Bully for You / by John Tarrant
SANDRA - aged 12
TIM or TINA - could be a boy or a girl's-part.] - chat show host
CECIL BAKER - no reason why this should not be- Cecily Baker, if desired. - a politician
THE STUDIO AUDIENCE - who play the rest of the parts which are, in order of appearance:
DEREK - Sandra's brother, aged 13 - could be Erica, Sandra's sister
Though something is lost by Derek becoming Erica, this is still a play that is viable for an all female cast. Man 1 is a little macho for your usual woman - but why not? Man 2 could easily be a woman.
Could be played by as few as 10 people [dividing up the Voice parts further] or as many as you like up to about 18.
The running time is about half an hour to forty minutes.
Sample Pages from the script
Well, Sandra. What's it like to be a real victim of bullying?
SANDRA finding it difficult to speak
What would you like to know?
Perhaps you could tell us how it feels to be bullied.
SANDRA with some spirit
How do you think it feels?
The lights change and the studio audience become pupils in a classroom. General chaos. Sandra walks into the classroom with her bag. The noise stops and a whisper begins - and then turns into the 'Woof Woof Woof' we are beginning to associate with the bullying of Sandra. Out of this grows a chant - mocking - `Sandy, Sandy, Sandy!' accompanying the seizing and ducking about of Sandra's bag from one to the other. Sandra stands hunched in the centre. Finally, one of the pupils empties her bag on the floor at her feet.
Come on, Sandy, good dog. Down on all fours now. Down.. I tell you, Sandy, my labrador is much more obedient than you. She always sits down on the floor when I tell her. She'll do anything I say. Woof, Sandy. Go on, woof, like a good dog.
OTHER PUPILS Woof, Sandy, woof.
They freeze behind Sandra as she steps slowly towards the audience. Lights go down to a single spot on Sandra.
How do you think it feels? To be barked at the whole time - I know - when you say it, it just seems so silly. But it isn't, not to me. And the boys have started calling me a 'dog' too. 'Oy Sandy, you're too much of a dog for anyone to want you. No one likes ugly dogs. ... Yuk!'
... and so on. I wish I'd never been born. I wish I could be in a place where I didn't have to see anyone ever again. I hate people. Especially the people at this school.
After a brief pause, the lights come back up to bright. The pupils are back as studio audience.
A sad tale. Tell me, Sandra, why do they bark and call you Sandy? I have a niece called
Sandy - [mugs and waves out front] hi there, darling, if you're watching - and it's a lovely name. Short for Alexandra in our case - still, you can't have everything!
Louise's dog is called Sandy.
You're going to have to speak up a little Sandra so everyone here and at home can hear you. [to audience] Sandra has just said that Louise has got a dog called Sandy. [back to Sandra] So here you are, Sandra, to tell us all about it. And that's very brave of you, isn't it folks? Let's have a round of applause for Sandra's courage. [Claps and cheers.] Now, Sandra - you can hear we're all behind you. Tell us how this bullying makes you feel.
SANDRA very soft
It feels terrible.
Speak up, darling. They can't hear you.
SANDRA still soft
It feels terrible.
TIM giving up on her
She says it makes her feel terrible, folks. Just terrible. And there's no doubting that Sandra means just that. What she's going through is a living nightmare. We are witnessing Sandra's pain but are there answers to it? Let's take the spotlight off Sandra for a moment - you can go and sit down, darling, over there - and turn to our studio audience. I'd like to ask you this question: How should someone like Sandra cope with being bullied?... Yes, Madam.
LADY 1 an elderly woman
Well, Tim, my mother always used to sit me down, look me in the eyes and say, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me.' And you know, Tim, she used to make me say that twenty times each night before I went to sleep.
And were you the victim of bullying?
Well yes, Tim, I was. And I'll tell you this, Tim - my mother used to tell me to walk away from it. 'Walk away, Elizabeth,' she'd say to me. 'Walk away; turn your back on them; they're not worth the bother, they're not, Elizabeth.' And then Tim, she'd look me in the eyes and do you know what she'd say?
She'd say, Tim, about them sticks and stones and how as they were only names those bullies were calling me. Do you know what she'd do then?
Yes, well, I'm sure we're all dying to know but we really must move on and let others have a chance to speak. After all, this is a show for everyone! [Laughter in response to cue card] Sir, what advice would you give Sandra. And try to keep it short! [He gestures to Lady 1. Audience laughter.]
Now Tim, I've been thinking about this bullying thing and you know what? I think we've got to look closely at these victims. You know, it's all very well to feel sorry for these people and I'm sure this er ... um ...
Yes, Sandra - well, I'm sure Sandra hasn't brought this bullying onto herself, but you know, I think the best thing we can do for these victims is to teach them to stand up for themselves. All this 'hum the other cheek' business and 'turn your back and walk away!' Well, Tim, it's a tough old world out there and we can't always turn our backs, can we? Sometimes we've just got to stand up for ourselves - we've got to let other people know we're not going to be pushed around. [Cheers and clapping.] Now I'm not saying we should get violent - well, not unless it's absolutely necessary. It's in the Bible, ain't it? 'An eye for an eye' it says ...
Yes, well - thankyou sir. I think we've caught your drift. So it's a course in self defence or karate for Sandra, is it? [Laughter] Yes, sir.
I just want to say that I was bullied at school and I've never got over it. It's ruined my life.
Oh dear. Looking back, can you think of anything you could have done? Anything that might help Sandra now?
Talk to someone if you can. I didn't have anyone. Move classes if possible - or schools if it's too bad.
You're saying run away? Rubbish to that!
You can't fight them. There are too many of them. My mother ...
TIM cutting in
All right, folks. That's enough. Quieten down. Let's hear what our real expert has to say. Mr Baker - what would your advice to Sandra be?
Bullying as we have heard from all these good people is a complex issue and one which our government takes very seriously. The solution to the problem, as with so many issues today, lies at home. It's the breakdown of the traditional family values that is to blame. Look how that good lady in the audience could cope because her mother supported her. Parents must take an active role in guiding and helping their children through difficult relationships with their peers.
I saw you deliberately trip her up.
It was an accident, Miss.
An accident! Do you think I'm stupid? I've been watching you for the last five minutes and you've been deliberately picking on her. Go and stand outside my office.
Don't 'aowh' me! Get to my office - now!
Sandra approaches the teacher cautiously. Nicola, Suzanne, Louise stand in a group watching
Miss, can I speak to you?
Yes, of course. Sandra. What is it?
Well, I wondered if I could see you alone, please ... [She is shuffling and looking more and more awkward.]
No one's listening now. What is it?
Louise casually walks past, almost brushing Sandra and, from behind the teacher's back, rums and looks at Sandra.
Well ... it's about that test, Miss.
Oh, you don't need to worry about that, Sandra, you'll be fine. It's not that important, really.
Is that it? Are you just worried about the test?
Louise runs up to Sandra, acting very friendly and as if she has not noticed the teacher.
Hey, Sandy. Come and play; we need a fourth for our team against the boys. ... [As if seeing the teacher for the first time.] Oh, sorry, Miss. I didn't see you. Have you finished with Sandra? Only we need her.
TEACHER 1 laughing
Of course you can have her. She was just worried about that test.. [She smiles kindly at
Sandra.] You'll be fine, Sandy - I like that abbreviation, it suits you. Nice to see you mixing more, Sandy.
The lights fade as before into a single spot with Sandra in it.
So what could I do? She was nice, that teacher, and maybe I could have talked to her.. but not now. I was too scared. Louise and her lot gave me a good idea of what would happen to me if I said a word to anyone. So that was that. I was left with nothing. No one to talk to - not even my parents, or they'd just complain at the school and then my life would be even worse.
Lights back to the studio.
Well, we all know teachers are very busy people. They can't notice everything - she can't help you if you don't give her a due, can she? And they're so busy with all that paperwork - [a dig at him] eh, Cecil Baker? - invented by the government to keep them occupied. They've probably not much time for those little problems involving their own pupils. Not that Sandra's problem is little, of course. To her it's very real and very big. So what can she do? It's difficult to talk at home; it's difficult to talk at school. How about friends, Sandra? Have you got a good friend to talk to? [Silence while he looks at Sandra.] Well - maybe not.
I write it down. I tell my diary.
SANDRA Yes. It helps a little.
Lights change and the studio audience range themselves around the stage to become the voice of Sandra's diary. Some of the action suggested by the text is shown in slow motion.
Dear Diary ... Today was very bad. They didn't stop all day. They started on the way to school, barking and calling ...
'Sandy, good dog! Sandy!'
I tried to walk in amongst another group as I got to the school gates, but they were there, as they always are. I walked more quickly, head down.
I keep my head down. I don't look up. I don't hear the names. I am learning to go blind and deaf. I am trying not to notice.
I am building a wall around me. It is hard. When it's complete, maybe they won't hurt me any more.
I keep my head down, I don't look up. But they stand in my way. They lift my chin up. They make me see them.
I could feel the eyes of all the others standing behind me, staring, staring. I feel small. It's the worst feeling in the world.
I try to move to the right to get around them, but they move to block my way.
One of them pulls my hair then another holds my chin up so that I am forced to look at 'her.'
'Look at me when I'm talking to you,' she says. Then she spits in my face.
They all run off laughing. I wipe the spit from my face and go into my first lesson.
Why do they hate me so?
Diary, you know I don't write any names but you know who I mean when I say 'she.' Well, 'she' asked Miss if I could sit next to her in History. Miss thought she was being 'so' kind.
'That's a lovely idea! Sandra sits on her own so often. It will be nice for her to have someone to sit next to.'
Are all teachers stupid or what? Couldn't she see the rest of the class laughing?
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 obvious intention of the play is to focus on the theme of bullying but there is a secondary intention which is to underline the falseness of the supposed issue-based chat show and of politicians.
The chatshow purports to deal with a serious issue in a serious manner, but fails to treat Sandra sensitively - or indeed anyone with anything 'real' and painful to say. Instead it skulks around the edges of the topic, aiming for good viewing for the unseen T.V. audience and sacrificing any real results from its forum in favour of entertainment.
The political figure of Cecil - or Cecily - Baker spouts the usual bland nothings which sound good sense until you examine them and see that they are empty of any real design to improve things in schools.
The play does not offer any real answers, but is useful as a vehicle for discussion [should this be desired - it would make a good play for a class to read for English, for instance.] Through the mouths of the studio audience, a variety of differing solutions to the problem of bullying are aired whilst running like a seam throughout, the 'real' story of Sandra is used as a contrast to the atmosphere of the studio.
SANDRA aged 12 is the focus of the whole play. She is in Year 7 and it is the summer term. Though described by her mother as having been a happy child until she went to secondary school, the Sandra we see is awkward and diffident. Her problems have caused her to go inside herself, so that she finds it impossible to speak to her family or teachers about her problem, mainly because she is afraid of not being taken seriously, of not being believed, of being told to snap out of it. She is crying out for sympathy and understanding, but everyone is too busy to notice. Sympathy for her is not raised by the scenes in which she is interacting with others; there we perceive only her awkwardness. But in the scenes where, through the Voices of her diary, for instance, she can reveal her true feelings, strong feelings are evoked. The playing style should vary from hunched, head down, muttered or babyishly defiant [with her family], slouching walk, shuffling feet, unattractive expression - to quietly desperate, intelligent and thoughtful, as she comes over in her spoken thoughts. These are done through the medium of direct address to the audience and need to be spoken clearly and sincerely with appropriately open body language.
TIM or TINA - the chat show host is an unlikeable character. Plenty of 'oomph' needed in the playing style, which can be modelled on Jerry Springer, perhaps, or on the mannerisms of Davina McCall. We have all seen chat shows of one kind or another and an actor should find it easy to develop a style in accordance. Insincerity should shine out from everything he says. He is patronising with the members of the studio audience and with Sandra. Should we have any doubts about him, they are dispersed on the line 'What are you trying to do? Ruin my show?' At times, we do see him thrown by the passion evinced by certain members of the audience and this needs to be emphasised. He cannot cope with real emotion and we should see the relief on his face when he announces next week's subject - Do blondes have more fun? This kind of topic is his real forte.
CECIL or CECILY BAKER unctuous and deeply sincere sounding. Always talking in a reasonable and patient tone, rather slowly and over--emphatically. He addresses himself to the audience [both studio and real] as if all his speeches are public propaganda for his party - which is how they need to come over. He is not a 'nasty' character, like Tim, but should be seen as hopelessly out-of-touch with the reality of problems in schools, in fact a `typical' politician.
The other characters in the play are meant to be doubled. None of them are very fully drawn so I will just give you some 'handles' on each. Care must be taken to differentiate between, for instance, the two teachers, or the three bully girls, to add life and interest to the scenes.
ANNOUNCER - patient, bright voice, patronising.
CUE CARD HOLDER - doesn't speak, face reflects whatever is on her card.
DEREK - Sandra's brother [could be Erica, her sister.] one-year older than Sandra. They don't get on. First scene - cheery and punchy direct address. Second scene - the kitchen scene - mean tone of voice, dripping with sarcasm. End speech - Sincere.
LOUISE - the main bully, very much kingpin - confident stance, hard stare, etc.
NICOLA - tries to copy Louise, but always looks to her for reassurance, a fusser, sucks up to teachers as well as to Louise.
SUZANNE - hangs back a little from the other two, unsure of herself, a follower.
TEACHER 1 - may be slightly older. A 'fair' character, but used to making snap decisions, so she misses things. Play her with more authority than Teacher 2.
TEACHER 2 - works better if this teacher is played as very young. Friends with Teacher 1 and follows her lead in most things. A sympathetic character, especially in her role at the end.
SANDRA'S MUM - only has the one scene in the kitchen and a closing speech. She is obviously a good caring mum, willing to listen. Derek diverts her attention from Sandra's misery in the scene but it should be dear that Sandra could have, and probably should have, talked to her.
LADY 1 - an old biddy with verbal diaorrhea. Speak rapidly and hardly draws breath to make the point that If Tim hadn't interrupted she would still be holding forth.
LADY 2 - sympathetic middle-aged woman, sensible no-nonsense tone.
MAN 1 - strong confident voice. Quite macho.
MAN 2 - a rather weedy man, self-effacing and over-sensitive.
YOUNG WOMAN - perhaps a psycho-therapist or similar. Someone who's very keen on understanding and forgiveness. Angry at the general response of the programme to Sandra's problems.
THE VOICES - are first of all the inner thoughts of Sandra as written in her diary and then the second time they are the voices of the studio audience.
PUPILS 1,2 and 3 - pretty well interchangeable
'typical' Year 7/8 kids.
If you are using this for an exam-piece - the three main parts are examinable. The Teachers, both of them, are quite meaty parts as are, at a pinch, Sandra's Mum and Derek. The others would need doubling to give them sufficient material. This of course has the advantage of showing a student's abilities to change themselves and adopt different voices and suitable body language.
It is essential that there is a large open space covering as much of the centre and forestage as possible.
On one side of the stage, angled so that we can see them dearly, and, if possible raked in two or three tiers, are the seats - benches possibly - for the studio audience. When not used in a scene, all the cast except Sandra, Tim and Cecil Baker go back to their seat here.
The Cue-card Holder - who will obviously be playing other parts too - ought to sit on the bottom row of the tier, next to the wings with her various cards next to her.
Cecil Baker's seat needs to be separated a little from this. Perhaps there could be two comfortable armchairs or leather chairs - or even a sofa - chat-show style - set towards the back centre, slightly angled towards the studio audience. Sandra's chair, to emphasise her isolation, could b e in the downstage comer on the same side as the studio audience seats. On the opposite side of the stage there needs to be some scaffolding - perhaps a scaffolding tower with the top platform lowered - disguised, if you like as an entrance, as previously suggested, with a glitzy glitter certain or similar. Through this, Tim and guests could come. If preferred - and you have room - the scaffolding could be thrust out away from the stage into the theatre or studio itself - accessible from a corner of the stage but not visible until you choose it to be at the end. In this case you might balance the stage by having the armchairs/sofa further downstage on the opposite side to the studio audience.
Wake up the stage and give visual interest by having bright coloured cushions on the armchair. In the centre at the back of the stage could be a free-standing fiat, brightly coloured, with Talk with Tim' blazoned across it in huge script. If scaffolding is kept off the stage, then this could be the entrance for the guests and for Tim. There is always an opportunity for such as Louise to get behind this unseen in the shadow whilst something is going on in the central lit area.
You might like to give the whole thing a more Brechtian feel by having this back flat as a blank white screen on which slides can be projected. These could include a Talk with Tim' logo, close-ups of Sandra's face, pictures of kids in groups - bullying pictures and so on, to give the whole play a broader context. If this idea is used, try 'setting the scene' for each section by having pictures of Margate - [or similar sea-side town], a typical neat semi as Sandra's home, and so on. If there is time, preparing such backgrounds can be a lot of fun. The screen will take colour nicely too, so for instance can just have deep-red lighting on it as a background to the Voices/Diary scene.
The set-up must include distinct areas:
- the studio, which has the whole stage brightly lit with a rather harsh white light.
- the central playing area - which puts the studio audience and guests into shadow and defines most of the other scenes. This needs to be as hard-edged as possible, trying to minimise spill onto the 'audience' faces especially.
- the scaffolding tower, focusing on the platform but with enough spill to catch the face of the Teacher as she climbs up and speaks to Sandra from below.
Special spots are required front centre and down-stage rear to wherever Sandra's chair is. Plus two other front-stage area spots, randomly placed off-centre. [One could be done by the follow-spot if you have one and are short of lights.]
In addition, if white screen is used - colour washes focused
on this and/or slides may be required - needing back-projection.
A follow-spot is a nice detail if you have one, but is not a necessity.
A further area of coloured light, somewhere in the central area of light but off-centre and towards the side of this area - reddish or blue - for the slow-motion action Pages 13/14 would be a nice touch.
opening of the play. Lights up to bright white studio.
a few lines down - Cue: Announcer - 'Any second now and we'll be on air.' Colour wash on white screen if used - bright colour. Or colour wash stage with bright colour. Follow-spot if you have one to pick up Tim as he enters.
During Tim's opening 'Good evening ...'gradually fade out colour and return to bright white studio lighting.
bottom of page. Cue: Tim -' Here's the story that Sandra, her brother and her teachers have to tell.' Rapid fade of studio lights. Single spot centre stage.
top of page, Cue: Derek - 'Don't you think so, Sandra?' Bring up the other Downstage spot on Sandra's side. These spots ought to be hard-edged with no spill.