Small room. Walls not quite perpendicular; large pile of unpacked cases. A plate of grapes rests on a coffee table, affecting something of a decadent, late-Roman air, but with the debilitating shortfall of their original packaging . A bust of Seneca on the mantelpiece. Mud everywhere. Two overdressed English students slouch.

Curtain. A flourish of horns. A flurry of tusks. A lone violinist stands in the corner. He’s forgotten his violin.

JAMES: …and that, Josh, was the most dismal, abject, (building up to a primal cry of ennui; spittle begins to fly), repugnant excuse for a nativity play I have ever had the utter misery of witnessing.

JOSH: Quite, quite. (Wants him to shut up). It’s that time of the week again.

JAMES: Oh. (unbuckling gingerly) If we must.

JOSH: No, James, it’s a Friday. We’ve got to write our column. Any ideas?

JAMES: (rebuckling) Oh well, it’s the first week of Trinity. We can fob them off with something loosely summer-related. Garden plays, punting, Pimms. Pretending to be in Brideshead. That sort of thing.

JOSH: No, no. Can’t do a half-arsed job; not in first week. Leave that for fourth or fifth at least. What’s happened? There’s student drama, the Shakespeare festival, Matilda’s cleaned up at the Oliviers.

JAMES: I hear the play did rather well, too. (Audience laughs)

JOSH: Aah, this is no good. What can we do? That Michael Ball chap’s been in Sweeney Todd, being serious for a change. Which is nice for him.

JAMES: (sneering) A musical? How droll.

JOSH: You write this bloody thing then. I’ve got a collection tomorrow.


Curtain. A flourish of horns. The violinist has found his violin. It wasn’t hidden well enough.

JOSH: Shut up! (throws the book at violinist. He leaves, sobbing. JOSH retrieves the book.) Now then…

JAMES drums fingers against chair.

JOSH: Ah! What about a hard-hitting piece of social commentary, explicating the woeful lives of the working poor in our society?

JAMES: I can see the fan mail coming in by the bucket load.

JOSH: (hurt) No need to get sarky.

JAMES: That’s all I’m here for. You write the stuff, and I make it readable.

JOSH: If you say so.

JAMES: I say so.

JOSH: Say you so. So say you. So ray me fah…

JAMES: (sharply) Yes, all right.

JOSH: Fine, fine. What’s happening? Dangerous Liaisons. That’s a novel, isn’t it? What about something on adaptations? We should probably just do that.

JAMES: This is stupid. Where’s the flair gone? This was the dream. This was our opportunity to demonstrate our erudition, our wit, our … our …

JOSH: Ability to spin out five hundred words on demand?

JAMES: And that.

JOSH: What are the new editors going to think?

JAMES: New editors? That’s it! I’ve found the golden ticket! The proverbial bathwater has o’erbrimmd its clammy cells. I’m Archimedes!

JOSH: Running naked through the streets of Syracuse?

JAMES: No! We just send them this! In the form of a play script! It’ll be a bloody nightmare to format and chances are they’ll have to give us more than a narrow strip of column to fit it all in! I hope you’ve been writing this down.

Stenographer waves from the corner. Curtain.