We started with 1928 – so lets end in 8291. Write a play based around those numbers.
Oh go on then.
This challenge was inspired by a conversation I had with someone who revealed to me that 18 months ago he made a vow that if Brexit and Trump happen – I will stop reading the news, or hearing anything about it or discussing politics, or anything like that. He said he didn’t know if Ignorance was bliss, but he is the calmest he has been in years.
I wanted to end this month on a positive note, both in the content of the play and my satisfaction with what I had written. So inspired by the above quote and following the brief with my two leads being 82 and 91 years of age respectively, I give you my final play of the month: Bliss
The communal area of a care home
Sylvia is sat in her chair reading a book. Graham enters walking with a zimmer frame.
Sylvia: Here he comes, he comes Speed Racer.
Graham: Alright, alright.
Sylvia: He’s the demon on the wheels.
Graham: Give it a rest will you?
He takes a seat next to her.
Oooof, there we go.
Sylvia: And there you shall stay, until the carers can prize you out.
Graham: Hey I can get out of this chair whenever I damn well want.
Sylvia: Go on then.
Graham: I don’t want to.
A carer comes over and hands Graham a newspaper.
They offer one to Sylvia
Oh, no thank you darling.
Graham: Cor would you look at that?
Sylvia: How are the Grandkids Graham?
Graham: Oh yes they’re doing well thank you. Stuart passed his driving test last week.
Sylvia: That’s terrific.
Graham: And Susie is doing well with her Bachelor.
Sylvia: You what?
Graham: You know? Her Bachelor that she’s doing?
Sylvia: Her degree you old fool. Bachelor of Arts.
Graham: Oh I don’t know, something like that. It’s for her Erm-
Sylvia: Education? You do know what one of those is right?
Graham huffs up and opens up his newspaper, it is the Daily Mail.
Graham: Cor have you heard about this?
Graham: The story in the paper today? That Donald Trump is getting inaug-
Sylvia removes her hearing aids which muffles Graham’s talking. She sits back and relaxes in silence.
He goes on reading – Lights down
Lights up Graham is asleep in his chair. Sylvia enters.
Sylvia: Oh Nurse, I think the time has come; he has at last shaken off his mortal coil.
Graham: You what?
Sylvia: Don’t be fooled by that, it’s just wind
Graham: You cheeky bugger. If I wasn’t sat down-
Sylvia: Ha! Please, you’d have to catch me first, which isn’t a good idea at your age.
Graham: Cheeky mair, I’m eight years younger than you.
Sylvia: Nine actually and I could still run circles around you, all over this hall.
She sits down beside him.
Graham: Out of breath are we?
Sylvia: Don’t be ridiculous, I was just getting started. You fallen asleep reading again?
Graham pulls out a newspaper from the side of the sofa.
Obviously not then.
Graham: I was in the middle or reading something.
Sylvia: The Sudoku too challenging for you was it?
Graham: No it was this story; they say that North Korea have-
Sylvia: Oh hang on, can you excuse me just one moment. Let me tune the old ears in.
She turns off her hearing aids.
Graham talks but we hear no sound; he appears to ask “better?” To which Sylvia smiles and nods her head.
Graham continues to read the paper to Sylvia but all we hear is silence.
Lights up – Sylvia is asleep in her chair whilst Graham is now ranting and raving over a different newspaper. Sylvia’s hearing aids are turned off so we hear nothing of what Graham is saying.
Birdsong can be faintly heard in the distance.
Lights up. Sylvia is knitting and nodding her head every few seconds, as if she is pretending to listen to Graham who is reading from another newspaper. The previous newspapers have piled up around his chair.
Calm and soothing classical music is heard in the background.
The pair has a tray of food in front of them. We hear the sound of the seaside on a sunny day, as Sylvia sits there eating her sandwich in piece. Graham on the other hand hasn’t touched his food and is instead getting more irate about the stories in his newspaper. His face his red, his expression strained and his arms flapping all over the place. However we don’t hear what he has to say, as Sylvia’s hearing aids are once again switched off…
Lights up. Graham is sat next to Malcolm and the two of them are arguing about the story in the newspapers.
Malcolm: It’s a bloody disgrace. Brexit means Brexit.
Graham: What does that mean Malcolm?
Malcolm: It means what it means. That Brexit is happening, whether we like it or not?
Graham: It means what it means? Oh you stupid man! So essentially Brexit means Brexit, which means it’s going to happen. That’s as stupid as saying a fish is a fish, that may swim.
Malcolm: How is that a bad thing?
Graham: We won’t swim, we’ll drown. The High Court Judges-
Malcolm: -They are Enemies of the people. Its right here look!
He shoves the Daily Mail in his face.
And I know you read this Graham.
Graham: How dare you!
Sylvia: Morning Gents.
Malcolm: Sylvia! What do you think about this?
Graham pulls the newspaper out of Malcolm’s hands.
Graham: Don’t start with this fascist propaganda.
Malcolm: Give that back-
Sylvia: Just a moment, let me sort my ears out.
She turns her hearing aids off which mutes Malcolm and Graham in mid rant. She sits down and relaxes. A cup of tea is brought over to her and she enjoys a nice quiet drink to the sound of nature, as if she were sat in the park.
Meanwhile, in silence, Graham and Malcolm’s argument gets so heated that the two are now on their feet shouting at one another. It ends with Malcolm hurling himself at Graham and the two – still in silence – fighting one another as the carers rush in to break them up.
Newspapers are littered all around Graham’s chair. He is stood up, ranting and raving at the news channel on the T.V – all in complete silence to the audience – whilst calm classical music plays. After a good half a minute of ranting, Graham loses his balance and nearly falls, managing to catch himself on his chair. The carers rush over and help him into his chair. He brushes them off, claiming that he is fine. One of the carers grabs the remote and switches the T.V over onto something else. Sylvia opens one eye and looks at him.
She turns her hearing aids on; they let out a small noise.
Sylvia: Sorry, were you saying something?
Graham is out of breath.
You’ll catch your death like that.
Graham: I’m not cold.
Sylvia: Or should I say death will catch you – and it bloody will if you keep ranting and raving like a lunatic. It’s no wonder the carers don’t get you sectioned on the spot.
Graham: It was that… Have you heard about what that slapped arse Tangerine has done now?
Sylvia: You what?
Graham: My daughter and her new husband can’t go to America now.
Sylvia: He’s banned half the bloody press from his conference – banned them just like that. Think’s they all “fake news.” What a load of bollocks, he should learn to take bloody criticism and just bloody shape up or-
Sylvia: -Graham, Graham, Graham – Bring it down. I can see your veins bursting through your temples. I don’t want to see you give yourself a heart attack in front of me. Not when I’ve just had my tea, I’d like to keep my fluids down thank you very much.
Graham: But don’t you think it’s an outrage?
Graham: Him calling all of them Fake News? Not to mention the travel ban against all-
Sylvia: I haven’t got the slightest clue what you are talking about!
Graham: I… Have you not been listening to a word I’ve been saying?
Sylvia: Of course I have… just not to a word you’ve been shouting.
Graham: You what?
Sylvia: Just look at the State of your chair.
Graham looks around; it is littered with old newspapers.
You look like a bloody hoarder. I hate to think what your house was like before you moved here. This is a communal area you know? How did all of that get there?
Graham: How did all-? How do you think? I’ve been reading it all to you?
Sylvia: Have you? Sorry dear, I’m more an Austen girl myself.
Graham: You what?
Sylvia: Or a Bronte. Read me some of that and maybe next time I’ll keep the hearing aids switched on.
Graham: I… hang on, are you saying whenever I’ve been talking to you, you’ve turned your hearing aids off?
Sylvia: Calm it down Granddad-
Sylvia: Only when you read that tripe to me.
Graham: I’m only 82.
Sylvia: Every time those papers come out, so to do my aids.
Graham: If anyone’s the Granddad, it’s you.
Sylvia: Waste of bloody time.
Graham: Grandmother even.
Sylvia: Did you just call me a Granddad.
Graham: Grandmother, sorry.
Sylvia: Great Grandmother thank you very much – emphasis on the great. And if you’re not careful, you won’t make it to be one. A great Grandfather I mean.
She has a sip of tea.
Oooof that hits the spot.
Graham: Sorry, are you saying that whenever I’ve been reading a paper to you, you just take your hearing aids out.
Sylvia: Could do with another lump though.
Sylvia: No you- over the head. Getting into a fight with Malcolm, you’re 82 for goodness sakes, far too old to be getting into fights. I’m surprised no one had the others eye out, especially as Malcolm has a glass one.
Graham reaches down and grabs one of the papers.
Graham: That was his doing. He was saying these judges-
Sylvia places her hand by ears.
Sylvia: I’m warning you. I don’t want to hear it.
Sylvia: Put. The paper. Down.
Sylvia: I mean it. I can make it so that this little bugger makes a screeching noise when I pull it out my ear. Now… gently does it.
Graham slowly puts the newspaper down.
There’s a good lad.
She moves her hand away from her ear.
That’s nice; I can keep talking to you for longer than five minutes now.
Graham: But I don’t understand why you weren’t listening to me.
Sylvia: I wasn’t not- It’s not you so to speak. I just choose not to listen to or read any of that.
Graham: You don’t read the newspaper?
Sylvia: Don’t read it, watch it, or listen to it on the wireless.
Graham: (Amused) Wireless?
Sylvia: You heard me.
Graham: So… what you’ve never read a newspaper… in your entire life?
Sylvia: Oh don’t be stupid, I wasn’t born in a barn. Of course I’ve read a newspaper Graham.
Graham: What is it then? Why don’t you watch the news?
Sylvia: Why would I want? Every newspaper is full of scaremongering headline whose only aim is to make you feel miserable, because everything is horrible. Every news bulletin is preceded by the chimes of doom from Big Ben, designed to give you a heart attack in preparation for the barrage of awfulness that is due to follow. And any poor sod stuck with reading headlines on the radio has the most dull and monotone voice, as if they are trying to make the listener want to bash their head into a brick wall, so as not to have to suffer the ordeal of what are today’s headlines.
Graham: You do love being a drama Queen don’t you? Would you rather the Two Ronnie’s read out the headlines instead?
Sylvia: It’s not that Graham it’s – Well I’d rather spend my time not having to worry about the news. I don’t care what’s going on in the world, it’s all awful I know – but can I just get on with my life, please?
Graham: I never took you to being so ignorant Sylvia?
Sylvia: If ignorance means bliss then sign me up.
Graham: Still ignorance though.
Sylvia: Is it? And what’s your point if it is? I’m 91 years old Graham. And even though I am 9 years older than you, yet could still run rings around you and pass a medical faster than you could ever dream of, I know I’m not long for this world. So why would I want to waste my time being told how horrible it all is?
Graham: But… but it’s the news. We have- we should know what is going on?
Another resident has turned the T.V back on the news.
Sylvia: Should we? Maybe you should try just ignoring it. A bit of peace and quiet – it might do you some good, you know?
Another resident has sat down next to Graham and has started reading one of his papers.
Graham: What… So are- You’re saying I should just switch off- How, how can – I can’t just switch off!
Sylvia: Are you joking? We’re O.A.P’s we literally have an off switch.
She takes out her hearing aid. As she does the volume of on the television increases, it is showing a report about Trumps Muslim ban. Next to Graham one of the other residents is reading a newspaper story about a Terrorist attack. Behind him, two carers are talking about alleged Sexual assaulters can win Academy Awards. Someone else is talking about the prejudice against Transgender people in America, others are talking about the Women’s March, others are talking about natural disasters that have killed people, someone else is talking about a murderer being set free, someone else is talking about how the planet is slowly dying, someone else is talking about how famous people are able to avoid paying tax. This continues to build and build and build. Graham looks down, tempted to grab one of his newspapers and join in with one of the mass debates that are happening around him. Sylvia sits up and looks at him.
Give it a go.
She mimes flicking off a light switch.
Reluctant at first, Graham switches off and removes his hearing aid. Instantly all the noise around him is muted. He and Sylvia sit there in total silence. Graham looks around him, confused at first, but then he glances over at Sylvia who smiles at him. He smiles back.
The two take a deep breath in, fully embracing the silence and resting into the total and undisturbed bliss.