No Place

So this is a piece I have written for Cardiff Act One’s ‘Staging a Coup’ competition. Those taking part have to write a maximum fifteen minute long play, with fifteen seconds either side to clear and set up the stage. This is the second draft of said play, and feedback is greatly required. Once I have it in its final form, I am planning on turning it into a short play-novel type thing. Think A Streetcar Named Desire style, where a lot of information is given in the stage directions and such. In the mean time, enjoy!

Concept

No Place is set in a world after an event colloquially known as ‘The Revelation’ or’The Last Day’ roughly a year before the events of the play. This is when scientists unravel the last secret in the universe. While this is not an entirely realistic concept, it is left open to interpretation what they actually discover. In other words, it doesn’t matter. All I wanted to explore was the dichotomy between faith and science. Like a story such as The Road, I want to at least give a hint as to what happened without explaining it fully. Through the Radio broadcast at the start and Helen’s dialogue, we are treated to a hint of what has happened to the world. At the end of the day, it does not matter. The concept of the play is a simple philosophical debate between faith and science.

In terms of set, all I would need is a block for a bed side table, a radio (not hooked up to anything, just for dressing) and two chairs. All these can be brought on by the actors themselves.

Characters

Sheridan 
He is a hopeless romantic, someone who was truly happy living in blissful ignorance. The Revelation didn’t really affect him: only when Helen left him. Since then he has been searching for her, all across the country. He still lives in a world where concepts like love mean something. He is a man of faith, someone who is self reliant. He trusts his feelings and intuitions over empirical facts.

Helen
She is a bit of a mess, but all the same is a deep thinker. Is spontaneous, passionate but since the Last Day she has been troubled by what it meant for humanity. After leaving Sheridan, she wandered around the country for a while, taking in this new world in which she find herself. Always a free spirit who acts before thinking usually, she is unusually troubled by the Last Day.

Radio
This will just be a CD player hooked up to a set of speakers. One track will play the intro monologue which helps to set the scene of the play, while another will play “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix briefly at the end.

The Play

Stage is black. In the fifteen seconds while preparation of the stage is underway, the RADIO plays.

RADIO:

And now the news. Riots broke out again today across the nation as the remaining police forces went round houses across the UK rounding up eligible workers to man the abandoned factories that dot the country. This strike is not the first in the year since what we have come to know as ‘The Revelation’, when scientists in [STATIC] discovered the secrets to [STATIC]. There has been much talk about the effects of this on mankind, now that human science has mastery over nature. Since, apathy has swept the world. So, the Revelation…Call in with your thoughts. Where were you?

Lights fade on after fifteen seconds are up. The stage is a bare hotel room. One matress at the stage left, a chair at the foot of it, and a bedside table next to it, to the right, with a radio on. A chair sits next to the table. A girl, Helen lies on the floor (bed) staring at the ceiling and reading. Once the radio stops, she leans over to turn it down. There is a knock at the door, then another. She gets up and walks to stage right.

HELEN:

Who is it?

She looks through the lens and seems shocked, opening the door. Enter SHERIDAN.

Sheridan…how the….how did you find me?

He leans in to hug her, but she backs away.

SHERIDAN:

You know. Ways and means. Took me long enough though, Helen. Can I come in?

HELEN:

Yes..yes..of course. (In shock)

Helen goes and sits on one chair. Sheridan pulls out another chair from next to the bed side table and sits opposite her.

HELEN:

So how have you been?

SHERIDAN:

Worried. How the hell do you think I have been?

HELEN:

Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t know what to do. I panicked

SHERIDAN:

You could have called. Something. We thought you were dead. Thrown yourself into the river or something. Was by chance someone I knew saw you around here. I’ve looked in every hotel and here I find you, holed up in this shit hole.

HELEN:

I can explain…

SHERIDAN:

Go on then. Enlighten me.

HELEN:

You remember the day I left?

SHERIDAN:

Like it was yesterday. Like it was so long ago.

HELEN:

It was a week after the Last Day.

SHERIDAN:

So? The world has gone to shit, but some of us stuck together. Was only the religious types that couldn’t handle the news and moved away. And they’re a minority now anyways. So very few true believers about now it would seem. (He says this offhandedly)

HELEN:

(interrupting him) Will you just shut up for a second? I left you because I knew truly what the Last Day meant. I knew we live in a world of science now. Of statistics, of chemicals of hormones. People aren’t people now, they are collections of data. Nature is dead, we killed it. We weren’t happy with not knowing, so we destroyed it.

SHERIDAN:

I don’t follow….

HELEN:

Don’t you see? The world we were born in has gone. Now there is only science. There is no place of art, no place for imagination. And most importantly, no place for love. Love. What even is that?

SHERIDAN:

What? What do you mean?

HELEN:

It bugged me for the longest time. But what we felt. What we both felt..it’s nothing more than hormones and chemicals, Sheridan. Delusions given to us by stories and advertising.

SHERIDAN:

No, no, no…it is more than that.

HELEN:

How then? How is love any different to God or any of the other things that we have disproved? Love and God are words from a world that is dead, and is never coming back.

SHERIDAN:

Then why am I here?

HELEN:

Delusion. Because you still think there is such a thing as love. You do not want to be alone, so you cling to those old world values for support.

SHERIDAN:

I know what I feel. You used to feel it too.

HELEN:

Don’t…

Sheridan pulls out his wallet and produces a very scuffed up envelope. From it slips out a folded up letter.
Sheridan, why are you doing this?

SHERIDAN:

He reads

“Dear Sheridan, I cannot wait to see you next. I can’t believe it’s been three months already! I’ll be waiting for you at the airport. Hopefully I’ll be able to take your mind off that jet lag. I miss you. I love you. (He pauses) When you’re gone, it’s like a pain in my chest. I close my eyes and see you. You’re always there, somehow. Let me know what you’ve been up to. Yours with love, Helen.

Helen is crying, her head in her hands. There is a moment of silence as Sheridan moves towards her and hugs her, kneeling beside her.

HELEN:

Sheridan

SHERIDAN:

Yeah?

HELEN:

Those words don’t mean anything now. That letter is a fossil from a time long gone.

SHERIDAN:

It’s only been a few years…

She stands up, walking away from him to stage right.

HELEN:

And everything has changed. I can’t…(she sobs) I can’t go back.

He follows her across the stage

SHERIDAN:

Sure you can

She pushes him away.

HELEN:

No, I can’t. Sheridan, when I left I had just found out I…I was late. I was pregnant.

SHERIDAN:

(Shocked) What did you mean ‘was’ pregnant?

HELEN:

(sobbing) I couldn’t bring a child into this world, Sheridan, I couldn’t.

SHERIDAN:

How could you? This is not the end!

Helen:

Easily. I’ve wandered, Sheridan. After I left you I drifted across the land and you know what I saw?

A pause

The worst. I saw a nation covered by the skeletons of buildings burnt to the ground. Abandoned houses, factories. I saw men and women drunk in the street in reckless abandon. I saw the riots in the streets as people were denied entry to churches, and the blood lust of people, no longer curbed by notions such as love, or compassion.

SHERIDAN:

I know. I saw on the news.

HELEN:

The world has ended, Sheridan, the fuse has finally burnt to its end and we are in the last days. Ever since we unlocked the human genome, or dropped the bomb, we’ve been on a slippery slope. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. But I had to. Can you imagine bringing a new life into this world? Drunks and murderers on the street, ash and fire on the horizon.

SHERIDAN:

For hope. For hope of a better tomorrow. We will rebuild. We’ll adapt to this new era we are in. That isn’t choice, that’s the hand we have.

HELEN:

(She laughs) It’s funny really.

SHERIDAN:

What is?

HELEN:

For so long, this curiosity drove us. We strove so long to get to this point, and for what? Now there is nothing else to be curious about, and we have totally reverted to our primal roots. We now have no grand illusion of enlightenment. There is nothing left to look for, because we have it all. And now we just want something to lose.

SHERIDAN:

If you don’t feel anything, then why did you cry when I read the letter?

HELEN:

I don’t know. A rush of hormones,

SHERIDAN:

No, it’s nostalgia. A pain in your stomach, in your heart. It’s a reminder of a place you can’t go back to. It doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t put that down to any combination of hormones or chemicals.

HELEN:

Why are you saying this? You say you still believe?

SHERIDAN:

I believe there is still mystery to life. Things to discover, things to see. There’s still some magic.

HELEN:

No! What is here isn’t love.

SHERIDAN:

Then what is it? Love? This is a new world now. Let’s make a new word for it.

HELEN:

What?

SHERIDAN:

I reject their notions of fact, I reject it all. I know what I feel and I know that it can’t be explained by science, not wholly. Models of things, numerical values attached to hints of real life, of the real world. Systems that repeat over and over again. You ever heard of the law of large numbers?

HELEN:

No?

SHERIDAN:

It says that a complex mathematical system can repeat itself over and over, thousands of times, but in the long run, something startling, something different might happen. All processes lead towards decay and distortion.

HELEN:

What are you trying to say?

SHERIDAN:

That I don’t care for it all. I know what I feel. Scientific systems fall apart. They aren’t right, they can’t be. Numbers don’t represent humans. Numbers can’t! They can’t see what goes on inside the heart, inside the head.

HELEN:

What do we do then?

SHERIDAN:

Like I said before. We make a new name for it all. We start again.

HELEN:

I’m scared, Sheridan

SHERIDAN:

My dear, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

He embraces her, and leans in to kiss her. She hugs him deeply, unsure as to what to do, before she slowly but tenderly kisses him. The radio starts up again.

RADIO:

And now time for an old one. This is ‘All Along the Watchtower’ by Jimi Hendrix.

The song plays as the stage fades to black, before itself fading after after “said the Joker to the Thief”

The End

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