Thin Wallsby Anita Sullivan
'Thin Walls' is about a woman who flees her marriage and her nice detached house in Fiveways for a bedsit in Kemptown. The bed has three legs, there is nowhere to sit down and the wallpaper has a mind of its own. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, the noises start. Gradually she finds herself drawn into the paranoid, hallucinatory world of the woman the other side of the wall, and towards the darker side of herself.
'Thin Walls' is inspired by 'The Yellow Wallpaper' by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an early feminist novella and psychological horror story.
The play was performed in April 2005 at the New Venture Theatre. Directed by Anita Sullivan and performed by Alexis Hills and Eleanor Gamper.
Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes.
'THIN WALLS' SCRIPT
SHE -Shaking. Still shaking. I bumped into her on my way to the toilet. Literally. The middle of the afternoon and drunk as a skunk. Even after we’ve collided she gives me as little regard as a piece of furniture; an obstacle to get around. But then suddenly something switches on in her empty eyes. “You”. She says.
VOICE -I see you.
SHE -“Yes”, I say. “Your neighbour”. “I know who you are,” she says.
VOICE -I hear you.
SHE -I start to apologise, but…
[SHE puts her fingers to her lips.]
SHE -“The walls have ears. I know. Don’t believe me? I’ll show you.”
VOICE -I’ll show you.
SHE -She grabs my arm and hustles me into my own room. And there she is, swaying slightly, large as a tree with as many limbs, filling up the space. “Nice cushions” she says. Then she drags me to the window and flings it open. “See him”, she says, pointing to a man on some scaffolding above the pub opposite. “Says he’s a roofer, but I know. Yeah you, you wanker! I’m talking about you.” The man on the scaffold turns to look, sees her and rolls his eyes. He knows her. Knows me. “Go on then, wave. I know you’re watching. Waiting for the show. This is my lesbian friend! Yeah, we’ll do it for you later. Yeah, get that on tape. That’ll up the ratings.” The man shakes his head, goes back to his work.
VOICE -See? What did I tell you?
SHE -“He knows I know and he don’t care.” She hisses Bacardi breath. “It’s all very focused, very sharp if you know where to look, if you read the signs. A roofer? An electrician! Wiring up for the broadcast. Watches me, with his one eye lens. Follows me to the launderette, watches me wash my knickers. Why was you at the launderette you wanker, you don’t even live round here?”
SHE -“I’ve called the police. They come round and looked. Looked for the cameras. Oh yeah. But they didn’t look where the cameras are. You get it? Oh yeah. It’s all in here. Very focused. Very sharp.“What’s the prize?” I says to him, and he acts like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. “What do I win if I get to the end, if I survive the vote?” He don’t know how to answer that. Fiddles with his ear, trying to get a line from the control booth. You better believe it. Make believe it. It’s all there if you read the signs. He says keep in touch, remember my case number. Well that’s it. That’s blown it. Why? Because they don’t talk about cases now, they talk about clients. You get it? He used the wrong word. The C word. See? He said ‘case’. As in camera case. So I says to him, this so-called policeman, I says if he keeps watching my flat I’ll fucking glass him. I will too. I’ll fucking glass him. It’s not legal without me signing, without permission. My body is my body, and I’ll not have no one look at me. The way you look at me. Through the wall. Think you’re clever but I know. Play the victim, but you’re one of them. Using the infra-red. Watch me wank. Watch me cry. Good show was it? Push up the ratings that night, did it? Well I can listen too, and use my eyes. Mirror clear and just as sharp. I know you. Inside out and through and through. I know you! I know you!”
SHE -Obviously, this is terrifying. Her face is the size of cinema screen. Full close up: every eyelash, every tastebud magnified. I think, this is it; she’s going to swallow me whole. I close my eyes. When I open them, the room’s empty. A door slams. Silence. Only the faint aura of Bacardi to tell me it happened at all.
[SHE takes a moment to swig vodka and light a cigarette.]
SHE -If we are on TV I hope to God it’s after the watershed.
MIND mental health charity: www.mind.org.uk
Royal College of Psychiatrists: www.rcpsych.ac.uk
The Yellow Wallpaper, complete text of the novella: www.pagebypagebooks.com/Charlotte_Perkins_Gilman/The_Yellow_Wallpaper/The_Yellow_Wallpaper_p1.html
"The play is an intriguing study of someone undergoing a nervous breakdown, with moments of humour and startling force. The writing keeps the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the evening." Barrie Jerram, The Argus, 08/04/05
Alexis Hills (as 'She') and Eleanor Gamper (as 'Voice')
Poster by Tamsin Fraser
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