MONOLOGUE: Lunch Hour

by Annie Zaidi

Setting:           An imagined field

Time:               Afternoon

Character:       MALTI, a woman worker

A long row of shapes/shadows, like women bent over, swamped in dirty fabric. MALTI, a wrinkled, sun-cooked woman with iron-coloured hair, and no blouse with her saree, is in the middle of that row. She raises her head.

One man (or scarecrow), in cleaner clothes, carries an umbrella and watches the women.

MALTI pauses, raises herself a couple of inches, looks at the man/scarecrow, goes back to work. Then she stops again. She balances her weight on a long-handled khurpi (spade).

As she speaks, she raises herself slowly, a fraction of an inch at a time.

MALTI

I wonder what the time is. At noon, there will be a lunch break. Half an hour is enough. More than enough. It doesn’t take half an hour to eat. But I eat slowly. Even then, it takes only five minutes. Maybe ten. I eat two rotis. That is twenty four morsels. One roti is that big.

(She makes a circle in the mud with her khurpi.)

One morsel that big. Twenty four. I chew slowly. It fills you up in a beautiful way if you chew slowly. After four morsels, you feel juice dribbling in into your stomach. Suddenly, it comes rushing in from all the corners of your body…. These days, strange thoughts come into my head. It didn’t happen earlier. When I was twenty, even thirty years old, I only thought of how to make money. How to make lunch hour last long. That’s why I began to chew slowly. Because if you finish quickly, they will give you even less time to rest. We all learnt to eat slowly, wash slowly. Bhondu was the only one who ate fast. He ate and ran off to lie under a tree. But that was because he didn’t have children and if Valli threw him out, he didn’t care. But Valli doesn’t throw him out. All of us would be happier if Valli threw us out, when we still had a chance of going to work somewhere else. But we had children. And if we don’t come to work, Valli will bring our children to work here… I made a mistake. We should have moved when we could. There was time when my biggest girl was that little. We should have gone to a fat city, a city that looks like a goat on the hills after the rains.

(The man with the umbrella looks at her. MALTI bends again.)

My biggest girl has a girl now. Maybe I am growing senile. Only the senile start to think, Valli says… Continue reading

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MONOLOGUE: Identity Crisis

by Phil Emery

SETTING:         A bedroom

TIME:               present

CHARACTER:   NIGHT, Male

NIGHT

I am Night.  I walk in the sodium shadows of the city when the sun has gone, and hunt my prey.  I seek out the evil, the corrupt, the filth of the streets.  All criminals fear me, for I am their nemesis and my vengeance is terrible.  I am Night. 

I stand before the full-length mirror in my bedroom.  Who would guess that within the unassuming suburban home of a mild-mannered accountant is a mysterious crusader for justice?   No, I will not tell you my name.

My identity must remain a closely guarded secret lest my enemies seek me out when I am off my guard.

In the mirror I am an imposing figure.  I almost pity the cowardly wrong-doers I will confront this night.  Surely I will strike fear into their hearts.  From head to toe I am clad in black.  When not on duty my costume is concealed in a secret compartment of my wardrobe.  My silent agility is thanks to the black-painted tennis shoes I wear.  My body is attired in a sleek skin-tight outfit.  Who in my local sub-aqua club would guess that my wet-suit serves another, far more important use?  A black balaclava hides my hair colouring.  Fastened securely about the head are wide-lensed one-way glasses that mask my eyes.  A scarf wrapped over my mouth not only hides my features but makes my voice unrecognisable.  The aunt who knitted it years ago is dead now.  There is no one to connect it with my alter-ego.  A pair of slim black leather gloves complete the basic costume.  The Night leaves no finger prints.

Not even my lovely young wife suspects. Continue reading

MONOLOGUE: excerpt from The Warrior

by Jack Gilhooley

SETTING:        a low-maintenance sound studio.  A table, a chair, an overhead mic .

TIME:              the present, daytime

CHARACTER:  TAMMY is the college-educated mother of a 12-year-old.  She’s in her mid-30s and wears military gear.

Tammy is an Iraq War vet recently discharged and under treatment for PTSD.  Her condition has led to a broken marriage and limited visitation with her child.  She has consented to be interviewed by her documentary filmmaker-friend, Giselle who is shooting a film about returning vets.

TAMMY

I don’t react well to crowds.  So I don’t know how effective I’d be at your fundraiser.  I mean, let’s get serious, here.  These are the ones that sent me over there.  The corporate biggies.  All I’d need is for one of them to ask how things are going over in Iraq.  I’d tell ’em to enlist their kids… their grandkids.  Let ’em find out first-hand.  So, c’mon, let’s get some grub.  Your dime.  But it can’t be Clancy’s.  I just got kicked outta there.  All those years when we were teen-agers and the cheap bastard never bothered to flag any of us.  I went in there with friends last week.  Bad idea.  But hell, you gotta get out sometimes.  The night started out fine.  We played darts.

(Smiles)

Some kid made a move on me.  It was nice.  It felt good.  There’s still life in us old babes.  Maybe if I had taken him up on it…

Then these friends… they wanted me to open up.  About the war.  Like with my relatives.  They don’t really care about my feelings.  They care about their curiosity… satisfaction.  It’s like… they’re stupid.

Anyway, I was reluctant to talk.  But these…

(She gestures quotation marks.  As she continues, she’ll come close to losing control.)

…”friends” were only buddies because I’d seen combat.  Trouble is, I just can’t converse.  Continue reading

MONOLOGUE: Eggshell

by Jacqueline Strawbridge

Setting:         bare stage with a series of steps center stage

Time:            present

Character:    WOMAN, 30’s, glamorous

The WOMAN descends a series of steps majestically.  There is a small tape recorder near the top of the stairs, which she has put on to play an opera aria.

WOMAN

The key to an entrance is to retain a degree of certainty and style.  Engaging that element of sympathy with your audience.  It is a nonchalance that is entirely natural.  Never feigned.  I am quite the toast.  Devastatingly in demand.  And requiring top-notch commitment.  From my fans.  My public.  I like to think I give them back ten-fold for their blind devotion.  I remain enticing.  Elevated.  But with… grace and humility.  Nearing the end of entrance, I take a bow.

(The tape recorder emits a short strangled sound.  WOMAN goes up and starts the tape again.)

The key to an entrance is to retain a degree of certainty and style.  Engaging that element of sympathy for your audience.  It is a nonchalance that is entirely unnatural.  Never mind.  I am quite toast.  Devastatingly demanding and requiring top-notch commitment.  From my fans.  In public.  I like to think they are blind with devotion.  I remain enticed.  Elevated.  But with… a fake humility.  Nearing the end of entrance I bow out.

(Tape gets chewed up; she goes up, thumps it and starts again.) Continue reading

MONOLOGUE: Clinging to the Rock Face

by Heather Jeffery

Setting:        A dressing table, with small table mirror and long freestanding mirror are in the room. A white ballet dress is hung over the long mirror.

Time:           A hot summer’s day, evening.

Character:   GERTA, 60’s, beautiful long grey-blond hair, suffering from Alzheimer’s

Gerta is sitting at the dressing table facing a small mirror on a stand.  She is brushing her hair.

GERTA

(Looking out at the audience.)

She must keep the scaffolding
free from rot for all time.

‘Thou shalt not stare at the overhanging
cliff at any time, day or night’.

So what if he loses his grip.
He cries where he could shout.

All over the purple flowers slip
gradually aching their insides out.

When did he begin to spurn?
They who cause him pain

shall be punished.  He shall take his turn
At hanging from the long chain

swinging to and fro while
She must look over the edge

of the platform to find lost coins
which once they found together.

Every person must wear colours
dictated by the rock face.

(Looking in mirror.)

I know you don’t I?  What’s your name?  No, don’t tell me.  It will come to me…

(Confiding in the ‘woman’.)

I suspect my husband is having an affair.  I think I may have seen her… yesterday… or was it the day before…  She’s got long blonde hair… down to… (sees her own hair).  Her face… her face… well… it’s pretty…  in a former glory, kind of way.  It’s his type—plump, rosy girls with glorious blonde locks.  He used to bring them to the house… students of his.  Lovely they were.   No… no… he wouldn’t… he couldn’t… I’m confident, that they weren’t… Continue reading

MONOLOGUE: Exquisite with Knives

by Sam Randall

Setting:       Present day, Devon in the UK.  The butcher’s where Susan works.

Time:           Day time

Character:  SUSAN, 50’s, lived in Devon all her life, devoted to butchery.

SUSAN is in charge of staff training and we join her as she begins presenting her training session for new staff.

SUSAN

You’re not going to get nowhere without taking notice of health and safety.  Mr. Arthur Barter—I calls him Mr. Barter for short.  He’s very keen on health and safety.  So you take notice of what I’m saying and you’ll be alright.

“Exquisite with knives!”  Mr. Barter says I am and he should know, his family been in this business over a hundred years—him, his father, his father before him.  That cleaver is for jointing, the medium serated knife is what we use for the fillets, the carver there is for stuff what’s cooked like the bag-u-ette turkey on the hot plate over there.  Careful!  Don’t touch it!  You got no chance of Mr. Barter trusting you with the knives if you’m a fly be night with the hot plate.

Now watch me with this slicer.  When you’m slicing beef, you want to watch you keep this bit of sinew on your wrist here, separate from this bit of sinew on the beef there.  Cos if you don’t, one slip of the slicer and it’ll be you what’s red as rump and only fit for filleting!

You wants to learn them body parts on the poster like you’re life depends on it; most of what comes in here’s dead already, but you don’t want to be in any rush to join ’em.  I find me bedroom wall’s a good place to hang me carcass poster; that way it’s the last thing I sees at night and the first thing I sees in the morning.  Look, these hands.  They haven’t ever even seen one of they blue health and hygiene plasters, let alone wore one.  There’s not been a scratch on these hands in 30 years of butchery.  Continue reading

MONOLOGUE: excerpt from Kindred

by Jaki McCarrick

Setting:       Eoghan’s bedroom, Ireland

Time:          present, night time

Character:  EOGHAN, late 20’s

Eoghan’s father Heber Harnett abused Irene, Eoghan’s older sister, in the field beside the lake—having enchanted all his children with the strange story of “the field of hands.”  Eoghan discovers the disturbing story written by his father.

Eoghan is by a desk downstage in his room, in which is also a bed, many old toys.  It is a cold, unloved room.  Books on shelves and in boxes.  There is a lamp on the table, and an open chest with many papers scattered out of it.  He sits at the table and reads aloud:

EOGHAN

“The Field of Hands by Heber Hartnett.

“Once upon a time there was a field where nothing familiar grew.  Nothing familiar like corn or potatoes or poppies or wheat.  And it stood out from all the other acres and half-roods because year after year there was no crop, nothing.  Not even weeds.  Local people began to think the field cursed, or worse—poisoned by some underground rot.  But even rot would have been something and there was never anything but the wind settling on the dead soil.

“The location of this field was close to where the border had been drawn after the declaration of the Irish Free State.  Though the field had always been there, in the Gap of the North, where the Worm’s Ditch meets the Black Pig’s Dyke—the ancient division between north and south.  But anyone who saw the field at night had a different tale to tell.  For at night a strange thing happened.

“In every corner grew the most extraordinary white flowers.  They were like porcelain, white from stalk through to petal.  They had stems like arms, and petals like long, pale fingers, and they opened up in rows towards the night sky.  They searched for the moon, which would make them glorious.  And during a full moon they would stand up straight, fingers aligned like the hand of Ulster.  Whoever would see this field of hands, as it came to be known, with its row upon row of moon-lit flowers, would understand immediately why no crop grew in the field.  For the white roots went through the field, through the feldspar and shale, into the core of the earth like a vine, throbbing with the ghostly milk of the moon, making the land cold and sad.  And once seen, it became impossible to forget the image of the grasping flower-hands, for to do so would be to play a part in the slow death of the land.  Only one thing would do:  the flowers would have to be cut-down, wrenched out or poisoned.

“And thus, ordinary people who had come upon the field of hands—humble farmers, fishermen, children—were gifted with the chance to become great heroes and martyrs.  The power was theirs to make familiar things grow day and night in the field—at least until the flowers would return again and who knew when that would be.”

(EOGHAN crumbles up the paper, sobs.)

Oh my sister!  Irene, Irene!

(Lights fade.)

copyright © 2010 Jaki McCarrick.  All rights reserved.
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Jaki McCarrick is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin.  Her first play, The Mushroom Pickers, won the 2005 Scottish Drama Association’s National Playwriting Competition, and premiered at the Southwark Playhouse in London in May 2006 and in New York in February 2009.  Jaki was Writer-in-Residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre for the Pushkin Trust in July 2007.  She recently won first prize in the Northern Ireland Spinetinglers Dark Fiction competition and was selected for the 2009 Poetry Ireland Introduction series of emerging poets.  Her play, Leopoldville, was selected as a finalist in the 2010 Yale Drama Series Playwriting Competition; the play has also just won the 2010 Papatango New Writing Award.