The reason to go on living

Performed by Hannah Ringham at The Shunt Cabaret, Bethnal Green, London, 29 July 2001 and 14 October 2001

Directed by Glen Neath

single light on a, seated at a table, with paper and pencil in front of her.

a squares the paper, picks up a sheet, picks up the pencil.

voice of a – take this down

    a licks the end of the pencil, readies herself.

voice of a / a (as a writes she speaks at the same time as voice of a) – there is no reason to go on living.

voice of a – no. hold on a second. let me rephrase that

    a crosses out what she has written.

voice of a / a – there is always a reason to go on living but i cannot find it

voice of a – just a second that isn’t right but i do think we’re getting closer to the crux of it, already. what do you think?

a – what do i think?

voice of a – actually let’s start again. do you mind?

    a crosses out what she has written, now two strokes of the pencil.

voice of a (we are aware at certain moments that a is mouthing the words as she writes them down, but it is not audible). my experience to date suggests that if only i knew how and where to look, a reason to go on living could be found. only. . . (a looks up from writing.)   only i am on the wrong track. i have been on the wrong track. i have left the crossroads very far behind me, the juncture where the decision, whether to go on living or not to go on living can sensibly be decided upon with a clear head, a head not clouded, either with the urge to put an end to it all or the thought to carry on with it, when the chances for each are evenly balanced, or even where the hope of salvation has only a slight chance of survival, however small, however insignificant, because even the most insignificant is significant in the grand scheme of things

voice of a / a – so let me say again

voice of a – it is an impossible route back. it is a route that has taken many twists and turns. it is a path full of heartache. read it back to me

a (reading) – my experience/ to date. . .

voice of a – no. no. hold on. that’s the wrong. . . tone. already it has completely the wrong feel about it. what do you think? is it a little serious? it’s a little cold don’t you think?

    a crosses out what she has written vigorously.

voice of a – i am writing this, not from a position of desperation - i mean it is not a cry for help (which causes a to look up from her writing and revel in the idea of salvation.) i do not wish to be discovered at the last minute or the minute before the last minute and rushed to the hospital and saved – no (which returns a to the task in hand.)  desperation doesn’t come into it. because in desperation there is hope

i think actually that a sense of detachment would be more suitable for what we have in mind. let me give you a for instance. whilst once i raged against the dying of the light. . . it was of course the rage that animated me, that kept the home fires burning

and it was the light, however brief, that suggested the faintest glimmer of. . . what? what did i say. . . hope?

i think i’m losing myself. read it back. no. let me start again. i’m just about to hit my stride

    a crosses out, screws up the paper, holds her head in despair.

voice of a – i’m enjoying this. i feel like i’m exercising my mind at last. looking for the right words. this is very important. . . that we get it right. that our last words should convey something of the feelings/. . .

a – you’re giving me an headache

voice of a – okay, let’s start with something more animated, less cerebral

    a licks the end of the pencil, readies herself.

voice of a – i have a mother bitterly disappointed with her lot. i have a vengeful father. and so consequently, in this day and age, it goes without saying that – having been dealt such a bum hand - i am obliged to exhibit obvious - and let’s also not forget the less obvious and i wouldn’t want to overlook the completely hidden - signs of dysfunction. and so i am happy to report that i have a history of depression

what’s the point of going on with it if every day i wake up and my first thought is of how much i hate myself? and yes i may have a pleasant thought, a pleasant thought might unexpectedly drift in, but it’s murdered by the voices in my head telling me i’m worthless

i’m useless

i’m the dustbin of the world

the fly in the ointment

i’m the usurper, the destroyer, the breaker of the peace treaty

i’m the one that takes the last bit of cake

i’m the black hole

    by now a is scrawling a circle over and over manically on the paper. . .

voice of a – no, that’s completely the wrong impression

    ... which stops a dead, the pencil poised on the paper.

voice of a – what about a simple goodbye? adieu

   a gets up and moves to the front of the stage.

voice of a – what are you doing?

a (at the front of the stage, quietly).   help!

voice of a – what are you doing?

a – help!

voice of a – we don’t need any help. sit down


voice of a – sit down. sit down. sit. down. please

    a sits.

a (catatonic).   help

voice of a – actually i think the first thing i said had a ring of the truth about it. . .

    a closes her eyes, opens them as the next speech begins.

voice of a – in the end, couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. thought if i say something now i can save the day. i don’t mean a few extra miserable years on this miserable earth. i mean to leave something behind, something that will resonate in the hearts in the minds of those that find it. that will communicate the suffering and ultimately the lack of suffering when the suffering is insufferable which it inevitably becomes with the passage of time.

    a is suddenly revived, and begins to systematically screw up and rip up the

     remaining pieces of paper, scattering any that are left so that the desk is

    empty by the end of the next speech.

voice of a – you see if only i could bring something. . . a few words. i have them to hand. words from the heart. i want to be able to say that i am speaking now from the heart, it’s all there in my suicide note

    a stands.

a – i’ve brought a box of matches with me and i shall burn your suicide note

voice of a – that’s very clever. but i’m one step ahead of you. i ran the box of matches under the tap

a – i guessed you would and so i also brought a shredder so that i would be able to dispose of the evidence and no one will be any the wiser

voice of a – being that we are one and the same and i know the way you think i saw that coming and so i took the plug off the shredder

a – then i shall eat the note and shit it into a hole i dug in the garden and no one will be any the wiser

voice of a – well in order to pre-empt that act of vandalism i partook of a hearty meal only minutes ago and i couldn’t eat another thing

a – i shall wait until my stomach is evacuated of its contents and then i shall eat it

voice of a – i wired your jaw

a – i brought a second set of teeth with me. you see i have thought of every eventuality

voice of a – and i have considered already the eventuality that you would have thought of every eventuality and so i took the precaution of making a copy and giving it to our neighbour who is under strict instructions to take it to the police

a – our neighbour has been in my employ for the last five years

voice of a – which is why i posted a second copy addressed to the chief of police himself

a – and of course i foresaw that eventuality and embarked upon an illicit love affair with the chief of police not two weeks ago. and a prerequisite of our arrangement - which i had the foresight to insist upon before i allowed him to have his way with me - was that he was to move hell and high water in the service of protecting my interests, such as they are. and also that he was to do it happily and with a light heart

voice of a – which is why i installed a third party as his secretary

she opens all his mail

a – there’s a bomb under the police station

    sound of a distant explosion.

voice of a – which of course i had to expect and so i took the precaution of placing a third copy in the black box that will survive the blast

      a has fallen back into the chair, holding her head in anguish, she cries out in frustration. she covers her/his ears to shut out the voice.

voice of a – listen. don’t fight it. give in to it. surrender. submit. you know you want it the same as i do. don’t listen to that voice in your head that calls itself the voice of reason, for it is a false prophet it is a harbinger of crackpot schemes

    pause. a hears the voice has stopped, uncovers her/his ears.

voice of a – now read out what we’ve got so far

     a looks around, confused.

    she begins to pick up the screwed up bits of paper, unscrewing them in order to find the ‘message’, discarding them as she realises it is not the right piece of paper - which she continues to do as the lights fade slowly.

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