Ann – a cricketer
Pat – a policewoman
Tod – an actor
Dan – a documentary film maker
THE ACTORS ARE IN THEIR FIRST POSITIONS ONSTAGE, UNDER A LOW PRE-SET.
HOUSE LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT, ENABLING THE DIRECTOR, DAVID GALE, TO ENTER AND TAKE A POSITION MIDSTAGE CENTRE.
A SPECIAL SPOT FADES UP TO REVEAL HIM.
DAVID Good evening, my name is David Gale. I am the writer and director of the Dash Dash Dash series of short plays, one of which, titled ‘The Fastness’, you are about to see. If what I’m doing at the moment isn’t very good then I must apologise. It’s because I’m not an actor. These are my real clothes. It can be tricky writing a play in three days and rehearsing it in two and a half. Some of the things you’d ideally introduce gradually have to be quickly established so that you can cover the ground you want to in the limited time you have. This evening I thought I’d get round that by just telling you what happened to Dan – the character played by Chris here (HE INDICATES CHRIS, WHO SMILES PLEASANTLY) – before he came on stage, so to speak.
Thanks to some scientific breakthroughs Dan was able to travel back in time to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and film it with a concealed camera. Now he’s back here again. (PAUSE) Good. I’m sorry if that’s a bit crude, but it does mean we can start with an even playing field.
I’ve got a seat over here (INDICATING). I’ll go to it now.
DAVID TAKES HIS SEAT IN THE AUDIENCE.
AS SOON AS HE IS SETTLED LIGHTS GO TO FIRST ‘PLAY STATE’.
ANN How was Jerusalem?
TOD How was it?
PAT Did you get anything?
DAN When I arrived, I was, of course, naked. I managed to find a robe and made my way to the site. They were just putting him up.
ANN What was he like?
DAN Not at his best, I imagine. Even so, you could tell there was something going on. I got up close and shot for at least two hours.
PAT The crucifixion of Jesus Christ – in colour!
DAN Worth a couple of bob, to be sure. Once they remove the camera.
TOD Is that a headache?
DAN It’s just beneath the collar-bone. (INDICATING) Here, more or less. They make an incision and lift it out.
ANN Are you sure it’s there?
DAN Oh yes. Anything inside the body is safe. Anything outside is vaporised.
ANN Well, talking of time travel, we’re playing New Zealand next week. Worcester.
PAT Going alright?
ANN Been in the nets every day. Looking pretty good.
PAT We’re busting some scumbags at the moment.
PAT No, no. Dealers. Maltese Jimmy.
TOD I got that panto.
ANN Well done!
ANN Lovely walks.
A COUNTRY DANCE. WITH ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC.
TOD So, Dan.
TOD If word got out…
PAT Men and women would fall upon you.
ANN They would tear your body open.
DAN I hadn’t thought of that.
ANN So why did you go?
DAN It was felt that the outcome might have significant impact upon a fragmented world.
PAT It would knock some sense into it.
TOD It would take things back to the moment before curtain up.
ANN It would create an even playing field.
PAT Do you feel any different, Dan?
DAN Well, it was a once in a lifetime thing.
TOD I think you have changed.
ANN I’m trying to remember what you were like.
A SHORT COUNTRY DANCE.
DAN Hello everybody I’ve succeeded in painting the town red in a very direct and lively manner.
ANN I disagree. It is time for unrelenting and pitiless war.
TOD Who’d like a delicious cuppa? I would. Thank you.
PAT This afternoon I’m going to strip the 444 down and see if we can’t get it to run about a bit.
DAN You could take it down the town. Which is so colourful.
ANN Yes. I’ve got people coming in from all over roundabout these parts in effect.
TOD Which is a monster plus. By Jiminy.
PAT By crikey.
ANN By fuck.
DAN Hoorah to all that.
PAT Right then! Let’s!
TOD I’m inclined.
DAN With a brisk and lively tempo.
PAT I could slap something now.
ANN Off you go.
TOD I’d like to run that way.
DAN And I another way.
PAT I’ll slap something very shortly.
ANN Which is what you’re like.
PAT As you say. Ann.
TOD Are you the slap type? Pat.
DAN This is getting good.
ANN Oh, I love Switzerland!
TOD I love remembering!
PAT I’m a misanthropist!
DAN I collect stamps!
TOD I think about my personality.
PAT Watch me run for the ball.
TOD I can’t.
PAT It’ll happen anyway.
PAT RUNS ABOUT A BIT.
ANN There should be borders that are touchable around areas that may contravene health and safety.
DAN It only makes sense. What about these moves?
DAN ROUNDS ABOUT A BIT.
THAT MEANS THERE ARE TWO PEOPLE RUNNING ABOUT A BIT AT ONCE.
ANN I love you.
DAN Shall we settle down?
TOD (TO ANN) He’s only kidding.
ANN (TO DAN) Fucker.
PAT Dan, you’re the wild card.
DAN I really wish I had been more indirect with that man in Luxembourg.
TOD In what exact way, Dan?
DAN DEMONSTRATES SIDLING, EDGING, DEFLECTING, FAWNING, THE WITHHOLDING OF AFFECT.
HE FINISHES DOING THIS.
ANN Newmarket is just in. Two o’clock: Bad Roy. Two thirty: Namibian Pamby. Three o’clock: Fiery Liquid. Three thirty: Look out Hector! Four o’clock: Knobby. The Fastness!
PAT SLAPS TOD.
TOD I’m listening.
ANN Think: the Big Bang, yeah?
TOD I’m listening.
ANN The Big Bang, yeah.
DAN That’s irritating.
ANN The Big Bang, yeah, the actual noise of it, is still going on.
TOD Some sort of a distant hiss, isn’t it?
ANN Tod! Fuck! You’re such a div! Whatever they want you to think, you think!
TOD Okay, okay. What am I missing?
ANN The Big Bang, right, is still going on, as an actual bang, all around us, deafening, totally ear-splitting.
PAT (SARCASTICALLY) Which is why I can hear you perfectly well at this moment in time.
PAT (THREATENINGLY) Don’t!
DAN It’s not a bad point, is it, Ann?
ANN Because it’s deafening our ears have evolved to hear beyond it. Everything we hear is beyond it.
TOD But it’s there.
PAT Where is your proof, please?
ANN Honestly, Pat. You should join the police force.
PAT You should take your pads off now and again.
TOD I have to go to an audition.
DAN What for?
TOD So that I’m there when they evaluate a number of actors for a particular part.
A COUNTRY DANCE.
PAT Dan. Don’t get me wrong.
DAN I’ll try.
PAT Your underpants. Are they especially brief?
DAN They are, actually. I don’t like to be encumbered.
PAT Or cucumbered!
(PAT AND ANN BURST OUT LAUGHING BAWDILY WITH GREAT FORCE)
I’m sorry. That was wrong of me.
(PAT AND ANN BURST OUT LAUGHING AGAIN, IN A SIMILAR MANNER)
No. We shouldn’t. Your pants, Dan…
(THEY BURST OUT LAUGHING AGAIN, IN A SIMILAR MANNER)
DAN No, no. Take your time. I’ve got nothing on today.
PAT Are you sure?
PAT AND ANN BURST OUT LAUGHING AGAIN, IN A SIMILAR MANNER.
ANN Oh dear.
PAT I don’t where it comes from!
DAN (MILDLY IMPATIENT) Anyway. My pants…
PAT AND ANN BURST OUT LAUGHING AGAIN. THEY ROAR, POUND THE FURNITURE AND SLAP EACH OTHER’S THIGHS.
TOD We could probably move on.
PAT Simple question: would you like to slip into something less stylish for when we get going? Just to make you feel more comfortable. Something roomier?
ANN SNORTS BUT MANAGES TO CONTROL HERSELF AND STUDIES THE CEILING
DAN That’s very thoughtful. Thank you. I will.
PAT HANDS DAN A DRESSING GOWN AND A PAIR OF PLAIN WHITE Y-FRONTS, STILL PACKAGED.
DAN MOVES UPSTAGE AND, WITH HIS BACK TO THE AUDIENCE, CHANGES INTO Y-FRONTS AND DRESSING GOWN.
THE LIGHTING STATE STARTS TO SHIFT TO A NON-NATURALISTIC ‘GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST’ STYLE WITH HIGH CONTRAST LIGHT AND SHADOW.
WHILE DAN IS CHANGING HIS CLOTHES TOD, ANN AND PAT HELP EACH OTHER PUT ON WHITE SURGICAL SCRUBS. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THESE EFFICIENTLY PROTECT THE COSTUMES BENEATH.
THE FOLLOWING DIALOGUE MAY SUFFICE AS COVER:
TOD It has to be this way. If we outsourced it anything could happen.
ANN We’ll be fine.
TOD It’s been a while but I’m pretty sure of the moves.
PAT How long were you on it?
TOD About eight months. Two seasons. I went from House Officer in A&E to Ear, Nose and Throat.
ANN What’s Sally Myers like?
TOD She’s lovely.
ANN I thought so. She looks like she would be.
PAT I love her laugh.
TOD It’s actually hers. That’s the way she laughs.
DAN HAS NOW COMPLETED HIS COSTUME CHANGE WALKS DOWN TO THE OTHERS.
DAN I like that Terry guy.
TOD He’s Scottish.
DAN Really? Not a Cockney.
WHAT ENSUES IS AN ATTEMPT, WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF LIVE THEATRE, TO REPRODUCE A SURGICAL OPERATION THAT GOES QUITE WELL BUT GENERATES AN EXTRAORDINARY AMOUNT OF BLOOD AND GUTS.
WE WILL PROBABLY NEED A CLEANABLE FLOOR CLOTH.
THE OPERATION IS CONDUCTED ON DAN, WHO LIES ON A SPECIAL TABLE WHICH MAY, PRIOR TO THIS EPISODE, HAVE BEEN TAKEN FOR A DINING TABLE.
BENEATH THE TABLE TOP ARE COMPARTMENTS CONTAINING:
• SEVERAL LITRES OF STAGE BLOOD.
• QUANTITIES OF MATERIAL CLOSELY RESEMBLING INTESTINES AND INTERNAL ORGANS. (THESE COULD BE SOURCED FROM AN ABATTOIR IF PROPER REFRIGERATION WERE AVAILABLE AT ALL STAGES).
• A PUMP/SPRAY WHICH WOULD EMIT GUSHERS OF STAGE BLOOD WHEN ACTIVATED. THE SPRAY HEAD IS ADJUSTABLE SO THAT GUSHERS ARE DIRECTABLE. (IT MAY BE THAT THE ACTUAL PUMP IS OFFSTAGE BUT CONNECTED TO THE SPRAYHEAD ONSTAGE).
• A DRAWER FOR SCALPELS, SURGICAL SAWS, FORCEPS, CLAMPS ETC.
ALL ACCESS TO THESE FACILITIES WOULD BE ON THE UPSTAGE SIDE OF THE TABLE SO THAT THE ‘SURGEONS’ WOULD APPEAR TO BE OPENING UP DAN’S BODY AND CAUSING IT TO BLEED, GUSH AND BECOME A SOURCE OF ORGANS.
DAN GETS ONTO THE TABLE AND LIES ON HIS BACK.
BEAUTIFULLY SOLEMN MUSIC FADES UP.
THE ‘SURGEONS’ MOVE INTO POSITION AROUND THE TABLE.
TOD Dan – we don’t have any anaesthetic.
DAN I know. It’s not a problem.
ANN He directs his mind away, don’t you, Dan?
DAN Something like that.
TOD Okay. Time to go in. Take 1.
THE STAGE DIRECTIONS WILL DESCRIBE WHAT APPEARS TO HAPPEN, RATHER THAN WHAT THE ACTORS ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO TO CREATE THE ILLUSIONS.
THE ATMOSPHERE IS LOW KEY, UNHURRIED, SERENE.
TOD Scalpel. (PAT HANDS TOD A SCALPEL) Going in, Dan. (TOD MAKES AN INCISION ON DAN’S UPPER CHEST) There. Keyhole.
DAN How is it?
PAT PRODUCES A FLASHLIGHT AND SHINES IT ONTO THE INCISION.
PAT Can’t see it yet.
TOD I’ll enlarge. (TOD ENLARGES THE INCISION) Okay, Dan?
PAT SHINES THE FLASHLIGHT ON THE INCISION AGAIN.
ANN Can I see? (SHE PEERS INTO THE INCISION) Nope.
TOD Little bit more. (TOD ENLARGES THE INCISION) Okay, Dan?
DAN You’re doing well.
TOD Pat, please.
PAT SHINES THE FLASHLIGHT ON THE INCISION AGAIN.
ANN PEERS IN.
ANN Not yet. (TO TOD) Can I try?
TOD Of course.
PAT HANDS ANN A NEW SCALPEL.
ANN You happy with this, Dan?
DAN I’m with friends. (ANN ENLARGES THE INCISION) You’re so calm.
ANN So are you.
PAT SHINES THE FLASHLIGHT ON THE INCISION.
PAT Hmm. I might just put my hand in.
TOD Can’t do any harm.
PAT INSERTS HER HAND INTO DAN’S UPPER CHEST.
STEAM RISES FROM WITHIN DAN’S BODY AS THE WARM ORGANS MEET THE COLDER OUTSIDE AIR.
PAT How big is it, Dan?
PAT I need to move around a little.
DAN You look lovely.
PAT So do you.
PAT GOES IN UP TO THE WRIST AND EXPLORES THE CAVITY.
BLOOD SUDDENLY SPURTS FROM THE CAVITY AND STRIKES PAT SQUARE IN THE FACE.
PAT STEPS BACK AND WIPES HER FACE UNHURRIEDLY (TO THE EXTENT THAT THE ACTRESS NEEDS TO). ONE OF HER HANDS IS ALREADY BLOODY FROM THE CAVITY.
DAN Just pressure, Tod. It needed to come out.
ANN BENDS TO KISS DAN ON THE BROW. HE SQUEEZES HER HAND.
TOD I think what we’ll do is clear some space. (TOD INSERTS BOTH HANDS INTO DAN’S CAVITY) This won’t hurt, Dan. The inner organs are actually quite numb.
DAN It doesn’t hurt, Tod.
TOD IS GATHERING UP DAN’S INTESTINES.
HE RAISES AN ARMFUL OF GLITTERING, TRANSLUCENT INTESTINAL TUBING AND SPILLS IT ONTO THE FLOOR, DOWNSTAGE OF THE TABLE.
PAT We should take our shoes off.
ANN Good thinking.
TOD Be a shame to get them messy.
THE THREE ‘SURGEONS’ REMOVE THEIR SHOES. NO RUSH – THE MUSIC IS BEAUTIFUL, THE TABLEAU IS ENGAGING.
PAT It’s not a porno film.
PAT You’ve kept your socks on!
TOD REMOVES HIS SOCKS.
ANN Good point.
ANN REMOVES HER STOCKINGS.
PAT REMOVES HER STOCKINGS.
THEY ARRANGE THE THREE PAIRS OF SHOES NEATLY TO THE SIDE.
THE ‘SURGEONS’ PAD BAREFOOT THROUGH THE INTESTINES BACK TO THE OPERATING TABLE.
ANN Sorry, Dan.
DAN There’s really no rush.
PAT Are you okay?
DAN Pat, I’m fine. Those tubes…I’ve never particularly liked the idea of them…full of waste. I feel lighter.
TOD You’re a hero.
ANN Shall I go in?
TOD Do. Bit more room to move now.
ANN BENDS OVER DAN’S CAVITY AND SLIDES HER HAND IN.
A SPURT OF BLOOD GUSHES OUT AND HITS HER IN THE FACE.
DAN Ann…what was that?
ANN Nothing, darling. You’re just being yourself.
ANN KISSES DAN ON THE LIPS. THEY KISS (DAN STILL LIES ON HIS BACK) FOR SEVERAL SECONDS.
PAT Is there anything you’d like, Dan?
DAN I’m so comfortable, Pat. I’m light, I’m steady.
TOD Whatever you’ve got, Dan – we should bottle it!
ANN AND PAT LAUGH APPRECIATIVELY.
ANN Darling, I’m going to try again.
DAN That’s good, Ann.
TOD No rush. Take your time.
ANN SEARCHES DAN’S UPPER BODY (STILL STEAMING).
AS SHE DOES SO A FAINT LIGHT SHINES UP FROM WITHIN HIM, SOFTLY IRRADIATING ANN’S FACE.
DAN It’s good. It’s only good. This is how we are. A spark running from the flesh to the flesh. There is so little we need.
ANN EXTRACTS SOME CHUNKS OF GENERAL MEAT AND LUNG AND TOSSES THEM TO THE FLOOR DOWNSTAGE.
TOD Any luck?
ANN Not as such. (SHE CONTINUES TO RUMMAGE) Ah!
ANN Got something.
PAT What’s it like?
ANN Little box…packet. Oh!
SHE MOVES HER ARM SUDDENLY
SHE CONTINUES TO RUMMAGE
PAT Use both hands.
ANN PUTS HER OTHER HAND IN
ANN Aha! Gotcha!
SHE REMOVES BOTH ARMS AND HOLDS UP A SMALL, BLOODSTAINED, FLAT BOX-SHAPED ITEM.
THE MUSIC STOPS.
DAN Well done.
TOD Had to be in there somewhere.
DAN GETS UP AND SLIPS HIS SHIRT AND TROUSERS ON (NO NEED FOR SHOES AND SOCKS).
DAN Sure – but you can’t help thinking what if…
PAT You’d have to back and look for it.
DAN No way. I’ve got so much to do this week.
PAT What you doing?
DAN Managing bars at a festival. You?
PAT Firearms training.
ANN You should come and see the cricket.
PAT I wish.
TOD I’ve got a matinee on Thursday.
DAN That’s good.
TOD They give you one now and again.
SHORT COUNTRY DANCE WITHOUT MUSIC.
Link to Dash #4 in right hand column