Fade up. Indoors, suburban street noise coming through open window. Occasional shouts in background.
WOMAN: What are you doing? You’ve been staring out of that window for two hours.
MAN: I’m not doing anything. I’m trying to work out what those nutters are up to, over there.
WOMAN: Why is that important?
MAN: Why is that important? It is important because we are an outwardly respectable couple. I am an outwardly respectable man, and you are an outwardly respectable woman. We don’t want undesirables coming round here, disrupting our accustomed routine and de-valuing our property.
WOMAN: Yes, all right, all right. Close the window, will you love? That draught is freezing.
MAN: I need the window open so I can hear them. They all seem to have flat, metropolitan Northern accents. They are engaged in endless, nagging disputes with each other and keep losing their tempers.
WOMAN: Who are they?
MAN: A few goth-looking teenagers, some scratter in a hoodie and a baseball cap, an Asian chap in a suit, and a bloke who looks like a geography teacher. They keep walking round and round a white van and shouting at each other. Some of them have been texting furiously. One of them has a pair of binoculars and a botanical sample-case.
WOMAN: What the hell does he need those for?
MAN: I haven’t the foggiest. What’s that noise?
WOMAN: It sounds like a strident, electric guitar playing the intro to an up-tempo, indie rock theme.
MAN: Oh, god. That can’t mean –
WOMAN: Yes, it must: we’re in a Michael Stewart* drama.
Fade up ‘Temple of Love’ by Sisters of Mercy. Man and woman scream. Music fades after 45 seconds.
WOMAN: (Breathless) Calm down. We need to calm down. We mustn’t let this get to us.
MAN: What are we going to do?
WOMAN: Have you been taking your medication?
MAN: What do you mean “medication”? I’m not on any medication.
WOMAN: Oh, my god this is worse than I thought. You’ve not been taking your medication. Oh, hell, that explains so much about your recent behaviour. How long is it since you stopped taking it?
MAN: I’ve never taken it.
WOMAN: What? And after you promised me and Dr Walker.
MAN: I haven’t been prescribed any medication. Have you gone mad?
WOMAN: Look, Phil. Here we are, both enmeshed in a Michael Stewart* play. You admitted yourself a minute ago that you are an outwardly respectable man –
MAN: My god. You must be right. That means I –
WOMAN: Must have a terrible secret.
MAN: I don’t feel well. Where are my pills? Have we got any vodka?
Fade up theme music. Car engine starts nearby. Loud revving of engine.
MAN: Is one of those chavs stealing our car and going on a drug and adrenalin-fuelled rampage through rural areas in a desperate attempt to escape the long arm of the law while sublimating some kind of repressed rage or resentment?
WOMAN: I’m afraid so.
MAN: (Receding) The little bleeder. I’ll kill him.
WOMAN: Phil! Love! It isn’t worth it! In spite of protracted tension and some damage to property, there will be a reconciliation in the end. Not exactly a happy ending: a realistic and plausible one, but a resolution which nevertheless allows the listener some grounds for optimism. Phil! Come back!
* Michael Stewart did not write this: I did. He has seen it, and he said it amused him. Michael is the author of ‘King Crow’, which recently won ‘Not The Booker Prize’. He is also the editor of the ‘Grist’ anthology.