Playella | Netherworld by James Le Lacheur

Dark. A simple folk drum beat.

A man comes on.

And taps his foot to the beat.

Then he stops.

A woman enters.

She starts up a counter rhythm on the tambourine.

He joins in.

The drum gets louder and more insistent.

Crescendo.

Lights up.

The man stands in the harsh light.

He turns around slowly.

Examines his clothes.

Strips down slowly.

And places every garment in a neat pile.

He stands looking down at them.

The drum recommences.

Quietly at first, then builds.

He looks up, shouts at it.

M: STOP!

It falters, but keeps going at an almost imperceptible volume.

He turns and sees the gorgeous, ethereal woman enter and proffer the tambourine.

He hesitates.

Goes to snatch it.

She withdraws it and exits quickly.

He turns back to his immaculate pile of clothes.

Pause.

Then he kicks them into a scattered heap.

He picks up a chalk, sketches the words “all or nothing” on the floor.

He throws back his head, shouts:

AGAIN.

The drum begins again.

STOP!

It does so, but this time it continues louder.

He turns in expectation of the woman with the tambourine.

She enters.

He runs to her.

Just as quickly she turns to leave but he corners her.

She pauses, apparently unseeing.

He makes a snatch for the instrument, but her arm, apparently unconsciously, draws it away.

He keeps trying but it remains one step ahead.

Eventually he makes a grab and catches her wrist, bringing her up to face him.

Their faces are almost touching.

He tries to kiss her.

But she cocks her head quizzically.

And draws away. She marches over to the drum, now silent, and proffers it to him.

He takes it.

She smiles and exits, skipping.

The man looks at the drum.

With disdain.

He taps away, non-committedly.

Then throws it to one side.

He gets up, looks at where the woman exited wistfully.

Come back!

He looks back at the drum, despondently.

Picks it up and dusts it off.

Woman returns, hanging back.

W: It suits you, I think.

Man taps away arhythmically.

M: Can’t you hear that?

W: Sounds alright to me…

Man is confused.

He gestures to the tambourine in her hand.

M: May I?

She laughs.

W: Why?

M: Just once…

Woman’s face falls.

W: It’s mine.

Quiet. Deadly serious.

M: You’re mine.

Just as quiet.

He rushes in for a kiss.

It takes her by surprise.

Passionate, deep.

She pushes him away.

Disgust? Amusement?

W: What ARE you?

Man stands there.

Takes tambourine from her limp hand.

Bangs it once. Gently. Smiles.

The woman tries to take it back.

He now dodges her advances as she did his.

Shakes the tambourine vigorously.

Their dance takes in the whole space.

Then she catches him.

By the wrist.

They stare face to face once more.

Pause.

Not bad?

She takes her instrument and leaves.

The man stands watching her go.

Looks at floor.

“All or nothing”.

He kneels down.

Rubs out the words “or nothing”.

The woman returns with two tambourines. Stares at him.

He turns and sees her.

Grins.

He gets up too hastily.

She flinches, still unsure.

He pauses.

Sensing the mood…

Then she resolutely holds out the tambourine.

He takes it gratefully.

They begin to play in perfect unison.

They play it with every part of their body, mirroring one another.

It builds to a frenzy.

Man 2 enters. He is larger than Man 1.

He clocks the man and the woman in the midst of their dance.

Makes a beeline for them.

He punches the man in the stomach.

He falls.

He kicks him.

The woman stands stoically.

Eventually, Man 2 tires and exits.

Woman wants to kneel down and comfort man.

But still she stands.

M2:  (Off) NOW.

She gathers up tambourines, leaves in a rush.

Man rolls over, bruised and bloody.

He clambers to his feet, clutching his side.

He picks up the chalk, rewrites “nothing”.

Rubs out “all”.

Then collapses.

Lights go down.

W: (Off) Wait!

She runs on, lights come up again.

AGAIN!

She hauls the man to his feet.

Thrusts tambourine into his hand.

Man 2 enters, makes same journey.

Looks set to punch Man 1 again.

Woman is holding Man 1 up.

Man 2 stops as woman puts herself between him and Man 1.

No!

She turns to Man 1

Gingerly, allows him to stand by himself.

He looks groggily at Man 2.

Throws tambourine down at his feet, turns to go.

Woman runs after him, turns him around.

Slaps him hard, kisses him passionately, hands him tambourine.

Insistent

Defiant.

He looks at it.

A deflation.

He takes it.

Taps it, unenthused.

She nods encouragement.

Man 2 stands and watches.

She turns to face him, starts hammering out a rhythm.

As one, they face him, pounding out a rhythm.

He watches. Then he explodes

Throws woman to the ground.

Same treatment as before for Man 1.

He leaves.

Man and woman are left bleeding with their instruments.

Woman gets shakily to her feet.

Picks up tambourine.

Just the one.

Makes to exit.

Turns to man.

Wipes away blood from her face.

Same time tomorrow?

Man just stares, incredulous.

Woman exits.

Man picks up tambourine.

Holds it to his heart.

Taps it once.

Smiles.

Climbs to his feet, looks out over audience.

Bangs tambourine once, loud and clear.

Blackout.

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