Mates – a play with music

Book and lyrics by Laurence Roman
Music by A R Cox
Additional music by Laurence Roman

 

Characters: REG
LOUISE – REG’s wife
STU – their friend
ISABEL WALKER – a journalist

[The action takes place on the ground floor of REG and LOUISE’s house. We can see some of the garden. Before the front door there is a small, family saloon car. The house is ex-council – pebble-dash, metal window frames, lots of white gloss-paint. The garden is crazy-paved. There are one or two bald rose-bushes and jardinières containing stunted, browning conifers. The sitting room contains a newish, inexpensive three-piece suite, a large coffee-table and a television set. The only decoration is wall-mounted jigsaw-puzzles, as large and fussy as possible: The Laughing Cavalier, The Kodokan Gate, a sports-biker in all-in-ones negotiating a tight bend – all fragmentary elements (as it will turn out) of REG’s past life. The floor is carpeted inexpensively in thick-pile, on which there is a pale-coloured rug. On the coffee-table there is another incomplete jigsaw-puzzle. Through the upstage door of the sitting room we can see the hall with stairs leading to the first floor. The kitchen is equipped predictably: mass-produced units, a cooker, sink and so forth. Everything is meticulously clean and tidy.]
Music 1: OVERTURE

[We hear the sound of a motorcycle accident cut across the OVERTURE. The music stops abruptly. Blackout. We see REG, tightly lit, sitting in his wheelchair.]

 

Music 2: THE WAY THINGS COULD HAVE BEEN

REG: I’VE GOT OVER ALL MY ANGER,
I’VE ACCEPTED ALL MY PAIN.
I JUST WISH WE’D BOTH BEEN BRAVE ENOUGH
TO SPLIT UP AND START AGAIN.
WE WERE BLOWING FADING EMBERS,
TRYING TO COAX A FEEBLE FLAME;
MOVING CHESSMEN TRAPPED IN STALEMATE,
NEVER DARING TO ADMIT WE’D BLOWN THE GAME.

I’VE GOT OVER FEELING BITTER, I’VE GOT OVER BLAMING YOU.
I KNOW YOU TRIED TO MAKE THINGS WORK
AND, GOD KNOWS, I TRIED TOO;
AND I HOPED THAT WE COULD, MAYBE,
REAP A BIT OF WHAT WE’D SOWN,
BUT I NOW CRY LIKE A BABY
‘CAUSE I REALISE I HOPED IT ON MY OWN.

SO THE TIME HAS COME TO STOP AND LOOK AROUND US
AND TO DARE TO STARE DIRECTLY AT THE SCENE;
THE FRAGMENTS OF OUR SHATTERED LIVES SURROUND US,
AND WHICHEVER WAY WE TURN
WE MUST WATCH THE PICTURE BURN
OF THE PROMISE OF THE WAY THINGS COULD HAVE BEEN.

BUT I STILL REMEMBER GOOD TIMES,
AND I HOPE THAT YOU DO TOO,
LIKE THE KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU NEEDED ME
AND THAT I NEEDED YOU;
OR A HAPPY SEASIDE MEMORY
OF WALKING HAND IN HAND,
EATING ICE CREAMS IN THE SUNSHINE,
OR, BY MOONLIGHT, MAKING LOVE UPON THE SAND.

BUT THE TIME HAS COME TO STOP AND LOOK AROUND US
AND TO DARE TO STARE DIRECTLY AT THE SCENE;
THE FRAGMENTS OF OUR SHATTERED LIVES SURROUND US,
AND WHICHEVER WAY WE TURN
WE MUST WATCH THE PICTURE BURN
OF THE PROMISE OF THE WAY THINGS COULD HAVE BEEN.

[REG begins doing arm-exercises with weights. The television is on. LOUISE and STU have just got out of the car.]

STU: Thanks for picking me up.
LOUISE: That’s okay. It’s too far to walk. Shit, I’ve forgotten the tea bags.
STU: You’re looking great. Lost weight.
LOUISE: Have I?
STU: Yeah. Suits you.
LOUISE: Must be stress.
STU: Your boss still giving you a rough time?
LOUISE: He’s not my boss he’s my …
STU: [chiming in] … he’s your supervisor.
LOUISE: Well he is. There’s a difference.
STU: Sorry. I’m glad you invited me.
LOUISE: It was Reggie’s idea. For the interview. The Sunnyside Project.
STU: I’m bricking it.
LOUISE: The journalist was really nice. Said she’d keep it informal. You have got your judo stuff, haven’t you?
STU: [indicating his sports bag] Right here.
LOUISE: For the photos.
STU: Does Reg – suspect anything?
LOUISE: About what?
STU: Us.
LOUISE: Not about you.
STU: Thanks.
LOUISE: For what?
STU: Not telling him.
LOUISE: Why should I have? It’s my problem now. We’d best go in; he’ll have
heard the car.
STU: Why does he want me here?
LOUISE: You were his best friend.
STU: I won’t know what to say.
LOUISE: He looks perfectly normal.
STU: I don’t mean that. I mean the journalist.
LOUISE: You’ll be fine. Come on. Don’t forget your bag.

[LOUISE opens the front door and she and STU go in. He holding his sports bag.]

LOUISE: [calling] Hi, love! We’re here.
REG: Took your time didn’t you?
STU: [calling] Hi, Reg.
REG: [turning off the television with the remote-control] Stu, you old bugger!
STU: [to LOUISE] Where shall I put my bag?
LOUISE: Oh, just dump it.

[LOUISE enters the sitting-room, kisses REG and puts the car-keys on the table.]

REG: Hello, love.
LOUISE: [leaving] I’ll get tea.
[LOUISE goes into the kitchen.]

STU: [entering the sitting-room] Reg.
REG: Bloody good to see you, mate. How the hell are you?
STU: Not bad. You?
REG: [extending his hand] Never felt better. [as STU takes his hand] Don’t
worry, it won’t fall off.
STU: [shaking REG’s hand] Great to see you too.
REG: Sit down, mate. How’s things?
STU: Can’t complain. You’ve been out in the sun.
REG: What?
STU: Got a tan.
REG: Holiday in Bermuda. Gin Daiquiris. Fit birds. Lovely.
STU: All right for some.
REG: I wish. UV treatment twice a week. For my psoriasis.
STU: You home for good now?
REG: Still go back for check-ups. They’ve got to monitor my progress.
STU: Just routine, though?
REG: I wouldn’t miss a good monitoring for the world. Those nurses – hands like velvet.
STU: Dirty old sod!
REG: Jealousy will get you nowhere, me old son. Ever had a bed-bath? [He
makes an obscene sound.]
STU: You haven’t changed.
REG: Not me. I reckon one of them nurses fancies me. The places she thinks of to test my reflexes; shouldn’t be allowed.
STU: No wonder they discharged you. Bloody menace.
REG: Nothing wrong with me, mate. Fit as a fiddle.
STU: So, what’s with this interview?
REG: Local rag. The Sunnyside Project. Some bird’s doing a report on local
heroes braving it through adversity.
STU: Oh yeah?
REG: Her words, not mine. Reckons people’ll want to read about me.
STU: Reckon they will.
REG: Nah. Doing it for Louise; keep her happy. Her idea.
STU: Where do I fit in?
REG: You, me old son, are my big success story. One of Reg’s lads.
STU: I’ll do my best.
REG: You made yourself pretty bloody scarce.
STU: I didn’t know how you were with visitors.
REG: I don’t bite.
STU: Sorry.
REG: ‘Phone call, maybe, once in a while. Wondered how you were.
STU: I’m fine.
REG: Good for you, mate. I’ve missed you.
STU: I’ve missed you too.
REG: Still go out much?
STU: Not really.
REG: That’s what I miss most: going out.
STU: We had a laugh or two.
REG: Pictures. Pub. Hospital’s shit.
STU: You’re out now.
REG: Too bloody right.

 

Music 3: TOO BLOODY RIGHT

STU: BURNING AROUND THE TOWN AT NIGHT.
PLENTY TO DO,
TEN UNTIL TWO.

REG: LIVING YOUR LIFE BY NEON LIGHT.
PEOPLE TO SEE,
PLACES TO BE.

BOTH: RIGHT THROUGH FROM NINE TILL FIVE
YOU DO AS PEOPLE SAY,
BUT THEN YOU COME ALIVE
AS EVENING BRINGS THE DAWNING OF YOUR DAY.

REG: TOO BLOODY RIGHT, MATE!

STU: CATCHING LAST ORDERS DEAD ON CUE;

REG: DONER KEBAB

STU: HOP IN A CAB

REG: CHECK OUT THE ODEON, SEE WHAT’S NEW:

STU: STARSHIP ATTACK.

REG: NINJA IN BLACK.

BOTH: A THOUSAND FAMOUS PLACES
FLASH ACROSS THE SCREEN.
A THOUSAND FAMOUS FACES;
ALL THOSE PEOPLE YOU’D HAVE RATHER BEEN.

STU: TOO BLOODY RIGHT MATE!

HANGING AROUND AN ALL-NIGHT BAR
SHARING A JOKE,
HAVING A SMOKE.

REG: TALKING ABOUT THE WAY THINGS ARE;
LETTING YOUR MIND
SLOWLY UNWIND.

BOTH: THE LIGHT-SHOW AND THE BLARING
MUSIC CLOUD YOUR BRAIN.
THE DRINKING STOPS YOU CARING
IT WILL SOON BE DAYLIGHT ONCE AGAIN.

STU: TOO BLOODY RIGHT MATE!

BOTH: STAGGERING HOME AT THREE OR FOUR;

REG: SINGING OFF KEY,

STU: LOUD AS CAN BE.

REG: FINALLY FINDING YOUR OWN FRONT DOOR;
FIGHT WITH THE LOCK,
TOO LATE TO KNOCK.

BOTH: YOU CLAMBER UP TO BED
AFRAID OF FALLING DOWN.
NEXT DAY YOUR POUNDING HEAD
REMINDS YOU OF YOUR NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN.

STU: A few nights out with the lads’ll put you right.
REG: I’m bloody counting on it, mate. You must be training hard.
STU: On and off.
REG: County Championships soon.
STU: Too soon.
REG: Getting twitchy, eh?
STU: My groundwork’s shit.
REG: So what’s new?
STU: That wanker, Stokes, mashed me in the semis.
REG: He’s a big boy. Wazari?
STU: Ippon.
REG: Still, you’re through to the finals, eh?
STU: Just.
REG: “Just” is good enough.
STU: Luck.
REG: We all need a bit of that, me old son. [shouting] Lou, chuck us a cup of
tea.
LOUISE: [shouting] We haven’t got any. You’ll have to have coffee; I forgot the
tea bags.
REG: For God’s sake, love; get your act together. [to STU] You’d think I was
asking for blood.
STU: Must be nice having time on your hands.
REG: I fill my days. Weights mainly. You?
STU: Usual.
REG: “All work and no play …”
STU: So they say.
REG: What’s new at the dojo?
STU: Not a lot. Don’t get down that often. Couple of times a week if I’m lucky.
REG: Slacking. Passed your second dan yet?
STU: Don’t ask.
REG: Do I smell a cock-up?
STU: Could say that. Buggered the groundwork.
REG: Plonker. When’s the next grading?
STU: Don’t know. Might give it a miss this time round.
REG: Come off it, mate. You’ll breeze it.
STU: They’ve got it in for me – Steve and that other sensei. You know, the
blonde bloke with the ‘tache.
REG: I thought you stuffed up the groundwork.
STU: It wasn’t that bad.
REG: You’ll get it next time; you’ve just got to pull your finger out.
STU: We’ll see.

[LOUISE enters.]
LOUISE: You two okay out here?
REG: ‘Course we are. Come and give your old man a smack.
LOUISE: You’ve had one already.
REG: Who’s counting?
LOUISE: [going to kiss him] I’ve got to get tea. Clear the place up.
REG: What’s there to clear up? It’s spotless.
LOUISE: They’ll be taking pictures.

[REG grabs LOUISE and bites her neck. She squeals.]

Reggie, for God’s sake! You are an idiot.
REG: [letting her go] You love it!

[REG makes a final growling lunge at LOUISE.]

LOUISE: Ow! Don’t be so rough, Reggie.
REG: Sorry, it’s that arse. I can’t help myself.
LOUISE: Hands off! I found you a tea-bag.
REG: Blinding. Give us a kiss.
LOUISE: [leaving] You must be joking.

[LOUISE leaves to the kitchen.]

REG: I hope you’re taking good care of Diane. That girl’s a diamond.
STU: Things are a bit up in the air right now.
REG: You sad bastard. You stuffed that up too?
LOUISE: [calling from the kitchen] Do you both like rosemary?
REG: [calling] Depends on her measurements.
STU: She says she needs some space.
REG: Ah, the beginning of the end. You’re letting yourself go, me old son;
failed your grading, lost your bird. You’re meant to be my big success
story.
STU: I’m doing okay.
REG: Given up shaving?
STU: [feeling his face] It’s what’s in right now. Rugged style.
REG: It looks like shit.
STU: What is this?
REG: It does.
STU: Leave off!
REG: I’m getting worried about you.
STU: I’m fine.
REG: Take your word for it. Pity about the judo, though. You could be
okay.
STU: We’ll see. Tell you the truth, I’m not that bothered any more.
REG: It’s criminal, wasting yourself like this. Look at you.
STU: I don’t need this.
REG: Mustn’t take it to heart. Just your old trainer having a go.
STU: I’m snowed under. New overtime rota.
REG: Life in Accounts hotting up, then? Listen, mate, you want time, you make time.
STU: That’s easy for you to say.
REG: Depends how you look at it, really. I’ve got all the time in the world.
STU: I didn’t mean it like that.
REG: You could be a champion.
STU: I could be my arse.
REG: Have it your way. Your loss.
STU: Reg, you can’t blame me for what I can’t do.
REG: Don’t talk to me about not being able to do things.
STU: I’m not what you think I am.
REG: You could be if you wanted.
STU: But I don’t want.
REG: One of Reg’s lads? I don’t think so.
STU: I’m not sure this was such a good idea, Reg. I’m pissing you off.
REG: Yep.
STU: Shall I ask Louise for a lift to the station?
REG: Please yourself.
STU: I’m in the way.
REG: Don’t expect me to beg.
STU: Do you want me to stay?
REG: You know what? Piss off!

 

Music 4. WHAT DO YOU THINK IT’S LIKE FOR ME?

WHAT DO YOU THINK IT’S LIKE FOR ME, MATE,
WATCHING THE WORLD GOING BY MY CHAIR?
PILLOCKS LIKE YOU ARE A SIGHT TO SEE, MATE
WINGEING AND WHINING THAT LIFE’S NOT FAIR.

STU: AND JUST WHAT THE HELL AM I MEANT TO DO, MATE,
AND JUST WHAT THE HELL AM I MEANT TO SAY?

REG: I’M NOT AFTER SYMPATHY, NOT FROM YOU, MATE;
I DOUBT IF I’D GET ANY ANYWAY.

STU: I DARE SAY WHEN YOU ASKED ME ROUND,
YOU THOUGHT US FRIENDS WHO SHARED A PAST,
BUT TIME CAN TRAMPLE COMMON GROUND
AND FRIENDSHIPS ALTER. THINGS DON’T LAST.

REG: LISTEN, MATE, I’D SAY THAT THAT DEPENDS
ON WHAT YOU MEAN BY “FRIENDS”,
I FOUGHT YOUR BATTLES RAIN OR SHINE,
TOO BAD YOU WEREN’T SO KEEN ON MINE!

STU: AND JUST WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY, MATE,
AND JUST WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TRYING TO PROVE?

REG: TRY LYING IN HOSPITAL DAY ON DAY, MATE,
WILLING YOUR BODY TO FEEL OR MOVE.

STU: SURELY YOU DON’T WANT TO WALLOW
IN MY PITY; NOT YOUR STYLE.
SURELY YOU DON’T WANT SOME HOLLOW
PLATITUDE OR EMPTY SMILE.

REG: ONCE THEY’VE ALL AGREED UPON
THE FACT THERE IS NO HOPE FOR YOU –
YOUR WALKING DAYS HAVE BEEN AND GONE –
THEN YOU CAN PITY YOURSELF TOO.

[LOUISE enters.]

LOUISE: I CANNOT BELIEVE, AFTER MONTHS APART,
THE FIRST THING THE PAIR OF YOU DO IS FIGHT;
FIVE MINUTES TOGETHER’S ENOUGH TO START
YOU WINDING EACH OTHER UP GOOD AND TIGHT.
STOP YELLING, IT’S DRIVING ME ROUND THE BEND!
MY GOD, IT’S HIGH TIME THAT YOU BOTH BEGAN
[to STU] IN YOUR CASE BEHAVING MORE LIKE A FRIEND
[to REG] IN YOUR CASE BEHAVING MORE LIKE A MAN.
[to STU] I NEVER THOUGHT WE’D SEE THE DAY
WHEN WE COULD NOT RELY ON YOU.
MOST OF HIS FRIENDS HAVE GONE THEIR WAY
AND NOW, IT SEEMS, YOU’LL LEAVE HIM TOO.
[to REG] BUT AS FOR YOU, I DIDN’T THINK
THAT ONE DAY YOU’D TURN OUT TO BE
THIS FEEBLE LITTLE MAN WHO’S SINK
AS LOW AS SCROUNGING SYMPATHY.

REG: WHAT THE HELL’S IT GOT TO DO
WITH YOU?

STU: CALM DOWN, MATE!

REG: [to STU] WHO ASKED YOU?
[to LOUISE] A BLOODY CUP OF TEA CAN’T TAKE
THIS LONG!

LOUISE: [covering her face] SHUT UP FOR JESUS’ SAKE!

[Pause.]

REG: LISTEN, LOVE, PLEASE, I MEANT NO HARM,
SO COME AND LET ME GIVE YOU A KISS.
I MEAN IT, I’D SOONER GIVE MY RIGHT ARM
THAN KNOW THAT WE’D FINALLY COME TO THIS.

[LOUISE and REG kiss. She returns to the kitchen.]

You still here then?

STU: The interview.
REG: Stuff the interview. Do what you want.
STU: I don’t want this.
REG: [sighs] Neither do I.
STU: Reg, I appreciate what you said. About me doing judo.
REG: Your business.
STU: I’ll get back into training; go for my second dan.
REG: You do that.
STU: This is no win, isn’t it? I can’t say a thing right.
REG: There’s nothing wrong with shutting up if you’ve got nothing to say. Turn the box on if you’re bored.
STU: I’m not bored.
REG: Leave it then.

[Pause.]

STU: D’you mind if I do?
REG: What?
STU: Turn the box on.
REG: You trying to drive me mental?
STU: Keep your pants dry. You got satellite? MTV?
REG: Nothing but the best.

[STU goes to the television and starts pressing buttons. Nothing. He twiddles a couple of knobs. Nothing. He bangs the television sharply with his hand. Nothing. Again. Nothing.]

Anything wrong?

STU: [thumping the set again] No.
REG: Try kicking the screen.
STU: How do you switch this thing on.

[REG presses the remote control next to him. The television goes on.]

Bastard.

[The scene appears to freeze. The television flickers as the two men watch, and LOUISE steps forward and addresses the audience directly.]

LOUISE: We’ve got a north-facing garden. You don’t fully appreciate what that
means until you’ve got one yourself. It’s one of those details, like damp and bad pointing, that estate agents hide behind sunny bedrooms and a lovely bright kitchen. Except you can fix damp and bad pointing. Not a north-facing garden. If you hang washing out on the brightest summer’s morning, you bring it in the same evening still clammy. Nothing grows. I’ve tried. Hardy perennials – forget it. The only stuff that takes out there is weeds – and plants that look like weeds: ivies, ferns. Nothing with a bit of colour. Nothing worth planting, really. When Reggie was in hospital I’d sometimes stand out there and listen. Birds. Kids. The ice-cream van.

[LOUISE hums a few bars of The Bluebells of Scotland.]

That’s what it plays: The Bluebells of Scotland; except we don’t get bluebells. Too dark. My plant-book says they should grow. Not in our garden. Nothing does, except ivy and bindweed. Last year I bought a couple of deck-chairs. Silly really; you try and tempt the sun in. They just looked depressing – useless – you’d never want to sit out there. In the end I gave them to Oxfam. The lady was really pleased – nearly new. I’ve tried Love-in-a-mist, Bleeding heart. Lily-of-the-valley. They’ll survive one year, but never a second. It’s not worth having a north-facing garden. Just a hassle.

[LOUISE returns to the kitchen and the scene springs back to life again. We hear the sound of a televised popsong. During the next song, REG and STU speak over the television. Their conversation, while appearing to continue, should not audibly interfere with LOUISE’s singing.]

 

Music 5: EACH PRECIOUS MOMENT

POPSTAR: EACH PRECIOUS MOMENT
THAT I THINK OF YOU I FEEL SO GOOD INSIDE;
IT’S THAT SPECIAL KIND OF LOVE YOU JUST CAN’T HIDE.
WE WILL BE TOGETHER ALWAYS, JUST US TWO;
IT’S TIME TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU.

[Over which REG and STU have the following conversation.]

STU: ‘Kin’ ‘ell! Look at the tits on that!
REG: Nice little handful.
STU: Wouldn’t chuck her out of bed in a hurry.
REG: You’re all mouth, mate. Do yourself a favour; patch it up with Diane.
STU: I’m not sure she’s right for me.
REG: Better get busy, then. The world’s full of birds. Give ‘em a flash of your black belt, mate. Know what I mean?
STU: That’s not my way. I’ve got to fancy a girl.
REG: So where’s the problem?
STU: All the women I know are married or engaged.
REG: You’ve never let that bother you before.

[Then LOUISE sings:]

LOUISE: HEAVEN HELP ME, WHAT HAVE I COME TO?
ENDLESS DAYS OF LIVING A LIE;
NOTHING TO HOPE, NOTHING TO TRY.
I DIDN’T HAVE A CLUE WHERE I WAS HEADED BEFORE
I’D LET THINGS GO TOO FAR AND I SAW
I’D NO WAY BACK, NOT ANYMORE.

[Dialogue starts over the song as before.]

POPSTAR: EACH PRECIOUS MOMENT
THAT YOU SPEAK THE TENDER WORDS I LOVE TO HEAR
LIFE IS SUDDENLY SO EASY AND SO CLEAR.
I HAVE NEVER FELT ANOTHER LOVE AS TRUE;
IT’S TIME TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU.

REG: [calling] Lou! Hey, Lou!
LOUISE: [calling from the kitchen] Yes?
REG: What are you making out there? Gone With the bloody Wind?
LOUISE: Won’t be long now.
REG: Move it, love; we’re starving.
STU: Give her a break, Reg.
REG: [to STU] It’s the only way to get anything to eat round here. [calling
again] Lou, chuck us a couple of biscuits.
LOUISE: You’ll ruin your appetite.
REG: Appetite? Bloody malnutrition, more like.
STU: Best be patient.
REG: Not much choice.

[and then:]

LOUISE: HEAVEN HELP ME, WHAT HAVE I COME TO?
ALL I WANTED WAS TO FEEL WARM;
JUST A KIND WORD – CALM IN A STORM –
MAYBE A SMILE. IT WASN’T MEANT TO LEAD ANYWHERE;
I’D NO IDEA THIS WHOLE THING WOULD FLARE
INTO SOME MAD SECRET AFFAIR.

[Dialogue as before.]

POPSTAR: EACH PRECIOUS MOMENT
THAT YOU TRAP ME IN THIS GORGEOUS FANTASY,
BABY, I JUST HOPE YOU’LL NEVER SET ME FREE.
IN YOUR EYES I READ LOVE’S MYSTERIES ANEW;
IT’S TIME TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU.

REG: You know, she’s not really singing.
STU: Who cares with jugs like that?
REG: They just mime. It’s a total con.
STU: Look at those geysers with her.

[STU pejoratively mimes a bit of dance-routine.]

Bunch of bloody benders. Mind you, if I could have her on my lap I’d wear a gold bloody jockstrap too.
REG: What’s with all the macho crap? Doesn’t suit you, mate.
STU: For Christ’s sake, stop criticising me.
REG: Just be yourself.

LOUISE: HEAVEN HELP ME, WHAT HAVE I COME TO?
HE SEEMED SO CONTENTED AND FREE –
DIDN’T NEED LOVE – DIDN’T NEED ME –
SO CONFIDENT, BUT IN HIS WAY, HE WANTED ME NEAR,
HE CALLED TO ME, BUT I DIDN’T HEAR;
I THOUGHT I’D GOT EVERYTHING CLEAR.
HE SEEMED SO ASSURED AND SO STRONG,
I READ THE SIGNALS TOTALLY WRONG;
WHEN IN FACT HE CARED ALL ALONG.

REG: D’you want to watch this?
STU: I’m easy.

[REG presses a button on the remote control. The programme changes. Again the scene freezes with the two men watching television as LOUISE addresses the audience.]

LOUISE: I know what you’re thinking. What did she ever see in him? You’ve got to imagine him as he was. Mum lives on a really nice estate. Larch
Avenue. We don’t see much of her these days; but that’s another story. Reggie did our windows. I wish you’d seen him then. You’d understand. I mean, there’s no use pretending – I fancied the pants off him. It was one summer. Mum had paid him to do the whole house. Reggie was in his shorts, whistling something off the radio. He whistled really nicely – some blokes do that – really musical, with little trills and decorations. ‘Course, if you ask them, they say they don’t know they’re doing it; but they do. They must do. I took him a cup of tea. He was a real charmer. Chatty. Kind. I was at College at the time; well – Secretarial School. The Cosgrove Academy of Commerce. Mum’s idea. Reggie was really impressed. I went indoors and tried to concentrate on my homework, but I kept hearing that lovely whistling moving from window to window. I caught sight of him through the glass on the landing. After a while he looked straight in at me and smiled. I must have been staring. He had a lovely smile. Kind. I took him another cuppa. And another. And another. I don’t think I realised how empty my life was. The Cosgrove Academy of Commerce. Mum. Larch Avenue. It was nice having Reggie there. Later that afternoon, after he’d gone, I found all the cups of tea, stone cold, lined up on the garden wall. He’d barely touched the first. Well, I felt silly, didn’t I? It was weeks later that we met again. Somerfield’s. I smiled at his shopping. Loo-roll. Economy sausages. Frozen pizza. Diet Coke. Cornflakes. Bachelor-stuff. I was pleased. He asked me for a date, then and there, at the checkout. He was a bit hopeless like that. Hopeless in exactly the way women like. Cutely hopeless, like baby hedgehogs or owl-chicks. He asked me to meet him at the judo-club. I mean, I ask you! I was early. He was facing a row of kneeling kids, dirty little pink feet all lined up in pairs behind them. The whole place smelt of kids. I’d dressed up really nicely. I didn’t mind. Then Reggie growled something in Japanese and they all went wild, squealing and climbing all over him. He sat them on his neck and swung them around by their ankles. They loved him; and that’s when I fell in love with him.

[LOUISE returns to the kitchen and the scene springs back to life again. There is a soap-opera on the television.]

STU: Shall we watch the other one?
REG: If you want.
STU: I’m easy.
REG: You keep saying that.
STU: I’m not really bothered. I didn’t think you’d want to watch this.
REG: Why’s that? Because it’s got a geyser in a wheelchair?
STU: I don’t know.
REG: It’s only a play.

[REG switches off the television.]

[calling] Love, what the hell’s going on out there?

LOUISE: [calling] Reggie, you’re the first to moan if your meat’s pink. Give me a
chance.

[Pause.]

REG: Well, go on. Ask.
STU: Ask what?
REG: What did they do? Did it hurt? Any juicy scars? Can you have a look?
STU: [at a bit of a loss] Oh, well … I mean …
REG: [rolling up his tracksuit-bottoms] Don’t be a wimp. Look, that’s where
they put the pins in. It’s healed over now, but you can still feel them.
Meet the cyborg! Go on – I don’t mind. Go on!

[STU cagily touches REG’s leg as LOUISE enters with a tray of pork chops, coffee and a cup of tea. REG lets out a blood-curdling yell. STU snatches his hand away in panic. LOUISE nearly drops the tray.]

STU: Bloody hell! Sorry, mate.
LOUISE: Reggie! What’s wrong?
REGGIE: [laughing] You two; honestly. You should see your faces.
LOUISE: For God’s sake, Reggie, grow up. You scared the life out of me.
REG: Can’t feel anything in my legs. [punching a thigh] Dead.
STU: God.
REG: Spinal damage. [rolling his tracksuit-bottoms still higher] You haven’t
seen the best yet. The old battle-scars.
LOUISE: Reggie, stop it!
STU: [to LOUISE] Need a hand?
LOUISE: Could you move the magazines off the table?

[LOUISE clips a tray to REG’s wheelchair.]

Mind Reggie’s jigsaw.

STU: [referring to the incomplete jigsaw] You do this yourself?
REG: What? Oh, yeah. Kills time. There’s a piece missing.
LOUISE: Oh no. Are you sure, love?
REG: ‘Course I’m sure. You been Hoovering?
LOUISE: I was ever so careful.
REG: For Christ’s sake!
LOUISE: I expect it’ll turn up. What colour was it?
REG: Just chuck the bloody thing out. I’m not doing it with pieces missing.
LOUISE: It might have slipped down the side of your chair.
REG: God knows why you couldn’t have waited.
LOUISE: I had to tidy. They’re taking pictures.
REG: Just chuck the bloody thing out.

LOUISE: Look, I’ll count the pieces when Stu’s gone. I’ll bet they’re all there. I
must say, it’s a nice picture, isn’t it, Stu? Cheerful. Reggie’s very quick;
he’s done a couple. Haven’t you, love? We had those ones framed.
REG: I’ll be making raffia lampshades and cuddly toys before long.
LOUISE: That’ll be nice. I’ll get the stuff from the day-centre.
REG: You bleeding well won’t!
LOUISE: Oh?
REG: Joke.
LOUISE: Here’s your tea, love, while I put out the chops. Two sugars?
REG: I’ll do it.
LOUISE: [handing him the tea and sugar-bowl] There you are.
REG: No veg?
LOUISE: Just getting it. Give me a moment.
STU: I’ll go.
LOUISE: They’re on the unit. Spoons are in the drawer under the sink.
STU: [leaving] No sweat.
REG: That’s bloody great, that is. He’s got to get his own bleeding tea.
LOUISE: He offered.
REG: Why couldn’t you serve it outside like usual?
LOUISE: I thought this might be nicer; seeing as we’ve got Stu round.
REG: It’s pathetic.
LOUISE: He’ll hear you.
REG: Who are you trying to impress? Stu? Isabel What’s-her-face?
LOUISE: I thought you’d like it.
STU: [entering] Here we are.
LOUISE: You all right carrying those?
REG: ‘Course he’s not all right. Give him a bloody hand.
LOUISE: Reggie!

[LOUISE starts to cut up REG’s meat.]

REG: Don’t cut it up! I’m not a frigging baby!
LOUISE: Stu, you help yourself to vegetables.
REG: Why don’t you do it for him?
LOUISE: I’m sure Stu can manage.

[STU helps himself to vegetables.]

Well, shall we start? Hope everything’s okay.
REG: [tasting his tea and spitting it out] What the hell is this?
LOUISE: What’s wrong?
REG: Taste it and you can tell me.

[LOUISE takes a sip from REG’s cup.]

LOUISE: Oh, yuk! [realising] Sorry, love. Bouquet garnis. Must have slipped out the spice rack. I thought it was a tea bag. Sorry. Come on, you’ve got to see the funny side.
REG: There is no funny side. It’s fucking revolting.
LOUISE: Love, please don’t.
REG: Why not get it over with and feed me a whole fucking bottle of pills.
LOUISE: Stu, I’m really sorry.
REG: Bet you’d see the funny side of that. The worst thing about being a
flaming vegetable is having to rely on you!
LOUISE: [leaving] I’ve got to get Reggie’s prescription. Stu’ll look after you.
REG: I don’t need looking after. When will you be home?
LOUISE: [tearful] I don’t know.
REG: You’re a fine flaming hostess, you are!

[LOUISE rushes out the front door. She stops by the car and looks in her handbag for the keys. They are still on the coffee-table. She cannot face going back for them – she is crying openly now – and walks briskly, half running, off.]

STU: Shall I go after her?
REG: You do that.
STU: I mean, will you be okay?
REG: ‘Course I will; I’ll just practice my tap-dancing.
STU: What are you trying to do to her?
REG: It’s not what it looks like.
STU: I’ll tell you what it looks like …
REG: [interrupting] What do you know?
STU: For God’s sake, Reg!
REG: Stu, I want to talk to you. That’s why I told her to ask you round.
STU: The journalist …
REG: Stuff the journalist. Sorry about what went down just now. Can’t help
getting ratty sometimes. I’ve got to talk to someone. I’m going mad,
cooped up in here. You were my best friend.
STU: Still am, Reg.
REG: After the accident you pissed off pretty bloody sharpish.
STU: I’ve said I’m sorry …
REG: [interrupting] Don’t interrupt. I’d have needed a friend. Still do.

 

Music 6: THERE ARE TIMES WHEN YOU NEED A FRIEND

THERE ARE TIMES WHEN YOU NEED A FRIEND
WHO WILL HELP YOU AND PROTECT YOU;
WHO’LL STICK BY YOU TO THE END
AND WILL CATCH YOU WHEN YOU FALL.
WHEN THE REST OF THE WORLD REJECTS YOU,
YOU CAN BET HE STILL RESPECTS YOU
AND HE’S THERE LIKE A SHOT THE MOMENT THAT YOU CALL;
LOYAL THROUGH ALL.

THERE ARE PEOPLE I USED TO SEE
WHO WOULD NOW SAY I’M BELOW THEM;
THEY’RE THE PEOPLE WHO CLAIMED TO BE
MY BEST MATES, COME WHAT MAY.
WHEN I STILL USED TO WANT TO KNOW THEM
THEY WOULD LOOK UP AT ME TO SHOW THEM
WHAT THEY WANTED TO BE, THE ROLE THEY HOPED TO PLAY;
MAYBE SOME DAY.

NOT ALL THAT LONG AGO, BEFORE MY WORLD WAS WRECKED,
I NEVER DREAMED THAT I COULD LOSE MY SELF-RESPECT.
LOOK AT ME NOW, MATE, AND YOU’D NEVER UNDERSTAND
WHY I WAS SURE I HELD THE FUTURE IN THE PALM OF MY HAND.

WHEN I REALISED I’D BEEN FOOLED –
THAT MY WIFE WAS REALLY CHEATING –
I GOT ONTO MY BIKE, REFUELLED
AND RODE OFF, GOD KNOWS HOW FAR;
AND THE BLOOD IN MY HEAD WAS ROARING
AND THE RAIN IN THE NIGHT WAS POURING
SO I WENT IN A PUB AND SAT THERE AT THE BAR –
HAD JAR AFTER JAR.
I WENT OUT IN THE POURING RAIN,
I REMEMBER I WAS CRYING.
WHEN I GOT ON MY BIKE AGAIN
I WAS SMASHED OUT OF MY HEAD;
AND I SEEM TO REMEMBER FLYING
AND THE THOUGHT THAT I MUST BE DYING;
TILL I OPENED MY EYES IN HOSPITAL, IN BED –
I WASN’T DEAD.

STU: JUST THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS THAT YOU ARE STILL ALIVE.

REG: AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS MY REASON TO SURVIVE?

STU: YOU WERE THE STRONGEST BLACK BELT THAT I EVER SAW.

REG: LOOK AT ME NOW, MATE, AND I DON’T THINK YOU’D SAY THAT
ANY MORE.

STU: IT IS EASY FOR ME, I KNOW,
TO SIT HERE AND KEEP REPEATING
ALL THOSE THINGS THAT ARE MEANT TO SHOW
I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE FOR YOU;
AND I’M SURE THAT YOU’RE SICK OF MEETING
OTHER PEOPLE WHO GO ON BLEATING
THAT THEY’RE SORRY FOR YOU, BUT IN MY CASE IT’S TRUE.

REG: THEY SAY THAT TOO.
STU: But Reg, I do mean it.
REG: I know you do, mate. Our tea’s gone cold.
STU: [tucking in] Mine’s okay.
REG: Know what your trouble is?
STU: Don’t start.
REG: You’re not fussy enough.
STU: What’s that supposed to mean?
REG: The grease is setting on your plate, and you’re actually going to eat that crap.
STU: I’m hungry.
REG: Put it under the grill.
STU: It’s warm enough for me.
REG: There you are; that’s the difference between us. Warm enough … Close enough … Good enough. I’m hungry too, but I won’t eat cold chops.
STU: I’ll put yours under the grill.
REG: I don’t want them. Bin ‘em.
STU: What’ll Louise say?
REG: Who cares what she says? Who cares what anybody says? You shouldn’t care what I say about your judo.
STU: ‘Course I care. You taught me everything I know.

REG: [sighs] I care too. I care about you. You showed up at my dojo because
you thought we did five-a-side football, and that little squirt is what I
turned into a black belt. You are one of Reg’s lads. Always will be. I’m
buggered, mate; you can see that. I can’t do it – you can. Keep it up. At
least give me that pleasure, eh.

STU: I failed second dan.
REG: It’s not a matter of dans; it’s a matter of doing it. Brought your gear?
STU: Yeah. In my bag.
REG: How many gis you got?
STU: Two.
REG: Bung us a jacket. Put one on yourself. I don’t know how we’re going to do this, but if I’m trying, you bloody well can.
STU: Reg, you sure this is a good idea?
REG: Running scared, mate? [taking off his tracksuit top and tee-shirt] Go on then, what are you waiting for?

[STU goes and gets his sports bag. REG puts his hands behind his head and turns his torso back and forth. He starts warming up, leaning forward, extending his arms and such. This is clearly a routine he has done frequently in his wheelchair. STU returns.]

STU: Okay, Reg.
REG: What d’you mean “okay”? What d’you usually say?
STU: [unsure] Yes Sensei.
REG: If you’re not going to take it seriously, just say so. You said you wanted help. I’m offering.
STU: Yes Sensei.
REG: Get changed. Do twenty press-ups.

[STU opens his sports bag and starts changing.]

Bung us a jacket.

STU: [throwing REG a judo jacket] Bit smelly, I’m afraid.
REG: It’ll stink by the time I’m finished with you. Well, give us a hand.
STU: Yes Sensei.

[STU helps REG into the jacket.]

REG: You’d better move the table out the way, or you’ll end up with an earful of gravy. Shift the chairs.
STU: [half-changed, moving furniture] God knows what Louise’ll say.
REG: I’d worry more about what I’m going to do to you if you don’t shut up and get on with it.
STU: Yes Sensei.
REG: Look at you; you’re a bloody disgrace. Weak. Unfit. Do you do anything at training, assuming you ever go?
STU: A bit.
REG: No, Sensei!
STU: No, Sensei.
REG: Get yourself ready. We’ll be here all night at this rate.

[STU takes out his black belt. He is about to put it on, when he thinks better of it and lobs it to REG. REG cannot get the belt around himself.]

Well, give us a hand.

[STU puts the belt on REG.]

Kneel!

[STU kneels opposite REG.]

Sit up!

[During this formal greeting, REG bows from his wheelchair, putting his hands on his lap. STU bows in the traditional Japanese way, left hand followed by right hand to the floor and bowing without taking his eyes off his sensei.]

Rei!

[STU kneels back into an upright position.]

You’ve got twenty press-ups to do yet. Remember?

STU: Yes Sensei.

[STU does proper press-ups. REG raises himself by gripping the armrests of his wheelchair and extending his arms. This must clearly be at least as difficult as what STU is doing, if not more so. The two men lower and raise themselves to count.]

REG: Ichi! [down] Ni! [up] San! [down and so forth] Shi! Go! Roku! Sichi!
Hachi! Ku! Ju! Ichi! Ni! San! Shi! Go! – Wait for it! – Roku! Sichi! – hold it there. Feel those pecs. Wait for it! – Hachi! Ku!

[Pause. STU groans with the effort. His last press-up collapses.]

Ju! Right, now get me out of this thing.
STU: How?

REG: How do you think, pillock? You’ll have to lift me out. You drop me and
I’ll bloody kill you.

[STU lifts REG out of the wheelchair.]

Kneel me down.

[STU is puzzled and starts fumbling.]

I said kneel me down!

STU: Yes Sensei!

[STU arranges REG’s paralysed legs so that he kneels, that is as long as STU supports him. As soon as STU releases REG, he falls backwards, his legs still folded under him. Clearly, REG cannot get up.]

REG: Well give us a hand!
STU: What am I meant to do?
REG: Pull me legs out.

[STU unfolds REG’s legs so that the latter lies flat on his back.]

You say your groundwork’s crap.

STU: Yes Sensei!
REG: Get me in a hold.
STU: You sure you’ll be alright?
REG: You bloody won’t be if you don’t get on with it. Kami Shiho Gatame.

[STU attempts this hold. REG frees himself without much difficulty.]

You’ve always been crap at that. Try a strangle.

[STU sits astride REG, grabs the lapels of his jacket and tries to strangle him. STU is clearly having much more difficulty doing this than he imagined he would. He can hardly do the exercise.]

Well come on! Get the bloody thing on! You can do better than that. You’re fighting a flaming cripple!

[STU struggles to maintain the strangle.]

Come on, son! Work it! Work it! Get it on!

[STU eventually manages the technique.]

Took your time, didn’t you?

[REG puts his finger in the neck of his own jacket, next to the carotid artery, which prevents STU’s strangle from taking effect.]

Big mistake, me old son. Big mistake. I can get you.

[REG starts strangling STU. STU releases REG and starts tapping in submission. REG does not release him.]

STU: Let go, for God’s sake! You’re killing me!
REG: [not releasing STU] Were you fucking my wife?
STU: You’re bloody nuts!
REG: [tightening his grip] Were you?
STU: ‘Course not.
REG: What was your scarf doing in my front hall?
STU: What are you talking about? What scarf?
REG: West Ham. I’m an Arsenal man myself. I recognised it. It was yours.
You probably wore it here so as she’d think you were a bit of a lad. So
as she could imagine she was going to be fucked by a proper little rough-nut; not a poncy accountant. Only you should have remembered to take it with you.
STU: [gasping] I don’t know what you mean.
REG: You play silly buggers with me, mate, and I’ll fucking kill you.

[REG tightens his grip and STU gasps with pain.]

It wasn’t there when I went on my round that morning and it was when I got home. [tightening his grip still further] I tried to top myself because of you. I taught you to fight – to fight well – and meanwhile you were fucking my wife.

STU: Just get it over with!

[LOUISE enters with REG’s prescription.]

LOUISE: Oh God! Reggie!

REG: [throwing STU back] You make me sick.

[STU’s body is quite lifeless. As REG struggles his exhausted way back into his wheelchair, LOUISE, abstracted from his world, sings.]

 

Music 7: CRYING ON YOUR OWN

LOUISE: THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WILL SHOW YOU
HOW THEY THINK YOU OUGHT TO LIVE,
CLAMOURING TO GIVE
BITS OF GOOD ADVICE
WHEN THEY HARDLY EVEN KNOW YOU
AND IT’S COMICAL TO SEE
HOW THEY TRY TO BE
WHAT THEY THINK IS NICE;
THEY TELL YOU OF THEIR HOLIDAYS AND KIDS AND BRAND NEW
CAR,
BUT ARE REALLY SHOWING HOW MUCH BETTER OFF THAN YOU
THEY ARE.
AND HOWEVER MUCH YOU FEEL IT,
AND HOWEVER GREAT THE STRAIN,
NEVER LET THE PAIN
SHOW IN ANY WAY.
TRY YOUR HARDEST TO CONCEAL IT –
THAT’S THE TOUGHEST THING TO DO –
MAKE THEM THINK THAT YOU
DON’T CARE WHAT THEY SAY;
JUST SMILE AND OOH AND AH ABOUT HOW TALL THEIR KIDS
HAVE GROWN,
AND THEN LATER, WHEN YOU’RE CRYING, JUST MAKE
ABSOLUTELY SURE
WHEN YOU CRY, THAT YOU’RE
CRYING ON YOUR OWN.

NO-ONE IS PROUD
TO BE FRIENDS WITH A LOSER
SO LOSERS ARE LEFT WITH NO MORE THAN THEIR SHAME;
A WINNER’S ALLOWED
TO BE BEGGAR AND CHOOSER
IN EVERYTHING – THOSE ARE THE RULES OF THE GAME.

THOUGH IT’S TRUE THAT BEING LONELY
CAN CUT DEEP INTO YOUR HEART,
TEARING IT APART
TIME AND TIME AGAIN,
DESPERATION’S NOT THE ONLY
KIND OF FEELING THAT I’VE HAD,
THERE’S A KIND OF SAD
BEAUTY IN THE PAIN;
LIKE WHEN I ONCE WALKED HOME ACROSS THE PARK ONE RAINY
DAY
AND I SAW A LITTLE BOY THERE AND I STOPPED AND WATCHED
HIM PLAY.
HE WAS CROUCHING BY A PUDDLE
AND WAS DAMMING IT WITH MUD,
SPLASHING IN THE FLOOD,
MERRY AS A LARK;
AND MY THOUGHTS WERE IN A MUDDLE
AT THE HAPPINESS I SAW,
CAUSED BY NOTHING MORE
THAN A MUDDY PARK;
AND WHEN AT LAST HE WENT, HE LEFT ME GLOWING LIKE A
SPARK
ON THAT RAINY WINTER EVENING, AND I DIDN’T FEEL ALONE
STANDING ON MY OWN,
LAUGHING AT THE DARK.

NO-ONE IS PROUD
TO BE FRIENDS WITH A LOSER
SO LOSERS ARE LEFT WITH NO MORE THAN THEIR SHAME;
A WINNER’S ALLOWED
TO BE BEGGAR AND CHOOSER
IN EVERYTHING – THOSE ARE THE RULES OF THE GAME.

SO YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST FACE IT,
THAT WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE,
YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE
PERSON YOU CAN TRUST.
IT’S A FACT, YOU MUST EMBRACE IT,
BUT THE MOMENT THAT YOU DO
YOU WILL FIND THAT YOU
RISE UP FROM THE DUST;
AND HURT WILL TURN TO DIGNITY AND, SHINING LIKE THE SUN,
YOU WILL FACE THE WORLD, NOT OWING ANYTHING TO ANYONE.

YOU NEED NEVER EVER WORRY
WHEN YOU’RE NOT INDEBTED TO
ANYONE BUT YOU,
THAT’S WORTH EVERYTHING.
YOU NEED NEVER SAY YOU’RE SORRY
AS YOU STRUGGLE THROUGH EACH DAY,
NOTHING TO REPAY,
PROUDER THAN A KING;
AND IF CHRIST LIVES YOU’VE NO NEED OF HIS PURE REDEEMING
BLOOD,
BECAUSE HE HAS NEVER HELPED YOU, AND THE ONLY ONE WHO
DID
WAS A LITTLE KID
PLAYING IN THE MUD.

[The lights come up on REG, back in his wheelchair, in the sitting room. LOUISE enters with REG’s prescription. She rushes, horrified, to STU’s motionless body.]

LOUISE: Oh God, Reggie! You’ve killed him.
REG: The hell I have. Get him onto the sofa.
LOUISE: [straining to move STU] I can’t. I’m worried, Reggie. I’m calling an
ambulance.
REG: Don’t be daft. He’s fine.
LOUISE: What were you doing?
REG: Not a lot.
LOUISE: Reggie, what have you done to him?
REG: I told you; he’s fine. You better turn him on his side in case he throws up.
LOUISE: I’ll get a blanket.
REG: Stop faffing. He asked me to go over a few exercises. Must have
overworked himself.
LOUISE: Don’t treat me like an idiot.
REG: Then don’t treat me like one.

[Pause.]

LOUISE: He told you.
REG: He didn’t have to. Lou, how could you? He’s nobody.
LOUISE: Reggie, please.
REG: Why him?
LOUISE: Why anybody? What does it matter?
REG: It matters to me. I taught him. I made him what he is.
LOUISE: I dare say.
REG: I should have rubbed the little bastard out while I had the chance.
LOUISE: Stop it, Reggie.
REG: He used to respect me. I should never have let him so close. Do you still love him?
LOUISE: I never have.
REG: Then why?
LOUISE: Love, let’s not. It could have been anybody.
REG: I don’t bloody doubt it.
LOUISE: Reggie, please. I’m tired.
REG: Stop playing the martyr. It doesn’t suit you.
LOUISE: [leaving] I’ll be in the kitchen if you want anything.
REG: Don’t turn your back on me. Not when I’m talking to you.
LOUISE: I’ve got to wash up.
REG: I want to talk to you.
LOUISE: There’s no point.
REG: [yelling] You’ve no right to walk away.
LOUISE: We’ll just end up screaming at each other.
REG: Stop all this level-headed crap! You know I hate it.
LOUISE: I don’t want to argue.
REG: It’s not my fault we do. You never let me discuss anything properly.
LOUISE: I’m happy to talk sensibly.
REG: Only as long as it suits you. If I say anything you don’t like, you walk off.
LOUISE: You’ve been bloody awful all day. Can you blame me?
REG: Not just today. You always do it.
LOUISE: There’s the housework.
REG: What’s that to do with anything?
LOUISE: I still haven’t done the washing up.
REG: Sod the washing up. We’re talking.
LOUISE: Why haven’t you eaten your tea? It’s gone cold.
REG: [forced calm] Lou, I’d like to talk to you. Calmly.
LOUISE: I’ll get a blanket.
REG: Don’t wind me up.
LOUISE: [during this speech, REG bellows his line and LOUISE’s words trail off.]
And something to put on the carpet in case he really is sick.
REG: [shout] Christ, stop it!
LOUISE: Stop what?
REG: What you’re doing. Standing there, ignoring me.
LOUISE: I’m not ignoring you, love, but I’ve got loads to do. Isabel Walker’ll be
here soon.
REG: Sit down, Lou. Please.
LOUISE: Look at the state of the house.
REG: Please.
LOUISE: [sitting down] All right, love. Just for a bit.
REG: Over here, with me.

[LOUISE moves over to REG and sits by him.]

LOUISE: There, now.

[LOUISE strokes REG’s head.]

I’m sorry, love. I’m ever so sorry.

 

Music 8: TIME AND TIME AGAIN

http://212.48.94.33/laurenceroman.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/mates-08.mp3

THERE’S NOT A NIGHT WHEN I DON’T CRY
AS I WATCH OUR BROKEN FUTURES PASSING BY –
A NEVER-ENDING SHADOW-PLAY –
AND I BLAME MYSELF EACH MOMENT OF EACH DAY.

REG: THERE’S NOT A NIGHT WHEN I DON’T STARE
INTO EMPTINESS AND KNOW THERE’S NOTHING THERE.
I’VE PASSED THE POINT OF LOVE AND HATE
AND OF BLAMING LIFE OR DESTINY OR FATE.

BOTH: WHY DO WE GO ON HURTING EACH OTHER?
I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN
THE REASON WHY WE TRY TO CAUSE SO MUCH PAIN;
WE DO IT TIME AND TIME AGAIN.

WHY DO WE KEEP DESERTING EACH OTHER,
WHEN REALLY IT’S HIGH TIME THAT WE SAW
THAT WE BOTH NEED EACH OTHER NOW EVEN MORE
THAN WE HAVE EVER DONE BEFORE?

LOUISE: I CANNOT HOPE TO HELP OR HEAL –
I CAN KISS YOU, I CAN COOK YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL –
BUT YOU WON’T EVEN HAVE A TASTE;
DON’T YOU SEE, IT’S MORE THAN FOOD THAT GOES TO WASTE?

REG: I’D GLADLY EAT A SLICE OF BREAD
THAT YOU CUT BECAUSE YOU LOVE ME, BUT INSTEAD
THE TABLE’S ALWAYS NEATLY LAID,
JUST TO SHOW THE WORLD THE SACRIFICE YOU’VE MADE.

BOTH: WHY DO WE GO ON HURTING EACH OTHER?
I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN
THE REASON WHY WE TRY TO CAUSE SO MUCH PAIN;
WE DO IT TIME AND TIME AGAIN.

WHY DO WE KEEP DESERTING EACH OTHER,
WHEN REALLY IT’S HIGH TIME THAT WE SAW
THAT WE BOTH NEED EACH OTHER NOW EVEN MORE
THAN WE HAVE EVER DONE BEFORE?

LOUISE: THERE’S NOT A PRICE THAT I WOULDN’T PAY,
THERE’S NOT A WORD I’D NOT OBEY,
THERE’S NOT A PRAYER THAT I WOULDN’T PRAY
TO SOMEHOW WIPE THE PAST AWAY.

[Suddenly, REG pushes LOUISE aside, takes up the undrinkable cup of tea and chucks it in STU’s face.]

REG: You little bastard!
LOUISE: Reggie, what are you doing?
REG: Little sod’s right as rain.

[STU sits up, wiping his face in his judo jacket.]

LOUISE: Thank God you’re all right.
REG: Is that how you get yourself off? Eavesdropping?
STU: Couldn’t exactly help it.
LOUISE: I’ll get a cloth before it soaks in.

[LOUISE goes out to the kitchen.]

STU: You nearly bloody killed me. [rubbing his neck] Could have been brain-damaged.
REG: Who are you trying to kid?
STU: Does Louise know what happened?
REG: Everyone knows everything.
STU: Oh Christ!
REG: Yeah, messy little business, isn’t it?

[LOUISE comes in and starts mopping up the spilt tea from the rug. There is an awful silence.]

Well, isn’t this cosy?
STU: I had to tell him, Louise. He was going to kill me.
LOUISE: I dare say.
STU: I’ll just wash my face and then I’ll go.
LOUISE: There’s a clean towel on the rail in the bathroom.
STU: [getting up] Thanks.
LOUISE: [picking up the rug] It’s gone right through. It’ll need soaking.

[LOUISE leaves with the rug.]

REG: Sit down, Stu.
STU: I need to wash my face.
REG: Sit down. Don’t worry, I shan’t hurt you.
STU: Ought to be off.
REG: What’s the rush? I don’t expect we’ll be seeing much of each other after today.
STU: Dare say not.
REG: So I’d like to clear a few things up – loose ends.
STU: You know everything
REG: Almost everything. What’s the hurry? Ten minutes this way or that.
STU: Why spin it out?
REG: Last chat.
STU: What do you want to know?
REG: Do you still love her?
STU: Oh God, if you’re looking for an apology …
REG: I’m not looking for anything; I’m asking a question. So?
STU: What do you want, Reg?
REG: I want to know.
STU: You want me to eat shit. Is that it?
REG: She likes you.
STU: Get lost.
REG: Won’t hear a word against you. Very protective.
STU: [gathering his clothes] I’m out of here.
REG: It’s true.
STU: Yeah, I love her.
REG: There you are. Easy, wasn’t it?
STU: And there’s not a thing you can do about it.
REG: Tough, aren’t you?
STU: Fuck off!
REG: Too bad she’s my wife.
STU: You going to keep making her life hell?
REG: What’s that to you?
STU: Bitter little turd.
REG: Maybe so. She’s still my wife.
STU: You’ll crush her into the ground.
REG: Going to stop me?
STU: You’re sick.
REG: She knows her place. She’s mine.

 

Music 9: ABSOLUTE BASTARD

STU: I CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT AN ABSOLUTE BASTARD
YOU’VE TURNED INTO, MATE,
YOU’RE ALL FUCKED UP ON HATE.
YOU RODE YOUR BIKE LIKE A LUNATIC; PLASTERED,
AND NOW YOU BLAME ME
AND LOUISE. CAN’T YOU SEE,
YOU THOUGHT YOUR BLACK BELT MADE YOU PRETTY HIGH-
POWERED,
BUT DEEP DOWN INSIDE YOU’RE NO MORE THAN A COWARD?
YOU HADN’T THE GUTS TO LOOK LIFE IN THE EYE;
YOU BACKED OUT AND DECIDED TO GIVE UP AND DIE;
BUT YOU DIDN’T THINK, ONCE YOU’D DRUNK YOURSELF BLIND
AND YOU’D SMASHED YOURSELF UP, THAT YOU’D WAKE UP AND FIND
THAT YOU HADN’T SUCCEEDED, AND LIFE WOULD GO ON
WITH YOUR PAST BUGGERED UP AND YOUR FUTURE ALL GONE.

REG: YOU AND YOUR CRAPPY HYPOCRISY BOTH SUCK!
YOU’RE SO INSINCERE
THAT YOU’D BUY ME A BEER
AND THEN COME POKING ROUND HERE FOR A QUICK FUCK;
JUST YOU AND THAT SLUT,
ALL AS SWEET AS A NUT.
HAVE YOU ANY IDEA HOW YOU SOUND WHEN YOU SIT
PREACHING MORALS AT ME? YOU ARE SO FULL OF SHIT!

[LOUISE enters with the rug.]

LOUISE: IT’S A REAL WOOLEN RUG, SO IT’S REALLY TOO GOOD
TO JUST CHUCK IT AWAY, THOUGH I DARE SAY WE COULD;
OR PERHAPS WE SHOULD MOVE IT. IT MIGHT LOOK ALL RIGHT
ON THE LANDING UPSTAIRS WHERE IT’S MORE OUT OF SIGHT.
WHEN IT’S DRY YOU WON’T NOTICE IT IF YOU DON’T STARE,
BUT A STAIN IS A STAIN AND I’LL KNOW THAT IT’S THERE.

REG: Put that poxy thing back where you found it.
LOUISE: There’s no need to be rude.
REG: It’s all crap.
LOUISE: What are you talking about?
REG: Everything. Rugs and stains. What are you doing it for?

[Pause.]

LOUISE: You called me a slut.
REG: What would you call yourself?
LOUISE: Lonely.
REG: What do you mean “lonely”?
LOUISE: Now who’s playing stupid?
REG: Don’t you get high-handed with me.
LOUISE: This really is hopeless. I mean I’m tired and bored.
REG: Well, I’ve told you before; you can go whenever you want.
LOUISE: Come on, love; don’t be daft.
REG: So, you want a divorce?
LOUISE: For goodness’ sake, stop it.
REG: I mean it. I’ll go through with it.
LOUISE: You’re right; this is crap. We can’t speak normally any more. We have
whole conversations we don’t mean. We spend whole days talking and talking and not meaning a single word.
STU: I’ll get washed.
LOUISE: There’s a towel on the rail.
STU: I’ve got my own towel, thanks.

[STU finds his towel and goes up to the bathroom.]

REG: I hate his guts.
LOUISE: What happened between us was as much my fault as it was Stu’s. More so in some ways.
REG: What do you want me to say?
LOUISE: There’s nothing to say.
REG: So, what now?
LOUISE: Go on as we are, I suppose.
REG: We can’t.
LOUISE: Well, what do you suggest?

 

Music 10: I CAN’T BELIEVE

http://212.48.94.33/laurenceroman.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/mates-10.mp3

REG: I CAN’T BELIEVE THERE’S NOT A WAY
TO TAKE BACK SOME OF WHAT WE’VE LOST.
WE’VE GOT TO BUY BACK YESTERDAY
WHO CARES WHAT IT MAY COST?
I CAN’T BELIEVE THE PAST IS DEAD
AND THAT DEAD PAST IS ALL WE’VE GOT,
THAT HAPPINESS MAY LIE AHEAD
FOR OTHER PEOPLE, BUT WE’VE HAD OUR LOT.

REMEMBER THE DAYS WHEN WE’D JUMP IN THE CAR
AND WE’D DRIVE WHERE WE FANCIED, NO MATTER HOW FAR.
YOU CAN’T HAVE FORGOTTEN US BOMBING ALONG
WITH THE STEREO BLARING OUR FAVOURITE SONG.
I KNOW THAT’S NOT THERE
ANYMORE, BUT LET’S SHARE
WHAT WE’VE GOT.

LOUISE: YEAH, LIKE WHAT?

REG: I KNOW OUR LIVES ARE RATHER CHANGED
AND THERE ARE THINGS WE CANNOT MEND,
BUT THOUGH A LIFE IS REARRANGED
SURELY IT NEEDN’T END.
ALTHOUGH I’VE LOST A LOT, I’VE FOUND
A FEW THINGS THAT MAKE LIFE WORTHWHILE,
AND SOMETIMES, WHEN I LOOK AROUND,
I SEE SOMETHING THAT STILL MAKES ME SMILE.

DON’T THINK I DON’T NOTICE THE TROUBLE YOU TAKE
WHEN YOU WORK AND YOU COOK AND YOU CLEAN FOR MY SAKE,
BUT PLEASE UNDERSTAND WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO SEE
THAT I CAN’T GIVE BACK HALF OF WHAT YOU GIVE TO ME;
SO TRY NOT TO MIND
IF I’M SOMETIMES UNKIND
OR UNFAIR;
PLEASE DON’T CARE.

LOUISE: LOOK, LOVE, I’M SURE YOU ARE SINCERE
IN WHAT YOU SAY, AND I APPRECIATE
YOUR SAYING WHAT YOU THINK I’D LIKE TO HEAR
BUT IT’S TOO LATE.
YOU SAID THE THINGS THAT CRUSHED MY PRIDE,
YOU CAN’T TAKE THOSE BACK ANY MORE,
AND IT’S TOO LATE NOW TO DECIDE
THAT YOU LIKED ME AS I WAS BEFORE.

THOUGH COOKING AND CLEANING ARE HARDLY EXCITING,
THEY’RE BETTER THAN ARGUING ALL DAY AND FIGHTING.
YOU CAN’T THINK I’LL KEEP TURNING CHEEK AFTER CHEEK
TO YOU DAY AFTER DAY AFTER WEEK AFTER WEEK.
IT’S HARDLY IDEAL,
BUT AT LEAST I DON’T FEEL
IN THE WRONG
ALL DAY LONG.

REG: I do love you, Louise.
LOUISE: You don’t give up, do you?
REG: It’s true.
LOUISE: I don’t know what’s true any more.
REG: I hate hearing you speak like this. Go on; say you love me.
LOUISE: No.
REG: Don’t you?
LOUISE: I don’t know, Reggie, but if I say it I’ll know I don’t. Things don’t
become true just because we keep saying them.

[REG winces.]

What’s wrong?

REG: Pain in my side.
LOUISE: Constipation?

[REG nods.]

I’ve collected your suppositories. You can go upstairs when Stu’s
finished.

[LOUISE goes out into the hall.]

[calling] Stu, are you going to be long? I don’t like to rush you, love, but Reggie …

REG: [interrupting] Shut up for Christ’s sake!
LOUISE: [returning] What’s up, love?
REG: No need to tell the whole bloody world.
LOUISE: I don’t expect Stu cares.
REG: Well I do.

[LOUISE hands REG one of the suppositories she brought home earlier.]

LOUISE: Here, love. Will you manage all right?
REG: Of course I’ll bloody manage.
LOUISE: [making to push REG’s wheelchair] Okay, love. Come on.

[REG rebuffs LOUISE’s attempt to wheel his chair as STU enters and picks up his sports bag.]

STU: I’ll be off then. Can you give me a lift to the station?
LOUISE: ‘Course I can. We’ll have to wait until Reggie comes downstairs. He
needs a hand on and off the Stairlift.
REG: Stop bloody fussing.
LOUISE: Go on, love. We’ll wait.
REG: Christ, anyone would think it’s the first time I’d ever taken a shit.

[REG wheel himself out.]

LOUISE: Want a coffee?
STU: Have we got time?
LOUISE: He’ll be a while.
STU: I’m sorry. I’ve been in the way.
LOUISE: Not really.
STU: And I’m sorry I told him – you know.
LOUISE: I shouldn’t worry. I think he knew anyhow. Have you got everything?
STU: My judo jacket. Belt.
LOUISE: I’ll wash them and send them on to you.
STU: Thanks.
LOUISE: Milk? Sugar?
STU: Louise?
LOUISE: Yes?
STU: Will we ever see each other again?
LOUISE: No.
STU: You seem very sure.
LOUISE: I’ll make very sure.
STU: I shan’t forget you.
LOUISE: You’d better try.
STU: I can’t.
LOUISE: You’re making this harder for both of us.
STU: I’m sorry – I still love you.
LOUISE: I’ll put the kettle on.

[LOUISE leaves for the kitchen.]

STU: [quietly to himself] Milk and no sugar, please.

 

Music 11: WE’VE GROWN INTO MEN

WHAT IS IT, OR WHO IS IT
THAT MAKES US HAVE TO FEND
OFF WHAT WE KNOW
AND WHAT WE FEEL?
IF OUR LOVE IS TRUE, IS IT
THE ANSWER TO PRETEND
THAT IT’S NOT SO,
THAT IT’S NOT REAL?
WHAT IS THE POINT OF ALWAYS INVENTING
THINGS WHICH WE KNOW ARE UNTRUE?
WHAT IS THE POINT OF MISREPRESENTING
WHAT YOU FEEL FOR ME AND WHAT I FEEL FOR YOU?

WHEN WE WERE MUCH YOUNGER
IT WAS EASIER TO SEE
AND TO EXPLAIN
WHAT WASN’T FAIR.
BROKEN TOYS OR HUNGER
OR A GRAZED AND BLEEDING KNEE
WERE EASY PAIN
TO HAVE TO BEAR.
A NOTE FROM A GIRL THAT YOU’D CARRIED BOOKS FOR
PROVED THAT SHE LOVED YOU FOR SURE;
BUT AS YOU GROW UP, YOU FIND NO ONE LOOKS FOR
WHAT’S SIMPLE IN LIFE; ‘CAUSE THAT’S IMMATURE.

AS WE GROW, THERE’S PLENTY
THAT WE LOSE, AND LESS AND LESS
THAT WE HAVE WON,
AND STILL WE GROW.
AS WE GET PAST TWENTY
WE CAN SEE THE KIND OF MESS
WE HAVE BEGUN;
WHERE DO WE GO?
WE KEEP GROWING UP, UNTIL WE TURN THIRTY,
WHAT DO WE LOOK LIKE BY THEN?
A HANDFUL OF DREAMS, CORRUPTED AND DIRTY,
ARE ALL WE HAVE LEFT; WE’VE GROWN INTO MEN.

[The front doorbell rings. LOUISE answers.]

ISABEL WALKER: Hello. Isabel Walker from the Sunnyside Project.

LOUISE: Oh, come in. Come in. I’m sorry the house is in such a mess. Reggie!
Reggie, Miss Walker’s here. From the Sunnyside Project. Reggie!
[growing anxious] Reggie!

[Blackout. LOUISE, tightly lit, steps forward and addresses the audience directly.]

I found the note slipped under Reggie’s last jigsaw. [producing the note and reading] “Love, This isn’t how it was meant to be. You’re so young and beautiful. I only ever wanted you to be happy. You’ve got to believe that. Go find yourself a life. God knows I couldn’t give you one. Stu’s not a bad lad. Bit dozy, but I reckon he’ll show you the happiness you deserve. More than I ever managed. Don’t bother telling my aunt Essie unless she asks. Say it was an accident. Whatever’s easiest. She’s 82 so there’s no point upsetting her. I love you with all my heart. I always have done. Don’t you ever forget that, but enough’s enough. Thanks for the happiest days I’ve ever known. Your daft old bugger, Reggie x”

[letting the note drop to her side] We’ve got a north-facing garden. You don’t fully appreciate what that means until you’ve got one yourself. No sun. Ever.

[Blackout.]