Clearanceby Anita Sullivan
A country house has been sold and its furniture put on the lawn ready for collection. The only people left at the house are the janitor (a woman) and a twelve-year-old boy. But is the boy more than he seems? Is he in fact several hundred years old, and do the stories he tells actually come true? Whatever the truth he is determined to defend his home. Into this environment comes Queen, a disaffected monarch (who seems to be turning into a man), for her biennual visit. The three of them discover that stories have amazing power to heal and also to harm.
The play draws strongly upon the language, ballads and landscape of the Scottish Borders (particularly the ballad of Tam Lin.)
'Clearance' was Grid Iron's inagural production at The Traverse Theatre and went on to tour the Scottish Borders. It was directed by Ben Harrison.
The play was also produced under the title 'Audience with Queen' for the London New Plays Festival at The Riverside Studios in London. It was directed by David Prescott.
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes.
[Queen has arrived at the county house to find only the Woman and the boy are in residence. She has sent away her bodyguard and is waiting for her reception. Woman slaps a muddy lettuce and a dead rabbit on the table.]
WOMAN -Denner. Seeing as the thug dismembered ma gun oo hae tae rely on snares. Otherwise ee wad hae hud phaisent. But oo got rabbit, and lucky tae hae that.
QUEEN -We are sorry.. We will not be staying.
WOMAN -Dae ee no like rabbit?
QUEEN -We must return to London.
QUEEN -They will come back for us.
WOMAN -Why did ee send thaim awey? Whit dae ee want wi' iz?
QUEEN -You... you are very direct.
WOMAN -Thank ee.
QUEEN -We... We wanted to...
QUEEN -I thought... after you spoke to the guard...
WOMAN -Whit. Whit did ee think?
QUEEN -Have made a mistake.
WOMAN -Ee dinnae like iz. Oo ir ower direct and there's no enough tae eat.
QUEEN -No. Its not that... oh! One has lost...
WOMAN -Oh speik English for fucks sake... Sorry. Sorry. Whit hes one lost?
QUEEN -It is difficult. One has forgotten how. To talk to ordinary people.
WOMAN -Ordinary... Ee think oo're ordinary...
[She laughs too much. Stops.]
WOMAN -How ir ee here?
QUEEN -We were invited to dinner!
WOMAN -No be me. Hey. If you're The Queen, how is it you've no gowt a mobile phone?
[She doesn't answer. The woman starts to butcher the rabbit. She does this efficiently without fuss or mess. Queen is squeemish.]
WOMAN -Is this disturbing ee?
QUEEN -No, no.
WOMAN -And Ah thoucht ee were an aa fishen, aa huntin, aa bluidhouns and ne'er mind the drystane dyke kind o fermily.
QUEEN -One has had one's moments.
WOMAN -I'm shair. Look at her. Yer huntsman, yer fermer, yer soldyer e'en, aa awfae gauid at killin, but when it comes tae having a gauid keek, a gauid grope around ablow the skin, when it comes tae kennin the bit tae boil, tae bake, tae stuff, tae fry... dinnae hae a clue. And yer butcher and yer chef dinnae ken the works o' it. Tak this. The hert. A piece o meat the now, but yince a braw piece o animal machinery. The pump that fills the body wi' life. In flight; eye tae brain, tae adrenal gland, tae lung, tae hert, fling wide the passages as it bouns across the field white tail a-flashing. How monie nerves, muscles, ligaments, thouchts, reflexes, electrical impulses, blades o gress, drops o chlorophyll, thoosands o years o evolution ir needit tae propel a rabbit? A wee rabbit. And they say there is nae magic. Nae gods. Dae ee eat leiver?
WOMAN -Spoken like a true German.
QUEEN -But we won't be staying.
WOMAN -Sa ee said.
Sullivan establishes herself as a strange new presence in Scottish Theatre Writing. An original talent to be watched. Scotland on Sunday. 1/12/96 Joyce McMillan
A fascinating model of a new shape for political theatre in Scotland. A multi-layered piece that applies our heritage to the contemporary state of the nation. The Herald. 28/11/96 Keith Bruce.
An impeccable display of imagination… as though Chekhov had been dragged into present-day Scotland and fused with magic-realism. The Glasgow Herald.3/5/96 Neil Cooper.
Provocative and intriguing… if you have a passion for telling or being told stories, go and see it. Herald and Post. 25/4/96
An amusing conflation of fact and fairy tale that cannily avoids whimsy. Time Out 18/9/96 Charles Godfrey Faussett.
Sullivan's script is remarkable for the way in which it disconcerts the audience… Sullivan's talent lies in pursuing the comic logic of her argument, weaving well-written original folklore into a wider meditation. The Independent 18/9/96. Leise Spencer. ·
This is not treason, nor perverse, but a richly imaginative, poetic parable. If we believe all we are told , then it will, willy-nilly, become true. "People who tell stories are dangerous". Yes, but we can therefore also imagine new realities, and tell our tales to counter the malicious ones we are peddled. Sullivan's optimistic vision is commendable. And playwrting which so liberates our imagination is wonderful. (written for the Guardian but not published). Simon Reade
Clair Cochran & Geoffrey Lee in Grid Iron's production at The Traverse
Eve Shickle as Queen in the LNPF production at The Riverside Studios
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