Big Hair Day / by Fiona Baddeley

The play is set in a hairdressing salon. The year is 1976. The set can be kept very simple: chairs, a desk, a phone and posters or images that reflect the seventies. A big central flat or fly with the name of the salon on could be effective.

Cast:

Carmel - bubbly, naive

Jenny - bored, intelligent

Roz - caring

Jo - a little 'tarty' and over chatty

Tracey - the receptionist

Barry - the salon manager

Vicar

+ Four girl actors who play the following parts:

4 unspeaking clients
Jean
Instructor + 3 unspeaking class members
Mrs Willis
4 Old Ladies: Mrs Smith, Mrs Jones, Mrs Arscot and Mrs Carter
Teacher + 3 girls, Tracey 1, Tracey 2 and Tracey 3. The real Tracey becomes Tracey 4.

Alternatively, the Boy playing the Vicar, a very small part, could play the Teacher with the 4 extra girls taking Tracey 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Sample Pages from the script

Extract 1

I wish they taught you useful things.

JO
What do you mean?

CARMEL
Well, I wish they taught you about love and emotions and what life's about. Almost so that it would sort of train you for life, like sports people train for a race. I can just imagine it...



Scene 4

Change of lighting, aerobics music. Other girls and instructor march on.

INSTRUCTOR
Let's march it out. March it out. March it out. OK... let's shake it out. Shake it out. Shake it out. OK, we're going to go for the first move in this week's pop-mobility lesson in LUV. And number one is the greeting . Everyone ready - one, two, three ... [she blows two kisses in the air and then says:] Darling [This is repeated three or four times.] And march it out. March it out. March it out. And shake it out. Shake it out. Shake it out.... OK, moving into number Two: looking bashful. Everyone ready? And one, two, three ... [she puts her hand to her mouth and then toms away looking bashful. This is repeated three or four times as before.]
And march it out March it out. March it out. And shake it out. Shake it out. Shake it out. And number three: lick those lips. Follow me ... one, two, three and lick those lips ... [Again this is repeated three or four times.] And number four: the kiss. Get those tongues ready ... one, two, three and ... [they all freeze as Jenny interrupts them]

JENNY
Carmel... will you snap out of it, you've got a customer waiting. [Aerobics people walk off] Pull yourself together, will you, and stop staring into space.


Scene 5

ROZ
So who's rattled your cage? You haven't a good word to say to anyone today.

JENNY
I'm just bored, OK? Do you never think that there may be more to life than washing heads and cutting hair? I sometimes think that if I see another hopeful face lookin' at me out of that mirror hoping that I can transform them into Farrah Fawcet Majors in the course of an afternoon, I'll scream. And then, when you fail to perform the required miracle, they look at you as if you've Just destroyed every chance they ever had in life. Take that woman who came in last week. She had a real attitude problem ...

TRACEY
Jenny, it's Mrs Willis for you. Shall I bring her over?

JENNY
Thank you, Tracey.

MRS WILLIS
I'd just like to say that I was very disappointed that Barry wasn't available to do my hair. I always have the lead stylist and if it weren't for the fact that I have to have my hair done for a very high-class wedding, I would have rescheduled.

JENNY
Well, we'll do our best, Mrs Willis.

MRS WILLIS
Who's 'we'. I hope you're not using 'we' in that patronising way people do when they are talking to children, old people and the infirm.

JENNY
No, Mrs Willis, I just meant ...

MRS WILLIS
Well, good. Now I don't know if Barry's told you, but the colour I have is 'Autumn Gold.' He says it gives my hair the richness of a forest in its autumn glory. And I'd just like you to bear in mind that I'm looking for lustre, shine and fullness. None of this flat stuck-to-the -head look. As for the cut: it needs to be kept off the face. I can't stand these styles that you're constantly putting out of your eyes, but I like to have it that bit longer at the back. You young people don't understand what is meant by the words 'style' and 'elegance'; you think that a few strings of beads around your neck and some scruffy denims is all it takes. We knew elegance in my day. I wouldn't have been seen dead walking down the street in the clothes you wear. And half of you don't look as if you have had a proper wash. Now, as you haven't done my hair before I thought it best to bring a picture from a magazine to show you what I expect it to look like.

JENNY
I'll do my best, Mrs Willis. Would you like to take Mrs Willis through to the basins, please, Tracey? [Mrs Willis and Tracey leave.] She left me with a picture of a woman that had more hair in her eyebrows than Mrs Willis had on her head. Needless to say when I couldn't deliver the goods, she complained. [Mrs Willis enters with a bright red wig that gives her a hideous hairstyle.]

MRS WILLIS
I knew it was a mistake not to have Barry. How am I going to make the right impression at the wedding tomorrow when I look like an Afghan hound that's just been through a carwash? And as for the autumn tints, I'd say it was more like forest fire. You needn't think you are getting a tip and you can rest assured I'm telling Barry about this.

JENNY
Barry wasn't too pleased when he got to hear about it but luckily he had other things on his mind ...


Scene 6

BARRY
Girls, I've made a management decision. I want you to be the living examples of the style that the salon is promoting. I want your presence to say to the customers, This is the style of today; this is the style for you.' And the style of today is the Afro. Now Carmel, I'm pleased to say, has offered to be the first to model it for us. Carmel, would you like to come in? [Carmel enters looking pleased with herself and wearing an Afro wig.] Now I don't expect you all to change your hairstyles immediately, but do bear in mind that as employees of this salon, I see you as being responsible for establishing and advertising the look of the salon. I see it not only as a question of aesthetics but also of loyalty. [Barry exits.]

JENNY
Well, if he thinks I'm going to go around looking as if I've been plugged in to the nearest electric socket, he's got another think coming.

Carmel looks dismayed.

ROZ
I think your hair looks lovely, Carmel. It really suits you.

JENNY
So you are going to be the next one to have it done, are you?

ROZ
I didn't say that; I just meant it looks really good on Carmel.

JENNY
Well, she would have it done, wouldn't she? Anything to impress Barry, as if it is going to make any bloody difference. [Carmel starts crying and goes out]

ROZ
Now look what you have done ... [She goes out. An awkward silence follows.]

JO
I think my Terry would quite like me to have an Afro. He likes big hair on a woman. He says it's sensual. It's funny that, isn't it, 'cause although he likes Afro hair, he's very against all these blacks and packies being over here. He says Britain is for the British and we should all be demonstrating to get rid of them. He says they'll take all our jobs if we are not careful and anyway there's not enough room for them.

JENNY
So, Terry's a racist as well as an idiot, is he?

Extract 2

[Music changes to Max Bygraves.]

JENNY
Well, I just hate OAPs day! It's just depressing thinking that in days to come that'll be me. Blue rinse, pork pie hat and wrinkly stockings.

JO
It doesn't have to be like that.

ROZ
I like it when the OAPs come in. I get on with old people. I suppose it's because my gran brought me up really. My mum was on her own, you see. My dad left her for the bar-maid in the Horse and Hound. She had to work really hard to make ends meet. She did a cleaning job in the day and then a night shift stacking the shelves in Kwik Save. So I always went to my gran's after school. She had time for me. Always had something nice to eat waiting for me when I got home. On Thursdays, when she got her pension, she'd go to the cake shops and get some chocolate eclairs for a treat. So I like chatting to the old ladies; I see it as my chance to do a bit of good in the world. I mean, for some of them you are their lifeline; the only person they might talk to that day. It's my opportunity to be a little ray of sunshine, a warm friendly voice in a cold uncaring world, a comforting hot chocolate after a snowy winter's walk.

JENNY
Oh, give over, Roz. Here they come!

Four old ladies enter and struggle into the chairs

ALL FOUR HAIRDRESSERS TOGETHER
Morning Mrs ...

JENNY
Smith

JO
Jones

ROZ Arscot

CARMEL Carter.

ALL HAIRDRESSERS
How are you today?

OLD LADIES TOGETHER
Oh, not so bad, dear. I've just got this pain in my ...

MRS SMITH
Back

MRS JONES
Hips

MRS ARSCOT
Chest

MRS CARTER
... .... [She mouths something silently and points below in the manner of Les Dawson.]

ALL HAIRDRESSERS
Well, I hope you've been to the doctor's.

ALL OLD LADIES
There's nothing he can do at my age, dear. You've just got to cope as best as you can.

ALL HAIRDRESSERS
Is it the usual blue rinse?

ALL OLD LADIES
Yes, please, dear, and not too tight with the rollers. It hurts me 'ed.

ALL HAIRDRESSERS
Are you going out tonight, Mrs ...

JENNY
Smith

JO Jones

ROZ Arscot

CARMEL Carter

OLD LADIES
Pardon me? I'm sorry, you'll have to speak up - my hearing's not too good.

HAIRDRESSERS
Are you going out tonight?

OLD LADIES
Oh, just the usual ...

MRS SMITH
Bingo

MRS JONES
Whist

MRS ARSCOT
Coronation Street

MRS CARTER
Toy boy and me, out on the town.

HAIRDRESSERS
I hope that these awful power cuts haven't been bothering you too much.

OLD LADIES
Oh no. dear. My generation have been used to hardship. We haven't been accustomed to all these modern comforts. When I was a girl you didn't have ...

MRS SMITH
Central heating

MRS JONES
Hot water

MRS ARSCOT
Electric gadgets to do the work for you

MRS CARTER
Electric blankets. You had to find other ways of keeping warm in bed, if you know what I mean ...

OLD LADIES
Our idea of a treat was ...

MRS SMITH
Putting your feet in the gas oven to warm up

MRS JONES
A piece of stale bread with a bit of marge

MRS ARSCOT
Eating the pet rabbit for Sunday lunch

MRS CARTER
Getting the milkman to give you a bit extra on the side

Actors freeze.

JENNY to the audience
And so it goes on, the same thing week after week. I wouldn't mind but as soon as you've done their hair they put their hats back on.

Old ladies put their hats back on and slowly make their way to the door.

HAIRDRESSERS
See you next week then Mrs ...

JENNY
Smith

JO Jones -

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.

This is a fun, bubbly play which is not intended to be too serious in its intentions. There is a modicum of social comment inherent in the light satirical style but it is largely an affectionate glance at seventies' fashions: its music, clothes and, of course, its hair.

The interest and main focus of the play are the girls themselves. Somewhat in the style of 'Dreamjobs' - a perennial favourite with drama teachers with GCSE exam classes- it focuses on the dreams and aspirations of the four hairdressers.

Conflict is added by the tension between Jo and Jenny on the subject of Jo's boyfriend Terry.

CHARACTERS

CARMEL is described as 'bubbly and naive'. Her voice should be light and delivery quite fast. She has a tendency to dream - a contrast to the others - and this should be built into her characterisation. For instance, whenever Barry enters we should be aware of her adoring interest in him - she watches him all the time with an expression of alert attention and tries to bring herself to his notice not by flirting but by extra efficiency when he is around. When he leaves the stage - a beat or two as she watches after him and the dreamy expression takes over her face - before she gets back to work. She needs to come over as pleasant and rather young for her age - a 'nice' girl.

JENNY, described as 'bored and intelligent,' acts as a good contrast to the others. Her tone of speech should be slower, deeper, emphasising the undertone of irony which is in much of what she says. At times she is sharp, cutting, hurtful - because she is impatient with the silliness of others. The increasing conflict with JO, which is only explained at the end of the play needs to be carefully underlined. The audience needs to be asking - what is behind all this? - and this gives a necessary depth to the play. The real Jenny is only revealed in this final scene on Page 14, but we do need to notice the progress of her bitterness about Terry before that. The speech on Page 14 should be delivered with a kind of wry bitterness - not with self-pity; that isn't Jenny's style.

ROZ is described as 'caring' and that is a good due to her character. She is kind, forgiving of others, a peacemaker. She ends up happily looking after old people. Her tone is pleasant and warm - sometimes placatory,as she often has to soothe the feelings of others. She should speak quite slowly, show that she listens to others, be distressed when someone, like Carmel, is hurting, treat her customers with gentleness and warmth. She is not desperately bright - a bit literal - but she is not a weak character. Her positivity gives her strength and she always smiles and has a good word for everyone.

JO is described as 'a little tarty and over-chatty.' She is the other side of the coin from Jenny - flouncy, sure of herself, full of received opinions from her boyfriend Terry. She hasn't an original thought in her head. Her delivery could be harsher in tone than the others - the kind of voice that grates on you - and very fast, hardly drawing breath between sentences. Her body language could be mannered, subject to posing - in a very stereo-typical way. Care should be taken to emphasise the fun side of her character, though, because we should not dislike her at the end when she hears the truth about her beloved Terry. She is so full of feistiness throughout the play, that this scene should show the stuffing being knocked out of her. She is gutted - and for once almost silent.

TRACEY, the receptionist, has little to do until Page 11, when she has a chance to reveal her character a bit. Up to then she is a caricature receptionist using that typical bored phone voice with its strange stresses on inappropriate words so familiar to us all. Though the script does not always spell it out, we should hear her 'set phone speech', given on Page 2, often throughout the play. It should act as a background, preceded by the brief ringing of a phone, keeping us aware of where we are. Her speech on Page 11 reveals that she has a pretty low intelligence level. This should be reflected in her voice delivery which may be a little too slow, with less varied modulation than the others have. She lives at home and dotes on her parents. Though Carmen admires her for her confident phone manner, this is ironic, since cleary Tracey has little confidence in herself. Her opinions are her parents' and one has the feeling she will never break away from their protection.

BARRY, the salon manager is a type pure and simple: camp, extrovert, full of himself, with emphatic and extreme body language and the over-pronounced way of speaking and overemphatic lip movement, that we associate with the camp type. He does not listen to others, flounces around, is tetchy and difficult. I cannot imagine why a nice girl like Carmen might think she loves him - but he does pay her attention and that is flattering. He should touch her often - a little squeeze, an arm round her, that sort of thing - which might, to someone as naive as Carmen, be misinterpreted. If he is generally touchy-feely, then that would make more sense of his character.

All the other characters are types and self-evident. The skill for those undertaking them, is to show distinct differences between all the characters - in voice and body language.

All the characters are to a degree stereotypical, but care should be taken to differentiate them as indicated above, otherwise interest is lost. Their characters should be reflected in their dances, too - the moves varying in slickness and punch according to the dancer. I am not saying that moves should be wrong - just that facial expressions should differ [Tracey fiercely concentrating, Jenny sure of herself, scowling a little - etc.] Dance inserts in pieces are one area that I have noticed young actors tending to drop character and enthusiastically perform the dance as themselves. Just a warning.

The girls should have varying degrees of regional accents - JO's the strongest.

SETTING

There needs to be plenty of free performance space in the centre, for the dance and dream sequences. As the author suggests. a central flat - can be free-standing - set towards the back, with the name of the salon on and posters and images reflecting the fashions and icons of the seventies, would add interest and a focal point. You could add Barry's slogan, written large across it: 'Tomorrow's hair styles in today's salon.' This flat could also be an 'exit/ entrance for the parts of the text that require customers going off into another part of the salon itself - e.g. for washing or to the dryers. Have a table set behind it with Mrs Willis' and Jean's wigs on it. This would add variety to the usable stage entrances.

Sharply angled at one side of the stage - a row of chairs, for the customers and for the girls to stand behind. On the other side of the stage - Tracey's desk, chair and phone. It would be good if chairs matched.

This is all that is necessary. Any other dressings are up to you. You may want a long table or a trolley for the hairdressing equipment - sprays. scissors, hand mirrors and so on, that the girls use as part of their 'business.' And of course you are free to create a whole salon if desired.

LIGHTS

Lights can be very simple. Three main statements need to be made by them:

  1. the salon itself - bright and warm.
  2. the dream sequences - colour added to give an unreal effect. Dimmer and more orangey perhaps.
  3. the dance sequences - disco lights would be ideal, but otherwise - flashing between two strong colours such as red and blue.

LIGHTING CUES

are identified as 'salon' , 'dream' or 'dance.' Those managing the lights should have a separate set-up for each. Dream lights and Dance lights can be just focused on the central area, leaving the salon props and furniture in shadow.

Apart from the three essential 'moods' or areas identified above, you need a single spot for when there is a freeze with one girl narrating. This could be in one distinct area, such as D.S.L. and could be used every time there is a narration moment.

Opening, Page 2: Dance lights.

Scene 1: change to Salon lights.

top of Page 3: Carmel steps forward as the others freeze. Dim stage lights and spot on Carmel.

Scene 2. Page 3. up to Salon lights.

Page 3, halfway down. Cue: Jean - 'Oh, Barry!' fast change to Dance lights.

Page 3. Cue - Jean's re-entry with wig. abrupt stop of music and lights revert quickly to Salon.

Page 5, near top: Cue: Carmel -'I can just imagine it...' Slow fade into Dream lights.

Cue - end of Instructor's speech ... they all freeze as Jenny interrupts. Lights change rapidly back to Salon. -