Slowly Going Down

 

Here are the first few pages of Slowly Going Down. If you would like a full rehearsal script please contact as via the contact page and we will be happy to send you a word or pdf copy.

 

ACT 1

 

As lights go up the ‘phone is ringing in Jill’s kitchen.  She enters from R. and goes towards it.  She hesitates, grimaces, and lets it ring. The ringing stops. JILL exits.  For a moment there is silence suddenly broken when the ‘phone rings again.  This time JILL re-enters quite angrily.  She rushes to the phone, picks it up and bangs it down immediately, then exits.  Again there is silence. Inevitably the ‘phone starts ringing again.  SARAH enters from L. and picks it up.

 

Sarah:                        Hi! This is Sarah…Oh hello grandma.

 

JILL re-enters from L.

 

It’s grandma.  She wants you.

 

Jill:                        (through gritted teeth)  That’s the eighth time this morning!

 

Sarah:                        Just a sec (she listens) Oh Christ!  I think she’s dozed off!

 

Jill:                        She does it every time.

 

Sarah:                        (giggling) I can hear her snoring.

 

Jill:                        She’s dominating our lives. I can’t stand it,

 

Sarah:                        Oh, she’s alright

 

Jill:                        You don’t have to deal with her all day

 

(slight pause).  Sarah puts ‘phone down.

 

Sarah:                        She can’t help it, ma

 

Jill:                        Oh thanks!  I didn’t know that, did I?

 

Enter Robert

 

Robert:            Jill.  You didn’t know what? (he sniffs exaggeratedly) Something smells lovely.

 

Sarah:                        Yeah, dead animals dad.  Veal. for Chrissake

 

Jill:                        I’m doing a casserole, Robert.

 

Robert goes to the stove

 

Robert:            Yum! Yum!

 

Sarah:                        Dad.  You’re disgusting!

 

She throws up her hands and exits to hall

 

Jill:                         You shouldn’t provoke her, Robert

 

Robert:            I thought I was being amusing

 

HE GOES TO THE DOOR AND CALLS OUT.

 

Sorry, Sarah!

 

Jill:                        You know how she feels.  It’s genuine.

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            I know… I didn’t mean it..

 

(pause)

 

Did mother phone?

 

Jill:                        She phoned- and she phoned – and she phoned!

 

Robert:            Oh, like that

 

Jill:                        Exactly like that, Robert. I’s no joke

 

 

2.            MOTHERS FLAT

TELEPHONE STAN TO MOTHER

The phone is ringing.  She picks it up arthritically and answers with a thick tongued voice.

 

Mother:            ‘Lo

 

Spot rises on Stan

 

Stanley:            Mother, this is Stan.

 

Mother:            ‘Lo

 

Stanley:            You alright?

 

Mother:            Got no milk or bread.

 

Stanley:            Mother, this is Stanley.

 

Mother:            The milkman didn’t come.

 

Stanley:            The milkman? (slight (pause) Mother, it’s Stan – I’m phoning from California.  Do you know what day it is?

 

3.             MOTHER’S FLAT

Mother takes the phone from her ear and talks to it as though to a person

 

Mother:            Day?  Of course I know what day….

 

She drops the phone and her head lolls to one side.  The phone misses the cradle and dangles by the chair as she falls asleep.  She sits with her mouth open, snoring loudly.

 

 

STANLEY’S HOUSE:

Stanley is drinking beer.  Sammy sits near the ‘phone, painting  her toenails.  We hear the engaged signal on Stanley’s phone.

 

Sammy:            That was quick!

 

Stanley:            (Sighing)  I just wanted to talk to her about Christmas

 

Sammy:            She wouldn’t know its Christmas if the three wise men turned up! You should find a way of alerting her.

 

Stanley dials again.

 

She winds you like a cuckoo clock!

 

Stanley:            One minute you talk as though she’s senile – The next she’s Machievelli!

 

We hear the engaged signal.

 

Sammy:            A bit of both, I think

 

Stanley:            She’s growing old.

 

Sammy:            Mm, she’s not doing it gracefully

 

He dials once more

 

Stanley:            The phone’s off the hook… Better ‘phone Robert

 

Sammy:            Robert to the rescue! The knight in shining armour!

 

Stanley:            Sam!  Come on sweetheart – It’s not that bad.

 

Sammy:            They piss me off!  They’re so sanctimonious!

 

Stanley picks up phone and dials again

 

 

5.             MOTHER’S FLAT

She sits in her chair snoring.  The ‘phone is ringing . She almost wakes and reaches out for it then falls back into the chair.

 

 

6.            TELEPHONE.

STAN TO JILL

The phone rings in Robert’s house. Jill picks up.

 

Jill:                        Hello.

 

Stanley:            Hi Jill, it’s Stan, your sexy brother-in-law – from sunny California.

 

Jill:                        Oh hi sexy! Great to hear your voice.

 

Stanley:            Yeah, they all say that! Oh, By the way – Happy Christmas

 

Jill:            (giggling) Mm.  Did you get our card? We’re so much looking forward to seeing you.

 

Stanley:            Well…actually…I’ve been trying to contact mother about that…

 

Jill:                        She’s always in.

 

Stanley:            That’s what I mean – She picked up the phone and that was end of conversation. she sounded sort of…drugged?

 

Jill:                        Well.. she does take eighteen pills a day – They make her whoozy

 

Stanley:            Eighteen!  Christ!

 

Jill:            I must get Robert to have a word with the doctor – When did you last speak to her?

 

Stanley:            Oh… oh (guiltily) a few days back….

 

Jill:                        Well –  she’s never off the phone to us…  Anyway you’ll be seeing her soon…

Stanley:            Yeah, that’s what I wanted to talk about – To her I mean – I thought maybe you or Robert could alert her to expect my call – you know –  get her to stay awake.

 

Jill:                        Well Robert’s the only one who could do that – He’ll be back in half an hour?

 

Stanley:            Okay, sure thing Jill – I’ll ring back.  See you!

 

JILL puts the phone down.  She looks thoughtful.

 

 

 

 

 

TELEPHONE.

MOTHER TO DR’S SURGERY:

Mother has woken up and picked up the phone and is dialling.

 

Mother:            Is that the surgery? I want to speak to Dr Bryant

 

 

8.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

Robert enters as Jill puts the phone down.

 

Robert:            Mother again?

 

Jill:                        For once not!  It was Stanley.  He’s been trying to get hold of her.

 

Robert:            Well, she’s always in.

 

Jill:                        That’s what I told him – But she keeps dozing off -You must speak to that

doctor Robert – She’s turning her into a junkie.

 

Robert:            (Sighing) I suppose I’d better pop round!

 

Jill:                        Stan will be ‘ phoning again in half an hour

 

 

9.            TELEPHONE.

MOTHER TO DR’S SURGERY:

 

Mother:            (On phone)  I have to speak to Dr Bryant.

 

 

10.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Jill:                        I told Stan you’d contact her – so she expecs his call

 

Robert:            What’s it all about?

 

Jill:                        I don’t know – He sounded…Urgent?

 

Robert:            Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

 

Jill:                        That’s what I mean…

 

 

11.            TELEPHONE.

MOTHER TO DR’S SURGERY:

 

Mother:            I must speak to Dr Bryant.

 

 

12.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Jill:            (slowly, face to face) I have an idea…they’re not coming over for christmas…Just an idea….

 

Robert:            Oh Christ bloody Jesus!

 

Jill:                        My thoughts entirely!

 

Robert:            Shit!  Shit! Shit!

 

Jill:                        Exactly! Shit!

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            You didn’t mention the sabbatical?

 

Jill:                        Don’t be crazy….

(pause)

I thought…It’s best if we wait ’till they’re here…Then they can’t…wriggle away so easily…

 

(slight pause)

 

That’s if they’re coming.

 

Robert:            You’re sure sure? It’s not just paranoia?

 

Jill:                        Well he was definitely saying something he wasn’t saying.

 

Robert:            (drumming the table) Buggar! Buggar! Buggar! Buggar! Buggar!

 

 

  1. TELEPHONE

MOTHER TO SURGERY

 

 

Mother:            (shouting) I want the pills Dr Bryant gives to make me sleep.

 

She bangs the phone down

 

 

14.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Jill:            And meanwhile mother’s stuffing herself with pills again. You know that don’t you?

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            I’d better…

 

Robert picks up the phone and dials.  It phone rings in Mother’s house.

 

15.            TELEPHONE.

ROBERT TO MOTHER:

 

Mother:            Hello.

 

Robert:            Mother, you OK?

 

Mother:            Is that Dr Bryant?

 

Robert:            No, it’s Robert, Robert, Mother.

 

Mother:            I was just on the Surgery – they won’t put me through to Dr Bryant.

 

Robert:            Dr Bryant is dead, Mother.

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            They wont put me through to him.

 

Robert:            Mother, he died five years ago. (slight pause) Did you hear what I said?

 

Mother:            I can’t talk now – I want some of those blue pills – Dr Bryant’s ringing me back.

 

She bangs the phone down, leaving Robert looking at the receiver in his hand.

 

 

16.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Robert:            She’s talking about the bloody blue pills And bloody Dr Bryant!  They both expired…. five years ago.

 

Jill:            She’s got more medicines than Boots!  Phoning the surgery about sleeping pills – It’s the only time she really wakes up!.

 

The phone rings again. Robert approaches it edgily

 

I mustn’t get impatient!

 

Sarah Enters

 

Jill:                        No. That’ll be Stan.

 

Sarah picks up ‘phone

 

Sarah:                        Hi Stan!  Oh…

 

She makes a face

 

It’s Grandma! She thinks she’s on to the surgery!

 

 

17.            TELEPHONE.

MOTHER TO SARAH:

Mother:            Please! Put me through to Dr Bryant.

 

Sarah:                        Grandma – You’ve dialled the wrong number again!

 

Mother:            I want – The Doctors Surgery.

 

Sarah:                        (To Robert)  You’d better talk to her Dad

 

She hands the phone to Robert.

 

Robert:            (Taking phone)  Yes, Mother.

 

Mother:            Is that Dr Bryant?

 

Robert:            No, it’s not Dr. Bryant, it’s Robert, Mother – You’ve dialled the wrong number.

 

Mother:            I was speaking to the receptionist.

 

Robert:            No that wasn’t the receptionist. Mother,  That was Sarah

 

Mother:            I thought…I was phoning the Surgery.  Is that you Stan?

 

Robert:            (Temper rising)  No, it’s not Stan and it’s not the surgery. It’s Robert Mother.  Stanley’s in California.

 

Mother:            But you said I was speaking to Sarah!

 

(pause.  Robert is seething)

 

Robert:            For God’s sake! Sarah lives here Mother – And me and Jill, not Stan – Can’t you get it right? Just once?

 

Mother:            I can’t speak to you now, Stan.. I’m waiting a call from Dr Bryant.

 

She puts the phone down abruptly, leaving Robert frustrated.  She gets up and walks over to the door.  The phone rings again in Robert’s house.

 

18.            TELEPHONE.

STAN TO ROBERT:

 

Robert grabs the phone furiously.

 

Robert:            (shouting) Now look! Mother!

 

(slight pause)

 

Stanley:            Hi Robert.

 

Robert:            ….Oh, it’s you Stan…

 

Sarah:                        (to Jill) It’s farce!

 

Jill shakes her head.    Sarah exits

 

Stanley:            I’ve been trying to get hold of Mother.

 

Robert:            (breathing heavily)  Jill told me, Mm….

 

Stanley:            You okay?

 

Robert:            Yeah.  Oh sure.

 

Stanley:            Sound a bit flustered….

 

Robert:            (recovering) No, no! Me – I’m fine

 

Stanley:            It’s good to hear you Bob. So…how is mother?

 

Robert:            Mm, she’s fine..

 

Stanley:            We were getting a bit worried out here.

 

Robert:            (Quickly, glancing at Jill)  Worried? About mother? No she’s fine.

 

Stanley:            It’s just that she answered the phone sort of dopey – then she put it down – Since then it’s been off the hook I think

 

Robert:            Well, I just this minute spoke to her Stan – and she was in great shape

 

Stanley:            Oh that’s…great

 

Robert:            She’s very much looking forward to your visit…

 

Stanley:            Well sure…Oh yeah…Look, while I’ve you got you Bob…

 

Robert:            (quickly)  And mother too – She’s not getting any younger Stan – She needs to feel the family around her

 

Stanley:            (writhing) Oh sure, Bob, yeah

 

Robert:            We’re all she has

 

Stanley:            Yeah, sure

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            How’s California?

 

Stanley:            California! It’s a riot, of course! Just the distant sound of gunfire!

 

Robert:            We get quite worried sometimes.. with the news

 

Stanley:            No it’s great really. You should come over

 

Robert:            And Sammy?

 

Stanley:            Well that’s it – Look…we do have some news…

 

Sammy comes to the phone

 

Sammy:            Let me tell Jill

 

Stanley:            Here, let Sammy talk to Jill

 

He passes the phone to Sammy.

 

Robert:            Oh, sure.

 

Robert passes the phone to Jill.

 

Sammy:            (Breathlessly)  Jill, we’ve done it – We’ve really done it this time.  I’m pregnant.

 

(slightest pause.  Jill waves Robert near)

 

Jill:                        Sammy!  I’m so thrilled! (To Robert, much relieved)  Sammy’s pregnant!

 

Robert:            Thank Christ!  That’s what it’s about!

 

Sammy:            Pregnant at last!  Twelve years married, now I’m twelve weeks pregnant.

 

Jill:                        It’s wonderful!

 

Sammy:            We didn’t want to say anything until it was totally certain.

 

Jill:                        I know what you mean

 

Sammy:            The doc worried I couldn’t hold on to it.

 

Jill:                        Terrific news, Sammy.

 

Robert leans into ‘phone

 

Robert:            Congratulations Sam.

 

Jill:                        Here, say hello to Robert. She hands him the phone

 

Robert:            Marvellous news, Sammy, absolutely marvellous. Stanley’s done it at last, eh?

 

Sammy:            And I feel great, Robert.  Absolutely great. Only, do you mind. Don’t tell mother just yet

 

Robert:            Okay Sam – whatever you say – You sound terrific!  Great news. Here, I’ll pass you back

 

He hands the phone back to Jill.

 

Jill:                        (on ‘phone) It’s great you feel so good.

 

Sammy:            Well, I must admit there were a few queasy turns at the beginning;

 

Jill:                        (To Robert) Queasy turns!  Remember?

 

Sammy:            To tell you the truth it was only the queasy turns made me realise something was happening; I couldn’t be sure if I’d missed – When you’ve been trying and

failing t            o get pregnant as long as we have you almost give up hope.

 

Jill:                        That’s when you get lucky.

 

Sammy:            Anyway I must have been about seven weeks past an’ you know, we’d been having a few nights out and then having to rush out early next day an’ suddenly I was feeling I wanted to throw up soon as I woke.  Then it happened one morning and then another morning n’suddenly it dawned on me.

 

Robert:            What’s she saying?

 

Jill:                        (To Robert) Queasy turns!

 

Robert:            (grimacing)  Don’t!

 

Sammy:            I thought to myself: Sammy, you stupid bitch!  You’re pregnant!  But I didn’t say anything to Stan ‘cos he gets so excited and then he’d be disappointed if it was a false alarm – it’s happened once or twice – and then he gets up one morning and he sees me vomiting in the basin and he says to me “Sammy you stupid bitch!  You’re pregnant!”

 

Stanley:            (Shouting over)  I didn’t say that!

 

Stanley comes to the phone

 

Sammy:            He nearly went wild.  Here, you tell Jill, Stan.

 

She hands the phone to Stanley

 

Stanley:            Honest Jill – I didn’t say that – she’s telling whoppers as usual.  I was caring and loving, Jill, I really was.  (slight pause) In fact when it happened I just stood by the basin with Sammy and we cried and cried; we just shed buckets.  Jill,

 

(slight pause)

 

I tell you it was bloody marvellous…

 

Jill:                        Oh, that’s brilliant –  We’re really happy for you.

 

Robert grabs the phone again.

 

Robert:            See, you randy old fogey!  I knew you could do it! You just hadn’t read the instructions!

 

Stanley:            I tell you sport – it’s the best feeling in the world! Anyway we were on tenterhooks for a few weeks, I mean it was always going to be a bit iffy with Sammy’s record. Anyway, we had a consultation today and it’s all as fast as ninepence.

 

Robert:            Fast as ninepence!  God that takes me back.  Remember who used to say that?

 

Stanley:            Oh sure Bob.  Yeah, it slipped out.

 

Robert:            He said it all the time, Dad, remember? A spoonful of this and you’ll be fast as ninepence? That’s the first time I heard it in eighteen years!

 

Stanley:            Yeah

 

Robert:            Wish he was around now Stan.  To share this with us

 

Stanley:            Mm, sure –

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            He’d have loved it

 

Stanley:            Yeah…

 

Jill:                        (interrupting. Urgent whispering)  Are they coming over?

 

Robert:            (waving her quiet) Why doesn’t Sammy want us to tell Mother?

 

Stanley:            Well not yet if you don’t mind, Sport – She’ll be on the phone night and day…Y’know Sammy doesn’t… I mean…  I’d sooner wait a bit. Y’know, just a bit.

 

Robert:            Well it’s great news.

 

Stanley:            Fantastic eh?  We’ll be a real family at last.

 

During this conversation Mother has dialled again.

 

 

19.            TELEPHONE.

MOTHER TO SURGERY:

 

Mother:            You keep sending me the yellow pills but the yellow pills don’t help me sleep.  I have to have the blue pills; the yellow pills are for angina.

 

 

20.            TELEPHONE.

STAN TO ROBERT:

 

Stanley:            (taking a deep breath)… that’s why we’re not coming home this year.  I wanted to make my excuses to mother.

 

Robert:            Not coming home?  (To Jill) They’re not coming home!

 

Stanley:            The doc thinks Sammy shouldn’t rush around too much.

 

(pause)  Robert is very shocked but tries to hold it back

 

Robert:            But you always come home for Christmas Stan.  (To Jill)  He’s not coming for Christ’s sake.  (To Stan)  Mother will be very disappointed, very disappointed. So will we.

 

Jill:                        I knew there was something!

 

Stanley:            Well we’ll miss you like hell of course but it’s crazy for Sammy to take chances. (slight pause)  Do you think Mother will mind us not coming?

 

(slight pause)  Robert is breathing heavily

 

Stanley:            You okay Bob?  Look, could you do me a favour and tell her.

 

Jill:                        (shouting) It’s not bloody fair!

 

Robert:            (To Jill)  He can hear you.

 

Jill:                        I don’t care! I don’t care!

 

Stanley:            (quickly) Look Sport, Sammy and me have got to dash out just now.  Perhaps I can give you a ring back.

 

They put the phones down.

 

 

21.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Robert:            I really hate it when he calls me Sport.

 

Jill:                        It’s his way of backing off.

 

Robert:            I know.

 

They both look at each other full of irritation.  There is a long pause.

 

He says she’s got to take it easy

 

Jill:                        I thought she always did take it easy.

 

 

22.            STAN’S HOUSE:

 

Stanley:            God, am I glad I got that over with!

 

Sammy:            Well you did, and that’s that

 

Stanley:            Robert’s not pleased….

 

Sammy:            Poor old Robert! He’s a sweetie

 

Stanley:            But it’s Jill’s the most upset. I could hear her going off in the background.

 

Sammy:            Jill’s a bitch!

 

Stanley:            No, she’s not, no she’s not…It’s mother

drives her up the wall

 

Sammy:            He’s got them both to contend with! Poor old Robert!

 

(slight pause)

 

D’you think you could bring me a cup of tea, Darling?

 

Stanley:            Tea, English tea?  You look tired Sweetheart.

 

Sammy:            I am a bit.

 

She settles down in her chair.

 

Well, they can’t complain you don’t ‘phone.

 

Stanley:            Never mind, Sam – you did want me to tell them about baby as well though –

didn’t you?

 

Sammy:            Well you didn’t have much choice . You had yto say something otherwise it’d be jingle bells again.. I was dreading it.

 

Stanley:            How did I know that, eh?

 

Sammy:            She’s going to be furious.

 

Stanley:            Mother?

 

Sammy:            No Jill –  She thinks they’re landed with mother all the time and we get away with it.

 

Stanley:            Well, it’s largely true

 

Sammy:            But she’s so remote!

 

Stanley:            Who, Mother?

 

Sammy:            No, Jill. She’ss cold and your mother’s old.  And she has such attitude!

 

Stanley:            Who Jill?

 

Sammy:            No your Mother.  But they both have.

 

Stanley:            Well it is only once a year.

 

Sammy:            Yeah. It comes round faster every time

 

(pause)

 

Stanley:            She seemed to think I was the milkman….Mother…She’s going a bit….

 

(slight pause)

 

Look, I’m pleased we told Robert.

 

Sammy:            Well, if you’re pleased I’m pleased…Feel me darling, give me your hand.

 

She places Stanley’s hand over her tummy.

 

Stanley:            My hand, my heart! You can have anything in the world, Sweetheart.

 

Sammy:            Well I know what I don’t want! (laughing) A family Christmas! That’s what I don’t want!

 

Stanley:            (singing) Jingle bells! Jingle Bells! Poor Robert.

 

Sammy:            Poor Robert!  He’s always been Mother’s little darling, you know that don’t you? And she winds you up something rotten – she always has – That’s why you got away.  (Teasing)  You were a little whimp in England.

 

Stanley:            (Not totally pleased)  A whimp?  Was I?

 

Sammy:            You had to come here to be a man.   Anyway… (Patting her tummy) you’ve proved it now.

 

Stanley:            I came to be with you… If you’d been willing to live in England…

 

Sammy:            England! Don’t make me laugh. For one thing you’d never have got a job in England – not at your level.  Anyway she always drove you mad – she ruined your first marriage to Freda and she’d sabotage ours if she could.  She makes trouble every Christmas… (Slyly)  It’s worth having junior just to get away.

 

Stanley:            Ah, so that’s why you got pregnant!

 

Sammy:            (laugfhih) Of course.  Didn’t you know?

 

(pause)

 

Stanley:            Mother – she’s led such an unhappy life….

 

(slight pause)

 

Anyway, I’m pleased our kid will grow up here not stuffy old London….  So
when little Homer’s born.            ..

 

Sammy:            That’s one name we’re not going to call him.

 

Stanley:            Alright, Hiram? Chester?  A real yankee name!  Seriously, I’d like him to know he’s got an English granny.

 

Sammy:            He’ll know alright!  She’ll be telling him – sit up and sit down and mind your manners just like she used to with Sarah.

 

(slight pause)

 

Stanley:            (pleading) It’s still nice to have a family, Sam.

 

Sammy:            Oh sure, It’s great – so long as we’re 5,000 miles apart!

 

Stanley:            I’d better try again

 

He picks up ‘phone

 

 

23.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Robert:            She’ll probably have to stay in bed all day.

 

Jill:                        Isn’t it great to do something that you’re good at!

 

Robert:            Oh Jill!

 

Jill:            Well Stanley – he behaves like she’s still a beauty queen… Sammy with child! She’s a bit of a child herself

 

Robert:            Well he seems to like it!

 

Jill:                        (slowly)  You envy him don’t you?

 

Robert:            No…Well, yes… Stanley’s done alright for himself

 

Jill:            That long, skinny body!  With a pudding on it!  She looks willowy – But she’s strong as a horse. And she won’t be made to do anything she doesn’t want.  Specially now.

 

Robert:            She’s his wife, Jill.

 

Jill:            He’s just about to discover what that really means! He’s had it dead easy, our Stan….

 

(pause)

 

Have you phoned your mother?

 

Robert:            No, I’ll do it now.

 

He picks up the phone

 

It’s funny – I can never get Stan to talk about Dad – He always sort of cuts out

 

24.            MOTHER’S FLAT:

The phone is in her hand. She is trying to remember who she intended to ‘phone

 

 

25.             ROBERTS HOUSE:

 

Jill:                        She’s doesn’t answer just to wind you up. She does that.

 

Robert:             I know. D’you think I don’t, for Christ’s sake?

 

Jill:                        She knows you’ll go running round.

 

Robert:            I always imagine – there’ll be a time when I think I know but I don’t know. The one time I wont go round – and she’ll be gone!

 

PAUSE  Jill’s attitude softens She comes over to Robert and takes his hands.

 

Jill:            Look leave it to me.  I’ll phone.  If she doesn’t answer I’ll pop round with some flowers and try to cheer her up.

 

Robert sits down, head in hands

 

Robert:            God, I don’t want to be old!

 

(slight pause) he stands up

 

You’re very good with her, Jill…I mean that

 

(slight pause)

 

Jill:                        Well I won’t say I hope she appreciates it – because I know damn well she

doesn’t!

 

phone rings as Sarah enters

 

Sarah:                        That bloody phone again!

 

Robert goes to phone.  As he picks it up it stops. He sighs.

26.             MOTHER’S HOUSE

Mother puts the ‘phone down then picks it up again at the same time as Stanley and Robert. They all dial and we hear engaged signals from three places.

 

 

27.            STAN’S HOUSE:

 

Sammy:            Jesus, Stan – you’ll wear that thing out.

 

Stanley:            Sorry Sam.

 

 

28.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Jill:                        If only she’d do something –  Join a friendship club – have some social life.

 

Sarah:                        Hah!

 

Jill:                        Well, it’s true

 

Sarah:            You don’t understand do you?  She doesn’t think she’s one of them – She thinks they’re all senile  (laughing) She’d have them all put down if she  could!

 

Robert:            She’s not that wicked, Sarah

 

Sarah:                        Oh she is!  Wicked Wicked Wicked…But I like her

 

Robert:            (laughing, then seriously) She’s always been a loner though; even when we were small –  Dad and her – they always kept themselves to themselves. She made a principle of it. As though they had to keep the rest of the world at bay.

 

Jill:                        I always thought they had something to hide

 

Sarah:                        Ooh, skeletons in the cupboard!

 

Robert:            Nothing so interesting I’m afraid.

 

Sarah:                        Maybe they were spies, or arch criminals – You and Stan were their cover

 

Jill:            Now all she does is ‘phone us or ‘phone the doctors – and what do they do?  Give her more pills and it all starts again.

 

Sarah:                        At least they take notice of her!

 

Jill:            We take notice of her as well, Sarah. I do. You do. We all do.  We can’t help but take notice of her.

 

Sarah:                        Hah!

 

Sarah exits.  (Slight pause)

 

Robert:            See, it isn’t enough (slight pause) Yes,  we do things for her and we go and see

her but… She wants to be heard… She’s out there on the periphery of her life.

Not even her life, she’s on the periphery of ours… She’s flying round us, growing fainter and fainter…Eventually she’ll just… disappear.

 

There is a slight pause and Jill looks at him sideways with a sort of puzzled sympathy.

 

Jill:            You really do love her, don’t you?  (She means ‘You love her better than you love me’)

 

Robert turns away. As he does so the phone starts to ring again and is immediately picked up in another room

 

Sarah re-enters

 

Sarah:                        Three guesses! She says she’s got no tea, she’s run clean out of teabags.

 

Jill:                        (distraught) She’s driving me mad!

 

Sarah:                        Fresh out! She does drink three hundred cups a day.

 

Jill:                        (To Sarah) See what I mean?

 

(To Robert) See! I got her tea the day before yesterday.

(to Sarah) It’s all the time Sarah. All the time!

 

Sarah:                        Well don’t blame me! I’m just the bearer of tidings.

 

Robert:            It’s alright.  I’ll deal with it.

 

Jill:                        But you see what I mean? You say you’ll deal with it but you never do

 

Robert:            (shouting) I said!  I’ll deal with it.

 

Sarah:                        Don’t you two ever stop arguing?

 

Jill:                        (shouting) We’re not arguing

 

Slight pause.  Jill and Robert glare at each other, seething.  Sarah watches.

 

Sarah:            By the way.  Probably not the best moment to tell you – But I’m not going to University

 

Robert:            Not going?  Not? (trying to contain himself) But I thought it was all —

 

Sarah:                        I thought I should tell you

 

Jill:                        But why?

 

Sarah:                        I’m going to try Dancing School

 

Jill:                        Dancing School?

 

Robert:            (very angry) Let’s talk about it later

 

Sarah:                        There’s nothing to talk about.  My mind’s made up.

 

She exits quickly.  Robert goes to the door.

 

Robert:            Sarah! Sarah!

 

 

 

29.            MOTHER’S FLAT

SHE IS LYING IN BED

 

Robert:            I brought you teabags and milk, mother.

 

Mother:            I don’t want want milk – You always bring the wrong kind.

 

Robert:            I’ll put it down here… Stanley told me he phoned.

 

Mother:            Stanley?

 

Robert:            From California. Don’t you remember?

 

Mother:            Stanley?  That was you.

 

Robert:            No it wasn’t me, mother; it was Stanley.  Don’t you remember?

 

Mother:            It was you – I recognised your voice.

 

Robert:            The time difference makes it awkward.  He’s going to ‘phone again

 

Mother:            Is he going to phone again?

 

Robert:            Yes, you remember now?

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            No I don’t remember

 

Robert:            He wanted to talk to you about Christmas.

 

Mother:            What did he want to talk about?

 

Robert:            About Christmas. Can’t you remember?

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            Is it Christmas in California?

 

Robert:            Yes it’s still Christmas.

 

Mother:            But it’s so hot.

 

Robert:            It’s only the weather that’s different Mother, not the date.

 

Mother:            He never comes round…

 

Robert:            Who, Stanley? Look it’s California – He’s not just around the corner.

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            I’m a bit whoosey.  I took some of those blue pills.

 

(pause)

 

Who did you say phoned?

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            Let me make you more comfortable.  Your cushions are rucked up.

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            I don’t like that doctor.  She talks to me sharply.

 

Robert:            She’s just trying to help.

 

Mother:            I want to go back to Dr Bryant.

 

Robert:            Oh not again!

 

Mother:            Dr Bryant has known me for years.

 

Robert:            Well you can’t go back to Dr Bryant.

 

Mother:            Those young doctors, they don’t know anything.  Opening hours, closing

hours.

 

Robert:            Dr Bryant’s dead, Mother.  Even then he retired five years ago.

 

Mother:            He can’t be dead.  I spoke to him this morning.

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            Dr Caplan’s your doctor now, I think she’s very nice.

 

Mother:            She’s nice to you because you’re young, they’re not nice to old people.  They think they’re a nuisance.

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            You’re driving me mad. Whenever I see you, your talking about doctors.

 

Mother:            You wait until you’re old. You’ll see.

 

Robert:            It’s infuriating.

 

Mother:            Well no one does anything.  If only Stanley was here, he’d help me.

 

Robert:            We all try and help you, Mother.

 

(slight pause).

 

Mother:            It’s not as though I complain.

 

(long pause)

 

Robert:            Stanley’s going to ring again.

 

Mother:            He rings me every week.

 

Robert:            Well he’s going to ring again today.  He’s worried about you.

 

Mother:            Every week, from California.

 

Robert:            Mother, I ring you every day.

 

Mother:            Yes, but not from California.

 

 

30.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Robert:            She was telling me how good it was of Stanley to ring.

 

Jill:                        Well I hope you said something.

 

Robert:            Wasn’t much point.

 

(pause)

 

Jill:                        You get the responsibility and Stan gets the kudos.

 

Robert:            Kudos! It’s about the last thing he needs.

 

Jill:                        Stanley’s always run away.  She spoiled him – and you let him get away with it.

 

Robert:            I didn’t do anything. He simply took his chance.

 

Jill:                        Well now it’s our turn.  We’ll take our chance.

 

(pause) Robert is disturbed by Jill’s persistence and determination.

 

Robert:            Jill, I am going to talk to Stan!

 

Jill:            The climate’s good out there, she’s always complaining about pains in her legs and arthritis – and socially she might as well be in Timbucktoo for all the difference it makes.

 

Robert:            (getting angry) OK. I said, I’ll talk to Stan… it’s just that she’s old to make a

move.

 

Jill:                        But she’s not too old!

 

Robert:            I always hoped Stan might come back

 

Jill:            And let you get away?  Hah! Fat chance!  Stan always got things the way he wanted.

 

(pause)

 

You shouldn’t have been so soft.

 

Robert:            (getting angry) OK, OK, I’ll talk to him.

 

Jill:                        Talk. All you ever do is talk.  Why can’t  we?  Make up our minds?  Just do it?

Why do we have to get permission from Stan? It’s not             fair! We’re always hedged in depending on Mother this, and depending on Mother that.

 

Robert:            I said I’d –.

 

Jill:                        Just because we’ve always looked after her – we’re landed with it forever!

 

Robert:            Not forever

 

Jill:                        You mean, when she dies, or goes into a home…

 

Robert:            (shouting)  That’s not what I mean

 

Jill:                        Well what is it? Some miracle?  Be honest Robert.

 

Robert:            What’s brought this on?  You’ve never spoken like this.

 

Jill:                        Well we’ve never been so near and yet so far – I can see it all….Slipping away.

 

Robert:            Jill, I know…

 

Jill:                        Our lives will be gone!

 

Robert:            Jill, I promise you.

 

Jill:            Well I hope you haven’t buggered it up – I can tell you Stan’s going to be much less willing to do anything now…. The beauty queen will see to that.

 

Robert:            Oh Christ, not that again! It was years ago

 

Jill:                        Well she doesn’t let anyone forget it, nor does he

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            (playfully) I think you’re a bit jealous..

 

Jill:            What because she was Miss Yankee-doodle-dandy? Miss fiddlesticks?  She wasn’t exactly a Playboy centrefold

 

Robert laughs.  Enter Sarah

 

Sarah:                        Did somebody mention Playboy Centrefold?

 

She poses

 

Robert picks up the phone and dials then puts it down and dials again.   We don’t hear him speaking. Sarah sidles up to Jill.

 

Sarah:            (in a hoarse stage whisper)  Psst! While you were ‘talking’.  Phone call. Prescription pliz! You the prescriptions lady?

 

Jill:                        I don’t believe it!

 

Sarah:            (in an American accent) Ya better believe it!   She said when Dad was there. She forgot to tell him.

 

(slight pause)

 

Jill:                        I got one prescription yesterday and another the day before.

 

Sarah:            They were both the wrong colour… Doesn’t matter what’s in the pills – it’s the colour that counts.

 

Jill:                        Oh Sarah – I run around for her – I really do.

 

(slight pause)

 

I don’t know what she does with all …….. those pills

 

Sarah:                        Perhaps she’s a drug baron – flogging them outside the clubs?

 

Jill:                        More likely they end up down the loo.

 

(slight pause)

 

Sarah:                        But you don’t get the message do you Mum?

 

Jill:                        You’re going to give it to me?

 

Sarah:            She doesn’t really want pills.She wants attention. She’s embarrassed about phoning – so she feels she’s got to ask for something. So it’s tea, or milk…or pills. She’s desperate

 

(slight pause)  Jill stands stock still for a moment trying to control her irritation

 

Jill:            (mocking) I’m grateful for the counselling, Sarah…She’s not the only one who’s desperate.

 

Sarah:                        Well – That makes three of us!

 

Jill:                        In the meantime I’ll just continue, shall I, as pill monitor?

 

Sarah:            There! Done it wrong again! (She smacks her own wrist) Naughty Sarah.  Why don’t you keep your big trap shut!

 

Jill:                        Good idea!

 

Slight pause

 

Sarah:            Mum,  I’ve got to talk to Dad about the dance school – It’s the fees – There aren’t any grants…

 

Jill:                        …I don’t think it’s a good time right now

 

 

31.            TELEPHONE.

ROBERT TO STANLEY:

 

Now we hear Robert on the phone to Stan.

 

Stanley:            Is there a special problem, Bob?  Can’t we discuss it on the phone?

 

Robert:            Well it’s Mother, the usual thing, Stan.

 

Stanley:            Mother?  But you said she was fine.  She seemed OK when I spoke to her.

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            She thinks the world of you Stan, the way you phone and all that

 

Stanley:            Well we try to do our bit, Robert; a wee bit expensive, but you know…

 

Robert:            That’s why I wanted us to have a good talk; you can’t do it properly on the

phone.  Look are you sure you can’t get over?

 

Stanley:            Y’gotta understand Robert, it’s a special time Sammy and me…

 

Robert:            Yeah, I know,  but when you see Mother you’ll find she’s not half so bad as she seems when you phone

 

Stanley:            Bad?  I didn’t think she was bad, I think she’s just fine for her age.

 

Robert:            Well why not try and make it?  Doesn’t have to be for Christmas – Come afterwards if you like – just for a few days…

 

Stanley:            Sorry, Bob, It’s not gonna work.  And you know Sammy likes to go skiing after Christmas

 

Robert:            Skiing?  I thought she had to take things easy.

 

Stanley:            Bob, it’s not physical problems… The doc said not to get into any “situations”.

 

Robert:            (rising irritation) What’s that supposed to mean, Stan?

 

Stanley:            Well Sammy gets to feel quite isolated with the family all round. Last time we came over…it didn’t…Well Sammy’ she got upset. Mother kept calling her Freda and all that… Sammy thought it was deliberate.

 

Robert:            Oh, so it’s Sammy’s made up your mind

 

Stanley:            I’m sorry Bob

 

Robert:            Look, then how about just you coming just yourself for a couple of days?

 

Stanley:            Bob, I’m sorry

 

Robert:            We do need to talk Stan.

 

Stanley:            I couldn’t leave Sammy right now Bob.  She’d get nervous on her own. (slight pause)  Look, I have to go, Sammy’s waiting in the car. Look Bob – We’ll speak again soon, yeah?

 

32.            ROBERT’S HOUSE

 

Jill:                        Well?

 

Robert:            I said he could come on his own but he says he can’t leave Sammy.

 

Jill:            Surprise! Surprise! She’s like a prize poodle. Pampered and covered in furs. Bitch!  I suppose you didn’t say a damn thing?

 

Robert:            We weren’t clicking.  He’d have said no straight out.

 

Jill:                        The bitch!  I told you, she’s got him on a             string.

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            I think he just loves her, Jill, There’s nothing we can do about that.

 

(slight pause)

 

Jill:            Well I’m going to do something – look this is the chance of a lifetime, I won’t let it go away.

 

33.            MOTHER’S HOUSE

JILL ENTERS:

 

Jill:                        Mother.

 

Mother:            Who’s that?

 

Jill:                        It’s me, Jill.

 

Mother:            What’s the time?

 

Jill:            It’s 4 o’clock.  Aren’t you dressed?  The front door was open. Did you forget to lock it?

 

Mother:            I’m waiting for the doctor; he should have come by now.

 

Jill:                        What’s the trouble?

 

Mother:            It’s my legs, they just give way.

 

Jill:                        You should try to use the stick Robert brought you.

 

Mother:            It’s too awkward, I lean on the stick and that’s when I fall over. (slight pause)  I don’t like to be up when the doctor comes, they think you ought to go to the surgery.

 

Jill:            I’ve told you before. There’s no need for the doctor to come here. I’d take you whenever you             need.

 

Mother:            I only wanted the pills, they don’t like giving them over the phone.

 

Jill:                        I got your pills the other day.

 

Mother:            They were the new ones, I wanted the old ones – the new ones don’t help me sleep.

 

She sits down and promptly falls asleep.  Doctor enters.

 

 

 

 

Doctor:            (calling from the door) Can I come in?

 

(she enters)

 

The door was open – your mother asked me to call.

 

Jill:                        Oh, hello Doctor. Actually, she’s not my mother.  I’m her daughter-in-law.

 

Doctor:            Any trouble?

 

Jill:                        Well I’m not sure, I just popped in on the off-chance.

 

The doctor goes over to Mrs. G.  She talks to her in a loud slightly over-bearing voice.

 

Doctor:            Hello Mrs Golding.  (She is snoring)

 

Jill:                        She’s just this minute dropped off.

 

Doctor:            It’s a bit warm in here.

 

Jill:                        She was talking to me a moment ago.

 

Mother:            (waking up)Why do you talk to her instead of me?

 

Doctor:            I’m sorry

 

Jill:                        Hello Mother.

 

Mother:            (To Doctor, ignoring Jill)  Would you phone my son?

 

Jill:                        Robert? He spoke to you this morning.

 

Mother:            No not Robert, he never does anything for me, I need to speak to Stanley.

 

Jill:                        But Mother, Stanley’s in California.

 

Doctor is examining mother

 

Doctor:            California, is he?

 

Mother:            Yes, he’s in California but he phones me every week.

 

Doctor finishes, puts away her equipment.             Mother appears to drop off to sleep again

 

Doctor:            (to Jill) Well there’s really not much wrong, except for her age.  I don’t think she’s hurt herself.

 

Jill:                        I think she wakes up and calls the surgery if she can’t get us.

 

Doctor:            She needs more stimulation.  Does she get out?

 

Jill:                        Only when she comes to us – she won’t go to clubs or anything.

 

Doctor:            Have you thought about a nursing home?

 

Jill:            It’s just…well she can be very antagonistic.  My husband’s afraid they’ll keep her under sedation.

 

Doctor:            They’re not all like that. Someone has to cope.

 

(slight pause)

 

Jill:                        I’d never get him round to thinking about it.

 

(slight pause) Mother wakes up

 

Mother:            What are you talking about, are you talking about me?

 

They both look at her.

 

You’re talking about me aren’t you?

 

Doctor:            You be a good girl now, eh?  Get your feet up.

 

Doctor packs her bag and goes to the door.

 

Jill:                        Dr. Caplan

 

Doctor stops, slightly impatient

 

Can I come to the surgery and talk to you?

 

 

34.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Jill:                        Dr Caplan thinks she should be in a home.

 

Robert:            Did she actually say that?

 

Jill:                        No…not in so many words. She asked if we’d considered it…

 

 

35.            MOTHER’S HOUSE:

Robert enters; in a hurry

 

Robert:            Mother, I can’t stop. I’ve left your medicines in the kitchen.

 

Mother:            Alright darling.

 

Robert:            Mother, we do need to discuss something

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            Is it what the doctor and Jill were talking about?

 

Robert:            Mother, it’s nothing bad, I promise.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            You shouldn’t let her talk to the doctor, she doesn’t like me.

 

Robert:            The doctor? She does like you, Mother, they all like you.

 

Mother:            I don’t mean the doctor, I mean Jill.

 

(slight pause.)

 

Robert:            Oh Mother!

 

Mother:            Well you know it’s true

 

Robert:            Mother.  Jill does a lot for you. She likes you a lot

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            I suppose she can’t help it,

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            We thought maybe you could come round to dinner on Friday.

 

Mother:            This Friday?  (slight pause) If I’ll be well enough. (slight pause)

What time will you pick me up?

 

Robert:            If I come for you early you could have dinner and stay over. You could sleep in my study on the ground floor; then you needn’t go up the stairs.

 

Mother:            I always mix it up with your old house.

 

Robert:            If there’s anything you need make a list and we’ll get it for you.

 

Mother:            OK darling.

 

Robert:            If it’s a nice day Saturday we’ll all go out for a drive, and Sarah’s doing a

dancing competition.

 

Mother:            Dancing.  I didn’t know Sarah did dancing

 

Robert:            Oh yes, she’s decided now she wants to be a dancer

 

Mother:            Sarah.  That’ll be lovely.

 

Robert:            She’s doing her audition pieces. She wants to try for dancing school.  We can all go and watch.

 

Mother:            Oh that’s wonderful.

 

Robert:            Friday then, OK?

 

 

36.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Sarah:                        Grandma – she ‘phoned.

 

Robert:            Oh..

 

Sarah:                        She can’t remember – She says did you ask her for Friday or Saturday.

 

Robert:            Oh God, it’s Friday. I’ve told her half a dozen times

 

Sarah:            It’s what I said, too. I think she just wanted an excuse for phoning. She wants you to ring back.

 

Robert:            (wearily) I’ll phone.

 

 

 

37.            TELEPHONE.

ROBERT TO MOTHER:

 

Robert:            Mother!  It’s Friday, not Saturday.

 

Mother:            Friday?  What Friday?

 

Robert:            This Friday.

 

Mother:            This Friday? What for?

 

Robert:            You’re coming to stay with us, remember?

 

Mother:            Stay with you, where?

 

Robert:            At our house.

 

Mother:            (in a panic) At your house?  I can’t stay at your house, it’s too far.

 

Robert:            No, it’s Robert in Battersea, Mother, not Stanley in California.

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            Oh yes, I remember. I’m staying with you.

 

Robert:            That’s right

 

Mother:            Of course I remember.  I wouldn’t forget.

 

Robert:            Put it on your calendar

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            Alright Stan.

 

 

38.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Robert:            She’s definitely slower; you think she’s alright then suddenly you realise she hasn’t understood a damned word.

 

(pause)

 

Jill:                        She’s old.

 

Robert:            She’s not that old; 80’s not old these days.

 

Jill:                        Well she’s always seemed old to me –  She has that dismal look.

 

(pause).

 

Robert:            You…just don’t like her – Do you Jill?

 

Jill:                        Well, she’s never shown the slightest ……warmth to me.

 

(Pause)

 

Jill flops down in a chair looking dejected. Robert comes over and takes her hands

 

Robert:            Look, Jill.  I’ve asked her to stay Friday night.  It’ll give us a chance to talk.

 

Jill:                        Well so long as it is just the one night.

 

Robert:            Be fair Jill – She practically never stays

 

Jill:                        Last time she came for the night she stayed a fortnight.

 

Robert:            (rising anger) It wasn’t a fortnight, it was just over a week. And she wasn’t well.

 

Jill:            She had me running in and out – It isn’t you who has to do it – It was worse than a child.

 

Robert:            (controlling himself) I thought…. she could come and see Sarah dancing.

 

Jill:            You know, I could stand anything if she wasn’t always so vindictive about everybody.  And she’s getting worse.

 

Robert:            It’s only since Father died.

 

Jill:            Only!  Eighteen years!  When he was alive she took it out on him, now she takes it out on us.

 

Robert:            OK, OK.

 

Jill:                        She was selfish with him, now she’s selfish with us

 

(slight pause.)

 

Robert’s memory is triggered

 

Robert:            No…it wasn’t just selfish… There was something in him that nagged at her insides!

 

Jill:                        I liked your dad.  He was kind. And he loved Sarah

 

Robert:            To be honest I think she found Dad frustrating.  He wouldn’t argue with her.  I think she’d have preferred anything – even a giant quarrel – to that (slight pause) There was something between them I couldn’t fathom.

 

Jill:                        Skeleton in the family cupboard?

 

Robert:            Something like that…Something she blamed him for

 

Jill:                        Well, I bet Stan knows.

 

Robert:            Maybe.

 

Jill:                        You should ask him

 

Robert:            Stan’s a bit like Dad…. Plays his cards close to his chest. It’s Sport this and Sport that – but he never says anything that’s real or deep.

 

Jill:                        No, I know.

 

Robert:            I’ve dreamt about them – they’re together the three of them – floating round in my subconscious – As if they had some secret – And they were keeping it from me, Dad, and Stan, and Mother….

 

(slight pause)

 

:            I tried to ask her once but she got furious

 

(slight pause)

 

We do have to talk to her Jill.

 

(pause)

 

Jill:                        Well I have said yes.

 

 

39.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Sarah:                        I’ll give you two guesses A and B

 

Jill:                        A – Grandma phoned; B, she phoned again

 

Sarah:                        She wants a needle and some red and white thread?

 

Jill:                        Red and white thread? Red and white thread!

 

Sarah:                        You got it

 

Jill:                        What on earth for?

 

Sarah:                        To sew something red and white with I suppose. Perhaps it’s Santa Claus…

 

(slight pause)

 

Jill:                        She hasn’t sewn anything in years.

 

 

40.            OUTSIDE MOTHER’S HOUSE:

Robert & Mother are walking

 

Robert:            It was nice of you to make the bow for Sarah’s dress.

 

Mother:            I hope it brings her luck.

 

Robert:            She was so surprised.

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            Hold my arm, take your stick.

 

Mother:            I don’t want the stick.

 

Robert:            Now come on, Mother, you must try.

 

Mother:            It makes me fall over.

 

Robert:            No, it stops you falling over. Now come on.

 

Mother:            Alright. Don’t let go.

 

They start to walk. She stops suddenly.

 

Mother:            I didn’t turn off the gas.

 

Robert:            You mean the electric, I did it – you haven’t got gas.

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            You must think me such a fool.

 

She stops again

 

Mother:            Why wouldn’t you let me have gas?

 

Robert:            Gas?

 

Mother:            When I moved to the flat, I wanted gas.

 

Robert:            Mother, that was fifteen years ago.

 

Mother:            I always preferred gas. You shouldn’t have stopped me

 

Robert:            It’s messy and smelly too. And it’s dangerous,  Electric’s better.

 

They walk.

 

Mother:            The electricity bill is enormous.

 

Robert:            Gas would’ve been the same.

 

Mother:            I never liked the flat. The house was your father’s house.

 

Robert:            Oh for Christ’s sake Mother.

 

Mother:            I could have stayed there till I died.

 

Robert:            Well you didn’t say so at the time, you said you couldn’t stand the place after dad died…

 

She stops.

 

Mother:            What happened to the money?

 

Robert:            (getting angry) What money?

 

Mother:            The money from the house?

 

Robert:            That’s not fair Mother, we’ve been through that over and over again.

 

Mother:            I don’t remember.

 

Robert:            Yes you do, Mother, we paid off the mortgage and bought you your nice flat.

 

(slight pause)

 

The rest went to help Jill and me with the deposit on our Battersea house.

 

Mother:            Now I remember.

 

They walk

 

Robert:            You keep on bringing it up – about the money – we were very grateful, we’d never have been able to afford the Battersea house without it.

They stop

 

Mother:            I’ve never enjoyed cooking one meal in the flat, not one.

 

Robert:            You used to say that about the house.

 

Mother:            A flat’s not like a house. The kitchen’s not the same.

 

Robert:            For Christ’s sake! Why are you talking about it now?

 

Mother:            You shouldn’t have made me move.

 

Robert:            Mother, once and for all, you wanted to sell the house, I didn’t make you move.

 

(slight pause.)

 

Mother:            Well, why didn’t you let me have gas?

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            Is it because you gave us the money? Is that why you keep bringing it up? It’s your way of getting at me. And the money was only a loan to us, Mother, when we wanted to pay it back you refused.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            What about Stanley?

 

Robert:            (exasperated) Stanley, what about him?

 

Mother:            Did he get a share of the money?

 

Robert:            Mother, you’re really annoying me, Stanley didn’t want it. He didn’t need it.  Anyway he knew it was only a loan.

 

They walk

 

Mother:            It’s not true about the garden.  I loved the garden.

 

Robert:            (Shouting)  You hated the bloody garden! You hated the bloody kitchen. You hated the bloody house.

 

Mother:            That house was your father’s house.

 

Robert:            I don’t know why we’re talking about the house.

 

They stop

Robert:            You’re just doing it to niggle away at me, aren’t you?

 

Mother:            No I’m not.

 

Robert:            (Breathing heavily) You are, I know you are, but I don’t know why. I know we

did our best for you and you did say you hated the house when you lived there.  You hated the house and the neighbours and the garden. You said it was a millstone round your neck!

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            (sweetly) No you’re quite right, I didn’t like the house.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            Have I got my bag?

 

Robert:0            (controlling his breathing) I’ve got it. take it easy.  Hold on to my arm, there’s everything you need for the weekend.

 

She stops suddenly

 

Mother:            Which weekend?

 

Robert:            (Shouting) This one, this one.. You’re staying with us.  You must remember.

 

Mother:            You must think I’m silly.

 

Robert:            No I don’t.

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            I thought I was going to stay with Stanley.

 

Robert:            (Going mad) Oh for Christ’s sake!

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            Yes. Now I remember.

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            How is it you bring Stanley into every damned conversation. I think you do it

just to niggle me.

 

Mother:            No I don’t do it purposely.  Stanley’s in California.

 

Robert:            That’s right Mother.

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            Long way to go for a weekend…

 

 

41.            DOCTOR’S SURGERY:

 

Jill:                        We’ve got the chance of going away…But my husband’s worried about leaving his mother.

 

Doctor:            D’you mean a holiday?

 

Jill:                        No more than that, it’s a sabbatical.  That’s why…eight months – in Africa.

 

Doctor:            She’s quite infirm

 

Jill:                        I know; that’s the problem.

 

Doctor:            Hm…

 

Jill:                        We had the opportunity once before after Robert’s father died –  But Robert wouldn’t leave his mother then either. That was eighteen years ago.

 

Doctor:            Well, if it was difficult then

 

JILL NODS

 

Jill:                        It’s like a long field trip – Now he’s been offered the chance again.

 

Jill:                        I know

 

Doctor:            Have you spoken to her?

 

Jill:                        I wanted to see what you thought first.

 

Doctor:            Well, she needs somebody to keep an eye on her that’s for sure. She couldn’t manage ..on her own.

 

Jill:                        I know

 

Doctor:            Wouldn’t she want to try and help?

 

Jill:                        She…wont see things from our point of view…

 

(slight pause)

 

Doctor:            Well old people…they’re quite selfish… and you must know she’s deteriorated recently.

 

Jill:                        Robert’s afraid she’ll die while we’re away.

 

Doctor:            All old people die. Even when they’re fit – A year’s a long time when you’re eighty…

 

(slight pause)

 

Nobody else in the family?

 

Jill:                        There’s my husband’s brother in Los Angeles.

 

Doctor:            California?  Well why not pop her over there for the winter. Do her the world of good.  It’s English winters kill off the old folk…

 

Jill:                        You think it’d be….

 

Doctor:            Yes, pop her off there, that’s the ticket: It’s that or a nursing home

 

Doctor begins to shuffle her papers

 

Jill:                        It’s Robert really…He can’t seem to let go.  Would you talk to him?

 

Doctor nods

 

Doctor:            Is there anything else?

 

Jill shakes her head

 

Doctor:            Try not to worry

 

 

42.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Jill:                        Dr Caplan thinks she’d be okay in California.

 

Robert:            You saw her?.

 

Jill:                        This morning

 

Robert:            You shouldn’t have gone to see her without me Jill

 

Jill:                        She said old people live forever in California.

 

Robert:            But you shouldn’t have gone – It’s not up to you.

 

Jill:                        I am involved Robert!  We both need this trip.  I need it!

 

Robert:            I still wish you’d left it to me!

 

Jill:                        And what? So you’d compound your guilt?

 

Robert:            Look, I do want her to go.  It was my idea remember.

 

(slight pause)

Robert sits with his back to Jill.  Jill comes round from behind.  She stalks him, like an American attorney

 

Jill:                        It isn’t just about her is it? There’s part of you wants and part of you doesn’t.  She’s your excuse.  You’re afraid.

 

ROBERT STANDS UP AND BANGS HIS FISTS ON THE TABLE

 

Robert:            I’m  not afraid!

 

(pause)

 

Jill:                        You are Robert.  It’s her, she’s made you timid. You’re frightened of the adventure… She’s played on that.

 

Robert:            Why do you always blame her?

 

Jill:                        Well it’s true!  You’ve been the one to curry favour with her Robert, all your life.  But she’s always put Stan before you. (Long Pause)  Jill moves round in front to      stand over him)

 

You’re jealous

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            I know….

 

Robert sits with his head in his hands. Jill kneels before him and puts her arms around his neck. She feels that she has altered the dynamics of their relationship at least temporarily.  She has seized the initiative from Mother.

 

Jill:                        Look this trip will give you a higher profile; it scares you – but that’s natural.  You’ll go up a couple of notches…

 

Robert:            Yes, yes…I know Jill. (then, angry with himself) You think I don’t know?

 

Jill:                        But you can do it.  You could rise higher than Stan.

 

Robert:            Yes, yes…Even Stan says…My qualifications…

 

Jill:                        They’re better than his.., There’s no limit Robert.

 

Robert:            (bracing himself)  No limit, no…

 

Jill:                        You can do it Robert. (slight pause) Look at me.  LOOK!    Pause

 

We’ve just got to do it, darling.

 

There is a long pause.  Robert rocks to and fro.  Then shakes his head, almost grinning to himself.

 

Robert:            Do you know how long it is since you called me that?

 

(pause)  She takes his hands and kisses them

 

Robert:            …It’s just the only one who calls me darling…

 

(pause)  Jill gets up and turns her back

 

Jill:                        Oh Christ…

 

Robert:            Sorry.

 

Jill:                        Why did you have to bring her into it?  She’s always, always in the way.

 

Robert:            I’m sorry Jill.

 

He moves to comfort her.  She shrugs away

 

Jill:                        You’re always saying sorry.

 

(slight pause)

 

It’s true, all our lives she’s been there, sitting on your shoulder.

 

Robert:            Jill, don’t.

 

Jill:                        Even on our wedding night, I felt her presence. Holding you back.

 

Robert:            Holding me back?  From what?

 

Jill:                        From loving me, from being with me. Like a giant black bat screeching round the hotel room. Swooping. Blind and swift – And understanding everything.

 

Robert:            Jill.

 

Jill:                        You’re still in her…toils. I can see it all fading; all our hopes. We’ve no ambition left.

 

She backs away from him, her face contorted

 

(screaming) She’s sucked it all away.

 

Robert grabs her shoulders

 

Robert:            What’s wrong Jill? Why this suddenly? Sucked away?  Why do you always blame her?  Whatever happens. Always her?

 

Jill:                        Well it is her, why can’t we go on this trip? Because of her!  Why didn’t we snap up the first chance to go to Africa?  Why? Because of her… Why didn’t we go to America when Stan went?  Because of her! There were jobs galore out there for you; he wrote to you.

 

Robert:            No, no, no – no, we couldn’t.  Sarah would have been disrupted, and there was the opportunity to get the house.

 

Jill:                        Yes! The house!  You had to beg and plead with her for that money.

 

Robert:            (shouting)            No, no!

 

Jill:                        She could have given it to us years before, but she didn’t!   We were stuck in that bloody little terrace with you travelling miles to go to work and to see her.

 

Robert:            You can’t blame her!

 

Jill:                        (screaming)  She didn’t even understand our need!

 

Robert:            Stop it!  Stop it!

 

Jill:                        It’s the truth, Robert.

 

(long pause)

 

Robert moves away from Jill

 

Robert:            I know…It frightens me.

 

(pause)  Robert stands with his head in his hands but with half an eye he is watching Jill.  Slowly she softens

 

Jill:                        You drive me bloody mad – Why d’you always agree with me?

 

She starts to cry

 

Robert:            Oh Jill, don’t cry.  Jilly.

 

Jill:                        Looking after Mother has been your way out, you’re a prevaricator – Anything to avoid making up your mind.

 

Robert:            I’m so sorry Jill for disappointing you.

 

(pause)

 

Jill:                        Look, at least phone Stan, he might like the idea.  If she went, it would be his contribution… after that we’d come back and take over again – and then he and … Miss Campus Queen,  they could live happily ever after…

 

(slight pause)

 

And it would be wonderful for her to be there when the baby’s born (slight pause) I mean wonderful for them as well.   (slight pause)   At least try; he’d probably want to do it for you if you explained properly – You’ve always got on.

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            We’ve got on best by being 5,000 miles apart.

 

Sound Effects:            MUSIC – Excerpt from Swan Lake

 

 

43.            OUTSIDE CAFE:

They are taking Mother out to tea.

 

Mother:            I couldn’t believe it was her – I just couldn’t believe it was my little baby – you’ve got so tall.

 

Sarah:                        Oh don’t say that, if you’re too tall you can never get to be a dancer.

 

Mother:            Is that what you’d like?

 

Sarah:                        Well I’d like to try jazz dancing. Or maybe teach. It’s really too late for ballet.

 

Mother:            Your father loved ballet.

 

Sarah:                        Dad?  They never go now.

 

Mother:            I used to take him – and then there was a girl he started going with.  After that he stopped taking me.

 

Sarah:                        A girl, eh.  That’s another thing Dad didn’t tell me

 

Robert closes up behind them

 

Robert:            The girl was Jill.

 

Mother:            Jill, I don’t remember a Jill.

 

Robert:            Well I only married her, that’s all.

 

 

44.            INSIDE CAFE:

Weaving their way through.

 

Robert:            We’re all going to have tea and cream cakes.

 

Sarah:                        Wicked!

 

Mother:            Where did I put my handbag?

 

Jill:                        It’s here.

 

Jill goes into the cafe

 

Mother:            I must put that programme away carefully.  Such a lovely tune, what was it?

 

Sarah:                        Swan Lake.

 

Mother:            I knew it was Swan Lake!  Who was it we saw dance in that Stanley?

 

Robert:            It’s Robert.  I don’t remember us seeing Swan Lake.

 

Mother:            Yes, you took me for a birthday treat.  That was 1979, the year before your father died.

 

Robert:            Eighteen years, is it so long?

 

Mother:            Margot Fonteyn! You didn’t know I had such a good memory, did you?

 

Robert:            (wistfully) Is it so long?

 

Mother:            And Rudolf Nureyev.

 

Sarah:                        You have got a good memory

 

Mother:            Oh, he was so wonderful.

 

Robert:            Poor Daddy…

 

Mother:            He was in his prime.

 

Robert:            Well he was still a young man.

 

Sarah:                        I wish I’d known him.

 

Robert:            He was always laughing.  He loved you Sarah.

 

Mother:            And how he danced!

 

Sarah:                        Grandad?  Dancing?

 

Mother:            (scornfully) Him, oh no – I mean Nureyev – Your grandfather had two left feet.  He couldn’t dance!

 

Jill comes back

 

Jill:                        I’ve got a table, at the bottom – a bit of a squeeze.  Will you be OK?

 

Mother:            Who, me?  I never felt better. I have enjoyed myself.  Here let me hold your arm; my pretty grand-daughter.

 

They begin to move in

 

Robert:            (To other customers)  Excuse me, if you could just move your chair a little.

 

Mother:            I’m fine, I’m fine – don’t worry abut me.

 

Robert:            It’s difficult with the trays.

 

Jill:                        Hold on to her arm Sarah.

 

Sarah:                        It’s alright, I’ve got her. Mummy’s got her too.

 

Robert:            Excuse me please!  Look out!  The tray! – Jill!

 

 

He turns and somehow Mother turns at the same time and Jill and Sarah lose their grip.

 

Mother:            Oh help!

 

She crashes to the floor.  They kneel around her.

 

Sarah:                        (crying, very distressed) It was my fault. There wasn’t room for three people to get past.

 

Mother:            Oh dear, dear, dear.

 

Sarah:                        I let her go.

 

Jill:                        No, no, it wasn’t you!

 

Mother:            Stan!  Stan!

 

Sarah:                        She went so suddenly.

 

Robert:            Her leg’s bent under her.  Mother can you move your leg?

 

Mother:            I feel such a fool.

 

Robert:            Have you hurt it?

 

Jill:                        I think she’s just shaken.  Here let’s sit her down.

 

They help onto a chair.  She looks bewildered but OK.

 

Sarah:                        (crying) I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.

 

Jill:                        No it wasn’t your fault – we shouldn’t have tried to squeeze past.

 

Jill gives Mother an accusing glance

 

Jill:                        She went so suddenly.

 

Robert:            She’s alright! (to Mother) You’ve had a bad scare.

 

Mother:            It’s just my leg.  I wish Stan was here, Robert.

 

Robert:            Stan?

 

Mother:            If only Stan was here.  Stan would know what to do…

 

 

45.            ROBERT’S HOUSE.

TELEPHONING THE DOCTOR:

 

Robert:            (On phone)  She’s had a bit of a fall but I think she’s alright.

 

Doctor:            Is she breathing OK?

 

Robert:            Yes I think so. She’s got quite a bruise on her leg.

 

Doctor:            That’s nothing, they bruise very easily at that age.

 

Robert:            Does she need to take anything?

 

Doctor:            Just give her an aspirin and tuck her up in bed.

 

Robert:            I think she’s mostly shocked.

 

Doctor:            Well call me if there’s a problem.  I’m afraid you’re really out of my area but I’ll do whatever I can.

 

Robert puts the phone down.

 

Sarah:                        I don’t know how it happened dad. I was holding her, Mummy was holding her… She seemed to let her body go…

 

Robert:            The doc thinks she’s okay.

 

Jill:                        It wasn’t your fault Sarah

 

Sarah:                        For once we all seemed together and all that – And then…

 

Jill:                        Sarah. It wasn’t  your fault.

 

 

46.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

Kitchen

 

Jill:                        Well I think she planned it.

 

Robert:            I knew you’d say that.

 

Jill:                        It all fits. Everything, the fall, the collapse.  It’s one of her stunts….And she’s so upset Sarah.

 

Robert:            You believe she’s that calculating?

 

Jill:                        You don’t understand, she’s cleverer that you, cleverer than both of us.  She knows there’s something in the wind.  You’ve got to be clear with her, Robert.

 

Mother:            (Calling from the bedroom)  Robert.

 

Jill:                        Tell her. Now! You’ve got to.

 

 

47.            ROBERT’S STUDY:

 

Robert:            Mother, are you awake?  (Sound of snoring)  Mother there’s no need to stay in bed, come and watch television with us, Question Time’s on.  (Snoring)  Jill’s making supper.  (Snoring)  I know you’re not asleep.  (Snoring)  Oh well, just as you wish.

 

He goes to the door.   He starts to go out.

 

Mother:            Stan!

 

Robert:            Robert.

 

Mother:            I’m such a fool.

 

Robert:            There, I knew you weren’t asleep.  How’s your leg?

 

Mother:            I won’t be able to stand up.

 

Robert:            Well give it a try.  Come on now.

 

Mother:            Is it on now?

 

Robert:            What?

 

Mother:            Question time.

 

He goes back to the bed.

 

Mother:            Did you phone the doctor?

 

Robert:            She doesn’t think she can come all the way out here.  We’ll have to call a local doctor.

 

Mother:            Would he know me??

 

Robert:            No….

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            My leg feels better.

 

48.            ROBERT’S HOUSE,

LIVING ROOM:

The TV is on

 

Mother:            I thought you said it was Question Time.

 

Robert:            It is later.  Mother, there’s something we need to talk about.

 

Mother:            Is it about Stan?

 

Robert:            Well in a way it is….

 

He sits Mother down and kneels in front of her

 

Look I’ve got an opportunity to go to Africa with the job, it’s a sabbatical really.  When I come back I could be head of department.

 

Mother:            A sabbatical?  You’re very lucky.

 

Robert:            Well it’s eight months actually; then I get four months over here to write it up.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            Jill will miss you.

 

Robert:            Jill?  No Jill’s coming with – in fact she’s getting a job with the project (slight pause)  Well, what do you think?

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            I’m tired – I think I’ll go back to bed.

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            I need to talk to you about the trip Mother.

 

Mother:            You don’t.  Your mind’s made up.

 

Robert:            We have to talk.

 

Mother:            But I know what you want to tell me.

 

Robert:            It’s important that we sit down together and discuss it.

 

Mother:            There’s nothing to discuss (slight pause) You’re leaving me on my own aren’t you?

 

Robert:            That’s not what I’m trying to say.

 

Mother:            I can’t be left.  The doctor won’t allow it.

 

Robert:            We’ve spoken to the doctor mother.  Dr Caplan thinks you’re OK.

 

Mother:            Dr Caplan – she doesn’t know anything about me.

 

Robert:            Well you’re always seeing her.

 

Mother:            You should speak to Dr Bryant.

 

ROBERT jumps up.  Very angry.

 

Robert:            Oh no!  No! No! No!, I can’t go through that again.

 

Mother:            And who spoke to her? Was it you or was it Jill?

 

Robert:            Mother, you must listen. We have to make             this trip, Jill and I.  It’s important. More important than anything we’ve ever done. But I don’t want to leave you.

 

Mother:            I can’t go to Africa – it’s too far, too hot.

 

Robert:            Africa!  Of course you can’t go to Africa!  That’s the whole idea.

 

(slight pause)

 

We thought you could go to Stanley.

 

(long pause)

 

Mother:            In California?

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            Well you’ve never been.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            Have you asked him?

 

Robert:            Not yet.

 

(long pause)

 

Mother:            I think you’d better ask him first.

 

(long pause)

 

Mother:            Stanley doesn’t care about me.

 

Robert:            He does Mother

 

Mother:            You don’t understand, there’s things between us…

 

Robert:            Oh mother

 

Mother:            I can’t help it. And that girl he’s living with.

 

Robert:            Oh come on, she does have a name – it’s Sammy.

 

Mother:            Sammy! What’s that for a name?  Like a dog or a cat! And why can’t they get married?

 

 

 

Robert:            They are married, Mother, they’ve been married for twelve years.  They had to wait for Stanley’s divorce.

 

Mother:            Should never have married her in the first place.  Your father was against it, so was her father.

 

Robert:            See you do remember!  But you’re talking about Freda, Stanley’s first wife. Mother, that was twenty-five years ago!

 

Mother:            Twenty five?

 

Robert:            Of course.  Stanley and Sammy have been together nearly fourteen years.

 

Mother:            He was always off somewhere, from a young age, always doing what he wanted. Leaving all the responsibility to you.

 

Robert:            Yes, to me, Robert.  So long as you know it’s me you’re talking to.

 

Mother:            I do know, it’s just the names I mix up.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            I’m an old woman.

 

Robert:            You’re not so old.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            Someone’s got to look after me.

 

Robert:            Mother, that’s what I’m trying to do.  We will look after you but we can’t stand still.

 

(pause)

 

Look I’ve been at the department twelve years – I only took the job to be near; so you wouldn’t be lonely.  But we have to be selfish sometimes Mother.  – if I’d done this years ago I could have moved on, got a better job – you have to do some original field work or research – I’m in a trap Mother.  (pleading) Please Mother. Please understand.

 

Mother:            I do understand! You’re leaving me. Now when I can’t take care of myself.  Why didn’t you go when your father died?

 

Robert:            I’m not leaving you – Please Mother.  That’s what I mean – if you go to Stanley – just for a few months – it’ll be so good for you; for everybody; so right… Please!

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            I can’t go to California.  There’s no doctors.

 

Robert:            Of course there are – there’s millions of doctors in California – but you’ll be well out there.  It’ll be exciting; you’ll get a new lease of life – And when we come back from Africa you can come back to us.  Look, I promise (slight pause)  You could even come to live with us.

 

Mother:            (Startled)  Live with you? (slight pause) Jill wouldn’t have me.

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            Mother, it’s a step, don’t you see?  There’ll be just the four of us – Sarah and Jill and me – and you.  We will.  We’ll look after you.

 

Mother:            Until I die – that’s what you’re hoping. And if you’re lucky I’ll die in California.  I’ll be off everybody’s hands.

 

Robert:            Oh Mother – don’t be bitter – we don’t want you to die – But we’ve got to have our chance as well.  Stan got away – and I was pleased for him – he turned his back on the sad life and started new again.  He does love you mother but the old life was crushing him, taking all his chances -there was never any joy – What was wrong with us? (slight pause) Perhaps I should have done that as well.  Taken a deep breath in a new country – lots of people did, and we were young then.  Australia or Canada or America…  Stan’s been away now for twenty years… Oceans and time…. It’s this family.  We’re like islands… such a feeling of regret…  I stayed because of you Mother….

 

Mother:            You can’t blame me.

 

Robert:            I’m not blaming you.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            I do want you to be happy.

 

Robert:            You’ll go then – is that what you’re saying?

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            I won’t stand in your way Robert.

 

Robert reaches out and holds her hands

 

Robert:            Mother – you’re a brick.  Look, be happy – I know things aren’t always easy – wonderful things can still happen.

 

(slight pause)

 

Look at Stan the way things have turned round for him – he was trapped in that terrible marriage to Freda with no life and no family and now, whatever you think of Sammy, he’s happy! They’ve even got a baby on the way.

 

Mother:            (startled) A baby?

 

Robert:            After all these years!  I promised I wouldn’t say anything yet, but it’s true – She finally made it.

 

Mother:            A baby – That thin stick?

 

Robert:            She’s not thin – she’s slim.

 

Mother:            There’s no room for a baby in there.

 

Robert:            She was a fashion model Mother – that’s what they’re like – But she’s strong and healthy.  You’d be there when the baby’s born. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

 

Mother:            He’s too old to be a father.  He’s fifty!

 

Robert:            He’s not too old – Age isn’t important! –  He’d be so pleased to have you there.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            I’d have to ask Dr Bryant.

 

Robert:            Oh yes, yes, yes.  You must ask Dr Bryant!

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            Have they really got doctors?

 

Robert:            (laughing) Doctors. oh yes.  More doctors than you’d dream about!

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            Have you asked Stanley?

 

Robert:            Not yet – but he’ll be okay, mother.  He’s going to be a dad – it makes all the difference!  Stan loves you Mother, he’ll see things differently now.

 

He puts his arms round her waist

 

Oh this is making me so happy, so happy, so happy.

 

He dances her round

 

Mother:            Stop!  Stop!  My leg hurts.

 

Robert:            No it doesn’t!  You love dancing.  You love it.

 

They stop

 

Mother:            (darkly) I should ask him all the same.  There’s old scores…

 

Robert:            What do you mean.?

 

Mother:            From the past – Between me and Stan.  Things he blames me for.

 

 

49.            ROBERT’S HOUSE

KITCHEN:

 

Robert:            Well she’s agreeable – I’ve asked her.

 

(pause)

 

Jill:                        Get her to put it in writing.

 

Robert:            Jill, don’t be cynical. I think – we’re going to make it.

 

Jill:                        You’ve still got to clear it with Stan.

 

Robert:            Oh he’ll be fine. I’ll make  him agree – He’ll be pleased –  We’ve been losing touch a bit Stan and me – and he knows a family only exists when people are doing things for each other.

 

Jill:                        Mm, miracles do happen!

 

Robert:            When Mother goes we’ll have shared that.

 

Jill:                        I’m just not going to say anything

 

Robert:            Me and Stan. It’s a way of connecting again.

 

Jill:                        You’re so idealistic!

 

Robert:            I’d say realistic

 

(slight pause)

 

Jill:                        I almost said naive!

 

Robert takes her hands

 

Robert:            Come on, don’t be a sourpus Jill

 

(slight pause)

 

I can’t wait to speak with Trevor at the department; he was hoping to God I’d turn it down so that he could go.

 

Jill:                        That’s not fair. He went to Japan last year.

 

Robert:            Nothing’s fair in love and universities.

 

(slight pause)

 

Jill:                        (slowly) Well…you’ve almost got me believing it… I can’t wait to see you starting your paper – something with mind. Original.

 

Robert:            More, more, more! I could do something big. A book. All the things I’ve wanted to say all these years. I’ve thought and thought about it!  It’ll put me right in the frame, My standing goes up a hundredfold.

 

(pause)

 

Jill:                        Oh Robert – I feel like crying.

 

(slight pause)

 

Darling this is wonderful.

 

Robert:            There you’ve said it again.  Darling.

 

Jill:                        It is going to be wonderful, isn’t it Robert?  Tell me it is.  I feel as if we’re being given the chance to start our lives again.

 

Robert:            The thing about it is there’s still time – if I can just come back with some decent research.  They’re getting rid of people at 55 in the department, but they make damn sure they hold onto the ones with some sort of reputation.

 

Jill:                        It’s really really happening.

 

Robert:            It is, it is Jill.  We’re on our way; our new life!  Africa – here we come!  Steamy jungle nights!

 

Jill:                        (giggling)  Look I’m Meryl Streep (in Danish accent) Out Of Africa.  Lying there steaming with sex and frustration. “I hahd a fahrm in Arfricah!”

 

She lies back on the table.

 

Robert:            And I’m Robert Redford. I bagged a coupla tigers this morning, a coupla rhino this afternoon – Now, ahm gonna bag…You!

 

He chases her round the table, they are both giggling and excited. He closes down on top of her. Jill puts her arms up round his neck

 

Jill:                        It’s a hot night.  The stars are shining. The whole world is silent and beautiful.

 

They embrace. Immediately, there is a crash from the door.  Mother has slithered down the frame.  She has been watching.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            I fell over when I got out of bed.

 

 

END ACT 1

 

 

 

 

ACT II

 

 

50.            ROBERT’S HOUSE

BEDROOM:

Mother’s doctor is in attendance.

 

Doctor:            She hasn’t hurt herself – not even a bruise.

 

(slight pause).

 

Look this is well outside my area.

 

Jill:                        We’re very grateful to you for coming

 

Doctor:            If she’s going to stay you have to register with a local doctor.

 

Jill:                        (Quickly) No no no!  She’s not going to stay!

 

Robert gives her an angry glance

 

Robert:            (to Doctor) Perhaps a few days.

 

Jill:                        No (firmly). (to Dr) She’s just getting ready for California.

 

Doctor:            California eh? Just what the doctor ordered!  Better than medicine.

 

Mother stirs

 

Mother:            (weakly) I can’t stand the heat

 

Jill:                        It wont be too hot for her, will  doctor?

 

Doctor:            California?  It’ll make a new girl of you.

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother turns towards Robert for support. He turns his head away

 

Mother:            What about my medicines?

 

Doctor:            (To Jill) Let me know before she goes and I’ll give a certificate for 6 months supplies – (to Mother) Your daughter will look after it, I’m sure

 

Mother:            She’s not —

 

Doctor:            You’re only a ‘phone call away.

 

The doctor packs her bag and Robert goes with her to the door. Jill is left by Mother’s bed

 

Mother:            (calling) There won’t be any doctors.

 

Jill:                        Of course there’s doctors, more than in England.  See, Dr Caplan thinks it’ll be good for you.

 

Mother:            She’s just trying to get rid of me.

 

Jill:                        Mother!  The climate’s wonderful; there’ll be new people to meet. You’ll even be able to help Sammy.

 

Mother:            Sammy – She can’t even bear to look at me

 

Jill:                        It’ll be a new lease of life.

 

Mother:            Stan wont want me.

 

Jill:                        He does want you mother.  You know he does.

 

Mother:            (wheedling) I’m so frightened.  I know I’m a nuisance – You’re not just trying to get me out of the way?

 

Jill:                        You know that’s not true. Roberts’ devoted to you. We all are.

 

Mother:            I do love you all so much.

 

Jill:                        And we love you mother – all of us –  And Stan and Sammy.

 

(slight pause)

 

Jill sits down on the bed she takes mother’s hand

 

It’s just that this trip – it’s so important – we need this time together – And Robert’s still a young man – he’s got to advance his career… The chance won’t come again…

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            She doesn’t care for me

 

Jill:                        You’ll see. A baby changes things

 

Mother:            She’s too thin!

 

Jill:                        No she’s not – anyway – she’ll have you there to help her.

 

(pause)

 

JILL grips mother’s arms with force and looks directly into her eyes.

 

We’re not going to turn it down. We’re not!  Do you understand?

 

JILL continues gripping Mother’s arm, quite forcefully

 

Mother:            (so that Robert will hear) Let go! You’re hurting me!

 

Jill:                        But do you?  Do you understand?

 

Mother nods.  Jill releases her grip.   Robert comes back.

 

Robert:            Everything alright? Well that all seemed fine.

 

He looks from one to the other taking in the atmosphere

 

You two okay?

 

(slight pause)

 

Jill:                        I think mother should have a rest now.

 

She takes Robert’s hand and pulls him to the door. He pulls away from her and sits on the bed with his back to Jill.

 

Robert:            I’ll just make sure she’s comfy.

 

Jill hesitates by the door,  gives a slight shrug and exits. She closes the door behind her and leans back against it, burning with anger and frustration Robert leans over mother, tucking the duvet round her.

 

I’m sorry,  mother.  I’m so sorry.

 

Mother relaxes against the pillows. She smiles to herself.

 

 

51.            TELEPHONE –

STAN’S HOUSE/ROBERT’S HOUSE:

The phone is ringing in Stan’s house Sammy picks it up.

 

Sammy:            Hello.

 

Robert:            Hello Sammy.  How’re things?

 

Sammy:            Oh sweller all the time.  All the old jokes!

 

Robert:            You feeling okay?

 

Sammy:            (Yawning)  Everybody’s fine.  Stan, me…. junior.

 

Robert:            You sound a bit tired.

 

Sammy:            I’m still sleepy – it’s eight o’clock in the morning over here.  You’ve just missed Stan

 

Robert:            Oh, just my luck

 

Sammy:            He’ll be home for lunch our time.

 

Robert:            Well we do need to speak – I’ll phone again.  Could you ask him to wait in for my call?

 

Sammy:            Sure.  But is there some problem?  Is it to do with Mother?

 

Robert:            Well yeah… but it’s not a problem.  Look… I think it’s best I speak to Stan.

 

Sammy:            Okay Robert – I’ll tell him.

 

 

52.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Sarah:                        Grandma ‘phoned. I think she said she’s feeling dizzy

 

Jill:                        Thank God we got her back home. I thought she’d never go.

 

Sarah:                        It’s either feeling dizzy or she wants more fizzy. (she giggles)

 

Jill:                        Fizzy water? Is this a joke Sarah?

 

Sarah:                        Oh, and the butter you got. It’s salty – She can’t eat it.

 

Jill:                        That’s English dairy butter.

 

Sarah:                        Well, it’s bad for her. She says – you always get the wrong thing – She wants you to change it.

 

Jill:                        She’s driving me mad!-

 

Sarah:                        I thought you were taking her shopping.

 

Jill:                        I am, this afternoon – And I’ll tell you something else – I’m not looking forward to it!

 

 

53.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

Later that afternoon.

The place is strewn with shopping bags.

 

Robert:            How was mother?

 

Jill:                        Well for the first time in ages I actually enjoyed taking her out.  She got so excited trying on the clothes in Selfridges and she loved the lights and the bustle.  She was even looking at baby clothes.

 

Robert:            Baby clothes! Fantastic – I must tell Stan!

 

Jill:                        Stanley?  Robert haven’t you ‘phoned yet?

 

Robert:            He wasn’t there – I’ll try again later… I didn’t want to raise it with Sammy…(pause) I’ve been composing a speech to Stan in my head.. (pause) He might think they’re not going to be able to cope.

 

Jill:                        Well you must just make sure he doesn’t think that!  Look Robert  (she takes Robert’s hands) I don’t want to sound crude about it but all we’ve  got to do is get her there.

 

Robert:            How do you mean?

 

Jill:                        Well. after that she’s his responsibility for eight months; not ours.

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert backs away as if pole-axed, shaking his head

 

 

Robert, I didn’t mean it that way.  You’re taking it wrong

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            That’s – just how I don’t want to –

 

Jill:                        Oh for Christ’s sake!

 

Robert:            I’m sorry Jill.

 

Jill:                        Sorry! Of course you’re sorry.  You’re always sorry.

 

She grabs some saucepan lids and crashes them onto the table..

 

Robert:            Jill!

 

Robert sits with his hands over his ears

 

Jill:                        Yes, you think I’m awful Robert…But I have bitter resentments.

 

(pause)

 

I just want us to have this time together. (pause) When I think how much of my life I’ve given.  All              the days and nights of seeing you being pulled this way and  that.  Her whims and her bitterness…

 

(pause) Rising voice

 

And it’s isn’t just me – I’ve watched you becoming furious and frustrated as well…You’ve got to admit – She’s a selfish old woman and she’s never let you pass from being a child into a man….

 

(slight pause)

 

She’s bound you with  hoops Robert – You owe    her your birth not your life.  She’s been bitter and  vindictive, she’s picked at the foundations of our marriage.

 

(slight pause)

 

But now she has the chance to make it up.  If we go to Africa I forgive her everything.  I will love her.  I will have good memories of her…  So you must speak to Stanley – I don’t care how you do it or what you say.  You must persuade him. We will escape; we will have love; we will have happiness; you will be my darling; you will be my man (crying).  I can’t help it!

 

(slight pause)  Robert stares at her

 

Jill:                        Don’t look at me like that!.  Please don’t.  You think I’m being horrible?  But it’s her you’re still thinking of isn’t it? She’s still on your shoulder.

 

(slight pause)

 

See I know…You’re not just scared of Stanley saying no. You’re also scared of him saying yes.  And that’s why we’ve been landed with her all these years…It’s Stan she always talks of.  He went off and left her, but it’s him she loves the best – And you’re jealous.  And that’s why you’re weak and he’s strong. And it will never change! Never! I saw it on our wedding night and I’ve been seeing it ever since.

 

(pause)

 

Robert is now standing with his head in his hands.  He drops his hands.

 

You must give us this chance Robert.

 

Robert:            Am I so weak?  I’m sorry Jill.

 

Jill:                        (crying) Oh darling love me.

 

Robert:            I do love you.

 

Jill:                        But love me.

 

Robert:            I will.  I do.

 

He suddenly crumples and Jill is touched

 

Jill:                        Oh darling Robert.  It will be alright.

 

She sits down.  Robert kneels in front of her and puts his head in her lap

 

Robert:            Will it though Jill?

 

Jill:                        I promise

 

She strokes his head.  He gets up.

 

Robert:            I’ll ‘phone Stanley.  I’ll do it now.

 

 

54.            TELEPHONE

STANLEY TO ROBERT:

He goes over to the ‘phone but before he picks up the receiver it rings)

 

Stanley:            Thought I’d ring you Robert – it’s so awkward with the times – Sammy’s having her nap and the ‘phone wakes her.  Was it something special?

 

Robert:            Well it was rather Stan.  Look, don’t be annoyed but I’m afraid I’ve let the cat out of the bag with mother. I told her about the baby.  To be honest it was such marvellous news we found it impossible keeping it to ourselves.

 

Stanley:            Mother?   Well I suppose she had to knew sometime.  It’s just well, you know, Sammy….How did she take it?

 

Robert:            Stan – she’s delighted.  Absolutely delighted!  You’d be amazed.  In fact she asked Jill to take her up to Selfridges to look at baby clothes.  She’s even talking of knitting again.  I tell you Stanley, it’s giving her a new lease of life.

 

(pause)

 

Stanley:            (very cool) Really? Oh great! Terrific!  That’s terrific. To be honest Sammy thought Mother sounded a bit, well sort of, senile last year; and you know they get – uninterested in anything but themselves.

 

Robert:            Oh no – I tell you Stan –  Your news has really bucked her up.  It’s wonderful!  No she’s far from senile thank God – In fact she’s bright as a button – Better than she was last year! I don’t think her hearing’s as good as it was (quickly)  Not that she’s going deaf or anything – but you know what old people are like?

 

55.            MOTHER’S FLAT:

 

Mother:            I ‘phoned yesterday and left a message for Dr Bryant to ring me back and then I ‘phoned again this morning.

 

 

56.            STANLEY’S HOUSE:

 

Stanley:            Was that what you were ‘phoning about?

 

 

57.            MOTHER’S FLAT:

 

Mother:            No I don’t want to speak to Dr Caplan.  I want to speak to Dr Bryant.

 

 

58.            TELEPHONE

ROBERT TO STANLEY:

 

Robert:            Well, sort of –  You see – the department are sending me to Africa for a few months – it’s a research project…

 

Stanley:            (carefully) Yes..

 

Robert:            …and Jill is coming with…

 

Stanley:            Sounds great Bob.

 

Robert:            Well you know what it’s like – if I take it I go one step forward; if I don’t I go three steps back.

 

Stanley:            You’ve got to take it, Bob.  Jesus, of course you have.  I’m pleased for you and so will Sammy be; you’ve still got a long way to go, Bob.

 

Robert:            Well you know what it’s like: Funding’s been so meagre most departments have been cutting down

 

Stanley:            Right, I know

 

Robert:            And field projects overseas overseas! Well they’re like gold.  So if you get the chance…

 

 

59.            MOTHER’S FLAT:

 

Mother:            I’m going to complain to Dr Bryant.  I’m Dr Bryant’s patient and I have been for many years.  Because I’m old doesn’t mean I can be ignored.

 

 

60.            TELEPHONE

STANLEY/ROBERT:

 

Stanley:            You always had the ability Robert… there’s no doubt…

 

(pause)

 

But what are you going to do with Mother?

 

Robert:            Well that’s why Stan – What we need to talk about. To you and Sam

 

Stanley:            Me and Sam? Well sure Bob – But how can we help?

 

 

61.            MOTHER’S FLAT:

 

Mother:            I must speak to Dr Bryant.  I must speak to Dr Bryant!

 

She starts to smash the ‘phone down on the cradle and bits of it fly off)

 

62.            TELEPHONE

ROBERT/STANLEY:

 

Robert:            Well, not to beat around the bush Stan – we thought you could have her to stay with you for a few months – just while we’re away – Well we spoke to Dr Caplan – she thought it would be wonderful – for mother to be in California.  Specially during the winter.

 

 

63.            MOTHER’S FLAT:

 

Mother:            (sobbing)  I must speak to Dr Bryant.  I need to speak to Dr Bryant..

 

She talks to the telephone receiver in her hand

 

I’ve broken it!  They wont give me another!

 

 

64.            TELEPHONE

STANLEY/ROBERT:

 

Stanley:            …It’s a….bit unexpected Bob…

 

Robert:            We’ve held the fort a long time Stan. (quickly) Not that she’s been any trouble…

 

(pause)

 

Stan, she really is a fine old lady – oh I know Sammy’s had problems; but that’s because they’ve never got to know each other properly.

 

(pause)

 

Stanley:            Look, I’m… going to have to discuss this with Sammy Robert – She’s just waking up from her nap sport, I can hear her… Look, I’ll phone you back…

 

65.            MOTHER’S FLAT:

 

 

Mother:            (sobbing)  Dr Bryant!  Dr Bryant!  Dr Bryant!

 

 

She gets up from her chair and turns around, still holding the receiver.  She gets twisted up in the wire and then trips and collapses across the chair, which crashes over.  The line clicks off and we hear the ‘out of order’ tone, very loud, followed by an ambulance siren

 

 

66.            HOSPITAL

ACCIDENT ROOM

 

Mother:            It wasn’t my fault – I got caught in the wire.

 

Robert:            It’s nothing to worry about….  One little scratch and a great big bruise.  (He holds her hand)  It’s alright             mother.

 

Mother:            Will they give me a new phone?

 

Robert:            It’s okay… I told you.  I’ve got you one already…  It’s better than the old one – you just have to plug it in.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            They spoke to me so sharply at that surgery.

 

Robert:            I’ll tell them they musn’t.

 

Mother:            They shouldn’t speak to me sharply.

 

Robert:            I know…  I’ll tell them.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            It isn’t my fault I’m old.

 

Robert:            Nobody’s blaming you mother…

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            Your father was lucky.  He died in his prime.

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            You shouldn’t say that.

 

Mother:            You remember him as a young man…  whereas I’m an old nuisance.  And I’m going to get worse; worse and worse.

 

Robert:            No you’re not Mother.

 

Mother:            You do a lot for me; more than anybody. You think I ought to be grateful – but I’m not grateful.

 

Robert:            I don’t think you ought to be grateful.

 

Mother:            You think I should be a nice little old grandma

 

Robert:            You are nice

 

Mother:            No I’m not – I’ll never be that.

 

Robert:            It doesn’t matter what I think.

 

Mother:            I want to die, that’s what I want.  Why should I want to live when they talk to me that way?

 

Robert:            Mother why are you bothered – How they talk to you? It’s not important

 

Mother:            They keep asking questions but they won’t stop long enough for the replies to come out and so they ask me again and again.  I know the answers but they won’t wait. They think I’m stupid…But they don’t understand.

 

(long pause)

 

Robert:            I’m sorry Mother.  Sorry for you, sorry for me. If only Father had lived – it might all have been different –

 

Mother:            Perhaps.

 

Robert:            We let him slip out of our lives.  All of us, we just let him go.  Why did we do that?

 

Mother:            (Abruptly) He’s gone and that’s that.

 

(long pause)

 

Robert:            Mother… why didn’t you mourn Father? Why do you never talk about him?

 

Mother:            …I did mourn him.

 

Robert:            No you didn’t – not for a day.

 

Mother:            You don’t understand, Robert.

 

Robert:            You’ve never said one nice thing about him since he died

 

(slight pause)

 

Mother:            Not everybody lives in harmony.

 

Robert:            He was a good man.

 

Mother:            Oh he was good alright.

 

Robert:            What more did you want?

 

(long pause)

 

Mother:            No nothing. And you’re right Robert.  I didn’t mourn him.  And I never wanted anything from him. (bitterly) Your Daddy never made much of himself – the only clever thing he did was die… He left me with a pension more than he ever earned when he was living…

 

Robert:            Why are you so bitter Mother?  You cast him out of your mind…

 

Mother:            I didn’t stop you remembering him… Anyway, it wasn’t about him…  Look, another time I’ll tell you.

 

Robert:            It’s something Stan knows and I don’t, isn’t it?

 

Mother:            You’re making my head ache. I can’t talk about it now.

 

 

67. STANLEY’S HOUSE:

 

Stanley:            Sammy, I’ve been having a conversation with Robert.

 

Sammy:            (immediately suspicious) Oh yes.

 

Stanley:            Look they’ve got this chance of going to Africa on a sabbatical.  The two of them.

 

Sammy:            I feel a bit dizzy

 

Stanley:            Are you alright Sweetheart?

 

Sammy:            It’s been going on since this morning.

 

Stanley:            Well let’s get your feet up.

 

(He helps her into a hammock chair)

 

Comfy?

 

Sammy:            You’re such an old sweetie.

 

Stanley:            I knew he had something on his mind; he was so edgy….  He was… asking if we could have Mother for a few months.  While they’re away.

 

(slight pause)

 

Sammy:            I’m a bit cold, Stan.  Give my feet, a rub – they’re freezing.

 

Stanley:            Let me cover them up sweetheart.

 

(slight pause)

 

Sammy:            What did you tell him?

 

Stanley:            I said I’d discuss it with you Sam.

 

(slight pause)

 

Sammy:            There’s a bit of pain Stan – I don’t think it’s anything, but it’s here in the navel.

 

Stanley:            Do you want me to call the doctor Sammy.

 

Sammy:            I think I’m alright.  I’m just tired, Stan… it  isn’t easy for me.

 

Stanley:            I do understand Sammy.

 

Sammy:            You’re so wonderful, Stan.

 

(pause)

 

Stanley:            I have got to give him an answer, Sam.

 

(slight pause)

 

Sammy:            It’s hard the first time… I don’t know if I’ll be strong enough.

 

Stanley:            Look you’re the most important thing Sam

 

Sammy:            It’s both of us Stan – Look I’m 36 and you’re 50 – It’s our last chance.  If your mother was younger maybe it could be different…  She’ll be so demanding.

 

Stanley:            Sam, I only want to do what’s right for us…

 

Sammy:            We’ve just got to think about you and me and junior – it’s not the same for Robert and Jill -Sarah’s nearly left home; they’ve really only got themselves. And they’re used to looking after Mother.  They always have looked after her.

 

Stanley:            I think that’s what Robert’s really saying.  He’s got this chance and he thinks we ought to take a turn… (slight pause) Poor old Robert! His timing’s always wrong!

 

Sammy:            (pointedly)…Well they did have the money from the house…

 

 

68. TELEPHONE

STANLEY TO ROBERT:

 

Stanley:            I tried to get Mother, Bob, but I think there’s something wrong with her phone.

 

Robert:            It’s been out of order.  The receiver got broken.

 

Stanley:            Is she OK?

 

Robert:            Mother? She’s fine.  She’s very excited about the baby of course . She’s so looking forward to being there with you.

 

(pause)

 

Stanley:            Well… look Bob that’s what I want to talk about… I don’t think it’s going to work, not right now.  (long pause) Sammy isn’t strong enough…

 

(pause)

 

Robert sits down and breathes deeply

 

Robert:            Oh…

 

Stanley:            You there Bob?

 

Robert:            I don’t know what to say…

 

Stanley:            I’m really sorry Bob

 

Robert:            It’s not just me, Stan; it’s Jill as well;

she’s set her heart on this trip.

 

Stanley:            Look I did my best sport.  It’s a funny period for Sammy, and for me, she’s very nervous, Bob. I don’t have to tell you… I am too.  This pregnancy’s come out of the blue. It’s wonderful of course – but we’re both so scared.

 

(pause)

 

Bob, your timing’s all wrong sport.

 

(long pause)

 

You still there Bob?

 

Robert:            (slumped) Yeah, I’m still here…, What am I going to say to Jill?

 

Stanley:            Sorry sport, I really am.  And so is Sammy.  I mean, Normal times, we’d have loved to help but it’s just…To be honest we don’t have that much relationship with Mother, especially Sammy.

 

Robert:            Well that’s hardly been our fault, Stan.

 

Stanley:            I know – that’s what I mean – See we’ve always sort of looked on her as part of your family Bob… I know that sounds unfair… it’s just the way its worked out.

 

(slight pause)

 

To be honest Sammy feels that Mother doesn’t consider her part of the family, if you know what I mean.

 

Robert:            Well she’s always been a bit the same with Jill…

 

Stanley:            In fact we never understood why Mother just didn’t come and live with you rather than that separate flat.  It would have been so much more convenient for all of you.

 

Robert:            Convenient! Hah! I don’t think Jill would see it like that!

 

Stanley:            … And don’t take it wrong Bob – but you did have the money from the house.  It’s not important but…

 

Robert:            It was just a loan Stan.

 

Stanley:            Oh I know… don’t misunderstand me Bob.  We wanted you to have it.

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            I don’t think you understand the situation here Stan.  We’ve got to make this trip.

 

Stanley:            I do understand….

 

Robert:            (very tense) Well let me ask you a question Stan. (raised voice) Are you willing for Mother to be put in a home?  Are you willing for that?

 

(slight pause)

 

‘Cos that’s the alternative, Stan.

 

Stanley:            (smoothly) …I don’t think we’d question your decisions Bob. We wouldn’t. After all, you’re there and we’re here…  I’m sure you’re going to do the right thing…  And if there’s any way we can help out, say, financially or anything, then we’ll play our part; you know that.

 

 

69.             ROBERT’S HOUSE:

Robert has just put the phone down.  He is very angry.

 

Robert:            He won’t have Mother.  I can’t persuade him.

 

Jill:                        It’s her the selfish bitch.

 

Robert:            He offered to help out with money and that…It’s back to us Jill.  I’m sorry.

 

Jill:                        Money!   Robert what are we going to do?  We’re not passing up this chance -I’m not going to let you.  Do you understand.

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            I’ll go round and see her – I’ve got to take her phone.

 

For a moment they glare angrily at each other. Robert picks up Mother’s phone and exits looking back at Jill. When  he is out of earshot Jill shouts after him.

 

Jill:                        That’s it!  Ask her!  Ask her!

 

Sarah enters

 

Sarah:                        First sign of madness!  Talking to yourself.

 

Jill is at the sink.  She keeps her back turnedt to Sarah.  She is sobbing.  Sarah almost walks up to her then quickly turns away and exits as she notices Jill crying.

 

 

70.            ROBERT’S HOUSE:

Sarah re-enters cautiously.

 

Sarah:                        I was going to say – Grandma hasn’t called so far today.  Strange?

 

Jill pulls herself together

 

Jill:                        The phone’s broken.  Robert’s  round there now to fixing it.

 

 

71.            MOTHER’S FLAT:

Robert enters.

 

Robert:            I brought you your new phone Mother.

 

Mother:            Is it the same as the old one?  Will I be able to work it.

 

Robert:            Well it’s much the same – except there’s buttons now.  Here I’ll plug it in and you can start ‘phoning everybody to tell them you’re back.

 

Mother:            There’s no one I want to phone.

 

Robert:            There’s me and there’s the doctors.  They’re probably all wondering what’s happened to you.  A whole day.

Mother:            I’m not that bad.

 

Robert:            I was just joking – Of course you’re not.

 

Mother:            If they’d only listen to me, they’d save themselves a lot of time.

 

Robert:            What about Stanley.  You never phone Stanley and he’d like it if you did.  You could reverse the charge so you don’t get a big bill.

 

Mother:            I wouldn’t like to ask him.

 

Robert:            He wouldn’t mind. He does want to hear from you Mother.

 

Mother:            She wont let him.

 

(pause)

 

There’s something you said in the hospital.

 

Robert:            About Stan?

 

Mother:            Well it does affect Stan… About your father – not mourning him… I never looked at it from your point of view.  I’m sorry, Robert.

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            Mother we do need to talk…. I spoke to Stan about you going there.

 

Mother:            I know.  Stan won’t have me…

 

Robert:            How do you know Stan won’t have you.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            Stan ran away.  Stan’s always run away.

 

(pause)

 

I did want to tell you always…  That was the thing with Daddy.

 

Robert:            What is it you’re saying Mother?

 

LONG PAUSE            Pause

 

Mother:            Stan wasn’t my first born…  Freddy was…  I did want to tell you often…  the words wouldn’t come… Stan knows.

 

Robert:            (a bit scared) You have to be more clear Mother.  What does Stan know?

 

Mother:            About Freddy. Before you were born; I was pregnant with you…  We had a house on Coniston Water…  On sunny days we used to go for picnics on the lake…  Daddy and Stan and Freddy and me.

 

Robert:            Freddy?  Did he die?

 

Mother:            It’s such a long time ago.

 

Robert:            I’m 46 Mother… it’s all that time ago.

 

Mother:            Stan was four.  Freddy was six.  Your daddy had been drinking wine and he stood up to give a glass to me…  He lost his balance and the boat rocked…

 

(slight pause)

 

 

Robert sits down next to Mother and takes her hands

 

Freddy was leaning over the side and he just slipped into the water.

 

(long pause)

 

Robert:            (devastated) Oh Mother.

 

Mother:            It happened so quickly.  I remember it all in slow motion now.  Your daddy jumped into the water and I went in too.  The water was ice cold…  We could see Freddy turning and turning and we both reached down…  His body was slippery.  I managed to grab him once but his jacket came off and he slipped out of my hands. Your daddy grabbed him too but he slipped away from him as well.  He wasn’t struggling….Round and round and round and round….He just disappeared.

 

(slight pause)

 

We never saw Freddy again…

 

(slight pause)

 

We swam until it got dark and we were exhausted…We were lost on the lake. In the end people heard us shouting and we were picked up by another boat. But Stan wasn’t found until much later that night…  When they rescued us we were too exhausted to speak – they didn’t realise there was another child on the lake…  Stan was all those hours on that dark lake on his own…

 

(slight pause)

 

He’s never forgiven me.

 

Robert:            (closing his eyes)  My God. Poor Stan!

 

Mother:            That’s why he went away – as soon as he was old enough… I blamed your father.  Stan blamed both of us.  He loved Freddy, they were companions; but he never spoke about it.  We never mentioned his name again.

 

Robert:            (In tears)  I’m so sorry Mother, sorry, so sorry.

 

Mother:            You mustn’t hurt Robert.  It’s too late…  We left Coniston and came to London… we behaved as though Freddy had never existed.

 

Robert:            Freddy’s body, was it never found?

 

Mother:            They dragged the lake for days… the water’s very deep.

 

(pause)

 

That’s why Stan never wanted me Robert.  He remembers… he’s always been so lonely.

 

Robert:            It’s not fair Mother… To carry this burden…. All your days!.

 

Mother:            I wanted to protect you.

 

Robert:            It would have been so much better if I’d known. I’d have understood….And Stan – Perhaps I’d have made a better connection with him.

 

Mother:            I sometimes feel as though we all did die on that lake: Freddy and me and daddy and Stan and you weren’t even born…

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            (crying) Oh Mummy. Mummy, Mummy…Poor… Benighted life…Oh Mummy

 

Mother:            Don’t cry Robert.

 

Robert:            A stupid accident and all our lives were gone.

 

Mother:            You’ve had more than anybody else.  Stan’s been alone and so was your father – and so was I.  We all lost each other.  But you, we all loved you…

 

Robert:            I’m sorry Mother… sorry for all of us, sorry for Stan.  Sorry for you.

 

(pause)

 

Mother:            (carefully) Don’t leave me Robert…Promise…

 

Robert:            I can’t…  I’ll try… I can’t think now Mother.

 

Mother:            Promise me Robert.

 

Robert:            Mother it’ll be okay.

 

Mother:            (She starts to cry)  You would have loved Freddy.

 

Robert:            I know.

 

Mother:            Robert promise me.

 

Robert:            I will look after you Mother… I promise.

 

Mother:            I didn’t want you to be hurt Robert.  That’s why I never told you.

 

Robert:            I understand.

 

Mother:            I’m pleased I told you now…  I feel so tired.

 

Robert kisses her and then settles her and put the lights down. He exits.

 

 

Mother looks at herself in the mirror. After a while she takes her pill bottle and empties a few into a glass.  She pours water.  She sits looking at the glass and lifts the phone.

 

 

Lights fade

 

 

72.  ROBERT’S HOUSE

 

Sarah:                        Where’s Daddy?

 

Jill:                        I don’t know – he should be here.

 

Sarah:                        He’s got to sign my college forms.  I tried him at Grandma’s but the number’s engaged. It’s got to be posted tonight.

 

Jill:                        Well I’m going past.  I’ll drop in.

 

 

73.  MOTHER’S FLAT:

 

Dr Caplan enters.  Lights come up slowly.  Mother is sitting in her chair quite still and she looks peaceful.

 

 

Doctor            :            Hello.  You shouldn’t leave your door open.

 

We see the telephone dangling from the cradle.

 

Hello!

 

 

Doctor goes over to Mother’s chair and takes her pulse.  After a short while she feels her temples and her heart.  Jill enters, out of breath, and is startled to see the doctor

 

(Slight pause)

 

Jill and Doctor stare at each other

 

Doctor:            I’m afraid your mother’s dead.

 

Jill:                        (Completely shocked)  Oh… oh  Robert will be so… (she bursts into tears)

 

Doctor:            She didn’t suffer.

 

Doctor puts her arm around Jill’s shoulders.

 

Jill:                        I don’t know how I’m going to tell him.

 

Dr Caplan puts the phone back on the cradle.

 

Doctor:            Would you like me?

 

Jill shakes her head.

 

(pause)

 

Jill:                        I’m alright now.  I’ll phone.

 

She picks up the phone but before she can dial Robert enters. He takes in the situation and goes straight to Mother.  Jill comes over to be with him but he turns his back to her.  He kneels by mother’s chair.

 

Robert:            (in a child’s voice) Mummy, I’m so sorry, Mummy.

 

Jill:                        Robert!

 

Robert:            I didn’t mean it – I was never going to leave you…

 

Jill:                        (Shouting)  Robert, Robert!

 

Robert:            Poor Mummy.  Poor darling Mummy.

 

He picks her up out of the chair and lays her on the divan.

 

Poor Mummy.

 

He kisses her. Dr Caplin signals to Jill that she’s going.  Jill sees her to the door and comes back

 

Jill:                        Robert!  Look at me!

 

Robert ignores her.

 

(screaming) Robert!

 

Jill rushes up to him and pulls at his shirt

 

Robert – She had a long life Robert and she died peacefully.  She couldn’t ask for more.

 

Robert turns and stares through her.

 

Robert we did everything we could.  We gave our lives to her Robert. (screaming) Robert!  Speak to me!

 

 

Jill starts to sob and rushes up to Robert beating her fists against his chest.  He stands, ignoring her, letting her anger dissolve.

 

(going wild) She’s still winning Robert!  Yes. She’s still sitting on your shoulder.  You’re still tied to her apron strings! You know why she died, Robert? Out of spite! Sheer Spite! Because we’re going away. Nothing’s changed.  We’ll never be free!

 

 

74.  FUNERAL SCENE:

 

 

We hear the sound of footsteps on gravel.  In the background a hymn tune, “Abide with me”.  All the characters except Sammy are seen in silhouette walking across the stage.

 

 

75.  ROBERT’S HOUSE:

 

Robert:            It was good of you to fly over Stan.  How was Sammy when you left?

 

Stanley:            (slowly) Well she’s devastated, Bob.  We both are… (slight pause) That was our last chance… We wont try again.

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            We’re so sorry Stan.  All of us.

 

Stanley:            It’s ironic. I reckon Sammy miscarried just about the moment Mother died.

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            Mother was very sweet at the end Stan…  There was something special…I’ll miss her.

 

Stanley:            Well of course you will… But you’ve got your trip to get over it Robert… a great year in Africa.

 

(Long pause)

 

Robert looks over his shoulder to make sure Jill is out of hearing.

 

Robert:            I’ve decided… I’m not going to Africa.

 

(long pause)

 

Stanley:            Not going to Africa? Now? Are you kidding?  Are you crazy!

 

Robert:            I’ve really thought about it, Stan.

 

Stanley:            For Christ’s sake Robert, why?

 

Robert:            It isn’t a jaunt, Stan.  It’s a lot of exposure… I found I didn’t really want to go.

 

Stanley:            Christ you’re a damned fool Robert, you’re a stupid damn fool.  Okay, I know you’re upset about Mother’s death…  There’s no need to sacrifice yourself!

 

Robert:            It isn’t like that.  I’ve already told them at the department.

 

Stanley            Well, tell them you’ve changed you’re mind Sport!  They’ll understand! Doesn’t make any sense.

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            She had such a terrible life Stan.  I never understood.  If I’d known I could have helped her…. A tragic accident happens and you pay for it all your life….  Why didn’t she tell me ’till the end?

 

There is a long pause. Stanley’s head sinks forward as he struggles with his emotions. He nods to himself as though making up his mind. He raises his eyes and stares straight at Robert.

 

Stanley:            Accident? (slight pause) Accident! ACCIDENT! What did she tell you? (slight pause) Was it about Freddy?  (Shouting)  What did she say, Robert?

 

Robert:            I think her heart burst.  She told me everything Stan.

 

Stanley grabs him by the lapels. Robert staggers back, surprised.

 

Stanley:            Everything?  Look you sanctimonious bugger.  Tell me what she said.

 

Robert:            Stanley, let me go!

 

Stanley:            Tell me!  Tell me! TELL ME! The boat?  About the boat?

 

Robert:            Yes!  Yes! (shouting)  Freddy slipping over.  Everything.

 

Stanley releases him and Robert stumbles backward and falls.  Stanley stands over him, full of pain and anger

 

Stanley:            (vehemently) Well there’s a part she didn’t tell you sport.  Something you ought to know.

 

(slight pause)

 

 

 

Robert is scared by Stanley’s anger and backs away but Stanley follows him.  Jill enters and takes in the scene. She remains quite still.  Robert and Stanley don’t notice her. Sarah comes in and stands by her mother.

 

 

Look… Freddy wasn’t a normal child.  Did she tell you that?

 

Robert shakes his head

 

Well how about this then? He had a head the size of a balloon. Did she tell you? (he demonstrates) Like this.  Hydrocephalus.  Water on the brain.  They can treat it now sometimes, but then they couldn’t.

 

(slight pause)

 

(more tenderly) But he wasn’t daft.  He couldn’t speak properly but he had dancing eyes. When you spoke to him you knew he understood everything.

 

(slight pause)

 

He had a special chair that stopped his head from falling to one side; but he had to have everything done for him; food, toilet, washing; the lot…

 

(slight pause)

 

(with great emotion) See I loved him Robert.  I absolutely loved him.   He’d struggle to speak – and I sort of understood him.  He’d look at me and his eyes would dance and he’d say “Big fella!  Big fella!”  And I’d stroke his hands and his arms and his face and he’d chortle away. He knew we were brothers… That swollen head!  I suppose he was a monster really….But I thought he was beautiful.

 

(Slight pause)

 

I just thought of us as family…. I was four years old….I didn’t know what other families were like.  In fact I think we lived up in the lakes because it was so quiet. Freddy didn’t need to get noticed.  We could almost feel normal…

 

(slight pause)

 

And Freddy loved the lake; when we were out in the boat you could see him enjoying it. We’d take him out of his chair and lay him in the bottom so that he moved with the rhythm.  I’d lie there with him.  Sometimes we’d fall asleep together.

(slight pause)

 

See I saw what happened!  I don’t know if they knew I saw.  I had my eyes almost closed.  They probably thought I was asleep…

 

(slight pause)

 

Are you sure you want to know Robert?

 

Robert nods.

 

Mother picked up Freddy from beside me.  It seemed like she intended to hand him to Daddy.  They were both above me. She was holding Freddy just by the edge of the boat.  Daddy reached forward and the boat rocked…. I heard the splash as Freddy slipped into the water…  I was so scared….  I saw the expressions on their faces…

 

(slight pause)

 

After a few seconds they both jumped in…

 

(pause)

 

Perhaps I shouldn’t have told you.

 

There is a long pause.  Robert chokes with emotion and puts out his arms to embrace Stanley.

 

Robert:            It’s good – That we can share it Stan.

 

Stanley hesitates for a moment and almost accepts Robert’s gesture of affection.  But he turns away.  He cannot bear to share his grief with Robert

 

Stanley:            Yeah, it’s good.

 

Stan notices Jill and turns to her

 

Stanley:            I’m sorry you’re not going to Africa, Jill

 

Jill:                        (startled) Not going to Africa?  Who says we’re not going to Africa?.

 

She turns on Robert

 

Robert?   What have you done?

 

Stanley:            I’m sorry Jill, I thought –

 

Jill:                        (very upset) Listen, I want to know what’s  happening. Why aren’t we going to Africa Robert?

 

Robert covers his face in his hands

 

Are you punishing me? (screaming) What for Robert?  What have I done?

 

She rushes up to Robert and pummels his chest

 

Robert:            Leave me alone!  Leave me alone!

 

Sarah rushes between them

 

Sarah:                        Don’t, mum

 

Sarah pulls them apart

 

Jill:                        I must know Robert!

 

Stanley:            Jill, You’ve got to give him time.

 

Jill:                        Time!  I’ve given him my life! Him and her!  What more do they want?  Why is he punishing me?

 

Sarah:                        (distraught) Mum, it isn’t just dad.  You punish each other.  You do it all the time.

 

 

Robert:            I’m not punishing anybody. Don’t you understand? I can’t go on as though nothing has happened.

 

Jill:                        But what’s happened?  An old lady died.  That’s what happened.

 

Robert:            Is that all it was to you?  Didn’t you hear? Don’t you care?   She sacrificed her life.

 

Jill:                        And yours! And Stan’s. It wasn’t just Freddy she killed!.  She murdered the two of you as well! Look at you!  Neither of you could make a proper marriage!  You spent your life pandering after her – And Stanley spent his running away.

 

(slight pause)  then to Robert

 

It was another mother you wanted, not a wife!  And you Stan? (To Stanley) Why haven’t you had the child you wanted?  She put a curse on us all! (screaming)  It was her! She was evil!

 

Robert cries out and lunges at Jill. He seizes her by the throat. They fight. Sarah rushes between them

 

Sarah:               (crying out)  Stanley!  Help me! They’ll kill each other.

 

Stanley and Sarah pull Robert and Jill apart.  They stand, breathing heavily. Jill is sobbing

 

Stanley:            Hey, stop it! Jill, listen! I should have kept my big mouth shut…Robert, it’s history….

 

He holds up his hands

 

Look, I do have to get back – to Sammy

 

Jill:                        (sobbing) Yes, that’s it Stanley. Take off!  It’s what you’ve always done!

 

Sarah:                        That’s not fair, mum….

 

Stan:                        It’s okay Sarah…  We’ll talk…Another time.

 

Jill:                        Robert.  Say something!  To me!  To him!

 

Robert:            Look, can’t we just try…Oh for Christ’s sake If we could just…

 

Sarah:                        You’re all so divided!  There’s no communication… Mum, can’t you just love each other?

 

Jill:                        I can’t do it on my own Sarah. I can’t…sacrifice my life to something that happened before Robert was even born!

 

Sarah:                        I’m don’t mean sacrifice; something goes wrong, people turn in strange directions; there’s no reason: Everything stays inside…

 

Stanley goes to her and puts his arms round her

 

See it’s just now I realise how meaningful her life was…All our generations…they’ve gone…I’m sorry Stan I don’t care what she did. I do know she wasn’t a cruel person, or heartless…She did what she did because…No, I can’t judge her… There’s things now I wish I’d said before she died…I’m sorry…

 

(pause)

 

Robert:            What’s the difference? She’s gone!

 

Jill:                        But us!  We’re still living!

 

(pause)

 

Stanley:            Maybe I’ve done it all wrong, sport. Maybe she knew what she did would cripple her life; hers and dad’s.

 

(slight pause)

 

She made a terrifying choice. She didn’t understand that to carry on you need a vision of the future…She could only see behind

 

Sarah:                        Yes…yes…

 

Robert:            But you made a choice as well Stan – You condemned her. She must have felt that all her life…

 

(pause)

 

Stanley:            I know…  I’m sorry now.

 

Jill:                        Sorry!

 

Sarah:                        (trying to bring them together) I’ve got this picture of her in my mind. Wherever she is…. She’s sitting in her chair and she’s picking up the ‘phone….It’ll be tea bags and prescriptions…

 

(slight pause)

 

Stanley:            Yeah, gotcha Sarah…

 

(slight pause)

 

I have to go – I really have to go.

 

Stan moves towards Robert holding out his arms, but Robert looks away. He then turns to Jill but she stamps her foot and refuses to make contact. He shrugs

 

 

Sarah.  At least you’ll say goodbye to me?

 

 

Sarah takes Stanleys arm. They exit.

 

Robert and Jill are left standing awkwardly together, uptight. He dithers as if unable to decide whether to say goodbye to Stanley, then changes his mind.   He comes back and hovers behind Jill. She refuses to turn to him.

 

 

Robert:            Jill?  Jill!

 

Jill shakes her head but Robert comes to her.  She sits down and stares angrily after Stan and Sarah.  Gradually her expression softens.  Robert kneels in front of her and puts his head in her lap.  Slowly, tenderly she begins to stroke his head.

 

Jill:                        Darling Robert…

 

(slight pause)

 

Robert:            Mummy, mummy….

 

 

 

 

END

 

 

 

CAST

 

 

 

MOTHER            –            An old lady of 80 living in London

 

ROBERT            –            Age 46, her younger  son, also living in London

 

JILL                        –            Robert’s wife – around 40 years old

 

STANLEY             –            Age 50, the elder son – living in Los Angeles

 

SAMMY            –            Stanley’s second wife 36 years old.

 

SARAH            –            Robert’s 19 year old daughter.  Living with them in London

 

DR CAPLAN-            Mother’s GP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SCENES ARE PLAYED AGAINST A BACKGROUND OF MINIMALIST SETS; ROBERT’S HOUSE IN BATTERSEA, MOTHER’S FLAT IN FULHAM, STANLEY’S HOUSE IN CALIFORNIA. ALSO RESTAURANT, DOCTOR’S SURGERY ETC. LIGHTS RISE AND FALL ON THE APPROPRIATE AREA AS THE ACTION DEMANDS.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slowly Going Down

 

- PAGE 2-