Lunch Girls

 

A play for four women

A play for four women – Food Photography by Gideon Hart

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.

 

LUNCH GIRLS

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

 

Jay:                        Drat!

 

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 to

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

 

Vee:                        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

 

(slight pause)

 

 

 

 

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!

 

(slight pause)

 

Jay:            ….I feel a new joke coming on. (brightly) Barking mad eh|?

 

Bee:            Yeah.  I thought of phoning watchdog!

 

Jay:            I repeat: Boom -Boom.

 

(slight pause)

 

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

 

(slight pause)

 

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

 

Bee:            Okay.

 

Jay:            Ready, steady, GO

 

They both put down their mobiles.

 

Jay dials.  The ‘phone rings in Bee’s house.  Bee picks up

 

VEE/

BEE

 

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

phone down

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

(short pause)

 

Jay:            You!  You were phoning me

 

Bee:            Gotcha

 

Jay:            Well, let’s start again from the beginning?

 

Bee:            Right! I was phoning about the lunch. Yes?

 

(Slight pause)

 

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

 

VEE/

JAY

 

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?

 

Jay:            Where?

 

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

 

BEE/JAY

 

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:            Who?

 

Jay:            Aphrodite!

 

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!

 

(Slight pause)l!

 

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!

 

(Slight pause)

 

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/

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

 

(Slight pause)

 

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

            Phone

 

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

 

Vee:            Who?

 

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..