Waste

I wrote this play for a competition with the National Theater in London. it's about how waste in society affects the youth. Although this play was not shortlisted in the competition, the playwright, Adam Brace said he really liked the style I wrote with.

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Cast

Lauren/News reader

Conner/actor 3

Dev

Actor 1/ Kev

Actor 2/ President Truman/ school teacher

 

Scene: A school humanities classroom with a blackboard to the side is a clear and darkened area with a large rubbish bin spotlighted (This spotlight is never off in the entire play). A school bell rings.

(ENTER cast except Conner and Dev. Actor2/ teacher and Kev are on stage right. While the other actors are all stage left.)

Teacher: All right, all right let’s settle down please.

Conner spit that gum out! Lauren please sort yourself out, you are wearing a school uniform, you are representing the school not the world’s worst fashion designer. Also, I should not have to remind you that make-up is not allowed.

Right, looks like we have everybody. Now books and pens out please. Copy out the date and the heading.

Lauren: (Lauren sits with a notepad on her desk. She is restless, all noise stops but activity continues in the background a spotlight is on her. )

Dear dad, (pause)

I hate you. Have I ever mentioned that? No? Maybe I should have. I get why you left, to a certain degree, Mum can make a big deal about small things until you feel like running, but here’s the thing. I have managed to stay here and I am not the one who promised to always be there. You made that promise! “Until death do us part.” That is what you said and yet you ran. You ran away from everything and then still had the spite to take everything away from us. You and your comfortable house, with your comfortable job and your comfortable salary I’ll bet that now you’re happy. But if life was fair you would have your share of suffering and I would have had the happy childhood that you stole from me.

Yeah, I’m sure you don’t think you stole anything from me, but you did. When you left I lost my father and I lost my home; I lost my dreams and ambitions and you took them away with you to make your deal with the devil. My happiness, Kyle’s happiness and Mum’s happiness so that you could have yours. (Pause)

It was Kyle who taught me to tie my shoe laces, Kyle who helped me with my homework and who wiped away my tears, telling me that everything would be okay. Your son had to do what you were too selfish to do; be a man.

It was you who made me cry all those times, because I missed you, because I hated you, (she gives a half-hearted laugh)…because I loved you. (Pause) It was you who crushed my dreams by telling me that I was nothing special, that I was ugly, fat and stupid. I have lived my life just trying to prove you wrong. I’m now skinnier than you. My skin is not sagged or wrinkled. I get better grades at school than you ever did and yet… I can’t take back those years of trying to prove you wrong. I was always just looking for your approval. For you to just say that you were proud of me, that I wasn’t just a screw-up that you never wanted.

Your daughter, Lauren

(She picks up her notebook and looks over it and after a pause she rips it out.)

Guess what dad? (Pause) It looks like I’m just like you. (She scrunches the paper into a ball and tosses it away towards the rubbish bin) Just like you… A coward.

(The spotlight fades. The teacher is now starting the lesson. )

(Enter Conner from stage right)

(He sits at the back of the class, closest to the audience, and begins to surreptitiously eat while the teacher is distracted. He throws a piece of rubbish at the bin, it misses, he shrugs. He goes back to eating until he notices the teacher looking expectant.)

Conner: What? What you look’n at? (He indicates with his head the piece of litter.) That botherin’ you? Yeah? Yeah? Then why don’t you do somethink about it then?(He smirks)

Teacher: Conner, not only have you arrived 15 minutes late to the lesson but you are now disrupting the rest of the students, any more of this behaviour and I will have to ask you to leave.

Conner: Yeah? Is that right? (He asks the class) Are all you toffs sitting there thinkin’ (He puts on a snarky posh accent) “OH! That’s what sort he is. Oh yes, I thought as much. He must be part of that riff raff that go around vandalising and stealing and poisoning our city...”(Back to his normal voice) Yeah, that what you thinking?  

Teacher: Pick that up please, Conner, and then return to your seat so that I may continue my lesson.

(He walks over to the dustbin, picks it up and overturns it. He laughs.)

Conner: Oh now that really beginning to bother you now, innit? Yeah, thought so. Looks like I got myself a little landfill site right here. And all you goody-goodies are sitting there all uptight thinkin’ how much you hate people like me. Innit? Yeah. You thinkin’ about how we always trashin’ the place and making everything look bad while you lot all go around as law abiding citizens with your recycling and your dustbins... but let me ask you somethink... What the hell is the difference with this that I got here and the landfills that all your clean little dustbin bags go to? Huh? (No response)

– The only difference, I say is that you don’t gotta look at it. You don’t gotta breath in the rotting food, you don’t drink the polluted water so once it’s gone you can forget all about it and you can forget all about what it’s doing because once it’s gone from your sight you think it’s gone forever... Innit?

You lot are all like my little sister, yeah, she closes her eyes when she hides cause she thinks that if she can’t see anythin’, then it’s not there, but here you all are sitting thinking about how you’re all responsible grown adults (looks at teacher) doing the exact same thing as a kid. Closing your eyes and ignoring it. All that rubbish, it don’t go away and it never will. It sits there rotting, turning the water into acid, the air into poison and the grass into dust. It’s not going away and you lot keep turning your back while the world you borrowed from me and my little sister rots and dies because you can’t be asked to look...

(The lights fade into a red wash. A red sunrise is projected onto the blackboard As the sun rises peaceful music plays which slowly begins to buzz with the sound of flies and the projection on the screen begins to show rolling hills of rubbish. Dev, a ragged Indian boy walks onto centre stage rubbing sleep out of his eyes.)

Dev: What can I do or what can I say?

When people come they pity us.

They cry when they see the clothes that we wear or the mess of our hair.

But I pity them because they have everything except for our happiness.

We see what we have and we are happy for it.

My brother knows nothing of the world but he’s smiling.

He’s singing a song while we pick up the world’s mess.

On this mess we live, we thrive, we laugh, we cry, we die. (Pause)

This is what life is. My family and friends are here around me.

What more could I want, but to be out of poverty?

If I had more, I wouldn’t keep it behind the door, I would share it.

(On “share it” he drops down onto the rubbish pile. The lights return to white wash.)

Teacher: Sit down Conner! Or do I have to get On Call to escort you to the Head?

(Conner sits down)

Teacher: Now! Today we will be looking at nuclear radiation and its effects. Anyone catch the news yesterday? No? Well... (He clicks a remote and the projector brings up a news report background dated 2013. News reader gets up and stands in front of this screen.)

News reader:  North Korea has defiantly had a third nuclear test today despite having been warned by the UN that such an act would be met with swift action as it poses a viable threat. North Korea, however see this test as a huge success and have stated that they may stage two more tests this year.

(The projection changes to the flag of the UN on either side actors stand up and immediately start yelling across at each other. Teacher calls for order.)

Actor 1: This is a hostile threat! We must take action!

Actor 2: Taking action will lead to war. We must find a peaceful alternative.

Actor 3: We must act before they do.

Actor 2: What and start world war three where the second one left off?

(The actors freeze. The background is back to a news report but this time the date is August 6, 1945. The song “Enola Gay” by “Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark” begins to play in the background)

News reporter: (In an American accent) Good morning America! President Truman has prepared an announcement today stating that an entirely new type of weaponry has just been dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The “atomic bomb” he says may be the boost needed to end the war and could save many of our soldiers.

(She ducks down again and the projector changes to a picture of the White House)

Actor 2/ President Truman: You got that? I want aircraft showering leaflets all over Japan telling them we are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man and that a single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is equivalent in explosive power to what 2, 000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. You got that all down? Good and tell them that if they’re in any doubt they can make inquiry as to what happened in Hiroshima. Oh and call Colonel Tibbets, I want to know how close we are to blowing Nagasaki.

(Stage right where actor 2 is standing goes dark. The sound effect of a plane flying past sounds and then the whistle of a bomb falling followed by an explosion. On the projection screen is video of the mushroom cloud of a nuclear bomb. Actors on stage left pull a red scarf from shirts and fall to the ground. Stage left goes dark, leaving only a spotlight on the news reader and on the overturned rubbish bin.)

News reader: No one knows the exact number that died as a result of the attack on Hiroshima. The bomb was aimed at a military compound in the city’s centre, but the large majority of deaths and casualties were of woman and children. Approximately 70, 000 people died as a result of the initial blast including American airmen who were being held as prisoners of war. It is estimated that over 200, 000 people died as a result of the lingering radioactivity.

(Her spotlight goes dark, replaced by one on Conner)

Dev: Who decides who lives and who dies? Who gets to choose which lives are important and which are not? History is written by the victorious, the so called heroes of our world are so often in truth mere murderers. We love to pretend that we are selflessly doing good or we blame our actions on following orders.

Conner: But what about humanity? What about individuality? Where has the trust gone? Or was there ever trust and honour between men? Do we only now look back and see that the monster we hunt is within our very souls? When we can justify the murder of innocents by saying that we won, who is the real enemy?

(The school bell rings. The class stand and  begins to pack up)

Teacher: Alright class, don’t forget your homework for tomorrow.

(He leaves. The rest of the class flick up their hoodies, some of them begin to smoke.)

Conner: (to Dev approaching) You’re ‘right, blud?

Dev: Yeah, mate. Was’ gwan?

Conner: Nah, nothin’ mate jus’ chillin’.

Dev: Oi, you got a light?

Conner: Yeah.

(They light up cigarettes and then freeze.)

Lauren: Ash.

Kev: Hiding behind smoke clouds as our lungs turn black with –

Lauren: -Tar.

Kev: Struggling to breath, struggling to speak.

Lauren: Youth.

Kev: We got so much to say, so much to say but we can’t say it.

Lauren: Fight.

Kev: We fighting against our histories, our pasts, our parents, tying to break free.

Lauren: Speak.

Kev: We will be heard, we will be heard, we must be heard!

(Actors unfreeze and flip back their hoodies.)

Dev: I just hate this man.

Conner: What?

Dev: Jus’ ... jus’ everythin’, fam. Everything going on around us, parents’ lies, everyone telling us that we’re too young to do anythin’ people telling us we can’t say nothin’. Let’s do somethin’ about it!

Conner: Nah, mate, we just kids.

Dev: We may only be kids but how many kids will it take before the adults listen?

Lauren: (To audience.) You say that you know what is best for us, then why are children still starving on the street? Why do they beg? They ask for change not for money. We live on the scraps and the lies that you feed us. You tell us that it’ll all be ok, you soothe our fears away with black lies to make yourselves feel better.

Kev: (To audience) Deep down, we see it, you are just as afraid as we are. The United Nations Earth Summit 1992, a twelve year old girl stood up for me and you, for the future  holders of the Earth. You do not own anything! You have borrowed it from us and you are destroying it.

Dev: That girl faced her fears to face you, abrade you; she spoke for every child who couldn’t yet talk. Her voice, so bold and strong, has faded now. It’s just an echo in the darkness. We have to face our fears more often than not but –

Kev: But what can we do? What can we say? None of us can run away from this. So don’t treat us like children. Don’t keep us in the dark. Children know what they want, they just don’t know how to ask.

Dev: We are not children! Don’t keep us in the dark! We see the danger coming but we do not run in fear. We are young and we are strong and we will fight against the dark. We will fight against the monsters that haunt this world so do not look down at us do not think we’re too young, the real world needs tough love we need to stand strong.

Kev: Bahrain, Tibet, Tiananmen square, we’re fighting, we’re bleeding, crying, and dying trying to get somewhere.

(Kev,  Dev, Lauren and Conner both unzip their jackets revealing dusty school uniforms, they begin a gumboot dance. The song ‘Siwelele Mama’ from the movie ‘Sarafina’ begins to play. The date on the screen is June 16, 1976, South Africa. Actor 2 enters wearing an army uniform.)

Actor 2: (Facing the audience, miming holding a gun) They come, with passion and strife they come. To say something, to take a stand.

The children are singing. Their songs run strong through the streets of Soweto. Their feet, bare and dusty, hit the dirt roads sounding like drums, matching the passion in their hearts. The men shuffle in agitation and fear. Grown men struck pale by the thought of children. Hundreds of children, wanting to say something, wanting to be heard.

There are mutterings and curses shooting between the lines of men like bullets ricocheting on statues. Sweat drips down the marble facets of the soldier’s faces.

The sun burns down, fiery and hot like the children’s defiance. They come. In ragged stitches of clothes they come. Their skin shines, their feet stomp and dance to a passionate song not of our tongue. They are singing. Not our songs, but theirs. Tribal songs that have their roots buried in time. The songs tell of sadness and of restraint. They come. (The dancing gets louder)

They stand before us dancing... singing... chanting. The men tense.

(Shouting) “Afrikaans is the language of oppression” the children shout, and their dance echoes their words.

The men raise their guns, their eyes fierce and cold. (Pause. All sound stops instantly.)

(In slow motion all the protesting children pull out silk red scarves from their shirts and drop to the ground.)

Actor 2: Red.

Red floods the street like the setting African sun. The song, once clear and true, fades in the screaming of the wind…

(Actor 2 exits. Kev sits up and turns to Lauren lying on the ground.)

Kev: Little girl lying shattered, battered for what she believes to be truth.

The hunt, the guns, the pain, little girl so very brave.

They can’t hurt you any more cause you paved the way.

You’re invincible and they scared of you, so make them run and hide.

You don’t have to cry no more, you don’t feel no pain.

This life God gave you. He saved you.

What you done, no man can erase.

We see you, shining like the sun and we’re proud. ‘Cause you showed the world

No matter how young and no matter how small.

You stand up. You fight. Some fall fighting, but all will rise once more.

In your memories I hope you remember me.

Cause we are young. We are on fire and our fiery passion shows.

We will not bow down. We will not be shaken because on this rock we stand and that will not be broken.

(He reaches down to Lauren and helps her to stand up)

Rise, little princess, for we all fall down but we wipe the dust and the rust

Away from us.

We stand firm. We will live long. We will change the world.

We will not allow ourselves to be judged by others.

We measure ourselves by our own standards

So we’re pushing and we’re growing,

There’s no knowing just how far we can grow if we try.

So wake up little princess and stand strong and tall.

Hold my hand because together, the world can live forever

We can do it together so rise.

Every time you fall. Rise up again. Stand strong!

(Conner and Dev sit up)

Conner: No roof over my head and no place to go,

I’ve got my back against the wall while you’re kicking me, hitting me,

Telling me that I’m dirt but it no longer hurts ‘cause I’m sick of it.

You sit there not listening. Not hearing a word I have to say

You look at me, judge me, turn and look away

Cause I’m nothing to you, I’m the dirt under your shoe

I’m the cause of all your pain.

I’m the one who stole your bag.

Your watch.

Your phone. Your streets, your house, your home.

Dev: But I’m not!

Conner: That’s what they all say, innit?

Dev: My clothes, my skin,

They don’t try to look in-

 To my heart.

Conner: They just see what they see, not really looking at me.

Dev: Not caring if what they think is true because they are all just acting on cue.

Conner: There’s them. There’s us. And between that no trust.

Dev: I wear a hood so I must be -

Conner: - No good.

Dev: No good trying any defence. ‘cause I know that

 I can’t break thorough to you. You hear the songs I listen to and you

Judge me like I’m hating you too.

Conner and Dev: All I want is change.

I’m trying to rearrange the world.

Conner: But it’s not moving. We stuck in our ways, just pass the days.

Dev: We’re trying to fight yesterday’s battles.

We looking to the past, not looking at our future.

The world crumbles around us and all we do is sit and point fingers.

Conner: It’s not me it’s you! So what you gonna do?

You gonna change somthin’?

Well go ahead and change it.

Conner and Dev: Just try not to break it.

Conner: We are young and we’re learning to stand, learning to take command.

Dev: But we need help to understand our ways and understand the plays of yesterday’s mistakes

ALL: So help us.

(School bell rings. They remove the red scarves and throw it on the rubbish heap. They begin to sit and talk amongst each other.)

Teacher: All right, all right let’s settle down please.

Conner spit that gum out! Lauren please sort yourself out, you are wearing a school uniform, you are representing the school not the world’s worst fashion designer. Also, I should not have to remind you that make-up is not allowed.

Right, looks like we have everybody. Now books and pens out please. Copy out the date and the heading.

(Teacher goes to blackboard and writes the date and then in large capital letters he writes in the centre of the board: “WASTE” on the last letter his chalk snaps. He turns sideways on and looks at the chalk. He looks at the audience and then tosses the chalk behind him as he walks off stage.)

(The song Dangerous by the Parlotones begins to play in the background)

END

The End

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