A Basement Too Far by Liz Turner


This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author’s PRIOR consent


      A basement, no windows

      A staircase leads down into the room from downstage Right, so that the
      lowest step is upstage right. It should seem that this flight leads to a further
      flight upward off-stage, with a door at the top

      There are three or four shelving stacks, seven or eight feet high, containing
      old dusty hard back books, off to Stage Left, to about a sixth of the width of
      the stage, and assumed to be stretching out for many yards offstage

      At the back, a basic brick or concrete wall, with a few large silver-clad pipes to
      indicate heating and plumbing and mysterious general entrails of a building

      A stack of rather shabby and broken chairs under the staircase

      A very worn grubby looking industrial sisal type carpet on what should be a concrete

      The light is a strip light, or a single bulb hanging from the centre of the room, with an
      institutional shade

      Enter MAGGIE down the stairs, briskly

      Immediately followed by MIRANDA

      Then WOLF

      MAGGIE: Now Ė I wonder if this is going to be Ė

      (At the bottom, she stops abruptly and they all cannon into each other)

      Sorry, sorry, my fault. No, I really donít think this will do.

      (MAGGIE moves away from the steps to allow the others to reach ground
      level. They start investigating the immediate area.)

      MIRANDA: Look, there are chairs, anyway!

          (MAGGIE goes to them and starts unstacking them, looking at them

      MAGGIE: They may not be in the best condition….

      WOLF: Donít worry on my account. Iím quite happy sitting on the

      MIRANDA: Well, I Ďm not!

      MAGGIE: No, no, and I donít really think our book-club members would
      be either. Some of them tend to be a little on the mature side.

      WOLF: Seems odd to have a book club in a library.

      MAGGIE: Does it?

      (MAGGIE scouts around, inspecting chairs, seeing what else is
      available (nothing much) then starts setting out chairs, at least a
      couple of rows and twelve chairs). She sets out the first chair near
      to the stacks. MIRANDA promptly sits on it. WOLF picks up a
      chair,looking as if he might help, but puts it down C in the same row
      as MIRANDAís and sits on it. MAGGIE continues to set out the rest of
      the chairs Ė five chairs, spaced out, on each row, and two or three

      WOLF: What else would you come to a library for? I mean, what else do
      expect to find in a library? Why would you have to have a special

      (MAGGIE stops for a moment to speak with enthusiasm, then continues to
      set out chairs)

      MAGGIE: These are people who want to meet and have a chat about books,
      not just read them, you see. Meet the authors Ė like today Ė and
      get a more in-depth understanding of the book Ė or talk to other
      like-minded people whoíve read the book Ė or both.

      WOLF: Right.

      MAGGIE: And of course nowadays, a library isnít just about books.
      You can use the computers as well as our actual books, for research,
      homework, job seeking, family history Ė all sorts of things. Sorry
      Ė lecture over Ė itís rather a hobby horse of mine, Iím
      afraid. The library in the community, and so on.

      MIRANDA: Very commendable, Iím sure. All the better for us authors,

      MAGGIE: So Ė what do we think? Itís not ideal, is it?

      WOLF: Is there any choice?

      MAGGIE: This does seem to be the only space we can use today, what
      with all the building works in the main building.

      MIRANDA: Itís different, anyway Ė I donít think Iíve ever been
      in a sub-sub-basement before.

      MAGGIE: Just a sub-basement. Still, I suppose it is about sixty feet
      below ground level.

      MIRANDA:Practically the bowels of the earth, as far as Iím
      concerned! I donít think Iíve ever been so deep into the earthís

          (WOLF gets up, goes down C, speaking to MAGGIE as she moves the

      WOLF: Oh, itís not that deep. I remember when we were filming in
      Cusca, in Peru, some of those caves were 1300 feet deep. There was one
      tunnel I had to crawl through Ė about 30 centimetres wide in some
      places, and half submerged in water.

      MAGGIE: Gosh! You wouldnít catch me down there! Werenít you
      terrified, Mr Torrent?

      WOLF: Wolf. Call me Wolf, please! No, no, you have to know what
      youíre doing, of course. Wouldnít suit everyone.

      (MIRANDA has been listening sceptically, gets up and moves to him C,
      while MAGGIE finishes the chairs, which will all face the audience and
      fill roughly from the centre to the back of the stage)

      MIRANDA: It certainly wouldnít suit me! Wolf Ė thatís an unusual
      name. Wolf Torrent..

      WOLF: (rather smugly) Yes, it is, isnít it. And your name Ė

      MIRANDA: Miranda. Bowers.

      WOLF: Miranda, of course, Iím sorry, Iím very bad at names Ė
      love your books, though.

      MIRANDA: Youíve read my books! Thatís very flattering!

      WOLF: Oh, you know Ė lying by the campfire halfway up Mount Puncak
      Jaya in Indonesia Ė you like to relax with something undemanding.
      Very good to unwind with.

      MIRANDA: (frostily) Really? You must tell me which ones you like

      WOLF: (he hasnít actually read any) Oh Ė well Ė if you tell me
      some of the titles Ė I have got a dreadful memory.

          (MAGGIE has joined them C. WOLF moves upstage)

      MAGGIE: Sorry to interrupt Ė but do we think we can manage here? As
      itís only for an hour?

      MIRANDA: (looking at her watch) Are you sure weíre going to get an
      audience at all? Itís already 5.25, and weíre supposed to start at

      MAGGIE: Yes Ė they are certainly cutting it fine. But theyíre
      probably still trying to find the room, thatís if they havenít
      been put off by seeing the scaffolding and the building works and
      decided itís all off…

      MIRANDA: But it was advertised, wasnít it?

      MAGGIE: Oh yes. Absolutely. An announcement on the website, posters
      everywhere and an email to the Friends of the library and all those
      who usually come to these events.

      MIRANDA: And theyíll know to come down here?

      MAGGIE: Oh yes. Colin Ė the security man Ė heís the one whoís
      waiting to lock up after us when we need to leave tonight Ė heís
      all set,  up there, to shepherd people in this direction.

      MIRANDA: (sitting front row L) WellÖ.it would have been nice to be
      somewhere near a tea urnÖ.. I wouldnít like to be down here for
      longer than a couple of hours. But I suppose weíll manage, just for
      the evening.

      WOLF: (coming back down C, then sitting front row C) I remember when I
      was in the Sahara Ė I was on a two week survival trek for National
      Geographic Ė the team was meeting me at the end of the route. I
      managed to lose my way, and by the time I got back on track, Iíd
      added two days to my journey. And then, of course, I found that my
      water canister had been leaking. No water at all for the last fifty

      MIRANDA: So Ė dare one ask how you survived?

      WOLF: (directly to Miranda) Had to trek the last three days with
      nothing to drink but my own urine.

      (A slight pause. MIRANDA turns away, not shocked, but knows she walked
      into that one)

      MIRANDA: I had a feeling it was a stupid question.

      MAGGIE: (laughing) Gosh! I hope it wonít come to that here, anyway!
      If it comes to the worst weíll have to go and get a cup of tea from
      the kitchen upstairs. Anyone need anything now?

      WOLF: Iím fine. Never travel without a bottle of water.

      MIRANDA: Thatís one thing we have in common, then! But if it does
      run out, I think Iíll go for the tea option, if you donít mind.

      (She takes out her phone and moves aside. Enter SIMONE down the
      stairs, hesitantly. She is dressed for cycling in a high vis jacket
      over a colourful shapeless long cardigan, and wears a cycling helmet)

      MAGGIE: Come on down! Are you here for ďMeet the AuthorsĒ?

      SIMONE: Is this the right place? Only itís normally in the
      Councillor Fairfax Memorial room.

      MAGGIE: It should have been, yes. But with the scaffolding-

      SIMONE: Was the room falling down then? Were there safety issues?

      MAGGIE: No, no. Purely routine maintenance, nothing to worry about.

      MIRANDA: (upstage L, to herself) No signal. Damn.

      SIMONE: Am I the only one?

          (She sits in the second row, R, and takes off her cycle helmet)

      MAGGIE: Well Ė um, itís beginning to look like it. Maybe itís
      the weather. A lot of people wonít come out if itís raining.

      MIRANDA: I came out. All the way from London.

      MAGGIE: Yes, and weíre terribly grateful Ė

      MIRANDA: (rather impatiently, moving downstage) Itís a bit
      disappointing, I must say. Not really what I was expecting.

          (She sits again, front L)

      MAGGIE: To be honest, Iím really quite surprised myself. We normally
      get at least twenty or thirty for this sort of thing.

      (WOLF moves L to behind MIRANDA, to address the next speeches to her
      from behind her left shoulder)

      WOLF: So Ė what do you think, Melissa-?

      MIRANDA: Miranda.

      WOLF:  Miranda, of course, of course, so sorry Ė is it my fault or
      yours? One of us must be extremely unpopular!

      MAGGIE: No, no!

      SIMONE: I only came down because the security guard told me it was on.
      I didnít realise there was an event this week. Iím trying to be a
      writer myself, you see.

      MIRANDA: So youíre not particularly a devotee of crime fiction?

      WOLF: Or survival travelogues?

      SIMONE: Um, no, not as such. Although of course I have seen some of
      your programmes on TV, Mr Torrent. The ones in the Amazon, and the
      Australian bush. But if anything I would probably be more interested
      in science fiction. Aliens. Robots. That sort of thing.

      WOLF: (bored) Really. How interesting.

      MIRANDA: Sweet.

      (MAGGIE has sat down front C, to check her file, and has been looking
      at one of the flyers which was in her file.)

      MAGGIE: Oh dear.

      MIRANDA: What?

      MAGGIE: .  (as brightly as she can in the circumstances) Um Ė Iím
      afraid there seems to have been a muddle!

      (WOLF comes and looks at it over her shoulder)

      WOLF: This says that our eventís next week.

      MAGGIE: Yes. It does seem Ė

      WOLF:  Not today.

      MAGGIE: No. No, Iím sorry. I donít know how thatís happened!

      MIRANDA: Oh, for heavens sake! So there isnít likely to be anyone
      coming, in that case!

          (Enter COLIN, the security man, calling before he actually enters)

      COLIN: (off) Hello! Maggie?

      MAGGIE: (relieved to change the subject.) Colin! Hello! Have you come
      to join the group?

      COLIN: (appearing at the top of the stairs) Maggie, Iím just popping
      down to let you know that the rest of the staff are off home.

      MAGGIE: Oh, yes, righto.

      WOLF: They wonít be joining us for the discussion, then?

      MAGGIE: They do tend to rush off at the end of the day, Iím afraid.
      We shut at 5.30, you see. Except when thereís an event on.

      WOLF: Or not.

      COLIN: So. Iíll just be waiting upstairs by the main door to let you
      out and lock up.

          (COLIN sets off up the steps and disappears. WOLF sits front row C)

      MAGGIE: Right. Thanks, Colin.

      WOLF: Is there really any point? Itís the wrong day-

      MAGGIE: To be fair, itís the right day. Itís just the wrong day on
      the poster… And possibly on the websiteÖ.

      MIRANDA: (standing, ready to go) Thatís rather beside the point! And
      Wolf and I have turned up in good faith, so weíve really fulfilled
      our part of the contract Ė

      SIMONE: Iím here!

      MIRANDA: What?

      SIMONE: Iím here for the discussion. So we can still have it.

      MIRANDA: But you havenít read our books!

      SIMONE: No, but we could still talk about how you write them. Where
      you get all your ideas. Your daily routine. How much research you do.
      Iíve got loads of questions.

      WOLF: Dear God.

      MAGGIE: I donít really know what to do. I mean there may be people
      Ė there will be people Ė who will turn up next week instead now.

      (During this COLIN reappears at the head of the steps and makes his
      way down to stand downstage R)

      MIRANDA: Iím really not happy about trekking out here all over

      WOLF: I agree with Melanie.

      MIRANDA: Miranda!

      WOLF: Sorry, of course, Miranda.

      MIRANDA: I mean, I donít want to appear awkward or ungracious…..

      WOLF: No-one could possibly accuse you of being either.

      SIMONE: Are we not going to do it then? I mean, Iím not happy with
      it being down here, to be honest, I would rather have gone to the
      Councillor Fairfax Memorial room, but since we are here Ė

      MAGGIE: I think maybe we should call it a day. Iím sorry but with
      just one member of the audience-

      SIMONE: No, no Ė thereís me, and you Ė and Colin! Colin could
      stay, couldnít you Colin?

      COLIN: Actually, yes, I certainly could.

      MAGGIE: Really? I didnít think you were much of a reader Colin.

      COLIN: (on his dignity) I read a book, once.

      MAGGIE: Oh! Good, well done!.....and did you like it?

      COLIN: I donít know. I never finished it.

      MIRANDA: (kindly, as to a five year old) What was it called, Colin?

      COLIN: I forget.

      MAGGIE: Well, Iím delighted that youíre interested enough to join
      in tonight

      WOLF: (aside) Oh yes. Wonderful timing, Colin.

      MAGGIE: You donít have to be polite, you know, Colin. Just to make
      up the numbers.

      COLIN: No, no. Iím not being polite.

      MIRANDA: (warmly, in ďcharming authorĒ mode) I think itís very
      polite of you, Colin, but I think weíve decided just to call it a
      day and go home.

      COLIN: I canít let you do that, Iím afraid.

      MAGGIE: What?

      COLIN: (with finality) The doorís shut.

      MAGGIE: Well can you open it please? Miranda has decided she wants to
      go, and anyway thereís no other ventilation down here. It can get a
      bit airless.

      COLIN: Thatís true, it can.

      MAGGIE: So….?

      COLIN: This is a bit embarrassing.

      MAGGIE: Colin. What on earth is the problem? Please open the door and
      let us out.

      COLIN: (evasively) Itís locked at present.

      MAGGIE: Well, youíre the security man, Colin! Unlock it!

      COLIN: Well, thatís the problem, you see. Right there.

      MAGGIE: (shutting her eyes, quietly) Oh no…

      COLIN: It swung shut when I came down to tell you that everyone had
      left. Um - I seem to have left my keys on the counter upstairs.

          (A horrified pause. WOLF moves up to him DR)

      WOLF: So Ė just let me recap Ė the staff have all left the
      building for the night. You, the security man, the man with the keys,
      have left them on the counter on the other side of a self-locking

      COLIN: It doesnít make me look very good, does it?

      MIRANDA: Maggie Ė you must have a set of keys, surely?

      MAGGIE: Yes , of course I have!..............But I left them in my bag
      in the staffroom. On the ground floor.

      SIMONE: Are we locked in? Seriously? Really, properly locked in? Oh,
      look this isnít funny!
      Are you serious? Can we phone someone Ė Maggie?

      MAGGIE: Iíve left my phone upstairs Ė has anyone got one?

      MIRANDA: Thereís no point. Iíve just tried. Thereís no signal.

      WOLF: Well, surely there must be something Ė A landline?

      SIMONE: Look! There, on the wall! Thereís a phone!

          (She rushes to it during this and lifts the handset)

      MAGGIE: Itís just an internal phone, Iím afraid. No outside line.
      And anyway thereís no-one else in the building.

      MIRANDA: Itís worth a try, at least! On the off-chance!

      MAGGIE: Yes, of course!

      (she goes to take the handset off SIMONE, who goes to sit down front
      row R, obviously becoming agitated. MAGGIE dials, and they wait.
      Eventually she gives up)

      Nothing. Iím sorry.

      MIRANDA: So when might we reasonably expect to be rescued? Not till
      tomorrow morning?

      COLIN: Tomorrowís Sunday.

      MAGGIE: And Mondayís a bank holiday.

          (There is a long horrified silence)

      SIMONE: Two days? Two days and three nights? Down here? With no Ė no
      fresh air, and nothing to eat or drink Ė no air Ė no air Ė

          (she starts hyperventilating)

      Oh, god, no air Ė

      WOLF: Well, leave some for the rest of us!

      (MAGGIE sits next to SIMONE and puts an arm round her shoulders)

      MAGGIE: Calm down, try to calm down Ė now, whatís your name?

      SIMONE: Si - Simone Ė my nameís Simone Ė

          (she continues to gasp for breath)

      MAGGIE: Alright, Simone, now try to calm down, just relax. Take a deep
      breath. Donít
      worry, weíre all here.

      SIMONE: (controlling her breathing better)  Right. Right. Iím fine.
      Fine. Iím fine.

      MIRANDA: Thatís a brave soldier.

      MAGGIE: I donít think sarcasm is going to help.

      (MIRANDA remembers she is addressing her public, moves down to
      MAGGIE RC,  then across the downstage area as she thinks aloud)

      MIRANDA: Not at all! No, no, Iím absolutely serious. Poor girl.
      Sheís obviously in distress. I suppose itís a sort of
      claustrophobia. Doesnít really affect me, actually, but I believe a
      lot of people have problems being in enclosed spaces. Like this. I
      suppose this would be a classic situation if you were that sort of
      person. You know Ė an environment you have no control over. No
      doors, or at any rate none that will open, thanks to Mr Ė

          (She gestures towards COLIN; he gets up and holds out his hand which
      she ignores as she continues to paint the scene, he then sits back
      down, abashed)

      COLIN: Murdoch Ė

      MIRANDA: Thanks to Mr Murdoch here; no windows, no access to the
      outside world Ė completely cut off Ė

          (SIMONE is looking increasingly uneasy)


[end of extract]