Below is the the opening part of the script from my stage play Perpetually.
It was inspired after I performed in Bishops Waltham Little Theatre’s 1989 production of one of the J.B. Priestley’s time plays, Dangerous Corner [pictured].
As a keen member of the theatre and budding writer I wanted to pen a story that was designed to give an opportunity to all the various aged members of the cast, particularly those who were involved in the annual pantomimes and summer shows but felt that there was no chance to feature in the more serious plays staged in spring and autumn each year.
When I had written this piece and offered it as a reading to the theatre committee it was declined, without consideration or even a reading. The reasons given were that previous member written pieces had received poor public reception. Plus when the group performed the serious plays in the spring and autumn ticket sales were poor in comparison to the big winter pantomime and summer shows.
These mega shows pulled in paying public audiences of around a thousand people and the local halls charged the group accordingly. Unfortunately this encouraged the halls to effectively overcharge for other performances which would only attract less than a quarter of these sales. In fact it often cost the group money to stage the serious plays and without a publicly recognised author or known title ticket sales were considered too big a risk.
As a result the play has never been staged, or indeed read through in any formal or informal sense [to my knowledge].
Did the theatre group make the right call? What do you think?
Feedback would be much appreciated. Does it work as a piece? Do you understand what it is saying? Is the dialogue compelling? Is it interesting? Would you want to see it staged?
Remember it is a completed piece of work. It may take a little time to read through both acts. As a result I have only included the opening part here. You will need to visit my website to get the full transcript.
Or if you are reading on a mobile device and want a smartphone formatted experience use vinceunlimited.co.uk/perpetuallym.htm
A Stage Play by Vince Poynter
Written around 1990
The curtains open on a bright country scene on a fine summer afternoon in England, present day. A large barn dominates the left of stage, its position preventing any stage access from up left. A small stone bridge is right of centre over a stream running downstage towards a tree, right downstage. A pile of rocks centre upstage, with the theme continued onto the backcloth imply restricted access, a dry-stone wall perhaps, along the back. The skyline is a clear blue over the hilly features. Some discarded farm waste (old barrels, straw bales, bags etc.) is piled up carelessly against the barn. The barn door hangs open on two of its four hinges. The access hatch at high level is also open in front of which precariously hangs a bag of grain from the jib above. Underfoot is grass. Note that unseen access can be made from within the barn to the loft.
Sounds of birds singing and insects chattering are heard throughout.
As soon as the curtains open an irritating whine is heard. The noise comes from a radio controlled car hurtling around centre stage. The model car runs into the barn door, reverses, drives forward and over the bridge off stage right. A moment’s pause and the car returns, crosses the bridge, spins round and round and careers into the mud at the edge of the stream, to a sudden halt.
Little girl: (Off) “Oh no!”
Little boy: (Off) “Ha Ha! Serves you right, my turn.”
Little girl: (Off) “No, mine … mine.”
Little boy: (Off) “Gimme that, it’s my turn, my turn now.”
The little girl and boy enter (upstage right) running. They are of a similar age, about six to eight years old. They are dressed in jeans and tee-shirts with soft shoes on their feet. Mud stains are on their knees and elbows, perhaps also on the face. They are happy, excitable.
The girl is first and she clutches the controller for the radio-controlled car. They cross the bridge, still arguing.
Little girl: (Entering) “You said that I could have a go.”
Little boy: (Following) “Only ’til you crashed it though. Now it’s my turn. You’ve smashed it up.”
The little boy pushes past the girl as they cross the bridge causing her to miss her footing and stumble into the pile of debris by the barn.
Little girl: (Stumbling) “Hey, watch out.”
The little boy laughs and gets to the model car first. He picks it up and turns to the little girl.
Little boy: “Come on then. Give it to me. Gimme the box.”
Little girl: (Recovering) “No I wont. It’s still my go. You’ve had your go. Give me the car.”
Little boy: (Holding car) “Well you can’t have it. It’s my turn now. You crashed it.”
Little girl: (Approaching boy) “It isn’t fair. Just five minutes, then it’s your go. Go on, just five …”
Little boy: (Interrupts) “No, my go, you smashed it up. Now it’s my …”
The little girl has approached the little boy and she suddenly pushes him over onto the ground. He falls awkwardly and after a moment’s pause starts to cry, deliberately audibly. The remote-controlled car has fallen to the ground and is picked up by the little girl. She takes it to centre stage, places it on the ground and starts to drive it around in circles. The little boy, noticing how she is playing with the car and ignoring his cries, stops crying, jumps to his feet and grabs the car as it passes him.
Little boy: (Defiantly) “I’ve got it now. So there.” (He sticks out his tongue).
Little girl: “But I’ve got the control box though …” (She runs toward the barn door then turns to face the little boy) “… and you can’t have it.” (She sticks out her tongue).
Little boy: “But it’s mine. You’ve got to give it back to me.” (Pause) “Now!”
Little girl: “Well I won’t, I won’t, I won’t. You said I could have a go.”
The little boy, sensing a stalemate, puts the car back down onto the ground. He starts to walk positively toward the little girl. She reacts by driving the car again. He turns back toward the car and stoops to pick it up. Before he gets to it she drives the car around him fast (well downstage). He grabs for the car but misses it. The car continues past the little boy, past the little girl and into the open door of the barn, fast. There is a crash. Silence. Brief pause. The little boy then runs toward and into the barn, pushing past the little girl. Pause. She looks anxious. The little boy returns holding the remains of the crashed and obviously broken car. He is sad.
Little boy: “Now look what you’ve done.”
Little girl: “That was your fault. You made me do that.”
Little boy: “My mum will kill me. I’m telling on you. It was you who did this.” (He holds up the car) “You broke my car.”
Little girl: “You broke my green tricycle the other day.”
Little boy: “No I didn’t. You were on it as well.”
Little girl: “You shouldn’t have been on it. It was your fault.”
Little boy: (Hurries past the girl) “Well I’m going back to tell her. You’re going to be in trouble now.” (He is starting to cry).
Little girl: (Following him) “I’m going to tell her it was you. You dropped it. Yes you did, didn’t you. I know. Nah, nah, na-na, nah.”
Little boy: (Crying) “You better hope it can be mended.”
Little girl: (Now also starting to cry) “I only played with it because you wanted me to.”
They are crossing the bridge, stopping only to argue. Then leaving upstage right.
Little girl: “Could your dad fix it? He fixed the train set.”
Little boy: “He’s away. Mummy said he’s in hospital.”
Little girl: “Stupid car anyway.” (They are leaving)
Little boy: (Now off) “You didn’t have to play with it.”
Little girl: (Also off) “You said you wanted someone to …” (Trails off)
They have exited. Silence, except the continuing bird-song and other background noises. Pause.
Two adolescent teenagers stroll in, arm in arm, downstage right. They are both of a similar age, about 15 to 16 years old. Modern dress; jeans and tee-shirt on the boy, the girl with a simple green skirt and blouse, her shoes suitable for a relaxing walk in the country. He has a boy scout type knife in a leather sheath on his belt. They are intensely discussing a subject but are not arguing. They seem carefree.
Boy: (Entering) “… But that’s not the point. I suppose I can see your side of the argument but that can’t possibly happen can it? How can it? Surely as many girls have to as boys do.”
Girl: “Yes. I can see that. But that doesn’t change my point of view. And all my friends agree.” (She stops and faces him direct) “Tell me, how many of your friends have?”
Boy: “They all have. All my mates have.”
Girl: (Laughing) “Even Danny?”
Boy: “Yes … Well everyone except Danny.” (He laughs along too).
Girl: “They tell you that they have.”
Boy: “I know they have.”
Girl: (Passing the boy onto the bridge) “You think that they have because they say so. You can’t really be sure. You don’t really know do you?” (Teasingly) “Or have you seen (She giggles)
Boy: “Oh come on. Everyone has …”
Girl: (Interrupting) “Except Danny.”
Boy: “Except Danny … yes. It’s a fact. Oh come on …”
He has grabbed her by arm. She turns away from him off the bridge.
Girl: “No. Not now. Not here … Not yet …” (She pulls away) (Teasingly) “Maybe never.”
She escapes from his grip and runs toward the barn. He gives chase. They are laughing, happy.
Girl: “You won’t catch me! … You’ll never get me!”
Boy: “Come here! … Come back … I’ll get you!”
Girl: “Maybe never!”
The boy eventually traps the girl up against the barn.
They look at each other deeply. He kisses her hard on the lips. She resists after a brief moment then pushes him away.
She escapes under his arm and runs away, but only a few steps. They are both facing away from each other. He is left looking at the barn, she is centre stage looking right.
Boy: (Seriously) “But we’ve known each other since we were kids. We shared everything.” (He turns toward the girl) “It’s meant to be.”
Girl: “Who says?”
Boy: “That’s just the way it is. Can’t you see that? You, me … you know.”
Girl: “You can’t even say it. You can’t even bring yourself to say it.”
Boy: (He steps one pace forward) “Yes I can.”
Boy: (Stepping forward again. He is now quite close behind her) “Yes. I can. You know that.”
Girl: (Turning sharply to him) “Go on then.”
Boy: “Well …” (He looks around sheepishly, as if there are others around) “You know …” (Positively) “It!” (He laughs).
Girl: (Annoyed) “No! Don’t! Not it! You had better ask me nicely and then I might say yes.”
Boy: (Eager) “Yes.”
Boy: “Oh, alright. If you insist …”
Girl: “Yes I insist. Or else is definitely ‘No’.”
Boy: “Alright … Here goes … Will you? … Will you? … You know … with me?
Girl: “Properly. Or I definitely won’t.” (She turns away again).
Boy: (Lunging forward and grabbing her arm, he pulls her to face him) “Alright. Alright … Will you sleep with me?”
A pause. They stare at each other. She is surprised, not at the suggestion, but his sudden confidence. He looks increasingly expectant, his eyes widening.
Girl: (Breaking the moment) “Sleep?”
(She turns away, slightly embarrassed, slightly amused).
Boy: (Hands dropping to his side) “You know … You know what I mean. Don’t you.”
Girl: “Is that what your mates do, sleep?” (She chuckles)
Boy: “No, no … It’s just a phrase.” (She laughs at him) “Oh you’re impossible.”
The boy turns away. He gets his knife out and stoops to pick up a piece of wood on the ground nearby. He starts to whittle the wood. The girl notices that she has upset him.
Girl: “Hey, come on. Don’t take it so bad.”
Boy: “You’re rotten to me. I don’t know why I go out with you anyway.”
Girl: “Oh don’t be like that. Hey …” (He stops whittling but still looks down) “… don’t take it like that. It’s not that I don’t want to. I do. It’s just not good now.”
Boy: (Turning, knife in hand, almost menacingly) “Not good now?”
Girl: (Explaining) “No. It’s my dad. He’s ill. I don’t feel like it at the moment.”
Boy: “Oh, there’s always an excuse. If it’s not one thing it’s another.”
Girl: “You don’t understand. Your dad was bad once. And he died.”
Boy: “That was a long time ago now … How is your dad?” (He puts his knife away).
Girl: “Oh, not too bad. He’s just been off work today, that’s all. A touch of flu perhaps?”
Boy: “Oh, I am sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed you.”
Girl: “No, no. That’s alright. Quite alright. He’s not too bad it’s just …”
Boy: (Interrupts) “Yes, I understand.”
Girl: “It’s not that I don’t want you. I do. I love you.”
Boy: “I love you too.”
They are close. They look deep into each other’s eyes. Their heads move together and are about to kiss.
Girl: (Suddenly putting her hand over his mouth) “What’s that?”
Boy: (Muffled) “What?” (She removes her hand)
Girl: (Looking upstage right) “I think I heard a noise. Did you hear anything?”
Boy: (Looking) “No. What was it?”
Girl: “Over there, someone’s coming. Let’s go.”
She runs past the boy and heads for an exit down left. He follows and grabs her arm just before she exits.
Boy: “Stop. Quick. In here.” (He ushers her toward the barn).
Girl: “In there?”
Boy: (Deliberately) “Yes, come on. It’ll be alright.”
There are voices heard offstage right.
Girl: (After a moment’s deliberation) “Oh go on. After you. Let’s hide.”
They run into the barn together.
Boy: (In barn, not seen) “Quick, up here.”
Girl: (In barn, not seen) “You first.”
Boy: “No you. Go on.”
Girl: “Alright …” (sounds of the two ascending a rickety wooden ladder) “It’s not very safe.”
Boy: (Laughing) “I can see right up your …”
Girl: (Laughing) “Shhh!”
Boy: “Hurry up … hey over there. Come back.”
The girl appears at the high level access hatch in the barn. She is looking out for the others which she heard. The boy appears next to her and puts his arm around her waist.
Boy: “Come on. Come back in here. Come and make love”
Girl: (Warmly holds his hand on her waist) “O.K.”
He walks back into the barn. She is led away. They are both out of sight.
Girl: (Off) “Over there. That’s a good place.”
Laughter is heard from within the barn. It tails off.
A woman enters (upstage right) walking quickly. She is about 30 to 35 years old. She wears a loose light jumper and skirt and is rowing with the man following her. He is about the same age, wearing a short sleeved shirt and casual trousers. Their argument is intense and passionate…
…To be continued…
You will have to go to the full script page on my website if you want to read the rest.
Author: Vince Poynter
From Perpetually, from the Stage Plays and Writing sections of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 11 Apr 2018 but first written around 1990 and first published on the website in Jul 2005
The photograph is a still image taken by the author’s wife of a performance of J.B. Priestley’s 1932 stage play Dangerous Corner. One of his trilogy of ‘time plays’, originally premiered in 1932. The photograph shows four of the characters dancing on the set of the stage as performed by the Bishops Waltham Little Theatre in their 1989 staging. The author is the gentleman dancing on the right