Shorts for stage and screen
THE SHOPPER AND THE BOY
The Shopper and The Boy was first performed by Sole Purpose Productions at Foyle Arts Centre, Derry Londonderry on 20th June 1996. The play was directed by Dave Duggan. Set design and constuction was by Jan Vaclav Caspers. The cast was as follows:
Patricia Byrne Darren Greer
The Shopper The Boy
THE SHOPPER and THE BOY enter, carrying the trunk. They carry it round
the space a few times. They put it down facing the audience, and THE
SHOPPER turns her back to the audience.
BOY: No Surrender. [They pick up the trunk and walk through 180 degrees so that THE SHOPPER now faces the audience. They are still holding the trunk.]
SHOPPER: Tiocfaidh ar lá! They turn once more for THE BOY to repeat ‘No Surrender’, then he faces backwards. They take the trunk back and put it down. They end with a big shoulder-shrugging sigh in unison. They open it, and draw out a long length of strong blue cloth. It is as wide as the trunk. This is the river between them. They gaze at it, walk up and down its banks, gaze over it, skim stones on it, but their eyes do not meet. They take up the position of the statues on the Craigavon Bridge. They return to the trunk and THE BOY takes shaving foam, towel and razor out, claims centre stage, still on his side of the river. THE SHOPPER sits on her end, facing away.
BOY [preparing himself for the day. He is lathering and shaving, humming The Sash]: Da da dah dah dah dah daaah da dah. [He performs a little strutting walk, holding the foam and razor in front of him, draping the towel round him like a sash. He faces front and sings loudly.]
‘It was old, but it was beautiful, And the colours they were grand ... The sash my father wore.’ Aye, my father. [He now appears to be talking to the mirror he is shaving in.] I mind the first time he took me. I mind standing at the top of Bond’s Hill, looking down at all the buses and the crowds milling around outside the train station. Like a great army, they were. Battalions of them in all their finery and the river behind them sparkling like a jewel in the August sunlight.
My hands started to sweat. My knees began to knock [Pause] Ach I was only a nadger [Looks at his palms and his knees]
And me Da said ‘That’s us, son. Remember that. Our people. Our people.’ [He hums again, towelling off the remaining soap, turns and steps back to the trunk as THE SHOPPER rises and comes forward to claim centre stage, on her side of the river].
SHOPPER: Our people. [Pause] Our people picked the pennies out of their hair, picked the abuse out of their ears, then picked themselves up off their knees, to gaze bewildered and amazed at the mighty walled city. Our people looked aghast as the march went past in a blaze of triumphant colour.
[THE BOY comes forward in line with THE SHOPPER] BOY: Our people marched in time and history. Our people
stepped out in tradition and power. SHOPPER: Our people looked on. SHOPPER/BOY [facing]: Another year marked out in stamping feet.
Another year marked out in shoe leather. Another year trodden underfoot. Another year. [They walk back to the trunk, stand at opposite ends and face away from each other. The Bargaining Position.]
SHOPPER: You first.
BOY: No you.
SHOPPER: Okay then. [Pause] I want to be able to go up the town
and shop in peace. Now you.
BOY: I want to march with my brothers in our regalia on the 12th August. Now you. [Pause]
SHOPPER: Let me tell you about regalias. Uniforms. Let me tell you about uniforms. [She reaches into the trunk and tosses out a selection of clothes belonging to her 11 year old son. She comes to the front. THE BOY sits on the trunk, facing front.] I have a wee fella going into secondary school. Michael. Same name as his Da. Quiet young fella, with kind of mousey hair. Wonder where he got that? [Touches her own hair] He’s the first. A big pile of love came out of me and every time I look at him I get a lump in my throat. [Pause] Anyway, he got the 11 plus, so he’s going to the college. Black blazer. Black trousers. Lumpy schoolbag. [Pause, she has picked up all the clothes.]
You can’t get a uniform without money. You can’t get money without work. And Michael, the Da, he’s not working. No, that’s not right. He is working. And so am I. Just not getting paid for it. Always working. [Pause] Trying to get something to put a uniform on the boy’s back.
BOY [still seated on the trunk]: Aye, the uniform’s the thing. The braid on the shoulders. Aye. The cap and the brassy buttons. The shoes, black and shiny as tar bubbles on a summer road. [He comes forward and THE SHOPPER goes back to the trunk and sits. He sings/declaims]
‘Oh! for the bandsman’s uniform. The braid, the button and the sash, Oh! for the day out on the bus. The beer, the music and the cash. Oh! for the weltering heat of it all. The sun like a fiery eye
Oh! for the sound of the fife and drum And the blaze of banners in the sky.’ [THE SHOPPER puts away the clothes. THE BOY moves forward and lies down, hands joined behind his head, as if he is looking at the sky.]
I mainly remember the stars, jewels for the 11th night, bright eyes staring down at my bare belly, rounded out with cider and beer. [Pause] And the big fire, cackling and spurting. All the fellas running around mad, throwing things on the fire and running round it, trying to jump the lower reaches of its might, orange flames licking their arses. Cheers going up. [Pauses] God it’s great.
[Turns on his arm and faces forward still lying down] When I was a wean, ach years ago, we used to build a hut near the bonfire, to guard it. That was the best bit. Just three or four of us, cramped into a wooden crate, so close we could smell each others sweat. A tangy sweet smell. And Sammy Hamilton’s Ma sent over big jam sandwiches, door stoppers, and our mouths got covered in red, like lipstick carelessly daubed on. [He gets into a sitting position.] Now I just turn up with my carry-out and feel the warm glow of it all. Seeing all the people, their faces lit up by the fire, drinking in the heat
of history. All one big crowd. [Pause] Together. And then the cops come.
SHOPPER [seated on trunk]: Uniforms. Every place has them now. All the shops. It’s all uniforms. Trying to make everyone look the same under cover of trying to make us look smart. [Pause, comes forward] That’s one thing I like about the credit union. No uniforms. Everyone’s different. They treat you like a person. Like you’re someone who needs money for a uniform. [Pause] They don’t wear them but they gave me the money for Michael’s. [THE BOY stands up] BOY: Our people got jobs with uniforms and marching and the
rule of law. [Pause] Well, some of us anyway. SHOPPER: Our people tried to go to college. [Pause] Well, some
of us anyway. SHOPPER/BOY [chanting in unison, facing each other]: Another year
marked out in stamping feet. Another year marked out in shoe leather. Another year trodden underfoot. Another year. [They return to the ends of the trunk, facing away from each other. The Bargaining Position]
SHOPPER: You first this time. BOY: Okay. [Pause] I want your people to stop calling it ‘the
college’ as if there was only one. [Pause] I want to be able to get a job. The Army’s alright, but I want to be able to stay in my own town. And call it what we want to call it. Londonderry.
SHOPPER: I want a job too. But not for peanuts. And not in a uniform. You put on a uniform and they think they can push you around. [THE SHOPPER takes out a baby carrier, a doll and a credit union book. THE BOY lifts a blue plastic carry out bag with full cans in it, from the trunk. THE SHOPPER sits down, facing forward. THE BOY lurches forward. He is slightly drunk.]
BOY [to invisible others]: I’ll talk to them. Leave it to me. It’s alright. [He comes forwards to talk to the cops.] Yes. What about yeez? Someone has to work on the 11th night, I suppose? Do you want a can? [He proffers the bag jokingly.] Only kidding, officer.
SHOPPER [coming forward, talking to a credit union clerk]: Aye, she’s the youngest. No more after her. [Laughs] Aye, I know what you mean. If it’s not on one thing it’s another. At least that’s the uniform for the eldest sorted out. Aye give me cash.