A 3-Act play about race, class, love, sex and homelessness
The attached files contain the script of a play I began to write 3 years ago. Since finishing it, It has had a full performance by a professional actor at the Playground theatre in London and was due to be produced again for a showcase performance at the Tower theatre in Hackney. Covid put an end to that – temporarily I hope – so in the meantime I thought I would share it here.
As a rule plays are meant to be seen not read, but times are tough for all the arts and I think it’s a good read, so I’ve written a review of it here to encourage you to open it up as you would a good book.
The title of the play deliberately inverts the infamous Glaswegian expression and denotes a journey of self discovery. As the tale unfolds, life in the bleak conditions of a mid 20th century city becomes shrouded in different layers of darkness, some literal and others metaphorical. The following passage captures this with a dark humour typical of Glasgow life:
“Thing is, Glesga’s a dark and dismal place at the best o’ times. Even in the daylight, ye look aroond and aw ye see are charred tenement blocks and blackened chimney stacks, row after row o the bastarts. It’s like......livin in a fuckin silhouette, but wi’oot the sunshine.”
Despite its bleakness, it is a drama coloured by music, poetry and a sense of humour born fromthe brutalities of society riven by class exploitation and institutional racism . Religion and discipline are its cornerstones particularly in an education system that funtions solely as a prelude to wage slavery . And like so many others, including his future girlfriend Maggie, Jimmy ends up in the Singers sewing machine factory as one of a 6,000 strong workforce overseen by the world’s biggest four-faced clock tower. It has huge, expansive hour and minute hands but as Jimmy explains, it is the seconds that count in a constant battle with time.
Tick tock,tick tock,
Jimmy cannae beat the clock.
Every second, every minute,
He’s never out, always in it
Locked in time, locked in motion
Clock hands spinning
Milling, turning, metal churning,
Killing time, crushing souls
On and on the factory rolls
Wheels on casings, metal lacquered
I’m fuckin' knackered!
The one beautiful thing to emerge out of this hell hole is his girlfriend Maggie, a machine queen who captures Jimmy’s heart. Whilst ridiculing a workmate’s suggestion that he take up art, Jimmy can still imagine:
“To paint Maggie but, that'd be somethin else. Know whit A mean? Putin aw that love and beauty on a brush. Can yis imagine that? Makin it last forever, eh?”
But, when Glasgow’s equivalent of Pesci, De Niro and Gandolfini come after him armed with pickaxe handles, razors, claw hammers, and nail guns, Jimmy abandons Maggie and hotfoots it to London. It is this city’s extraordinary multicultural environment that both astonishes and finally enchants him.
“I got tae say, it wis a bit hairy at first. Pardon ma language, but A'd never seen so many darkies in aw ma life. Them and aw those Iranians, Iraquis and a few Afghans as well....... No tae mention the Irish. Thought A'd landed in a fuckin war zone, know whit a mean? Mind you, the women wir the worst. Scary as fuck they were, totally covered in them long, black burka things. It wis like a scene oot o' that film…. Whit wis it? Aye, The 4 Horsemen of the Acropolis …… that wan.”
The play doesn’t have a linear structurel Apart from the opening song, Jimmy’s culture shock is the first we hear of him. It is only much later that we discover how he was rescued from life on the streets and adopted by a Muslim family whom he came to love more than his own. In particular it is the family’s son, Mohammed – the “wee man” as Jimmy calls him - who steals his heart and reveals the rare but raw tenderness and affection which we saw only too briefly in his feelings for Maggie. This wee man is the son he could have had with Maggie and Jimmy will defend him with his life if needs be or, at least, so he thinks.
His love for Mohammed will eventually leave him – and us - standing on a precipice. Meanwhile it propels him to confront his demons, to see himself as he has never done before. In one incident where Jimmy and Mohammed are enjoying a day out in Trafalgar Square, a racist demonstration passes by shouting anti-Muslim and English nationalist slogans. When one of the racists spits abuse at Mohammed , Jimmy’s feral response is instant.
“So A'm ontae this guy in a flash. Wan hand grippin his windpipe, the other reachin intae ma back pocket. It's like everythin else, everybody else...... the cops, the tourists, the demonstrators, the wee man......they urnae there.
It's the Broomielaw aw oe'r again.
Just me an him, eyes focussed, target locked, ready tae draw blood and teach the fucker a lesson he'll never, ever forget.
And that's when it happens......
A look into his eyes an' A see. A see the rage. A see the anger. A see the bitterness.
A see me, Jimmy.”
It is a supreme moment of self realisation with a hint of possible salvation.
The play’s denouement is a tragedy in itself and includes an old Scottish children’s ballad which events have transformed into a lament. The precise ending is deliberately ambiguous so as to leave the audience uncertain and debating what happens or what should have happened. You can be the judge.
I should say that it’s written in the Glaswegian lingo which rarely appears in written form and can be unintelligible in parts for many speakers of the English language. However, I have produced a glossary of Scots terms and once you become familiar with them you should follow the script quite easily.
I hope you like it.