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In the Bosom of Roy (2008)

Prior to writing the script hereunder, performed at Wimbledon College of Art in January 2008, I ventilated here my thoughts on Theatre at the End of the World and here an account of aspects of the preparation of the piece. Clearly the world had not ended subsequent to the publication of the earlier post. More recently I wrote an introduction to the play here.

Scene 1

THE SET HAS SIX DOORS MOUNTED IN A WIDE BOX SET. THE BACK WALL HAS FOUR DOORS IN A ROW WHILE AT EITHER END, AT RIGHT ANGLES TO THE BACK WALL, IS ANOTHER DOOR. BETWEEN THE DOORS ARE WALL PANELS. THE DOWNSTAGE SPACE IN FRONT OF THE BACK WALL IS SHALLOW – A FAIRLY NARROW CORRIDOR RUNS BETWEEN THE FRONT ROW OF THE AUDIENCE AND THE SET.

MUSIC: Couperin: Le Charme
ROGER AND BETTY ENTER
ROGER Betty, would you get me some bread?
BETTY Of course I will. Are you hungry?
BETTY EXITS
ROGER What?
BRIEF PAUSE
ENTER WENDY WITH SOME BREAD
WENDY Here we are.
SHE HANDS ROGER THE BREAD
ROGER Thanks, Betty.
WENDY So, wow!
ROGER What have I been up to?
WENDY And me!
ROGER EXITS
MUSIC ENDS

Scene 2
WENDY IS ON STAGE.
MUSIC: O.S.I.R.I.S. – Oneness with the Universe
THE FIRST 30 SECONDS OF THE TRACK (HEAVY POUNDING TRANCE) IS PLAYED THEN ABRUPTLY CUT.
AS THE MUSIC PLAYS WENDY DANCES TO IT AND STOPS WHEN IT STOPS.
ENTER BETTY.
THE FIRST 30 SECONDS OF THE TRACK IS PLAYED AGAIN THEN ABRUPTLY CUT.
AS THE MUSIC PLAYS BETTY DANCES TO IT AND STOPS WHEN IT STOPS.
ENTER ROGER.
THE FIRST 30 SECONDS OF THE TRACK IS PLAYED THEN ABRUPTLY CUT.
AS THE MUSIC PLAYS ROGER DANCES TO IT AND STOPS WHEN IT STOPS.
THE CAST EXITS.

Scene 3
THROUGHOUT THE ENSUING DIALOGUE SEQUENCE MUSIC IS PLAYED.
MUSIC: Corelli: Concerto da Chiesa No 8 in G minor
THE VOLUME OF THE MUSIC IS SUCH THAT THE DIALOGUE CANNOT BE HEARD.
ROGER AND WENDY ENTER.
A MOMENT LATER BETTY ENTERS.
WENDY SCREAMS IN DELIGHT AND HUGS BETTY. IT IS AS IF BETTY IS RETURNING AFTER A LONG TIME AWAY. ROGER TOO IS DELIGHTED AND HUGS BETTY. THEY EACH TAKE ONE OF BETTY’S HANDS AND EXCITEDLY WALK UP AND DOWN WITH HER.
THEY TALK (INAUDIBLY) NINETEEN TO THE DOZEN.
THEY ARE VITAL AND ENCHANTING. THEY TOUCH EACH OTHER AFFECTIONATELY FROM TIME TO TIME.
THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE SAYING:

BETTY Now it’s all behind me! The places!
WENDY We thought…
ROGER The good things first!
BETTY The hill villages, the plage, the general feeling of groups of people very much in love struggling through on board ship.
WENDY We thought…
BETTY What did you think, darling?
ROGER I think we thought you’d…gone.
WENDY CHOKES BACK A TEAR.
BETTY Oh, Wendy!
WENDY Now we can really start.
ROGER Now that everything is over.
WENDY Tell us about the islands.
BETTY Some days soot and mud. Other days flowers.
ROGER Did it drive you mad?
BETTY I liked the variety. The problem was being followed all the time. Or feeling that.
WENDY Were you? Followed?
BETTY (LAUGHING GRIMLY) You’d see the boats out there. The people were hard to make out. Sometimes one of them would be washed ashore though. Then you’d see them. Bloated. Grinning through dead lips. Their spines torn out.
ROGER But you got away. You made it all the way back to Combray.
THE MUSIC STOPS ABRUPTLY.
BETTY I’d love a sweet biscuit now.
BETTY AND WENDY EXIT.

Scene 4
ROGER WALKS TO THE NOISY BOX (A LARGE, HOLLOW METAL STRUCTURE) AND LIES ON IT FACE DOWN. HE STARTS TO TREMBLE ALL OVER. HIS FEET KICK AT THE SURFACE OF THE BOX AND HIS ARMS JERK OUT FROM HIS SIDES. HE GETS OFF THE BOX.
ENTER WENDY.
SHE WALKS TO THE NOISY BOX AND LIES ON IT ON HER BACK. SHE STARTS TO TREMBLE AND UNDULATE, KICKING THE SURFACE OF THE BOX WITH HER HEELS. SHE GETS OFF THE BOX.
ENTER BETTY.
SHE MOUNTS THE NOISY BOX, LIES ON HER BACK AND HAS A GRAND MAL SEIZURE.

Scene 5
THIS SCENE IS REPEATED SEVERAL TIMES. ON EACH OCCASION IT TAKES PLACE IN ROGER’S OFFICE. HOWEVER, THE SET IS BUILT TO ACCOMMODATE 4 IDENTICAL OFFICES, ARRANGED SIDE BY SIDE, EACH WITH ITS OWN DOOR. THE SCENE WILL TAKE PLACE IN A DIFFERENT OFFICE EACH TIME IT IS REPEATED. WHEN AN OFFICE IS BEING USED, ITS DOOR IS LEFT OPEN SO THAT THE AUDIENCE CAN SEE ROGER AND ANGELA WITHIN. THE INTENTION IS TO SUGGEST THAT EACH OFFICE IS LOCATED IN A WORLD PARALLEL TO THE OTHERS.

ROGER IS AT HIS DESK AT MI5, WHERE SPYING IS DONE. SEATED BEFORE HIM IS BETTY.
ROGER We’re getting news of certain effects, Betty. It’s hard to know what sort of a box to put them in. Guinness thinks it’s a social sort of thing, sort of social breakdown. Stella tends to some kind of fracture in the fabric of reality. Whatever the bloody hell that means.
BETTY Reality is a language, Roger.
ROGER Really? I wish I bloody spoke it, then.
BETTY I’ve always considered you fluent.
ROGER How are the headaches?
BETTY Do you want to play doctors, Roger?
ROGER No, Wendy. I wanted to talk about your sister.
BETTY Wendy.
ROGER Yes.
BETTY I’m told we’re very alike.
ROGER I wouldn’t know. What interests me is that you’re physically identical. I’m going to need you to persuade her to work with us.
BETTY Shall I get her in?
ROGER If you would.
BETTY EXITS.
BETTY COMES RIGHT BACK IN AGAIN, THROUGH ANOTHER DOOR.
ROGER Wendy! How are you?
BETTY Very well, Roger. Nice place.
ROGER Keeps the rain off.

MUSIC: O.S.I.R.I.S. – Oneness with the Universe @ 1m 37 secs. (THE CHILL PASSAGE)
WENDY ENTERS.
ROGER AND BETTY ENTER AND WATCH WENDY WITH INTEREST AS SHE DANCES TO THE CHILL PASSAGE AND ON INTO THE POUNDING @ 2min 11 secs UNTIL THE BREAK @ 2 mins 52 secs WHEN THE MUSIC IS ABRUPTLY CUT.
ROGER AND BETTY EXIT.

Scene 6
WENDY My brief was to go upriver, to the islands. I would be disguised as
Betty and I would attempt to seduce Roger’s brother Roy, who had gone rogue. Apparently his penchant for sexual intercourse had led him into practices that verged almost on amateur surgery. Not unreasonably the islanders wanted something done. Roy, however, was a fractured, complex character with an intermittent grasp of reality. Roger, with whom I had briefly had intercourse some years ago, thought that Roy, who had been enamoured of my twin sister Betty more recently, could be made vulnerable were I to appear to hold out to him the possibility of getting his leg over. Unlike Betty, I have martial arts and, given the physical resemblance that some find uncanny, although it is, let’s be frank, only the standard monozygotic anomaly, could look after myself if Roy, once drawn, started to ‘have a laugh’, as he chillingly puts it.

Scene 7
IN THIS SCENE WE HEAR THE DIALOGUE THAT WAS RENDERED INAUDIBLE IN Scene 3.
BETTY ENTERS FAR STAGE LEFT.
ROGER AND WENDY ENTER FAR STAGE RIGHT.
WENDY SCREAMS IN DELIGHT AND HUGS BETTY. IT IS AS IF BETTY IS RETURNING AFTER A LONG TIME AWAY. ROGER TOO IS DELIGHTED AND HUGS BETTY. THEY EACH TAKE ONE OF BETTY’S HANDS AND EXCITEDLY WALK UP AND DOWN WITH HER.
THEY TALK NINETEEN TO THE DOZEN.
THEY ARE VITAL AND ENCHANTING. THEY TOUCH EACH OTHER AFFECTIONATELY FROM TIME TO TIME.

BETTY Now it’s all behind me! The places!
WENDY We thought…
ROGER The good things first!
BETTY The hill villages, the plage, the general feeling of groups of people very much in love struggling through on board ship.
WENDY We thought…
BETTY What did you think, darling?
ROGER I think we thought you’d gone…
WENDY CHOKES BACK A TEAR.
BETTY Oh, Wendy!
WENDY Now we can really start.
ROGER Now that everything is over.
WENDY Tell us about the islands.
BETTY Some days soot and mud. Other days flowers.
ROGER Did it drive you mad?
BETTY I liked the variety. The problem was being followed all the time. Or feeling that.
WENDY Were you? Followed?
BETTY (LAUGHING) You’d see the boats out there. The people were hard to make out. Sometimes one of them would be washed ashore though. Then you’d see them. Bloated. Grinning through dead lips. Their spines torn out.
ROGER But you got away. You made it all the way back to Combray.
BETTY I’d love a sweet biscuit now.
THE CAST EXITS.

Scene 8
MUSIC: Roy Orbison: A Love So Beautiful.
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE IN THE SCRIPT, A SHORT LOOP TAKEN FROM THE FIRST FEW SECONDS OF THE TRACK – THE ‘DRONING DRUM BEAT’ PART – WILL BE PLAYED ACROSS THE WHOLE OF THE FOLLOWING SCENE BUT NOT OVER LOUDLY.
THE SET, WITH ITS SEVERAL DOORS, IS NOW USED INTENSIVELY.
(NOTE: A farce is a comedy written for the stage or film which aims to entertain the audience by means of unlikely, extravagant and improbable situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verbal humour of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include sexual innuendo and word play, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases, culminating in an ending which often involves an elaborate chase scene. Farce is also characterized by physical humour, the use of deliberate absurdity or nonsense, and broadly stylized performances.
As opposed to romantic comedies, farces usually do not utilize a traditional plot involving frustrated young lovers who eventually surmount all obstacles. Rather, they frequently focus on a transgression or on a character’s urge to hide something from the other characters, and the unforeseen chain reaction that results. In staged farce there is usually only one setting throughout the play, often one with numerous doors, such as a drawing room, hotel or hospital room or an office.)

THE ENSUING STAGE DIRECTIONS DESCRIBE A SERIES OF ACTIONS BUT DO NOT SPECIFY THE LOCATION OF THE ACTIONS – IN PARTICULAR THE DOORS THAT WILL BE USED FOR ENTRANCES AND EXITS. SUCH PARTICULARS WILL BE DETERMINED IN REHEARSAL.

CERTAIN PRINCIPLES OF IDENTITY WILL PERTAIN:
1. ROGER AND ROY ARE FREQUENTLY MISTAKEN FOR EACH OTHER.
2. BETTY AND WENDY ARE FREQUENTLY MISTAKEN FOR EACH OTHER.

IT MAY BE THAT ROGER AND ROY ARE DIFFERENTIATED IN SOME MODEST WAY, SUCH AS BY THE USE OF A HAT. IT MAY ALSO BE, HOWEVER, THAT THIS LEAVENS THE CONFUSION OF THE AUDIENCE TO A DEGREE THAT IS NOT CONDUCIVE TO CONSTRUCTIVE PERPLEXITY.

ENTER ROGER
ROGER Where is Roy?
ENTER WENDY
WENDY (SEEING ROGER) Roy!
ROGER (SEEING WENDY) Betty!
WENDY I still bathe in the milk of your admiration.
ROGER Where is Wendy?
ROGER EXITS
ENTER BETTY
BETTY Sis!
WENDY Don’t let Roy see you!
A KNOCK AT A DOOR
WENDY EXITS
ENTER ROGER
ROGER Wendy!
BETTY We had intercourse, Roger.
ROGER Good. Please be careful of Roy.
BETTY Has he gone ‘upriver’?
ROGER Considerably.
BETTY EXITS
ROGER So much horror.
BETTY ENTERS
ROGER Betty!
BETTY SCREAMS
ROGER AND BETTY EXIT, BY DIFFERENT DOORS
ENTER WENDY
WENDY Roy? Roy? It’s Betty!
ENTER BETTY
BETTY (SEEING WENDY) Wendy!
WENDY Let me handle this, Betty!
BETTY I’m afraid I shall mistake Roy for Roger and go all the way with him!
WENDY Betty! Rise above it ! Try to keep your pants on for once!
BETTY I melt even when I say his name!
WENDY Go! I am Betty now!
EXIT BETTY
ENTER ROGER
ROGER Wendy!
WENDY I am Betty!
ROGER God! it’s impossible to tell!
WENDY There are discernible differences of temperament.
ROGER I really love you then. The way a smile plays ironically yet vulnerably around your lips is very Betty.
WENDY That’s right.
ROGER And your sister – is she well?
A LOUD BANGING ON A DOOR
WENDY It’s Roy!
ROGER I’ll talk to him.
ROGER EXITS
ENTER BETTY
BETTY Wend!
WENDY Sis!
BETTY I’ve just been with Roger!
WENDY WHAT!? But…
BETTY He was so direct!
WENDY Are you sure? I mean, how did you know?
BETTY Well, the things you told me after you had had intercourse with him.
WENDY That was years ago!
BETTY Well, you can’t teach an old dog!
WENDY Bet, but what if…
BETTY Roy…?
WENDY Then..?
BETTY He squeezed my cheek.
WENDY In a nice way?
BETTY How do you tell?
A DOOR BURSTS OPEN REVEALING ROGER, HIS TROUSERS ROUND HIS ANKLES.
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BETTY Roy!
WENDY Your belt!
ROGER We can’t be judged. It’s judgment that destroys us. I’ve seen so much, Betty.
BETTY &
WENDY (TOGETHER) Wendy.
ROGER I’ve seen men, moral men, men with great purity, full of love, men with families. Walking across towns, along the high streets, past the shops with their insulting wares, striding to the gates of the town, more men joining them, some of them shaved, some with the growth of days, some with full, flowing beards.
WENDY It’s you, Roy.
BETTY We need new standards of beauty, Roy. Let us stand under different flags.
ROGER When you speak it’s as if I had glimpsed the shadow world. Just beyond my reach but full of all the choices we could have made, all the people we could have been.
BETTY They are streaming through now, Roy. They see Illyria.
ROGER What’s that?
BETTY What you will, Roy.
WENDY Betty?
BETTY I’ve been there. Upriver. I stepped through. It was like a slash in the silk. As I pushed through it brushed against my cheek. You were there, Wendy. I thought you were me. But then I saw me.
ROGER There were two?
BETTY Three. I was there too, don’t forget.
WENDY Pull up your trousers, Roy.
ROGER PULLS UP HIS TROUSERS
BETTY In Illyria, Roy, is the man who didn’t pull up his trousers.
WENDY In Illyria are the sisters of all our thoughts.
BETTY Roger would love this.
ROGER But I am Roger.
BETTY &
WENDY (TOGETHER) What!?
ROGER My brother and I share ideals of purity, certainly, but where he is rogue I am of the people.

BETTY &
WENDY (TOGETHER, AGHAST) Roy!
THEY ALL DASH OUT.
AN EVEN LOUDER BANGING ON SEVERAL DOORS.
THE MUSIC TRACK NOW STOPS LOOPING AND MOVES INTO THE REST OF THE ROY ORBISON SONG (c 3 mins 20 secs REMAINING).
AN EPISODE OF WORDLESS FARCE ENSUES (TO BE DETERMINED IN REHEARSAL): THE CHARACTERS HURTLE THROUGH DOORS, PAUSE TO POSE THEN HURTLE OUT. THEY ARE ALWAYS ENTERING A SPACE IN WHICH THEY ARE EXPOSED AND COMPROMISED. THEIR CLOTHING, AFTER THE MANNER OF 20thC BRITISH FARCE, WILL, WITH EACH SUCCESSIVE ENTRANCE, BE REDUCED. THE GENTLEMAN WILL LOSE HIS TIE, JACKET, SHIRT AND TROUSERS UNTIL HE IS CLAD ONLY IN HIS UNDERPANTS AND SHOES. THE LADIES WILL LOSE THEIR BLOUSES, DRESSES, SKIRTS AND SLIPS UNTIL THEY ARE CLAD ONLY IN BRAS, PANTS, SUSPENDERS AND STOCKINGS AND HEELS. ALL THIS WILL BE A SOURCE OF SHOCK AND EMBARRASSMENT TO THEM. SCREAMS WILL REGULARLY REND THE AIR. REACTIONS GENERALLY WILL BE TYPICAL OF THE ‘CARRY ON MISSIS’ SCHOOL OF ACTING.
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THE EPISODE BUILDS UNTIL THE PANTED AND PANTING ROY FINDS HIMSELF ALONE ON STAGE. HE RUNS IN AND OUT OF THE DOORS DESPERATELY THEN FORLORNLY, FINALLY EMERGING WITH HIS CLOTHES CLASPED TO HIS GROIN AS HE WALKS THE WIDTH OF THE STAGE AND EXITS. THE MUSIC STOPS.

Scene 9

BACK AT MI5.
IN THIS SCENE ROGER’S OFFICE DOOR IS CLOSED. THE AUDIENCE CANNOT, THEREFORE, SEE THE CHARACTERS. THE VOICES OF THE LATTER, HOWEVER, CAN BE HEARD FROM BACKSTAGE.

WENDY How did Roy go?
ROGER He was noisy. Kicked a lot.
BETTY And Illyria?
ROGER Closed it down. And not without a struggle, I might add.
WENDY What did it entail?
ROGER It was a question of directness. Not deciding to do something without actually doing it, thereby avoiding the creation of a universe in which that thought – the one you didn’t act on – was acted on.
BETTY Please don’t, Roger. I find it all faintly psychotic.
WENDY Betty – what if..?
BETTY Roger! Your brother wanted to kill you, didn’t he?
ROGER I’m afraid he did.
WENDY He wanted a world in which you had never existed!
THE WOMEN LOOK AT EACH OTHER IN HORROR AS IT SLOWLY DAWNS ON THEM THAT THEY ARE IN ROY’S WORLD NOW. THEY SCREAM.
BETTY & WENDY Roy!

IN A FRANKLY REMARKABLE PIECE OF STAGE SPECIAL EFFECTS THE TWO WOMEN BURST EXPLOSIVELY RIGHT THROUGH THE PANEL WALLS OF THE SET, FROM BACKSTAGE TO DOWNSTAGE.
AS SOON AS THEIR FEET TOUCH THE GROUND, MUSIC CRASHES IN: Beds Are Burning – Novaspace (from 50 secs) (SAMPLE LYRICS: How can we dance when our earth is turning? / How do we sleep when our beds are burning? ) (HEFTY POUNDING WITH A DASH OF BARN DANCE). MOMENTS LATER ROY BLASTS THROUGH THE CENTRE PANEL OF THE SET, LANDING BETWEEN BETTY AND WENDY, WHO ARE ALREADY DANCING, WITH GLASSY SMILES.
ROY QUICKLY REALISES THAT HE HAS LANDED IN A DANCE NUMBER AND STARTS TO EXECUTE THE QUITE DEMANDING ‘DICK VAN DYKE COCKNEY CAPER’ MOVES.
THIS ALL FADES, IN EVERY WAY.

END

David Gale
Archway/Avignon/Bute 2007

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