PLAYS by KEITH JOHNSTONE
“Many people find my adult plays disturbing but isn’t the whole universe disturbing? Anyway, be warned. And I apologise for not being about to write more comfortable plays. Here are extracts from a few of the ones I like.”
~ Keith Johnstone
SHORT (TILT) PLAYS
Additional plays and other writings are available through Keith Johnstone Workshops Inc. and/or in the Keith Johnstone Papers at Stanford University Archives. If you are interested in acquiring and/or producing a Keith Johnstone play or publishing literary content (including artwork) created by Keith, please contact Keith's literary executor.
An excerpt from the play by Keith Johnstone.
IN HIS OLD ARMCHAIR. HE HAD REMOVED HIS OVER-COAT. HE WORE TROUSERS AND SHIRT
AND WAISTCOAT (AND SLIPPERS?). HE WORE A HALF-MASK
THE WAIF WAS ON THE FLOOR NEAR HIM, PLAYING
WITH THE TEDDY BEAR. SHE WORE A PALE BLUE DRESS MADE OF A LIGHT ‘AIRY’
MATERIAL. SHE USUALLY WORE A FLATTISH HAT. SHE WAS SLIGHT, SEEMINGLY
PREPUBESCENT. SHE WORE A HALF-MASK.
Waif:What did you do before you were a
Granddad:(REMEMBERING WITH PLEASURE) I used to look
after the birds in the park. I put nesting boxes for them up in the trees. I
built platforms out in the lake for the Swans to nest on. People used to be
surprised at how many birds there were.
Waif:What was a bird, Granddad?
Granddad(APPALLED): You don't know what a bird was! Have
I have lived so long!
Waif(PLEASED THAT SHE HAS GALVANIZED GRANDDAD): Tell
Granddad:They were flying things.
Waif:With people in them?
Granddad:Oh no, they were alive! And they made noises
like this. (MAKES VARIOUS BIRD NOISES). You would have liked the birds. At dusk
the starlings used to pour into the trees like God emptying his tea leaves.
Waif:Starlings. Were they from the stars?
Granddad:No, no....they were corporeal things. There
were wrens, sparrows, kingfishers, robins, blue-tits, coal-tits, thrushes,
swifts, swallows, the stork, the heron, the passenger pigeon, the great auk,
the coot, the moor hen, the humming bird, the stormy petrel, the fish-eagle,
the crow, the chaffinch, - there were owls, ostriches, penguins, chickens,
turkeys, geese, pullets, partridges, ducks…
Waif(EXCITED): But what were they like, Granddad!
Granddad(CONFUSED): Haven't I told you? (REALIZING) Ah
well, their mouths and noses were all one thing - like this (MAKING BEAK WITH
HIS HANDS) - and their eyes were on the sides of their heads, and their legs
were scaly, and they had feathers - soft as your cheek or stiff to beat the
Waif:Were their faces always pointed?
Granddad:They were all shapes.
Waif(EXCITED): I've seen one!
Granddad:No, no, an aeroplane.
Waif:A big white flappy thing!
Granddad(ALERTED BY THE WORD ‘FLAPPED’): Flapped? It
flapped? How did it move?
Waif:Like this! (SHE DOES A IMITATION OF AN ELEGANT
Granddad:You saw it on television.
Waif:No. It dropped something. Wait! I’ve got it
here somewhere (SHE SHOWS HIM A WHITE FEATHER).
Granddad(OVERCOME. ESCTATIC.): A feather! A feather! A
real feather from a living swan! A swan! A swan! A real feather from a living
swan! (URGENTLY) Where did you see it!
Waif:In the wilderness.
Granddad:Perhaps it's hurt! Perhaps its wing is broken!
A swannnn! A swannnn! A real feather from a living swan! (AD LIB) We must help
it. Get your coat on.
HE PUT HIS OWN COAT AND SCARF ON, AND HELPED
THE WAIF WITH HER COAT AND SCARF (CLOTHING WAS USUALLY HANDED THROUGH THE
CURTAIN BY BLACK-COVERED HANDS AND ARMS)
(NEW THOUGHT) There weren't two of them?
Waif:It was alone.
Granddad:Pity! Pity! (NEW THOUGHT!) Bread! They used to
eat the bread! (HE SPEAKS WITH GREAT PASSION) A swan! A swan. A white swan.
That I should live to see it! A swan. A real feather from a living swan. A
swan! A swan! (AD LIB)
THEY EXITED THROUGH THE AUDIENCE WHERE GRANDDAD
SHOOK HANDS WITH PEOPLE AND SHOWED THEM THE FEATHER AND CRIED OUT THE NEW ABOUT
THE SWAN ECSTATICALLY.
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