Rabbit-Chasing for Beginners by Alan Veale
A waiting room, somewhere in the North of England
The stage is set as a plain room with two open entrances almost
opposite each other, left and right. Centre stage is a large wooden
table with two swivel armchairs at opposite sides. On the table: an
old style telephone with dial. Suspended above it: a 'No Smoking'
sign. To the left and right are two smaller tables, each bearing an
assortment of newspapers and magazines, with a couple of plain
stacking chairs by each.
SHARP enters from the left. He is about fifty, and soberly dressed in
a business suit. He appears lost. Looking around at the empty room,
then back at the entrance through which he came, he makes the decision
to stay, and comes further into the room. He casually glances at the
centre table and chairs, and then crosses right to a small table,
sitting while he thoughtfully thumbs over the pages of a magazine.
TREVOR enters from the left. About thirty years old, he is dressed in
jeans and t-shirt with a short jacket and a modern haircut. He wears a
gold bracelet on his right wrist. He looks at SHARP, then wanders
over to the other small table, and glances at the contents.
SHARP looks up briefly, but continues to read. TREVOR goes to the
centre table, idly spins one of the chairs, then looks across at
TREVOR: (very camp) Hallo-o!
SHARP looks up again, gives TREVOR a brief nod, then returns to his
TREVOR shrugs, then moves around the room like a child with ADHD. He
sits down, stands up, picks up papers and moves them somewhere else.
He hums tunelessly, whistles, and blows the occasional raspberry
in fact, anything he can think of to irritate the other occupant.
SHARP: (giving up his reading) Okay. What's your problem?
SHARP: All this stuff… You can't sit still for a minute?
TREVOR: (sits facing SHARP on the edge of the table) No, you're
right there, squire. It's a… It's a little medical problem I've got.
You mind if I smoke?
SHARP: Personally, no. But I might draw your attention to that sign up
TREVOR: Oh yeah. "No Smoking". Load of twaddle. (offers a packet
of cigarettes) Want one?
SHARP: No thank you.
TREVOR: Okay. I was only being polite. Unlike that notice. "No
Smoking". I mean, that's not polite, is it? That's not a request
that's a bloody order! (placing a cigarette in his mouth, he
produces a cheap gas-lighter)
SHARP: It doesn't seem to make much difference where you're
concerned, does it?
TREVOR: And why should it? "Smokers of the World Unite!"
That's what I say. We're a dying breed, threatened wherever we go
by unsocial advertisements and disapproving signs. (he tries to light
his cigarette but can't get a flame) I bet you're a non-smoker,
SHARP: I gave it up twelve months ago.
TREVOR: There you are then! Another one passed through the Great
Divide! Not many of us left now, I can tell you. Government Health
Warnings on every packet… What a bloody joke! You notice they
don't put them on coffee jars "Caffeine Can Seriously Keep You
Up All Night"! Ah sod it… I'm out of gas. Story of my life
He pockets the lighter and the cigarette
SHARP: (quietly) Cretin…
TREVOR: What was that?
TREVOR: No, no! You muttered something, didn't you? (no response)
Not your 'sort' am I? (no response) What's your line, then?
SHARP: What do you mean?
TREVOR: (mimics) "What do you mean?" You must be a school teacher!
(sees SHARP's reaction) Hey I've got it, haven't I? You're a teacher!
SHARP: I am a lecturer in Social Studies at Leeds University…
SHARP: ...and I see your sort every day so just give me a break,
will you? Just shut up, put away your ciggies, or whatever they are
and let's have some peace and quiet. Okay?
TREVOR puts on a solemn face, opens his hands to show they are empty,
gives a little effeminate twirl, then with a thumbs-up sign to SHARP,
he goes over to the small table left and picks up a copy of Esquire
magazine. He sits facing SHARP, who tries to ignore all this.
TREVOR: (heavy sigh) Boring… Boring… Boring… Sorry! Sorry I
SHARP: Just stop acting the fool, that's all I ask.
TREVOR reads, turns a page, and finds a picture of a glamour model. He
studies it reflectively as if he were a connoisseur with a work of
art. SHARP is now engrossed in his own magazine
TREVOR puts his paper down and leans across to SHARP
TREVOR: Excuse me? Mr Social Studies Man?
SHARP: (irritated) Yes?
TREVOR: Would you mind if I asked you a question? A matter of
professional opinion as a Lecturer in Social Studies?
SHARP: (curious) Go on.
TREVOR: Well… What do you think about tits?
TREVOR: Boobs. Women's breasts
TREVOR holds up Esquire so that SHARP can see the model's photo.
SHARP gives him a look of disgust and returns to his magazine.
TREVOR: No! No, I'm quite serious. I've been thinking about them.
I mean what are they? They're just glands, aren't they?
That's all. Mammary glands. (looks at the picture) Bloomin' great
SHARP: Come on. Stop messing around.
TREVOR: No, look. I mean it! Hasn't it ever occurred to you what a
fascinating subject they could be for Social Studies? I mean when
you think about it there are millions of women all over the world
with these mammary glands bouncing about on their chests. Just look at
this girl (points to picture) look at the size of her equipment.
She could be carrying milk for a couple of twins! But what if she
never has kids? Sticks to being a model or whatever. She's going to
be strutting around with that lot packed into her bra, or a little
cotton top, or whatever and she'll be hoisting them around for
years… All that milk going to waste. Not that I'm complaining,
SHARP: Have you got some kind of complex about women's breasts? Or
are you just trying to send me up?
TREVOR: No! No, really. It's good to talk to someone like you.
You're a professional man. You understand these things. Believe it
or not I like intelligent conversation. Come on let's have
your thoughts on the female breast.
SHARP: Well… (tries to gather his thoughts)
TREVOR: What's the problem? Short of research material? Here you are
this is what they look like. (he crosses right and puts the
magazine in front of SHARP's face) Feast your eyes on that lot.
SHARP: (taking the magazine, stares for a long moment) Well…
TREVOR: You said that.
SHARP: (concentrating) The female breast has developed…
TREVOR: Hold it, teacher we've got company. (loudly) You're
always talking about sex, you are. I wish you'd give it a rest!
SHARP turns to look as two women enter from the left. Embarrassed, he
throws the magazine down on the table, picks up his own and tries to
FROST is about 54, and dressed in a slightly 'masculine' fashion.
She looks briefly toward the two men before crossing to the small
table left. She picks up the first magazine within reach, then sits
far left, immediately concentrating on her reading.
DOLLY is in her late twenties, smartly and fashionably dressed in a
feminine top and skirt. She pauses by the entrance, and looks at the
two men apprehensively. About to speak, she changes her mind, then
goes over to sit left near FROST without even glancing at the
magazines. She notices TREVOR is looking at her.
DOLLY: Have you been waiting long?
TREVOR: For you all my life!
SHARP: We've only been here about five minutes.
TREVOR: Give or take a lifetime.
DOLLY: Oh! Not long, then.
TREVOR: Who's your friend?
DOLLY: Oh we're not together. We came in separately. (smiles)
I'm Dolly. That's my name Dolly.
TREVOR: Hello Dolly! (laughs)
SHARP: You must get that all the time.
DOLLY: (politely) No. Not too often.
TREVOR: Sorry darling couldn't resist it. I'm Trevor.
SHARP: My name's Sharp. Malcolm Sharp.
DOLLY: (after a moment) Is your name really Trevor?
DOLLY: That's my Dad's name Trevor.
TREVOR: Now there is a coincidence! I always did see myself as a
DOLLY: Have you got any children?
TREVOR: None that I'd admit to in court.
FROST gives a snort of disgust, but continues to bury her head in her
magazine. TREVOR immediately sees a new target, and crosses over to
TREVOR: Hallo, hallo! There's life in the old dog yet! Glad to have
you with us, mum. Let's have a guess at your name, then…
TREVOR takes one of the swivel chairs and places it directly in front
of FROST, then sits astride it, leaning over the back of the chair.
TREVOR: I think… (staring at her) I think you could be… a…
'Be-a-trice'. (emphasises each syllable)
FROST: And I suppose you know you have a gift for making yourself
objectionable? If you have to know, my name is Frost. Mrs Frost. And
if I have to suffer your company, I'd be obliged if you would keep
yourself to yourself. Just sit and wait, like the rest of us. (she
returns to her magazine)
TREVOR: Sorry, old girl er… Mrs Frost. Just trying to add a
little levity to the atmosphere while we wait. No harm in that, is
FROST does not react. TREVOR puts his tongue out at her she
doesn't see him. DOLLY giggles, then picks up a magazine to read.
TREVOR looks round. All of his companions are now reading. He looks
for another source of entertainment, then crosses to the centre table
and picks up the phone.
TREVOR: Hallo, Room Service? Yeah. Send me up a plateful of bangers
and chips, will you? Oh and a bottle of beer and a couple of loose
women… Oh yeah, and room service? Make sure it's the bottle
that's chilled this time and not the chips…(sees SHARP looking
at him) Oh, don't worry yourself, Malcolm! There's no one there.
This thing's as dead as a dodo. (jiggles the receiver on its rests,
dials a short number) See? Cut off from the outside world. Not even a
SHARP: (crossing to him) Let's have a look. No wonder. (pulls a
face) This thing's only a stage 'prop'. You're not connected to
SHARP takes the handset and turns it over there is no cable
connected to it.
SHARP: Odd, I agree. Probably a simple explanation for it. Seems a
funny place to have a phone anyway a waiting room. (resumes his
TREVOR: You're right there. (goes to sit next to SHARP) It's about
time someone came and told us what's happening, don't you think?
The phone rings. Everyone looks at it, startled. After a couple of
rings, DOLLY rises and takes a couple of paces toward the table. No
one else moves. DOLLY crosses and picks up the receiver as the ringing
stops. She stands listening to the earpiece for a moment, then puts
the phone down.
DOLLY: (shaken) He said he was sorry to have kept us, and he'd be
down in a moment.
SHARP: Who will?
DOLLY: I don't know. The man on the other end.
SHARP: What man? (crosses to her) You definitely heard a voice?
DOLLY: Yes, I did! He knew who I was, too. He called me 'Miss
White'. That's my name Dolly White.
FROST: We're under observation, then. Whoever it is could see you
pick up the telephone.
TREVOR: (standing) 'Big Brother'.
FROST: I beg your pardon?
TREVOR: They're watching us like on 'Big Brother'. You must
have seen 'Big Brother'!
FROST: Oh yes George Orwell.
SHARP: Don't bother explaining, Mrs Frost. He wouldn't have a
clue. (to TREVOR) But I notice you've lost some of your sparkle.
Put the wind up you, hasn't it?
TREVOR: Yes it bloody well has! That phone's not connected so
you tell me how it managed to ring itself, Teacher? (SHARP is
examining the phone)
FROST: They do make cordless phones, you know. I have one at home.
SHARP: This doesn't look like one to me. Seems like an ordinary
DOLLY: But it did ring. And there was definitely a man's voice on
the other end.
SHARP: Oh yes it rang all right. We all heard that. All the same,
someone's playing 'funny beggars'.
FROST: Well, we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?
'Someone' is coming down. Let's ask him.
SHARP: All right. We'll wait.
SHARP, TREVOR and DOLLY return to their seats. FROST hasn't moved.
The magazines are now ignored. A door is heard to open and shut
offstage. SHARP and TREVOR rise expectantly and look at each entrance
in turn. A few seconds later, MARSHALL enters right.
Bespectacled and in his late middle age, impeccably dressed in a dark
three piece suit, he could be a senior civil servant, or a Member of
Parliament. He crosses straight to the centre table, on which he
places a bundle of files.
MARSHALL: (checking a pocket watch as he enters) My sincere apologies
for being so late, ladies and gentlemen. Totally unavoidable I do
assure you. I hope you've all made yourselves comfortable. Do sit
down. No need for ceremony. We're not in college now, eh Mr
SHARP: You know who I am as well, do you? (remains standing)
MARSHALL: Of course! I know all of you. (nodding to each in turn) Mr
Sharp, Mrs Frost, Miss White and er… Mr Teasle.
DOLLY giggles. They all look at TREVOR.
TREVOR: All right, all right! So my name's Trevor Teasle. No need to
make a big thing about it. (sits)
MARSHALL: Quite right! What's in a name? My own name is Marshall, by
the way. Just so we are properly introduced. And I like to think of
this as my 'court'... (waits for a reaction)
SHARP: (still standing) So that's what this is about, then? We're
all here for a 'court martial'?
MARSHALL: Yes in a manner of speaking. It has occurred to you
then? The reasons for you all being here?
SHARP: Several things occur to me. But perhaps you'd be good enough
to enlighten us, Mr Marshall? For a start, you can tell us how you
worked the trick with the phone! (picks up the handset and shows the
back of it to MARSHALL)
MARSHALL: Trick? Oh I see what you mean. Confusing at first,
isn't it? Don't worry about that it's purely internal.
(takes handset from SHARP and places it carefully on the table) Now
then, to business. Please sit down, Mr Sharp.
SHARP hesitates, then returns to his seat next to TREVOR.
MARSHALL: Believe me, I do understand how you feel. You are curious
that is understandable. It is a little un-nerving to come here the
first time, and face up to the unknown. It is my business to help you
to come to terms with that, and to lead you through some rather
searching questions about many things. Your answers will be
recorded, and I reserve the right to challenge your answers should I
believe them to be false. So you see, Mr Sharp it is indeed
something like a 'court martial'!
SHARP: And what if we don't fancy your 'court martial'?
MARSHALL: Then you are free to go if you can find the way out.
SHARP: All of us?
MARSHALL: I think you will find that the majority are more curious
than yourself, Mr Sharp. (he looks around, but no one moves)
SHARP: Okay you've said your piece, Mister Marshall. Now it's
my turn. I don't care who you are, or what you want from me, but
I've heard enough. I've got work to do, and I don't intend to
stop here just to play stupid mind games. Sorry I can't stay, folks.
But I consider this to have been a complete waste of time. Nice to
have met you, I don't think, Mr Marshall. So long. (exits quickly
MARSHALL: Au revoir, Mr Sharp.
TREVOR: (after a second) What happens now?
MARSHALL: We wait.
The lights come up on the area around the centre table. On it is set a
small voice recorder. The stage is empty. After a few seconds, SHARP
enters quickly from the right. He enters the pool of light and stops,
turning to look at the table. He stands for a moment, looking down at
the recorder, then picks it up and presses the 'play' switch.
Immediately we hear MARSHALL's recorded voice:
MARSHALL: "Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her
feet in a moment: she looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before
her was another long passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight,
hurrying down it. There was not a moment to be lost: away went Alice
like the wind, and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a
corner, 'Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!'"
SHARP switches off the recorder in disgust, then looks around him.
While the recorder has been playing the light has opened up on the
rest of the room, and we see the tables and chairs as they were
before, but now there are no papers or magazines, and no telephone on
the central table.
SHARP is still holding the recorder. He looks at it suspiciously, then
presses the 'play' switch once more. Again we hear MARSHALL's
MARSHALL: "She was close behind it when she turned the corner, but
the Rabbit was no longer to be seen: she found herself in a long, low
hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof. There
were doors all round the hall, but they were all locked; and when
Alice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying
every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was
ever to get out again."
The lights slowly fade around SHARP as he listens to the recorder,
leaving him lit in a single spot at the end.
A few seconds later. The lights come up with MARSHALL seated right of
the centre table, and TREVOR to the far right, with DOLLY and FROST on
the chairs to the left. The papers and magazines are also back in
their place. MARSHALL has his files in front of him on the table.
SHARP enters from the left. He looks round, bewildered.
MARSHALL: Glad you changed your mind, Mr Sharp. Do join us.[end of extract]