The men in the café

The men in the café

Scene 1:

A small café in Cape Town. Two old ladies are sitting drinking tea. In the background, a barman is cleaning glasses, miming chatting to the waitress, who is holding a tray.

Esme:                 … And then he just walked away! Just like that, Gertrude, just like that! No respect. And her coming all the way here to Cape Town just specially! The impertinence!

Gertrude:         Shocking Esme, just shocking. In our day that would be worth a week’s suppers.

Esme:                 No indeed, there’s no helping the youth of today. But anyway, John, that nice old pastor from down Simonstown did the service and poor Jenny was quite distraught – just couldn’t stop crying, the dear heart was so attached to him, you know. Frankie the son read such a touching eulogy…

 Two Eastern gentlemen walk into the café and sit down at a table stage right from the ladies. Both look very serious. Women stop talking to watch them curiously. They look slightly distrustful. After a slight pause…

Gertrude:              You know, my mother always used to tell me (wagging her finger in the air), “Gertrude my dear, never trust a man with a beard,” and look how far it’s gotten me today.

Esme 3:              Oooh, those men do look like they’re up to no good. They not respectable, you take my word for it.

Achmat:             Ali, are you sure you’ve got everything ready?

Ali:                      For the last time, Achmat, I’ve gone through everything three times, at your insistence.

Achmat:             Yes, well there cannot be too many times. This is our only chance. If we don’t get it right this first time, everything will be ruined

Ali:                      Look, for once, just trust me. I know it like I know the back of my camel’s neck after a month’s trek through the desert.

Waitress gets men’s orders. Ladies sit in shocked silence. One of the ladies drops her cup. This breaks their tension and they start tittering to each other. Men are continuing their own conversation quietly. Word terrorist is heard from the ladies. They quickly pay their bill and leave. Men look after them in amazement.

Achmat:             Well, you certainly get some strange people in this country. (turns back to Ali) I still don’t feel comfortable. Perhaps if we go over it one more time before the audition.

Ali (messenger):   Alright, then. (Sighs, clears his throat) This blow hath fallen, to the utterance, And I, past hope, behold my safe return!

Achmat (chorus): Too long, alack, too long this life of mine, That in mine age I see this sudden woe condign!

Messenger:       As one who saw, by no loose rumour led,  Lords, I would tell what doom was dealt to us.

Chorus:              Alack, how vainly have they striven! Our myriad hordes with shaft and bow Went from the Eastland, to lay low Hellas, beloved of Heaven!

Voices gradually fade out, marking the end of the scene.

Scene 2: Arrested

Outside the café by a payphone (stage left) (cardboard box with a phone in it). To far stage right, an operator sits at the desk, part of another scene. She sits very still before she is noticed. Scene 1 still in the background, moved further upstage, without the barman and the waitress.

Esme:                 We need to call someone, as our duty. We’re all in danger if we don’t. Otherwise two very dangerous men will be on the loose. You could see it before they’d opened their mouths. Quick, Gertie, call someone.

Gertrude:          I’m not going back in there, not for all the Crown Jewels. We’ll just have to use the payphone, unsanitary as it is. I suppose lives are at stake (Looks slightly more hesitant than before)

Esme:                 Just hurry up, my dear. Those men should be behind bars before they blow anybody up.

Gertrude, looking as if she were braving some great danger, picks up the telephone between two fingers and dials something. She waits for someone to answer.

Operator:          Good day. Thank you for calling the crime hotline. Please listen to the following before dialling your choice: for housebreaking, press 1; for armed robbery, press 2; for a mugging, press 3; for murder or serious injury, press 4; for rape or other sexual abuse, press 5; for other abuse, press 6; for suspicious behaviour, press 7; for a bomb scare, press 8; for terrorism…

 Women have been getting impatient, tapping feet, muttering, fidgeting etc. Gertrude hurriedly presses button.

Operator:          Please hold while we put you through.

Tinny music plays. Women get seriously impatient and worried. Eventually, a policeman comes to the operation desk and takes that telephone.

 Police:               Yes? How may I help you?

Gertrude:          (hurriedly) Yes, sir, we were sitting in a café and they walked in and they spoke of it needing to be right and the planning and they’re wearing turbans and have beards, sir! Oh what are we going to do!

Police:                My dear madam, please be calm. We have traced your call and there just happens to be a patrol car in your area who will arrive shortly, with unusual efficiency. Please do not try to do anything rash and try not to let them to exit their current location. I hope you have a pleasant day.

He hangs up and she follows suit. A ‘car’ arrives from stage left and two police men come out. The senior officer is followed by his lackey.

Officer:              (Brusquely) Where are they?

Gertrude:          In the café, officer! Oh, what might have happened! Oh, thank you for coming...

Officers have already entered the building. They grab the two gentlemen and drag them back to the car. After pushing them in, they walk back to the ladies.

Lackey:              Ladies, if we can please get your names and contact details…

The officer presents a writing pad to them and they each scribble down their names eagerly. The officers walk back to their ‘car’ and drive off.

Scene 3:

An interrogation room. Merely the Lackey seated on stage right of a table (an empty chair for the officer) and the ‘suspects’ on stage left, with the table at centre stage.

Ali:                      May I at least phone the embassy? Surely we may do that. A lawyer?! What are we even here for? I do not understand.

Lackey:              I am not at liberty to discuss this matter.

Achmat:             Surely you may tell us what we are accused of!

Lackey:              So you can form an alibi? I think not! We must wait for my superior officer.

They sit in a silence broken only by the Eastern men’s fidgeting on their seats. Eventually the officer enters, stage right. He strides to his chair, but doesn’t sit down – he leans forward on the table. AS soon as the officer enters, the Lackey looks up and leaves.

Officer:              So gentlemen, have you been threatening my city? Terrorism, eh? And you thought you could get away with it. (Spits downstage) In my bloody city! Well, gentlemen, you have something to learn about the way things work here.

He strides across the room with his hands behind him, and walks back again, taking his seat this time, leaning back and putting his feet on the table. Suspects in shocked silence after his repartee.

Officer:              (sneering) Well, don’t you have anything to say? Hah!

Ali:                      Sir, we are nothing but actors come for a part in the production of The Arabians. We are innocent!

Officer:              What! Looking like you! That’s likely. (Taking his feet off the table and sitting forward) Look, my friends. We both know you’re not innocent. You’re wearing a bloody turban!

Achmat:             (Coldly) Sir, my whole country is filled with people wearing a ‘bloody turban’ sir, and I mean no disrespect, sir. We are innocent!

Officer:              Alright, prove that you are not terrorists. Give me one shred of evidence, one shred that proves it. (Sits back, pleased with his retort)

(Achmat looks at him with his mouth slightly ajar. A commotion is heard in stage right wing. A human rights activist dressed in true hippy fashion bursts in. And walks to just upstage of the table.)

Activist:              Sir, I demand the release of your suspects. Sources tell us that you have no evidence for your capture beyond the words of two dithering old ladies. You cannot withhold captives merely because they are of a different race! You trod on others as if they are merely ants! But they have rights too, and you, sir, are infringing upon them! You will see that I am not uninformed! I shall be the advocate of those whom everybody dismisses! The embassy knows and approves of them, the theatre recognise them, and (triumphantly), having spoken at length with the ladies in question, they withdraw their charge!

Two ladies enter subserviently and embarrassed. They mutter inaudible apologies to the two men. The officer breaths angrily, as if trying to restrain himself, and then storms out the door.

Scene 4

In a theatre. Whole cast but Ali (Playing the whole chorus), Achmat (Xerxes). The latter three stand on the stage, acting out the final scene of The Persians. The significance being that the land which birthed them now causes them pain and grief.

Chorus:              Alas, alas, the Persian land is woeful now to tread!

Xerxes:              Cry out and mourn! the city now doth wail above the dead!

Chorus:              I sob and moan!

Xerxes:              I bid ye now be delicate in grief!

Chorus:              Alas, the Persian land is sad and knoweth not relief!

Xerxes:              Alas, the triple banks of oars and those who died thereby!

Chorus:              Pass! I will lead you, bring you home, with many a broken sigh!

Curtain.

 


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Sylvia
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10 minute plays
writing Sylvia
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Synopsis
A Play for Arts and Culture. It had to reflect a problem in our society. Right. It's probably best to keep in mind that this was aimed at a drama teacher and at a 14 year old audience.
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