Waiting / by Nikki Atkin-Reeves
Parts for the boys:
Matt - 20 years old
Chris - mid-teens
Terry - mid-teens
Mick - 17 years old
Voice 4 - a man
John - teenage boy
Danny - teenage boy
Parts for the girls:
Shona - 15 years old
Sheena - mid-teens
Sam - mid-teens
Sherry - pregnant, age 15
Voice 1 - another teenage girl
Voice 2 - another teenage girl
Voice 3 - an old lady
Voice 5 - another old lady
Michelle - a teenage girl
Carly - a teenage girl
Jade - a teenage girl
Woman with hernia
The above cast of 33 can be doubled as much as is feasible. A sensible doubling for 16 students would be:
Chris and Doctor
Terry and Bouncer ** and Child's Father
Voice 4 and Terry's Dad
Danny and Malt's Dad and Shona's Dad
John and Mick's Dad
Shona and Mick's Mum*
Sam and Child
Voice 1 and Carly and Nurse
Voice 2 and Jade and Woman with Hernia
Voice 3 and Mick's Gran
Voice 5 and Chris's Mum
Michelle and Terry's Mum and Shona's Mum
* and ** you may decide that both these characters need to be potent symbols of 'waiting' - see more detail in the Production Notes. In which case, Sheena could play Mick's Mum and John could play the Bouncer.
Though further doubling is possible I believe that the smallest number that could play this piece effectively - given that it is such an ensemble work - is: 16 players - 7 boys, 9 girls.
The play is about one hour long.
Sample Pages from the script
Preset: A line of actors, along the back of the stage, in
a ramshackle queue. They keep the obligatory three feet apart,
not looking at one another. Their focus of vision should be the
audience as though they are expecting something to come from them.
As the audience are coming in, there should be the occasional
shifting of position on stage, which is accompanied by a shuffling
or stamping of the feet, so that the slow dullness of waiting
is percussed by the actors themselves.
As the waiting continues, the percussion of shifting position and foot stamping should gradually speed up until the line becomes broken up and people make movements that are big enough to force them to turn to the person next to them. Their focus, as they pair up, should still be the middle distance, so that no contact is made between the partners.
To the increasingly strong rhythm a kind of passionless dance ensues where the pairs begin to move around the stage, steering their partner towards the object of their focus, the stronger pursuing their own objective, the weaker being taken with them. A disorganised ballroom dance of couples fills the stage and then, using the rhythm as the key, begins to subside back into a line again.
The rhythm by now has got fairly fast and the scene culminates with a line of people stamping hard and fast in desperation and then hopping from one foot to another, agitated, as though absolutely desperate for the loo, which in fact they are.
The line moves to become a queue all facing in the same direction - out front. Simultaneously, the actors shout.
The following lines are divided up between cast members:
I'm going out tonight, can't wait.
I love getting ready to go out.
It's usually better than the actual night out.
I'm excited; anything could happen.
Boys! Hundreds of boys all in one room, brilliant!
There's going to be girls in little tight dresses.
Dancing! I wonder who'll get drunk?
I wonder if I'll get off with anyone.
Two hours, I'll be there.
If I get in.
Got my sister's I. D.
Driving Dad's car tonight; I can't believe he let me.
Snogging in corners.
Matt, Chris, Terry and Mick, the four main boys pair up with Shona, Sheena, Sam and Sherry, the four main girls, as follows, Matt and Shona, Sheny and Mick, Sam and Terry, Sheena and Chris. They stand back to back and do not relate to each other at all during the following lines, which take place as if in the bathrooms of their eight respective homes. The rest of the cast stay at the back of the stage. They keep a slow rhythm going with their feet, but the sound must not be obtrusive. All are miming different ready-to-go-out essential teenage things: spot squeezing, eyebrow plucking, shaving, trying on expressions, dancing in the mirror, putting on makeup.... etc.
God! I've only been in here about twenty minutes! God! How do you expect me to get ready? You don't understand how long it takes; I bet you didn't even have make-up in your day! God!
Hurry up? How long do you spend in here? Hours! All I'm trying to do is get ready to go out and now you're nagging me! You used to nag me because I never went anywhere near the bathroom! Make up your mind, Mum!
I'm not talking to you like anything, I'm just explaining why I need to be in here so long! If I had my own room .... I'm not starting, I'm just stating a fact! You know what she does to my makeup!
I'm hurrying up, but I've got a crisis! Lois! Where's your cover-up stuff? ..... It's orange! Oh great, I've got a massive orange spot on my nose. I look like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer! [Slight pause.] What if I get a snog? It's going to rub off all over her face! [Hurriedly begins wiping away the spot cover-up.]
SAM starts wiping away condensation on the mirror
Why is it that you can't get near enough to the mirror when you want to squeeze a zit? It
steams up every time I get anywhere near it. Right, that's it, I'm going to hold my breath. [Holds her breath and moves in towards the mirror, intent on squeezing a spot.]
TERRY practising snogging in the bathroom mirror. His first words are muffled as he is midkiss.
I'll be out in a minute! You want me to look nice, don't you? You want to be proud of me, don't you? You don't want me to smell like Matt, do you? Well then, it all takes time! You'll have to hang on!
Hang on, Mum, I'll be out in a minute! It's freezing in here; can't we turn the heating up a bit? But I'll be warm enough when I get there. No, no one wears coats. I told you ...it's really sad to wear one ... [Makes faces to herself in the mirror, appraising her face and then trying to see her body in a face mirror which will only allow her to see herself in section. This is a very serious act of self-regarding. She pays particular attention to her bottom, and then over-long on her stomach. It should be long enough for the audience to feel that there is something amiss, but not definitely that she is pregnant. ] O. K.! I won't wear the crop top! I'll be out in a minute ... just got to go to the loo! [One more look in the mirror at her stomach and then freeze.]
No, Dad, you cant come in now. Once you're on the loo, that's it, I'll never et in here again. You'll just have to wait Got to look my best for the ladies, eh Dad? [Chris turns to the audience and addresses them directly.] Forty-eight minutes,my dad's record on the loo. It was his own fault - showing off with a vindaloo. He'll have to wait...
Simultaneously all four couples make the decisive move out of the bathroom and then move - practising dance moves, poses, pouts, etc. - to the back of the stage, remaining at the back as the rest of the cast moves downstage as the queue.
MATT to Bouncer on his way in.
I don't need I. D. I'm twenty.
If I ask for I. D. you give me some I. D.. Otherwise you don't go in. Do you get that?
All right, mate, all right, I was only saying!
Freeze. The action moves into the girls' loos. The cast make the environment of the loos and should provide the background for the following scene without being obtrusive.
Sherry and Shona are in the loos. Sheny has been crying.
So what are you going to say to him?
SHONA Well, don't worry about
it at the moment, just get out there and enjoy yourself. Drinks
are only a quid; I'll get out there and line them up for you.
Come out in a minute, yeah?
Yeah. [Pause] Don't say anything, yeah?
Enter Carly and Jade, who seem drunk already. Giggling, they spot Sherry and come over to her, engulfing her with their expansive gestures.
All right, Sher? I've had three drinks already!
I thought you'd be dancing.
Leave off! Have you heard the music he's playing? My gran wouldn't dance to it!
I'll just stay in here a bit then.
We'll go back then.
Is Danny out there? Jade nods assent.
What you interested in him for, Carly? He's a prat - acts like he's Barry Beagle or something, all stupid jokes like your Dad makes ... What they called again Jade?
You don't want to go out with him
CARLY ignoring her
Well, if you reckon you'll be all right, then, Sherry? [Sherry nods assent] Right. I'll be out there then. Come on, Jade. [She leaves.]
JADE follows her, then stops and says behind her back
Suit yourself, then .... I'm not being nosey or anything but are you still waiting for you know what?
Shona nods. Sherry cuts in.
Sorry. Look, it's probably nothing - nerves or something...
Why don't you just do a test, find out for definite?
Shona looks at her as it to say 'Don't poke your nose in where it's not wanted'
Well, I thought ... I'll just wait a while ... see what happens.... [Pause. Looks searchingly at Shona.] Shona? Can you just stay in here for a bit? [Shona nods assent. Pause.] No, it's all right. Look ... go on out; I'll be there in a minute, don't waste your evening with me, I'll be all right. Go on, both of you. Here's a quid. Get me an Archers.
Well, I thought, John, but then with our surname I suppose you're asking for trouble in the playground. Then I thought Terry, but there's already been a famous Terry Thomas, hasn't there? Anyway, we agreed eventually on Samuel.
That's a nice name. They're coming back, the old names, aren't they? My friends' husband was a Samuel, but we all called him Sam. They do get shortened, you know.
Yes. Well at the moment we just call him Trouble because he keeps us awake all night.
Oh yes, they'll do that.
To be honest, it's quite a relief this time, waiting for the bus. I haven't had any time to myself for weeks.
Sorry. Do you want me to be quiet then? Only I miss my friend you see ...
Funny, isn't it, how you wait nine months for something to happen, and when it does happen you wish you could have another nine months of waiting.
She's gone for some results.
Freeze. Centre stage a desk with telephone and two chairs.
Yes, I'm afraid it's malignant. Stubborn little chap, isn't it? Well, not to worry, we'll start you on the radiotherapy today and begin a course of chemotherapy in two weeks. OK?
VOICE 5 unsurprised, but still in shock
Will I die?
Well, we're all going to die someday - only certainty in life.
Will I die soon?
Who can tell when their number will be up. I could walk out of here and be hit by a car.... or suddenly drop down dead of a coronary. [Warming to his theme] Or get electrocuted by the dicey wiring in the kitchen that I never got around to seeing about; I could drown in a sailing accident; be stabbed by a mugger; my wife could poison me; death comes to us all, my dear.
But will I die soon?
We'll have to see how the radiotherapy goes. Keep your chin up!
So, wait and see then?
That's the ticket
The Doctor and Voice 5 move apart and freeze.
On a higher level upstage, are Shona's Mum and Dad. The telephone left on the doctor's desk is also lit. There is the sound of a phone ringing, very loud and jarring. At the first ring,
Shona's Mum runs for the phone and picks it up, breathless. Shona's Dad hangs back, anxious.
Hello? [The relief] Hello Mum. [Shona's Dad looks relieved and moves back to his position of alertness.] No, no change. No, Mum, I told you yesterday, they'll phone if there's any change. Yes, I thought it was them just now. No, still the same. Well, they won't let it go on forever, mum. No, mum, don't upset yourself. Come on, mum, don't worry, it'll be all right... just keep hoping, eh? That's better. No, I'm not trying to give you the brush-off, mum, honest, it's just ... you know, in case they ring. Phone you tomorrow, then. Yes. Or before if there's any news. Well, n'night then, mum. That's it, mum, just wait and see. N'night.
Sample Pages from Production Notes
INTRODUCTION: THEMES, THE PLAYS INTENTIONS.
The play introduces a number of serious themes, which are explored both seriously and through comedy. The idea of waiting is an umbrella under which many ideas can be touched on: waiting for a bus, waiting for your friends to pick you up, waiting for news - good and bad. The physical act of waiting - and the locations in which one waits: waiting-rooms, bus-stops, queues - are embraced by this piece, whose whole mood and action involves pitching the audience helter-skelter from one experience to another, through its very physical treatment.
Serious themes are involved: waiting for the results of a biopsy, waiting for a late period, waiting for the pregnancy test to work, waiting for Shona to come out of a coma, waiting to have a baby, to become a father, to see the doctor.
And the not so serious cover: waiting to use the bathroom, waiting for the bus, queueing to get into the night-club, waiting for your friends to pick you up.
Gradually, apart from the eight youngsters who are the main focus of the piece, we learn about the lives of other characters: their loneliness, their nosiness, the way they fill their time. Some of the voices take on depth as we become involved with their problems. The problems of being a teenager remains the main interest but we are offered a balance by looking too at the problems and worries of parenting, of old age and of serious illness.
Waiting is a necessary evil of life and a waste of precious time. The waste of time is underlined in a section in which a group of patients in a waiting-room voice their regrets - the things they havent had time to do. Contrasts are shown between the young people who have a number of ways of killing time and the older generations, for whom time is a far more precious commodity. Further contrasts show the lads timing a drinking competition, whilst Sherry times her pregnancy test.
Thus we are constantly swung between tragedy and comedy, old and young and this helps the play sustain interest as well as becoming an intrinsic part of the performing style. Contrasts in pace are the backbone, with links between scenes and translations into different areas being achieved by ensemble work around queues or large group movements. The end result is thought-provoking. We have been whirled through many ideas, but are given no answers. The conclusion seems to be that waiting is an inevitable part of life, as are regrets.
The characters are very broad, mainly stereo-typical. All of them need to be played with energy and clear outlines. With many parts doubled, the necessity to project strong characters, with identifiable ways of movement and vocal tones is increased. With the groups of teenagers, aim to give each character a difference to make them stand out for an audience. This can be partly done with costume - though in an ensemble piece, costume too may need to be minimal.
Most of the teenagers in the piece are around fifteeen or sixteen, except Matt, who is 20 and Mick, who is 17.
All the Lads: stereotypically laddy. Shouting out comments to girls, egging each other on to greater excesses - drink, driving, football, etc. Only Matt grows up a little as he takes in what he has done to Shona and accepts responsibility. Mick we see evading the problem of Sherrys pregnancy; he never really comes to grips with it and shows her no support.
All the girls: stereotypically caught up in boyfriends, clothes, drinking, clubbing. They are supportive of each other up to a point. They are shown to be very shallow. Concerns over Sherrys pregnancy dont address real issues or problems. Fears over Shona are hardly touched on. Sherry takes more of a journey of progression as a character: we see her with some sympathy as she finds out she is pregnant, goes for an abortion and then decides to keep it. However, she shows little understanding of what this decision will make to the rest of her life.
VOICE 3 - an elderly woman, gossipy, full of complaints. The reference to Barry Beagle and his show, identifies her as Micks Gran - or at least, that could be argued, so that it makes a sensible doubling.
VOICE 5 - another elderly woman. She should be a more sympathetic character as she is identified gradually as dying from cancer.
VOICE 4 - male, first-time father-to-be, impatient and nervous.
The other Voices are teenagers.
MATTS DAD - stereotypical trying to be macho and laddie [playful punches etc.] to communicate with his son.
MICKS DAD -stereotypical tough Dad who doesnt listen or feel sympathy for his son. He hates his music and has already decided that hes a waster. His over-bearing attitude probably compensates for his own inadequacies - a low-level job, etc.
The Mums are shown stereotypically as worrying, over-fussy, but they are more sympathetically portrayed than the Dads.
This would be best done on a bare stage but if time and resources allow, an imaginative background could be created to enhance the piece. To allow for numerous exits, entrances and a more imaginative use of space, consider having screens, or free-standing flats, say three - one in the centre, one angled to either side. Queues and other movement sequences can then use the other exits that this would create. On the screens, projections can be shown, to back-up the scene occurring on stage: outside and inside a night club, a hospital waiting-room , a bus queue, as appropriate. Or, video moving images could be used similarly, especially effective in the movement sequences. Alternatively, if flats are used, these could display blown-up images associated with the idea of waiting.
A simpler alternative is to have all the furnishings, props and a rail of costume accessories, creating the back and side walls of the playing-space.
If I were doing it, Id have the chairs needed for the cast and used later for the waiting-room at the hospital, along the back, facing forward. Even when empty, the chairs are a mute symbol of waiting. I would keep the back wall or cyclorama white, so that the backs of the chairs show up against it, and the waiting figures when they are standing there as they do many times during the script. I would have this area raised and use it later in the script for the trolley with the patients body to end up on. Costume additions and individual props can either be on or under the chairs. Other furnishings such as the trolley and bus-stop if used, can be to the sides of the playing -space. With a large cast, some of the chairs will probably have to be down the sides too. if this were so, I would have them set not inwards to the playing space, but facing the audience.
it is quite possible to do this play with no lighting changes whatsoever, keeping the whole playing area brightly lit with even white light.However, lighting could be used in this piece to delineate area and to create mood. It can still be fairly simple and does not require sophisticated equipment. The following cues, then, are suggestions if you choose to use other than over-all stage brightness.
PAGE 2. Opening of play. Whole stage area up to bright, neutral light - white.
Bottom of page, as the four couples move to the front, warmer light, suggestive of interior, on whole stage.
PAGE 3. two-thirds of way down. Cue: the couples moving downstage to form the queue. change back to neutral light as for opening.
PAGE 5, bottom of page. Pick out Terry in his waiting area with a small spot. This needs to be out of the action of the main stage, in a corner, but the light keeps him in permanent focus.