Southerly by David Haywood


Ian Wishart's 'Absolute Power: The Helen Clark Years' Rewritten as a One-act Play in the Style of Noël Coward's 'Brief Encounter'


The curtain opens to show the tea rooms of a railway station in Milford, England. The year is 1936. Ian, a failed journalist, and Laura, a middle-class housewife, are sitting together at a table. Teacups are set upon the table, but no-one is drinking.

Ian: I wish I could think of something to say, darling.

Laura: It doesn't matter -- not saying anything, I mean.

Ian: Do you remember that wonderful holiday in Greece?

Laura: I've never left England, darling, remember? Fred doesn't like foreign food.

Ian: Your holiday on that wonderful Greek island? The one just north of Chios?

Laura: Whatever are you talking about, darling? You know I've never been abroad.

Ian: What was the name of the island?... yes, Lesbos, that's it. You were there on holiday with Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Don't you remember? That glorious day when you visited the hot springs to bathe -- you took off your clothes, and you were all so naked and beautiful. Like Naiads...

Laura: I want to die!

Ian: Oh, don't say that darling. If you died, then you might as well be... well... dead...

Laura: Yes, you're right. It's just that I'm so tired of hearing you go on about Lesbos. You know it's a load of rot. I've never been to Greece. Why do you keep saying it?

Ian: Let's just talk about something different, shall we darling?

Laura: Yes, we could talk about electrical engineering -- oh, how I adore electricity!

Ian: All those electrical plugs and sockets, I suppose. You know, I sometimes wonder what God would think...

Laura: Let's not talk about God again, Ian, it's so embarrassing...

Ian: ...what God would think, if he saw an electrical engineer trying to join together a pair of sockets. I don't suppose he'd be very pleased.

Laura: I should think he'd have more important things to worry about.

Ian: Yes, but... well... let me put it this way: do you know that Swedish car?

Laura: The Volvo? Yes, I believe they're very safe...

Ian: Their safety is a matter of fact, Laura. It's a FACT -- not just my opinion! Please don't try to imply that it's just my opinion.

Laura: Oh, Ian, I'm so sorry. Can you forgive me, darling?

Ian: Of course I forgive you! I forgive you a thousand times! In fact, it is I who should be asking forgiveness from you, dearest Laura. It's just that... do you suppose -- however safe they are -- two Volvos might collide?

Laura: I suppose they might...

Ian: Banging into one another, over and over again, harder and harder...

Laura: Well, I don't suppose they'd do it over and over, Ian. Surely after the first accident they'd stop and exchange insurance details.

Ian: The thing is, Laura, that there's another word that's a lot like Volvo, isn't there? Is that what happened between you and Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West on that Greek island? Were your Volvos involved in a collision?

Laura: Oh, for heaven's sake, Ian! Why must you keep bringing up Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. You know I've never met them -- and I've never been to Greece either. We've been through this a thousand times.

Ian: How you twist my words, Laura! You know that I've no interest in Greece or your writer chums. I'm only making conversation to please you. You introduced the subject in the first place, Laura. You couldn't stop talking about your holidays on the Greek islands, and how close you all were.

Laura: Oh, Ian, really!

Ian: Well...

Laura: Well, I suppose this is goodbye, then?

Ian: Must we say goodbye, Laura?

Laura: Yes, darling, we must. Because... darling, you're not a well man. Oh, see a doctor, won't you, Ian? Please, for my sake.

Ian: Did I tell you that I'm planning to start my own magazine?

Laura: Oh Ian, don't start a magazine, you know you'll only write rubbish. Just see a doctor, I beg you.

Ian: I'm going to call it 'Investigate'.

Laura: No, darling, you should go to Vienna for medical treatment. The Viennese doctors will be frightfully interested in a case like yours. Goodbye, darling!

She leaves.


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