Should you have time to read this, I would welcome comment. Apologies for irregularities in formatting. Tinkered for ages but WordPress doesn’t like scripts.
The scenario is Wellington Grove Care Home – a neuro-rehabilitation centre that has relied on NHS funding but has recently had it withdrawn and is about to close. The implications for staff and residents are pessimistic. This is the first scene.
EARLY MORNING. RONNIE’S ROOM AT WELLINGTON GROVE CARE HOME. MAY IS FINISHING WASHING RONNIE AND STARTING TO DRESS HER DURING THE CONVERSATION. RONNIE YAWNS.
May You’re a sleepy girl today Ronnie – you had bad dreams in the night?
Ronnie Yes – yes – I had awful dreams
May What did you dream about, Ronnie?
RONNIE TRIES TO REMEMBER
May Can’t remember?
Ronnie No – no – I can’t remember.
May But you know you had bad dreams?
Ronnie Yes. They were fucking awful, actually.
May Now you use a bad word there, Ronnie. Not ladylike.
May Sorry what? Lift your arms up, let me dry you.
RONNIE DOES SO AND MAY TOWELS HER
Ronnie Sorry, armadillo.
May That’s not my name. What’s my name?
RONNIE LOOKS AT HER FOR A MOMENT, PERPLEXED.
Ronnie I don’t know . . .
May Yes you do. May, my name’s May
Ronnie May – (SINGS) ‘May-time, playtime, God has given us May-time – ‘
MAY JOINS IN
Both ‘Thank Him for his gift of love, sing a song of Spring’
THEY APPLAUD THEMSELVES.
May You’re still a good singer, Ronnie.
Ronnie Am I?
May The best. God gave you a good voice.
Ronnie Thank you, darling.
MAY LIFTS RONNIE’S ARMS BACK UP AND APPLIES DEODORANT
May No. Thank God.
Ronnie Thank God, darling
May I suppose that’s near enough for God.
MAY PUTS RONNIE’S ARMS BACK DOWN AND STARTS PUTTING HER BRA ON.
May Your sister’s coming this afternoon.
Ronnie Is it my birthday?
May No, your birthday’s in June. But we dress you in something nice to see
your sister. What would you like?
Ronnie I don’t know.
May What colour?
May You and your purple! You want a skirt or trousers?
May Sure you wouldn’t like a skirt?
Ronnie Yes, yes – I’d like a skirt. Is Mum coming?
May No, sweetheart, your Mum is not coming. Lean forward.
Ronnie When is she coming?
May Not today.
MAY FASTENS RONNIE’S BRA THEN SITS HER BACK. RONNIE STARTS HUMMING ‘MAY-TIME’ AND CONTINUES UNDER MAY’S MONOLOGUE. MAY FETCHES CLOTHING AND DRESSES RONNIE. RONNIE IS COMPLIANT WITH BEING HANDLED LIKE A CHILD.
May The men coming again this morning to measure the building for the new
hotel.They stare, stare, stare. Ignorant. Just have to work round them.
Suppose they’re doing a job, just like us. Doing what they told. Sit still,
sweetheart. Everything’s running late. And I got to leave by nine to get
the train for my interview today. For The Lilacs. So I can still look after
you, Ronnie. Have to change and look smart. Wonder if they’ll want an old
woman like me. If not, I have to find work quickly. Somewhere I can live in,
like here. Can’t sleep,thinking, thinking.
SHE STROKES RONNIE’S HAIR. RONNIE LOOKS UP AND GIVES HER A WIDE SMILE.
May Listen to me. Like I got problems … (SHE PATS RONNIE’S CHEEK AND
CONTINUES DRESSING HER)
Did I tell you? I got a letter from my youngest.
You remember his name? Ben-ja-min. In Johannesburg. Wants to get
married! Married! And no money to buy a house, feed a family. I write back
to him, say “Benjamin, plenty of time for that. Not like I need any more
grandchildren. You work hard, get a good job, somewhere to live,” I tell him.
“Then you think of getting married. Leastwise, I ent paying for a bride”.
Enough to pay for him and his brother and sisters. Did I tell you what my
father-in-law paid for me? Four cows. Four cows! Probably want motor cars
now, BMW or a Rolls Royce –
Ronnie I had a Rolls Royce. And a chauffeur.
May – so he can forget it. No degree, no wedding, that’s what I tell him. Not a
good time for me – all this uncertainty – don’t know where I’ll be by
Christmas – if I have a job even. Heh? What you think, sweetheart? What
would you do without May?
Ronnie I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d do. You’re not going away are you,
May All are – we all are, Ronnie. All going somewhere else when they shut this
Ronnie Shut this place?
May Yes, sweetheart. It’s not making enough money for the bosses. So Wellington
Grove shut down and they make it a hotel. We all got to go somewhere else.
Patients, nurses, carers, physios – everyone. Even Mr Donaldson got to find
someplace. You, Miss Thomas, are going to a nice new home called The Lilacs.
They got a swimming pool and hairdressers and beautiful gardens.
May Yes. A charity home. No Health Service, now. You like to have your hair
Ronnie Yes! (SHE IS EXCITED AND EXPRESSES IT PHYSICALLY)
May Stay still, stay still or I can’t get this on you. We do your hair nice today, maybe
a bit of make up – if we have time.
Ronnie (SINGS FROM “Say a little prayer”)
May (PICKING UP) “make up…”
Ronnie (CONTINUES LYRICS THEN CLUTCHES AT MAY) I do love you. I love you.
May And I love you, sweetheart.
Ronnie I do, I really, really do love you. You’re so beautiful. Give me a kiss.
SHE PUCKERS UP FOR A REAL KISS. MAY KISSES HER ON THE FOREHEAD.
May Bless you. Now, hair.
Ronnie (SINGS FROM “Come together”) “… feel his disease…”
May That’s terrible! Why you sing that?
Ronnie John Lennon. Beatles.
May John Lennon – he was a strange guy.
Ronnie He was my sister’s favourite.
May I didn’t go for the Beatles, really. I was doing my training then. Beatles never
came to Botswana.
Ronnie And I liked the Rolling Stones. I snogged Mick Jagger once.
May And you boast about it? You want a ponytail or a French plait?
Ronnie French plait.
MAY LOOKS SKYWARD.
May Sorry, Ronnie, didn’t hear you. You want a French plait – or a pony tail?
Ronnie Pony tail.
May Right, that’s what we’ll do. (STARTS BRUSHING RONNIE’S HAIR)
Ronnie Can I have some juice?
May You just had breakfast, Ronnie.
Ronnie I’m thirsty.
May You have juice when we finish your hair and face.
Ronnie I’m really, really, thirsty. And I’ve got bellyache.
May Indigestion bellyache or period bellyache? No, no – don’t answer that.
What kind of bellyache you got?
May You really got bellyache, Ronnie?
Ronnie I really, really have.
MAY PUTS THE BRUSH DOWN AND CHECKS THROUGH RONNIE’S CHART.
May You’re usually very regular – let’s see . . . yes, yes it’s that time again,
sweetheart. I’ll get you a pill – and we’ll remember to change your pads
more often. About time you get rid of those old things. Periods.
Ronnie Periods? Bloody waste of fucking time – ha ha!
May Not funny. Your periods should be stopping. You’re fifty one, now, isn’t it?
Ronnie Fifty one? I can’t be.
May Yes – it says here. Fifty two next birthday.
Ronnie Fifty two? Shit.
May Next birthday – see here?
SHE SHOWS RONNIE THE CHART
Ronnie (READS) Veronica Mary Thomas . . . Dob –
May Date of birth
Ronnie Date of birth fifteen, six, fifty eight. Blimey.
MAY I’m almost exactly ten years older than you. (TAKES THE CHART AWAY)
How old is that, Ronnie?
Ronnie I don’t know.
May Come on, fifty two plus ten makes – ?
May No. Be sensible.
May It makes sixty two.
Ronnie Get a bus pass.
May (PUTS A SCRUNCHY ON RONNIE’S HAIR) Not here, sweetheart. I’m not
British. Not at home, either.
Ronnie That’s really shitty, darling.
May My home is Botswana. In Africa. A long way, way from here.
MAY FETCHES RONNIE’S MAKE UP
Ronnie I know. The capital’s Gaborone.
May You remember that? Did I tell you that?
Ronnie I don’t know.
MAY TAKES OUT SOME FOUNDATION AND STARTS APPLYING IT
May What goes on in that head of yours my friend?
Ronnie Dead weird stuff, I can tell you. What goes on in your head?
May Put your face up. I remember things. Like I remember when I got married I
went to Francistown with my husband, Elwyn, and worked at Nyangabgwe
Hospital. We had a little apartment. Before the children came along. Didn’t
take long! (SHE LAUGHS) You got a few little whiskers here. And your
eyebrows need doing. Haven’t got time, now. Not like you’re expecting Prince
Ronnie (SINGS) “Prince Charming – Prince Charming – ridicule is nothing to be
scared of . . .”
May You don’t be quiet, I can’t put your makeup on.
Ronnie Sorry, darling.
May Then we got a bigger apartment. I was there sixteen years and we were very
happy there but I left to work in South Africa because the money was better and
I had to pay my children’s education fees. You’re running out of foundation. I’ll
put it on the list for your sister.
Ronnie Will you, darling? Thank you. Tell her I want Clarins.
May I can tell her, but I bet you get Boots. So when I saw the advertisement for nurses
in the UK, I applied and came straight to Wellington Grove, here to you, Ronnie.
God must have meant it. (PAUSE) Why don’t you tell her?
Ronnie Tell her what?
May You want Clarins.
May Elaine. Your sister.
Ronnie ‘Cos she’s not here. She’s in America.
May Your sister is over here. Elaine is coming to see you today.
Ronnie Elaine? Today?
May Elaine! Yes, she’s coming today.
Ronnie Is it my birthday?
May Not going there again. Elaine is coming to sort out your move, sign the consent
form for you to go to The Lilacs.
A PAUSE WHILE MAY CONTINUES APPLYING MAKEUP.
May I been Wellington Grove nine years and Senior Sister, now, with special
responsibility for infection control. So when they ask me –
RONNIE MOVES MAY’S HAND AWAY, GENTLY. SHE IS TROUBLED – A MOMENT OF INSIGHT, POSSIBLY.
Ronnie Why am I here?
May (RECOGNISING THE CHANGE. ) Because something went wrong with your
brain, Ronnie. A long time ago. Something went wrong with your brain and you
came here so that we could help you and look after you.
Ronnie What went wrong? What happened?
May Injured brain happens many ways. Stroke, heart attack, automobile accident,
brain tumour… (SOFTLY) drug overdose. Maybe somebody gave you some bad
drugs, Ronnie? And it made you very sick? Lucky you didn’t die.
RONNIE IS SILENT, DEEP IN THOUGHT. MAY IS KEEN TO KEEP GOING BUT SENSITIVE ENOUGH NOT TO RUSH RONNIE.
Ronnie I wish I had. I wish I had died.
May You don’t say that, Ronnie. The Lord gives you life and you must cherish it,
RONNIE REMAINS PENSIVE. MAY CONTINUES WITH THE MAKEUP.
May Close your eyes.
MAY APPLIES EYE SHADOW. THE LIGHTS FADE
(This is a work in progress. It is based on my knowledge of neuro-rehabilitation. The characters in it are fictitious and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.)