Write something you’ve started and had kicking around for a while, but never finished before.
Dave is on stage in a spotlight. He wears a yellow hazmat suit with the mask / hood down.
Dave: Not a lot of people think about this, but under so many cities around the world there is this amazing, alternative world. Well not totally amazing as it’s full of shit, but aside from that, it’s incredible. A whole city, with roads and rooms. It has its own maps and explorers. People look after it, maintain it. That’s my job. As of today. I’m a sewer rat.
Mel appears in a spotlight on the other side of the stage, wearing a bright pink hazmat suit with loads of crystals and trim and patches.
Dave: And this is Mel.
Mel: (waves) Hello!
Dave: She’s a total cow but it’s her job to train me.
Mel: Lucky me.
Dave: I have the most amazing job in the world. I just don’t know it yet.
Mel: So I’m Mel and I will be managing all the grad-
Dave: But there’s only me here-
Mel: It’s a bumper crop this year then. What’s your name?
Mel: Welcome to you Dave. And you’re here because?
Dave: I got a 3rd in my drama degree.
Mel: like I said, bumper year. So first thing’s first. Always put on your full suit. We need to look professional at all times.
Dave: But you’ve customised your hazmat suit…? With lace, and sparkly things and rainbows and… And… Is that a unicorn…?!
Mel: Look, there are motorway service station employees who have uniforms with more sex appeal than ours. Do you think anyone is going to care if I’ve prettied it up?
Mel: Exactly. Besides I’m a voluptuous single woman at her sexual peak
Dave: I really didn’t need to know that
Mel: And I spend all day dealing with crap. If I glue false nails to black industrial rubber gloves to make my life just a little better, who’s to judge?
Dave: No one?
Mel: Exactly. All i do know is you’re going to be bloody glad your wearing the suit if there’s a surge.
Mel: Now. Where’s the torch?
Dave: In my pocket.
Mel: You haven’t got a pocket…
Dave: In my jeans pocket… In the suit…
Mel: God give me strength. (Sighs) Oh well. Come with me.
Mel climbs down a ladder. Dave waits politely then follows. They climb for a long time. Once they get to the bottom they are standing in a pool of light. There are dripping sounds and every time they walk there is a splashing sound.
Mel: So as soon as you get to the bottom put up your hood, flick on the interior light and mic.
They both put up their hoods /masks and switch on their lights and mics. Their faces are illuminated, and their voices are distorted and amplified.
Mel: And now you’re ready for your first Shit day at work. We’re sewer rats – every day is a shit day.
Dave: Sewers. Shit. I get it the joke.
Mel: Right. Sense of humour is essential on the job.
Dave: Especially is it’s a big brown steaming job.
Mel just looks at Dave. Pause.
Mel: It’s like family. You can’t make those jokes unless we’ve accepted you.
Dave: Right. Ok. Too soon.
Mel and Dave start walking.
Dave: So why am I here?
Mel: Do you read the papers?
Dave: Millennials don’t read. We emoj.
Mel: For god’s sake. The 10,000 Faeces of Dr Moreau was the biggest case to get solved by the sewer team. We found a man who had been forming whole new species out of things he found in the sewer. Penguins made of chip fat, the Crocness monster and Middle aged Mutant unemployed terrapins, flushed down the toilet during the 80s. Do you know how hard it is to find employment for four listless, depressed pond dwellers?
Dave: So what did you do with them?
Mel: They’ve all gone into teaching.
Dave: Makes sense.
Mel: It was a big win for the team. They are thinking of cutting our funding. We’ve been asked to find new ways to monetize the sewer. “New revenue streams”. All sounds like a lot of crap to me. And you’re part of that. We need young blood.
Dave: And I am a breath of fresh air?
Mel: Something like that.
Mel: Yes, Dave.
Dave: Why are you here?
Mel: My dad. I inherited the job.
Dave: You have the sewers in your blood? Or do you think it’s a waste of your talent?
Dave: So these surges?
Mel: Sometimes the systems get blocked. When they are unblocked, or they unblock themselves, you get a tidal wave. We call it a surge. There’s an early warning system in place, in theory, but the network under London is pretty old so…
Dave: I need to be ready for a surge.
Mel: Exactly. Be prepared. Like the Brownies.
Dave: Brownies? It’s funny. Because we deal with poo. Which is brown.
Mel’s headset starts to flash.
Dave: You’re flashing.
Mel: It’s an alert.
Mel clicks on a button on her hood.
Mel: We’re in tunnel 349 Central.
Mel: Right. Got it.
Mel: There’s a blockage. About 10 minutes from here. We have been assigned.
Dave: Oh. My first assignment.
Mel: Easy tiger. It’s just a big plug. Probably mainly fat and nappies.
Dave: And to think I could have been working in McDonalds. Dealings with fat and nappies.
Dave: What do you think nuggets are made out of?
Mel: Gross. Though it explains the curry sauce. Follow me.
Spotlight on Dave.
Dave: Not a lot of people have ever walked the sewer system. It’s potholes, and canals. And dead donkeys floating past. Much like Venice, if you’ve ever been to Venice. There are cathedrals under ground made of Victorian brick, and tiny tunnels you need to squeeze down in your front. And what I will learn is that, while the smell will ruin your sex life, I will be privileged. I will see things that most people will never dream could exist in the world below. For example.
Mel: (voice from the darkness) We’re here.
Lights up. There is a perfect circular disc of fat plugging the mouth of a tunnel.
Dave: Like this.
Mel produces a massive plunger from the depths of her suit.
Dave: What is this?
Mel: A massive plug made of fat and all the things people flush down the drain.
Dave: Is that a chair?
Mel taps the plug.
Mel: Jeez. It’s really solid.
Dave: But. How?
Mel: Everything people throw down the toilet or into drains gets caught up in fat from cafes and restaurants. It cools and it all sticks together. It builds and builds until voila! You get a plug like this or a fatberg.
Mel: Imagine 130 tonnes of coagulated sewage floating round the system.
Dave: Is it ok to throw up in your own mouth?
Mel: Just don’t eat a lot of garlic at lunch. You don’t want that floating around your suit for 5 hours.
Dave: Yeah ok. Noted. Fatberg. (pointing at the plunger) So do I get one of those?
Mel: Not til you have your city and guilds level one in sewer management.
Dave: That exists?
Mel: So, you clip this to here-
Mel clips a line from her suit to a pipe on the wall. Dave does the same.
Mel: Yep, surge. Then you pump the sucker on the plunger until it’s properly stuck-
Mel does so.
Mel: Feel that?
Dave pulls the plunger.
Dave: Yep. I think so.
Mel: It’s not going anywhere. Then we pull.
Mel starts to pull on the plunger. Nothing is happening. Dave stands and watches.
Mel: You just going to stand there?
Dave: Oh right.
He goes and grabs Mel round the waist and pulls.
Mel: Mind the lace!
Dave: Sorry, but kind of busy here.
They pull on the plunger, swearing and struggling. It’s intensely physical. Pause. There is a massively rumbling noise. Then a dripping noise. Then a gush of brown water which get Mel in the face. The huge ball of fat begins to shudder.
Mel: Ah. Balls.
The plug of fat cracks, fractures then explodes, filling everywhere in brown water. Mel and Dave get swept up in the water. It’s like a synchronised swimming routine but with poo and tampons and nappies floating past. Mel gets hit on the head by the chair and is unconscious. The pipe she is clipped onto comes out of the wall.
Dave unclips his line. He tries to swim to her, but get’s swept up in the flow. Mel drifts away and off stage. Dave swims up to get his head above the surge and it looking around for Mel. He can’t see anything. Then from behind him, a huge white mass appears. It glitters and light reflects off it. Dave turns to see it.
Dave: Ah, shit.
It’s a huge Fatberg. It floats into view.
Little fat penguins appear, chirruping and clicking at Dave. They cluster around him
Dave: Ah, hey little guys.
The penguins chirrup back. Dave bends down and picks on up.
Dave: What you doing down here? You escape from the zoo? You’re a cute little guy, eh? Eurgh.
Dave puts the penguin down.
Dave: Did you crap on me? Sticky. Like. Fat? Are you guys made of cooking grease?
The penguins click and jump around him.
Dave: Either way, this is no place for you. Come penguin friends, to the manhole.
Spotlight on Dave. Penguins march back and forth in the light.
Dave: So I don’t know if you have ever tried to steer and iceberg through a sewer system? It’s an experience. I mean, not one I want to repeat but at least I can add it to my cv. Under transferable skills. That summer working on a go-kart range definitely came into it’s own. And I was able to scoop Mel up out of the sinking tides of the surge. You’ve never seen anything sadder than a hazmat suit that has lost almost all of it’s bedazzles and has part-digested sweet corn stuck in the lace. But at least she was alive. I mean, no one wants to actually kill their line manager on their first day. Even in a shit job.
Lights up. Mel is standing on the fatberg picking bits of sewage off her hazmat suit.
Mel: For fuck’s sake. Do you know how long it took to customise this?
Dave: It’s not that bad?
Mel: I broke a nail.
Dave: Ok. That’s bad.
Mel: So what are you going to do with all these penguins?
Dave: Let them go forth and be free?
Mel: Ok Virgina McKenna. Then what?
Dave: Make a tea and update Instagram?
Dave: Grab a penguin and pass it up.
Dave climbs the ladder and Mel begins to pass up penguins to Dave. He pushes them up the ladder into the daylight. All the penguins crowd around the ladder, holding their fins up to be picked up. It’s all very exciting.
Dave: Run my little fat friends! Today is the fist day of your- oh arse.
Dave: They are all melting.
Mel: Shit. Get them back. Get them back.
Dave passes the penguins back to Mel, where she deposits them back on the iceberg. The penguins are all a bit wobbly once back down, but the other penguins help get them back on their feet. Dave comes down the ladder.
Dave: Sorry little fat friends. Maybe 30 degree heat in June is a bad idea.
Mel: You mean if you consist entirely of fat? Can’t imagine why you got a third class drama degree.
Dave: Alright smart arse. Got a better idea?
Mel: Alright Gerald Durrell! Durrell? Durell!
Dave: What like the zoo?
Mel: Yes, zoo. Zoo!!!
Dave: Oh my god. ZOO!
Spotlight on Dave.
Dave: Sometimes you just need a fresh pair of eyes. To look at a problem from a creative way. Like I said, I was a breathe of fresh air down there, in the sewers. And I mean, who other than a really poor drama student would have the charisma and hutzpah to open an underground zoo in an underground tunnel? Needless to say it was a massive success. New revenue stream. Check. And Sadiq Khan opened it. Mel lent him her spare hazmat. Not sure lime green with kittens on was really his look, but he carried it off. Sort of. And Mel and I. Well, we came to an understanding. Some might even call it ‘respect’.
Mel and Dave stand and watch the people queuing for tickets to see the penguins.
Mel: Good job.
Mel punches Dave on the shoulder.
Dave: Ow. Oh. Thanks.
Dave: I think your dad would be proud.
Mel: (holding out her hand) Welcome to the family.
Dave looks at Mel’s hand in disbelief. He takes it and shakes it enthusiastically.
Mel: Careful. The fake nails.
Dave: Oh. Right.
Lights down. Dave stands in a spotlight.
Dave: And that was my first day at work. One of many days at work. Yes, I have to watch where I put my feet. Yes, I deal with crap, day in day out. Yes, I nearly wiped out an entire species of penguins made entirely of human waste. But I found my calling. More than that. I found my friends. Friends like Mel.
Second spotlight up on Mel. She waves.
Dave: Well, maybe ‘friends’ is too strong.
Dave: So next time you walk along the street, remember there is an entire world beneath your feet. A world you don’t see or want to see, but it’s there. There’s always more to life than meets th