Troubles That Bind (or, Poison): A Ten-Minute Play — John Patrick Bray



Characters:
Platform Actors (4 actors, any age, any ethnicity; their lines are not given out individually; rather, it is up to the director/choreographer to work with the performers to figure out which lines go best with which performer; at times there will be the name ALL in the dialogue, which means all of the Platform Actors, unless we see ALL ON STAGE which means everyone).

Watson, a British Man
Erin, an Irish Woman

Notes:
See character descriptions for Platform Actors
The Platform Actors will all create tableaus with their bodies using the limited space. At times, I have given some instruction. At other times, it is up to the performers and director/choreographer to create the stage pictures.

Other Notes:
With love to my great grandparents who left Ireland in the hope of a better life.

The only prop in this play is a canister (of some sort) of clearly marked Rat Poison. Everything else is mimed.



(LIGHTS UP. Four actors stand center stage, possibly on a small platform, together, as a machine. They begin digging. ERIN enters on stage left. WATSON on stage right. They look out at the audience.)

 

PLATFORM

This story has something to do with…poison, doesn’t it?

 

PLATFORM

Yes. And somewhat about the troubles.

 

PLATFORM

Trouble with the poison?

 

PLATFORM

No, the troubles.

 

PLATFORM

Before the troubles.

 

PLATFORM

No, after.

 

PLATFORM

During.

 

ALL

There were the troubles.

 

PLATFORM

He came over during the process of re-naming.

 

PLATFORM

New names for land.

 

PLATFORM

Home.

 

PLATFORM

People.

 

PLATFORM

What’s in a name.

 

PLATFORM

A clever use of flags, Eddie Izzard called it.

 

PLATFORM

That’s how they took over.

 

PLATFORM

Find a land, plant a flago.

(They plant a flag.)

 

PLATFORM

Done.

(They freeze.)

 

PLATFORM

But…

(They move again.)

 

PLATFORM

In the troubles…

 

WATSON

Erin.

 

PLATFORM

He met her.

 

ERIN
(in brogue)

Watson.

 

WATSON

There are….I mean to say…why…hello.

 

ERIN

Tá áthas orm bualadh leat.

 

WATSON

I, um…that is to say…

 

ERIN

Is fear beag greannmhar tú.

(She smiles.)

 

WATSON

And so. We should walk in this…um…park…

(PLATFORM ACTORS become trees. They are listening trees. WATSON and ERIN move among them.)

 

PLATFORM

And so they would meet in secret.

 

PLATFORM

Among the trees.

 

PLATFORM

Behind the barns.

 

PLATFORM

And they would discuss…nothing.

 

WATSON

That is to say…I…oh…there are things I wish to say.

 

ERIN

Is fear beag greannmhar tú.

 

WATSON

That’s something…I want to know what it is…

 

PLATFORM

They find a kiss.

(PLATFORM ACTORS wait.)

 

ALL

THEY FIND A KISS.

 

WATSON

I say…oh.

 

ERIN

Oh…

(They gently lean in and kiss.)

 

WATSON

Good.

 

ERIN

Good.

 

PLATFORM

But, the kiss meant…

 

WATSON

I, um…what should I call you? Um…(gestures to self) Watson.

 

ERIN
(Mocking a bit)

Watson.

 

WATSON

Right.

 

ERIN

Erin.

 

PLATFORM

Her name was Ireland.

 

WATSON

Lovely.

(PLATFORM ACTORS come between them.)

 

PLATFORM

Now, this was definitely the start of the troubles. Remember the troubles?

 

PLATFORM

This may have been the start.

 

PLATFORM

Memory is fuzzy.

 

PLATFORM

Her parents found her.

(PLATFORM ACTORS grab her, pull her in. Keeps WATSON out.)

 

PLATFORM

And that was that.

(They form a cell.)

 

PLATFORM

That was that.

 

WATSON

No…

(He fades…exits.)

 

PLATFORM

Her parents learned she might be in the family way.

 

PLATFORM

Was she?

 

PLATFORM

That’s the way I remember it. She was in the “family way.”

 

PLATFORM

I thought they only kissed.

 

PLATFORM

We told you that when you were younger. You can’t talk about the family way to kids, can you?

 

PLATFORM

I guess not.

 

PLATFORM

Disney cartoons say, “they lived happily ever after.” Imagine if they just came out and said “and so they finally shagged.”

 

PLATFORM

Oh.

 

PLATFORM

And it was good.

 

PLATFORM

Ah.

 

PLATFORM

Like “ever after” kind of good.

 

PLATFORM

Got it. (Beat.) I guess I never thought of it that way.

 

PLATFORM

And they kept her locked up, though.

 

PLATFORM

Yes.

 

PLATFORM

And the famers starting fighting the cartographers.

 

PLATFORM

That’s right. There was trouble.

 

PLATFORM

Between the Irish and English.

 

PLATFORM

Catholic verses Protestant.

 

PLATFORM

And after three weeks of not leaving the house –

 

PLATFORM

Barely leaving her room –

 

PLATFORM

She knew she had to leave.

 

PLATFORM

Because she learned from her Father.

 

PLATFORM

Watson had been attacked.

(WATSON hangs by the neck behind them.)

 

PLATFORM

He was hanged.

(WATSON, who has been still, comes back!)

PLATFORM

But did not die!

 

WATSON

Grk!

(He falls.)

 

PLATFORM

It was old rope. It broke.

 

PLATFORM

And it wasn’t on right. They pulled him up by the neck rather than dropping him.

 

PLATFORM

Strangulation rather than breaking bones.

 

PLATFORM

But he fell.

 

ALL

He fell.

 

PLATFORM

His comrades found him. He was taken to a make-shift English hospital.

 

PLATFORM

In my mind, it looks like a tent.

 

PLATFORM

Probably a doctor’s house. We’re talking about imperialists taking over everything!

 

PLATFORM

Tent. In my mind, it’s a tent.

(They make a tent around WATSON. ERIN escapes. She holds a prop – a container of Rat Poison.)

 

PLATFORM

That night, Erin knew…Watson would surely leave. Her life was surely over.

 

PLATFORM

She found the container of rat poison.

 

PLATFORM

I mean, she knew where the container was, anyway. But she knew…she knew how to use it. She knew how to make her escape.

 

PLATFORM

She opened it.

(She mimes opening poison.)

 

PLATFORM

And she made her escape.

(LIGHTS SHIFT.)

 

WATSON

I say…is someone there?

(He sits up.)

 

WATSON

Hello?

(ERIN enters.)

What are you doing here? You could be killed!

(ERIN holds out the Rat Poison.)

No, it…it can’t be quite bad as all that.

(ERIN opens the jar. She lets WATSON look inside.)

 

PLATFORM

Inside, she showed Watson her escape route. And he understood.

(LIGHTS shift. WATSON and ERIN fade.)

 

PLATFORM

And in the morning, a voice would cry out –

 

PLATFORM

Our daughter is gone!

 

PLATFORM

And later, another voice!

 

PLATFORM

The family jewels! They are gone, too!

 

PLATFORM

Because the one place someone never thinks to look for precious stones…is in the rat poison.

 

PLATFORM

That’s the first place I’d look, actually. Or the flour.

 

(PLATFORM becomes a boat. ERIN and WATSON stand side by side holding each other.)

 

PLATFORM

They used the gold to buy passage on a boat to America. They would settle in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he would work on the coal mine, sympathetic to the Irishman. He would even become a Catholic.

 

PLATFORM

He would lose half his left hand during the course of his work.

 

PLATFORM

They would marry. And have children. And their children would have children.

 

PLATFORM

And soon we can along.

 

PLATFORM

The great grandchildren of the Watsons, who changed their name legally to her maiden name.

 

WATSON

Haggerty.

 

PLATFORM

I like that story.

 

PLATFORM

Except the part about Great Grandma and Great Grandpa doing it.

 

PLATFORM

Murmur of agreement.

 

PLATFORM

Immigrants.

 

PLATFORM

Refugees.

 

ALL ON STAGE

Americans.

 

(A moment. BLACKOUT. End of play.)



***


John Patrick Bray has written plays under grants from The N.E.A. and Acadiana Center for the Arts, and has earned commissions from indie troupes in NYC and around the country. He has been a Semi-Finalist for the Princess Grace Foundation Award and Winner of the 2015 Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights (both for Friendly’s Fire; produced at Barter Theatre, 2017). John has edited anthologies for Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, and co-wrote the screenplay to the indie feature Liner Notes. He is an Atlanta Region Ambassador for The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.; a resident writer for Rising Sun Performance Co. in NYC; and an assistant professor at UGA.