No Phones on Planet Pluto - Excerpt
I've always liked monologues - especially those Hamletesque soliloquies that give the audience an insight into a character's thinking or motivation.
I've been told by several writers (one or two of them quite famous), that monologues don't belong in stage plays. Well, those people are wrong. Monologues are great: they're great for actors because they give them an opportunity to show what they can do, and they're great for writers as a way of exploring what might be going on in the character's head.
Monologue's can also be used like short stories, usually written from one person's point of view. And of course, monologue's have been used for many years by comedians such as Billy Connolly as a means of commenting on a particular aspect their own, or other's lives.
- a form of dramatic entertainment, comedic solo, by a single speaker
- a prolonged talk or discourse, especially [a speaker] dominating or monopolizing a conversation.
- any composition, as a poem, in which a single person speaks alone.
- a part of a drama in which a single actor speaks alone; soliloquy.
Monologues and Mental Health
Back in 2009, I wrote a play that was, essentially, a collection of ten monologues held together by an additional 'Doctor' character as a means of presenting them without simply having one speech after another.
The play came about as a response to the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, and was presented as part of the Festival in September 2009. Written and directed by myself and Suzanne Enoch, No Phones on Planet Pluto was first performed at the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, Scotland on 20 October 2009, with a cast of eleven actors.
Of the ten monologues in the play, I wrote seven of them. Many were inspired by conversations Suzy and I had with people who were themselves members of mental health users groups. Naturally, we didn't want anyone to be able to identify any of the specific individuals we were trying to represent, so we used those initial conversations more as a springboard for our writing, than a simple relaying of individual stories.
One of the monologues I wrote was based very much on my own experience of mental illness - albeit way back in the late 1980's. Rather to my surprise, I discovered that writing it down in this way helped me deal with some of the feelings I still had about that experience. That particular speech (Nick's story), is reproduced elsewhere on the Internet, so the one I've included here is one I wrote after speaking to a woman who found it difficult to leave the house or mix with other people. This was clearly a huge issue for her and I can't imagine what it must have been like, but Davey's story below gives what I hope is at least a flavour of her experiences.
While the subject matter is necessarily serious, it was important to us that the piece, and the play as a whole, were entertaining as well as informative. So if the excerpt below makes you laugh, that's great.
Excerpt: Davey's Monologue
That’s my trouble, I just can’t say no.
I can say yes. And I do. Frequently.
Oh, aye, no bother. Absolutely. Love to, pal, Count me in. I’m your man.
Hold me back. Easy.
But I shouldn’t. And I know I shouldn’t. Cos I know what’ll happen.
Give you an example.
Two nights ago…my pal rings me up and says
He’s got two bottles of Chardonnay in the fridge and nobody to share them with.
Do I want to come round and help him do a bit of recycling?
And even though my brain’s screaming No, No, No, No, No. I go sure, why not?
And before I can change my mind,
I can hear myself saying Aye Rab, see you in five
And my arm’s already on its downhill trip and the phone’s in its cradle and that’s it.
Done deal. No going back.
Course, I could ring him back and say Sorry Pal my mother just died,
Or my sister’s gone into labour or the boiler’s sprung a leak. But I don’t.
I just put on my coat and off I go.
If it was only me and my pal and two bottles of Australian white
Everything’d be fine.
But it isn’t.
It isn’t only me and my pal and two bottles of Australian white
And it isn’t just fine.
Cos by the time I get there,
He’s decided to invite his next door neighbour and her husband round to join in the fun
And I know for a fact Rab’s going to want me to distract the husband
While he tries to get his hand in her knickers and cop a feel.
But it isn’t that either.
What it is, is…
I hate people.
I mean, I don’t hate people, of course I don’t.
I just hate being with them.
I can deal with one.
In a conversation, someone, if there’s two of you, someone says something
Like, “how you doing?” Or whatever, then the other person can reply.
“Yeah, fine mate”.
And that’s okay.
Cos then if they say something to follow on, then you can reply to that as well.
But when there’s someone else there, like, three people
It gets complicated.
Cos then I have to concentrate on two conversations.
And I know it should be easy, cos usually people are talking about the same thing
And you just join in, or agree with them or say something along the same lines,
But I always get confused and I lose track of what’s been said
And then I start to say something that somebody’s already said
And even that’s okay cos whoever said it just kind of goes
“Yeah, that’s what I’m saying” or something.
But it’s not even that.
What it is is…
I’m terrified of making a fool of myself
And I don’t just mean being scared of looking silly
I mean feeling completely and totally mortified
Like if you were getting married to the most gorgeous woman in the world
And just at the bit when the vicar goes
“Speak now or forever hold your peace” some git gets up and goes
But it’s not just saying something wrong, it’s doing something wrong,
Cos that’s like the worst thing you can do.
Like, if I’m shopping and I don’t have enough money to pay for what’s in my basket,
And they go “you’ll have to put something back”
Or if I’m at the library and they go “there’s a fine to pay”,
Or if I’m at the support group and I make myself a cup of coffee you can guarantee someone’ll go “hey, that’s my cup”, and I just go to pieces.
I’m at Rab’s place and the next door neighbour’s there with her husband.
And they’re just there, they’re there when I arrive,
When I walk through the door into the sitting room
There they are, just there. Sitting.
Cos if Rab had said when I went to the door, “Oh, by the way so and so are here”,
I could have maybe still got out of it.
Except I wouldn’t have, cos I wouldn’t have had the bottle.
But he doesn’t say anything, just takes me through to the sitting room
And there they are. There.
And they both go “hello” real cheery and that and I just give them my usual stupid grin.
Turns out they’re called Jack and Jill, so of course we spend a good ten minutes pretending it’s really funny and making stupid jokes about going up the hill and that and I’m just wishing Rab would stop faffing about in the kitchen and come back in,
So at least he can talk to them and I can relax a bit, but he doesn’t.
Not for ages.
So we all just sit there looking at each other.
Not saying anything.
And then Rab finally comes in and suggests we all play this computer game
And I’m like, oh Christ. Might as well have suggested we strip naked and do the tango.
Cos I know as much about computer games as the Arc Angel Gabriel.
But I think maybe it’ll be okay cos at least the woman won’t be any good at it,
So I won’t look a complete prat, but naturally it turns out she’s a bloody expert
And of course I get paired with Cheery Jack,
And Rab’s sitting with his arm around Jill trying not to look like he fancies her,
I’m just waiting for everybody to point the finger and go
“Oh for God’s sake Dave, are you thick or what?”
And of course, cos I don’t have a clue what I’m doing
And haven’t got the nerve to ask anyone for help,
That’s exactly what happens and I just want to crawl into a hole and hide
Except that I can’t cos they all keep going on about how I should have kept my thumb on the Foo-foo valve or the snickerty stick or something and I feel about this big
And Rab’s no bloody help at all and he knows what I’m like
But does he give me any support whatsoever? Does he hell.
You need friends when you’re like me.
When there’s something wrong with you.
Not that I’m saying that there’s something wrong with me,
But when stuff like that happens I want to stand up and say
“Just sod off and leave me alone”.
But I don’t.
Cos that’s exactly the thing I can’t do.
I can’t stand up for myself.
I can’t say what I want to say.
Cos if I could, I would.
I’d say “Look Rab, I’d love to come round tonight but I don’t feel like it, alright?”
And that would be that.
I don’t really want to say anything else.