Writing & animation: The Watch, 60 seconds

This is a 2D animation using charcoal, rotoscoping, and mixed media. It tells the true story of my dad, who was from Poland, entering England as an immigrant after World War 2. It shows how tiny things can make a huge difference. Script and animation by Karola Gajda.

Writing: The Crash: a 10-minute theatre script

Scene 1

IN A DARKENED SPACE, THERE IS THE SOUND OF TWO CARS COLLIDING. THE LIGHTS GO UP ON A MAN AND A WOMAN FLUNG ON EITHER SIDE OF THE STAGE. BOTH ARE ON CHAIRS, BUT ARE LIMP, LIKE CRASH TEST DUMMIES. THERE IS A GENTLE BREEZE, AND BIRDS SINGING GENTLY – BOTH THESE EFFECTS FADE TO SILENCE. THE MAN AND THE WOMAN HAVE THEIR EYES CLOSED. THE WOMAN OPENS HERS AND SLOWLY COMES ROUND. SHE DISCOVERS SHE IS NOT HURT. SHE LOOKS IN THE MIRROR AND SEES THE OTHER CAR. SHE CLAMBERS OUT.

JENNA: Hey! Are you OK? THE MAN IS SILENT. JENNA GOES OVER TENTATIVELY. WHEN SHE IS NEARLY THERE SHE STOPS, SHOCKED.

Paul!

SHE OPENS THE CAR DOOR.

It’s you.

PAUL: (GROANS) Uh…

JENNA: Are you OK?

PAUL SPEAKS WITH DIFFICULTY.

PAUL: Jenna…

HE WINCES.

JENNA: (LOOKING AT HIM CLOSELY). Your head. (SHE LOOKS AT HER HANDS, INDICATING BLOOD). Paul – keep your eyes open… (SHE CAN’T FIGHT BACK THE TEARS).

PAUL: I…

JENNA: (RECOVERING) I’ll call for help. (SHE FUMBLES IN HER POCKET FOR HER PHONE).

HER PHONE IS BROKEN. SHE THROWS IT DOWN. SHE COMES DOWNSTAGE, AND LOOKS OUT THIS WAY AND THAT WAY.

Help! Help! (PAUSE. THERE IS NO REPLY. SHE RUNS BACK TO THE CAR).

Where’s your mobile? (PAUSES).

PAUL TURNS HIS HEAD AND HAND SLOWLY TOWARDS THE PASSENGER SEAT AS IF TRYING TO POINT. JENNA LOOKS BUT IT’S NOT THERE. SHE RUMMAGES AROUND AND FINDS IT AT HIS FEET.

Just one bar. (SHE DIALS 999). Hello… Ambulance. I’ve only got…(SHE LOOKS BRIEFLY AT THE PHONE). I’ve been in a crash – the other driver’s hurt. Hello? (AGAIN SHE CHECKS THE PHONE, SHAKING IT MOMENTARILY. PAUSE AS SHE LISTENS). I’ve only got one… No I’m not hurt – but the other driver’s barely conscious. Yes. Yes, he is. Can I just… I can’t hear you… Can I just tell you where we are… on the B125… (SHE LOOKS AROUND FOR A SIGN TO NO AVAIL) Hello? (TO PAUL NOW). Paul! (HE DOESN’T MOVE. SHE RETURNS TO THE PHONE). He’s not moving at all now…(HE STIRS). Oh he is, he is! It’s the B125! Hello? Hello! HELLO! (SHE LOOKS AT THE PHONE, DESPERATE).

JENNA: (LEANING INTO HIM) Paul – can you hear me? (SHE GENTLY LOOKS AT HIS HEAD).

PAUL NODS. JENNA CUPS HIS FACE, THEN PATS AT HIS BODY, HALF REMEMBERING, HALF TRYING TO DO SOMETHING).

PAUL: (BARELY AUDIBLE) We…

JENNA: What?(SHE RE-DIALS, BUT THERE IS NO SIGNAL). We what?

PAUL DOESN’T ANSWER, JUST LOOKS. SHE GROWS TEARFUL AGAIN.

Why did it have to be you? Stay awake…

JENNA RE-DIALS WHILE CHECKING PAUL’S EYELIDS. HE MOVES HIS HEAD AS IF TO ADJUST HER HANDS RATHER THAN SHAKE THEM OFF.

You’re going to be OK. I’ll keep trying till I get through… right?

PAUL NODS, STRONGER.

(GIVING UP PHONING FOR A SECOND) I still love you. (PAUSES). Are you still with her?

PAUL SLOWLY REACHES OUT HIS HAND. SHE TAKES IT. HIS PHONE STARTS TO RING. JENNA LOOKS AT WHO IT IS.

Yes. You are still with her.

Scene 2

JULIE ENTERS STAGE LEFT. SHE IS ON THE PHONE. JENNA STANDS AND ANSWERS PAUL’S PHONE.

JULIE: Paul?

JENNA: Hello?

JULIE: Is Paul there please? It’s Julie, his wife.

JENNA SWALLOWS AND PAUSES.

Is he there? Who’s that?

JENNA: (PAUSES, PANICKING) Em…

JULIE: Hello?

JENNA: Your husband… He’s been in a crash.

JULIE: A crash?

JENNA: Yes.

JULIE: Is he OK? Where is he?

JENNA: (THE SIGNAL COMES AND GOES) You’re breaking up.

JULIE: …I’m still here. Is he OK?

JENNA: He needs an ambulance. I’ve been trying to get through but the signal keeps going.

JULIE: I’ll ring them now… Where are you?

JENNA: …On the lane towards Thirsk.

JULIE: (INTERRUPTING) …I know it. Can I talk to him?

JENNA: You’d better ring. He is conscious at the moment…

JULIE: At the moment? Who are you?

JENNA: I’m the other… Hello?

JULIE: (LOUDLY) The other driver?

JENNA: Yes.

JULIE: I’ll call you right back.

THEY HANG UP. JULIE EXITS.

Scene 3

JENNA RETURNS TO PAUL’S SIDE, CROUCHING. SHE PUTS THE PHONE ON HIS LAP.

JENNA: She’s going to get an ambulance. I can’t believe we’ve spoken.

PAUL SITS UP AND LOOKS AT HER BLANKLY.

Paul?

PAUL: What did you do that for?

JENNA: What?

PAUL: Get her to call an ambulance? I don’t need one.

JENNA: What do you mean, you don’t need one?

PAUL: No. I’m fine.

JENNA: I’ve just told Julie…

PAUL: I know. (HE RUBS HIS FACE AND EYES AND NECK).

JENNA: I thought you were going to die. Have you just been lying there all this time?

PAUL: No… Well – sort of. I thought I was hurt – but I think it was shock. Then before I knew it you were saying all this stuff. I didn’t know what to do, I thought I was hallucinating. (PAUSES). Did… you mean what you said?

THE PHONE STARTS TO RING AGAIN AND JULIE ENTERS. PAUL AND JENNA STARE AT THE PHONE.

JENNA: Aren’t you going to get it?

PAUL: She’ll be frantic.

THEY BOTH LOOK AT THE PHONE, HESITATING, NEARLY PICKING IT UP, BUT THEN NOT. EACH WANTS THE OTHER TO PICK IT UP. FINALLY, PAUL ANSWERS.

PAUL: Darling I’m alright.JULIE: Oh thank God! I’ve been going out of my mind.

PAUL: I don’t need…

JULIE: Don’t worry, an ambulance is coming. I’ll come over too, hello? It’ll only take a minute. Is the woman OK?

PAUL: Yes, she is. (HE LOOKS AT JENNA). Don’t come out. (JENNA PUTS HER HAND TO HER MOUTH). I’m just a bit concussed… and I don’t think I need an ambu..

JULIE: (INTERRUPTING) Yes, you do. I know – I’ll go straight to the hospital. Find you there.

PAUL: Alright.

JULIE: (TEARFUL AND RELIEVED) Bye – thank God you’re alive.

THEY HANG UP AND JULIE EXITS. PAUL AND JENNA PAUSE.

PAUL: Did you mean what you said?

JENNA: I shouldn’t have said anything.

PAUL: Jenna, listen…

JENNA BACKS OFF. HE TAKES HER ARM BUT SHE STEPS BACK.

JENNA: Is she coming out? I don’t want to meet her.

PAUL: No. She’s going straight to the hospital.

PAUL AND JENNA FREEZE. FADE TO BLACK. PAUL EXITS.

Scene 4

LIGHTS COME UP. JULIE ENTERS AND FINDS JENNA SITTING IN HER CAR WITH HER HEAD IN HER HANDS.

JULIE: Have I missed him? I thought I’d come after all.

JENNA: Yes, they’ve just gone.

JULIE: Oh. Are you the other driver? Thank you for…

JENNA: (INTERRUPTING) I didn’t do anything.

JULIE: Shouldn’t they have taken you too?

JENNA: I’m fine.

JULIE LOOKS AT THE WRECKAGE.

JULIE: Do you know what happened?

JENNA: I think we both skidded and collided.

JULIE: It’s a terrible black spot.

JENNA: Me into him and him into me. We ended up here. 

JULIE: You should be looked at too. You can’t just go home.

JENNA: Honestly, I’m fine. I just wanted to sit for a while. And my car’s OK too I think.

JULIE: You can’t drive home like this. What if you black out?

JENNA: I’ll ring the doctor’s later…

JULIE: But I’ll take you to hospital. I’m going anyway.

JENNA: No. But thank you.

JULIE STARTS TO CRY. JENNA GOES TO COMFORT HER.

JULIE: I’m sorry – it’s just the shock. I thought I’d lost him.

JENNA: (PAUSES. FINAL). You haven’t. (SHE CRADLES HER IN HER ARMS) You haven’t.

FADE TO BLACK. THE BREEZE RETURNS AND THE SOUND OF RAIN.

END

Writing: Waiting for Harold: a 7-minute theatre script

A hospital waiting area

(an elderly lady sits and dozes with her handbag on her lap)

MADGE (woken with a start) Toilets? (pauses) No need to apologise… (coming to) when it comes to this hospital, I am the fount of all knowledge! The toilets are straight down there past the florist, dear. (looking at her watch) Ten past four – is that the time?! (to audience) I’m here with Harold. My husband. He’s having one of those colonoscopies and they’ve told me to wait here. (whispers) Very delicate procedure. You can watch it live apparently, like the Olympics. I hope they’re looking after him. I think I nodded off there, before that woman asked me where the ladies were. (to another passerby) Gynaecology? Yes, been there, done that and never again! Down to the lifts and up one floor. (to audience) I’m like a receptionist, sat here. (rubbing her neck) Next time I have to wait for anything, I might bring along one of those neck cushions you take on holiday with you. That way I can loll in peace and with my dignity in tact. (thinks) It’s a bit of a design fault isn’t it, the neck? No really. I think we should be solid flesh from ear to shoulder, that would sort it out.  (pause) Daschunds and bassets – there’s another design fault. They should have at least six legs, not four. (pause) Centipedes on the other hand – a bit excessive. (sees someone in the distance, pleased) Is that him? No. Similar hair and glasses but not my Harold. Different walk. Harold walks with his left foot slightly out. Wears out the left shoe first, always has done, always will. (huffs) They should be done by now. How long is a colonoscopy meant to take? We drove in early because the car park here gets awfully busy. If you’re not stressed by the time you get here, you are by the time you’ve tried to find a parking space. People try to park all over! They’d park up a tree if they could! (with pride) Harold and I have been married over fifty years. (pause) Marriage has changed me. I can’t remember what I was like before, but it has definitely changed me. (confiding) It’s strange being with the same person day in day out. It’s not – normal. (horrified) I mean you get together with a stranger basically and then you’re with them for ever more! It’s a miracle there aren’t more murders. Watching one another age is interesting. Your youth slowly slips away – you cling on, you cling on – but soon – it all starts to crumble, a knee here and a hip there, and then one day, you catch your reflection in the mirror and think, golly, is that me, with glasses and a stick? (pauses) Do you know, I was quite an ambitious person before I got married. Then all I became interested in was making really fluffy mash. (pause, confiding tone) Harold’s driving isn’t what it used to be. It’s his eye-sight, he’s very short-sighted. Fortunately, I’m very long-sighted. I tell him when to turn and when to indicate and it’s like we drive the car together. (defensive) Oh I know he’s older. He’s 88 and I’m 73. Still – 73 is about 88 in man-years, isn’t it? It is! But I can’t complain, I couldn’t have found a better man than Harold. Do you know, in fifty years of marriage, he’s never looked at another woman once. Yes, he liked Angela Ripon when she read the news but that’s different – he was never going to meet her was he? And he also liked Delia Smith in her youth because she was homely. He bought me Delia’s Complete Cookery Course for our anniversary once. She’s got a lot of books out hasn’t she – all the things that woman’s made – it’s exhausting – but this is the one where she’s holding an egg on the front – like she’s just laid it! (to passerby) Urology? Yes, been there, done that and never again! Straight down there and on the left. (to audience again) The one I like is Nigella. Very striking lady. Knocks up all kinds of things with all kinds of rubbish in no time.

PORTER (arriving) Madge? Are you still here?

MADGE Is it Harold Price? (rattles off) Date of birth 18th of February 1927. Is he done?

PORTER Madge, do you want to me take you to the bus stop? It’s going to get dark soon.

MADGE No. I’m waiting for Harold. I can’t go without him, he’ll wonder where I’ve gone.

PORTER (very gentle) Madge… you know he isn’t here.

MADGE (pause) I know he isn’t here – he’s in there! Having a colonoscopy!

PORTER Do you want me to ring your daughter?

MADGE No.

PORTER (tender) Let me take you to the stop. Take my arm.

MADGE Are they keeping him in?

PORTER (hesitates) Yes Madge. They’re keeping him in.

MADGE Is he going to be alright?

PORTER He’s going to be just fine. Come on. I’ll tell him you’ve gone home.

MADGE Oh you are good. I can come and see him tomorrow can’t I?

PORTER Madge, why not have a rest tomorrow?

MADGE No, I’ll come in. I can see him can’t I? I’ll wait here. I won’t disturb a soul!

PORTER (gentle) Alright then. Come and see him tomorrow.

END

 

My book comes out on 25 May 2016

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