Lunch Girls deals with the lives of four middle-class British women, but strikes a chord with audiences around the world. The comedy has been translated into Greek, Danish, German, Hebrew, Japanese and Polish, with productions across the globe including Los Angeles, Tokyo, Jerusalem and Bombay as well as at the National Theatre, London and a national tour starring Sylvia Syms.. Lunch Girls was a joint winner of the 1983 Verity Bargate award for new, unperformed, short plays and is suitable for production in a small theatre. It is published by Methuen in Theatre Script Series No. 15.
Here’s the first few pages of Lunch Girls. If you would like to read more please send us an email and we will be happy to email back a full rehearsal script.
Just as the audience are seated a mobile phone rings from a back corner of the theatre. It suddenly stops. Silence… At that moment another mobile starts from the front corner. Another opens up down right. More start.. By then there are ‘phones ringing different tones around the auditorium.
The ‘phones all stop at once. The curtain rises quickly on an apparently empty stage where the five ‘house’ areas are unlit. For a moment there is silence. A plain poster is dropped onstage with a picture of a mobile phone, A red band is painted across it and the words
DON’T CALL US – WE’LL CALL U
The poster is flown off. Immediately, onstage, a landline ‘phone starts ringing.
Lights up on Jay’s house.
It’s a mess. She’s a mess. She’s in her kitchen. Various machines are going frantic She rushes round looking for the phone, picking up papers, clothes etc She becomes increasingly frenzied
She sweeps a load of clothes off the ironing board. The ‘phone is underneath. She picks it up
She’s just too late.
Jay: Hello? This is Jay
The phone is dead. She dials 1471
Operator VO You were called at eleven thirty five by 0120 eight four five one
seven Eight six. To return the call press three
Jay: That’s Bee!
She looks down at the ‘phone as though expecting it to answer
Jay: (to ‘phone) Oh sorry.
Jay presses 3
Operator VO: The number you dialled is busy. To re-dial automatically, press 5
Jay presses 5
The phone peels its re-dial ring.. She picks up and we hear it switch into normal ring
VO Operator: I’m sorry the person you dialled is busy. Please hold. The person you dialled knows you are waiting.
Jay taps her foot impatiently. The oven beeps. She rushes over and turns it off
VO Operator: I’m sorry the person you dialled is still busy. Please hold. The person you dialled knows you are waiting
The toaster lobs two pieces of toast which fly though the air
VO Operator: I’m sorry the person you dialled is still busy. Please hold. The person you dialled knows you are waiting
Jay: The person – is driving me mad!
The washing machine goes into overdrive
V.O. Operator: I’m sorry the person you dialled is still busy. Please try again later
Jay bangs the ‘phone down
Jay: Damn. Damn call waiting!
The doorbell rings. Jay rushes towards it
Lights go down on Jay’s house and up on Bee& Vee.
Bee: Vee, I tried to call Jay, but I kept getting her answer service. She
must be out
Vee: Did you try her mobile?
Bee: Mobile? No. I didn’t know Jay had a mobile. What’s her number?
Vee: It’s O 7 9 8 6 2 3 4 2 8 4 — I think.
Bee: I’ll try it. 07986 234 284. Thanks.I’ll put it in the memory. She can’t be in – she’d have answered
Vee: Just a minute. Did I say 234 284 or 284 234?
Bee: 234 284
Vee: I think that’s right. If it’s not – try the other one
Bee: Doesn’t matter. I’ll try both – I’ll just
talk to whoever first comes on line!
She makes a face at the audience
Vee: Or it could be 07923 486 284 – I’m not sure
Bee: Never mind Vee – I’ll do all the combinations – I’ve got odds of about ten to one – That’s not too bad
Vee: All these numbers drive me mad – I know the 079 is right
Bee: Don’t worry about it Vee. Okay? Bye
She goes to put the ‘phone down
Vee: Or maybe it’s 097?
Bee: Yeah. Sure.
Vee: Or 709?
Bee: Bye, Vee
Vee: No, just a minute –
Bee: It’s okay Vee. Don’t worry. I’ll sort it
She puts the ‘phone down quickly
Lights go up on Jay’s house and down on Bee’s. A phone is ringing. She races first to the BT landline, which is now on the ironing board then realises it’s her mobile on the kitchen shelf. She races back to the shelf, trips on the pile of ironing from the board, and board, phone, etcetera, crash to the floor. The mobile stops.
The landline has started again. She makes a grab for it and knocks that to the floor. The mobile starts again; she rushes back to that. It stops. The landline is on the floor. She rushes back but the cordless part has become separated. She hears Bee’s voice on the answerphone.
Bee: (voice from phone):Hello! Hello! Jay, I’ve tried your landline line
Then your mobile line. Now I’m back on BT.landline line Where are you,
for God’s sake? Hiding. Or have you left the country?
Light down on Bee’s house
Jay: I wish! I wish I’d left the country!
Jay crawls towards the phone and picks it up. She dials
Lights up on Bee’s house
Jay: Here I am – I’m not hiding – I don’t need to – If I did there’s no-one
Would bother to look for me
Bee: Jay. Where are you?
Jay: On the floor
Bee: Literally or metaphorically?
Jay: Both I guess – My whole life is passing before my eyes – I’m gazing at the underside of the ironing board. Like being below the surface of the earth. I’m contemplating eternity.
Bee: Just eternity – Well not long to go then
Jay: I sort of trapped my head in the ironing board.- It’s got a very sharp edge –
Bee: Your head?
Jay: No, the ironing board. You goon – It’s given me a headache
Bee: Perfect way to cure a headache Jay. Decapitation
Jay: I knocked over the board, scalded myself with the steam, then the battery flew out from the mobile! Now the ‘phones are on the floor, the iron’s on the floor and I’m on the floor; and I’m festooned in pants and socks and bras and knickers.
Bee: Earth hath not anything to show more fair
Jay: Than this host of bras and panties everywhere
Bee: Good ol’ Willy Wordsmith!
Jay: But listen, if I implode in the middle of a sentence get the men in white coats!
Bee: No, tell you what – I’ll call Bob the Builder – Be more fun for the kids…
Jay: You’re working well Bee!
Bee: Not really! Why am I phoning your mobile if you’re at home?.
Jay: That’s what I mean – Couldn’t find the Cordless either
Bee: The lost chordless! (singing) Seated one day at the orgon….
Jay: Lost chordless? Are you rehearsing a stand-up Bee? It’s OK –
You got the job
Bee: Sorry Jay. (slght pause) Bit twitchy myself.. Got grounds
Jay: Tell me about it
Bee: Well -The plumber finally turned up didn’t he – To
fit my new dishwasher. It’s only taken five weeks
Jay: Five weeks!
Bee: As well as several visits to the showroom
Jay: They can’t get enough of you
Bee: And six phone calls a day!
Jay: It’s good to talk!
Bee: Then they arrived out of the blue a couple of weeks ago but – could they do it
Jay: Of course they couldn’t!
Bee: The foreman said “You got the wrong fitting lady.” Like it was my fault! . I told him I always take number 10”. He asked if I’d had any trouble with my plumbing! I said –Don’t be disgusting!
Jay: No, sorry. I’ve heard that one before.. But carry on. I’ll just keep saying boom boom!
Bee: So I phoned again – A recorded voice kept saying “Your call is very important to us. Don’t hang up”. Then after about 15 minutes a genuine human voice comes on line. I said I’d keep calling every hour on the hour until they fixed it.. She said ‘No, don’t call us – we’re a call centre’.
Jay: (laughing) Brilliant
Bee: Honestly; I got hopping mad, well shopping mad at least. Then I got – barking mad!
Jay: ….I feel a new joke coming on. (brightly) Barking mad eh|?
Bee: Yeah. I thought of phoning watchdog!
Jay: I repeat: Boom -Boom.
Bee: I didn’t know you had a mobile ‘phone. Vee just told me
Jay: Well I have and I haven’t – It’s ‘cos John keeps losing his – So me having one is a sort of insurance. John says he got it for me so he knows where I am. Which is ever so slightly ridiculous . He’s always upstairs in his studio and I’m down here in the kitchen. We need a couple of loud hailers, not mobile phones. Anyway, I don’t care – his business pays for it.
Bee: Nice one. Mine costs 20p a minute for the first 10 minutes and 5p a minute thereafter. It all gets paid on Tom’s Mistresscard
Jay: Okay, I’ll play. You mean Mastercard?
Bee: That’s what he calls it. But sometimes I get to see the entries on the statement!. It’s good – He can never wave it about and say I’m spending too much – And they give special discounts: When St. Patrick’s day falls on St. Vodafone’s day all calls to Ireland are free. Also weekends.
Jay: Weekends is good
Bee: Yeah, but I hardly use it weekends! And they make a big thing of charging by the second. I’m trying to get into the Guinness book of Records with a one-second phone call
Jay: Tell you what. You put down your mobile and I’ll put down mine and then I’ll phone you on the BT landline line. We’re both wasting a fortune
Jay: Ready, steady, GO
They both put down their mobiles.
Jay dials. The ‘phone rings in Bee’s house. Bee picks up
Bee: Hello Jay
Lights go up on Vee’s house Vee is ringing.
Bee: Hello Jay
Vee: No, it’s Vee. Did you get hold of Jay?
Bee: Yes I thought you were Jay phoning back. I was ringing her mobile.
She’s ringing me back now on the landline line
Vee: She can’t ring on the landline landline line – I tried – She’s not at home
Bee: She is. Look I’ve just been talking to her
Vee: Oh. If she’s trying to ring on the landline landline line – I’d better put my
Jay has just dialled BEE. She stares down at her phone. We hear the engaged signal:
Jay: I do not believe it!
Vee (To Bee): Did you tell her about the lunch? On Thursday
Bee: Well she knows about it
Vee: No I mean – I can’t do it – the lunch – on Thursday. Harry’s mother’s
Chair’s blown a fuse – I think she was speeding – So I’ve got to take her to the day centre. Have you told Jay?
Bee: No – but I will I will – if I ever get to talk to her
Vee: Sorry, Bee
Vee puts her phone down. Her light goes out
Jay tries again…
Phone ringing in Bee’s house
Jay: Bee, thank God. I thought we’d be doing this all day
Bee: Vee just called
Jay: Haven’t we already had this conversation?
Bee: No I mean, just now. Again. Vee phoned me… She can’t do Thursday,
Jay: Just a minute – Who’s phoning who? I’ve forgotten.
Bee: (laughing) I’ve forgotten too
Jay: You! You were phoning me
Jay: Well, let’s start again from the beginning?
Bee: Right! I was phoning about the lunch. Yes?
Jay: MM… Vee said you’d call.
Bee: Just now?
Jay: No, before. Before – It’s off, the lunch
Bee: Off? Past its sell-by date?
Jay: No seriously – The, lunch – It’s off
JAY’S mobile starts ringing
Jay: Just a sec. The mobile’s going
She picks it up
Jay: Oh hello Vee (one ‘phone in each ear) Just a minute (to Bee on the landline) You wont believe this – It’s Vee!
Bee: (groaning) I give up!
Vee’s house lights up
Vee: Oh, you’re there. I thought I’d try you. Bee said you were out
Jay: Well maybe I am. You are ringing the mobile
Vee: Then you’re not there?
Vee: At home. (slight pause) Shall I call you when you get back home?
Jay: But I am home. I’m talking on the other line to Bee
Vee: Silly me! It’s about the lunch.
Jay: I know. It’s off
Vee: How do you know?
Jay: Well – Bee told me – Look, it isn’t complicated. I’ll phone you back
Vee: OK . Phone me…(slight pause) Phone me when you get back home
Lights go down on Vee’s house
Jay picks up phone again
Jay: It’s me. Me again!
Bee: Jay. Well, this is the story so far: Vee can’t do Thursday, did she tell you? She’s got to take Harry’s mother to the day centre. Can you do Wednesday? She can do Wednesday
Jay: No Not Wednesday’s Wednesdays are out for the next four weeks. Joseph’s teeth brace has slipped and I’ve got to take him to the orthodontic child clinic. He only sees boys on Wednesdays, Girls on Tuesdays
Bee And hermaphrodites on Thursday?
Jay: I’ve forgotten what they are
Bee: We’ll have to shift the lunch
Jay: Wasn’t she married to Aristotle Onassis
Bee: Nice one. Beware of Greeks baring tits!
Jay: Clever Clogs. Why can’t I think of things like that.?
Bee: Well I did get a first at Oggs Ford
Jay: Mm, I forgot. Deathless hush in the bedclothes tonight?
Bee: Henry Newbolt! Yes. Well done Jay! Nah, was different then – mine was a ladies only college. If you came in after curfew you had to go and tap on your tutor’s door She had the most enormous knockers my tutor – but only a tiny letterbox.
Jay: Tiny letterbox?
Bee: Yeah – That’s why she had so little mail!.
Jay: Little male! You’ll make my sides ache!
Bee: We called her Express Mary
Jay: You want another boom-boom don’t you?
Bee: Only if you’re in the boom boom mood
Jay: You should do stand-up Bee – Be wonderful for me
Bee: You? Why you?
Jay: I could come along and heckle you. Pay-back time
Bee: No –no! Heckles raise hackles…Anyway – what about this lunch?
we can’t do Wednesday and we can’t do Thursday that just leaves Monday Tuesday and Friday! We should be able to manage something (slight pause) Oh Jesus!
Jay: What’s happened?
Bee: There’s a huge puddle of water oozing from under the new dishwasher
Jay: Call the plumber
Bee: What shall I call him?
Terrific racket starts up from the machine
Jay: Try – Incompetent Arsehole for a start
Bee: That’s probably his job description
The noise gets louder
Jay: What a racket
Bee: It needs a doctor not a plumber! The drum’s having a bad turn
Jay: Yeah – That’s what it needs – A spin doctor!
Jay: I’ve got just the man – 10 Downing Street – Alistair
Campbell – Though he’s better with dirty linen than dirty dishes
Bee: You’re hoping I’ll give you a boom-boom, aren’t you?
Jay: No, seriously, I have, I’ve got a very good plumber – I’ll get the number
Bee: I’d better switch off the power
She puts the phone down and goes to the machine. She turns off the switch. There is a flash and the light over her ‘house’ goes out
Bee: Soddit – I’ve sodding fused the sodding lights
We hear her groping round and Jay’s voice coming from her receiver.
Jay: Mr.Empson. Eight four nine six double three double o
Do you know where the stopcock is?
Bee picks up phone
Bee: No. Tom likes to keep it with him when he goes away
Jay: I wish you’d take things seriously Bee. At least some of the time
Bee: I’d better seriously find the fuse box
Jay: He hasn’t taken that as well?
Bee: No! Just his lunch box!
Jay: Oh ha-ha!
Bee: See you Jay, I’d better get this sorted.
Jay: And I’d better ‘phone Vee
(Slight pause) Jay’s light goes off
Bee: Fuckit! Fuckit! Fuckit!
Bee’s light goes off
MUSIC. JY PROG FROM VEE’S HOUSE IN THE BACKGROUND. LIGHTS DOWN ON ALL THE HOUSES. THEN up ON JAY & VEE
Jay: Bee’s had a bit of a disaster. Her power’s gone and her water’s flooding
Vee: I didn’t even know she was pregnant!
Jay: You’ve been talking to Bee! That just like one of her wisecracks. Anyway, I gave her the name of my plumber. She’ll be OK
Vee: Oh good
Jay: Yeah, She told me you can’t do Thursday now. And I can’t do Wednesday
Vee: Because your Joseph’s teeth brace has slipped
Jay: News travels fast How did you know?
Vee: Well – Bee just sent me a text message – It says: Wednesday’s off . Tooth Brace Disaster! I knew it could only refer to one of yours
Jay: That’s not fair! It’s my child for God’s sake. I should be the one to send the text message. I love texting!
Vee: She’s most likely sent it to her whole address list. There’s probably people in Sydney and Stockholm who’re dead worried about Joseph’s teeth
Jay: Sorry Vee – I think I’m going out of my brain (slight pause) – Someone should tell Dee, shouldn’t they? About the lunch? And Kay as well
Vee: I’ll phone Dee
Jay: No, let me – I’ll phone Dee
Vee: Bee said she’d ‘phone Dee
Jay: I insist. Me. I’ll phone Dee. I must.
Vee: (puzzled) Well, if it’s that important
Lights go down on all the houses except Dee’s. She picks up her
Dee: Darling…(slight pause). Oh… I was so much hoping… You’d call me today – and not having to speak your answer machine… Again. It’s heartless… Oh here I am complaining again – I promised you I wouldn’t do that, didn’t I? But sweetheart, it’s three days since I heard your voice and I…simply long for you – Oh I know you’re busy and you have another life, but darling it’s too bad, I can’t bear it. Not actually speaking to you. Actually. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear it. Just a call – That’s all I need…You mean everything, so much to me – everything, everything – Especially now…Roger’s away, he’ll be away on and off for ages. It seemed such an opportunity…. A chance for us to be together… I was really really hoping… Oh I love you so much my dear dear darling, I love the whole idea of you, the way you walk the way you talk, your eyes, your hair – You are the wonderfullest creature on God’s earth; I can’t help it – I have to say that. My times with you are the most precious moments of my life. I’m renewed when I’m with you. Transformed and re-energised over and over and over again; my heart swells; even speaking to you now on the answer machine my brain is gorged with passion. Loving you is the most glorious and happy thing ever that ever happened in my entire life: Loving you makes me feel warm and tender and kind and selfless and caring. Loving you makes me into a better person. Loving you makes my heart beat with ecstasy and crazy wild excitement. I’m bursting with the even just leaving this message for you. If only you could answer, just a few syllables, I would be besieged with happiness. Oh I know I’m just burbling; this is what happens in my blood just thinking of you. I overflow. The thrillingness. It’s almost unbearable… So please please please phone me my dearest one (slight pause) Florence, my darling… I love you
As she ends her speech she sits in a reverie with her hands in her lap looking out
at the audience with a deep feeling of sadness and sweetness. The phone rings.
Her mood is broken.. She gets up and checks the caller ID
Oh Christ – No-no-no. No Jay. Not today!
She switches her phone to message
V.O. Sorry – Dee can’t come to the phone right now. Please leave a message.
Lights up on Jay’s house
Jay leaves a message which we hear through Dee’s answerphone
Jay: Dee, why won’t you ever speak to me? Ever? Bitch!
Dee laughs. It is a coarser Dee to the one we have just encountered
Dee: It’s ‘cos you’re a drag Jay. I can’t stand you any more.
VEE’S LIGHT GOES UP
Dee’s ‘phone rings
Lights up on Vee’s house
Dee: Hi Vee.
Vee: How did you know it was me
Dee: Your number came up on my caller ID.
Vee: Caller ID
Dee: Are you going to tell me about Bee’s washing machine, or your mother-in-law’s wheelchair
Vee: You’ve heard it all already
Dee: It’s the only thing anyone can talk about
Vee: Well what about Jay’s Joseph’s teethbrace
Dee: The continuing story of? Is that why she ‘phoned
Dee: Jay – She left a message – I wasn’t able to take her call.
Vee: Did you – Did you see that on your caller ID
Dee: It said: The toothbrace fairy strikes again
Vee: I don’t really understand that. And the lunch – It’s off again
Dee: And I was so looking forward to it
Vee: I told Jay I’d phone, and I have. You all right Dee
Dee: All right? I’m more than all right. I’m stupendous.
Vee: …Everybody makes fun of me. Are you making fun?
Dee: Joshing, Vee. Joshing
Vee: I’m not sure what that means either…
Dee: We’ll talk about it at the lunch.
Vee: The lunch – Yes
Dee: If we ever have the lunch..