Tuesday, 10 February 2015

An introduction to playwriting

Shakespeare's autograph

CLARE: Hey Mumbletoes, are you still doing that writing course?

MUMBLETOES: (Brightly) Damn straight I am. It's good fun.

CLARE: What was tonight's subject?

MUMBLETOES: We were learning about playwriting. I've never tried it before. It's kinda fun. There's no need to fuss about with description which means you focus on the dialogue more.

CLARE: Sounds good. Did you write any plays?

MUMBLETOES: I made a few attempts. I'm not really sure about them though.

CLARE: Go on then, share.

MUMBLETOES: No. (Looks down at his hands) I'm shy.

CLARE: Oh go on. (Flutters eyelashes) Let's hear them.

MUMBLETOES: Okay then, but remember this is just a first attempt. 

  • SIMPKINS is a very small boy made of marshmallow. He is very nervous and tends to run away from anything even vaguely threatening.
  • MAVIS is a sweetshop owner. She regularly kidnaps marshmallow children by tricking them into following her to her shop.

CLARE: Hang on, that sounds really dodgy. Are you really sure you want to go with that?

MUMBLETOES: Good point. Okay, let's scrap that idea. Want to see my next attempt?

CLARE: Yeah!

  • DARREN is a writer stuck for an idea.
  • BORIS is a dancer who lives with Darren and enjoys helping to fire-up Darren's creative side.

Scene: Student bedroom. An early morning in summer. Sunshine pours in through the windows and the skylight. DARREN is sitting at his desk, looking stressed, his pen hovering over the paper although he hasn't written a word. BORIS enters, clad in bright pink Lycra, and spends the entire scene contorting his limbs into a series of bizarre stretches.

BORIS: (Full of the joy of a new day) Morning! (Starts stretching)

DARREN: (Irritably throws his pen into a metal bin making it clang like a funeral bell) Do you have to do that in here?

BORIS: What?

DARREN: Stretching. Can't you practise somewhere else?

BORIS: I like it in here. More sunlight. Sunlight makes me bendier. (Lifts one leg and puts it up against the wall)

DARREN: (Annoyed) Great. (Takes a new pen from the pen holder on his desk and holds pen ready to write, but doesn't write anything)


BORIS: What are you writing today?

DARREN: (Throws pen into the bin) Christ, Boris, I have no idea. We have to write a play and my mind's gone completely blank. (Takes a new pen from the pen holder and again holds it ready to write, but doesn't write anything)

BORIS: (Grunts as he sinks into a new stretch) Why don't you write about a butchers shop? You could have a mad old bat come in and get upset when the butcher offers her tripe.

DARREN: No, no, no. That's just the example we were given in my writing class. You're only saying that because you're a figment of my imagination and all your suggestions come straight from my memory. (Throws pen into the bin and puts head in hands) Just kill me. Kill me now. I'll never be a writer.

BORIS: Oh don't be ridiculous. You're just being fatalistic. (Sits on floor and reaches out to touch his toes) Surely you can come up with something?

DARREN: Like what?

BORIS: Anything, mate. Just start writing. That's how your brain works. You won't have any ideas until you start writing.

DARREN: OK, how about I write about... (Grabs a new pen from his pen holder) ... about... about...

BORIS: A pie shop.

DARREN: Pie? Why pie?

BORIS: (Leaps up and stretches as high as he can) Because pie is amazing! Everyone loves pie. That's a great way to draw your reader in. Set your play in a pie shop and straight away everyone's head will be filled with images of warm pastry crust soaked in rich brown gravy. (Licks his lips and holds his stomach) God, I'm hungry.

DARREN: Okay, pie it is. (Writes manically) How about this for a beginning? Pie shop. Interior. Arnold Clutterbucket stands behind the counter. He's wearing giant glasses, has a plaster over his nose, and he's holding a dead rabbit. In walks an eagle.

BORIS: Hang on. An eagle?

DARREN: (Still writing) Yes, an eagle. Do you want to hear this or not?

BORIS: One sec. (Moves to the door and uses the doorknob for support as he goes into a backbend) Okay, fire away.

DARREN: (Staring at Boris) That looks painful.

BORIS: Is that what the eagle said, or are you just talking?

DARREN: Just talking.

BORIS: Less talking, more reading. What did the eagle say?

DARREN: It makes a joke.

(PAUSE while Darren looks uncertain)

BORIS: Go on then. What's the joke?

DARREN: I don't want to tell you.

BORIS: Eh? Why not?

DARREN: You won't laugh.

BORIS: Yeah I will.

DARREN: Really?

BORIS: Of course.


BORIS: Well?

DARREN: It's been too long now. (Throws pen into the bin) There's been too much build up. The joke won't be funny.


CLARE: Aargh, you can't end it there! What was the joke?

MUMBLETOES: I don't know. I was hoping to come up with an amazing pun about eagles and pie shops, but I couldn't think of anything.

CLARE: Hmm, tricky. (Thinks for a moment) Something about rabbits, maybe? Okay, what else have you got?

MUMBLETOES: Just a short scene. This one has a joke. 

CLARE: A real joke? Not one that you just hint at and then never come out with?

MUMBLETOES: Yep. Well, it's not a great joke. It's a joke that would probably work best as a radio play.

CLARE: Let's hear it.

  • STANLEY is a mild-mannered employee.
  • COB is the intimidating boss.
Scene: Cob's office.

COB is heavy-handedly typing at his computer. STANLEY knocks timidly on the office door.

COB: (Irritably) Come in!

STANLEY: (Nervously peers around the door) You wanted to see me, sir?

COB: (Preoccupied with computer screen) Yes, yes, come in.

(Stanley comes in, knocks over a hat-stand, picks it back up again, then nervously hovers by the door.)

COB: Come in and sit down, Stanley, for Christ's sake.

STANLEY: Yes, sir. Of course, sir. (Sits down on the floor.)

(PAUSE while Cob realises he can no longer see Stanley)

COB: On a chair, Stanley. On a chair.


CLARE: Oh dear, poor Stanley. So, Mumbletoes, have you got any more playwriting attempts?

MUMBLETOES: I think that's enough for now.

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