Yesterday, I had the privilege of seeing a five-minute play, that I had written, performed at Brighton’s Theatre Royal, as part of New Writing South’s ‘Young Writers’ programme. I was amongst 10 other young writers to have had this experience and I would like to congratulate them on how entertaining their pieces were, as well as the gifted actors who did our plays justice. Here is mine.
By James Horscroft
Private Charlie Stable sits alone within his solemn Colditz entrapment. The only detail to be described, other than the damp cobweb-grey that is Charlie’s daily view, is the one spout of light coming from one too small hole in the side wall. All of a sudden, he hears a sound that he’s about to learn are the angered cries of Private Dominic Farges’. The door of the neighbouring cell is suddenly opened with sharpness. The guard has some fresh meat for the cell to feed on.
Farges: (Thrown into the cell) Fuck you! Fuck you! You can’t do this you shits! (Aggressively kicks door) Fuck!
Stable: (Muttering to himself) Yeah. I tried that one too. Doesn’t seem to work.
Farges: (Bangs side of cell) Well!! (Then drastically calms down to reveal he faked the aggression) … always worth trying.
Stable: (Still to himself) If leaving the guards, your new source of food, under the first impression that you’re just another emotional barbarian is your perception of ‘always worth trying’, then I suppose you could credit yourself with that.
Farges: (Realises someone’s muttering next door) Sorry, were you sayin’ summin’?
Stable: Just saying, a more civilised manner, you may just find your food portions getting slightly larger.
Farges: That’s fine. Can’t see myself ‘avin’ much of the shit shovelled onto my plate ‘ere, anyway.
Stable: God, you stink of ‘new’. My memory doesn’t go back as far as the last time I was reluctant towards a meal.
Farges: You speak an old man’s words with a young man’s voice.
Stable: You mean I seem wise for someone with little life experience? That’s something that people don’t expect, isn’t it? I mean, the so-called ‘boy-genius’ is commonplace in today’s world. I should know, I studied with the majority of them at Oxford. Wisdom is a very different thing, though. None of them had it. That pretentious lot had less than most. Because, with wisdom, the one mistake you don’t make is think that you’re better. And that’s all that those gents could bloody think of.
Farges: I never said ‘wise’. Nor did I ask to hear your tales of elitist teabags.
Stable: Just because you didn’t ask, doesn’t mean it prohibits me from saying. But how else does my persona resemble that of an old man’s?
Farges: It’s less ‘wisdom’ and more acting like you’ve seen and done it all when you clearly haven’t.
Stable: Normally, yes, you’d be absolutely correct. No man of my age could possibly have enough experience for an entire lifetime. But then, here comes the war. Twenty-one years, I’m already finding days where I think I’ve seen too much for mine.
Farges: Probably right for the both of us on that one. Too much.
Stable: I’m sorry if I’ve, at all, appeared condescending to you. If anything, you’ve seen more war than me; assuming you’re also a veteran of the Great War.
Stable: Aren’t you?
Farges: Honestly? No. Y’see, with all the workers being called up, women were replacing them on the railway. Someone had to stay behind and teach them the ropes. Must’ve only been slightly younger than you. But, whilst no academic like y’self, I bloody well knew my way round a track.
Stable: You must’ve been gutted to miss out on all the slaughter with the ladies. (Laughs)
Farges: (Also laughs) Indeed… That’s when I met my wife, actually. Was never an immediate thing, you know. Took its time. All those years working home front, it was more than rewarding marrying the one who’d gone through it with you.
Stable: When did you get married?
Farges: Oh, rushed right into that one. 1919, straight after the war. Didn’t regret it then. Not sure if I still don’t now. Left her behind with three children.
Stable: Well I bloody-well wouldn’t regret it. A full family to miss you. Me; the only woman to have ever loved me was my own mother. I have no one who will mourn the man I was. I’ll just be another ‘corpseless’ name on whatever harrowing slab they’ll assign for this war.
Farges: You make me out to be the luckiest man alive. My wife’s either still having to feed ‘em on ration, livin’ alone ‘cos of child evacuation or, God forbid, bombed dead. Imagine dying here, knowing you’ve left the ones you love in such a state.
German Guard: (voice only from outside cell) Silence!
Stable: (Stable continues quieter in tone but no less aggressive) You fucking know what? I dream that I could step out of someone’s life and cause that much erosion and decay. Know why? Because it would show how important I was to them. How much they needed me.
Farges: Stop talking as if no one needs you! Hasn’t this war taught you otherwise?
Stable: There’s a difference between being needed as a soul-mate and being needed as a fucking bullet!!
Suddenly, the guard slams the door of Stable’s cell open.
German Guard: No second chances!
Stable: No! No!
The guard forces Stable up, gripping his hair. He starts to drags him out of the cell.
Stable: I will stop! I will stop! I will—
The guard silences Stable’s cries via knocking him round the face.
German Guard: You will stop. No more chances.
There is a eerie pause, with Farges clearly filled to the brim with guilt.
Stable: …Well, I’m not dead. Not even tortured. Stings and aches and burns a bit but… A slight sound of relief would be nice.
Farges: Didn’t, exactly, think you’d wanna talk to me.
Stable: Look, mate, I have spent a bloody long time silenced in this isolated hole. I would speak to a convicted murderer, just to have a conversation.
Farges: Well, unfortunately, none of us are convicted, round ‘ere.
Stable: (smirks slightly) Nah… If I’ve learnt anything that a soldier should never do, it is convicting yourself a murderer. You’re not guilty. None of us are.
Farges: What about ignoring the burden that loneliness can have? I’m guilty of that.
Stable: Well, if that’s the case, and ignorance is a crime, then I think I should plead guilty too. I must admit, it is easy to overlook the things that you’ve never had.
Farges: Suppose, like the many men that we have fought with, all our situations have been made unfortunate, regardless of why.
Stable: What’s you’re name?
Farges: My name is Dom. Dominic Farges.
Stable: Tonight I will pray for the Farges family. Pray for both their well-being and their reunion, whether it be on earth or in heaven.
Farges: And I will pray for the lone soldier, who will never be forgotten.