A while back I had two scenes performed in a showcase at RADA, taken from a new play I’m working on. Unsurprisingly, it’s about journalists again. I’m quite happy with how it all turned out, after hitting my head against it for a fair while. Here’s the opening scene:
An office on a ship in the North Sea. A pirate radio station specialising in the news. Avi and Nate sit either side of a desk. Nate has a bag. Avi is filling out a form for him. She has worked there for several years. He is brand new.
Avi: You ever lived on a boat before?
Nate: Er… no.
Avi: Hard to pack, then?
Nate: Awful, actually. I didn’t know what to bring.
Avi: No-one does. My first time I had one change of clothes and a copy of the I Ching. But I left in hurry. Not even a toothbrush. Next of kin?
Avi: Who do we call if you fall over the side?
Nate: Er… Maggie. Margaret Elizabeth Best. She’s my sister.
Avi: Don’t want to put your parents?
Nate: No. Not really.
Avi: You haven’t told them.
Nate says nothing.
Me neither. Okay. Last page: I won’t be much longer. That’s your desk there, by the way, go and make yourself at home.
Nate: The one with the maps?
Avi: You’ll share it with Freddie: he’s the navigator.
Nate goes over to the desk, puts his bag down, and looks at the maps.
You any good with maps?
Nate: I… no, not really. I mean I was vice president of the Wolfson College Orienteering Society. But we were terrible.
Nate: No, the other one.
Avi: (Slight pause)Right.
Nate: Where were you?
Avi: I wasn’t anywhere.
I didn’t know Orienteering was competitive.
Nate: You do it timed. Against other teams. First ones round all the targets and back home again win.
Avi: Why were you terrible?
Nate: Pardon me?
Avi: Couldn’t tell east from west, or were you just slow?
Nate: Well we weren’t really in it for the competition. It was more for the fresh air and barbecues.
Avi: I see.
What’s your blood type, again?
Nate: ‘A’ positive.
I’ve never… seen ocean maps before. I didn’t realise they were so detailed: you expect it to be all… blue.
Avi: Well they’re not. Navigation’s important: you’ve got to respect it. If you don’t, you’re lost, out on your own, facing the sailor’s conundrum.
Nate: I don’t know what that is.
Avi looks up.
Avi: Never heard it?
Nate shakes his head.
No, you wouldn’t have. Okay. So you’re lost in the middle of the ocean. No help; no horizon. There’s no more water, but you’re dying: you have to drink something. And of course there are only two fluids on your vessel in plentiful supply. One from without, one from within. Urine or seawater. Piss or brine. Which one do you drink?
Nate: Do you want me to choose?
Avi: Everyone has to choose.
Nate: I don’t… really know.
Nate: Seawater. I suppose.
Avi goes back to the form.
Nate: Is that not the right answer?
Avi: There isn’t really a right answer. You’ll probably die either way.
Nate: Oh. What a fun game.
Avi: Worse things happen at sea, kid. You’ll meet the guys later: they’ll break you in with much worse questions. Like whether you’d rather fuck your mum or get fucked by your dad.
Avi: I’m the nice one. Have you ever fired a gun?
Avi: A gun: have you ever fired a gun. It’s important.
Nate: I… shot a deer, once.
Avi: Really? Why?
Nate: We were hunting.
Avi: As in killing for fun.
Nate: My grandfather has land.
Avi: I’ll bet he does.
Nate: I was… fifteen.
Avi: Was it fun?
Avi: Ever fired anything else?
I’ll show you how to fire a revolver.
Nate: Oh, okay. Is that necessary?
Avi: Don’t be such a fucking pussy. Yes. One day you might need it. This isn’t a game reserve: a lot of people want to shut us down and I’m not inclined to let them.
I’m done here. Do you have any questions?
Nate: I’m sorry.
Avi: What for?
Nate: Which would you choose? Piss or brine?
Avi: Piss. But I’d make sure everyone else was drinking brine. Their kidneys filter out the salt and they pee it out crystal clear.
She slides the form over to him.
Not having second thoughts, are you?
He looks at her.