Mind the Gap by Kim Jackson
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This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author's prior consent
The setting should be very simple. Action is fluid and choreographic
and there should be a strong soundscape linking scenes and periods.
Action revolves around old Phyllis and her place in a contemporary
London tube station. As this is her story and her reflection on
memories, all scenes spring from her story telling. Scenes move
between a New York flat in the 30s, a bar and office 1955, a cell in
Italy in 1944 and locations on the tube in London. These are suggested
simply and should dissolve rapidly from scene to scene, as they are in
different time periods there should also be simple devices to indicate
this. The opening prologue, the last memory of Frank, should emerge
from action that sets the location and Phyllis as the central
At the end of the opening action Phyllis looks to the end of the
platform where she imagines her last memories of Frank.
Phyllis: I could have saved him
Frank and Kenny take up positions. Frank is on the edge of the
platform, Kenny stands back, cautious. The sound of a train entering
the station grows.
Kenny: Hello Frank
Kenny: I've been looking for you
Frank: Kenny, I wasn't leaving
Phyllis: I just stood there rooted to the spot, like Kenny, he
wasn't going to harm him, he didn't want him todo what he did.
Kenny: don't panic mate
Frank: ...I wasn't taking the money
Kenny: of course not, but we need to talk Frank.
Frank: sure, Kenny, sure.
Noise becomes loud as the train reaches the end of the platform,
Train fades away.
Phyllis: I just stood and watched.
Modern station fades in. Tannoy announcements, one on not giving to
beggars. Phyllis takes up previous position, she is mumbling, asking
for change, singing. She retains an American accent.
Phyllis: I would never have come to London if it hadn't been for
finding my Dad's letters. I knew nothing about him. He left America
before I was born. The first letter was written just after he'd left
for Europe, he was going to come back, he said so. I don't think he
knew about me. Mom hadn't told him she was pregnant. He left in
'31, things were bad for them, things were bad for everyone, no
A domestic scene emerges in front of Phyllis. New York apartment
1931, some jazz plays, Sarah is at the stove. Frank reads the small
Frank: Nah. Pause. He puts down paper. I might have something
though, I've been meaning to tell you
Sarah: What? Meaning to tell me what? Is it a job?
Frank: Well, I'm not sure but maybedon't get excited! It's
not sure yet, I have to meet a guy.
Sarah: What guy? Who is he? Do I know him, what's his name? He's
not one of Joey's friends is he? Because if he is
Frank: No, No, it's nothing to do with Joey.
Sarah: If you're getting a job through Joey it's a no-job, with
Frank: It's not Joey. It's just a guy I met. Look, he thinks I
can fit into his operation, he thinks I have the right qualities
Sarah: Well you have, honey, haven't I always said you have the
right qualities. You have great qualities. (She reflects) Qualities
for what? What does he think you have the right qualities for? Is he
on the level?
Frank: yes, he
Sarah: Hold on, does this guy exist. Is this another one of your
little schemes you're trying to get past me?
Frank: No. I don't know what he wants, I don't know the details.
I'm meeting him later. He mentioned travel.
They stare at each other.
Street sounds. Frank enters a bar.
Bert: Frank! Thanks for showing up. I wasn't sure you would, see.
Frank: Well I need the job.
Bert: Sure you do Frank, sure you do. But you want a job that can
use your talents, you're smart, you're good looking you've
Frank: Say, what is this job?
Bert: Just buying and selling, Frank, buying and selling. I have
some outlets in Europe, all over. Spain, Italy, England. Eygpt. I need
someone who can represent me over there, travel around. Grease the
machinery. Smooth things over. Check stuff in and out. You see I
don't exactly trust the people I have currently. It's a great time
to be in Europe, Frank, everything's up for grabs. I need someone
reliable, someone from home, you know. And I like you Frank, I can
Do you have a family?
Bert: Good, Think it over. I need to know soon. Tomorrow.
Frank moves to a bar or street corner, he and Joey are playing cards
or rolling dice.
Joey: Dangerous place, Europe.
Frank: It's a chance Joey, something to do.
Joey: What Frank? What are you doing?
Frank: I told you, buying, selling. Greasing the wheels. Using my
charm to create markets.
Frank: and why not? gets me away from this dump. I'd be seeing
Joey: You don't wanna be in Europe right now. I'll tell ya,
it's the same all over, Spain, Italy, Eygpt. Civil War, Fascism,
Communism, the works.
Frank turns to Sarah. The flat.
Sarah: How could you do this to me? What am I supposed to do while
Frank: What do you want from me?
Sarah: What do I want? I want you here, getting a job here, taking
responsibility, being a man.
Frank: It's a job isn't it?
Back to street, Frank is looking to stars.
Joey: Some adventure. Depression, chaos, did I say fascism? Don't
Sarah: Don't go!
Frank: It's only a couple of months, six at the most.
Sarah: You couldn't have picked a worst time
Frank alone, turns to audience.
Frank: A couple of months. You know I've always wanted to see
Europe. This is my chance to see something of the world.
He picks up a case.
Frank: I didn't want to hurt her. But I had to get away from
America while I had the chance. To do anythingit didn't matter
what it was. I wrote every week, I wrote.
Back to modern tube station and Phyllis, while she talks she is still
Phyllis: He never did go back. She gave him a year, than she gave
up. I don't know whether he even knew about me. 'He got his
dream' Mom used to say. 'He always wanted to travel, see the
world. Had his head in the clouds. He got his dream' Dream! She said
that within a year of getting here, he'd died. What a thing to tell
a child! I believed that all my childhood.
She looks across to where young Phyllis is kneeling down going
through an old handbag pulling out documents and letters.
Phyllis: In 1955 about a month after Mom passed away, I found
something that made me think that he was still alive. She taken off
her wedding ring and strung it a ribbon binding together a bunch of
letters and a photograph of two men. I thought; one of these is my
Father, I just knew. She never showed me any photos of him. The
letters were all addressed to my mother, and signed by a man named
Frank. His name, Frank! Anyway the letters were all postmarked from
different parts of Europe, Spain, France, Italy he fought in the
War there you know.
She looks to a new scene emerging, a prison cell. Music romanticises
the scene, something typically Italian. Frank is lying on a bed. Kenny
is doing press-ups.
Kenny: 297, 298, 299, 300.
Frank: Kenny, have you thought about what you are going to do after
Frank: I have, I've thought about it a lot. Sometime soon the war
is going to be all over and we're going to be out of the army, out
of the slammer, out into the big wide world.
Kenny: Why do you have to go and spoil it by mentioning the outside
Frank: Kenny, don't you want to get out of here? Back to the
Kenny: No. I'm on holiday. Look this is better than home, better
Frank: Fighting, that's what got you in here.
Kenny: I don't mean that. I mean the army, the war, marching,
orders, campaigns, bloody hills to climb up.
Frank: I don't mean that either, I mean the action back in London.
Wheeling, dealing, operating. Look Kenny, I'll get to the point.
You're a decent guy, a nutter, but decent. I trust you; we trust
each other don't we? I got this plan. A little business proposition,
to keep us busy after the war. Make us some money, enough for me to
get home maybe.
Kenny acts like he's heard this before. Over the next speeches
Frank and Kenny are leaving the cell and acting out stages to civilian
life, changing clothes, getting on trains, walking streets, greeting
people, exchanging money or small items, setting up an office. Music
reflects the journey to London.
Frank: There'll be bases after the war in England. So
there'll be plenty of goods flying in. The good ole US of A is going
to be generous to England. Goods I can get my hands on. I'll still
have a network; I'll still know the right people, the right palms to
grease. What I'll need is distribution in London. I can cook the
books for the guys on the bases, you can provide the market.
Kenny: You're right, I could distribute the stuff. But so can
others, big boys in the game.
Frank: Yea, but Kenny, we'll keep it small, discrete. I'm not
greedy. Maybe we can specialise. I'll get enough to get back to the
states, start a legit business, you know, maybe get back to my wife.
It's been a long time.
Kenny: A long time, I'll say! Maybe you should consider she's
over you Frank I'm just being realistic.
Frank: Whatever. What do you say?
They pass Phyllis who watches them as if they still occupy the same
space in the station. Young Phyllis emerges from the action and takes
up previous position with letters, Phyllis shifts attention to her.
Phyllis: The letters spanned 23 years. The earliest letter was dated
January 3rd 1932. That was six months after he'd left my mother. She
must have been still big with me. The last letter was November 5th
1955, I washow old was I?
Young Phyllis: 23.
[end of extract]
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