29 Plays Later. Day 1. Play 1. Heart Strings.

First Movement.

 

A piece of string lies across the width of the stage.

 

Mae and Victor walk on from opposite sides of the stage. The string runs directly from Victor’s heart to Mae’s.

 

Mae has her head in a book, as well as a pair of gloves. Victor has his hands in his pockets and his head down. They walk across the stage, each involved in their own business.

 

As the cross, Mae drops a glove. Victor bends to pick it up, hands it to her. Mae smiles.

 

They pass each other. As they walk away from each other the string gets shorter. Finally, the string forces Mae and Victor to stop.

 

They both turn, and for the first time properly see each other.

 

Suddenly, the string shortens dramatically and quickly pulling Mae and Victor together. They follow the pull of the string, until they are toe to toe.

 

Victor: Victor.

 

He holds out his hand.

 

Mae: Mae.

Victor: Mae…

 

Second Movement.

 

Victor and Mae enters. The string between them is longer, trailing around them.

 

Victor pulls Mae into his room and seats her on a chair. She starts to speak but he puts a finger to her lips. She smiles and shakes his head.

 

Victor produces a violin. As he tunes, he winks at Mae. Mae is unimpressed. She gets up to go. Victor coaxes her back to the chair.

 

He places the bow on the strings of the violin. He plays. At first the song is sad and slow, speaking of loss and longing. Then it speeds up, speaking of levity and spark. It becomes dance music. Mae can’t help herself. She gets up and dances. Wild. Carefree. As she dances, the string winds itself around her and Victor tangling. Bring them closer together. He circles her as she dances. The string trips Mae. She falls into Victor. He catches her. He holds her.

 

Silence.

 

Victor runs a hand up Mae’s thigh. Her waist. Her rib cage. His hand stops on her breast.

 

Mae draws her hand back to slap him. She stops mid swing. Look at him in the eye. She kisses him.

 

Victor is caught by surprise. But he soon catches on. He lifts Mae and she wraps her legs around him. The string binds them together. It keeps wrapping around them until they are cocooned.

 

Third Movement.

 

Victor: Ma. I’ve met her. The one I’m going ta marry. Fierce like the tyger. Burning bright. Like the poem what we learned at school. Indescribable. Unframeable. And the moment I saw her there was this tugging. On my heart. Like an invisible string had been plucked. Like my violin strings drawn back by a finger. And the vibrations along it. Like electricity. And music. This law of attraction attaching me to her. Pulling me, drawing me. And she’s mine Ma. All mine. To have and to hold. Well not in the church way of seeing things. But we’ll soon put that right. Soon. Though she doesn’t know it yet. But she will. Soon. But first, I should probably tell that other gal. That Mae gal. I should tell her. I should probably, properly end things with her. I mean, it’s all just good fun. Isn’t it? Just good clean, fun.

 

Fourth Movement.

 

Victor sits reading a paper. The string is off stage. Mae waddles in. Clearly pregnant. The string also connects to her belly. She knocks on the door. Victor gets up. Opens the door. Mae just points at her belly. Victor takes in the picture. Faints. Mae sighs. Waddles in. Gets a cup of tea. Pours it on his head. Victor sits bolt upright. Looks at Mae again. Points at his ring finger. There’s a wedding band there now. Mae walks to Victor. Kicks him in the balls. He keels over again.

 

Mae sits. She begins to wind in the heart string until it’s taut between her and Victor. She winds and he follows. When he is next to her, she tugs hard but it stays attached to Victor.

 

She pulls again and again but all she succeeds in doing is dragging him down. Victor reaches a hand and rests it on her swollen belly. He stands and feels the new life within her. He reaches into his chest and pulls out a new stand of string. He attaches it with the one on her belly.

 

He takes his wedding band off and puts it on her finger.

 

Mae stands. They kiss. Long and hard.

 

Fifth Movement.

 

Mae grips her belly. She breathes deeply. Contractions. Panic. Contractions. Anger. Contractions. Pleading. Until: everything stops. String begins to tumble out of her. More string than you believe can believe can be in there. Then a baby is attached to the string. Victor and Mae gather the string until it’s taut between them once more. The baby is suspended between their two hearts. Mae pulls and the baby moves towards her. However, Victor does not. Mae takes the baby. Holds it to her. Victor tries to stop towards her, but it’s like the length of string between them is a solid steel pipe. He tries to use his weight but it stays unyielding – he can’t get to Mae. She doesn’t notice him struggle. He manages to move but only succeeds in circling her. As he does so the child unfolds and grows to be a toddler. As this happens, Victor is pushed further and further away by the length of rigid string.

 

Mae is unaware.

 

Sixth Movement.

 

Mae is still at a distance – the child grows before our eyes. During the following the child goes. Snapping the string between itself and it’s parents. The string between Mae and Victor is still solid.

 

The other woman enters. She dances on. Sliding along the solid pole towards Victor. Slowly. She seduces him. She touches him. Hands him the violin makes him play for her. A string links her crotch to his. She rides the string, pulling it into herself. Victor goes to her still playing. She pulls him to her. He takes his bow off the violin. The music stops. He slides it into the other woman. The screech of violin strings. Faster and faster as her works go climax her. The other woman comes, with an almighty screech of strings. Mae looks up at the cacophony. She see the woman kiss Victor on the cheek and leave. Victor goes to follow but the other woman yanks the string and drags it off with her.

 

Mae and Victor see each other. The string tightens. Mae runs at him. She pushes him. Punches him in the chest. He tries to defend himself. He slaps her.

 

Silence.

 

Mae produces a pair of scissors. She cuts the string. She has to hack at it to cut it. It hurts both of them. But finally she is free. She leaves Victor alone on stage.

 

Seventh Movement.

 

The string is cut. Mae plays with the ends of it. She tries cat’s cradle but can only go so far without a partner. She nurses it and plats it.

 

Victor enters. Mae turns her back in him.

 

Victor pick up his violin. He plays. Mae watches. Mae joins in, stretching her heart string and plucking them. The string gives off a base note. They play together. Its discordant at first. Messy and out of tune. They pause. Look at each other. Nod. Carry on. More harmonious this time. The tune fits with the base. Finally, it’s a full melody all simplicity and harmony. Bittersweet but hopeful. As they play, the universe moves around them, all made of string, linking everything to everything else. They are playing like their lives depend on it.

 

The song ends.

 

Victor looks at Mae. They are both out if breath. Both tired. She nods. She doesn’t smile.

 

Victor (under breath): Thank you.

 

Victor takes the two ends on the string and tries tie them together. The knot slips in his fingers. It refuses to tie. He tries again. The knot undoes itself. And again. Finally, Mae goes to him. She takes the two ends on the string. Blows on them. Passes them through her fingers. The ends are magically back together.

 

Eight Movement.

 

Victor and Mae are at the seaside. The heart string is a companionable length between them. The sound of waves and gulls. Victor ties a handkerchief in knots and seats it on his head.

 

Mae opens up a hamper. She gets out sandwiches and a thermos of tea.

 

They sit and share the food between them, watching the sea together.

 

Silence.

 

Victor: Mae…

Mae: Victor…?

Victor: I heard-

Mae: From the doctor?

Victor: Yes.

 

Silence. Sea. Gulls.

 

Mae: Victor…?

 

Silence.

 

Mae: Look at me…

 

He tries to look at her, but can’t even turn his head.

 

Suddenly the heart string goes taught between the two of them. Mae puts her hand to her heart. There is pain.

 

Victor begins to cry, quietly. Mae tries to get up, but the string between them is taught. It pulls her back down, Victor is like a stone weight. Victor’s silent sobs begin to wrack his body. Mae reaches for him, almost afraid to touch him. Like he will break. He collapses into her arms like a small child. She holds him.

 

She takes the handkerchief from his head. Unknots it. Uses it to dry his face.

 

Ninth Movement.

 

Mae: What no one tells you. Ever. Is how easy life is. Not the day to day nitty gritty grind and drudge. But. The. Living. It’s gone. You’ve done it. You’ve finished it and you never even noticed. You’ve had the same man. You’ve had the babies. The pin-money jobs. The tears and tantrums. The good times. The. The bad. You’ve had to do it all on your own. No one to hold your hand. And then your at the end. And no one tells you to take a bow and there’s no applause. The day Victor told me. About the cells inside him. Eating him alive. I. Well. They started at his heart. Nibbling away at muscle. Left ventricle. Right ventricle. Aorta. Pulmonary this. Vena carva that. You learn a lot of names. In doctor’s offices. And on wards. But once it’s in the blood. Once the parasite has moved round the body devouring this organ and that. It’s just a waiting game. And you, don’t know how much you loved someone. Or how much you miss them. Miss the young them. Until you’re cleaning up their shit.

 

Tenth Movement.

 

Victor is in bed. His breath ragged. Mae is beside him. She is ringing her hands with a handkerchief.

 

Victor’s breath rattles in his throat. Mae jumps up, tries to mop Victor’s brow. He gently takes her hands from his face and presses then to his heart. He smiles at her. She climbs on the bed next to him. She wraps herself around and into him.

 

Victor breathes heavily. Huge gasping painful rattling breathes. He breathes out one last time. Then all is still.

 

Mae stirs. Sits up. She reaches for the string in her own chest, frantically reels it in. The length of the string seems impossibly long. Endless. But finally, there is an end. It lies in Mae’s hands, no longer attached to Victor’s heart.

 

Stillness.

 

Mae lets out a wail. Keening, high. The lights fade to black. The noise continues in the darkness.

 

End.

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