A Year in the Life Before

A play I have been working on with my dear friend, whose name I will not mention. This play follows a teenage girl, Regan O'Brien, in the year before her death.
(NOTE: This play contains Maori terminology)

Scene 1


[The stage starts with a Pohutukawa tree filling the stage in a blue, yellow and green light. Birds chirping in the background. There are littered sounds of dogs barking, waves crashing against the beach and children playing in the background.UNCLE BILLis sitting under the Pohutukawa tree playing chords on an old-looking guitar. He’s playing along to the chords of Trinity Roots’ Home, Land and Sea as it plays from the ghetto blaster perched next to him.REGANwalks on stage and looks up at the tree, runs her hands through the needles and sits beneath it. She doesn’t noticeUNCLE BILLat all. The music dies down andUNCLE BILLfreezes. Regan is dressed in a pair of rugged jeans and a white singlet]


REGAN: This sure was a beautiful summer (Beat) Hot. Boiling, actually (Beat) 2003. The sky was blue, birds chirruped in the overhanging trees and the smell of Uncle Bill’s cooking wafted out to greet us. Fish and beer. That ‘Maori holiday’ smell. Even though I’m a ‘Pakeha-blood’, so Bill says with a laugh (Beat) The Pohutukawa tree’s red. All my favorite colours: the light blue of the water kissing against the shore, the green of the crisp leaves on the branches and the red [Pause] That beautiful red. Our Pohutukawa tree’s special, you see. It stays those colours all year. The flowers stay open even when the wind’s bitterly, or when the lawn’s orange with autumn (Beat) I’ve always wanted to return to the year in the life before. Before it all happened. Before Mary got into some trouble. The years’ sounds, its smells and its stories. The stories of Lenny, Mary and Oppa all going down to their Aunt Mildred’s house and the stories of Aunt Holly and Uncle Bill driving up to Kerikeri in the spring. I remember walking through the trees around the house in Leigh. That sure did seem like the perfect Eden. Every so often, the mist of the under-lying fog parted for a tiny animal to wander and inspect roots and grubs, only for the creature to be swallowed up again a moment later. It was beautiful there. Life was beautiful (Beat) Mary and Oppa went to climb the big kauri next to the holiday park around the bay. Me being me, I told them not to be so damn stupid. Uncle Bill and Aunty Holly know the owners of that holiday park and when I died, they came over to pay their respects. I think they’re called Stu and Sue, but, I don’t know (Beat) They wanted me to climb. All the way up to the top. But I didn’t. I’m chicken, eh. Heights scare me.




That year sure was something though. The whole beach had swarmed with life and the whānau all were together. They sang, laughed and talked. That was beauty right there. The beauty was in the life. The life under the stretching Pohutukawa tree. That colorful Pohutukawa tree.


[Lights fade andREGANandUNCLE BILLexit.MARYandOPPAenter.The light colours change to a hazy gold, as though it was the middle of a scorching summer day]


OPPA: My whānau and I were down here at the beach all last summer. We swam in the sea and dried off under the big orange ra. My tipuna and tipuna tāne sat under the shade of the tree in their wheelchairs and watched us play in the moana. They didn’t like the heat. No one did really, except Mary who stretched and scratched to get the ‘perfect’ tan (Beat) The life thrived under this beautiful tree. Every time I looked up from the beach, they were always laughing, holding hands and smiling. They were buried on the Taupiri mountain. They had told me that that’s where had met all those years ago (Beat) Mary took it the hardest; she loved her grandparents. She wailed over their caskets at the family marae down near Gisbourne (Beat) But death’s part of life, isn’t it? We can’t live forever and that’s what Mary can’t understand. She was ripped apart when Regan was taken too, being that they were so close. First was our grandparents with age, and then it was Regan with…the secret (Beat) They fell like dominoes under that tree.


MARY: I’ve always loved this Pohutukawa. With its outstretched arms and prickly, tickly flowers. When Oppa and I were younger, we named it Oranga Tonutanga – the tree of everlasting life. I never knew it’d be the death of us too. All those years of laughter, finished with one, final step (Beat) After she was buried, our parents had told us that the Pohutukawa tree was Regan looking over us. Even though the branches were bare. It was Regan waving to us in the morning breeze and it was Regan who kept us cool on those scorching days. Mum even said that when the Pohutukawa dies, we’ll be able to weave purapurawhetu out of its flowers. Don’t know how that’d work, but it sounded good (Beat) I knew it wasn’t though. Regan was in Heaven, not in a quite beach on the outskirts of Leigh. Oppa knows it too (Beat) Whenever we sit under the remains of the Pohutukawa tree, we can see her silhouette against the setting sun. That year caught us all by surprise. That year where everything changed in that life of hers


[OPPAandMARYgo into freeze-frame.REGANenters. One Pohutukawa flower drops from the tree.REGANpicks up the flower and places it on the apron of the stage and kneels down behind it, as though in prayer.Lights dim to black]


The End

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