The House of Montgomery

A play in one beat by Danny Bernardi

bernardi.d@googlemail.com

Synopsis The House of Montgomery The group have just finished their rehearsal; for the open day. They’re preparing a choral version of ‘Che Sara Sara’. The teacher, like all good teachers, is clearing the detritus from the day room when Monty appears. The ensuing interaction is, on the surface, a simple exchange of basic information. Not much is disclosed or discussed yet somehow there remains the faint potential for a connection – if only they could connect. Through Monty’s simplistic, pragmatic view of the outside world, the teacher is taught how to listen. Monty is a talker you see. His seemingly idiotic obsession with press-ups is at odds with the sophisticated interior world of music and the arts and the other higher forms of human pursuit in which the teacher has so much invested. All Monty wants to do is grunt and sweat as he pushes against his own body weight … but is this really any more futile than singing, writing or painting? The House of Montgomery explores the intriguing discipline of psycholinguistics … the way in which human language is structured within specific contexts. It scrutinises the predictable protocols and theories of communication between social actors. It also looks at the ease with which transactions can break or cross, with often mundane and predictable consequences. Is this Monty’s house – the House if Montgomery – or somewhere else? It’s not that important. What is important is where is all starts and the leave taking rituals in which we all indulge. The nucleus of the discourse is a musical score where there is always the scope for something to happen.

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The Cast List

The Teacher Mr. Montgomery aka ‘Monty’

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MONTY ENTERS THE DAY ROOM. A TEACHER IS PACKING AWAY AN ELECTRONIC ORGAN.

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Heard the singing … thought I’d just … Oh, I’m sorry we’ve just finished. Everyone’s gone for lunch Recognised the tune … just couldn’t remember the … (SINGING) Che sara … sara Whatever … Will be will be. Not my choice you understand but they’ve all decided … as a group I mean … they’d like to give it a go … for the open day I mean … as I say not my choice. You doing anything at all for the open day? Do you know how to play …? No, I don’t think so. Sorry everyone asks me that … I’m afraid it’s like asking a doctor about … You seem to have lost your mojo Sorry about that (POINTING AT THE ORGAN) Ah, the old piano forte. Except it’s not really a piano is it? It looks more like an organ to me I’m classically trained … so what have you chosen to do for the open day? Thought I’d do some press ups You’ll need to get clearance I guess … from your doctor I mean … Feel as fit as a fiddle Yes, you look strong. You’re obviously doing well. A testimony to the care Heard the singing you see It’s what we do. We sing … lowers the blood pressure. Apparently, it’s supposed to reduce stress and anxiety as well And if you’re not stressed or anxious? 4

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Well then you’re lucky … you could say it’s little bit of harmless fun in the afternoon. I’m all for that Mr …? Montgomery. They call me Monty Do you …? How long …? Can I ask you how long you’ve been here for Monty? It’s just that I’ve haven’t seen you around before. You don’t mind me calling you Monty do you? Absolutely not. I’ve been here … well I suppose I’ve been here as long as you have. Heard the singing and couldn’t resist Of course not every one wants to sing and I perfectly understand that. Everyone reacts differently when they’re told … we’re trained in all this you see … part of the induction thingy we have to do (ATTEMPTING TO SING) Che sara … sara … whatever will be will be We none of us know how we’ll react I guess. Maybe we think we do but the reality is that … sorry … shouldn’t be telling you this … confidentiality and all that. Won’t mention any names so no harm can be done can it? Thing is I’ve seen great big blokes howl like babies for months on end yet whilst faced with the same circumstances I’ve watched little old ladies, without a soul in the world, face it with the courage of a lion I know where you’re coming from. Singing is a great leveller. There’s no doubt about it. Just because you’re a great big bloke don’t mean you’ll cut the mustard when the lights come up. I remember once … You mustn’t say ‘I remember’ around here Monty … it implies … Arrived here with nothing. Worked in a factory for years. Went to night school … eventually managed to get myself a teaching certificate. Taught metalwork in an inner city comp until I retired. Hated it. Biggest kids in the place were the other teachers. Mustn’t say, ‘I remember’ but back then I knew nothing. In one way it was bad. Ignorance always allows others to take advantage. Worked that one out straight away … trouble was I couldn’t seem to do anything about it. Didn’t know where to begin so I was ready for a fall … funny thing … never saw it coming Well, it’s been nice talking. I must go. I have another …

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Sure I can’t interest you in watching me do some press-ups? Some other feats of strength perhaps? Could show you me downward dog if you like? No thanks I really must be … downward dog? No, you’ve lost me there I’m afraid It’s a yoga position. Wanna’ try it? Looks easy but it’s quite a feat to pull it off … it’s all about breathing and self control There are yoga classes here. Suppose I ought to sign up. I mean they’d be free for me as a visiting … No need to attend a class. You have your own master right here! You some kind of guru then? Maybe Well then, maybe … maybe you should become my guru … my master … sort out all my problems You got problems girl? Bet your blues aren’t like mine I got problems for sure. I don’t know how to … I can take you to a place where no one has problems … it’s called the … Cemetery. Yea, I know that one. It’s an old aphorism used by motivational speakers and people who call themselves life coaches ‘Aint no life coach. ‘Aint no motivational speaker neither. Can barely string a sentence together, me. Got this theory that more people die from frustration than from any other disease. Now that’s a fact … I just made it up and so you’d better believe it! And why wouldn’t I … believe it I mean? As soon as I arrived I reckoned it was important to fit in. I did as much as I could of course. There was this guy … Irish … maybe … no, maybe he was French … can’t remember … anyway used to go to mass with him … just to be part of something. Yea, made me feel like I was a part of something. Nice for a while of course … loved the feeling. Trouble was they all thought I was insane. It’s not as if the Catholic guilt was driving me there. I reckon this guy only went ‘cos everyone else did 6

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Funny you should say that I went through this phase of inviting myself to my friend’s house. She was Jewish. I used to like to go for the Friday night supper. Lemon chicken … soup with dumplings … bread covered with sesame seeds, lovely sweet red wine. Her father would chant … there were candles. I reckon I only went to delay something … what I’m trying to say Monty is, well I suppose I was trying to delay the decisions … the choices … the responsibilities. I certainly had no desire to go back to my own family but somehow I was nowhere near ready to move on. Who is? We all fear change … but it’s really the only certainty … another aphorism … that’s why this place can be so terrifying for people to begin with. I was at this peculiar point of transition but really it just felt like … A strange fruit … a blend of confusion and loneliness Who knows? There was nothing to belong to … nothing to cling to … nothing to believe in. The days hung heavy on my back … I was looking … always looking for something. Not like now. No, now I accept … that’s the one thing this place teaches … acceptance. The days are sprinting by now … can’t seem to grasp them as they whistle past my ears You’re panicking Not exactly … maybe a bit. Yea, I’m panicking. Look I must go. I’m going to be late for … Me too. I’m always late. Be late for my own funeral I would! Don’t Monty. Not here! I mean there’s nothing at all wrong with dark humour but it has a place and you need to be aware that not everyone here is able to talk like that. You’re obviously a very remarkable personality When you start to realise that there’s really nothing to panic about then … there’s really nothing to panic about How profound! You some sort of Zen Master? Sorry didn’t mean to be rude … it’s just that I’ve had sackful of self help books. I’ve done the spiritual thing … been a Humanist, a Muslim, a Sikh. Been a Hindu, a Christian Scientist, a Zen Buddhist, an agnostic, an atheist, a Taoist, a sceptic, a communist, a pacifist, a jogger, a low fat–high fibre vegetarian, a high protein-low carb freak … made my breath smell and gave me dreadful wind… a vegan, and a macrobiotic celibate sex maniac Not all at once I hope? No wonder you look tired

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Been in therapy … done them all. Psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, couples therapy (one my own), psychosexual therapy (with someone from the gym) light therapy (with an electrician) … therapy for being in therapy until eventually I became a therapist … a music therapist that is Oh heaven help us! Nothing more dangerous than a patient turned healer Well look it’s been a pleasure … meeting up with you. I’ll see you next week. I’m here every week. Need the money … I never made it a concert pianist you see Don’t know if I’ll be here next week Oh, I see. Yes of course. How insensitive of me … sorry It was just coincidence really … That we met (FIRMLY) That I heard the singing We’re here every week at the same time. Some people say they just like to listen. You don’t have to join in if you don’t want. There’s no compulsion. Apparently they can hear us over the other side Don’t know what’s happened to my shopping. Hope it hasn’t been nicked Can’t help you there Left it next to the bench in the garden … out there It’ll still be there then, I’m sure Shopping doesn’t get any cheaper Suppose not. Better be going … Better be going myself Well it’s been nice … Knowing you Meeting you Any idea what time the next bus into town is? 8

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In about fifteen minutes. Takes about ten minutes on foot … across the park to the bus stop. Lovely walk this time of the afternoon. Autumn leaves … kids catching conkers. If there’s anything you need … anything … I’m only to happy to get it for you … I’ve half an hour to kill before my train up north … I could … No need. I have everything I need right here. I’ll come with you. It’s a nice day. We can walk throughout the park together … to catch the bus. Thought I might like to go north too. There’s a town that’s been made a city I’d like to see. I’m sorry. That wouldn’t be appropriate. Could create all sorts of problems. Health and safety … insurance … I mean what if something happened and you needed medical care for example? I’m not qualified … Nothing will happen Best you stay here and I’ll see you next week

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EXIT TEACHER.

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(CALLING AFTER HER) You’ve forgotten your keyboard … organ. Heard the music … wouldn’t have stopped by otherwise.

BLACKOUT.

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