Friday, July 29, 2011

Tightrope - First EFL summer camp play

This is a heavily edited dramatisation I did for
an EFL summer camp last year, of Tightrope, by Gillian Cross, who also wrote The Demon Headmaster books.

The kids' parents had signed them up for a summer scheme at a language school, not one of the English courses we offer, so there had to be a balance between the human needs of kids on holiday (being with their friends, variety, interest, swimming, computers), and their parents' expectations that their offspring would be active, happy, and also make demonstrable progress in English.

Obviously, it all worked out, because we had all the requisite qualities of good camp leaders (organisation, practical skills, imagination, creativity, common sense, patience, fairness, warmth, humour, intelligence, boundless energy, steel vocal cords and an iron constitution). All the usual stuff.


Despite any amount of youth, summer and drama experience, and lots of EFL/ESL teaching, I found forty-hour weeks with a group of pre-to-upper-intermediate 7-17-year-olds, and progress in English as an explicit requirement, to be a challenge of a different order. And, characteristically, I overdid it somewhat...

So this was my first EFL summer camp play, written in long nightly sessions during the first week, once I'd seen the kids and got an idea of their English levels and abilities. I subsequently realised that it was over-ambitious, and in the end we did half as full performance, and half as a rehearsed reading. I had to cut a large chunk of the plot, reducing a psychological thriller to a rite-of-passage story, but it says something for the power of Gillian Cross's writing that it still made satisfying theatre for the participants, and for their parents in the audience. I'll almost certainly do it again another year, now that I've got a script...

In the meantime, for anyone involved in a similar undertaking, this is what we did.

Teaching/Directing Notes for Drama/EFL Teachers (hopefully clear for either or both!)

There's a lot of brechtian narrated action, which helps the kids assimilate the language they're using (Total Physical Response). Incidentally, look at all that narrative tense and modal practice. =)
I like using physical theatre with language learners - and the full range of theatre crafts - because it up-ends expectations and gives them sound reasons for learning and using new language - and not because there's a test at the end, or it will help them get a better job one day. (Imagine: You're 11, school's just broken up for the summer, and your parents sign you up for a summer programme in a foreign language - oh joy...) e.g. The joyrider scenes are a great excuse for a bunch of lads to hurtle around the stage in formation, making as much noise as possible, and all in English...

In our production, Scene 1, At the Shops in the Row brought Ashley, Vikki, and the rest of the schoolkids down an aisle through the audience, with younger kids (Narrators) standing at the edge of the stage/acting space, holding up traffic lights they'd made, identifying it as the crossing. The grocery store was established Up Left, allowing Ashley to go 'home' Up Right. There was no set to speak of, just identifying props and furniture, and consistent placing of, for example, Pauline's chair.

Ashley's Scene 4, Night on the Row was mimed, and on the flat. However, she had a bag of spray cans, though she mimed their use, with her back to the audience, as a whopping great sheet of paper was opened out upstage, on which the kids had previously graffitied 'CINDY' as described in the narrative.

At the end of Scene 7, Up on the Roof, the fall through Geoffrey's arms is done on the flat, in slow motion. You need a crash mat or yoga mat to rehearse this. It may take a lot of repetition for the two actors to co-ordinate their moves, with repeated loss of balance. Banging knees and elbows is no fun, but banging your head is bad news, and a shock to the coccyx travels up the spine, and can cause compacting or misalignment of vertebrae which only becomes apparent years later. Also, with a slow motion fall, there's a point at which you can't stop it, so the actors should practise on a mat until they are 100% sure of their choreography. If in doubt, you could reblock the movements so that either Ashley freezes in the crisis moment of clutching the air, or she starts to fall, but then squats, masked by an 'instinctive' movement among the crowd, and the audience's attention is redirected to a speaker..

The voice-overs add variety, but also take some pressure off the actress playing Ashley, who is otherwise on-stage, with a huge script to remember in her second language, almost throughout the play. Even so, in casting Pauline or Vikki, it's worth considering who 'Ashley' gets on well with, because they're more likely to take themselves off to work on lines together when they're both free, and generally encourage each other.

There are some long set speeches - intimidating at first sight - and we got squeals of alarm from the 17 year-old we cast as Pauline - who subsequently did just fine. It's important to reassure your actor that it can be easier to learn and remember a longer speech because there's an internal logic to a monologue, a train of thought to follow, and provided you understand what you're saying, you've got more control, and security, than in dialogue with one or more other characters. And she's got you to see her through. Your actor won't be convinced until she starts working on the part, when she'll realise that you're right. You just have to get her past that first moment of fear.

Narrators, since they take no part in the action, can read from their scripts, but will need to be very familiar with their lines in order to speak expressively. They need to get into the habit of holding their scripts a good 15-20 cms away from their faces, and keeping their heads up. This feels weird at first, and may induce self-consciousness, but it reduces tension in the shoulders and neck, and directs the voices over the audience. The tops of their script should not be higher than their chins, or their words will be directed into the paper, or down to the floor. Our older narrators (Nos. 5 & 6) moved around and contributed to the physical theatre, but the little ones (aged 7 or 8) stood or sat. Sitting's not great for breath support, but the little ones' lines are short, and if they sit on the edge of the stage with their legs dangling, they'll look cute, be comfortable, not have to project too far, and have the audience to look at so they're less likely to get bored. And they'll be less intrusive visually than if they were positioned further into the acting space.

By the way, memorising the line with the move or gesture helps embed both, whereas sitting drilling divorces words from meaning, which can cause particular problems for a second-language learner. Advise the kids to walk around when they're drilling lines, and to do ten minutes, take a break, and then come back and see if they've got it before moving on. And do the moves or gestures with the line.

In some ways, second-language actors have an advantage over native speakers, because they are much more likely to check what individual words mean, and be able to use those words with conviction. When it comes to phrasal verbs and idioms, the key is knowing the equivalent, not the literal translation; e.g. here's something I learnt this year: Worm = gusano. Ratón = mouse. However,

This is where you get to wear three different hats: EFL/ESL teacher, dialogue coach and director. Your actor/student needs to understand the word or expression in order to assimilate it; to be able to hear and thus pronounce the sounds and stresses so that s/he can be understood; and understand the meaning of the sentence itself, and its meaning in context, in order to find and communicate the thought or feeling it contains.

Although only Ashley and Geoffrey have voice-overs, if you have the resources for the kids to record and listen to themselves, and compare their intonation (probably flat, especially if they're reading) and pace (often too fast, with no breaths between sentences) with what they hear when you model the line, it helps them to hear how you speak. This is a crucial step towards improving their listening comprehension, and them approximating native speaker intonation. And being understood on stage! By the way, feeling confident that you don't sound stupid really helps projection too.

Tall order. Yup. Can't do it all. True. But you do what you can in the time you have, and with the individual student/actor you have, and provided s/he makes progress, has a good time, and pulls off the best performance s/he's capable of - wow.

An EFL production, even with adults, has something in common with a nursery school nativity play. The audience of family and friends sees Mary, Joseph and the shepherds in the familar story, but is also aware of the ox waving at his mum, the angel with her robe caught in her knickers, and the teacher in the wings mouthing lines at an awe-struck king who's never seen so many people in his short life.
Obviously, older students are more aware, so you shouldn't have to worry about knickers hitches. And the rapid pace of a play with frequent short scenes and several characters tends to sharpen attention backstage and reduce the time available for on-stage nerves.

Still, it's ok that, as well as seeing the swan cruising on the clear blue lake, your audience is also aware of the feet paddling frantically below the surface, and occasional problems with duckweed. Especially in a summer holiday production done in a few weeks, in between all the other activities. In fact, much of the audience's enjoyment lies in the heart-filling recognition of the achievement of both individual and team that the performance represents. Just like a nativity play.

There will be pauses, and mistakes.

It may even be necessary, if a late entrance or missing prop throws everyone, for the director to say, "Shall we try that again?" and give a cue: better to smile, get an understanding chuckle from the audience, and help your cast to sort themselves out, than leave the poor things to flounder, humiliated, because they don't have the experience or the language to manage it alone. In retrospect, it's something they will groan and grin at, provided it's felt to be 'just one of those things' in an otherwise fab show.

And if you think your kids would enjoy a book/script (any book/script), but a live performance would be intimidating or impractical, there's still scope for cherry-picking key scenes or moments, imagining/role-playing how they might go, and then finding out what actually happens. Or there's set/costume/poster design, song writing plus choreography (line and move), or a photo-story, graphic novel, radio play, video or rehearsed reading (like we did).

I factored in some rap and hip-hop for groups of younger/lower level kids. (The menacing Eddie Beale rhythm is lifted from the Black-Eyed Peas 'Imma Be' (which I personally loathe, but has a nice pace for second-language-speakers, especially if they're trying to remember choreography as well as E2L lyrics in front of an audience!). 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' underpins the Cindy Girls' rap, which is based on what they wrote for themselves, and which they choreographed.

It would be nice to have a split stage, with two squares of light, but we just had lights and blackout, and that worked.

Costume's contemporary, and need not include a school uniform, so kids can wear their own clothes. A white coat identified Arnie Galt as an old-style grocer, and Pauline's bathrobe identified her as an invalid.

Copyright: This is lifted almost verbatim from Gillian Cross's novel, which I adapted so that our EFL summer camp kids could have some quality narrative and authentic speech to perform for their parents, without charge. It is a much reduced version which works a treat as an EFL text, but does not do full justice to the original. If you like it, you can buy the novel. If you want to adapt Tightrope for a ticketed production, you'll need permission!

Characters (omitting some significant characters from the novel)

Ashley 14

She’s a good daughter . She looks after her mother, does all the housework and the shopping. She usually buys groceries at GALT’s.

She used to be a good student (still works hard, still does homework, but doesn’t get very good grades anymore)

She used to do gymnastics at school. She was very good, but she doesn’t have time anymore.

She sometimes goes out in the middle of the night to do graffiti.

Her tag is CINDY.

Pauline 36

Ashley’s mum, widow

She loves Ashley and used to look after her.

She has very bad arthritis, and cannot do very much.

She sleeps downstairs in the living room.

Vikki 14

She is Ashley’s best friend.

She is an ok student, but is more interested in parties, and her boyfriend, Matt.

Joe 16

Joe used to have big problems, but Eddie Beale helped him.

Joe lives with one of Eddie’s friends, and does what Eddie tells him to.

Geoffrey Galt 25-40

He is very shy and nervous, and all the schoolkids tease him.

He works in the family business.

He has a soft spot for Ashley because she is always polite to him, and he knows she looks after her mother.

Fat Annie 50-65 (Arnie in our show)

She owns a grocery shop, selling food, newspapers and magazines, sweets, soap powder and washing-up liquid, etc.

She hates schoolkids because some are cheeky and some of them shoplift.

She thinks Eddie Beale is a bully and a coward. She does not want protection. She has refused to pay a protection fee.

Eddie Beale 35-45

He takes an interest in people. He helps them when they have problems. He has a lot of friends.

Eddie expects his friends to do what he says. If they don‘t, they often have new problems, or accidents.

He offered to protect Fat Annie’s business, in return for a protection fee.

Eddie has taken an interest in Joe. He is taking an interest in Ashley.

Dougie 25-35

He’s a good driver.

He does what Eddie Beale says.

Phil 25-35

He goes out with Vikki’s big sister. He does what Eddie says.

Matt 16

He’s Vikki’s boyfriend.

He’s got quite a hot temper, but Vikki bosses him about.

Lisa 22

She lives in a flat in Ashley’s street.

She does her shopping at GALT’s.

Other boys and girls from Ashley and Vikki’s school.

The Script (Formatting probably dodgy...)


(Geoffrey is lying in a hospital bed. Ashley is sitting beside him.)

Ashley V.O. … the writing … wasn’t meant to be horrible… I just wanted to … leave my mark …I wanted to be special …


Ashley, Vikki and lots of other kids are walking home from school.

Narrator 1 Ashley stopped at the traffic lights on The Row, and saw the best wall in the world.

Narrator 2 It was a big, blank wall, where Arnie Galt’s grocery shop rose a whole storey higher than the fish and chip shop next door.

Ashley (nudging Vikki) Look at that, Vikki. It’s perfect.

Vikki (staring) Ash! You can’t!

Ashley And all I have to do is climb on to the roof of the chippie and walk along.

Vikki What? Twenty metres up in the air? With nothing to stop you if you fall? Ash, You’re mad!

Ashley Sssh! I don’t want anyone else getting there first!

Vikki Listen to me –

Ashley There’s nothing to say. Come on. I’ve got to buy some cheese.

Narrator 1 Arnie’s shop was full of kids pushing and shoving round the counter with chewing gum and chocolate.

Narrator 2 Arnie’s eyes were everywhere, checking the shop door and the security camera.

Narrator 3 Arnie hated schoolkids.

Arnie Get back and wait your turn, Dean Fox! And you, Shorty! And watch your language, or I’ll be round to talk to your mother!

Narrator 4 Ashley pushed through the crowd, heading for the cheese counter.

Narrator 1 Vikki stayed right behind her, still talking about the wall.

Vikki Ash, you’ve got to listen! (leaning closer, whispering) You’ll fall! You’ll break your legs! Someone’s going to catch you. It’ll be a disaster.

Ashley I can handle it. Now be quiet, I don’t want everyone to –

Narrator 2 Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Arnie’s son Geoffrey marching towards them, looking fierce and determined.

Narrator 3 She was surprised.

Narrator 4 Arnie was always yelling at the customers-

Narrator 1 - but Geoffrey always crept around, turning away from people’s eyes, slinking around the shop like a hyena with its tail between its legs.

Narrator 2 He wasn’t slinking today, though. He was heading straight for Vikki!

Ashley (teasing) You’d better leave me alone. It looks as if I’m going to be rescued. (pathetically) Please leave me alone.

Geoffrey Is she bothering you? (Vikki rolls her eyes and exits.)

Ashley Can I pay for this?

Geoffrey How’s your mother getting on, then?

Ashley She’s fine, thanks. (Ashley drops money in Geoffrey’s hand and exits.)

Narrator 1 Ashley walked round the corner into Railway Street, but she wasn’t heading home yet. There was a narrow alley behind The Row. She strolled into it.

Narrator 2 To work out how to get on to the roof of the chippie.

Geoffrey You always have a favourite, don’t you? There’s always one who catches your eye. Hundreds of schoolkids come into the shop, but Ashley’s my special one. She’s neat and tidy and quiet. She’s always stood out from the others.

I get angry when the I see other children bothering her. Like that girl Vikki today. You can see what she’s like, with her short skirt and dyed hair. It makes me feel sick just seeing her talking to Ashley.

And Ashley’s so good about it. I could tell she was being bullied, but she didn’t fuss. When I saw her looking up, I thought – I thought I wish I could protect her.

I hope she’d come to me if she was ever in trouble. I’d look after her.


Narrator 5 Ashley stood in the alley behind Fat Annie’s and looked up at her wall. It wasn’t going to be easy, but she could manage it.

Ashley I know I can.

Narrator 6 First she had to get into the yard behind the chippie. The chippie’s wall was topped with broken glass. Her bit of blanket would take care of that.

Narrator 5 Inside the yard, she would have to climb up on to the flat roof of the chippie, but she could use the drainpipe at the corner of the building.

Narrator 6 The real problem would be getting on to the main roof. She’d have to use the window ledges and the guttering.

Narrator 5 If they were strong enough. Then crawl up the slope of the roof.

Narrator 6 After that, it was a tightrope walk. Four or five metres along the ridge of the roof. If she kept her balance, she’d be fine. If not –

Ashley Curtains. I’ll go tumbling down into the yard, or into the Row on the other side.

Narrator 5 It wouldn’t take much.

Narrator 6 Just a loose tile.

Narrator 5 Or a slip of concentration.

Narrator 6 She looked up at the ridge, and felt her whole body come to life.

Narrators 5 & 6 And now, the beautiful Miss Cindy will risk her life in a daredevil display of balance and courage! Watch her climb to the roof without a safety net! Thrill to her death-defying ridge walk! Marvel at her calmness as she leaves her signature on this IMPOSSIBLE WALL!!

Ashley I’m going to do it. I can feel it in my bones.

Ashley and Cindy girls She’s Miss Cindy and she’s the best. No question she’s better than all the rest. Tag a wall. Tag a roof. This girl’s fearless. Any wall. Any roof. This girl’s peerless. Fearless! ….. Peerless!

Now we’re her girls. Yeah we’re Cindy’s friends. With a ‘C’ at the start, and a ‘Y’ at the end. That’s a ‘C’ and an ‘I’ and an ‘N’, ‘D’ and ‘Y’ Spells her name in letters two metres high. …..Fearless! ….. Peerless!


Narrator 5 (rapping) As she walked // home, Ashley / worked out the details.

Ashley Three o’clock in the morning. When everyone’s home in bed.

Narrator 6 (rapping) She was so busy thinking, / that she didn’t notice // how slowly she was going / (tapping watch) And what time do you call this?!

Ashley (shocked) Oh! Mum - I

Pauline What time do you call this? You’ve been out of school for an hour ! You know I won’t have you hanging around like that. You’ll get into all sorts of trouble!

Ashley (resigned, under her breath) Here we go. (Takes bag to kitchen and gets tray, teapot, etc. while Pauline speaks.)

Pauline You knew I was all on my own here! (Her breathing is getting rougher.) What do you think it’s like for me? Sitting here, waiting? You don’t care, do you? (Pauline thumps bed with fist. Ashley brings tray) . Oh I’m sorry, Ash…. It’s just that I’m not too good at the moment.


Ashley V.O. Mum started snoring at twenty-five past one. I waited another hour to let the streets clear, then I got out of bed and got my spray-cans. Four of them this time: black, red, orange and yellow. I put them in my backpack, with a piece of old blanket on top.

Then I crept downstairs into the kitchen, and very carefully opened the back door.

One step down into the garden. Close the door. Then six steps to the fence.

The alley behind the shops was very dark, but that was good. I could be invisible. On the way to the chippie’s yard, I folded my bit of blanket into a thick pad, then I put it up on top of the broken glass. Up and over!

Then I began to pull myself up the drainpipe, on to the extension. I had to be totally, absolutely silent. Along the extension to the main building. But when I put my foot on the windowsill, I felt the edge crack. I leant sideways to find a safe part, and reached up for the gutter. It had to be ok!

Then I pulled myself up, and planted one foot in the gutter. And I was up – crawling over the roof tiles towards the ridge.

Enter Joyriders (Eddie’s boys and others)

Shaun Waaaaaaaahoooo!

Phil There was a burst of sound from the other side of the building.

Steve Yaaaagh! Two cars roared down the row together!

Shaun Joyriders! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

Dougie Circling round the flats, and coming back down the Row again!

Phil The scream of brakes and the noise of their engines filled the Row again.

Shaun Then they went for good, racing off towards the industrial estate.

Steve Yah! Here we go, here we go, here we go!

(Exit joyriders.) Pause

Ashley V.O. And I was on my own. Exposed. From the minute my head came over the top, anyone who looked up could see me. Neighbours up late. Police patrols.

I stood up. And saw the Row spread out below me. For a second, I stood looking down on it. Focus. Focus on the wall. Steadily, I walked along the ridge towards it.

Narrator 5 She knew exactly what she was going to do. No fancy pictures. Just her tag.

Cindy girls (quietly) She’s Miss Cindy and she’s the best. No question she’s better than all the rest. Tag a wall. Tag a roof. This girl’s fearless. Any wall. Any roof. This girl’s peerless. Fearless ….. Peerless!

Five black outlines all the same height Five round letters in a level straight line Yellow at the top of every letter Orange in the middle, lookin’ better and better. Red at the bottom, bright red flood Spilling from the bottom in drops of blood.

Just one more touch , gotta edge them in black Pulling the spray-can out of the pack But hey, those crazies are coming back

Ashley I saw a movement in the shadow.

Joe A figure standing on the path at the side of the cinema. A face turned towards the roof of the chippie.

Ashley Someone’s down there, watching me.

Narrator 5 Don’t panic, she thought. Keep calm.

Joe She dropped the can back in her backpack, and started to move back along the ridge, keeping half an eye on the watcher. She slid down the roof, and out of sight.

Ashley Down the roof, across the extension, down the drainpipe. Listening all the time.

Narrator 6 But everything was silent outside the yard.

Ashley Blanket on the glass. Up and over. Creeping down the street.

Narrator 5 She didn’t see anyone, all the way home. She slid through the fence, feeling triumphant.

Ashley I managed it! I tagged that wall without getting caught!

Narrator 6 She slipped through the back door and locked it. CLICK!

Ashley (freezing, whispering) Mum!....... Sound asleep. Yes!

(creep up to bed, grinning)


Pauline Does she think I’m unconscious? Or deaf? Does she really think I can’t hear the door? I’ve tried talking to her, but she just gives me that blank stare.

Why would I go out at three o’clock in the morning? Honestly, Mum! You must have dreamt it

(Eddie Beale and his boys appear in the background, doing business.Voices quietly murmuring’Eddie Beale, Eddie Beale, Eddie-Eddie-Eddie-Beale.’ Joe further back, not directly involved)

She won’t admit anything. If I felt better, I’d try and catch her, but at the moment – it’s hopeless. By the time I’ve struggled out of bed, she’s gone.

And it’s not every night, you see. And never two nights in a row. She’ll go weeks – months even, without stirring out of bed. Then one night, I’ll hear that little creak at the top of the stairs that always wakes me up. And I’ll lie here sweating. It’s no use calling out, because she won’t answer.

She doesn’t understand. I’ve tried talking to her, telling her about the gangs and the drugs and the joy-riding. She knows that terrible things happen round here. But she thinks she can handle anything.

Eddie Beale, Eddie Beale, Eddie-Eddie-Eddie-Beale. Eddie Beale He’s a man with a purpose. Eddie Beale And he runs this whole circus. Eddie Beale He’s a man with a mission. Eddie Beale Better ask his permission.

You can’t blame her, I suppose. She does handle a lot of things at the moment. Helping me out. She cooks and cleans and shops. And does the washing. And she manages all right at school. And she’s not anorexic and she’s not on drugs and she doesn’t go out with boys.

I lie here in the dark, telling myself all these things. She’s strong and sensible, and she’s never got into trouble so far.

(Eddie & boys stand behind her.Cindy girls. Hip Hop.)

Pauline But it would only take one drunk. One junkie. One man with a knife. She isn’t safe out there in the street. In the dark. On her own.…And suppose she’s not on her own?

Eddie Beale, Eddie Beale, Eddie-Eddie-Eddie-Beale. etc.


Narrator 4 The next morning.

Pauline (calling) Ashie? You’ll be late for school if you don’t hurry.

Ashley (kissing her) Be good, then. See you later!

Narrator 1 She raced up the road at top speed.

Narrator 2 She reached the end of the road and swung round the corner. There was her wall!

Narrator 3 (rapping) Yellow like the sun.

Narrator 4 Screeching orange.

Narrator 1 Red as a postbox.

Narrator 2 The best she’d ever done.


Narrator 1 She thought about it all day, and found herself grinning at people, and humming under her breath. None of them knew who Cindy was – no-one knew except Vikki. But when they saw the tag they would envy her. Because she had dared to climb up there. She was dying to talk to Vikki, but ( school kids – form concentric circles)

Narrator 2 First break

Ashley Vikki!

Vikki Sorry. Got to go to the secretary’s office.

Narrator 3 Lunch time

Ashley Vikki!

Vikki Detention with Saunders.

Narrator 4 Second break

Ashley Vikki!

Vikki Left my P.E. kit in the changing rooms!

Narrator 1 Finally, the bell rang, and they hurried out of school.

Ashley Wait til you see it!

Narrator 2 Down the road, up the side of the cinema, out by the traffic lights on the Row -

Geoffrey Geoffrey was painting the wall bright white. All over.

Arnie Arnie had sent him out to buy paint and brushes the minute he saw that tag.

Ashley It didn’t even last twenty-four hours. The mean, miserable …

Vikki The pig.

Ashley There’s nothing left. I’m nothing.

(The traffic lights change. Everyone crosses except Ashley. Vikki yells across, but the lights change)

Joe Eddie never explains when he takes up someone new. He just says ‘Do this.’ Or ‘Go there.’ And we find another person around.

Eddie Now I’m taking an interest in Ashley.

Joe Eddie’s mind moves so fast you can’t keep up with him. You’ve got to watch his eyes all the time, the way you’d watch a snake, or a tiger. He’s dangerous if he gets bored. Some of the others don’t understand that. They just hang around him because he makes things happen. He gets them living. And doing things they couldn’t get together on their own. The only thing is – I’ve got to keep in with Eddie. I’ve got to make sure he doesn’t get bored with me.

(to Ashley) Makes you sick, doesn’t it? (Ashley jumps, and turns to look at Joe.) It was a great bit of writing……. You don’t want to fall out with Arnie. If you touch his property, he stamps on your fingers.

Ashley Maybe someone should stamp back.

Joe Great idea. How are you going to do it?

Ashley (warily) Do what? (Joe looks from the white wall to Ashley’s face.)……. Do what?

Joe OK. If you’d done that, how would you get back at him for painting over it?

Ashley I’d tag the wall again. If it was me.

Joe You’re going up again tonight?

Ashley That’s what I would do. If it was me.

(Lights change. Ashley crosses. Joe keeps up. Eddie Beale passes, and waits just within earshot.)

Joe You want to watch out. Arnie’s going to have Geoffrey on guard………. Pity about those drops of blood.

Ashley Don’t know what you mean.

(Schoolkids approach. Arnie and Geoffrey Galt in shop entrance, watching Eddie, Joe & Ashley.)

Joe (laughing at her) You should have gone round them. In black.

Ashley (angrily) OK! Take a look tomorrow then. And see if you could do better.

(Joe grins and disappears into crowd. Ashley looks for him, but Vikki catches her up.)

Vikki Why was he talking to you? What did he say?

Ashley What? Who? What was who talking about?

Vikki That boy. Honestly, Ash, don’t you know who he is?

Ashley Just some boy.

Vikki Don’t be daft. He goes round with Eddie Beale.

Ashley Who’s Eddie Beale?

Vikki You’re kidding! Come on, Ash, you are kidding?

Ashley I’ve never heard of Eddie Beale.

(Exit Ashley. Eddie Beale smiles with satisfaction, nods ironically at the Galts, and exits)

Vikki I couldn’t believe it. Who’s Eddie Beale? She said, and she wasn’t joking. I didn’t think you could live near the Row and not know about Eddie.

But then, we are talking about Ashley. Every mother’s dream daughter. I’ve never heard her swear. Never seen her smoke. She doesn’t stay out late, or hang around in the street – except when she’s doing that crazy writing – and she’s never, never, never got into trouble at school. She hasn’t even had her ears pierced.

Don’t get me wrong. She’s my best friend, and I always go to her when I’m in trouble, because she can keep secrets, and is really sensible.

But she doesn’t know about … things. Outside school, she’s like a baby. Doesn’t know who the dealers are, or where the party’s going to be, or who’s out to get who. She’s straight home and into that house and you don’t see her til school the next day.

I wasn’t really surprised she didn’t recognise that kid at the traffic lights, but ‘Who’s Eddie Beale? Where do I start? Hasn’t she seen Eddie walking up the Row as if he owned the place? With Dougie Barrett and Shaun James acting really heavy. And all those flash cars? People are always talking about Eddie.

I tell you, if that boy had spoken to me at the traffic lights, I’d have been so-o- cool and funny, so he’d say to Eddie, ‘I saw this really amazing girl yesterday.’ So Eddie would fancy meeting me.

That would be brilliant, wouldn’t it? Just imagine.


Narrator 5 For the second night running, Ashley crept out of the house in the middle of the night. To the roof of the chippie, and that perfect wall.

Narrator 6 Five letters. Four colours. The whole thing was almost finished. She was just shading the last drop of blood, when she heard the sound of

Geoffrey the gate opening down in the chipshop yard. A shadow slid through the gate. Someone was standing in the yard, waiting for her to come down.

Narrator 5 If she hadn’t heard, she would have walked straight into the trap. She imagined Geoffrey hanging onto her, and all the policeand social workers in the world racing up and wagging their fingers at her.

Narrator 6 Bad girl!

Narrator 1 You’re out of control!

Narrator 2 You can’t cope!

Ashley (moving along the ridge) Well, they’re out of luck. I’m going to find a way to escape, even if I am twenty metres up, with no way down except the drainpipe.

Eddie And that was when the row erupted. Half a dozen cars roared around the corner and squealed to a stop outside Arnie Galt’s pathetic little grocer’s shop, burning rubber. People jumped out and started banging on Arnie’s front door, yelling and swearing and kicking the paintwork.

Dear me, he should have let me protect his business. I’m a reasonable man. What a shame if the place burns down. (looking the chippie roof) If a teenage vandal with a grudge breaks in to his shop through an upstairs window. And starts a fire? Kids today. Dear-oh-dear.

Narrator 5 Ashley froze, trying to work out what to do. The gang down there sounded crazy.

Narrator 6 If Arnie phoned the police, they might not just arrest the gang. They might look up and see Ashley as well.

Narrator 5 At the back of the shop, a window rattled up. (Narrators make window)

Arnie Geoffrey! Never mind the roof! Go and stop that lot! You hear me?

Narrator 6 Ashley couldn’t believe her luck. The Hyena raced out of the yard and down the alley, to get round to the front of the shop.

Ashley But what does Arnie expect Geoffrey to do against a gang? They’ll eat him for breakfast!

Narrator 5 But this was her chance to get away. She got down on to her stomach, and started edging feet first towards the guttering. She was halfway down, when someone grabbed her left ankle, and started dragging her towards the edge of the roof.

Ashley No! No, no no! Stop! You’ll pull me off!

Narrator 5 But the hand gripped tighter, and pulled harder. Who was it? Not Geoffrey. Not the police.

Narrator 6 Frantically gripping the roof tiles with her finger tips, Ashley gave a wild kick with her free leg. She felt her foot connect with – someone’s head? – and heard a grunt,

Narrator 5 but all that really mattered was that she was free – at least for the moment. Quickly, she crawled back up to the roof ridge, swung a leg over, and sat astride it.

Narrator 6 Her heart was pounding. She couldn’t see anything in the dark yard, but down in the Row, the gang was still banging and yelling at the Galts’ shop door.

Narrator 5 Where were the police? She could see a small crowd of people on the pavement opposite. Mostly in pyjamas and dressing gowns. How she wished she was home in bed.

Narrator 6 Wait til they spotted the fourteen-year-old on the roof.

Ashley And wait til Arnie sees this! Police. Social Services. Mum will be go spare. I’ve got to get down!

Narrator 5 Slowly, Ashley stood up and balanced, suddenly deathly tired. She couldn’t go down into the Row.

Narrator 6 And she definitely wasn’t going back to the chippie yard!

Narrator 5 Maybe if she went and sat against the wall, no-one would notice her, and she could wait until they’d all gone.

Narrator 6 She focused on her beautiful wall, and walked towards it.

Narrator 5 Suddenly there was a shout from the crowd below.

Lisa Look! There’s someone up on the roof. Hey! It’s Eddie’s men on the roof!

Narrator 6 Startled, Ashley half-turned, and saw two men crawling towards her on the roof ridge.

Narrator 5 The shock of it was too much for her balance. She tried to keep her footing, but there was nothing to grab at. Her foot slipped and she knew she couldn’t save herself. As she fell, she thought she heard a voice shout –

Eddie (furiously) No!


Lisa She went off the top, and I started to scream.

Everyone was screaming and pushing back so she wouldn’t smash into them. Me too, even though Ashley’s one of my friends. I could feel Vikki doing it too, and Matt, and everyone. Everyone wanted to get out of the way.

Arnie Except my Geoffrey. He didn’t even hesitate. The moment she slipped, he raced forward, pushing people out of his way.

Vikki He stood at the bottom of the wall with his arms held out for Ashley, as if he thought he could catch her.

Matt Anyone could see it wasn’t going to work. There was no way he was going to be strong enough. But even though she went through his hands, he broke her fall.

Pauline Instead of smashing straight into the tarmac, head first, she hit him

Arnie smack on the side of the head.

Lisa She hit the ground legs first, and crumpled and rolled. You think I can’t remember all the details? I could draw it frame by frame. I dreamt about it for weeks afterwards.

The worst thing wasn’t the moment she hit the ground. It was the next moment, when we realized we’d all pushed back. We’d left her to die. There was a horrible quietness.

Then someone said, ‘It was Eddie’s men!’ and it swept over me like a great wave. It was Eddie’s fault – the men banging on Arnie’s door, the men on the roof, Ashley falling – It was all Eddie’s doing. All of it.

The whole crowd roared, and we started pushing towards Eddie’s big flash car.

All Eddie Beale, Eddie Beale, Eddie-Eddie-Eddie Beale!! (crowd hides Geoffrey and Ashley)

Lisa But he was too quick for us. He jumped in his car and drove off. With his tough guys running after him.

We’re having a collection for Geoffrey. (crowd parts to show Geoffrey in hospital bed, and Nurse) And Arnie puts up a notice every day, to say how he’s doing. She says he’s got so many flowers, the hospital’s going crazy. If only he could see them……

(Exit crowd, revealing Ashley in a wheelchair, and Pauline.)


Ashley Is Ge- Is Mr Galt all right? He’ll be fine now, won’t he?

Pauline He – Everyone thinks he’s wonderful. They’re calling him the hero of the Row. He –

Ashley There’s something else, isn’t there?

Pauline He’s not dead. But it’s been six days, and he’s still unconscious. They’re getting worried. His father talked to him for an hour yesterday, to see if Geoffrey would respond to his voice. But it was no use.

Ashley So why don’t they try someone else?

Pauline. It’s got to be someone he’d recognise. Someone he cares about.


Ashley Can I go and talk to him? (Pauline whispers to Nurse. Nurse wheels/leadsAshley across stage) And when I was there, beside his bed, I didn’t know what to do. He was so pale and still. Like a waxwork. How could anything I said make a difference to this – stranger?

Nurse (cheerfully) Don’t worry. Just chat to him. No need to be shy. Just be yourself.

Ashley Myself? Who? …….. The writing on the wall – it wasn’t meant to be horrible. I know your dad hated it, but I didn’t do it to annoy -

Geoffrey V.O I don’t know when I started hearing her voice, because in a way it was there all the time. My head was full of grey mist, and her voice whispering.

I wanted to tell her it was all right. I wanted to say I understood. But my eyes wouldn’t open and my voice wouldn’t work. All the words in my head were hers.

Ashley V.O. … the writing … wasn’t meant to be horrible… I just wanted to … leave my mark …I wanted to be special …

Geoffrey V.O. But I’d seen her fall. I’d seen her hit the ground. I meant to help her, the way I’d always wanted to. I meant to race in and catch her, like some kind of magician flying to the rescue. But it was no use.

She went through my hands like a thunderbolt, and I collapsed.

So when I heard her real voice. When it pushed its way in.

Ashley V.O. I just wanted to be special …

Geoffrey V.O. I was scared to open my eyes in case I was imagining it. But you can’t hide in the dark forever. So I made myself look. (end of V.O.)

Geoffrey And she was there. She’d got stitches over one eyebrow and her arm in plaster. The moment I saw all that, I knew she was real. She’d survived without a magician.

But she didn’t know what to say. She’s only fourteen, after all. So I helped her with a little joke.

(to Ashley) Are there any pens around? It’s my turn to do a bit of graffiti.

Ashley grins, gives him some felt tips, and holds out her cast.

Ashley And he wrote his name along my arm, in three different colours. With shading!

1 comment:

Septiembre said...

Gracias por tu comentario.
Lamentablemente no se inglés.