Extract from The Return
THE RETURN - 2nd round Verity Bargate Award 2007. Long short-list Bruntwood Playwriting Competition 2008. Reading Actors and Writers London, Jan’ 2008, directed Mark Solomon.1hr 40 mins | 4M 4F
For reading AWL:
Lyn Ashton…..Lucy Appleby
Barry Ashton…..Brendan Gregory
Doug Ashton…James Price
Chris' Ashton…..Carole Carpenter
Phil Ashton…Lizzy Pattinson
Ben Ashton…….Lee Peck
Laura Ashton…Vicky Williamson
Ben has served his sentence. For a brief afternoon he can unite with his family in a ‘safe house’ before his new life begins with a changed identity and changed perspectives. Past secrets and future fears collide on this most important of days.
Mother ......................... Lyn Ashton 59
Father .......................... Barry Ashton 59
Eldest son ...................... Doug Ashton 31
Eldest son's wife .............. Christine Ashton 27
Middle son ..................... Phil Ashton 29
Middle son's partner .......... Kim Wilsher 24
Youngest son .................. Ben Ashton 27
Youngest son's wife .......... Laura Ashton 29
Police officer-voice only ..... DC Styles 34
Ben's car has arrived. Time to leave for his 'new life'. He gets his hold-all, checks Laura is ready. She hesitates. He cajoles and threatens and pleads. The police can't wait. She has to go with him or…
BEN CHECKS HOLD-ALLS
BEN: Laura, you ready?
BEN LOOKS OUT OF WINDOW AS WE HEAR A CAR APPROACHING HOUSE
BEN: They’re outside the door. Let’s go.
LAURA: Ben I’m... not leaving.
BEN: Pick your bags up Laura.
LAURA: I can’t.
BEN: If you love me you can.
LAURA: It’s not a test of love...
BEN: If you leave with me now you love me - if you don’t, you don’t.
LAURA: I can’t.
BEN LOOKING OUT OF WINDOW
BEN: They’re there. Now move!
BEN GETS LAURA IN HIS ARMS, BEAR-HUG, LIFTS HER AND WALKS HER TOWARDS FRONT-DOOR
BEN: Dad, bring the hold-alls.
BARRY: Ben you can’t force Laura.
LYN: Put her down.
PHIL: Put her down you hear!
PHIL AND BARRY RESTRAIN BEN TILL HE RELEASES HIS HOLD ON LAURA
BEN: (TO LAURA) What’s got into you?
LAURA: It’s not what I want to do with my life.
BEN: What have I done with my life if it’s not to make you happy?
LAURA: I’m saying what I should’ve said years ago. ...I don’t want your money. I don’t want this life.
BEN: But you didn’t say it years ago so come on!
LAURA: I watched you Ben. Copying how they spoke and dressed and walked…I’m tough-but-I’m-pretending-not-to-be. It was exciting, I won’t say it wasn’t but I swear to god I was pleased when Doug got you the job in the bank. We’d be on the right side of the law for a change. Nicole would have a normal life. When you dropped the first hints you were planning to rob it, I was so angry. Jumping us back into a life of crime. Being disloyal to Doug who’d got you the job on the strength of his name.
BEN: I couldn’t get round that.
LAURA: You could - by not doing it. When I told you I’d leave you if you went ahead, you made out you’d dropped it. Till the day you came home and told me to get myself and Nicola ready to go to Spain.
BEN: You didn’t though did you? I had to hang around in the flat, waiting for you messing around at god knows what...
LAURA: I had to make arrangements for god sake.
BEN: Maybe that’s why the police picked me up - because you made me wait, not because Doug told them where I lived.
LAURA: Nicole’s got a right to be like her friends. A normal kid. Not having to hide who she is because of her father. Not living a lie for the rest of her life.
A CAR-HORN BEEPS OUTSIDE THE FRONT-DOOR
BEN: We’ll talk about this later.
LAURA: No Ben.
BEN: If you don’t leave neither do I! I’ll come and live with you and Nicole. I’ll take my chances.
LYN: You can’t do that.
BEN: You see if I can’t.
BARRY: That’s putting Laura and Nicole in danger. Be sensible.
LAURA: ...I want you to go to your new house. We’ll meet. As things calm down we’ll meet more often...
BEN: I’m your husband for fuck sake Laura! What are you saying?
LAURA: Think of Nicole. What’s the use of getting her dad back if she loses every other bloody thing?
BEN: She’ll get her dad and her mum back.
LYN: And they’re the two most important people in her life.
LAURA: I don’t want to start my life with a new identity. I thought I did, I’ve tried to tell myself I’d be alright…but… Helen Wilsher? She’s nobody. She doesn’t exist...
BEN: You have to create her, like I have to create John Wilsher
LAURA: It means I have to say bye to everything I know and …pretend I’m someone I’m not.
BEN: I’ll be doing it as well. We’ll help each other.
LAURA: ...Lying to everyone? Say we have friends round - we may make friends you know - say they ask us about ourselves - that’s what friends do.
BEN: We’ll have our stories ready. We’ll’ve learned them by heart.
A BLAST ON A CAR HORN FROM OUTSIDE THE FRONT DOOR IS HEARD
LAURA: We can’t tell them who we really are.
BEN: You can tell them bits. As John and Helen Wilsher...
LAURA: Say one of us gets a ‘bit’ wrong?
BEN: You cover for each other.
LAURA: I don’t want that.
BEN: It’s that or nothing. You’re talking to Ben Judas Ashton - the betrayer, the grass who did a deal to save his skin, the man of steel who crumbled when they told him he was going down for twenty five years in some god-forsaken hate-factory of a nick. If I could only go back in time...make a different choice. But I can’t. I’m a grass and I’ll stay one till the day I die.
BARRY: One mistake doesn’t sum you up, Ben.
LYN: All of us make mistakes.
BEN: It’s sums my life up for the rest of my life! It’s the only thing that counts. It’s what I am.
LYN: Don’t say that!
BEN: Whether I say it or not doesn’t change it.
LYN: Think of all the good things you’ve done.
BEN: How long would that take? Two seconds.
PHIL: You’ve done as much good as any of us.
BEN: I’m happy today. Ben Ashton’s died, vanished without trace and good riddance! He was a dirty grass! A new man’s born - John Wilsher. There’s nothing known against him. He can build his life from scratch. He’s got a chance to make something of himself.
LYN: Please go with him Laura. I know how you feel darling. Everything you’ve said is true. But please…
BARRY: Leave her be Lyn.
LYN: I’m having my say.
BARRY: Laura can decide for herself.
LYN: Shuttup and let me speak. Please Laura. I’m begging you to give it a go.
LAURA: I can’t Lyn. I don’t blame you for asking me but I can’t, I just can’t.
TWO-RADIO RADIO CRACKLES INTO LIFE
BARRY PICKS IT UP, SWITCHES INTERCOM ON
BARRY: The father speaking. (LISTENS) Yes, I’ll get him for you. Ben - Styles.
BEN: I’m not available.
BARRY: Get over here now and talk to him. (INTO TWO-WAY) He’s just coming now Mr Styles. (LISTENS. TO BEN) Ben d’you hear!
BEN MAKES A SECOND GRAB FOR LAURA. DRAGS HER TO FRONT DOOR
LYN, BARRY AND PHIL SEPARATE THE TWO
WE HEAR BANGING ON FRONT DOOR.
STYLES VOICE FROM INSIDE CAR OUTSIDE FRONT DOOR
STYLES: (VOICE OFF, FROM KITCHEN) Get yourself out here Ben! We can’t park across the patio all sodding day!
BEN: (SHOUTS) I’m not going!
STYLES: (OFF) We haven’t got time to ponce around! Get out here!
BEN: (SHOUTS) You heard what I said!
BARRY: Ben, please go.
BEN: If I leave without Laura I’m dead.
BARRY: Once you’re there there’ll be ways of making contact. You’ll see Laura…
LYN: And Nicole.
BARRY: But you have to go. You have to!
STYLES: (OFF) Out here now!
LYN: Dad’s right. We’ll sort things out later. The priority now is you go.
BARRY: If you don’t, imagine the consequences.
LYN: Please Ben. Laura’ll join you. We’ll talk to her. We’ll make her change her mind.
BARRY: Go for our sakes. Don’t put us through any more worry you hear. We’ve had enough.
BEN PICKS UP HIS HOLD-ALL.
BEN: You’ve put a knife in me Laur’. I’m walking but I’m dead. You’ve killed me.
LYN: (LAST HUG) Bye Ben. Love you darling. Look after yourself.
BARRY: (HUGS BEN, SHAKES HIS HAND) We’ll make contact.
BARRY AND LYN FOLLOW BEN OUT OF LIVING-ROOM, ACROSS SHORT CORRIDOR, TO FRONT DOOR
PHIL FOLLOWS SLIGHTLY BEHIND HIS PARENTS
KIM: (CALLS, FROM LIVING-ROOM) Bye Ben!
LYN: (OFF, IN CORRIDOR) Bye darling. You’ll be fine.
BARRY: (OFF, IN CORRIDOR) Bye Ben. We’ll be thinking of you.
OFFSTAGE, SOUND OF CAR DOORS SLAMMING SHUT
END OF EXTRACT