.

PIGEON sits on top of a statue of QUEEN VICTORIA.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

What is all this fuss?

 

PIGEON

Climate Protest. Huge. Biggest ever, they say.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

So loud.

 

PIGEON

You prefer it when large gatherings are restricted to jubilees?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I’d prefer it if everybody stayed put.

 

PIGEON

Your wish is the police’s command: climate protestors in Paris are under house arrest. State of Emergency, they say. As if the world warming is something to be thought about later.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

It would be quite pleasant to be at home in this weather. No time to be rocking the boat.

 

PIGEON

Not everybody has a palace to lounge in.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Well, those who do should use it at least. Not sure why that Charles is always running about interfering.

 

PIGEON

He’s speaking in Paris, you know?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Oh, I hear it all. When I tried so hard to remove the royals of any obligations other than stiff smiles and firm handshakes. It is no sort of legacy, at all.

 

PIGEON

I think the sun’s long set on that empire of yours. Though it’s doing a good job of laying waste to all those pesky colonies that severed ties with your kingdom: sun’s not a bad weapon to have in your arsenal.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I fail to understand why people lay contemporary woes at my feet.

 

PIGEON

History’s what’s at stake here: the climate reparations that the rich will pay for their plundering of the poor. Everybody’s all chat about the future – looking out for the grandkids – but the real issue is the past.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

What interest have you in any of this?

 

PIGEON

I’m on the lowest rung here: rat with wings. I take your scraps but you think I’m to blame for rising CO2 emissions? I’m cleaning up your messes. But birds will be just as screwed as the climate changes, not like we have any court to appeal to.

Course I root for the underdogs: why else would I spend so much energy shitting on statues?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Had I my army at my command, you’d usurp every pheasant for a place on my dinner table.

 

PIGEON

You know the story about the King of the Birds?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I don’t care for fables.

 

PIGEON

There’s a big competition. All the birds in the world strut their feathers and flap their wings. And it looks like the eagle is the clear winner. Until a robin pipes up, from the eagle’s head, saying that this tiny little thing that survives surely has to be superior.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I see your point: may you enjoy your last few moments atop my crown until the water rises a sufficient depth to drown you.

 

PIGEON

Not my meaning. Anyway, I’m no monarchist.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

That would explain your gifts.

 

PIGEON

You’re the one stuck. I don’t want to just be an observer. Want to believe in change. I’m off to Paris.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Bon voyage. I hope you’ll find some statues to shit on there.

 

PIGEON is already in the air, leaving QUEEN VICTORIA alone, and suddenly, she realizes, rather lonely.

 

 

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PLAY #338: RUBBLE (NOV 28)

London, 2012.

ROSE (20s; Nigerian – Igbo; female) approaches QUEEN VICTORIA (a statue of QUEEN VICTORIA; 80s; white English; female).

ROSE has a water pistol outstretched.

At the edges of the stage: rubble.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

What on earth are you doing?

 

ROSE

A direct action.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Put that thing down at once!

 

ROSE

I’m not your subject.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I’m sure this is still an offence. Shooting a monarch: it won’t end well for you.

 

ROSE

I don’t have bullets. I don’t believe in violence.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Then what are you doing with a revolver?

 

ROSE

It’s symbolic. You’re going to drown in oil.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

What are you on about? I have nothing to do with that substance. Is it not enough to be covered in pigeon shit? Why tar me so?

 

ROSE

Because you reigned over an era of mass industrial expansion and colonization. Because my country has been ripped apart by oil.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Hardly my fault.

 

ROSE

Nigeria never existed until colonization: our boundaries were wars waiting to happen, no way all these different tribes should be squeezed into the same state. And all that uncertainty gets blown up once oil is involved.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I gave away as much power as I could during my reign. I cannot be blamed.

 

ROSE

You’re a symbol. So you’re getting doused.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

This is barbaric.

 

ROSE

So is capitalism.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

You really want to blame me for that?

 

ROSE

I’d rather squirt oil everywhere. Pour it over the Olympic Tent. Into every museum lobby that’s sponsored by fossil fuel companies. Over half the statues of doddering grey guys who got rich off the plundering of poorer people of color.

(beat.)

But I’m not Bruce Willis. I’m just making a simple point. You’re beloved: this will do.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I don’t see why you’re so upset over oil.

 

ROSE

Oil, coal, gas, take your pick – oil is the easiest thing to fit into a water pistol.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I did think those coal-mines were dreadful for the young children.

 

ROSE

I’m not putting your conscience on trial. You’re not a person anymore. Symbols set in stone don’t have feelings.

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

Do it so. Cover me in black. That was my fashion after all.

(beat.)

I see the appeal. Bearing everything. The worst on display. There’s a certain honesty to that.

(beat.)

Well…

Before ROSE can do anything, it starts to rain oil.

Oil drizzles from the sky, covering ROSE and QUEEN VICTORIA.

 

ROSE

Did you do this?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

I’m a statue. Not a god.

 

Pause.

 

ROSE

What’s happening?

 

QUEEN VICTORIA

That, my dear, is for you to discern.

 

ROSE looks up at the oil rain, which continues, as the lights fade.

PLAY #336: SCENE: THE GOOD BYE (NOVEMBER 26)

London, 2013.

Heathrow Airport.

SARASWATI (late 20s; Indian, Bengali; female) sits, waiting.

 

ROSE (mid 20s; Nigerian, Igbo; female) walks in with a backpack on.

 

SARASWATI stands.

 

ROSE

Hi.

 

SARASWATI

Hi.

 

ROSE

Is this the scene where you try and convince me to stay?

 

SARASWATI

I know that won’t work.

 

ROSE

True.

 

SARASWATI

But I didn’t like how it ended.

 

ROSE

Me neither.

 

Pause.

 

SARASWATI

You want to get a coffee?

 

ROSE

I don’t know if I have time.

 

SARASWATI

Or a drink. Just a shot of something.

 

ROSE

It took me longer than I thought to pack-

 

SARASWATI

No surprises.

 

ROSE

I can manage without you, you know. Did it for many years.

 

SARASWATI

I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…

 

Pause.

 

ROSE

I should get going. You know how much hassle they give me going through security.

 

SARASWATI

Five minutes. It’s already delayed. And you know they’ll just rush you through if there’s a queue.

 

ROSE

Okay.

 

They sit.

SARASWATI offers some chocolate.

 

SARASWATI

Your last Giant Button?

 

ROSE

I’m not going to Antarctica. They do have sweets in Alaska.

 

SARASWATI

They probably have gargantuan Buttons.

 

ROSE

Probably have buttons the size of this bag.

 

SARASWATI

Covered in peanut butter and all sorts of terrible things.

 

ROSE

Probably.

 

ROSE eats some chocolate.

SARASWATI fishes in her bag and pulls out a bright hat.

 

SARASWATI

I made this for you.

 

ROSE

Wow.

 

SARASWATI

It’s not quite finished but…

 

ROSE

It’s beautiful.

 

SARASWATI

You can unravel it and attach it to some derrick if you want.

 

ROSE

I love it.

 

ROSE puts the hat on.

 

SARASWATI

It’s too small.

 

ROSE

It’s great. This is what you were working on?

 

SARASWATI

You know me. Any excuse to avoid the dissertation.

 

ROSE

You can join the Radical Knitters.

 

SARASWATI

I’ve Sappho’s ear-muffs to finish first.

 

ROSE

How are they?

 

SARASWATI

Good. Except that Rumi misses you terribly. She’s peeing everywhere.

 

ROSE

Bitch does not miss me: she did that when we started dating, remember?

 

SARASWATI

She was marking her territory.

 

ROSE

And now she’s reclaiming it.

 

Pause.

 

SARASWATI

She’s in mourning.

 

ROSE

Cats don’t mourn.

 

SARASWATI

If elephants can, I don’t see why cats can’t.

 

ROSE

Cats are the cockroaches of pets: nothing’s going to keep them down.

 

SARASWATI

You can see why she’s upset you’re leaving.

 

ROSE

I’ll send them a postcard. Different surface to pee on.

 

SARASWATI

Lovely.

 

Pause.

 

ROSE

Thanks for the hat. It’s really…

 

SARASWATI

You’re welcome.

 

ROSE

I’m sorry about everything I said.

 

SARASWATI

Me too.

 

ROSE

I didn’t mean to dismiss what you’re doing.

 

SARASWATI

I know.

(beat.)

And I didn’t mean to dismiss what you’re doing. I know why you’re going.

 

ROSE

Why I think I have to go?

 

Pause.

 

SARASWATI

I didn’t come here for a fight.

 

ROSE

What did you come for?

 

SARASWATI

A quickie?

(beat.)

I needed to see you.

 

ROSE

This isn’t the scene where you convince me to turn back. You have to at least buy a fake plane ticket for that.

 

SARASWATI

No. This is the scene where we both display how much we’ve learnt in Britain and say ‘cheerio’ and ‘toodlepip’ and ‘I hope you beat that iceberg’ and ‘I’m sure this whole caper will work out splendidly.’

 

ROSE takes off the hat.

 

ROSE

I did pack a hat, you know. I’m not completely clueless.

 

SARASWATI

Once you’re warm, everything else should sort itself out.

 

ROSE

You’ve never taken this mission seriously.

 

SARASWATI

Since when did protests become missions?

 

ROSE

We’re not just holding up cardboard signs at oil rigs. We’re going to do something.

 

SARASWATI

Like get thrown in jail?

 

ROSE

We’re not the Arctic 30.

 

SARASWATI

No, you’re much less organized.

 

ROSE

I’m tired of having this argument. You know why I’m going. You can call me stupid and selfish and stubborn and whatever else you want, but I’m not giving up.

 

ROSE stands.

 

SARASWATI

I don’t think you’re stupid. Or selfish.

 

ROSE

That’s not what you said.

 

SARASWATI

Maybe this is the scene where I apologize.

 

ROSE

You’re not very good at it.

 

SARASWATI

No.

 

ROSE sits.

 

ROSE

I’m glad you came. It’s good to see you.

(beat.)

And I respect what you do. I shouldn’t have said that about your dissertation.

 

SARASWATI

It’s true. Nobody’s going to read it.

 

ROSE

At least you’re thinking about climate change.

 

SARASWATI

We can’t all be Antigone.

 

ROSE

And I like that story about the dinosaurs.

 

SARASWATI

Pterodactyls aren’t even dinosaurs. Who’s going to read an article about a story that’s got some B-list prehistoric creatures in it? I’d be better off knitting full time. At least the radical knitters make barricades more colorful.

 

ROSE

Stop. I don’t need you to be tied together beside me to a barricade, that’s never what this was about.

 

SARASWATI

No. Geography. That’s all there is to it. A rather mundane foe in the end.

(beat.)

I don’t think what you’re doing is stupid.

 

ROSE

Thank you.

 

ROSE holds SARASWATI’s hand.

Pause.

 

SARASWATI

This is the scene where you leave?

 

ROSE

Soon.

 

Not yet, though, so ROSE and SARASWATI stay on the cheap plastic chairs, the holding of hands turning into the resting of heads on shoulders, the sound of planes taking off all around them.

PLAY #309: SMOKE (OCT 28)

Edwardian London.

A plush living room with a fireplace at the centre.

Two maids, MAUD and MARY enter.

 

MAUD

I will not abide any of this nonsense any longer.

 

MARY

It’s the truth.

 

MAUD

You are too old for fairy tales.

 

MARY

It spoke. I swear.

 

MAUD

A lump of coal, that’s all it is.

 

MARY

It spoke.

 

MAUD

And what did it say? That Mary Murphy is to be due an extra holiday or spoon of sugar in the tea?

 

MARY

It wasn’t a human sound.

 

MAUD

I see.

 

MARY

A growling. Like something from years and years ago. Something angry.

 

MAUD

You probably heard some dog on the street.

 

MARY

It was the coal. I know it. It started to glow. And it spoke.

 

Pause.

 

MAUD

Things are always difficult your first time away from home. Perhaps we can arrange an afternoon off.

 

MARY

I’m not inventing this.

 

MAUD

I’m trying to do you a kindness, child, it won’t happen often.

 

MARY

I’m not a child. I don’t believe in fairy tales. But I believe what I heard.

 

MAUD

Well, perhaps you can charm this piece of coal to speak to you now? No? I thought as much.

 

MARY

They used to be creatures, that’s what Master Harry said. Giant beasts that roamed around this country.

 

MAUD

They’re stones, that’s all they are. The only thing alive here is your imagination. And I won’t support any more of my day being wasted in such a fashion.

 

MARY

I’m not cleaning this room.

 

MAUD

You’ll do as you’re told.

 

MARY

I’m sorry. But nothing could make me stay in this room.

 

MARY walks out.

MAUD sighs, starts to clean.

MAUD cleans the room.

 

MAUD walks over the fireplace, picks up a lump of coal, puts it to her ear.

Nothing.

She tosses it back onto the fireplace.

 

MAUD goes back to cleaning but before she can, she hears an enormous roar from the fireplace.

MAUD looks over to see a piece of coal burning brilliantly.

Another huge roar.

MAUD turns white with terror, backs away from the room.

The coal glows.

PLAY #285: SISTER SUFFRAGETTE (OCT 2)

London, garden by Westminster.

EMMA sits underneath a STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST.

EMMA is reading Naomi’ Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.’

 

A coin drops onto her book.

EMMA examines the coin, looks up at the statue, back at the coin, back up at the statue.

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

Yes, dear, it was me.

 

EMMA

What??

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

You don’t need to beg for my pardon: I’m sure that’s what you meant to say.

 

EMMA

What??

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

Oh dear, I had hoped you would be sharper on the uptake.

 

EMMA

Is this an hallucination?

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

I hope not. I always think one’s hallucinations should have a modicum of nudity. And I can assure you that will not be the case today.

 

EMMA

What’s going on?

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

Nothing. That’s the point. Your fossil fuel divestment campaign is stalled. And I’m here to provide the inspiration.

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST jumps down from her post and sits on the bench beside EMMA.

 

EMMA

I’m getting the chance to talk to one of the most influential suffragettes?

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

I believe the term is ‘badass.’

 

EMMA

Wow, actually I’ve been reading about the suffragettes and your splits in tactics and the divisions after the war and some of your own personal politics which, actually, I wouldn’t mind talking about-

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

Dear, I think you are mistaken. I am here to impart wisdom. You are here to listen.

 

EMMA

Uh-huh.

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

It’s easy to reduce a movement to personalities. Especially charismatic ones like myself.

 

EMMA

Especially rich ones like yourself.

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

At least you’re getting to the point: money.

 

EMMA

The coin. What am I supposed to do with a penny?

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

Look at the back.

 

EMMA

You defaced it. ‘Votes for Women’ scratched across the King’s Head.

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

Poor George. That is actually a flattering likeness.

 

EMMA

You think this is what we should do? Write ‘divest from fossil fuels’ on the back of pennies?

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

Write it wherever you can. On those cards that people use. By those holes in the wall. It does seem that money has become increasingly invisible, but I’m sure you can find the means. Especially when this is the thing that causes the problem in the first place.

 

EMMA

Why do you care about fossil fuels?

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

I shouldn’t like the Thames to lap my skirts.

 

EMMA

No.

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

It’s wearying being a statue. Almost as wearisome as being part of a campaign. No, more so: I’d take any divisive meeting over another morning with pidgeons and people poking at me with their selfie sticks. It’s sad to stand here and watch the rights we fought for come to mean nothing. What does it matter if women can vote if all the politicians peddle the same unbridled capitalism that will push our fine planet to the brink.

 

EMMA

I thought you opposed radical economic change.

 

STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST

Plenty of time to rethink things when you’re still. And I’d like my great great great granddaughters to have ballot boxes to vote in.

 

THE STATUE OF EMMELINE PANKHURST reaches out to EMMA, a hand across history.

PLAY #284: THE DRAGON AND ST. GEORGE (OCT 1)

A shadow puppet screen.

ST GEORGE faces DRAGON its teeth enormous, like drills.

  1. GEORGE attacks the DRAGON on loop.

 

STORYTELLER stands to the side, talks to the audience.

 

STORYTELLER

stories need villains and heroes

so they say

thus St. George

that noble soul who strode to the crossroads of myth and history

and didn’t mind which path he took

slaying monsters of all sorts

dragons with scales

or tails or veils

dragons that breath foreign fire

or crumble under pressure

or blaze with iniquity.

 

whatever way you slice the story

George is the good guy

whether or not he has a Saint in front of his name

or whether or not the soil he stands on is Syrian

he’s the dude who saves the maiden

he’s the guy that the tree protects.

 

ST GEORGE is wounded by the dragon.

  1. GEORGE moves to the corner of the screen, sits under a tree, regenerates.

 

whatever you want to say about the protection afforded Syrian fighters now

or the welcome given to wounded Syrians

by the country that brandishes the cross of St George

what happens in the story is indisputable

nature looks after the hero

the peach tree works like magic

stopping the flow of blood

pumping up muscles

giving St George the wherewithal to fight the monster.

 

ST GEORGE moves back towards the DRAGON.

 

so it’s clear

nature is on the side of the hero

a dragon is unnatural

no good thing to burn trees

gold a cold bed to coil around

dragon has it coming.

 

DRAGON starts to plunder the ground with its teeth like drills.

 

no tree is going to save the dragon

when it has cindered the last tree

and tapped the last well

and sits weeping ontop of a mountain of gold that it cannot eat

dragon’s days are numbered

so cheer the hero

our hero

as St. George plunges in the lance

 

ST GEORGE attacks the DRAGON.

DRAGON’s teeth fall out.

 

and the dragon creeps away

a deflated, defanged thing

that can only crawl through a world

stumble towards a pool and weep

knowing that the reflection it sees

could never be that of a hero.

 

ST GEORGE raises lance in triumph, dances.

DRAGON slumps, looking at reflection in pool.

 

that’s how the story goes

for there must be a hero and there must be a villain in every story

and if it seems that unique climates demand unique stories

then

that’s something we’re still searching through the alphabet for.

PLAY #268: FUMIFUGIUM (SEPTEMBER 15)

A greenhouse.

An English couple in 19th century clothes: DOROTHY and GEORGE.

DOROTHY sits reading a pamphlet: FUMIFUGIUM.

GEORGE is on a large toy train, travelling in circles round and round the greenhouse.

 

Smoke curls out of the train, filling the greenhouse.

GEORGE is very excited, pumping the toy train, wheeeeing away as he whizzes around in small circles.

DOROTHY does not share this excitement.

 

DOROTHY

Darling? Darling?

 

GEORGE

Yes, dear.

 

DOROTHY

Do you think we might export this pollution somewhere?

 

GEORGE

Where did you have in mind?

 

DOROTHY

Anywhere where people might expect it. Some sort of under-polluted place.

 

GEORGE

By and by. In the meantime…

 

GEORGE clicks fingers and SERVANT enters.

SERVANT fans smoke away from DOROTHY.

GEORGE travels round and round.

DOROTHY puts down her pamphlet.

Smoke continues to fill the greenhouse.