Short plays of my life – #1: Earplugs

Miniaturists 34: Arcola Theatre, 25th March 2012.

Rice: Harrie Hayes (@harriehayes)
Hope: Monty Burgess (@montyburgess)

Directed by Katharine Armitage (@ksarmitage)

RICE sitting at a table, upon which is an unseen bed cradle which lifts a section of the cloth away from the table top (although in production a shoebox will suffice). RICE is drinking a cup of tea and cradling a shopping bag with a number of metallic-sounding, heavy items inside. RICE looks a little awkward – this is not their house.

It is HOPE’s house. HOPE is sitting opposite RICE under heavy sedation and appears very drunk. One of HOPE’s hands reaches under the bed cradle, hidden from the audience, but visible to RICE. RICE smiles awkwardly – a pause.

HOPE
Why… why don’t you do this in hospitals? I mean… that seems like the obvious place… for this kind of thing.

RICE
Well, I think there was a policy decision, that maybe, someone in your situation might prefer to have the procedure in a more familiar and comfortable environment. I can see where they were coming from, I mean, it’s not very nice thing, at the end of the day, so/

HOPE
/I’d rather have it in hospital. No one likes going to hospital, might as well be… consistent.

RICE
I know, yeah, yeah, I know. But I think also the hospitals didn’t like it. They didn’t like us there – doing this.

HOPE
Are you not a doctor then?

RICE
Me? No…

HOPE
Shouldn’t you be? I’d have thought it was essential.

RICE
We get… training. It’s actually quite simple, as it goes. And you’ll get a nurse come around for follow-up checks, make sure you don’t get gangrene or anything.

Pause.

HOPE
Awesome.

Pause.

RICE
That was very nice tea, thank you.

HOPE
You’re welcome. Thought I might as well make it a good’un.

RICE smiles awkwardly – moves the bag under the bed cradle and manipulates some of the things inside.

RICE
How are you feeling?

HOPE
I feel… like a little confused brain hovering above everything. Like I could just take off and fly about except there’s a forcefield keeping me here for some reason. Bastard forcefields.

RICE
(smiles) That’s what we want. (clink) Can you feel that?

HOPE
Feel what? (grins) Ha-ha, funny.

RICE
Funny is good. Can you tell me a joke you like?

HOPE
Actually, yes, yes, yes, I can, there’s a pub, and the barman’s setting up, he’s literally just opened for the day, and in comes this guy, he’s like, fifty, sixty years old, big wiry hair and staring eyes, wearing nothing but a dressing gown and slippers and he staggers over to the bar and gasps ‘double whisky please’, barman pours him the double whisky, old fella gulps it down and says ‘give me another one’, barman pours another drink, guy drinks it, ‘one more’ he says, barman pours it out, guy drinks it, this is three double whiskies in, like, a minute, barman’s a bit concerned, thinks he’s just about to collapse, the old fella says ‘ooooooh, I shouldn’t have had that with what I’ve got’, ‘what have you got?’ the barman says, and the old fella says ‘80p’.
(chuckles, then laughs loudly a few times)
I LOVE that! It’s only funny because it’s eighty pee, if it’s not eighty pee it’s not remotely funny. Whatcha doin?

RICE
At the moment, I’m pushing the tip of my scalpel right under your middle fingernail.
(pause)
Can you feel anything?

HOPE
A bit sick, to be honest.

RICE
That’s only because I’ve just told you about it.

HOPE
Yeah yeah, psychmacology, whatever – what’s your favourite joke?

RICE
(clink)
My favourite? God, erm…
(clink)
Actually it’s another man walking into a bar, I don’t have to tell it.

HOPE
Do it, men in bars are the funniest thing ever, clearly.

RICE
Alright. It’s basically your joke. Opening time, barman’s setting up and so on, barmaid at the bar, she’s fairly new. Man walks through the door, goes over to the wall, up the wall, across the ceiling, down the other wall and over to the bar. ‘Small brandy, please’, he says to the barmaid…
(extended wet slicing)
…she’s pretty baffled but she gives him his brandy, puts the money in the till…
(more slicing)
…there we go… she puts the money in the till, he drinks his brandy down, then walks over to the wall, up the wall, across the ceiling, down the other wall and out of the door. The barmaid turns to the barman and says, ‘that man was unusual, wasn’t he?’ The barman nods and says ‘Absolutely – normally he walks across the floor’.
(pause)
I like jokes like that, that aren’t actually jokes. Maybe I’m a bit weird.

HOPE
No, I, I, I like that one. I do.

RICE
You don’t have to, it’s fine.

HOPE
You’re in charge.

RICE
I’m not in charge, just doing what I do.

HOPE
Do you do a lot of these?

RICE
These in particular or just generally?

HOPE
Generally.

RICE
This year so far I’ve done a hundred and seven.

Pause.

HOPE
I don’t know whether or not that’s a lot or not. I’ll come back to you.

RICE
Thanks.

HOPE
You’re welcome.

RICE
Don’t think about it too much.

HOPE
You’re ever so nice.

RICE
Well, there’s no point being horrible about it, doesn’t help it get done.

HOPE
Yeah but I voted for it, I thought you’d have a hood and a hairy chest and stuff, and a, an axe the size of a person, but it turns out you’re lovely! I ran over a kid and, and you haven’t judged me once the whole time I’ve been here, I think that’s awesome. That’s quality impartiality.
(snip)
Even now, with the, the tendon…
(snip)
They could give you earplugs.
(snip)
If they can pump me up with painkillers and happy then I don’t see why a couple of earplugs would go amiss.

RICE
The drugs are mainly to protect me, not you. In case you take exception. Plus what what you learn if you were out cold all the way through?
(snip)
Also, you wouldn’t have heard my favourite joke.

HOPE
And I thought today would really suck.

RICE
Nah, that’s supposed to be/

HOPE
/the rest of my life, I know.

RICE
Sorry, I just have to, um…

HOPE
Yeah, yeah, do what you like.

A series of squelchy, cracking noises as RICE levers into the bones of HOPE’s wrist.

HOPE
Doesn’t want to go, does it?

RICE
They never do.

HOPE
Do you think it knows what’s it going to miss out on?

RICE doesn’t reply.

Pop.

RICE
There we are. All done.

HOPE
Great. That’s great. I mean, it’s not like a weight was lifted or anything, it’s… it’s still there, I still feel like a prick, but… yeah, feels real. Good stuff.
(pause)
Do I get to keep it? Or do you need it for your records?

RICE
Um.

HOPE
That was a joke. Sure there’s a procedure or something.
(pause)
Can I ask a weird question?

RICE
There are no weird questions.

HOPE
Was I being filmed? Just then? Have you got a camera on you, hidden somewhere?

RICE
What made you think of that?

HOPE
The thing is, you go to all the trouble of coming out here to my house, making me feel comfortable. I’ve had a great… an experience, but… there doesn’t seem a lot of point if it’s just you and me see it happen. You know? I mean, the family’s got to get something, not just the knowledge, the knowledge means fuck all, they need to feel you’ve gone out on a limb (pause – short nervous laugh) on a limb for them too. Right? That’s what I always thought would happen. That’s what I thought should happen. Isn’t that what they need?
(pause)
Have you met them, do you/

RICE
/no, no, that’s another one, that’s someone else. Different teams. Different skills.
(pause)
I just need to bandage you up now.

RICE bandages HOPE’s hand under the cloth.

RICE
Nurse’ll be in in a bit. Clear up, give you all your jabs. Nice clean one that, you did well.

HOPE
Oh fuck…

Pause.

HOPE
I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.
(pause)
If… if I do something else, something that’s as bad, does it go on? Until I’m… I’m just a lump?

RICE
I’ve never done it on the same person twice. Not that I know. I’m not exactly sure what the procedure is. To be honest, I imagine you’d probably go to prison – wouldn’t be much fun with… yeah.

HOPE
Can I keep it? Serious question now.

Pause.

RICE
Once it’s… off, it’s not legally a part of your body any more. It’s an output. There are processes of verification we need to do – to confirm it’s yours. And then, yes, yes, I suppose you can write- you can request to have it back, like Freedom of Information. I can’t see why that would be a problem.

Pause.

HOPE
Thanks. Handy.

Pause.

RICE
Well, you take care now. Nurse’ll be in to tidy up.

RICE exits. Slow fade on HOPE.

[Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this play and would like to stage it yourself, please do drop me a line – it would just be nice to know.]

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