Wavelengths – a fifteen minute play



By David McAdam

Theme: Contrariness

Plot: Set in 1970s. Seemingly mundane conversations between a man and a woman on a ‘date’ interspaced by observations by two men at the bar.

Set: Bar, table and two chairs. Two men stand at the bar. Barman behind the bar devoid of emotion and interest in anything except the paper he reads.

Characters: Ray, Irene, First man/Second man, Alf (barman) Nathan, woman

Scene 1

Light upon the two men at the bar. They discretely look over at the couple engaged in conversation. The barman is nearby drying a glass. It is obvious that he is eavesdropping. An oldie is playing on the jukebox.

 First man: I see she’s found another man.

Second man: So I’ve noticed.

First man: Usual odds?

Second man: Don’t see why not.

Scene 2

Light shifts to couple. They sit opposite each other.

 Ray: So this is your local?

Irene: Yes.

Ray: It’s a bit far away from where you live to call it local, is it not?

Irene (shrugs): What’s distance got to do with it?

Ray: If it was just up the road or down the street then fine, but this pub must about, mm, five, six miles away.

Irene: Same distance as the hospital

Ray: Eh?

Irene: I had a local anaesthetic there to remove my cyst.

Ray:  A local anaes…ah, I see, very clever.

Irene: I rest my case

Ray (in response to the music): Who’s that singing?

Irene: Only Britain’s answer to Bobby Darrin.

Ray: Who is?

Irene: You’re joking of course.

Ray: Do I have the face of a man who’s joking?

Irene: I prefer Britain’s answer

Ray: So who is this mysterious answer that you like?

Irene: I didn’t say like, I said prefer, which doesn’t mean I like him or Bobby Darrin.

Ray: Ah, you were making a comparison.

Irene: Wrong again…an equation.

Ray: Hmm, they both sound of their time. Simon and Garfunkel or Bowie, are what most folk listen to now

Irene: Muzak for the herd mentality.

Ray: Yeah, right. Are you going to tell me who this mysterious answer is?

Irene: The same man who had a hit with Maria.

Ray: Ah, he’s Britain’s answer? P J Proby. Yeah, I like that song.

Irene: That Means a Lot was a better song.

Ray: A song the Beatles gave away

Irene (dismissively): The Beatles were passe.

Ray: My goodness…the Beatles, passe?

Irene: They never moved about on stage.

Ray: They didn’t need to; their music did all the moving that was necessary.

Irene: I prefer solo singers anyway.

Ray (smiles): Ones that move about on stage, eh?

Irene: The ones that move the soul; the emotions; memories; the tears.

 She sips her drink.

Scene 3

Light dims over table, brightens over the two men. 

 First man: That was a bad accident earlier this evening.

Second man: A double decker bus and a car, wasn’t it?

First man: Yeah, the car driver and the front passenger were badly injured.

Second man: That’s a dangerous spot; been a spate of accidents there recently.

First man: It’s about time the council did something about it.

Second man: Not easy on a bend with houses on either side. Maybe put lights up at the road coming out of the estate.

First man: Yeah. I wonder how our friend is doing over there.

Second man: Well, his lips are still moving and he’s still sitting. Are you ready for another drink?

First man (drains his glass): The usual.

Second man moves down the bar to face the barman who is standing reading the Sporting Chronicle.

Second man: That was a terrible accident earlier on, Alf, wasn’t it? Two people seriously injured. We were just saying how bad a spot it was for accidents and that the council should do something about it.

Alf (Indifferent, folds paper) Usual?

Second man (wearily): Yeah, Alf, usual.

Light fades over the bar.


Scene 4

Light on the table. Ray is leaning on the table, glass wrapped in his hands.

 Ray: Well I prefer live recordings

Irene: The live sound of people in the audience coughing. No thanks. I like the more polished studio recordings.

Ray: We just have to agree to disagree on that one

Irene (holds rim of the glass to her lips): You can, I don’t have to

She takes a sip.

Irene: You said the Beatles loss was PJ’s gain

Ray: I said it was a song they gave away.

Irene: It was McCartney actually, and he never gave it away. He penned it specifically for the man.

Ray: Using the Beatles as a vehicle

Irene: What, in the same way that a farm-labourer ploughs a field using the farmer’s tractor…that make it the labourer’s field. Or that it’s the bricklayer’s palace because he built it with bricks bought by the king?

Ray: Eh?

Irene: Or because it’s called St Paul’s Cathedral because he must’ve built it. I’m glad you didn’t turn out to be a school teacher.

Ray: Huh! Another drink?

Irene: Will that be your drink because you paid for it?

Ray is too stunned to answer.

Irene: I’ll have a vodka and Pepsi please.

Ray:  You mean coke?

Irene: I mean Pepsi

Ray: Vodka with Pepsi

Irene: From a bottle not a can

Ray rises and goes to the bar to order the drinks.


Scene 5

Light over the bar. Alf is reading the paper.

Ray: A pint of bitter and a vodka and Pepsi but leave the Pepsi in the bottle please.

Without saying a word Alf slams the ice bucket upon the bar, tosses the paper aside then proceeds to prepare the drinks. Light over the two men

First man: That’s him up for the drinks now.

Second man: As per.

First man: Ah, there’s the Pepsi.

Second man: In a bottle too as per.

Ray glances at the two men.

Ray: Bad accident earlier on I hear, eh?

First man: Very bad; we were just saying.

Ray (to Alf): I expect you’ve seen quite a few accidents from where you’re standing.

Alf: Anything else?

Ray (opening his wallet): How much do I owe you?

Alf: Four.

Ray hands Alf a five pound note. He snatches it, places it in the till, removes change, turns and slams it on the bar then picks up his paper. Light shifts to table.


Scene 6

He unscrews the Pepsi and is about to pour.

Irene: Hold it – ice first.

Ray scoops a handful of ice

Irene: Too many.

Ray: Oh, sorry.

Irene: I never have more than two cubes

Supressing his frustration, Ray picks up the Pepsi and begins to pour:

Ray: Say when

Irene: Ca suffit

Ray: Oops, wasn’t expecting it in French

Irene: Je n’ai jamais indiquer en Anglais

Ray (mild hint of sarcasm): Really?

He sits down. There is an awkward pause.

Ray: Do you watch the soaps?

Irene: No

Ray: I didn’t think you would.

Irene: Not open – ended soaps, I don’t.

Ray: What about movies

Irene: You mean films.

Ray: The old ones are the best

Irene: You mean good ones are the best

Ray: A good thriller, drama or Western

Irene: I like romance

Ray: Wuthering Heights – can’t get any more romantic than that

Irene: The Yorkshire dialect took the romance out of the reading pleasure for me

Ray: I meant the movie, I mean film

Irene: Which version?

Ray: There’s only one version – the Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon version

Irene: I prefer the James Cossins and Anna Marshall version

Ray: You mean Timothy Dalton and Anna Marshall.

Irene: No, Cossins. To me Linton was the hero of that story

Ray: Dalton was no match for Olivier’s portrayal of Heathcliffe

Irene: Olivier plays Richard III in every part he plays

Ray: Eh?

Irene: Even his laughter comes across as soliloquy

Ray: Hmm, what about Gone with the Wind? That film has not been remade

Irene: I’m not surprised…it was too long to squeeze another one in

Ray: Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh

Irene: Thomas Mitchell and Barbara O’Neil

Ray: ‘Quite frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.”

Irene: Suit yourself

Ray: No, that’s the famous line

Irene: It’s hardly in the ‘to be or not to be that is the question’ league, is it?

Ray: It’s Margaret Mitchell not William Shakespeare

Irene: Hmm, can’t you tell.

Ray: What about musicals? The Sound of Music?

Irene (looks up): That’s the jukebox

Ray shakes his head. Light over the bar

First man: There’s the shaking of the head. Won’t be long now.

Second man: On time too.

First man: Such a professional

Second man: Class.

Lights dim over the bar, brightens over the table.

Ray: So if The Planet of the Apes was a Linda Harrison B film what was the A film?

Irene: That Darn Cat

Ray: You – a French speaker – preferred a Disney farce to a Pierre Boulle classic?…

Ray playfully slams the table: ‘Damn you all to hell’

Irene: Je vous demande pardon?

She smiles and takes a sip of her drink

Ray: Out of curiosity, who’s your favourite film actor?

Irene: Woody Strode

Ray: Woody Strode?

Irene: A toss-up between him and William Bendix

Ray: Huh, I can’t imagine the posters on your bedroom wall as a teenager

Irene: I never had posters on my bedroom wall…didn’t want them although there was one time I nearly pinned up a poster of Lance Percival

Alf approaches the table.

Alf (brusquely): Finished?

He clears the table without waiting for a response

Ray: You know what I fancy right now?

Irene: Enlighten me.

Ray: A packet of crisps. Fancy a packet?

Irene: I never eat crisps; bad for the blood pressure. I eat olives though

Ray: Does he sell olives?

Irene: Yes

Ray heads for bar. Light dims over the table.


Scene 7

Light over bar.

Ray: Olives please, barman

Alf: None left

Ray sees bowl of green olives on the shelf behind

Ray: What are those behind you?

Alf: Olives

Ray: That’s what I asked for

Alf: Un-pitted olives

Ray: Eh?

Alf: The lady only eats pi…er, anything else?

The two men by the bar hear this near slip and rear up.

Ray: Crisps?

The two men relax again.

Alf: Flavour?

Ray: Cheese and onion

Alf: No

Ray: Salt and vinegar?

Alf: No

Ray: Smokey bacon?

Alf: No

Ray: I’ll just have plain then

Alf: No plain

Ray: What flavours do you have?

Alf: None that you’ve asked for

Ray: What about cigarettes?

Alf: Brand?

Ray: Embassy?

Alf: No

Ray: Benson and Hedges?

Alf: No

The light shifts to the two men. Ray eavesdrops on their conversation. Alf reads the paper

First man: If something is different that difference has to be identified as either better or worse, surely?

Second man: That depends on what we mean by better or worse

First man: Depends on this, depends on that. We must be the only two men who have talked about a subject without actually talking about it.

Second man (indifferently): Depends what we’re talking about

The lights dim. Ray shakes his head and turns to face Alf once more

Alf (without lifting his eyes from the paper): Was there something else?

Ray: How about No 6?

Alf: No

Agitated, Ray looks at Alf then at the two men then at Irene. She looks lost in thought as she cradles the glass. He sensed he wasn’t in that thought. He looks at Alf again. Alf peers over the top of the paper.

Alf: You still here?

Ray ignores him, repeats the cycle of looking, hesitates for a moment then leaves

Ray (mutters as he leaves): Woody Strode…

Unfazed, Alf picks up the paper and continues to read. The first man looks over his shoulder at Alf then he and his companion look at Irene

First man: Hmm, almost to the hour

Second man: No longer than the others.

First man: Poor guy; left in the same frustrated way as well

Second man: She’s playing a cruel game

First man: No wonder Alf’s the way he is

Second man: Can’t be easy for him

They look in Alf’s direction.

Scene 8

Alf comes round from behind the bar and approaches Irene’s table.

Alf: Enjoyed yourself this evening have you?

Irene: No more nor less than the other evenings

Alf: It won’t work, you know that don’t you?

Irene: It must annoy you that you don’t have adultery as an excuse.

Alf: Unreasonable behaviour would suffice

Irene: Unfortunately for you chatting to another one of my many friends in a pub is not unreasonable behaviour

Alf: You know it’s much more than that. You’ll pick the wrong man one day

Irene: Huh, I already did thirty years ago.

She leaves the table, goes behind the bar and pours herself a drink, picks up a packet of Getanes, removes a cigarettes, lights up then opens the staff door leading to the upstairs flat.

Irene: Good night, dear. Oh, and do deposit this ghastly racing paper where it belongs.

The two men also leave. Alf stands by the table. Light dims completely                                                                

Scene 9

Irene at the table with another man. His name is Nathan. They are well into their conversation. The two men are back at the bar. Alf trying to look discrete leaning his hand upon the bar while glancing at the table. Music on the jukebox.

First man: First time she’s ever ordered vodka and coke

Second man (looks at Alf): Alf doesn’t look too pleased…not that the situation demands that he should.

First man: She’s upping the stakes.

Second man: Are we keeping the stakes as they are.

First man: Hmm, for now.

Light dims

Scene 10

Light over the table

Irene: So what you’re saying that being Irish, if you’d been around at the time of the civil war you’d have been a De Valera man?

Nathan: He being the astute politician of the two, yes.

Irene: Well, even though I’m not Irish I would’ve been a Collins woman…he being the honest man of the two.

Nathan: Politics is a dirty business; Colins wasn’t really equipped for that like De Valera was.

Irene: You mean for telling lies.

Nathan: Collins returned to the Dal with a huge compromise agreement and tried to pass it off to the people as the best deal he could get.

Irene: He never tried; he succeeded…the people voted to accept it

Nathan: Doesn’t mean to say they were right to do so.

Irene: Huh! Doesn’t mean to say they were right to do so…and who came away with that little gem then, eh? Your dirty politician…’the majority can’t be right all the time.’ Hmm, the arrogance of the man…bad loser…deadly too.

Nathan: A loser that became the country’s first president all the same.

Irene: State not country.

Nathan: Same thing

Irene: And the first thing he did was outlaw the very army that helped put him there.

Nathan: But by then it was hardly the army that Collins organised, was it?

A woman enters the bar and approaches Alf. Irene is distracted by her arrival.

Irene: Er, oh yeah, the, er, IRA…who’s that woman?

Nathan (following her gaze): Sorry?

Alf and the woman are involved in a brief exchange. Alf points towards the table. The woman looks over her shoulder, turns back to Alf, nods then heads to the table.

Woman (as she approaches them): So this is where you’re hiding.

Nathan (feigned surprise): Sandie, what a pleasant surprise

Irene: Introduce me to your pleasant surprise, Nathan.

Woman: Nathan? Hmm, at least he’s maintaining class names. It was Jason the last woman he was out with. And I suppose you’re going to tell me, ‘NATHAN’ that you’re sitting with this woman because…don’t tell me, let me guess…she reminds you of me.

Nathan: Well, I er…

Irene: Nathan, Jason or whatever your name is, will you tell me what’s going on here and who this woman is?

Woman: I’ll tell you what’s going on and who this woman is. I’m this sewer rat’s wife and I’ve just caught him with another woman…you…my reason for divorcing him. Congratulations missus, you’re the lucky winner of being the other woman on a divorce petition. Adultery, I believe it’s called…is that right, Stevie boy?

Irene is stunned. Alf approaches the table 

Alf: Everything all right here, folks?

Irene: Alf, this woman’s just cited me as the other woman in a divorce

Alf (gathering the glasses): The other woman? Cited? Divorce? Let me get this right…this betrayed woman is naming you as the third party in an adultery case?

Irene: Come on Alf, stop playing games; this is serious. Help me out.

Alf: From where me and this woman are standing this looks very serious indeed.

Woman (to Alf): Are you willing to be a witness?

Irene: Don’t you dare, Alf!

Alf: Irene my dear, my loving wife, I can do no other under oath.

Alf cheerfully gathers the glasses and whistles as he returns to the bar. The two men observe the scene. They are aghast.

Alf: Haven’t you got homes to go to gentlemen?

He picks up the Getanes from behind the bar and triumphantly places them on top. He looks over at Irene.

Alf: Take these on your way out of the front door, will you. Oh, and takes these ‘PITTED’ olives as well.









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