Running by Rachel Burns
First performed at Alphabetti Newcastle 1st October 2016 – directed by Ruby Shrimpton.
JAY: Alexander Christodoulou
LOL: Virginia Riddell
NANA: Maggie Childs
A geriatric ward for the terminally ill.
NANA sits in a wheelchair in her dressing gown. She has a photo in her pocket.
LOL and JAY awkward visitors.
JAY/ VO: And A’m runnin’, runnin’ across the desert and A feel like A’m one of those storm troopers from Star Wars, A can still hear the kids, their screams ringin’ in ma ears and A remember why A’m runnin’ and A think fuck, fuck, fuck, and then A run faster…
LOL: Areet Nana look who A’ve brought ter see yer. You remember Jay?
JAY: Lol… why’s she got a hole in her neck?
LOL: So she can breathe yer fool, she’s got lung cancer hasn’t she.
JAY: Man A hope A nivver ger old, [shouts] areet Nana.
LOL: She’s not deaf yer daft apath, yer divven have ter shout. [shouts] Nana wake up.
JAY: She’s looks fucking comatose. She’s not snuffed it has she Lol?
LOL: Divven be mental. Nana look who A’ve brought, you remember Jay don’t yer?
JAY: Can she speak?
LOL: Not really, sometimes she tries ter, but it’s such an effort A’ve telt her ter put a sock in it.
JAY: [sighs] Yer wanna gan fer a shag?
LOL: Not now, mebbes later. Have to see Nana first.
JAY: [sighs] Boring init staring at old people… Nana wake up.
NANA: Cheeky bleeders, lookin’ at me as if A were already deed. A can see straight through that Jay, pity she can’t, the good looking ones, more trouble than they’re worth…
LOL: Should we tak’ Nana fer a fag?
JAY: Can she like… with a hole in her neck?
LOL: Course. Nana can do a really neat trick can’t yer Nana?
JAY and LOL wheel NANA to the nearest open window.
NANA: She were lovely when she were a nipper, she would look at
yer with them lovely blue eyes and yer heart would melt. A brought her up all on ma own, her mam drowned herself in the River Wear. Nivver found the body. We had a reet carry on, nee funeral, nee nothin’. A knew she weren’t comin’ back… still no use dwelling on the past.
LOL: Dye remember how Nana used to freeze cola in ice cube trays for us in the summer? Kids queuing roond the block.
JAY: Aye A dee… and jam and bread. A loved yer Nana’s homemade jam.
LOL: She used ter get through a couple of loaves a day, dunno why she thought she had ter feed every brat in the street, daft auld bat.
JAY: A would of starved if it weren’t fer yer gran.
LOL: Would yer?
LOL: A divven want Nana ter die. They’ve said a week tops.
JAY: Quacks what do they knaa, yer hear stories all the time… people in comas coming back ter life…
LOL: Yer but yer divven hear stories aboot terminally ill lung cancer patients suddenly being cured.
LOL lights NANA a cigarette and places it in her hand.
LOL: Jay man… A’ve nee one else.
JAY: Aw come here pet.
JAY pulls LOL to him.
JAY: Poor Nana, that’s it then.
NANA: The morphine they give yer fer the pain, it’s like yer drift in and back out again, but A can still mak’ oot that they’re practically planning me bloody funeral. A’m not gone till A’m gone. It were my fault yer see, she found out, found out that her real dad… should have kept me mouth shut.
LOL: Gan on Nana, blow us a smoke ring, show Jay.
NANA blows a smoke ring through the hole in her neck.
JAY: That’s pretty neat fer an auld bird.
LOL: What are they gawping at? What yer gawping at? Tak’ nee notice Nana yee enjoy yer fag, might be the last one yer ever have.
JAY: Shall A wheel Nana back now? (beat) Fuck me A’m dying fer a shag.
LOL: Jay you’ve sex on the brain.
JAY/ VO: And we’re in the thick of it, sniper fire comin’ at us from every angle and A think fuck it, if yer gonna die, yer gonna die. (beat) ‘There’s a time to live and there’s a time to die.’ That’s what Reece used to say, some stupid quote from some stupid poem and A remember scraping Reece off the road and A remember the hot stink of it.
JAY: [sings] Oh, oh, this sex is on fire.
LOL: Oh nah divven start with the singin’ Jay.
JAY: [sings louder] Oh, oh, this sex is on fire.
LOL: Fuck off man, people are lookin’.
JAY: Let them look, come on Lol a quickie, gan on.
LOL: Me Nana’s dying and all you can think aboot is sex… sorry Nana but yer are.
JAY/ VO: Then A think ter maself there’s nee way A’m gonna die… nee fucking way and A find this inner strength that A divven nar A had… and A’m like Luke fuckin’ Skywalker… A can feel the force, really feel it and A stand up and then A open fire, pop, pop, pop, pop.
NANA: Her real dad was Asian, from Pakistan. It weren’t allowed see, not if yer were Catholic, not then.
LOL: Come on Nana we’ll get yer back, it’s chilly oot, you’ll catch yer death. (beat) Sorry Nana A didn’t mean…
JAY: Poor Nana totally fucked eh, wonder what it’s like ter knaa yer gonna die.
NANA: Daft little sod, if only he knew. When A was little A used ter say prayers every night before gannin’ ter sleep. (beat) ‘If I die before I wake, I pray to God my soul to take.’ [bitter laugh] Not anymore though, now A’m sitting on the fence and A’m like doubting Thomas waiting for a sign and A look at that daft young sod who divven nar the day he were born. (beat) War, what dee they knaa aboot it at their age. (beat) Death, they think they wanna be heroes, every one of them, think it’s gonna be a great adventure, hah.
LOL: Why divven yer ask her?
JAY: Nana yer ready ter meet yer macker?
LOL: Divven take the piss Jay, haway.
JAY: Are yer scared Nana?
NANA: Thinks he’s funny that one, mak’s a joke of everythin’ see. Scared am not scared of death, scared of the pain, sittin’ here waitin’ for the next wave to hit when the morphine starts to wear off. Divven tell you that in the smoking ads do they… the pain… there are worse things than death, sonny Jim…
JAY: She divven say much yer Nana. [draws curtains]
LOL: What yer deein’ Jay? [draws curtains back] A’m not deein’ it here, nee way.
JAY: [draws curtains] Gan on. You and me babes. Nana won’t notice. Look she’s oot of it, away with the fairies in the land of Morpheus.
LOL: What if someone comes?
JAY: Divven be daft they’re short staffed, look yer Nana’s piss bag’s fit ter burstin’.
LOL: That’s gross Jay.
JAY: Come here Lol.
LOL: Are yer sure she’s not watchin’?
JAY/ VO: ‘Talk ter yer superior officer,’ they said, when A telt them am not sleepin’ and me heed’s done in, but Spud’s more psycho than I am. (beat) This is his fifth tour of Afghanistan and he can’t see the wood for the trees… and A keep seein’ the deed kids, their faces in the streets, everywhere A gan, but it can’t be them, they’re deed. But it is them, they’re followin’ me, screamin’ in ma face, ‘you murderin’ bastard, you murderin’ bastard,’ and it’s gettin’ ter a point that A keep pointin’ the gun to ma own heed, one pop and A’m deed.
NANA: She’s got a name, they’re practically deein’ it in front of me. It were nivvor like that in ma day, all this sex, sex on the brain, sex everywhere yer look.
LOL and JAY getting it on, clothes in disarray.
LOL: Dye luv me Jay?
JAY: What kind of daft questions that? Yer knaa ah dee.
NANA: He had lovely brown eyes.
LOL: Would yer still luv us if A were up the duff?
JAY: [backs away] What, what brough’ this on?
LOL: [defensive but hurt] Nowt, it’s just what with yer gannin’ away and everythin’.
JAY: Divven get fuckin’ morbid on us now. Yer not are yer?
JAY: Up the duff.
LOL: [hurried] A might be. A divven knaa. A’m late.
LOL: For ma period, duh.
NANA: Mam threatened ter send me ter the nuns, then Bernard came along, twice ma age, mam said A wouldn’t get a better offer…
JAY: Shit Lol, yer had ter spring this on me now. A leave tomorrow Lol.
LOL: A knaa that Jay… that’s why A telt yer… just in case.
NANA: [whispers] Lola… Lola…
LOL: Christ Nana, yer spoke. What is it Nana? Whadeye want?
NANA: [whispery, hoarse voice] The priest bonnie lass, the priest.
LOL: Oh god, oh god, oh jesus christ. Stay with her Jay. A’ll gan and fetch the priest.
LOL: Hang in there Nana, last rites or summick. A divven knaa, divven let her die Jay, keep her talkin’.
LOL runs off stage.
JAY: Keep her talkin’. [beat] Silly old bat aren’t yer Nana, [picks photo out of Nana’s dressing gown pocket.] Who’s this handsome fella then?
JAY: Not speakin’ eh? A bet yer were a corker back in the day. Probably where Lol get’s it from. (beat) She’s a proper belter. (beat) Pretty neat trick yer did with the smoke ring… blowin’ it out the hole in yer neck like that. [waves photo in front of her face] So come on bonnie lass, spill the beans. Who’s this then?
NANA: A wanna shout at him, put Sahil doon, but A don’t cos A can’t, and panics risin’ in ma chest cos A knaa it’s ma time ter to go but A’m not ready. Not till A’ve confessed and A think… hell’s teeth A need a flaming priest. [she lurches herself forward]
JAY: Shh, it’s areet divven’ be si tetchy. If yer don’t wanna tell me fine. Keep yer hair on. [tucks photo back in dressing gown pocket] There there Lol’s fetchin’ the priest now, here [holds NANA’S hand] hold ma hand. A knaa a prayer or two. [clears throat] Our Father who Art in Heaven/ Hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done….ah shit A forget the rest….Amen. Nana, Nana.
LOL runs back on stage.
LOL: Oh my god Jay is she, is she…
JAY: Lol where’s the priest?
LOL: At a fucking funeral…
JAY: Fer fuck’s sake.
LOL: A knaa they divven even have a back up priest. Just some stupid woman vicar, arse the size of a…. Poor Nana what we gonna dee, she doesn’t dee replacements. It’s a priest or burn in [voice of doom] eternal fire and damnation.
JAY: Is she deed religious like.
LOL: Is the pope a catholic?
JAY: Well duh yeah.
LOL: We should say a shit load of prayers. While we’re waitin’ for the priest like.
JAY: A can aunly remember half an Our Father.
LOL: That’ll dee. (beat) Nana we’re here, the priest’s on his way, comin’ soon as he’s done with the funeral. He said he’ll be quick as he can but yer knaa what them Catholic funerals are like, they can drag on. Nana!
NANA: She always was a stupid girl bless her. I want ter say to her, look Lola, yer on yer own now pet, yer need to get some gumption about yer, but A knaa A’ll be wasting me breath.
JAY: She’s tryin’ ter tell yer summick, listen.
NANA: Lola, Lola, [gasps for breath]
LOL: Never mind Nana, save your strength, Jay do something, absolve Nana from all her sins. Dee the deathbed thingy.
JAY: The deathbed thingy, A divven nar aboot that like.
LOL: Yer were an altar boy weren’t yer?
JAY: Aye but… fuck it, here gans, In the name of the Father…
NANA: A can see him standing there, Sahil, it’s a bright day, still with a nip in the air, but the sunshine is glorious and he’s looking ever so smart in his uniform, smoking a cigarette. He looks nervous, he’s waitin’ for someone and A see it’s me, a younger me and A look radiant.
JAY: The Son and the Holy Ghost (beat) Lol yer knaa what yer said afore aboot being up the duff.
JAY: I absolve you of all your sins Amen. Christ Lol A aunly did three masses, then Father Lowry kicked us oot fer nicking the altar wine.
LOL: We can’t let Nana gan like this, just mak’ summick up.
JAY: Look Lol fer fuck’s sake are yer up the duff or not?
NANA: A wanna tell him, he’s standing there looking ever so smart and A can’t cos it would break ma heart to lose him, and A wanna tell Lola that A’m sorry it were my fault her mam drowned herself in the river. A wanna tell Lola that her real granddad was the most handsome man but A can’t…
LOL: Nana, it’s alright, Jay say a prayer.
JAY: Mama take this badge from me, ah can’t use it anymore…
LOL: What’s that?
JAY: Gun’s N Roses,(beat) getting dark to dark to see, feels like A’m knockin’ on heaven’s door, knock knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door.
LOL: Poor Nana…
NANA: He never came back. I nivver saw him again, all those wasted years with Bernard, wondering what might have been…
JAY: Mama put ma guns to ground, A can’t shoot them anymore, that cold black cloud is coming down, feels like A’m knockin’ on heaven’s door, knock, knock knockin’ on heaven’s door, [sings] aye, aye, aye.
LOL: Divven get carried away Jay.
JAY: Sorry, she’s gone anyhow.
LOL: Nana, Nana wake up, Nana.
JAY: Sorry Lol…
LOL: Oh my god am talkin’ ter a dead person, oh god…
JAY: Lol calm doon, there’s nee need ter freak oot, she’s deed, it’s not as if she’s suddenly gonna come back ter life like summick off The Walking Dead.
LOL: A’ve nivver seen a deed person afore.
JAY: Look aboot the sprog.
LOL: Jay there is no sprog, A was pulling yer leg.
JAY: Fuck off.
LOL: A’m sorry, A just wanted ter knaa if yer, yer knaa, luved us.
JAY: Course A dee yer daft bat.
LOL: A wonder what she wanted ter confess.
JAY: A divven suppose it matters now.
LOL: Silly auld bag, let’s get oot of ‘ere, A’m chokin’ fer a fag.
JAY: Mebbes yer should give up, just in case.
JAY: It won’t hurt none Lol just in case, yer knaa/-
LOL: Jay A’m not up the /duff.
JAY: –/up the duff
LOL: Come on let’s get oot of here, let’s run, come on Jay run… come on… faster…
JAY/VO: and faster until A can’t run anymore and the sun shines bright behind us as A lay doon in the sand and A’m keepin’ it real, cos A wanna get ‘ome. The sniper fire’s rattling o’er ma head and A’m thinkin’ aboot Lol and the bairn and how A have ter get back ter see his first steps. And A try not ter think aboot what A’ve seen, all the blood and the tears, cos it fucks yer up and if yer fucked up yer nivver mak’ it ‘ome. Not in one piece any road and A think aboot the Guns N’ Roses song and what it means and A try ter keep it real.