(A Brief: "It is Shakespeare's Birthday on Friday and to celebrate the EFG* are gonna have a go at writing our own plays! Brian: You are to write a tragedy. It will be set in Goole, Humberside. It has to feature three characters - one of which is the Honey Monster. It must also feature a stanna stairlift and a baby leopard. David: You must write a comedy. Yours is set in Buenos Aires. It has to feature three characters - one of which is Chris Martin from Coldplay. It must also feature whey and a Halibut. Here are the rules: 1. They can be in any style (so they don't have to be in the style of Shakespeare) 2. They only need be as long as any typical EFG essay 3. They must be factually correct 4. They must be written as a play, not as an essay or story. Deadline for the scripts is 3pm Friday 30th April. Hope this is clear! J-Li" *EFG= Weekly office-based focus group - one member picks a random topic for the others to research, investigate, make or do.)
Stage Left - the large, modern bathroom off the Ambassadors Suite, the New Quilombo Intercontinental, Buenos Aires. It is mid-afternoon. GWYNETH sits in a whirlpool bath, gently doing her back with a loofa. On the music system Kenny Rogers And The First Edition's Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town is about to begin. A long glass of juice and a mirror wait within easy reach, beside the whirlpool.
GWYNETH (singing along softly): You've painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair. Ruby, are you contemplating going out somewhere? The shadow on the wall tells me the sun is going down. Oh, Ruby. Don't take your love to town.
After caressing her distended and heavily pregnant belly, GWYNETH swings the mirror to face her.
GWYNETH (continuing to sing): It wasn't me that started that old crazy Asian war. But I was proud to go and do my patriotic chore. And yes it's true that I'm not the man I used be. Oh, Ruby. I still need some company.
GWYNETH (angling a remote control at the music system): It's hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralysed..
GWYNETH (now in silence, addressing the mirror and testing a smile): Would you look at yourself now, Lil Ms Gwyneth P. Lie back for half a second and let this whole mad sheboodle sink in, girl.
Enter CHRIS MARTIN, Centre stage, through the bathroom door, a bottle of organic plum and whey protein smoothie poised below his lips.
CHRIS (concerned): Talking on your ownsome, angel cake? Is that normal? Is that what happens?
GWYNETH (shocked, then contentedly): Jeez, Chrissie. Oh.. I'm sitting here trying to think of how life could get even one soupcon better. And I can't. I truly cannot. I'm in the upper echelons of heaven, liebe strudel. That or deepest Eden.
CHRIS (perching on the edge of the whirlpool and tracing his fingers across her belly): And I'm the luckiest fellow, Gwyn. Sooner we're home the better. Somewhere we can be ourselves. No apologies. The music used to be, but.. all this running around and gimme this. Gimme that. The tour's in the can, I kinda wish it was just the three of us, you know? Deffo takes an urchin's swell to show a man what's truly, truly important. Just the three of us. Four! Stuff it, Gwynnie - five, six or seven!
CHRIS (gurgling smoothie, calming): I know. I know. Say, we gotta whizz down to the fanclub beach party tonight. A closer for the DVD. Outtakes. Bloopers. Sorry.
GWYNETH (dismayed): We? What about me? You know I don't really care for it when you and the gang party up with fans.
CHRIS: Come on, it's work, really. Y'know. Anyway, I've been thinking about that - you've had a hell of a lot more boyfriends than I've had girlfriends.
GWYNETH: And? It's not a competition, bun!
CHRIS (half-turning away): I know. Silly. I guess a part of me thinks love should be special.
GWYNETH (concerned): Chrissie? What we have is special.
CHRIS: Yeah, I bet all of them were special. All your boyfriends. Aren't I lucky, the latest special guy on the list.
GWYNETH: Oh hon, you're more than that! Hub, what's come over you? When it comes to sleeping around, you haven't missed anything, I can assure you! It's very overrated.
CHRIS (jumping up): See! At least you can say that. You've lived and learned. You've had your fun and now you fancy settling down with someone nice. Make sure you've had it both ways. Smart, Gwyneth, very smart. I've never played the field. I've always been too nice. What they say is true. I'll probably end up feeling I've missed out, gradually go bitter, wacky. An old screwball heavy-breathing over horrified teenagers.
GWYNETH: Silly, you are nice. That's what people like about you..
CHRIS (dejectedly): Too nice. A real chump. A real nice-guy chump. Shh. Here he comes. Look. Chris the bloody big chump Martin.
GWYNETH (demurely, rubbing her belly and extending her lower lip): Oh, Chrissie, I hate it when you're piqued. Little Pickle hates it too. He tells me.
CHRIS (straightening his shoulders, softening): Oh, G. God knows I'm yours. Course I am. I'll be there. Guiding Pickle. (staring off) Give him space, steer him round to fly right. A good sport. The world needs a few at least. (grasping her shoulder) I don't know what came over me, angel cake. I so so want to go grey and cuckoo with you.
GWYNETH (smiling lightly, raising her hand towards his): You will, darling. You will.
(As their finger lock, a series of alarms begin to sound on the lower floors, gradually rising closer to the Ambassadors Suite.)
CHRIS (spooked): Christ on a kite, what next?
GWYNETH (watching CHRIS rush from the bathroom, across the bedroom and exit Right through the main door): Bun? What in..?
Now alone, GWYNETH rises from the bath, towels herself and collects her bathrobe. She looks increasingly flustered by the alarms, occasionally shoots a glance through the bathroom window.
GWYNETH (panicky, to herself): Show some Paltrow steel.. grandma had it.. great grandaddy too.. did his own dentistry with a foot o'catgut and a fork handle.. would've done his own appendix too if they hadn't battoned down the door.. so they say.
Once she has tied her robe, she passes into the suite to follow CHRIS, but is immediately confronted by SENOR GÕÕGLE, the hotelier, paused in the doorway, preparing to rap on the open door. He is sharply dressed and fingers a satin handkerchief to and fro as he speaks.
SENOR GÕÕGLE: Madame Paltrow, do forgive me. I am your hotelier. We have a kitchen fire which fails to respond to the recommended retardants. There is absolutely no need to panic.
(A rush of feet and a heightening panic can be heard in the corridor beyond the bedroom. Someone screams. A single swirl of black smoke curls around the doorway and into the suite.)
GWYNETH (calling towards the corridor): Chrissie?
SENOR GÕÕGLE (preparing a smile, stepping aside to uncover a silver platter on a trolley): Your macrobiotic halibut. Microfauna-friendly. Apologies for the unforeseen delay.
GWYNETH (staring at the charred dish): Where's my darling Christopher?
SENOR GÕÕGLE: Oh, not far. The inferno found an impressive hold almost instantaneously. Elevators have been suspended.
CHRIS (at the door, collapsing, coughing): ..no.. good.. exits.. blocked.. smoke.. deadly smoke..
SENOR GÕÕGLE (opening the main window at Rear and leaning over the balcony): Dear guests, I can assure you that the fire engine response times in Buenos Aires are amongst the highest in South America. A mid-week average of eleven minutes. Here they come now!
CHRIS (moving to the balcony): Gotta.. get out.. where's the.. goddamn.. ladder?
SENOR GÕÕGLE: Do relax, a Buenos Aires Fire Service fire engine has a 13.5 metre three-section rooftop ladder with a two-man bucket, a 10.5 metre single section ground ladder and either a 4 or 6 metre additional roof ladder.
CHRIS (backing away, horrified, as a helicopter packed with photographers rises to hover over the beach): God.. would those sick vultures leave us alone? (calling out) Hello there! Oh, we're fine! Yourselves? Kids fed? Yeah, we're about to burn to death. Righto! See you at the wake.
SENOR GÕÕGLE: I blame myself, Ms Paltrow. Microfauna-friendly is new to chef, and something he had a modicum of trouble over.
CHRIS (turning, crazed and disbelieving): Hemmed-in. No escape. Charred like so many shrimps capsized and frazzling across the blackened coals. Flesh.. burning.
GWYNETH: Christopher, please.
CHRIS (focused on himself, mocking, casting down his empty smoothie): Christopher, please.
GWYNETH (turning to SENOR GÕÕGLE): We'll be fine. I'm sure of it.
CHRIS (turning, descending the step to pick up the platter, moving stage Front) This is it. This is it. For all my melancholy, where some saw a richness, depth. Others called me cool, aloof. But 'Chris is front man', man to man agreed. An unquantifiable depth. Born to it.
CHRIS (stage Rear descends into darkness, but for the light beyond the window, the balcony and helicopter): Look at me now, facing my own pathetic sacrifice. Where breath was but a slow preparation, in dense chains, for the terrible tango of speechlessness. Hark an epitaph, a sticky end, these picky vittals. What good now, the ruffian of vanity, cold mechanic of the high life?
SENOR GÕÕGLE (silhouetted on the balcony, looking over, excitedly): They have a big blanket! After dinner, we could perhaps jump.
CHRIS: The blanket is wet, senor. (guiding GWYNETH into the light) Gwynnie, I have been maddened. Pulled into pieces by the public measure of our private doings, to publicly assess our private fitness to be public figures. The irony of this exposure undoes my heart. But by turns, I am maddened too at the shallow part I feel destined to play for you and sweet Pickle. It seems like a genuine facade. I imagine that I am maddened by the fear that this, too, is just me .. being nice. When will I ever be sure?
CHRIS (after a while, confessional, turning): I stay awake some nights, and dream myself turned wild, a fetid brute, and the butcherer of lambs and virgins. Gnawing hind in the moonlight. Feral eyes wavering, agog. Later, as yet unsuccumbed by the dark, I reach across the duvet to kiss you, once, when you are finally in slumber, and I dream myself.. irreplaceable. A superman.
GWYNETH: You are, pumpkin.
CHRIS (backing into the shadows): I am.. far from that.
GWYNETH (concerned, facing Front): Why do I feel him leave me now? Like this. What have I done? What have I ever done, but try to do my best? (SENOR GÕÕGLE steps into the light and places his arm around GWYNETH's shoulder) The fire is raging, sir. Without and within. And my best is somehow never good enough, for him.
CHRIS (clambering onto the edge of the balcony, addressing the helicopter): Here! I say! Here! The swift decline of stiff upper Chris. Did he even know anything?
SENOR GÕÕGLE (lowering his arm around GWYNETH's waist, sighing): When I was the youngest boy, I went with my friend to El Diablo's Churn, a hole through the rocks at the ocean's edge, where the unwanted cats of Buenos Aires are placed into sacks, with a brick, and thrown down to struggle and drown.
CHRIS (shouting): Come for the truth?
GWYNETH (briefly turning to glimpse at CHRIS's silhouette at the window): Go on.
SENOR GÕÕGLE: I dared my friend to dive into that churn. Down, through the cats in sacks, to emerge on the other side of the rocks. Twenty seconds was all it took, people said.
CHRIS: A puddle of fucking guts? Would that be nice?
SENOR GÕÕGLE (watching CHRIS): It was the greatest mistake of my life, for my friend never returned.
SENOR GÕÕGLE hugs GWYNETH closer, they tango into the shadows, watching the balcony.
CHRIS: Do your best, Chris. It's all we can do. Be all things to all men, Chris. Be yourself, Chris. Get a thicker skin, Chris. Give it some, Chris. Just be yourself, Chris. It's all we can be. How do you know, Chris? And if you don't know, does anyone? Chris, you tit. No self-pity, Chris. Kill a man, Chris. Kill a man at cards. Yeah! 'Oh I think I like him more. He was too nice before.' Sting Chris. Nice Chris. Chris Christ, too nice. Push someone off a cliff, Christ. (swinging the halibut onto his knee like a ventriloquist's doll) What do you think? I'm gutted. (swinging the halibut off the balcony) This is the end. La Fin. Look at me now, take a long cold look cos I won't be here for long. (cupping his hand toward the sky) I'm Chris Martin and I am what I am. And for five seconds before I die - let me fucking breathe.
GWYNETH (through oxygen mask): Muffin, the firemen are here.
As the light returns, GWYNETH is being escorted out towards the door by several firemen in breathing apparatus. Too late, CHRIS has flung himself off the balcony.
SENOR GÕÕGLE (alone, picking up the platter, wheeling it slowly out the door): They dragged the churn for my friend's body. Clawed, they swore. Scratched. So they said. But, then, after a few cold Quilmes Cristal cervezas down on the playa, much gets said.
SENOR GÕÕGLE (looking over the balcony): What a catch.