Flat Spin / by Marsali Taylor

Cast

THE FLATMATES:
JILL - studying English
CATHY - also studying English
ALICE - studying Law
NANCY - studying Medicine
JAN - studying Music

THE VISITORS:
JACKIE
EMMA

If possible - an extra boy to play Dave would be desirable. There are no words for him and only a fleeting glimpse, but a willing body just for this would be an advantage - though it is do-able without.

This would make a good examination piece for GCSE. It lasts about twenty - twenty five minutes.

The parts of the five flatmates are each large enough for examination purposes. However, Emma and Jackie's roles are both small. I think a composite single role made out of the two would make the `Visitor' examinable. This wouldn't require any alteration to the script.

The play then becomes an exam piece for 6 girls.

Sample Pages from the script

Extract 1

Dim light through curtains on the shared living room/ bedroom of a student flat Two beds - Cathy's and Jill's - , a table, sundry chairs, a sofa, student clutter. A ten seconds pause, then an alarm clock goes off by Jill's bed and is quickly stifled Sounds of dressing. Jill puts a torch on for the last layers of dressing, She is getting up to finish her essay. She fishes a thermos, a mug and a light bulb out of her bag, puts the light bulb in the desk light and switches it on. She turns the torch off and lays out her work on the table. it is at the final draft stage, so she has notes, a first draft, a couple of reference books, the text 'SirGawain and the Green Knight' and her laptop. She clambers into a sleeping bag and begins work.

Silence.

Slowly the lights come up through the windows. Jill rises to open the curtains, pours herself a coffee and continues to work. Light is now at normal indoor level.

There is the sound of a second alarm clock, followed by the sounds of someone thumping around. We hear a toilet flushing, the opening and closing of drawers, etc. Then someone begins to play scales on a musical instrument.

Jill reaches into her bag for cotton-wool, puts it into her ears and continues to work.

A third alarm clock sounds, followed by opening and closing doors and the toilet flushing once more. Radio 4 is switched on. Drawers open and close and finally Alice enters in her dressing-gown. She goes into the kitchen. There is the sound of a kettle being filled and switched on and clinking plates, etc.

Jill continues to work throughout all the above and through the following dialogue, without looking up or around, even when she answers.

ALICE
off For goodness' sake! There's not even one clears mug. [She re-enters.] New life forms are evolving in there. Whose turn is it? [She looks at the list on the door.]

JILL
Jan.

ALICE
Jan. [She calls into the hall.] Jan, it's your turn to do the dishes. JAN!!

The scales stop.

JAN
off What?

ALICE
Dishes... Your turn!

JAN
Yeah, yeah.

The scales start again.

ALICE
to Jill Can I take your cup?

JILL
puts her hand over it No.

ALICE
reading over her shoulder 'Discuss the way the stanza form and metre echo the temptation of Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.' [She picks up the book.] 'God moroun, Sir Gawayn' sayde pat gay lady, Ze ar a sleper unslyze, pat mon may slyde hider.'

JILL
taking the book back, still without looking up; in an old-fashioned accent 'Good morn, Sir Gawain,' said that gay lady; 'Ye are a sleeper unslythe, that man may slide hither.'

ALICE
What's that meant to be?

JILL
Old English.

ALICE
Did you remind Cathy about her share of the electricity bill?

JILL
Yes.

ALICE
wandering away to check bucket It's getting worse. Why don't you phone the landlord?

JILL
Why don't you?

Alice wanders back into the kitchen. Sounds of washing cup and making coffee. Alice returns with cup of coffee, heads for the door and pauses.

ALICE
Good party?

JILL
Fine.

ALICE
Was what's his name there?

JILL
Yes.

ALICE
Good. [She exits.]

JILL
Yes, he was there.

ALICE
returns with candle Why are there never any matches in the bathroom?

JILL
They get wet, m'lud.

ALICE
No shower then.

She exits to get dressed. Jill works on.

The fourth alarm clock sounds - Cathy's. A hand comes out from under the immobile lump of bedding and gropes it off. Jill works on.

Alarm clock 5 goes off. There are sounds of doors, etc. Radio 1 is turned on.

Enter Nancy in pyjamas. She goes into the kitchen and comes back out.

NANCY
Why are there never any mugs?

JILL
It's Jan's turn.

NANCY
Can I have / ... [ Your mug? ]

JILL
hand over it / No.

NANCY
Shower. [She exits and returns.] Can I borrow your lightbulb?

JILL
I'm using it.

NANCY
It's the only one that works.

JILL
This essay's due in by five.

NANCY
What's it / on?

JILL
/ 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.'

NANCY
taking book 'Pe chauntre of pe chapel chewed to an end.' -

JILL
taking book back Old English.

NANCY
How was the / party?

JILL
I Fine.

NANCY
Was whosit there?

JILL
Yes.

NANCY
Cath had a good time too then?

JILL
Yes.

NANCY
Look, please can I take your bulb? I won't be three minutes. It's light in here anyway.

Jill stops, takes cotton wool out of ears, lays down hands and looks up. She's obviously going to get no peace until Nancy's gone.

JILL
What about the way water's dripping through the socket?

NANCY
It's fine. My gran's had water in her sockets for years.

JILL
Three minutes.

NANCY
Thanks, Jill, you're a pal. [She switches off the light, tries to unscrew the bulb.] Ouch. [She goes into the kitchen, gets a teatowel and unscrews it. On her way to the door, she looks in the bucket.] It's still leaking then. You should phone the landlord. [She exits.]

Jill pours herself another coffee from her flask, switches her torch on and gets back to work. The scales on the instrument stop. Jill looks up and goes over to the bucket, She empties it in the kitchen and puts it back. Jan blunders in, kicking over the bucket and the ashtray on the way.

JAN
Shite! [She picks up the bucket.] Oh, have they mended it?

JILL
No.

JAN
picking up fag ends, she goes into kitchen The bin's full. Whose turn is it? [Goes to look at list.]

JAN and JILL
together Alice.

JAN
calling out of the door Alice, your turn to empty the bin.

ALICE
off When you do the dishes.

JAN
It's not my turn.

ALICE
Yes, it is.

JAN
Is it my turn? [Checks door.] Oops, / I'd forgotten.

JILL / Yes.

JAN
I'm due it at eleven. Have you seen my music stand? [Turning round, she knocks it over.] Oh, there it is. [Begins to exit.] Was the party good?

JILL
Fine.

JAN
Was... / [Effort of memory.]... Dave there?

JILL
/ Yes.

JAN
Who did Cathy get off with? Anyone nice? [She exits without waiting for the answer.]

JILL
Dave.

Extract 2

An alarm goes off. Cathy slowly emerges. Definitely not awake - hair everywhere, last night's makeup and, as her shoulders emerge last night's top as well. Spangly or bright lace. Cathy is one who dresses to be noticed. She gropes for the coffee, takes a sip from the wrong cup - this wakes her up pretty thoroughly. She sits herself up and finds the right cup.

CATHY Euuugh! [The sort of noise that means 'my head hurts and what's going on?]

JILL
He's coming for you at half past.

CATHY
What? [Another sip of coffee. Partial memory returns. Horror.] Good grief!

JILL
You've got fifteen minutes. No need to rush.

CATHY
Shite. [She puts the mug down, leaps up. Not a good idea. She wavers a bit.] Erm - hang on - my god, I must have been pissed. What - where am I going in fifteen minutes? [She reaches for her jeans and socks, starts pulling them on, without trying to stand again.] I mean - is it somewhere I want to go?

Jill shrugs. It is clear Cathy is not her favourite person this morning.

CATHY
Aw, come on, Jill! ... Jan, stop that, will you?

JAN
It's Each. [Or another composer.]

CATHY
It's awful... Jill?

Jan stops going through the music briefly, but soon resumes - slightly more under her breath. She is deeply absorbed.

JILL
It's the opening of the new art gallery, very posh, very classy - the jeans won't do.

CATHY
tone of 'the opening of the what?' Good grief! [She stumbles to the door.]

JACKIE
off Lazarus has risen!

EMMA
How's the head?

CATHY
Not good.

She re-enters wearing a long skirt, followed by Jackie and Emma.

CATHY
Opening of the new art gallery - new art gallery - hang on a second -

JACKIE
Aha!

EMMA
Memory has returned.

CATHY
A bloke - beard - mixed weird cocktails - [She sits down again.]

NANCY
entering Told you not to touch them.

CATHY
There's a gang of road drillers dancing the fandango behind my eyebrows.

JACKIE
That'll teach you.

CATHY
Bloke - beard - no, hang on, it's coming back. It was the really nice-looking bloke, the dark one with the waistcoat.

EMMA
Yes, I'm surprised you forgot the waistcoat.

CATHY
I think my head didn't want to re-visualise it right now.

Cathy grabs another bright or sequinned Jacket from the chair, pulls it on. A quick glance in the mirror. She goes into the kitchen.

CATHY
off Jan, honestly!

Sounds of water running into a glass. Drinking.

CATHY
from kitchen door So he's coming in ten minutes to take me to this galley opening?

JILL
Seems so.

EMMA
Should be really interesting.

JACKIE
Pity you're missing it, Jill.

CATHY
intent on make-up Yeah, you like all that stuff.

NANCY
Not your scene at all.

CATHY
Still, if I said I'd go... and he was pretty cute.

JILL
Yeah.

CATHY
Come too?

JILL
It's invitation only.

CATHY
You could point me out this Dave you've mentioned every so often.

JACKIE
Sort of thing he'd be right into, from the sound of it.

JILL
Yeah, he'll be there.

CATHY
Come on, then. Come too.

JILL
Naah, I wouldn't want to gooseberry.

ALICE
head around the door Cath, the electricity bill.

CATHY
Yeah, yeah. You don't happen to remember his name do you?

Sudden silence, even from Jan. Everyone is watching Jill.

CATHY
brushing hair The bloke in the waistcoat...

JILL
pointedly going back to work Dave.

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.

Written in a naturalistic style, the play is partly a study of the dynamics of a group of students living together - the way they cope practically as 'home' sharers - allocation of responsibilities and so on. As one would expect, this sharing out of duties is not always successful - and the atmosphere of the flat should be typically messy and chaotic. This is emphasised by the constant moving in and out of the main room by the girls, the emphasis on noise - clashing radio programmes, alarm clocks set at different times, and so on.

The main action of the play centres around the fact that Cathy - bubbly, extrovert, fascinating - has 'got off' with Dave at last night's party, who is the boy that quiet, hardworking Jill has fallen for. This fact is cleverly woven into the scripting, so that it only gradually emerges. The resolution is heart-warming, as Cathy - far from being the uncaring, shallow person she at first seems - realises her error [made when she was too drunk for thought] and sets Jill up with Dave for that day, plus in her generous way also giving Jill a boost of much-needed confidence.

CHARACTERS - all of whom will be 18/19 years old

JILL
is studying English. From the outset, we are aware that there is some tension in her. She is in fact seething with hurt and resentment - which only becomes clear later in the play. However, knowing this, this feeling should be behind every word that she says from the beginning. Particuairly sore points are mentions of the party and how she enjoyed herself, which each of the flatmates in turn ask her - without observing the way she answers. Presumably, this is a clue to her character. Jill bottles things up and lets them simmer inside her. She uses her work as a way of getting out her frustration. Next to the glamorous Cathy, Jill feels dowdy and unattractive. it is important that there is a real change in her - the first burst of pleasure in her own appearance - when she is dressed up by Cathy and sent out to meet Dave in the second half of the play. Jill is a quiet girl, studious, organised - far more so than the others in the flat. There is a quiet strength in her. We sense that she is very much the hub of the whole sharing arrangement - the still centre-point round which the others revolve and whose strength they tap into.

Movement should be stiff - rather closed - back, as she sits at her essay, tense. Voice is clipped and terse for all the first half, only softening and becoming more `girly' and excited as she goes to meet Dave.

CATHY
also studies English. She remains a mystery character for the first third of the play - but still a potent one. Visually, the breathing lump in the bed, which is sleeping Cathy - is powerful and keeps her firmly in the forefront of the audience's awareness. When she first emerges - hung-over, scatty, noisy, excitable - and even in her tousled
early-morning state, obviously attractive - the sort of person people gravitate towards, attracting girlfriends and male interest equally, we are supposed to see her as typically shallow, feckless. The first inclination, when we know that she ended up with Dave at the party, should be to condemn her for her actions. How could she be so thoughtless - not even realising that Dave was the one that Jill liked so much. But Cathy comes up trumps and when she does realise proves that she is a true friend. She lets actions speak louder than words and sets Jill up for the proposed date that day, making sure that she also feels attractive and good about herself. It is clear that Cathy is acting from entirely generous motives - but this turn-around will not work dramatically unless we see the scatty thoughtless Cathy first.

Voice should be warm and attractive - excitable - using a wide range. Movement is sensual, without it being self-conscious. This is a naturally sexy girl - though she is aware of the effect she has on men and it should be obvious that she is in seduction mode at the end of the play.

ALICE
is studying law. The intellectual [Radio 4]. She is definite, fair - I'll do the dishes when you empty the bin - everything is negotiated; the would-be lawyer's mind! The way she speaks is terse, rather bossy. I think she may be the organising mind behind the flat rotas; she certainly spends a lot of time talking about who's turn it is to do things and trying to insist it is done. Don't play her as humourless, though. She is warm when encouraging Jill with the others at the end. Probably best to leaven the orders that she gives to the others to do things with a humorous tone, which will make them more palatable. Movement, quite deliberate and slower paced to act as a contrast to some of the others. Upright stance.

NANCY
is studying medicine. She is out for a bit of fun and seems fairly light-weight in character [Radio 1 as opposed to Alice's Radio 4.] She is not bossy, like Alice, but rather tends to pass the buck of responsibility onto others - the lightbulb, the leak in the shower, waking Cathy. Despite studying medicine, she's very classically 'girly' - afraid of spiders and her language is young and teen-age in style. Her movement should be young and bouncy, a little bit scatty - large hand moves, dramatic gestures, etc. Voice perhaps rather high.

JAN
is studying music. Endearingly clumsy and vague. She forgets things, drops things, is lost in a world of her own much of the time. When she 'surfaces' from being lost in her music, there should be a moment or two of complete vagueness before her eyes focus properly on her surroundings and her voice becomes clearer. Her scattiness should reflect particularly in the unfocused way she moves and the way she knocks into things and so on. When left with spare moments on stage when she is not speaking, she conducts hidden symphonies in her head - or is looking for lost items in the piles of stuff scattered round the room. Her voice should be quite soft and vague sounding too.

JACKIE and EMMA
are not defined enough to be more than token nosey and rather bitchy friends. Since what they say seems fairly interchangeable, they would work fine as a single 'friend.' Their purpose is to reveal the awfulness of Cathy's actions at the party. They very much want to observe how Jill has taken the betrayal, so their questions are barbed. Some of the lines they say to wind Jill up are positively cruel and they would lean forward and enjoy the aftermath of their nasty, pretend-innocent comments.

I haven't indicated accents for the girls. The voices should vary - but regional accents would be quite acceptable. Less strong, I feel, in the case of Alice and possibly Nancy.

SETTING

The set is a single entity and, since the play is naturalistic, should be as full and detailed as possible. I am not suggesting you go so far as to have a box-set, though that would work well for this type of play; I personally have a real aversion to box-sets which, unless they are really well-done, tend to break illusion rather than help it, by wobbling and being not solid enough.

I would go for a studio setting - black curtains - though with distinct doorways indicated. You need a clear idea in the audience's mind that one exit is to the corridor/hallway with Nancy, Alice and Jan's room[s] off it as well as the front door to outside or to the stairs down to outside. Another distinct doorway should lead to the kitchen. If desired, part of the kitchen could be visible through this doorway - giving sink, working tap, draining board attached and piles of dirty plates and mugs overflowing the sink. The rest of the kitchen should disappear into the wings. Whatever is visible needs to be believable and real-looking, creating an illusion of more just out of sight.

The main playing area is the central room. At the back of the stage should be the two beds - one can be shadowy and to the side, but Cathy's needs to be prominent back-centre. Jill's desk should be downstage, angled so that she is part facing the audience and so that people looking at what she's doing can be clearly visible reading over her shoulder. I feel the desk should simply be a table - the same one as the girls presumably eat off - if they bother with it for anything other than a work surface. Chair behind the table and another to the side of the table, as an extra. Small shabby sofa towards the other side of the stage. Studentish clutter - books, clothes etc. everywhere. Music stand and chair opposite side of stage to table. Plastic bucket for the leak.

This is how I would do it, cheaply and easily:

1. USL corner - door to hallway and outside, on raised level so that entrances are visible. On sideflats to side of door, posters.

2. Midway down, SL doorway to kitchen - visibility to part of kitchen, your choice and dependent on the space you have available. To the side of the door, corkboard with the rotas on it, plus sundry other bits and pieces. Once again, best if this is raised, so that people are clearly visible coming in and out of it.

3. Back part of stage slightly raised [joining onto USL door raised level.] On back part centre, angled slightly, Cathy's bed. Jill's bed USR. Clothes and clutter round Cathy's bed. Jill's a tidier corner. Between the beds, a dressing-table, mirror on it and hairbrush, makeup etc.

4. DSR table angled slightly, but basically facing out front with Jill's chair behind it and another chair on inward side of table. Books strewn over table and papers, pens etc. All Jill's props.

5. Sofa, slightly angled, midSL, a little way in front of kitchen door - allowing plenty of room for entrances round the sides of it and for people to lean on back of it, etc. Since kitchen door area is raised, visibility should not be a problem.

6. DSL downstage from sofa, a chair and a music stand, music on it and all around it.

7. Creative clutter on parts of sofa and floor. Clear space with large rug, shabby, in centre and front stage areas.

8. Plastic bucket set downstage nearish the musicstand.

A more complex setting can include the window with curtains, suggested by the author. This would then require a naturalistic style of lighting, spilling through the window. If using this, I would have it on a free-standing flat at the back of the stage, between Jill and Cathy's beds.