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Word on the Streets

A play for voices
by Michael Rosen

Written exclusively for Write to Ignite to be performed and developed by the Drama Students of Brooke College.

 

[note from Michael Rosen]
This is a working script to be developed and adapted in rehearsal. I have suggested for example that the words and/or beat box accompaniment of DJ Dextrous  - a local DJ - could be used in other places than the one I have already put him.

In addition, the use of the Chorus can be developed more, particularly in the second half.

I'm hoping to attend the rehearsals, to eg tell people the tunes of the songs, fill in details of some of the historic Hackney figures.

 

Characters in order of speaking:

Auctioneer
Hussein – Parents from Bangladesh
Commentator/Hackney Gazette
Anna Sewell – needs to sing well
Boy
Voice 1
Voice2
Jean – Pierre
Vice 3
Parkes – inventor of the first plastic
Headley – West Indian Immigrant
Mrs Headley – His wife
Voice4 – a market trader
Voice5 – a market trader
Voice6 – a market trader
Voice7 – a market trader
Voice8 – a market trader
Voice9 – a market trader
Voice10 – a market trader
Lord Mayor – an Elizabethan
James Burbage – an Elizabethan
Mrs Burbage – his wife
William Shakespeare
Builder’s Wife – an Elizabethan
Voice 11
Arthur Brooke – a writer
Harold – Jewish
Connie – his wife
Voice 12
Voice 13
Anna Laetitia Barbauld – a writer of children’s books – from Leicestershire
Turkish Hairdresser
Gregory – character in Romeo & Juliet
Sampson – character in Romeo & Juliet
Benvolio – character in Romeo & Juliet
A Facist
James cotter – a facist
Airman
Second Facist
Morris Beckman – anti fascist 43 Group
Ivor – his friend
Daniel Hopkin – magistrate
Councillor Day
Councillor Almon
Giles Allen – Elizabethan landlord

 

CHORUS ONE
Ladies and Gentlemen
Today you will see the
Past in the present

CHORUS THREE WHISPERS
Past in the present
Past in the present

CHORUS TWO
And the present in the past.

CHORUS FOUR WHISPERS
Present in the past
Present in the past

CHORUS ONE
Today you will see
The World come to Hackney

CHORUS THREE HEADLINE
World comes to Hackney!

CHORUS TWO
And Hackney come to the world.

CHORUS FOUR HEADLINE
Hackney comes to the world!

AUCTIONEER:
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to this auction of properties.

CHORUS ONE
Of properties.

CHORUS THREE
Of properties.

AUCTIONEER
Welcome to this auction of properties.
On sale today

CHORUS TWO
On sale today

CHORUS FOUR
On sale today

AUCTIONEER
We have a total of

CHORUS ONE
A total of

CHORUS THREE
A total of

HUSSEIN
This is the moment my family have worked for
All our lives.
Yes.
My father came from Bangladesh
My mother came from Bangladesh
We took over a rundown shop.
It was a nothing.
And we made it into a Tandoori restaurant.
We did everything.
Laid the carpets
Fitted the lights
Fitted the kitchen

AUCTIONEER
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to this auction of properties.

CHORUS ONE
Of properties.

CHORUS THREE
Of properties.

AUCTIONEER
Welcome to this auction of properties.
On sale today

CHORUS ONE
On sale today

CHORUS FOUR
On sale today

AUCTIONEER
We have a total of

CHORUS ONE
A total of  -

CHORUS FOUR
A total of –

HUSSEIN
We’ve been here 15 years
But in all that time
We were told we couldn’t buy.
There was going to be a road coming through here
Or a railway.
But we spent money on the place
Even though we knew it wasn’t ours.

But now the good news:
An auction
And we’re going to bid for it.
The Council invited us
And we’re going to bid for it.
I’ve got the letter right here.

AUCTIONEER
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to this auction of properties.

CHORUS ONE
Of properties.

CHORUS 4
Of properties.

AUCTIONEER
Welcome to this auction of properties.
On sale today

CHORUS TWO
On sale today

CHORUS FOUR
On sale today

AUCTIONEER
We have a total of

CHORUS ONE  & FOUR
A total of

CHORUS TWO & THREE
A total of

ANNA SEWELL
I am Anna Sewell
I grew up in Hackney and I wrote:
Black Beauty.
Black, black, black beauty.

CHORUS ONE (whisper)
Just a dream.

CHORUS THREE (whisper)
Just a whisper

CHORUS 2             (whisper)
Just a thought.

ANNA SEWELL
Standing on the kerb
The clash of hooves on the cobbles
The footman on the step of the coach
The whip, always the whip
The reins so tight, so taut
The curve of the horse’s neck
Driving on, driving on.
The Gentleman in a hurry
Must drive on, drive on.
And there on the cobbles
One evening, such a beauty
I wanted to reach out and touch
That deep, dark, black
But he was away, gone…

BOY SINGS:
My old man’s a dustman
He wears a dustman’s hat
He bought two thousand tickets
To see a football match

Fatty passed to Skinny
Skinny passed it back
Fatty took a rotten shot
And knocked the goalie flat

Where was the goalie
When the ball was in the net?
Half way up the goal-post
With his trousers round his neck

ALL:
Singing ‘Umpah umpah
Stick it up your jumper
Rule Britannia,
Marmalade and Jam
We threw sausages at our old man

They put him on a stretcher
They put him on a bed
They rubbed his belly
With a five pound jelly
The poor old sod is dead.

VOICE 1
Evening falls between the trees
The drumming for Ghana fills the leaves
All along the cycle path
The racers, the white dreads
The market shoppers
The tandem parents
The drumming for Ghana fills the leaves
Evening falls between the trees

VOICE 2
And here a Plane tree
higher than a warehouse
Thicker than a rubbish bin
Stronger than a promise
Older than a town hall

VOICE 1
Evening falls between the trees
The drumming for Ghana fills the leaves
The train for Liverpool street
Groans over the bridge
Children climb the spider’s web
If you don’t come home
You’ll have no sweets for a week
Evening falls between the trees
The drumming for Ghana fills the leaves

VOICE 2
Here a Plane tree
Higher than a warehouse
Thicker than a rubbish bin
Stronger than a promise
Older than a Town hall.

JEAN-PIERRE
He doesn’t speak English miss.
He comes from the Congo, miss.
I translate for you, miss.
He says that the bad men take his grandfather, miss.
He says that the bad men take his grandmother, miss.
He says that the bad men take his dad, miss.
He says that the bad men take his mum, miss.

He doesn’t say how he got here, miss.
He can’t say how he got here, miss.

CHORUS ONE
A demographic change.
A demographic change
A demographic change

CHORUS TWO
Studios
Loft-style apartments
Manhattan live-in work units

SIGN
““A stunning new development at the heart of the regeneration of Dalston”

SIGN TWO
 “Dalston Square – marketing suite open”.

CHORUS ONE
Regeneration
Regeneration
Regeneration

CHORUS TWO
Buy to rent
Professional people
City workers

CHORUS ONE
Down the Dalston corridor

CHORUS TWO
We are looking for a chain of investors

CHORUS ONE
They are looking for a chain of investors

VOICE 3:
They dream of childless towers
Of one-bed, two-bed apartments
No need for swings or slides
No need for the visiting nurse
They dream of weekday workers
Heading home at weekends
They dream of childless towers.

ANNA SEWELL (sings)
Over the garden wall
I let my baby fall
My mother came out
She gave me a clout
Over the garden wall.

Over the garden wall
I let my baby fall
My mother came out
She gave me a clout
She gave me another
To match the other
Over the garden wall.

PARKES
I am Henry Parkes
And I work in Hackney

PRIZE-GIVER
And you have won
The Prize Medal
International Exhibition 1862, Class four.
Official Catalogue number 1112
For the invention of
Parkesine

CHORUS TWO
Parkesine

CHORUS THREE
Parkesine

CHORUS FOUR
Parkesine

PARKES
A new material and manufacture now exhibited
For the first time.

CHORUS ONE
For the first time?

CHORUS THREE
For the very first time.

PARKES:
It has from its valuable properties induced me
to patent the discovery in England and France
and to devote my attention for the last ten  years
to the development of the capabilities of
this beautiful substance to the Arts.

CHORUS FOUR:
Oh, the arts…mmm

PARKES:
In the case are shown a few illustrations of the numerous
purposes for which my invention may be applied
Such as:
Medallions, salvers, hollow ware

CHORUS TWO:
Medallions, salvers, hollow ware

PARKES
Tubes, buttons, combs,

CHORUS TWO
Tubes, buttons, combs,

PARKES
Card cases, boxes, pens.

CHORUS TWO
Card cases, boxes, pens, oh!....mmmmm

PARKES
It can be made hard as ivory, transparent or opaque,

CHORUS ONE TWO THREE FOUR
Hard as ivory, transparent or opaque.

PARKES:
Of any degree of flexibility and is also…
…waterproof,

CHORUS THREE & FOUR
Waterproof!

PARKES
It may be of the most brilliant colours,
can be used in the solid, plastic or fluid state,
can be spread or worked in a similar manner to India Rubber
and has stood exposure to the atmosphere for years
without Change or decomposition.

CHORUS THREE & FOUR
Without change or decomposition.

PARKES
Patented by, me,
Henry Parkes
in 1861

CHORUS ONE:
Specimens of which may be seen in the case.

PARKES
Exactly.

The Parkesine Company Limited
carrying on the manufacture of Parkesine at the New Parkesine Works
Hackney Wick, near the Victoria Park Station, London, N.E.

CHORUS ONE & FOUR
This, ladies and gentlemen,

CHORUS TWO & THREE
is the world’s first plastic.

HEADLEY
One time when me work on de site
in Victoria.
Was in Victoria
and fella com fe juke me.
Big man. Big big man.
He tell me dat dere no place in Englan’
For de coloured man.
An him standin over me in de hut
Where we have we tea.

Me jus calm an quiet
An me tell him dat me haf a knife.
An him tek no notice, you hear me?
Him tek nah notice.
An him standin over me dere den
So me jus reach into me sock
An him see de handle of de knife
Jus peepin out.
Jus peepin out.

RIDLEY ROAD
COMMENTATOR
Ridley Road market

VOICE 4
Five pound jean dahlin
Five pound jean dahlin

VOICE 5
Seed-lessss
Seed- lessss

VOICE 4
Five pound jean dahlin
Five pound jean dahlin

VOICE 5
Seed-lesss
Seed-lesss

VOICE 6
Come on!
Two strawbs
One-fifty
Come on!
Two strawbs
One-fifty.

All new crop
All new crop

VOICE 7
Top Congo Store
Kin-Malebo
Kin-Malebo
Kin-Malebo

VOICE 8
Kashmir Kebabish
Kashmir Kebabish

VOICE 9
The Wilton School for Cake Decorating
The Wilton School for Cake Decorating

ALL
Party-party
Party-party

VOICE 10
Yoko Herbal Extracts
And
Organic Root Stimulator
Yoko Herbal Extracts
And
Organic Root Stimulator

LORD MAYOR OF LONDON
December 6, 1574
Whereas heretofore…

CHORUS ONE & TWO:
“Whereas heretofore”…

CHORUS THREE & FOUR
ooooohh…

CHORUS ALL
Shhhhhhhh - it’s the Lord Mayor of the City of London

LORD MAYOR:
…sundry great disorders and inconveniences
have been found to ensue to this city
by the inordinate haunting of great multitudes of people,
- specially youths -
to plays interludes and shows:

CHORUS ONE & FOUR
Plays, interludes and shows…

LORD MAYOR
namely, occasion of frays and quarrels;
evil practises of incontinency in great inns
inveigling and alluring of maids,

CHORUS ONE & FOUR:
Inveigling and alluring of maids…

LORD MAYOR
the publishing of unchaste, uncomely,
and unshamefaced speeches and doings;
withdrawing of the Queen's Majesty's subjects
from divine service on Sundays and holy days,
at which times such plays were chiefly used;
unthrifty waste of the money of the poor and fond persons;
sundry robberies by picking and cutting of purses;
uttering seditious matters;
corrupting youth
containing nothing but unchaste matter

CHORUS ONE & FOUR:
Unchaste matter?

LORD MAYOR
Lascivious devices

CHORUS ONE & TWO
Lascivious devices?

LORD MAYOR
…and other lewd and ungodly practices.

CHORUS TWO:
Other lewd and ungodly practices
Tut tut tut

LORD MAYOR
…besides that,
also sundry slaughters and maimings of the Queen's subjects
have happened by ruins of scaffolds, frames, and stages,
and by engines, weapons, and powder used in plays.
And whereas in time of God's visitation by the plague
such assemblies of the people in throng and press
have been very dangerous for spreading of infection....

CHORUS ONE AND TWO
The ssssspreading of inffffectionnnnnnnnnn.

LORD MAYOR
And for that,
the Lord Mayor and his brethren the Aldermen,
ordain that:

CHORUS ONE :
One…

LORD MAYOR:
Only such plays shall be acted as are free from
all unchastity and uncomely matter.

CHORUS TWO & FOUR:
Two…

LORD MAYOR:
Inns or other buildings used for acting,
and their proprietors, shall be licensed by
the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen.

CHORUS ONE TWO & FOUR
Three

LORD MAYOR
No plays shall be given during the time of sickness,

CHORUS TWO & FOUR
Four:

LORD MAYOR
No plays shall be given during any usual time of divine service,

CHORUS ALL:
Five:

LORD MAYOR:
The proprietors of such places shall pay towards
the support of the poor

JAMES BURBAGE
And so at the Priory of Holywell,
Holywell Lane a place outside the city
where the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen cannot enforce municipal ordinances,
I, James Burbage, joiner by trade,
take out a lease on some land.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
In 1575
just near to Holywell Lane and the common sewer
that will become Curtain Road,  
there be five paltry tenements,
old, decayed, and ruinated for want of reparation
the best of them is but of two storeys high,
and a long barn, very ruinous and decayed
and ready to  fall down,
one half of which is used as a storage-room,
the other half as a slaughter-house.
Just north of the barn is  "void ground,".
It is on this "void ground" that James Burbage,
he, like me, coming from Stratford upon Avon,
builds a playhouse, called The Theatre.

This is the first theatre that I, William Shakespeare, work in
as an actor and as a writer.

COMMENTATOR
But the builder’s wife said they weren’t paid their fair share
and along with some men come to Burbage’s house asking for her money.
They are met by James Burbage's wife,

MRS BURBAGE: [LOUD, FURIOUS]
Go out of my grounds,
or else my son will break your knaves' heads.

COMMENTATOR
James Burbage looks out of a window upon them.

BURBAGE:
You are a murdering whore,
and your companions: villains, rascals, and knaves."

BUILDER’S WIFE
I have an order from the court

BURBAGE:
Go, go. A cart, a cart for you!
I will obey no such order,
nor I care not for any such orders,
and therefore it were best for you and your companions
to be packing betimes,
for if my son come he will thump you hence!

COMMENTATOR
After many such visits
the builder’s wife and her attendants
 go to the Theatre upon a play-day
to stand at the door of the Theatre
to take half of the money
In the Theatre they are met by Burbage’s other son,
Richard, then about nineteen years old,
and his mother,
who fall upon one of the men and beat him with a broom staff.

MRS BURBAGE
Murdering knave!

BURBAGE:
Tush!
Our sons, if they will be ruled by me,
shall at their next coming
provide charged pistols,
to shoot them in the legs.

RIDLEY ROAD

VOICE 4
Five pound jean dahlin
Five pound jean dahlin

VOICE 5
Seed-lessss
Seed- lessss

VOICE 4
Five pound jean dahlin
Five pound jean dahlin

VOICE 5
Seed-lesss
Seed-lesss

VOICE 6
Come on!
Two strawbs
One-fifty
Come on!
Two strawbs
One-fifty.

All new crop
All new crop

VOICE 10
Chinese Herbal Medical Centre
Chinese Herbal Medical Centre
Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis
All kinds pain (neck, back)
Asthma, Hay Fever,
Indigestion, constipation,
Poor blood circulation
Infertility, miscarriage
Male and female sexual problems
Weight loss or control
Giving up smoking and drinking
Hair loss, stress, depression
Lower energyyyyyyyyy.

HEADLEY
Him never bother me no more
Me no have to touch him.
Rastaman never do me no harm.
Dem tell me in Jamaica dat de Rastaman
Him robbah and teef
But me see rastaman by side o de road
An him never do me no harm.

MRS HEADLEY
Tell dem bout de time you lift one hundred an fifty pound bag.

HEADLEY
We work and we work and we work
Me on de site
And me wife at de hospital
But now we go back down there.
We goin to Jamaica.
Me daddy is ill
Dis house here which I buy
when it have no toilet, no bathroom
an it was all dirt an it was nothing
me gwaan sell.
Me haafi sell nah
…..
[PAUSE]

He never give me no more trouble
De fella on de site.

VOICE 11
You see where I’m standing now?
I was coming this way,
He was walking that way.
I told him that the warning had gone out,
There was going to be an air-raid
He said, he was just going down to the end of the road
To see the widow what lived there
And I said I was going back indoors
And we was all going to go out to the shelter
I said goodbye to him right here
And he said goodbye to me
And that was the last I saw of him
The raid come over, V2
And flattened the end of the road down there
Where the flats are
Just there, where them flats are now
And he went with it
And I’m standing here telling you this
And he’s gone.

Up in Stoke Newington,
There was over a hundred gone in one night.
Just like that.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE:
What’s this?

CHORUS ONE:
“The Tragicall History of

CHORUS TWO
Romeus and Juliet

 

Part Two >

 

 

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