Secret Smoker

The following is the beginning of a short film screenplay I started writing a while ago. One of my half-baked ideas from the backlog.

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‘Let’s Call It Off’ by Peter, Bjorn & John overlaid.
Girl sneaks outside for a cigarette. Secret smoker. Sits against a garden wall, hidden from view from the house. She lights the cigarette, and smokes it during the following. Sings intermittently, only knows chorus.

VOICE OVER

He said…

Timed so that ‘Let’s call the whole thing off’ follows the above line.

Well, he might as well have.

He should have.

Cut to headshot of beautiful man smiling, looking just past camera, at girl (unseen).

Cut back to girl against wall.

He said. I can’t stay. Not while you have that in your hand. That thing separates us. That thing of…

Looks at the cigarette.

Warmth. Thing of Jazz. Cool. Cool people don’t get lonely.

Notices a cat atop the garden wall beside her, as it mews at her.

If I got reincarnated I’d come back as you. You’d love that. A cat that smokes. Imagine.

Lying down all day. Not getting paid for it though. I’d get fed. But I wouldn’t lose any weight… I could just smoke, and pretend I was choicey with food. A cat that refuses inferior brands, and smokes. Yeah. Cat.

Cat, after coming down to be stroked, leaps back up onto the wall.

How cool are we?

Housemate pokes head round the corner of the wall. Girl makes ironic, futile attempt to hide cigarette. Beat. Housemate sits with her.

HOUSEMATE

What would he say?

GIRL

He did already.

HOUSEMATE

What did he say?

GIRL

Look, I would be a cat.

HOUSEMATE

Spider Monkey.

GIRL

Cat.

HOUSEMATE

Spider Monkey.

GIRL

Do I look – don’t actually.

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Nutshell Cinema

Inspired by a Daily Post Challenge to try my hand at a different style of writing to my norm, my thoughts turned to reviews. Surprisingly perhaps, being in a business where we are constantly playing to and hungry for reviews, I myself am not in the habit of writing them. Indeed, I can’t remember writing any since my last entry in my ‘performance’ & ‘reading’ journals (suffice to say, it’s been a while.) Maybe it’s time I got back on that horse, even if only to serve my future nostalgia. I am 26 after all, Alzheimer’s is only around the corner.

A friend of mine, a while ago on a tipsy giggle-ramble, came up with ‘Nutshell Cinema’ – three-word reviews of any and all films.

The title of this post refers to his sentiments on An American Tail: Fivel Goes West. (“‘E gans West.”)

In his honour, here are a few reviews of some films on my shelf, in that style…

Amélie
Bloody nice gal.

Psycho
Off his rocker.

Pretty in Pink
She’s pretty really.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Do your research.

Boogie Nights
Boooooggiiieee nights – WOOOOOOAAAAAHHHHH

Wall-E
**** you, Dreamworks.

 

The Night Before

Last night a friend and I were walking home from drinks in town when he noticed a man sat on a wall in the street. If on my own, this is something I would avoid without a doubt; living in a city that seems to breach new bad news of assaults and disappearances rather often has trained me into a state of fear I have not experienced in London or the Forest of Dean. (With the exception perhaps of the reason my parents moved us to the Forest; me coming home crying at the tender age of 9, relaying horror stories of being forcibly injected with heroine in the playground once I got to secondary school.) I cross the road to avoid groups of men, and safety is always at the forefront of my mind on my dark walks home.

My friend is not so inclined. In fact he was too troubled to carry on home. Seeing the need in his eyes, I suggested we go to the man. My friend was wonderful. Apparently having never done such a thing before, he walked straight up to the man and engaged him in conversation, asking questions, comforting him, put an arm round him, and quite quickly got him to stand up and walk. Unfortunately the taxis were not so sympathetic, so we took him to a nearby Macdonald’s, bought him a coffee and asked the staff to call a lift. They had no more luck than us, and before very long the man slid down the wall he was leaning on in front of me and passed out. I tried for a response myself, with no luck. Immediately a small crowd started to form, strangers asking if I needed help, assuming the man was a friend of ours. I don’t think I have ever been in a situation like that.

Despite feeling quite ill myself only a short while before, I was sufficiently sobered.

After hearing another rejection through the staff radio, I called an ambulance myself. I was instructed to lie the man on his back and tilt his head back, checking that his mouth was empty and he was breathing. It was amazing how many people chimed in with their own opinions on what should be done instead, and yet did nothing themselves. One girl even shouted before the phone call, “I’m first-aid trained, someone tell me what’s going on,” before just staring at the whole thing from a few feet away, uninterested. One guy was quite sweet and took an interest in helping, but none of them made me feel as safe as my friend did.

When the paramedics finally arrived and we were told we could go, I felt a little bit in awe of him. And then he walked me home.

And there you have it. That was my last night. And it almost certainly wouldn’t have been, had I been with anyone else.

 

Notes from my ‘Hands Off’ journal

Something that never got posted, for some reason, from a journal I kept while devising the show Hands Off with my theatre company. One week the stimulus was your ‘calling card’ as a performer. We were to devise a short (two-minute) piece of performance to demonstrate…

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I am thinking about my ‘calling card’. Thinking about what constitutes so brief a summary of what I am. Or is that even what it should cover? How do you know something like that? How do you pick from the vast mass of Stuff, the criteria, let alone the actual matter, that answers that call.

I am also drawn to thinking about performers. Specifically, how they see each other. I find it interesting in my theatre company how we are constantly swapping roles. Handing over to each other, back and forth, keeping this ball in the air by almagamating ourselves into this ever-more-headed being that can make anything happen. We are growing, expanding, letting more and more people in to become a part of it; develop our creative ideas with us, introduce their own. I wonder, when I take over someone else’s role, even for a minute, how it will be swallowed. And what that means. Whether it’s a good thing. I feel right now that we could handle anything, between us. That we are arriving slowly at this wonderful place where we can do this handover smoothly, and the people standing in front of us, listening, barely even notice. A raptured audience that are just interested to have the aura, the essence of what we mean as a collective, engaging with them. Perhaps not. Perhaps more fractured, more exposed.

I make eye contact, I sing, I do everything against my normal inhibitions. I feign professionalism and experience with all my might and hope the act comes off. I talk honestly, demanding no respect except that which they should choose to pay, delivering barely-edited fresh opinions and hoping that they have some weight in them, even just for the listener. For one of the listeners. What is my place here?

I wonder also about what these newcomers make of not only our dynamic but of us as individuals. What do they think our separate specialities are? Do they see any at all outside our immediate connection with them? In rehearsals I am quiet, observing, I do little. Outside I write, I act, I dress up. I feel the need for them to know all this. I am a multi-faceted person too, I act too, I could be up there with you. Do performers see past their own acts? Past their wingmen and see the audience? What do they understand about the people watching them? I feel that maybe this is important in informing their performance. They should have some modesty, some respect, for the silent beauties and talents that sit so quietly, not showing off, in front of them while they do. There is a feeling of things that should be kept in mind.

Just a little something from the journey…

The kind of curiosity that leads the train traveller to lean toward the window, so engrossed in the passing countryside that they only stop leaning when their glasses knock against it; the window that is so deceptively close and limiting, and their glasses tilt in such a brief manner as it is reminiscent of skipping from one frame to another when reading a graphic novel.

The traveller then pulls back from the window and plays with their lips.

How do you take it?

Recently, I had a visit from a nice electrician. I asked, as you do,

“Cuppa tea?”

and got the expected response,

“Ooh, yes please.”

“How do you take it?” I asked, and immediately felt a blanket of serene warmth settle over me. What a lovely, intimate question. We ask this all the time. (If you don’t, you should.)

When else in our daily lives do we ask something so refreshingly straightforward and simple, and indicative that we care? “How do you take it?” is a completely open question, making no assumptions, allowing the recipient the freedom to answer uninfluenced on their preferences. They are filled with the kind of satisfaction offered to a child who has been reproached or ignored in the past but is now being encouraged to explore where they have been previously unallowed.

How this question is answered is always interesting too; the answer itself and the manner in which the person responds is quite telling, and you may learn more than just how they take their tea. How much they like you, how much they think you like them, how much they want you to be interested in them and their personal needs. How they are lactose intolerant.

I think there is something lovely about the words too. “How do you take it?” has a nice gentle sound to it, and perhaps reminds me of the kind of situation in which it originated. (Probably high society entertaining in black and white romances, or in terribly thoughtful period dramas, in my experience at least. In these the recipient always seems to be pleasantly, coyly surprised and touched by the affection behind the question. Perhaps I ought to dissociate things like this in my mind from such everyday occurrences, but it serves only happiness for me now.)
As well as opening up a discourse between tea giver and receiver, the giver of course now has a second opportunity to become closer to the receiver. They can remember the receiver’s preferences. Ultimately impressive, thoughtful and compassionate.

 

One should remember too that there are a number of points at which decisions are made in the making of tea. Each decision made correctly is compelling, but even moreso each decision left unmade and in the hands of the receiver. A tray with a teapot, teabag left in, a separate milk jug, a spoon and saucer, a biscuit and separate sugar arriving in front of you is a tremendous little taste of Christmas. And it can always be decorated with thoughtful notes, garnishes of cake, or even just neatly-angled handles. I can safely say that when presented rightly, tea has made me as happy as love has.

 

A girl I met at university, while we were there, created this piece of theatre, centering around the making and drinking of tea in.Britain. It was fantastic. Themes I took from it were: therapy, catharsis, feminism, housewives, facade, honesty, comfort and vulnerability. It made me laugh, cry and ponder. All that from a little cup of tea. But the thing is, that little cup of tea (because she made one for each attendee, which was lots, and laid them all out on the ground) was made just how we wanted it, with such delicacy and careful detail that it became a fascinating and rewarding experience that each of us invested in. Aside from developing a probably lifelong envy for her creative genius, (Why couldn’t I have thought of that?) I took from it a newfound interest in tea – the drink, the social aspect, the history, the geography. I suppose, “How do you take it?” is only as open a question as tea drinking deserves.

We should approach other areas of life with this attitude. “How do you take your relationships?” “How do you take your birthdays?”
I shall endeavour to ask this question of all my workmates, in order to know them better, and to gesture my interest in their little daily moments of happiness. And I think you should too. Arrr, go an.

I might add that last night my housemates and I were locked out of our house, and this question befell us from our lovely neighbour Anne, who took us in from the cold while we waited for a locksmith. And quite a lovely cup of tea and a lovely moment that was, too.