This was created from an exercise we were given in our creative writing class: to break the rules posited by either Aristotle or Ayckbourn. I chose the latter and attempted to break ‘Obvious Rule No. 4’: use the minimum number of characters that you need.
If I’m not mistaken, this is the first play I’ve written and I set myself only half an hour to write it in so please don’t judge too harshly! Feel free to let me know what you think/what could be improved. Also, sorry the post is so long.
(Mandy appears in a clinical kitchen from the garden door carrying a bundle of material. Material is spotted with blood and appears muddy. Mandy’s facial expression is one of terror. She is extremely jumpy and starts at the smallest of sounds; even the distant birds hooting with laughter outside make her rush to a corner of the kitchen.)
Mandy: (muttering quietly) Oh dear, oh no! What should I do!?
(Right hand moves to push her hair out of her eyes whilst left hand loses grip on the parcel. Parcel topples to the floor, revealing a dead tabby cat, eyes glazed and a snarl still noticeable on its face. Trowel buried in its neck. Mandy whimpers softly and picks up the bundle once more. Starts as she hears the front door slam shut and hastily hides the cat deep inside a cupboard.)
Fred: (from door; offstage) Mandy darling? Are you home?
Mandy: (voice shaking) H-here, honey!
Fred: Here? Where’s here?
Mandy: The kitchen!
(Fred enters in a dark suit carrying a briefcase)
Fred: What’s that smell? Is it dinner? I hope it’s filling; it’s been a tough day at the office.
(Fred pulls a chair from the dining table, making it creak loudly against the wooden floor. Slumps in chair and sighs heavily before closing his eyes.)
Mandy: (lying) Oh, of course! It’ll be ready soon, if you’ll just let me get back to it…
(Fred doesn’t appear to hear. Rolls his head back and forth whilst clutching his neck. This makes Mandy lean against the cupboard more heavily, legs trembling.)
Frank: (offstage) Oscar? Oscar? (can just make out Frank’s head peeping over the fence) Fred? Mandy? Have you seen Oscar? I can’t find him anywhere!
Fred: (mutters) That blasted cat of his again…
Frank: Last I saw, he was in your yard – in the tall grass just in front of your shed. Surely you saw him, Mandy? He was watching you tending to the garden.
Mandy: (face pale) N-no, Frank! I haven’t seen him since!
Frank: Are you sure? I’ll just pop over and have a look. It’s well past his feeding time…
(in unison) Mandy: (scared) Oh!
Fred: (exasperated) Oh!
(Fred moves offstage to open the front door for him. A moment later, Frank appears in the kitchen looking worried.)
Frank: I’ll just check the garden. (leaves through the back door.)
Mandy: (quietly) Frank dear…
(Doorbell rings. Fred goes offstage to answer it. Moments later, he reappears with Gertrude who is dressed in her usual too-tight pink gown.)
Gertrude: Hullo dear. Could I borrow a pound of sugar? I’m about to bake a pie, you see, but completely forgot to buy some at the shop. I’ll pay you for it.
Molly: There’s no need to pay, Gertrude; you’d do exactly the same if we were in your position.
Gertrude: Thank you.
Frank: (shouting) Oscar? Oscar! (moves back into the kitchen) I can’t see him anywhere! All I could find was a tuft of his fur… Could I check in the shed, Fred? He might have gone inside for an adventure, the little fiend.
Fred: (attempts to conceal his exasperation and fails, but Frank is too preoccupied to notice) Yes, Frank, okay.
(Frank moves outside once more. Gertrude follows him to the back door, peering at his retreating figure curiously.)
Gertrude: What’s happened here, dears? Is that Frank out there?
(Audience can hear his calls for Oscar in the distance. Calls echo around the stage. Doorbell sounds.)
Fred: Who’s that now? Can’t I get any peace in my own home? (moves offstage to open the door)
Gertrude: What’s he looking for…?
(Mandy stealthily opens the cupboard where Oscar lies and wraps the cat more tightly in material. Closes cupboard once more. Gertrude appears not to notice. Fred enters the room with Peter in tow, who is still in full veterinary garb.)
Peter: Hello Mandy. I’ve come to check your sink: Fred said it was clogged up?
Mandy: (fearfully) Peter! What are you doing here?
Peter: (wearily) Times are tight, Mandy; I’ve got to do my best to keep my household afloat.
Mandy: B-but… are you qualified!?
Peter: Yes, of course. Would you like to see my qualifications?
Fred: (laughing) Oh don’t be silly, Peter! Mandy was joking; she trusts you wholeheartedly!
Mandy: Y-yes. (keeps her back pressed against the cupboard.)
Peter: Thank you. Now if you’ll just let me get to the sink; it’s right behind you, see.
Mandy: (fretfully and unmoving) Yes…
(Frank appears onstage at this point and notices Peter.)
Frank: Peter! Oh how nice of you to call him, Fred! It’s Oscar, see… he’s gone!
(Peter frowns momentarily.)
Mandy: (relieved) Y-yes! Surely you can help him, Peter? Our sink can wait!
Peter: (nervously) Well, I wasn’t going to say anything, but I’d recognise that smell anywhere… The feline carcass is most odd, you see; it decays quicker than others… I’m sorry for your loss, Frank – where is he now? Perhaps a burial service is in order.
(Frank appears puzzled, as does Fred.)
Frank: What? He’s not…
(Every character turns to stare at Mandy. Frank and Fred look horrified. Mandy whimpers and cowers, raising her hands to cover her face and unintentionally revealing a blood-stained blouse.)
Gertrude: Mandy? What’s the matter with you, child? Could I get that sugar soon, please? Only my son-in-law will be arriving soon and I wouldn’t want to keep his stomach waiting, oh no – he’s a hefty man, he is. Which is very becoming, of course: what’s a marriage without a little rough and ready action, hm?