Beautiful Inside / by Jo Hardy
The following is the suggested
doubling of characters for seven players:
KATE + GIRL1
LAURA + GIRL 2
SUZY + GIRL 3
JENNA + GIRL 4
DEVIL + NURSE
For six players:
KATE + GIRL 1
LAURA + GIRL 2 + BECKY
SUZY + GIRL 3
JENNA + GIRL 4
DEVIL + NURSE
The play is also possible for
as few as five players:
KATE + GIRL 1 + MUM
LAURA +GIRL 2 + BECKY
SUZY + GIRL 3
JENNA + GIRL 4
DEVIL + NURSE
There is enough to do for a cast of seven players to make all roles examinable. This would be an ideal piece for GCSE. It is for an all-female cast and runs at about twenty five minutes.
Sample Pages from the script
The four girls walk out, catwalk style, to a Britney Spears song [or any relevant piece of music.] They pose with glassy expressions and freeze. The 'Devil', a well groomed girl, saunters on and looks at them in turn.
pointing to Girl 1 She's put on some weight.
pointing to Girl 2 And she's not size eight.
pointing to Girl 3 She can't fool me that they're her own.
pointing to Girl 4 Do I detect some silicone?
The girls chant the following words with relevant expressions and poses.
GIRL 1 You have to be a fool if you think
that fat is cool!
GIRL 2 Thin is in. Lean is mean.
GIRL 3 Zap those zits. Uplift those tits.
GIRL 4 You know it ends in tears ...
GIRL 1 If you're not like Britney Spears.
GIRL 3 Your outfit looks just fine, though it's very `99!
GIRL 2 I'm told on good advice that mauve and green look nice.
GIRL 1 But we never ask the reason ...
GIRL 4 We're going by the season.
GIRL 2 Flat little turns. Tight little bums.
GIRL 1 Neat feet. Cute cheeks.
GIRL 3 Up to date fashion. Our only passion.
GIRL 4 Hair this year is green. It's in the magazine.
GIRL 2 Just do as you are told.
ALL Before you get too old!
Kate, Laura and Suzy are making up, brushing hair, etc. using the audience as a mirror.
... and not only is she flat-chested, but she's put on loads of weight! [She turns sideways and pulls her stomach in.]
You forgot about the spots. [She leans forward and scrutinises her own face in the 'mirror'.]
And the pig nose. Don't forget the pig nose! [They all laugh.]
I thought a pig didn't have a nose. I think it's a snout or something! [They dissolve in laughter again and snort like pigs.]
When she turned up to Simon's party in that dress thing, I nearly died.
I nearly died before you did. I saw Simon's face. He nearly died!
Oh no! I never saw her. What was it like? How come I missed it?
Now let me think. Oh yes. You missed it because you were upstairs in the bedroom with Jason Spencer at the time... [Laura giggles.] Anyway, she didn't stay long.
We were talking!
I'm sure you were. Honestly, the ugly rumours that you hear. I'm glad you've cleared that one up.
Watch it you...! [They square up as if for a fist fight.]
Cut it out, you two. [Sounding like your mother.] You're old enough to play nicely... [To Suzy] By the way, I saw Jason Spencer this morning. He was with ... now, let me see, who was it? Ah yes, Lauren Turner. The siren of Year 10. Every man's favourite pin-up. The leggy-blonde-of-theupstairs-common-room. The mini-skirt-wearing-temptress. The air-headed boy-catcher... [Kate splutters and hides her face.]
after being fazed for a little while Why should I care? I told you. We were talking. Anyway, he was boring... He's not my type. [Applies mascara furiously.] What was the dress like?
I thought anything in trousers was your type. [She dodges a punch from Suzy.] What dress? Oh, the dress. It was knee length. It had a high neck and long sleeves. And it was green. Pukey dark green. Honestly, I think it was her mum's or something. When I saw it i nearly died.
And I nearly...
Died, yeah. It's a wonder you two are still alive. Anyway, what do you think? [She turns to the others and is scrutinised.]
Very passable. Eat your heart out, Lauren Turner. What about me? [They look.]
Almost human. Me? [She, in turn, is inspected.]
Well, still a bit scary but not so bad now that you're hiding the horns.
Ha ha. Anyway, off we go, girls. So many boys...
So little time...
As soon as they have gone, Jenna enters. 1t is obvious she has been in the toilet and has heard the whole conversation.
JENNA They're right, aren't they? No wonder nobody fancies me. I'm the only girl in the year who doesn't have a boyfriend. [Looks into the mirror.] I am too fat. [She leans closer] And I have got a spot. And I guess they're right about the dress...
Jenna holds the dress in front of her. She calls.
Mum! [Pause.] Mum! [Her 'Mum' comes in.] Do you think this looks all right?
I think it's lovely. And it fits you perfectly. I always like you in that dress. It's the same colour as your eyes. You've got lovely eyes. Green eyes like your father... Every time I look at you I...
deliberately changing the subject I suppose I could go in jeans and a T-shirt. The sort of casual look.
Jeans and a T-shirt for a party? I thought everybody had special clothes for a party. It's a pity to have such a nice dress and not wear it.
I wish I had something new.
I'm sorry, love. Not this week. I can't...
I know, Mum I'm sorry, I didn't mean that. I wouldn't know what to buy anyway. I don't like those little tops the others wear.
It's a silly fashion. They must be frozen half the time.
I look fat. My stomach hangs out.
It does not! And you aren't fat at all. Nobody looks nice with half their body hanging out of their clothes. That dress is lovely. It's real quality. Anyone can see that.
But in actual fact, nobody saw that. They all thought I looked horrible. [Moves closer to the 'mirror' again.] And that's because I do look horrible. It's not just the dress, it's me. And that is why nobody likes me and I don't have any friends.
Enter the Devil and Jenna's Mum.
You're right, I guess.
You look a mess.
Your hair's a sight.
Your bum's a fright!
They're telling lies
So dry your eyes.
You know you're not fat,
Don't listen to that!
Just look at yourself!
And see you look great!
Apart from the zits.
And the hair.
And the weight.
Believe life is good!
Bet she wishes she could.
Jenna is leaving the house carrying a school bag in which is a sandwich box She calls goodbye to her mother, waits a while and then takes out the box and empties the contents into a bin. She hesitates for a moment, then thrusts the empty box back into the bag and hurries away.
She walks back onto stage with Becky and they are discussing the morning's lessons. The set is now a common room or outside recreation area.
At least you've finished it! I had only just started question five when she said there were ten minutes left.
Yeah, but I missed half of it out. I hate physics!
It's not my favourite subject either... [There is a pause which is slightly awkward] ... er... are you going home for lunch?
No, I'm going in for a hot dinner. I'm starving and after this morning l definitely need chips. You coming?
Er... I've got sandwiches. [Gestures towards her bag.] I thought I'd eat them here. See you later?
Yeah, 'course. See ya... [She sees somebody off stage.] Nick! You goin' into lunch? Wait for me.
She exits. Jenna sits down and starts to look aimlessly into her bag. She takes out the empty sandwich box Enter Kate and Suzy.
Sample Pages from Production Notes
PRODUCTION NOTES + TECHNICAL CUES etc.
N.B. These notes are suggestions only. You may find them helpful to follow; or they may act as a springboard for your own ideas; or you can choose to ignore them entirely!
INTRODUCTION: THEMES, THE PLAY'S INTENTION.
The play is an exporation of the issue of anorexia using many of the tools of narrative/epic theatre. Some of the scenes are quite naturalistic in style, especially those between Jenna and her mother, but this is simply to introduce understanding and sympathy for the central character - a sympathy which is then distanced, though not lost, when Jenna herself starts to narrate later on in the play. Both Mother and the Devil act as narrators and commentators, the Devil being clearly the voice of the media or social pressures which prey on young people. The rest of the characters are largely 'types' - the kind of people voicing the sort of opinions that can trigger off extreme lack of selfesteem in a sensitive person such as Jenna, though the three central girls achieve some depth and differentiation within their 'type.'
The main theme of the play is Jenna's descent into anorexia and her recovery. The play shows how self-esteem can so easily be punctured at that sensitive age - around fifteen, sixteen. It also shows how media and fashion have a lot to do with instigating this disease. It shows how friendship and the need for emotional support and understanding, whether it be from family, friends or teachers at school is of prime importance in beating this illness.
Though a dark theme, the play is lively and often humorous in approach. Theme and style counterbalance each other effectively.
The subject of the play, Jenna is the anorexic. She is an only child, living with her mother, her father having left some time ago. Father has kept in touch, writing letters to her and sending presents but recently that has stopped. Jenna suffers from this, believing he has stopped loving her - and this adds to her growing feeling that she is unloveable. This is despite an obviously close relationship with her very loving and supportive mother. The lack of `listening' to mother's love is, of course, an aspect of the disease; once the anorexic has made up her mind that she is fat, ugly and unloveable, nothing will change that opinion.
During the course of the play, we find out
that the reason letters have ceased from her father is because
he has been killed abroad. Mother conceals this fact, fearing
that it will upset Jenna more - clearly the wrong thing to do.
In the end, Jenna overhears a conversation on the phone from her mother and realises how worried mum is about her. Because of her love for her, she decides to change things around. it is a struggle but she has help and support from the school, a couple of friends and her mother.
The first half of the play shows her growing self-hatred and insecurity. This will require some good `inner' acting. In the second half, the struggle is mainly described by Jenna as narrator. This puts the audience at one remove from her- we know she has recovered and is looking back on herself in the past - but allows us to focus instead on the issues behind anorexia and how to help someone recover from it.
A good range of voice is required and an ability to cope with long speeches and a wide variety of strong emotions.
This is another big part, requiring a good range of emotion and an ability to cope with long speeches. A single mother, deserted by her husband some years before, she has never got over his betrayal. Nonetheless, she is a good mother and has not burdened Jenna with reproaches against her father. She is finding it hard to cope with a teenage daughter, though her remedy of love and understanding - not without wisdom, too - is the right one. Because she is so supportive of Jenna, it is extra hard for her to feel she has lost control of Jenna's fears. She knows that Jenna is going through a really bad time but feels helpless and doesn't know what to do.
A strong voice required for this part, with warmth and sympathy in it. I would play her around 36 years old.
is Suzy's side-kick. Not very bright, she allows Suzy to call the tunes. She seems to take a wide-eyed and rather ghoulish delight in all the details of anorexia. Not really caring for Jenna, she becomes something in a freak show to be watched by her. The excitement and drama of Jenna's plight is what appeals. This aspect lifts the role from being just a typical bitchy teenager. Play her as a follower, eyes always seeking Suzy's approval, voice avid when observing Jenna and when a witness to dramas, such as the ongoing Jason Spencer story. Towards the end, we are told that even Kate is going off Suzy. Though we see no evidence of this, the desertion of Suzy's friends prepares the ground for Suzy to be the next vulnerable victim of the Devil's wiles.
is the one who turns in the end and becomes friendly and supportive of Jenna. We need to see her change and grow-up. At first, she's as bad as the others - bitchy and shallow. The turning-point is on Page 7 when she reads the article on Anorexia and wonders if Jenna will die. Unlike Kate, whose reaction would be 'how exciting is that?', this possibility brings Jenna into focus for her and she starts to dissociate herself from the others, even going to Jenna and offering friendship. This is important to Jenna's recovery - which is really a recovery of her self-esteem.
is the arch bitch. She is quite bright, but completely boy-crazy. No one is allowed to be attractive to the opposite sex except her. Her attitude to Jenna gets worse during the course of the play. She sees Jenna's anorexia as a manipulative device to get thin and therefore more attractive. So she sees her as a rival - especially when she gets off with school heart-throb, Jason Spencer. In a clever twist at the end, we see Suzy in another light - as just as vulnerable as Jenna was at the beginning. Her chasing after boys becomes a desperate seeking for approval and she has been deserted by her friends. Next time round, it will be Suzy who is the anorexic and who, consequently, we see with a little more sympathy.
Largely a narrator, the Devil needs to be the voice of temptation. Voice is often scathing - when it is the personification of a character's inner voice -'You're too fat, etc...' Here the tone is one o€ loathing and cannot be overdone. More sinister is when the Devil poses as friend and advisor, dripping with insincere niceness - again, played to the hilt. A flamboyant totally non-realistic character, the Devil must be strongly acted to give the necessary emphasis to what she stands for.
is the smallest of the main characters, so can be doubled. She is a sympathetic character, who is drawn to Jenna and vice-versa because both come from fatherless families. She offers Jenna understanding and somebody to talk to. Though in the scene with Becky where we do not see Jenna coming clean about her father - cruelly contrasted with Becky's, who sees her regularly and buys her presents - we are aware that Becky is offering something solid and her support is helpful to Jenna's recovery. She can't be all bad if one person likes her for herself.
The other characters are physicalisations
of attitudes, the most important of which is the Nurse, who portrays
the firmly caring side of the school structure - along with Mrs
Haslam, who is reported on but who does not appear as a character.
Accents from all the cast could be anything, anywhere - regional or received English - I don't think it matters.
Best done on an open empty stage. This could be enhanced by a screen or screens which show relevant images as a background. For instance, the opening image could be of beautiful thin model girls. Other images throughout the play could include other media `pressurising' images, as well as images of Jenna's inner state - a forlorn figure, head down, slumped head in hands - that sort of thing. Two rostra blocks, angled inwards, would add necessary useful levels. These could be used for such as the devil to watch from. Make sure that the levels are low enough to act as seats for the cast, where seats are required - and there is no need for any more setting.
On stage should be a school type rubbish bin, of the outdoor variety. This should be placed downstage in one corner, just below `Mum's' raised rostrum. it should be lit by these same rostrum lights spilling over.
The lighting is mostly straight-forward
and the whole thing could be done with just a brightly lit stage.
The following suggestions would enhance the play, but are not
Four areas are indicated:
Area A = whole playing area, brightly lit.
Area B = Devils' rostrum - a raised area to one side of the stage including spillage around the general area.
Area C = a matching raised area to the other side of the stage which includes spill onto rubbish bin and around the general area
Area D = a clearly defined pool of light covering the front and centre of the playing space.
Area E = a profile spot, set just to the side [opposite to Mum's rostra] of front centre of the stage
Area F = a spot set centre back of stage
Coloured light - preferably changing, as on a colour wheel - may be needed for Page 8, the nightmare sequence - and possibly a strobe, briefly.
Beginning of the play. Lights over whole playing area A up to bright.
Halfway down page. Cue - All 'Before you get too old.' Wait for freeze, two seconds. Then cross-fade lights to Area D, front and centre + Spot F at back of stage on Jenna. PAGE 3
Third of way down. Cue - Suzy 'So little time...'. wait for girls to reach sides, out of light and then cut Jenna's light, Spot F, as she moves to the front.
Short way down page. Cue - Jenna '...I don't have any friends.' Add lights on the two rostra, Areas B and C.
Halfway down page. Cue - Devil `Bet she wishes she could.' Hold for short freeze, then Cut Devil's light, Area B. + central, front area D.