Helen and Robert – a play – Act 2 Scenes 2 and 3


The Oxfam shop (again) the one that sells books and records

Helen is re-organising books on shelves. Robert enters the shop. Neither catches sight of each other. Robert goes to the fiction section. He picks up a book. It’s by Angela Carter. He starts thumbing through the pages.

Helen: Well, Hello. What’s cooking?
Robert: Helen High-water… things are simmering – I suppose …
Helen: What’s the book?
Robert: Something for Frankie. I didn’t really know any of this but she was impressed by Ms. Carter – and I read somewhere that Angela Carter was a kind of literary rock-star.
Helen: Oh yes: There’s no one like Angie – she turned the world upside down …
Robert: Frankie told me about the ‘Bloody chamber’ and weirdly it made me think of ‘Blood on the tracks …’ and …
Helen: … writing in blood. And to what do we owe this honour?
Robert: Actually, I’ve come in a) to see you and b) to see you.
Helen: Oooh – and where’s Joleen?
Robert: She’ll be in soon.
Helen: Come on – sit down – I’m all ears
Robert: You’ve got nice ears …
Helen: Flattery gets you nowhere …
Robert: OK. Right, I’m making a few last minute arrangements for the demonstration. You know, I’ve got to admire Petra. She’s stoked up a lot of support for the WAVE thing. She’s even got Dan – Dan the guitar man – to share a platform with her. She’s going to speak and Dan’s going to play – like only Dan can play. Frankie tells me that Petra’s speech is all ‘passion’ – at least I think that’s what she said.
Helen: Don’t worry. I’ve even planned my sandwiches for the day – liberation sandwiches.
Robert: Goodness: That reminds me: D’you know why I couldn’t but support JC – Jeremy Corbyn?
Helen: No – I’m all ‘beautiful’ ears – why did you decide to support JC?
Robert: Well, I was reading an article – I was reading something about the real Labour party – and it was written by a journalist who had found himself travelling about with Jeremy Corbyn. I think it was on the campaign trail or something like that – and the journalist said that Corbyn was fundamentally a good guy – and you could tell that, why?- because he was the sort of person who would be travelling on a train and be happy to share his sandwiches with any fellow traveler. That really stuck in my head.
Helen: To be fair Robert: Mrs May might share her copy of Vogue. Strike a pose.

They pause.

Helen: Vogue versus half a sandwich. No contest. Half a sandwich every time … Right, I’ve been telling everyone about the WAVE and actually it chimes in with combating the dreadful adverse publicity Oxfam had – you know about the aid workers in Haiti – and all that. So, what’s Petra sorted out for us?
Robert: Petra has done Facebook and Instagram and kick-started all the usual social media stuff- and there are hundreds of students – maybe a couple of thousand or more – ready to join the march on Saturday. There are lots of others too. We meet outside Regent’s Park tube. The police are marshalling the show – which is good because there could be trouble.
Helen: Speaking of which – I spy Joleen! And how is Madame?
Joleen: Hello Helen: (They exchange kisses)
Helen: Joleen, so we’re going to reprise Paris ’68.
Joleen: (In a french accent) Good – As long as we do not have to meet the CRS. Even now when I am in France I am scared of the CRS.
Helen: I don’t think the police – the police here – want to take sides – not unless they have to – they’re the biggest gang in town so keep them sweet.
Joleen: You cannot keep the CRS as you say, ‘sweet’. They look at you with fierce eyes.
Helen: Well, this is England – you know – doctrine of minimum force and all that.
Joleen: So, is there no need for a crash helmet?
Helen: No – unless you want to deny everyone the sight of your lovely hair …
Joleen: Thank you. Are we travelling up together? Are you coming with us?
Helen: All things considered, yep. And I’ve corralled a few of our regulars to come too. I’ve even made a small display on women and the struggle; Look, there’s ‘In our own hands’ – I love that book. And, naturally one by your fellow countrywomen: Simone de Beauvoir.
Joleen: I remember that: The second sex. And I remember her ‘Memoirs of a dutiful daughter‘ … I think that I was once a dutiful daughter. I taught the catechism. Robert thinks that I did well to escape the cage…
Helen: So, are you all Ready Steady Go? What’s that in french?
Joleen: On est prêt? and ‘On-y-va …’
Helen: Le jour de gloire est arrivé … Non, je ne regrette rien: That might even be my choice for the I’m stranded-on-a-desert-island thing …

And the scene fades into the sound of a train ride to London …

Act 2, Scene 3:

The beginning of the march. Petra, Frankie, Francesca, Helen, Joleen, Robert and Dan – are all smiles. Dan strikes up some wailing chords. A placard reads: ‘WAVE – from now to eternity

The actors move off stage.

We hear the sound of marching and chanting. We hear a range of songs.

Then: Alarum:

We hear shouts and discern insults and then we hear the sound of rocks striking the ground.
A policewoman stumbles out onto the stage. She clutches her head. She’s been hit in the face.

Policewoman: This is way out of order. My God, am I OK? I need help … But … hang on love …
She catches Petra who is falling backwards.
Rocks and wood from a placard hit the stage.
Petra appears to have been struck on the head.

Policewoman (into her radio): Ambulance – medics quick – there’a woman here in a bad way … Jesus – come immediately – Exact Location: She shouts something technical into her phone. The policewoman puts Petra in the recovery position. Face covered in blood, the policewoman looks directly at the audience.

We hear, in the distance a siren; the sound of the siren intensifies.

Version 2


2 thoughts on “Helen and Robert – a play – Act 2 Scenes 2 and 3”

  1. Dear Rob I’m really enjoying this – if that’s the right verb. Keep going! The Oxfam shop is a good setting, although perhaps better suited to TV than the stage. You might, incidentally, introduce the riot police into the shop. That would lend itself to dramatic contrast, and some ironic dialogue! Well done Peter PS Riot, mounted, secret and special police always have a bad reputation, often created by those they harass, in order to make the victims feel better about themselves – or am I being too cynical? Probably. After Salazar died in Portugal and the secret police (PIDE) left the service, their offices were raided, and their reputation for omniscience destroyed. Although they did use torture, it seems. As to the CRS, my friends at Essex (a thoroughly unreliable source of information, it’s true) claimed that they were able to riot unimpeded in 1968. I wonder. I can’t help feeling that there was a lot of posturing in 1968… >

  2. Hello Peter,
    This is really helpful. One of the things that John Heron pointed out was the problem of the rebel life-position – which is not such a good ‘place’ to be – compared with something more authentic and genuinely self-aware.
    Jocelyne would probably want to counter the idea that the CRS in ’68 were non-interventionist. She’s still alarmed at their presence today!
    I’ve finished the first draft of the play. Now it will need development and refinement – but it remains a dreadfully ironic tragedy.
    Act 3 could be very powerful – and I hope the theatre company might give it a run.
    Anyway, thank you very much for the support. (Oh, I can’t quite work out how the riot police would come into Oxfam. I’ve left them in London shepherding a demonstration which gets ambushed.)
    with best wishes,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s