Themes of parallel universes/the multiverse/quantum physics are bandied about in some of the dialogue and echoed in various repetitions of the characters’ behaviour and the use of certain structural elements in the set. The possibility is raised that when we think about doing something a universe is created in which that thing is done. Another popular parallel universe notion is of the world that is almost identical to the origin world apart from insignificant details here and there. The playlet speculates on physical problems that might be experienced by travellers between worlds.
Angela – an adventuress with links to an intelligence agency.
Betty – Angela’s identical twin sister, in some ways just as resourceful as Angela.
Roger – possibly Angela’s partner; possibly Angela’s control. He has an identical twin brother called Roy, who is a sexually predatory psychopath.
Alex – a friend of Angela and Roger; possibly an English-speaking inhabitant either of a parallel world or a hitherto undiscovered and remote geographical location.
It should be noted that Angela and Betty – despite being identical twins – are played by different actresses (Jude Barrington and Bernadette Russell) while Roger and Roy are played by one actor (Chris Newland). Alex may be two identical people who are both versions of Alex, played by one actor (Gareth Brierley).
1. Monochrome – some scenes will be lit with monochrome washes such as red, blue, green etc.
2. Off-Set – some scenes will be lit brightly and baldly, revealing the territory adjacent to the set in addition to the set itself.
3. On-Set – other scenes will be lit in a ‘normal’, non-monochrome way.
When monochrome of a particular colour is applied to a scene the colour itself should not be seen as particularly significant.
it is likely that a low, electronic drone will run throughout the show (possibly from the ambient work of ‘The Caretaker’). This will add a degree of underlying menace to the scenes. It will, however, be supplemented by other types of music, such as trance, hard house, terrorcore, film sound track, baroque and other classical.
IN SILENCE: AS HER SKIRTS REPEATEDLY SWIRL ANGELA PRESSES FIRST ALEX THEN ROGER TO HER BOSOM IN FOND FAREWELL. A BIT DANCE-LIKE. IT IS AS IF MANY ADVENTURES HAVE BEEN VENTURED AND NOW THE COMRADES MUST PART AT LAST. AN EMOTIONAL ENDING TO A CLUSTER OF SAGAS THAT THE AUDIENCE MAY WISH THEY HAD SEEN. PERHAPS THEY WILL. BUT THIS SEQUENCE STRONGLY RESEMBLES THE END OF A PLAY.
AFTER ONE MORE LINGERING EMBRACE THE TWO MEN LEAVE.
ANGELA IS ALONE. SHE SITS.
ANGELA Ha! Roger! Alex! And I (Angela)!
(Note: It is conceivable that, like James Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ and the M25, Dash Dash Dash has a formal circularity, whereby this brief scene eventually closes the entire crazy journey upon which we are about to embark.) (Writer’s retrospective note: It didn’t.)
THROUGHOUT THE ENSUING DIALOGUE SEQUENCE MUSIC IS PLAYED.
Music: Corelli – Concerto da Chiesa No 8 in G minor
THE SET SHOULD ACCOMMODATE THE FOLLOWING POSSIBILITY: WHEN ANGELA IS WALKING WITH THE MEN ALL THREE SHOULD BE ABLE TO EXIT THEN IMMEDIATELY REAPPEAR WITH BETTY IN ANGELA’S PLACE.
THE MEN DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE SWITCHES. AFTER ALL, THE TWO WOMEN ARE IDENTICAL TWINS.
THE ACTRESS SHOULD ALSO BE ABLE TO RUN ROUND THE BACK OF THE SET IN ORDER TO BE SWITCHED FROM THE OTHER SIDE LATER IN THIS SCENE.
THIS WILL BE DONE A COUPLE OF TIMES IN THE SCENE (INDICATED IN THE SCRIPT), WHICH WILL END WITH ANGELA ON STAGE AND BETTY OFF.
ROGER AND ALEX ENTER.
A MOMENT LATER ANGELA ENTERS.
ALEX SHOUTS DELIGHTEDLY AND HUGS ANGELA. IT IS AS IF ANGELA IS RETURNING AFTER A LONG TIME AWAY.
ROGER TOO IS DELIGHTED AND HUGS ANGELA. THEY EACH TAKE ONE OF ANGELA’S HANDS AND EXCITEDLY WALK UP AND DOWN WITH HER. IT IS AS IF A PLAY IS ABOUT TO BEGIN.
THE FRIENDS ARE VITAL AND ENCHANTING. THEY TOUCH EACH OTHER AFFECTIONATELY FROM TIME TO TIME.
ANGELA Now it’s all behind me! The places!
ALEX We thought…
ROGER The good things first!
ANGELA The hill villages, the plage, the general feeling of groups of people very much in love struggling through on board ship.
ALEX We thought…
ANGELA What did you think, darling?
ROGER I think we thought you’d gone…
ALEX CHOKES BACK A TEAR.
ANGELA Oh, Alex!
FIRST SWITCH: ANGELA SWEEPS ALEX OFF STAGE, EXITING THROUGH A DOOR IN THE SET.
ALEX IMMEDIATELY RE-ENTERS WITH BETTY.
ALEX Now we can really start.
ROGER Now that everything is over.
ALEX 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.
SECOND SWITCH: BETTY MOVES OFF STAGE, FOLLOWED BY ALEX.
ANGELA RE-ENTERS, FOLLOWED BY ALEX.
ALEX Were you? Followed?
ANGELA (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.
THE MUSIC STOPS ABRUPTLY.
ANGELA I’d love a sweet biscuit now.
ROGER AND ALEX EXIT.
LIGHTING: OFF-SET, BRIGHT.
AS ANGELA SITS, A DOOR BURSTS OPEN AND, FROM THE OPPOSITE SIDE TO THE EARLIER EXITS (Scene 1), THERE ENTERS ALEX.
HE MOVES TOWARDS ANGELA BUT CONTINUES TO DOWNSTAGE CENTRE, CLOSE TO THE AUDIENCE.
VERY LOUD, POUNDING TRANCE MUSIC IS SNAPPED IN.
ALEX DANCES ENERGETICALLY AND CHEERFULLY FOR A NUMBER OF SECONDS UNTIL STOPPING ABRUPTLY AS THE MUSIC IS CUT.
THE SAME DOOR BURSTS OPEN AGAIN AND ROGER ENTERS.
VERY LOUD, POUNDING TRANCE MUSIC IS SNAPPED IN.
ROGER DANCES ENERGETICALLY AND DETERMINEDLY FOR A NUMBER OF SECONDS UNTIL STOPPING ABRUPTLY AS THE MUSIC IS CUT.
ROGER Angela – your shapes are the talk of the town and its side streets! Will you throw some?
ANGELA DANCES ENERGETICALLY AND INVENTIVELY FOR A NUMBER OF SECONDS, TO THE SOUND OF POUNDING TRANCE MUSIC, UNTIL STOPPING ABRUPTLY AS THE MUSIC IS CUT.
(Note: While the Director will certainly give notes to the Actors concerning the manner of their dancing in this scene, he will stress that variations on personal idiosyncrasies of style are more the biscuit than polished passages of discotheque simulation.)
ALEX (TO HIMSELF) What if…say, I were to do something, then, as if on a whim, quite suddenly and abruptly, decided not to do it. In fact, I never did it. Not because there was anything wrong with it. Not because I particularly had an attitude to it. It could be something quite important or quite minor. I would halt at the very brink, the very brim, almost tipping into it. Would that do it? Would it set something up?
ROGER How would you know? It might do it – but there’s no way of telling. It’s a luxury – the argument, I mean – you can say what you want and never be wrong.
ALEX They have no word for ‘Wendy’.
ALEX When they say it there’s just a terrible noise.
ROGER From their mouths?
ALEX Partly. And in the air. Quite separate from the mouth. Birds fall from the sky.
ROGER I notice, Alex, that no such phenomena accompany your own voicing of the problematic word.
ALEX I’ve explained this to you many times, Roger.
ROGER So you have, so you have.
ANGELA When I think about the children I want to die.
ROGER You want to die before you die?
ANGELA (ACKNOWLEDGING THE ABSURDITY) I know.
ROGER You worry about how they’ll be.
ANGELA Well, of course. What else? At the moment they don’t have a clue.
ROGER When do you want to tell them?
ANGELA I don’t want to tell them!
ROGER We’ll both tell them.
ANGELA I just…can’t. I want a door to open up. I want to be swallowed.
ANGELA AND ROGER TURN AWAY FROM EACH OTHER AND SMILE WARMLY AT THE AUDIENCE AS A SPECIAL LIGHT COMES ON DIRECTLY ABOVE THEM AND GROWS STEADILY IN BRILLIANCE.
THEY LOOK UPWARDS TO THE LIGHT AND SHIELD THEIR EYES WHEN IT BECOMES UNCOMFORTABLY BRIGHT. (THIS EFFECT MIGHT BE HEIGHTENED BY FADING ALL OTHER LIGHTS.)
THE OVERHEAD SPECIAL SNAPS OFF.
VERY BRIEF BLACKOUT (DURING WHICH A PERSONNEL SWITCH IS EFFECTED) FOLLOWED BY A SINGLE BRIGHT FLASH OF LIGHT. IT REVEALS BETTY AND ROGER SITTING NEUTRALLY TOGETHER.
ALEX I didn’t like her breath. It was milky.
ROGER Were you particularly close?
ALEX I didn’t know her. That was the point.
ROGER What I actually meant was were you physically close to her? So that you could smell her.
ALEX Does it matter? It was milky. She was…uneasy.
ROGER Of course she bloody was. She had shit down her legs.
ALEX I didn’t notice.
ROGER But you noticed her breath.
ANGELA My brief was to go upriver, to the islands. One of our people was impregnating natives at the rate of three a week. Not a good thing, need I say? The crew was composed of degenerates – one of them shot a puppy. At one point we drank the water. Big mistake. Pissing though our arses. One’s grasp faltered. We debarked and trekked inland. For eight weeks. Fucking big country. Sometimes it was dark in the daytime. What can you say about that? At least I didn’t have to shave. Not a sign of the guy. A coconut fell on our compass. GPS – it’s a terrific idea but we didn’t have the requisite thing. Frank took his trousers off so he could shit whilst walking along. It was increasingly hard to feel ladylike.
ALEX When…when…when… we were taking the car back to…to…to…to…
ALEX CONTINUES TO STUTTER AT SOME LENGTH. HE TRIES TO BREAK THE CYCLE BUT DOES NOT SHOW UNDUE ANXIETY.
THERE IS A DEAFENING BANG (THEATRICAL MAROON).
BETTY They’re so shit! They can’t even say fucking ‘WENDY’!
ANOTHER DEAFENING BANG, FOLLOWED BY LOUD DRONE MUSIC (MAYBE ‘THE CARETAKER’) AND SNAP BLACKOUT, DURING WHICH A PERSONNEL SWITCH TAKES PLACE (ANGELA REPLACES BETTY).
THE MUSIC CONTINUES AS THE LIGHTS SNAP BACK, DISCOVERING ANGELA STANDING CLOSE TO THE SEATED ALEX. SHE COUGHS VIOLENTLY AND SPITS BLOOD ALL OVER HIS FACE.
ALEX (UNPERTURBED) …the dockside. In those days you’d drive onto a rope net attached to a big high up crane, well, probably not so big by today’s standards where bigness is so advanced, and they’d gather up the net and the car would go up in the air and across to the boat then down into the hold. That was how you moved cars in those days. Off you’d go! To Sweden on one occasion. Gothenburg, in fact. Or ‘Yurtaborg’ (HE MANGLES THE CORRECT PRONUNCIATION) as they say it in Yurtaborg or Yurtaborg as they say it in Yurtaborg
Note: We will ask a Swedish person about this. Does anyone know one?
ROGER When these people get down below twenty metres their lungs start to compress. At sixty metres they’re down to the size of a fist. Sometimes they bleed from the ears. I’m not against it. People used to say ‘Roger, you should fucking relax’ and I’d say ‘For what fucking reason?’ and they’d say ‘It can’t be good to be going about with all the muscles clenched’ and I’d say ‘Why not? Why the fuck not? Who actually said in the first place? Where is your evidence? Is this scientific? Or is it some fucking whimsy? Some fucking little tale that no one knows where it came from but they all fucking believe it, as if they were fucking scientists with a degree from fucking Edinburgh University in fucking Human Physiology, no, in Higher fucking Unclenching … Disclenching…where you let go…
BETTY …and we saw a 58, that were good, then an oh oh nine, that were champion, then a four four four, that was a little repetitive, then a 6C, that was super, then not one not two not three not four but five small F11s, in serial packets, that rocked, then, as if we were not already sated with quite so much, a cluster of yellow 10s pockmarked prettily with what looked like rat shit.
ROGER How will we tell?
BETTY He’ll put a foot wrong. Then we will done for him.
ROGER For him it’s a game it’s. As soon as we have him he’ll vanish.
ALEX When I first saw you both I felt you had no weight. You seemed to float.
ANGELA Was that bad?
ALEX I wanted to put my hand through you.
BETTY Isn’t that quite saucy?
A DEAFENING BANG.
LIGHTS SNAP ON, TO A LOW LEVEL, DISCOVERING ANGELA, BETTY, ALEX AND ROGER, IN A LINE ABREAST, DANCING DELIGHTEDLY TO PLEASANT SWIRLING TRANCE.
Note: The actors will be encouraged to smile genuinely and winningly throughout this sequence. Their expressions will suggest a joyous and attractive ease.
BETTY He says he wants to help me. But for the kids it’s. He don’t want to know it. Not himself.
ALEX So you helpin him helpin you.
BETTY He need the help. He can’t bear to tell.
ROGER IS AT HIS DESK AT MI5, WHERE SPYING IS DONE. SEATED BEFORE HIM IS ANGELA.
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.
ANGELA Reality is a language, Roger.
ROGER Really? I wish I bloody spoke it, then.
ANGELA I’ve always considered you fluent.
ROGER How are the headaches?
ANGELA Do you want to play doctors, Roger?
ROGER No, Betty. I wanted to talk about your sister.
ANGELA 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.
ANGELA Shall I get her in?
ROGER If you would.
ANGELA COMES RIGHT BACK IN AGAIN, THROUGH ANOTHER DOOR.
ROGER Angela! How are you?
ANGELA Very well, Roger. Nice place.
ROGER Keeps the rain off.
AFTER FOUR REPEATS THE SCENE CHANGES TO…
ALEX I said ‘Hello’.
BETTY And you said ‘I said’.
BETTY And ‘Yes’.
ALEX CATCHES HER.
BETTY My brief was to go upriver, to the islands. I would be disguised as Angela and I would attempt to seduce Roger’s twin 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 Angela more recently, could be made vulnerable were I to appear to hold out to him the possibility of getting his leg over. Unlike Angela, 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.
LIGHTING: OFF-SET, BRIGHT
ANGELA (STUTTERING FIERCELY BUT WITHOUT ANXIETY) Ah…ah…ah… ah…ah… ah…ah… ah…ah… ah…ah…ack…ack… ack…ack… ack… ack… ack…ack…vvv…vvv… vvv…vvv…vvv…vvv… vvv…vvv…vvv…vvv
ANGELA He spoke English!
ALEX That’s not possible. It’s simply not.
SAD MUSIC OVER…
ANGELA And I wept.
ANGELA We’d come so far. Beyond the maps. Shit down our legs.
ALEX But if it was off the maps…
ANGELA I don’t know! My God, Alex, if I understood it I’d bloody tell you!
SHE DRINKS FROM A MUG
ALEX So he…they…must have got there first…some other expedition…a private one. Surely.
ANGELA COUGHS VIOLENTLY AND COVERS ALEX’S FACE IN BLOOD. HE IS UNPERTURBED.
ROGER It’s a game. But it’s not playful. People use it without realising it. It constitutes a thorough challenge to Freudian thinking. It undermines the most basic and well established assumptions about identity and individual responsibility. Our scientists are within months of effecting passage. But there is already resistance in the form of leakage from the places that had assumed that passage was impossible. They are sending their people through in order to scupper us.
ALEX I think you’re feeling a little paranoid.
ROGER That’s what they always say, isn’t it?
ALEX That’s what they always say.
ROGER No, that’s what they always say.
ALEX No, that’s what they always say.
ROGER Alex…they sent you through, though, didn’t they?
ALEX No, they didn’t.
ROGER Yes, they did.
ALEX I know who you are, Roger.
ROGER I’ll spell it out. The play – it appeared as a play first – came out in 1904. Before that time the name did not exist. In 1905 Einstein published, in the Annalen der Physik, four ground-breaking papers: (SAD MUSIC) Uber einen die Erzeugung und Verwandlung des Lichtes betreffenden heuristichen Gesichtspunkt; Uber die von der molekular-kinetischen Theorie der Warme gerforderte Bewegung von in ruhenden Flussigkeiten suspendierten Teilchen; Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Korper and Ist die Tragheit eines Korpers von Seinem Energieinhalt abhangig? To translate: On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light; On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in a Stationary Liquid, as Required by the Molecular Kinetic Theory of Heat; On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies and Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?
(END SAD MUSIC)
LIGHTS TO ON-SET
The shit hit the fan. Hadn’t been such an upheaval since the days of Robert Newton. We’re still some way from Everett, mind you. The multi thing. He didn’t make a mark till ’57. However, we can speculate – or rather, they can speculate, because, frankly, I don’t understand a fucking word of it – that when something like this comes along it makes a big ripple, and not just down the fucking pub.
ANGELA What…it can move across?
ROGER Maybe. Everything is possible.
ANGELA That’s vague.
ROGER I said, suddenly, everything is possible. Usually it isn’t.
ANGELA And Wendy?
ROGER Look: Barrie was a pervy little runt. But socially connected. He knew all the writers and he also knew the scientists. Who knows what he might have pulled off?
ANGELA So you think Alex…
ROGER Yes, I do. Increasingly.
ALEX DANCES IN A JOLLY, NON-SLICK MANNER TO SOME BANGING BEATS.
ANGELA (SHE MAKES CLICKING, GRUNTING NOISES, AS IF SPEAKING SOME OBSCURE LANGUAGE)
ALEX I’m sorry..?
ALEX I didn’t understand…
ANGELA But how do you understand me?
ALEX Well…we speak the same language…
ANGELA When did you get here?
ALEX I live here.
ANGELA How long?
ALEX I was born here.
ANGELA Where were your parents from?
ALEX They were born here.
ANGELA Where were their parents from?
ALEX They were born here.
ANGELA Where were their parents from?
ALEX They were born here.
ANGELA Do you have a society?
ALEX Of course. Do you?
ANGELA Of course. Thousands of miles away.
ALEX It’s nice here.
ANGELA My legs are covered in shit.
ALEX That’s okay. You can stay here if you want.
ANGELA Do you have a house like mine?
ALEX Very like yours. Very like it.
ANGELA Do you know Roger?
ALEX I know his brother Roy.
ROY IS POSING AS ROGER.
ROY (TO BETTY) Did you have to fuck him?
BETTY It was a loss leader.
ROY What about Alex?
ALEX What about me?
ROY What have you been thinking about?
ALEX Nothing much.
ANGELA What about Roy?
ROY 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.
ANGELA Betty – what if..?
BETTY Roger! Your brother wanted to kill you, didn’t he?
ROY I’m afraid he did.
ANGELA He wanted a world in which you had never existed…
ANGELA AND BETTY LOOK AT EACH OTHER IN HORROR AS IT SLOWLY DAWNS ON THEM THAT THEY ARE IN ROY’S WORLD NOW.
ANGELA & BETTY Roy!
ALEX YELLS IN TERROR
LIGHTS TO MONOCHROME
ROY I need your help. I come from a place where the things you abhor are considered perfectly conventional. As for the values that you uphold here, I find them utterly debasing. I fear that unless I can effect passage I may commit, without malice, acts that you will find atrocious.
ANGELA MOVES TOWARDS ROY, APPARENTLY ABOUT TO EMBRACE HIM SYMPATHETICALLY.
ANGELA They’re just thoughts…
BETTY Fuck that!
BETTY PUSHES ANGELA OFF COURSE AND IS ABOUT TO ATTACK ROY.
ALEX Don’t touch him!
ROY What do you know, Alex?
ALEX Can he say ‘Wendy’?
ANGELA (ACCUSATIVELY) Roger?
BETTY (ACCUSATIVELY) Roy?
ROY I don’t think you’d like me to say it.
ROY TURNS SLOWLY TOWARDS BETTY.
HE OPENS HIS MOUTH WIDE.
A TERRIBLE, DEAFENING, GROANING ROAR COMES FROM HIS THROAT.
A DEEP, SHUDDERING BASS DRONE IS MIXED INTO IT.
ANGELA, BETTY AND ALEX SCREAM IN TERROR.
SLOW FADE TO BLACK.
THE ROAR FADES.
THE BASS DRONE CONTINUES FOR A FEW SECONDS LONGER.
(A retrospective note: I often thought that given many audience members found the playlet confusing, then Scene 6 must surely be the most perplexing of all. My intention was simply to use this scene to demonstrate what kind of play you were not watching. It obtruded like a sore thumb and would ideally prompt the viewer to think ‘This should be amputated’. I suspect that some audience members may well have had that thought but found it irritating rather than significant.)(2019))
Link to Dash #2 in right hand column