Headhog by Tom Jensen

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

CHARACTERS (minimum cast of 4):

MALCOLM REEVES A man aged 34
CHERYL FINCH A woman in her 50s (can double with Philosopher and Policewoman)
JULIE GOMEZ A woman in her late 20s (can double with Nurse Talpur)
STAN REEVES A man in his 60s (can double with Ecologist and Policeman)
ECOLOGIST A man, 50s to 70s.
PHILOSOPHER A woman, 40s to 60s.
POLICEWOMAN A woman in her 40s.
POLICEMAN A man in his 50s.
NURSE TALPUR A woman, 20s to 30s.

SYNOPSIS:
Malcolm Reeves has a hedgehog in his brain. No one understands how it got in. As he tries to find a meaning in the absurdity, Malcolm’s relationships break down around him.

Music: “The Beast in Me” by Johnny Cash.

Scene One

Morning. A room with two chairs. On the wall is a scan of a brain containing a hedgehog.

Ms FINCH is pacing around.

MALCOLM is sitting open-mouthed, looking at the scan.

Silence.

MALCOLM: It’s just so fucking crazy!

FINCH: It’s… totally baffling.

MALCOLM: How? How did it get into me?

FINCH: It’s hard to say. (Silence) Have you ever... slept in the countryside? Maybe under a tree, or a hedgerow?

MALCOLM: No! Are you saying it could have... like, crawled in?

FINCH: It's just speculation.

MALCOLM: What, through my ear? Up my nose? While I was asleep?

FINCH: As I say, it's only a theory.

MALCOLM: A bloody crap theory!

FINCH: I consulted a wide range of experts.

MALCOLM: And that's the best idea they could come up with?

FINCH: There… were other ideas.

MALCOLM: Like what?

FINCH: For example… teleportation.

MALCOLM: Teleportation? Like in that stupid film with the fly?

FINCH: It’s highly implausible, I know.

MALCOLM: Too right it is! (Silence) When are you gonna get it out?

FINCH: I’ll operate as soon as I can. But it needs careful planning.

MALCOLM: So what am I s'posed to do? Just wait?

FINCH: It's not causing you pain, or significant brain damage…

MALCOLM: It still gave me a fit.

FINCH: Yes, but epilepsy can be managed.

MALCOLM: Won’t it just get worse?

FINCH: Well, it’s not fully grown yet, so it may expand into new areas of your brain…

MALCOLM: Great!

FINCH: (Points at scan) It's occupying most of the cerebrum, here, and part of the cerebellum. Many brain functions have been squeezed aside, but they're still working.

MALCOLM: Hallelujah!

FINCH: Your vision and hearing are normal. If this were a tumour we'd call it benign.

MALCOLM: (Jumps up) It's not a fucking tumour! I don't want it inside me, OK?

FINCH: Of course you don't! But we need to consider how to operate safely.

MALCOLM: How long will that take?

FINCH: It's a tricky procedure.

MALCOLM: Are you saying it's too dangerous?

FINCH: We have to weigh up all the benefits and risks, Malcolm.

Malcolm puts his face in his hands.

Silence.

FINCH: (Checks papers) I see you had the seizure at work?

MALCOLM: In the middle of a team meeting.

FINCH: Who’s your employer?

MALCOLM: QJ Systems… It's an IT company.

FINCH: And presumably you're on sick leave?

He nods.

FINCH: Make sure you stay home as long as you need to.

MALCOLM: No, I wanna go back. Things get... claustrophobic in the house.

FINCH: I can imagine. Do you live alone?

MALCOLM: No, with my dad.

FINCH: At least he’s there to support you.

MALCOLM: I'm 34 and living with my father. It’s not exactly paradise!

FINCH: Are you… in a relationship with anyone?

MALCOLM: My girlfriend.

FINCH: Maybe she could help you deal with this.

MALCOLM: We were hoping to buy a flat, but now…! (Bursts into tears)

FINCH: There's no reason to give up, Malcolm. (Puts hand on his shoulder) You mustn't put your life on hold.

MALCOLM: I'm trying to be positive. It's just... this is, like, the worst time!

FINCH: Remember, we're here to support you. Me and all the staff.

MALCOLM: Thank you.

FINCH: We’ll give you advice. Coping mechanisms. They really work. Nurse Talpur will run through them with you.

MALCOLM: OK. (Silence) Sorry I got angry. I'm just... confused.

FINCH: It’s fine.

MALCOLM: No reflection on you. You're a real professional.

FINCH: I do my best. (Opens door) Nurse? Can you see Mr Reeves now? Good luck, Malcolm.

MALCOLM: I'll need it!

FINCH: Oh, and… take this. (Puts scan in folder and offers it to Malcolm)

MALCOLM: What for?

FINCH: All the fake news these days… People don’t know what to believe. (Silence) Best to have some proof.

Malcolm looks at the folder, then takes it.
Music: “The Beast in Me”.

Fade to blackout.


Scene Two

Evening. A park.

Malcolm and JULIE are standing in each other’s arms. He is holding the folder.

She breaks away.

JULIE: What do you mean?

MALCOLM: I mean what I said.

JULIE: I don’t believe it.

MALCOLM: Nor did I. Then I saw the scan… in 3D and everything. There’s no doubt it’s in me, Julie. (Takes scan out of folder) Look.

JULIE: (Takes scan and looks) But… how? How did it…?

MALCOLM: They don’t know.

JULIE: Shit, Malc! This is terrible.

Long silence.

MALCOLM: At least it’s not cancer.

JULIE: What!

MALCOLM: I’ve got to try and look on the bright side. Apart from the seizure I’m fine.

JULIE: Malc, what are you talking about? (Waves scan) Can’t you see what this is?

MALCOLM: Of course I can! I’m not blind. (Takes scan back and puts it away)

JULIE: Then don’t you realise what it means? For your job… for our whole future together?

MALCOLM: Our future?

JULIE: How are you going to carry on working with that inside you?

MALCOLM: Why not?

JULIE: I mean… will they really let you, knowing that’s in there?

MALCOLM: Of course! My brain’s working fine, I’m on medication for the fits…

JULIE: Sure, but –

MALCOLM: Plus, loads of disabled people have jobs.

JULIE: Disabled? It’s not a disability!

MALCOLM: It is as far as I’m concerned. I'm hoping to register.

JULIE: Seriously?

MALCOLM: Yes! And QJ’s an equal opportunities employer. They’re open-minded.

JULIE: OK… Maybe I’m wrong.

Silence.

MALCOLM: What about you?

JULIE: What?

MALCOLM: Are you open-minded?

JULIE: Course I am. It’s just… This turns everything upside down.

He takes her hands.

MALCOLM: You still love me, don’t you?

JULIE: Yes.

They kiss.

MALCOLM: So we’re still gonna find our own place?

JULIE: Sure.

MALCOLM: And get married? Have kids?

JULIE: Malcolm, don’t! (Breaks away)

MALCOLM: What do you mean?

JULIE: How can you think about having kids?

MALCOLM: Why not?

JULIE: Cos you’ve got no idea what effect this’ll have! On your brain, your body, your genes…

MALCOLM: My genes? Are you suggesting I could pass this on to my children?

JULIE: Has anyone said you can’t?

Silence.

MALCOLM: I just want to get on with my life.

JULIE: Shouldn’t you focus on getting it out first?

MALCOLM: I am! But that’s up to the surgeon. Right now, all I can do is use coping strategies.

JULIE: Coping strategies?

MALCOLM: You know, like… being active. Doing sport and stuff. And planning.

JULIE: For what?

MALCOLM: The longer term.

JULIE: As if that thing wasn’t there? Sounds like you’re in denial.

MALCOLM: I can’t spend every second thinking about it, Julie!

JULIE: All right… (Silence) Better change the subject then... What shall we talk about?

MALCOLM: Anything.

JULIE: OK… (Silence) Do you want to ask me how my day was?

MALCOLM: How was your day?

JULIE: Yeah, it was good. (Silence) We got a new bulk order for tomatoes. So I was busy dealing with that.

MALCOLM: Right.

JULIE: Oh, and I was gonna tell you. Jeff Craxton’s leaving at the end of next month. He’s off to Malaysia, so they’ve advertised for a replacement. (Strolls around) I might apply. I could do with a promotion. It'd be a 5k pay rise. That’d definitely help us get our own flat. (Turns round) What do you think? (Silence) Malc?

MALCOLM: (Looks up) Uh?

Music: “The Beast in Me”.

Fade to blackout.


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