The Lasses of Haaf Gruney by Marsali Taylor

Characters

LISE, aged 17
MAIRN, aged 14
JAMES, their father
TOMASINA, their aunt
YOUNG LISE
YOUNG MAIRNv ELIZA, their mother
Extras: 2 Norwegian Men

If you want to use this as an exam script which, length-wise, it is well-suited to, it would be possible, and give sufficient opportunity for each candidate, with the following doubling:

LISE/YOUNG LISE
MAIRN/YOUNG MAIRN
JAMES/NORWEGIAN MAN [the other one can be left out]
TOMASINA/ELIZA

It then becomes a piece for four players, three girls and a boy.

Running time is about 25 minutes.

This is a very old Shetland story, so little detail is available, but it is supposedly a true tale. Cows were kept on the island of Haaf Gruney, a small isle two kilometres from the South-eastern tip of Unst amd two sisters used to row across every day to milk them. One day they became disoriented in a sea mist and were swept out to sea. They landed safely in Norway, but were unable to get home or send a message. They married in Norway and it was not until two generations later, when their descendants visited Shetland, that their family there knew they had survived.

The Shetland poet Vagaland wrote a version of this story which has the girls being taken for witches on their arrival in Norway until one makes the sign of the cross.

Sample Pages from the script

Extract 1

Smoke machine. Shore with waves whispering on pebbles. A still day.

Liseand Mairn enter, each carrying two full pails of milk. Lise is visibly in a bad mood. Mairn is placatory.

LISE
Two hundred yards, that's all.

MAIRN
We can't see the shore.

LISE
Ten minutes to row it. If that's no asking too much of you.

MAIRN
It's too misty.

LISE
It'll clear soon.

MAIRN
It's getting thicker.

LISE
I'm no staying here.

MAIRN
But it's no safe. Dad said...

LISE
Aye, he would say. And what'll he say if we stay here on the isle all morning?

MAIRN
He'll say we were being sensible.

LISE
Aye, that's what he'll say to you. Dad's peerie darling.

MAIRN
He'll say it to both of us.

LISE
Aye, right.

MAIRN
He will!

LISE
Like this morning, then.

She dumps the pail angrily into the boat as Mairn says:

MAIRN
Careful, you'll spill it.

Flashback.

Crossfade to 'flashback' lights on RHS of stage.

LISE ignoring Mairn, angrily
Lise, why are -

JAMES & LISE together -
these dishes no done?

Lise moves over to crofthouse, faces her father defiantly. Mairn freezes.

JAMES
Do you think I have nothing to do but keep you in idleness?

LISE
I'll do them the minute I get back from the kye.

TOMASINA
They should have been done last night, niece. Where were you, when your chores were waiting at home?

Lise tilts her chin, firms her lips, not answering. Her attitude is 'why should I answer you?'

JAMES
Reply to your aunt, Lise.

LISE
I was meeting someone.

TOMASINA
Tam Jamieson frae Easthouse.

LISE
The Kirk women have all the gossip.

JAMES
Is that true?

LISE defiantly
Aye.

A long silence.

JAMES
You be about your chores. I'll talk to you later.

TOMASINA
Talk's no use. She's as stubborn as her mother.

JAMES
There's no need to bring Eliza into this.

LISE over James, to Tomasina My mother wouldn't have treated me the way you do.

TOMASINA
'Spare the rod, spoil the child.'

JAMES
Get on wi your work. [To Tomasina.] There's no need to bring Eliza into this.

TOMASINA
She should be whipped.

LISE
I'll do the dishes when I come back.

She storms out of the croft into the outside mist.

MAIRN
Aunt Tomasina just thinks it's right to be strict with children.

LISE bitterly
'Spare the rod, spoil the child.'

MAIRN
She gives me trouble too.

LISE
When? When was the last time you got into trouble, Miss Goody Two-Shoes?

MAIRN
Well -

LISE
Little Miss-Ask-her-to-teach-at-the-sunday-school. [She holds the boat's gunwale, prepares to push off.] Get in then.

MAIRN slightly smug
Faith is a gift from God, Aunt says. [Defiantly.] You haven't got it.

LISE
I wouldn't want it. You don't really believe those stories either.

MAIRN shocked
Lise! They're in the Bible!

LISE
People who lived till they were a hundred and eighty. A man who survived in a whale's stomach for three days. You saw the whale that got washed ashore. How could anyone live in there?

MAIRN
It was a miracle.

LISE contemptuously
Aunt's peerie good girl.

MAIRN timidly
Maybe if you didn't argue with her so much...

LISE
She has no right to order me around.

MAIRN
It was good of her to come and look after us when Mother died.

LISE
Good! She couldn't wait to move in. Are you getting in this boat or not?

MAIRN getting in boat
She didn't want to leave her own house and come to ours. She told me that. She felt it was her duty.

LISE
The poor motherless bairns. [She gives the boat a shove. Then clambers in, takes up her oar, ignoring Mairn.] Well, row then.

Mairn obeys. Freeze.


Extract 2

James is in the doorway looking out. Tomasina is in her chair, knitting.

JAMES
They should be home by now.

TOMASINA
I'll say this for Lise, she's no stupid. If it's too thick, she'll have stayed on the isle.

JAMES
Mairn has the sense. Lise is just headstrong.

TOMASINA
She winna tak a telling.

JAMES
It's getting thicker.

TOMASINA to herself
Times I see her mother looking back at me. [To James.] They'll have stayed on the isle.

JAMES
There's no work to be done there, aye.

TOMASINA
Now, James, I will be just to the lass. [Puts knitting away, rises to the kettle.] She does her fair share o the work. Usually.

JAMES
What's all this about Tam Jamieson?

TOMASINA
Hairy butter's good enough for seedy bread.

JAMES
I don't want a daughter o mine mixed up wi the likes o him.

TOMASINA
You married a gipsy lass. Why should she no marry a gipsy lad?

JAMES
I'm an Elder o the Kirk.

TOMASINA
Like mother, like daughter. [To herself.] A stranger in the family, stealing my brother.

JAMES
I have a reputation to keep.

TOMASINA
If she won't be told, she'll have to go her own way.

JAMES
He'll get her into trouble.

TOMASINA
If that's how she makes her bed, that's how she'll lie upon it.

Pause.

JAMES
Nor will I have Lise leading Mairn into trouble.

TOMASINA
Mairn is a good lass. She'll no heed her.

Pause.

JAMES
They've been gone too long. I'll just go down the banks and call them.

He turns and exits through the door. Tomasina picks up her knitting again. Freeze.

Flashback.

Young Lise and Mairn are up on the stage block, sitting with their dolls.

YOUNG LISE
It was your fault, Mairn. Yours, yours. Not mine.

YOUNG MAIRN
Aunt Tomasina said it was your fault.

YOUNG LISE
Wasn't.

YOUNG MAIRN
She said you were told not to go to the burn, and you went, and you fell in, and got the cold, and then Mother caught it and died and went to heaven and you'll go to hell if you don't learn to take a telling.

YOUNG LISE
That's all lies. I didn't get a cold.

YOUNG MAIRN
Yes, you did. You sneezed and sneezed, and your nose was all runny.

YOUNG LISE
People don't die of colds. I didn't die.

YOUNG MAIRN
Mother died.

YOUNG LISE
She wasn't well for years. Since you were born.

YOUNG MAIRN
I didn't make her not well.

YOUNG LISE
Yes, you did. You did. When you were born she cried and after that she was always tired, and she didn't have time to play with me and take me out in the hills, and she argued with Da. She did. That was your fault. She was so tired that she lay down to sleep and died.

YOUNG MAIRN
I didn't mean to make her tired.

YOUNG LISE
It wasn't my cold at all. It was your fault.

YOUNG MAIRN
I didn't mean to! [She bursts into tears.] I didn't!

She runs off.

YOUNG LISE to herself
Her fault, not me, her fault. [She follows, slowly.] Her fault.