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Upon the Roof

by dickieh 

Posted: 09 June 2005
Word Count: 3082
Summary: short comedy play performed at the Arcola Theatre 25/5/05


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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.


Upon the Roof

ĎUp on the roof by the Driftersí. Lights come up. We see Jim pacing along a ledge. He seems agitated. Every so often he leans over the ledge and screams. The crowd below scream back. Nish, a college student, arrives on the scene.


Jim Iím gonna jump! AHHHH!

Crowd Heís gonna jump! AHHHH!

Jim Leave that there! Nobody move it or Iíll jump!

Crowd Leave it or heíll jump!

Jim I will! AHHH!!!

Nish Ahhh!

Jim (Startled) Jesus!

Nish Shit. I forgot my fags. Do you smoke?

Jim Me? No I donít.

Nish Never mind, fuck it. Iíll go back down and get them. No, youíll probably jump before I get back. If I go and get my fags, could you wait Ďtill I get back? Only I forgot them. I wont be long promise. I live in the building, it wonít take a second, Iíd really appreciate it.

Jim ErrÖok.

Nish You sure? Youíre not just saying that to get rid of me and then youíre gonna jump off anyway and then Iíll miss it. That would be really out of order.

Jim No. I can wait.

Nish Cheers. Back in a minute.

Jim Hold on! Stay where you are. I know your game. Stay where you are. You nearly had me.

Nish What?

Jim Very clever.

Nish What you talking about?

Jim I know how this works. Youíre a police negotiator arenít you?

Nish (Laughs) Nice one.

Jim You are arenít you. Theyíve sent you to check out the scenario and now youíre gonna report back to them. Clever.

Nish Mate are you a bit thick in the head? I mean, I know youíre gonna chuck yourself of this building, but are you mental?

Jim Very clever.

Nish Do I look like a copper? Are you calling me a pig?

Jim You canít fool me.

Nish (In his face) I live in the building you nob. I aint a cop, Iím a student. I got odd socks on.

Jim Yeah?

Nish Yeah. My mum said there was some nutter gonna chuck himself off the building so course I legged it up here, forgot my fags and I couldnít find my other sock. So I got an odd pair on. But I thought you might have chucked yourself off before I got up here. But youíre still here. Good.

Jim Why are you/

Nish I, am a journalist.

Jim Youíre a journalist?

Nish Are you deaf?!

Jim No.

Nish Iím a journalist. Iím at college and that.

Jim Oh, ok.

Nish Aint you impressed?

Jim Erm, yeah?

Nish Iím missing this Morning for this! They got Dumbledore on from Harry Potter.

Jim Isnít he dead?

Nish The new one. He aint as good but heís still good. Know what I mean?

Jim Yeah. I havenít seen the latest one.

Nish Never mind. You should have seen it before you jump off. Gotta plan things aint ya? Youíre not good at planning are ya?

Jim No, not really.

Nish See! I got a natural instinct for stuff. Gonna be a natural reporter. (Pulling out a pad) Right, sit down. (She sits on a box near the ledge). Sit down. Iím gonna interview you. (He sits on the ledge, Ďohhhhh!í From the crowd below). (To the crowd) He aint gonna jump! Heís gonna do an interview with me first! Sit over here. (She sits him on a box near her and returns to ledge) Hey Stacey! I got the scoop baby! Yeah! (Sits)

Jim Iím a scoop?

Nish Yeah. Itís journalist talk. So. Are you comfortable?

Jim Well, the wind is a bit/

Nish /Yeah, Iím not really bothered, thatís just what they tell us to say, you know for normal people.

Jim Iím normal.

Nish Yeah, right. Whatís your name?

Jim Jim Baylis. Iím 22, an artist from Peckham.

Nish Have you done this before?

Jim No.

Nish Have you given anyone else an interview.

Jim No.

Nish Then, are you taking the fucking piss?

Jim No..I just thought, you know.

Nish Listen Jim. Iíll do the thinking, you do the jumping alright?

Jim Ok.

Nish I aint here to stop you. That would be a shit story wouldnít it? Sexy young journalist stops suicidal spas-man. You gotta jump or it donít work does it?

Jim No. Whatís your name?

Nish Nish.

Jim Iíll wait if you want to get your fags?

Nish No, my mumís down watching now. She donít know I smoke. Sheíd be up here giving me a right clip if she saw me.

Jim Oh, ok.

Nish Bitch. Listen. Alright, Jim Baylis, 22, artist, Peckham, Is this the first time youĎve jumped off a building

Jim Yes. I havenít jumped yet though! (Laughs, Nish looks at him) I will though.

Nish Ever done a bungee jump?

Jim No.

Nish Parachute jump?

Jim No.

Nish Been on a big trampoline?

Jim No.

Nish Anyone in your family ever jumped off a building?

Jim No.

Nish Mates?

Jim No. I fell of a wall once. That was quite high.

Nish Thanks.

Jim So will this be in the paper?

Nish What?

Jim This interview will it be in the paper?

Nish Yeah, maybe. I was gonna use it for my course, but yeah, papers might pick it up. I could get some moolah. Iím too advanced for my class anyway, I got natural instincts, things they cant teach ya. Know what I mean. Like today, I knew something was gonna happen. Soon as Fern and Phillip started laughing when they were saying what was on. You know how theyíre always laughing? But today was different, they started laughing well early, an I thought, somethingís up. Then my mum comes in and sheís like ďhey, hey there is a man on the roof gonna chuck himself offĒ and all that, and I thought, I knew that was gonna happen. I gotta gift. Stacey Baines, sheís my neighbour, but we aint mates. Believe me. Sheís on my course as well, she well looks down on me but Iím like, slow up bitch, just Ďcos I gotta gift, I cant help it that Iím fit and clever and you just clever. She aint all that clever she just got like 11 GCSEís and A levels an that. I tell her ďWhere you keep youíre Certificates bitch? In your arse? You big arsed bitch!Ē Wicked. (She is corpsing).

Jim Cool.

Nish Anyway. Think very carefully before my next question. Are you stupid?

Jim Erm..No?

Nish Now Iím not trying to stop you, but youíre jumping off a building.

Jim Yeah.

Nish And youíre not stupid.

Jim Yeah.

Nish Are you mental?

Jim Ha! No!

Nish Wait (scribbles away in book).

Jim What are you doing?

Nish Filling in. You got a scary laugh thing going on, so Iím making notes. Later Iíll be ĎFleshing out the storyí Itís journalist talk.

Jim You know Iíve got it all here. (He produces an envelope).

Nish What?

Jim Why Iím doing it. Killing myself. Itís all in here.

Nish Give me that.

Jim Why?

Nish ĎCos I need it for the story.

Jim I can tell you whatís in it.

Nish Yeah, and give it to me. Iíve got exclusive rights here.

Jim But itís sealed.

Nish Yeah?

Jim And I need it to be on me when IÖland.

Nish Mate, I donít think ití exactly a landing, know what I mean? More of aÖSplatting. Now give it here.

Sally (Entering on a rope) Donít do it! Itís not worth dying for!

Nish Iím in the middle of an interview here!

Sally Well, I really donít think this is the time.

Nish Heís gonna jump, you canít talk him out of it weíve got an agreement.

Jim Have we?

Nish Yeah!

Jim Do you have any food?

Sally Yes! Have a frazzle (She tentatively goes towards him, as she does Lucy enters on the other end of the rope line, she is bitter, annoyed and smoking a fag).

Jim Thanks (He goes to eat one).

Sally You know, if you jump, youíll never taste a frazzle again.

Jim (Pause) Thatís not really a great reason to keep on living is it?

Sally Itís one of many. I have more! There areÖthere areÖthere areÖthere are people that love you.

Lucy Ha!

Nish (Pushing her aside) Yeah, great, whatever.

Jim Who are they?

Sally Weíre Samaritans. Weíre here to help.

Nish yeah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Give me the letter.

Jim No.

Nish Fine. (Takes Frazzles)

Sally My name is Sally, what is your name?

Jim Erm..Jim.

Sally Hello Jim.

Jim Hello Sally. (To Lucy) Who are you?

Lucy Iím Sallyís supervisor, Lucy.

Jim Supervisor?

Lucy Yes. This is her first time in the field.

Sally This is my first time but I am very well prepared.

Jim Oh. Good. Do you mind if I finish my interview?

Lucy Go ahead.

Sally Wouldnít you rather?/

Lucy /are you going to jump?

Jim Yes.

Lucy Sure?

Jim Yes.

Lucy Well, do what you like then.

Nish Can I have a fag?

Lucy Sorry, last one.

Nish Arenít you meant to have loads?

Lucy Why?

Nish To..you know..use them to calm people down and stuff. Stop them killing themselves.

Lucy By getting them addicted to smoking? I think that defeats the point a bit.

Jim Nishís mum doesnít know she smokes.

Nish Shut up Jimbo baggins.

Sally Weíre here to help you Jim. Lucy and I are here to help you. Forget about being in the papers, letís just talk.

Jim Iíd quite like to be in the papers. Thatís the whole point really. Anyway Nish is at college sheís not a proper journalist.

Lucy Great. Amateur night.

Nish What did you say? (To Jim) Iíll chuck you off myself! Iím a proper journalist. Iím leaving college. Iíll get this in the papers and then Stacey Baines can smell my pits. Sit down! Sit! Down! I got questions for you. Iím missing Dumbledore on Richard and Judy for this.

Sally Isnít he dead?

Nish The new one.

Sally I havenít seen the new one.

Jim Me neither.

Lucy Itís not as good as the book.

Jim I havenít read the books.

Lucy Theyíre not that good.

Sally I like them.

Nish Shhh! SHHHH! Shhhhhhh! I have important questions! (Calms herself and sits opposite Jim) Are you gay?

Jim No!

Nish Bi?

Jim No!

Nish Curious?

Jim No. Why donít I just tell you why I am killing myself?

Nish Oh! Ok Mr Know it All. Why donít you tell us why you are killing yourself.

Sally Yes tell us. We can help you. Tell me why you think youíre killing yourself and Iíll tell you why you are killing yourself.

Nish Shutup.

Jim Iím an artist. Not a crazy, blood guts and spunk reactionary. I rent a studio and I do paintings and sculpture. I live on my own and/

Sally You live on your own? How awful! Donít worry, weíre here now. We are your friends.

Lucy Very good Sally.

Nish Weíre not his friends.

Sally Yes we are Jim.

Nish No. Youíre just a bunch of wierdos up on my roof. Now Iím trying to get the Looneyís last thoughts and if you open your mouth again I will kick your spotty rump right off this roof ĎSally no matesí, alright?

Lucy Iím not intervening. Iím just here to assess Sally.

Jim Youíre being marked Sally?

Sally (Looks at Nish and nods).

Jim Well I think youíre doing great. (She smiles).

Lucy Oh please get on with it.

Nish Hey! Iím gonna/

Lucy /Oh grow up you annoying little bint. Whatís going on Jimbo? Whatís it all about?

Nish (Throws Frazzles at Lucy)

Lucy Whatís that supposed to do?

Nish Thereís more where that came from.

Sally I havenít got any more.

Nish (Goes to smack Sally)

Jim Itís the Turner prize. Iím killing myself over the Turner prize.

Sally We covered this in training.

Jim Yes well. Nish do you know what the Turner Prize is?

Nish I aint thick Spaz. I been to the Tate modern on a trip and seen all that bullshit, bullshit.

Lucy An accurate description.

Jim Exactly. The Turner Prize is bullshit! Thirty Grand for putting your bed on display, or having a light bulb go on and off and on and off and on and off and on and off. Thirty grand plus TV appearances and commissions and so on, and itís bullshit. A bunch of totally clueless up their own arse art Ďtsarsí or whatever they call themselves saying ďOh look a light bulb going on and offĒ and ďOh an unmade bed what an amazing concept to challenge the order of todayís global society.Ē Bullshit. They think ďwhatís going to provoke the most public response because thatís what art is for isnít it? Provoking people. ďOh they donít get it and theyíre complaining that itís stupidĒ means itís served itís purpose in provoking a debate about art. Bollocks! They know itís shit, I know itís shit itís all shit! I paint and sculpt. I like to paint what I think people appreciate and admire, because it matters to me what people think. If it didnít matter then whatís the point. Even the artists who say they donít care what anyone thinks are lying because someone has to exhibit their work. And if no one likes it then no oneís going to see it.

Lucy So youíre going to kill yourself?

Jim So Iím going to kill myself.

Lucy In protest?

Jim Exactly.

Lucy Fair enough.

Jim They should be giving the money to good causes not someone who can make a light bulb go on and off.

Lucy True.

Nish You get thirty grand for a dirty bed? Man they should come round mine, my room must be worth a cool mill easy. Itís a pigsty.

Sally Couldnít you just write a letter or protest in another way, Thereís plenty of ways to get your message across.

Jim This is my message. Look. (He beckons them all to the ledge. Ohh from the crowd)

V/O Thereís 4 of them! Thereís 4 of them gonna jump!

Jim Itís alright! Only Iím jumping! (groans of Ďnever mind/oh wellí from the crowd)

Nish What are we looking for?

Sally That big sheet down there?

Lucy Itís not a sheet. Itís a canvas isnít it Jim?

Jim Exactly.

Nish Whatís it for?

Sally Yes Jim. Whatís it for?

Lucy Itís obvious isnít it? Jimís going to jump on the canvas.

Sally But youíll die!

Jim Exactly.

Lucy What a marvellous idea.

Sally Killing yourself?

Jim Yes. This is my Turner prize entry. That canvas will soon be covered in squashed me. My blood will represent the blood spilt and lives around the world everyday whilst this ridiculous farce called contemporary art exists. That money could save five hundred children from starvation. Thatís all it would take thirty grand, but we need a flashing light bulb instead, or half a shark in a tank?

Lucy Fuck it, Iím with you.

Sally But itís so stupid!

Jim Exactly! People will realise how stupid this whole competition is and stop it. Give the money to people who need it.

Lucy I think itís a great idea. Jim I have been a Samaritan for so long now that all I ever hear is doom and gloom, and ĎI feel sorry for myselfí and ĎIíve had a hard lifeí and I couldnít give a flying fuck anymore to be quite honest with you, life is shit so get on with it. Sorry Sally, itís your first day in the field but donít worry youíll get used to it. Such hope we all had when we started out, such dreams. Well bollocks. I think this is a marvellous way to die. Donít let me stand in your way. (They all step away from the ledge and Jim begins to get ready to jump)

Nish What if you miss?

Jim What if I miss?

Nish Yeah. Itís not like you had a practice or anything.

Sally Sheís right Jim. You might miss. There is a wind and it could blow you off course. Itís a very small piece of canvas.

Jim Iíve got a bigger one at home.

Nish Too late mate, youíll have to chance it.

Sally You might land on those people.

Nish Hey! You better not land on my mum.

Jim Alright, ok, hold on a minute. (He tests the wind and moves to his left and looks at all of them. They shake their heads, he moves the other way)

Lucy Hold on. (She joins him on the ledge. Nish joins as well and they all move until he is in the right place). Best I can do.

Jim Thanks. Ok. (He gives the letter to Sally. Nish grabs it from her hand)

Nish Any last words?

Jim This is stupid

Sally Yes! Donít do it!

Jim No Sally, those are my last words; ďThis is stupidĒ. (Prepares again)

Sally Wait! What if you win? What if you win the Turner prize? What if they say that this was the greatest piece of Modern art ever and immortalise your name? They might even change the name of it to the Jim Baylis Prize in honour of your achievement. You canít do it! Not if you might win.

Jim Yeah, I hadnít thought of that.

Lucy Very good Sally. What a quandary, isnít life complicated.

Jim Shit.

Nish Whatdja mean shit? You gotta jump now! Iíve been up here with you from the start you owe me! Iíve made sacrifices bro. (she is on the ledge with him) You can do it. I believe in you. I need this story! If I donít get this story then Stacey Baines is going to get better marks than me and sheíll just love that, and give me the look you know? Like Iím not as good as her? Come on! Do it for me!

Jim Sorry Nish.

Nish What if you missed. They couldnít let you win if you missed could they?

Jim Theyíd probably love the irony and give it to me anyway.

Nish Shit! (Crowd Ohhh! Nishaís mum shouts up ďNisha get down here nowĒ) Oh great. Thanks a lot. (To Jim) I made sacrifices for you! (She exits).

Sally (Goes to the ledge) And she smokes!

Lucy Sally.

Sally Sorry.

Lucy Well done.



END


















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