A play by Paul Levy
Produced in 2005 by Pebbles Productions
The Swastika Party premiered at the Marlborough Theatre Brighton on May 19th 2005 produced by Augustine Flint-Hartle
Full supporting web site at http://www.theswastikaparty.info
(Lights up on a living room of a flat in 1940s London. A sofa is centre stage. Doors lead off stage right, and stage left. A lamp on a low table, and also a radio stage right, a magazine rack, a rug on the floor, a window centre stage back, curtained with thick curtains, a picture on the wall stage left. A table and chairs front stage left. Sitting on the sofa reading a magazine is Kitty. As lights come up the radio is playing Lit Up by Carroll Gibbons. Kitty is humming along as she reads; a kettle is whistling offstage right. Kitty gets up, still humming and reading her magazine and exits stage left. She returns a minute later with a steaming mug of cocoa, settles down to read again and sips the cocoa then frowns at it)
(She starts to get up again and then sits down)
Kitty: No sugar.
(She frowns again and then has an idea and smiles. She gets up, taking the cocoa with her and looks in the magazine rack, pulling out newspapers and magazines as she does so. She finds a small bottle of brandy and retrieves it, pouring a little into the cocoa. She tastes it, shrugs and pours some more into it, tastes again and is satisfied. As she goes to sit down again a very loud air raid siren sounds outside)
(Kitty puts down the cocoa, gets up and closes the curtains, she then switches off the table lamp and the stage is plunged into darkness. She hums and moves about as the air raid siren sounds once more, and hums. After about a minute the stage is lit dimly as Kitty is back, curled up on the sofa. She has lit a candle in a little holder which she places carefully on the floor. She sips her cocoa again and continues to read. Music plays on the radio still, and this continues for about two minutes. Then there is the distant sound of explosions which gradually become nearer and louder. After about another minute a very loud explosion sounds and then one even louder. The scene filled with sounds of bombs dropping everywhere and the curtain shake as if the window has received pressure from a blast. Kitty continues to read and is entirely unaffected by the noise. Lights fade to black on a nonchalant Kitty and explosions become even louder. They fade out)
(Same as scene 1. Enter Mary, Sarah and Vicky, in coats, handbags, kicking off shoes and talking before the door is actually opened.)
Vicky: So I gave him a dirty look which told him not to even think of trying that again…
Sarah: Good for you Vicky.
Vicky: I mean. Just cos e’s a manager doesn’t mean he’s got the right, does it?
Mary: I’d have put my left foot somewhere quick and then he’d never be able to, even if he wanted to!
Vicky: Mary Daly, you’re bad. You know that? You’re bloody bad.
(By now they have entered the room)
Sarah: Hello fruitcake.
Vicky: You’re a bloody nutcase you know that?
Kitty: One tries to please.
Vicky: Shove up.
(Vicky makes to sit on the sofa, as Sarah makes room for her)
Kitty: So how was Platform 1?
Vicky: Same as usual. Stuffy. But at least it’s safe!
Kitty: Sure, if you don’t catch the flu, or shingles, or measles or the Black Death from all that coughing.
Vicky: You are. You’re a nutter.
Kitty: There’s cocoa on the stove and some soup in the pot.
Sarah: What’s on?
Kitty: Carrot and collie, and I put some of that brisket in from last night.
Sarah: You’re an angel.
Vicky: An angel cake! An angel fruitcake!
(Kitty mock-hits Vicky with her magazine)
(Mary unloads some papers from her handbag onto the table and sits down, putting on a pair of spectacles and begins to sort through them)
Sarah: Looks like another long evening for you.
Mary: Shouldn’t really be bringing this home but there’s just never the time. We were down in the shelter twice today and there isn’t the room there.
(Vicky lies in Kitty’s lap who plays with her hair like a child. Vicky goes to sleep. Sarah comes in with three mugs of cocoa and puts them near Mary on the table, taking one for herself, she sits at the table as well)
Sarah: So, who is it tonight?
Mary: (leafing through files, each with a photo of a man at the top): Same old. Same old. Oh, one new one. (Takes out a file from the bottom of the pile and reads it) Albert Good.
Sarah: Now, there’s a fine surname for an evil bastard.
Sarah: They’re all evil bastards. And you know it.
Mary: (reading): Mr Albert Reginald Good. Aged thirty-five. Unemployed. Son of Rene and Reggie. One conviction for petty theft. Apprentice for two years, storesman at the Miranda’s Dreams Cigarette Factory, made redundant in 1935. Joined the movement in ’38. Active in marches, no record of serious violence of misconduct, though seen at the Brick Lane incident on May 7th.
Kitty: Sound like a real charmer.
Mary: (continues to read) General monitoring only. File in Blue Cabinet.
Sarah: And what does all this achieve?
Mary: All what?
Sarah: All this record-keeping, and watching, and “general monitoring”
Vicky (dozing): It makes them feel like they are doing something
Sarah: No seriously. Why are they bothering? Aren’t they just a load of bullies and thugs?
Mary: I don’t know. They’re just keeping an eye I think. Look what happened in Germany.
Kitty: Oh come on, this isn’t Germany!
Mary: That’s what Mrs Reuben said.
Kitty and Vicky: What?
Mary: Mrs Reuben. When they escaped from Munich in 1938. Apparently at the dock, she told me, she turned to her son who was waving her off – he was going to join her later – she turned to him and said: “This isn’t Germany.”
Vicky (sitting up): Did he?
Mary: (going through the papers) Did he what?
Vicky: Did he join her later?
Vicky: Why not?
Mary: She hasn’t seen him since.
Vicky: Where is he?
Mary: She hasn’t seen any of her family since. She has no idea where her son is. And her husband went back to find her son. Apparently that was not a very clever thing to do. She hasn’t heard from him since. Nor any of her family. Three years ago. So, Albert Good and his friends; we keep an eye on them. We know where THEY are.
(Lights up on Sarah and Kitty. Sarah is sitting at the table, reading from an exercise book. Kitty is on the sofa mending a shirt, not very successfully)
Sarah: (reading aloud): “Of course, you get used to its particular sound. A little engine overhead, like the buzzing of a big bee and there’s the long wait of forever. Then the explosion and you close your eyes and hope it is far, far, away.” Can you believe he is seven years old?
Kitty: I could never write like that. Not even at twenty six!
Sarah: He’s lucky to still have all of his family. His Dad’s in the Navy, His mother and brother were in the house two doors down when an incendiary bomb hit their back garden. Just cuts and bruises.
Kitty: Lucky escape (she pricks her finger on a needle): Ow!
Sarah: Give it here!
(Kitty willingly gets up and passes the mending to Sarah who starts on it expertly, talking as she works)
Sarah: The whole house is rubble. They lost everything. They’re now in one room in Linden Buildings with an aunt who is none too pleased, according to little Eric.
Kitty: I suppose I’m lucky to have family out in Romford. There’s still a proper school out there.
Sarah: All we’ve got is the church meeting hall on Brick Lane.
Kitty: Well it isn’t the building is it? It’s the teacher that makes the child wise!
Sarah: Is it?
Kitty: Yes, and you’re a good teacher, Sarah.
Sarah: His brother’s in the B.U.F. Couldn’t get a job and he’s got epilepsy so they wouldn’t let him in the army.
Kitty: Why are all these people in the BUF? I mean Mosley’s in prison isn’t he? Isn’t it just a lot of hot air?
Sarah: You don’t see most of it Kitty. I teach some of their children. The B.U.F is lot of rich and very influential people; it’s not just a few of the Mile End crowd. They’re a new generation. They are tired of Boys Own and Dick Tracy and Sexton Blake – and you know what, Kitty?
Sarah: There are some girls in the B.U.F as well. Not many but there are girls.
Kitty: Well, why not girls? Girls should have an equal right to be spiteful and evil.
Sarah: It isn’t a joking matter. Mary’s had her own taste of the B.U.F out in Kilburn.
Kitty: I know. But a brick through your window wasn’t invented by the B.U.F. Even so. There’s a lot of good in this world. Even with the blitz, there’s nothing like London on a Friday Evening! Trafalgar Square. Piccadilly. The Gaumont. Derry and Toms!
Sara\h: You’ve never been to Derry and Toms!
Kitty: Have too!
Sarah: Who took you there?
Kitty: I was eighteen.
Sarah: You are such a romantic.
Kitty: Well this wasn’t romantic really. Turned out he was married and was after a little slap and tickle and thought tea and buns was the key to unlock the door.
Sarah: And what DID he get?
Kitty: I got tea and buns; he got a thank you and a little promise to tell his wife if he so much as touched me.
Sarah (handing over the mended shirt): Done. And I won’t even ask how you got that torn again. Same bloke?
Kitty: Mind your own! (she winks)Thanks Sarah.
Sarah: A pleasure. So, what’s your day looking like?
Kitty: Usual. Filing. Filing. Oh, and there may be a little filing as well.
Sarah: Sounds like a job to me.
Kitty: Oh yes, a very important job. Vital for the war effort. Filing for the M.O.D. “She was a stalwart was our Kitty. A backroom gal upon whom the whole war depended!
(They both laugh. Lights)
(The living room. Sarah, Kitty and Mary are sitting on the sofa. Kitty is reading a copy of Picture Post, Mary sits with her eyes closed, relaxing. Sarah, also has a book. The radio is on. Music plays quietly)
Mary: Read me some more.
Sarah: “Hand in hand about this valley, for fifteen years, roamed I with Eleonora before Love entered within our hearts. It was one evening at the close of the third lustrum of her life…”
Kitty: (looking up from her magazine); What’s a lustrum?
Mary: It must be a kind of rostrum where people stand when they are full of lust.
Kitty: Very good. You’re the quick one tonight.
(Kitty returns to her magazine)
Sarah: A lustrum is a period of five years. Now if you keep interrupting I shan’t continue.
Kitty: Sorry I am sure, Miss Bennett…
Mary: Go on Sarah, please.
Sarah: “…and of the fourth of my own, that we sat, locked in each other’s embrace, beneath the serpent-like trees, and looked down within the waters of the River of Silence at our images therein. We spoke no words during the rest of that sweet day; and our words even upon the morrow were tremulous and few. We had drawn the god Eros from that wave, and now we felt that he had enkindled within us the fiery souls of our forefathers. “
Mary: Ooh, I like that! It’s so musical….
Sarah: Not all of Edgar Allen Poe is so peacefully romantic…
(Sarah turns to later pages in the book)
Sarah (in a more horror-style voice): “The vibration of the pendulum was at right angles to my length. I saw that the crescent was designed to cross the region of the heart. It would fray the serge of my robe; it would return and repeat its operations – a
gain and again.”
Kitty: Charming, I’m sure.
(Enter Vicky – her face is red)
Sarah: Vicky – what’s happened to your face?
Vicky: Right. Shut up everyone. I got one question for you all. And I want an honest answer. Honest alright? Do I look like I’ve been to Italy in July?
Sarah: You look like you’ve been to Italy all summer!
Vicky: Well I’ve been to Balham in January!
Vicky: It’s Mr and Mrs Milford. You know, Ginny from the station’s mum and dad. Their daughter, her sister Amy has got Homesun lamp. You can’t buy them anymore – government restrictions on the electricity, but as a treat Mr Milford said we could have half an hour.
Sarah: Vicky you look red as a ripe tomato!
Vicky: Do I? Bugger.
Sarah: You’ll be sore as anything in the morning. Sit down; I’ll get some calamine lotion.
(Sarah gets up to go out)
Vicky: I didn’t realise while we was doing it. It was lovely.
Sarah: Lovely it might be. But you look like a Red Indian!
(Vicky makes a Red Indian sound and giggles. Sarah sighs and gets up to go into the other room)
Vicky: Well, it better be a big bottle.
Sarah: What do you mean?
Vicky: Well, we were alone in the house. And I haven’t been sunbathing since we went to Southend in a chara’ two years ago. And even then it peed down except for a few hours in the afternoon.
Sarah: And? (Realising) Victoria Sutton? You didn’t! Don’t tell me you did!
Vicky: We did. Totally starkers. Naked as the day we was born!
Sarah: I’m outraged!
Vicky: No you bloomin’ aint’, Sarah Bennett. (Short pause) Are you?
Sarah: In the buff? That means you will be sore all over in the morning.
Vicky: I don’t care, I tell you. We were abroad. Amy put on some o’that Flamingo music on the gramophone.
Vicky: Yes, that’s it. Flamingo. We were in Spain or the South of France.
Sarah: You were in Balham in the middle of winter. (Pause) All over? Really?
(Vicky gets up, her back to the audience. She lifts her shirt. Sarah Screams)
Vicky: Two ripe tomatoes!
(Lights up on Vicky and Mary front stage right. Sounds of traffic, they are at a bus stop)
Mary: Come on! I’m freezing!
Vicky: Apparently there’s a telegraph pole fallen on Henrietta Street. Traffic all the way to Tottenham Court Road.
Mary: Happy days!
Mary: You said you had a row when you went home yesterday?
Vicky: My mum said I don’t visit enough. But I go when I can, Mary. I do try.
Mary: I know you do but she misses her boys, Vicky.
Vicky: But I can’t BE her boys. She don’t fink I miss them too?
Mary: Of course she does.
Vicky: I miss them badly, Kitty. And you know, when they was here, before they got called up, all we ever did was fight.
Mary: But they are alright Vicky. You got that telegram.
Vicky: Yes, we’re lucky, they’re doing building work. Nowhere near danger. Alfie would want to fight. He won’t be happy putting up barracks. He’ll be chewing his nails and grinding his fists over that.
Have you ever wanted to go back to Ireland?
Mary: Oh yes. Every day, Vicky. Apparently I have got hundreds of relatives out there. My grandfather and grandmother had a lot of brothers and sisters.
Vicky: How many?
Mary: Twelve on his side and seven on hers.
Vicky: You’re joking. They must be knackered.
Vicky: Your Nan and granddad!
Mary (laughing): Probably! (pause) I have never been there you know. Kilburn High Street is my Temple Bar. I want to see my country and one day, you know, I’ll do it. Just like that. I’ll step on a boat..
Vicky: No, not a boat! An aeroplane!
Mary: Yes, an impossible aeroplane that flies from Croydon to Dublin in a few hours. And I’ll visit the places my grandparents and parents were born. Dunloe, Sligo, Ballyshannon. Donegal Town. I have a picture. Look.
(she looks in her handbag and takes out an envelope and carefully removes a photograph which she hands to Vicky)
Vicky: What a lovely Square. And oh, Mary! That’s a castle! A real castle!
Mary: Yes, right near the town square. I dream of walking there when the war is over.
Vicky: The war will end you know
Mary: Wars always end Vicky. But war never does.
Vicky: That’s a very dark view of the world.
Mary: Dark but true.
Vicky: Well, when THIS war ends, let’s both go. I’d love to see this place.
Mary: Shake on it.
(they both spit on hands and shake)
(Sounds offstage of Kitty having trouble with a key in the lock of the front door. Enter Kitty, Sarah and Vicky, and lastly Mary, in the almost dark.)
Kitty: I think that perishing lock is on the way out.
Vicky: I’ll have a look at it in the morning.
Mary (singing): Dancing in the dark, da da da da da …come on Sarah…!
(Mary takes Sarah by the hands, still in the dark, and they dance, giggling, until they bump into the sofa, collapsing in laughter onto it)
Sarah: Now who’s the one with two left feet!
Vicky: Watch it you two!
Mary: Come on Vicky; show us what YOU can do!
(Kitty switches the light on. All is as before except for a Swastika high on the wall centre stage back, next to the curtained window. Kitty notices it immediately)
Vicky: Didn’t I show you all enough on the dance floor tonight?
Mary: You certainly did. Rather too much during the Samba.
Sarah: Who would believe an East End girl who fixes fire engines can also dance like a dream!
Kitty: Someone’s been here.
Vicky: Wait a minute. Just ‘cos I’m good with engines doesn’t mean I got lead feet, don’t ya know!
Kitty (louder): I said someone’s been here!
(Mary, Vicky and Sarah look at Kitty and then follow her gaze to the Swastika. Sarah takes a sharp intake of breath and stands up.)
Mary: Jesus Christ, what is that?
Sarah: I don’t think there’s much doubt what it is.
Kitty: The question is, what is it doing on our wall? Why is there a swastika on our living room wall?
Vicky: I’m blowed if I know.
Kitty: Alright, first things first. Check to see if anything has been taken.
(Mary surveys the room quickly and then goes into the kitchen. She returns with a small tin, and shakes it; coins rattle).
Mary: Not a thing gone from the kitchen. And the bedrooms haven’t been touched.
Vicky: The radio is still here.
(They all continue to search the living room, except for Sarah who stares at the Swastika and at the floor)
Mary: Well, we’ve never had much worth taking anyway. But what we do have (she picks up a candlestick) they haven’t touched.
Kitty: Well, that is very strange. Burglars break in and don’t take anything.
Sarah: We haven’t been burgled. We’ve been frightened.
Vicky: I’m not frightened.
Mary: And who exactly is trying to frighten us with that?
Sarah (walking towards the Swastika then turning to face the others) Don’t you see? That was their aim. To show us they can get in when they want. Leave their mark wherever they choose?
Mary: Wherever who chooses? Who are you talking about Sarah?
(Kitty checks the door)
Sarah: That’s how it starts. They put the frighteners on you.
Kitty: Did anyone leave the door unbolted today?
Sarah: Just leave a sign, to let you know they can.
Kitty: There’s no sign of the lock being forced. Who else has the key?
Sarah: Whenever they want.
Mary: Only Mrs Stendhal. Why would anyone else have a key to our flat except Betty Stendhal the landlady or one of us?
Sarah: Take a closer look. They’ll have forced the lock. Or maybe used a skeleton key.
Kitty: You’re saying someone can get in that easily?
Sarah: Don’t be so naive. Of course they can.
Kitty: What about the windows?
Vicky: What? Six Storeys up?
Sarah: These people don’t need to climb through windows. They walk through your front door.
Mary: Who Sarah? Who are “these people” you keep going on about?
Sarah: A Swastika. A great rude, black Swastika to let us know they are watching us.
Mary: Who, Sarah?
Kitty: So no one left the door unlocked? You’re all sure?
Mary: Not me.
Vicky: Not on your Nelly.
Sarah: I’d never not lock the door around here.
Kitty: Nor me
(Meanwhile Vicky has been looking closely at the lock peering through it)
Vicky: This lock has been picked.
Sarah: How do you know that?
Vicky: Someone’s been clumsy… look.
(Vicky pulls some wire from the keyhole. She holds it out to Kitty who takes it and looks at it)
Vicky: And there’s some scratches on the lock casing. They weren’t there this morning.
Kitty: So, someone has forced their way into our home and painted that sign on our wall, then just left the way they came in?
Mary: And that’s all they came to do. They didn’t even wait to take anything.
Vicky: I reckon that’s about the story alright.
Mary: But why?
Sarah: I told you. Why won’t you listen to me? To frighten us – or one of us.
Mary: Who, for god’s sake Sarah, who are you talking about? And why?
Kitty: Alright, both of you. Calm down. Everyone sit down and let’s think this through. Sarah, stop looking like you’ve seen a ghost and sit down.
Sarah: I don’t WANT to sit down.
(Vicky goes over to Sarah, turns her to face her, looks her in the eye, then leads her to the sofa and they both sit down together. Mary follows)
Kitty: Alright. Who would do such a thing? Let’s start with that. Mary, someone might have got wind of your inquiries into the B.U.F.
Mary: Or perhaps they haven’t taken too kindly to me looking after Mrs Reuben right under their very noses. She is the only woman in a building half full of the Gilmore family. But surely no one would…
Sarah: Have they threatened you Mary?
Sarah: One of the Gilmores has threatened you haven’t they? Why didn’t you say something?
Mary: The Gilmores – brothers and sisters alike are a rough and hateful clan and if I had a sixpence for every time I’d had a nasty comment or heard them threatening someone, I’d be a rich woman. And I’ve seen and heard worse in my life than “you yids and paddys are all the same”.
Sarah: But were you threatened?
Vicky: But didn’t one of ‘em try to put the frighteners on you Mary?
Mary: Well, not exactly. Jim Gilmore just jibed they’d been wondering if I was Leah Reuben’s missing daughter. They’re nothing more than fools.
Sarah: And what else did he say?
Mary: The usual rubbish about sticking to looking after your own kind and staying off their turf.
Sarah: And what did you say back?
Mary: I told him that I was looking after my own kind. The kind of people who are decent and who don’t blame their failures on others.
Kitty: Oh I bet he loved that.
Mary: I’ve said worse.
Kitty: I bet you have.
Vicky: She’s done worse. She put her knee where it hurts when Billy Gilmore tried to put his arm round her near the Queens Arms. He was drunk as a lord and our Mary showed him what’s what.
Kitty: And you Sarah, have you actually met any of the BUF?
Sarah: Of course not. I’m a teacher. I’m not some Dick Tracy.
Vicky: No, but you’re a bit of a liar, Sarah Bennett.
Sarah: How dare you!
Vicky: She went to a B.U.F meeting last Wednesday.
Mary: She did…you did what?
Vicky: She went to a B.U.F meeting; in a room above a shop next to Laskey’s.
Sarah: How did you know that?
Vicky: I’m not saying. Don’t make me say, but it’s true isn’t it.
Sarah: I was curious.
Mary: You were bloody stupid.
Sarah: (to Vicky): How did you know?
Vicky: ‘Cos my Uncle Charlie’s brother-in-law Stan is a member. Charlie don’t like him much but Stan knows us from Mum’s birthday bash. I was coming home from work and I bumps into Stan – well I would have crossed to the other side of the street actually but there isn’t another side of the street on account of there being one enormous hole where the street used to be – so I walks right into Stan and he says “Hallo Victoria!” It’s Vicky”, I says “Or it ain’t nothing” and he says “It was nice to see your friend from the party at out little party meeting” – I fink he was trying to be clever and I says “What friend?” and he says “The quiet one who wouldn’t dance with your uncle Stan” – ooh, ‘es such a creepy snake. So I tries to sidle past, all-in-a-hurry-to-get-work-like and he says “No one quite appreciated her standing up at the back and shouting down Bill Joyce. She was politely removed.”
Kitty: You did that Sarah?
Sarah: I was NOT politely removed. I left.
Kitty: And what did you say BEFORE your left?
Sarah: Not much. All I said was “Not only is everything you say twisted and wrong, but your suit is one side too small for your stomach and your silly sweater looks like you just jumped out of a Flash Gordon comic book.”
(Vicky and Mary burst out laughing)
Mary: Jesus, you can be priceless!
Kitty: So now it could have been Sarah or Mary that attracted our little visit.
Vicky: Or me. You better put me on the list.
Kitty: Why you, Vicky? Don’t tell me you’ve been visiting Oswald Moseley in prison.
Vicky: That ain’t funny.
Mary: It’s Sammy Green, isn’t it.
Vicky: Shhh.! Blimey, we’re worse than sisters. We know all each others secrets and we go blabbing to each other at the first chance!
Sarah: What about Sammy Green?
Vicky: I was in the pub on Tuesday night. You know it’s the only street left standing on that bit of Roman Road. And three ugly twerps from the Bressfield Mob were poking fun at Sammy Green and his friend Solly – you know the one with the long nose…looks like you could hang your coat on it..
Vicky: Well, Solly doesn’t mind. He makes a joke of it himself! But Sammy’s a bit short for a round and that lanky one, Arnold, says its typical of his sort to try and worm a pint out of a mate when Solly offers to pay the difference.
Mary: And of course, Vicky was in her cups.
Vicky: Can I help it if every fella on the Roman Road wants to stand me a pint?
Kitty: Not to mention most of Shacklewell Street.
Mary: Anyway, Vicky is having none of it and she looks daggers at the Bressfield lot.
Vicky: And I walks right up to Sammy Green, gives them nothings at the bar a spit-in-your-eye glance like they was only fit for the knackers yard…
Vicky… and then I plants a kiss right on Sammy Green’s lips and says: “You Sammy Green, you’re all right. And I don’t care WHAT you are. Then I marches up to the bar, like Alice in her Blue Gown, and I buys a pint of Best for Sammie and a pint for Solly and a pint for me, and I drinks that pint down right in front of the three of em.
Mary: Sammy and Solly of course look scared like frightened rabbits…
Vicky: And they both make a swift exit ‘cos the Bressfield Boys are fit to bursting with anger and Mary here keeps them busy with some friendly banter, and a bit of the ol’ pouting you know, like you do.
Kitty: Like YOU do, you mean. I am not sure I have the expertise of the two of you! So we have three of us who might have invited this unwanted attention.
Sarah: I say we go to the police.
Vicky: I’ll have a word with my Uncle Charlie in the morning. You know, he’s a sergeant at Stepney Green. He’ll put the word out. They won’t be bothering us again. And I’ll tell you this. If they wanted to frighten the Fantastic Four they ain’t succeeded, ‘ave they ladies?
Sarah: You’re brilliant, Victoria Sutton.
Kitty: I need a drink.
(Kitty goes into the kitchen and Vicky follows)
Vicky: I know it isn’t birthdays or nothing but get the brandy out.
Kitty: Have we got any?
Vicky: I’ll show you the hiding place.
Mary: (calling after Vicky) I dunno about burglars. I think you’re the little crook here!
(Sarah is staring at the Swastika)
Mary: There’s something ugly about it.
Sarah: I am not sure. We all know what it represents, yet, on its own, there on the wall, is it really so ugly?
Mary: Well, it carries a meaning that isn’t exactly pretty. To be honest I’m more bothered by the fact that people have been here uninvited.
Sarah: It’s on our wall. Our living room wall. Too high to reach.
Mary: We’ll get rid of it. Soon as we get a step ladder.
Sarah: Our living room. The place where we live.
Mary: Or maybe we can reach it by standing on a chair.
Sarah: Into the place where we sit and shut out the world, comes this thing. First just a sign, and then a symbol upon a flag, and then columns of soldiers, marching, proudly under its colours.
Mary: Are you alright Sarah?
Sarah: It looks nicer when it has a border of red.
Sarah: A circlet of crimson. Red from blood. Red for passion. Red for love.
(Sarah recovers from her reverie)
Sarah: Yes I’m alright. (Pause). They won’t scare me. That thing has put fear into the hearts of too many. The German Union Jack. No, they won’t scare me. (To Mary): It’s just a bit of a shock to find a swastika high on your wall. It isn’t even painted well. You know that annoys me most of all. They could have done it properly.
Mary: Let’s get that drink.
(Enter Kitty and Vicky with four glasses and a small brandy bottle on a tray)
Mary: (to them all) In the kitchen. Not in here.
(Kitty and Vicky turn around and go back into the kitchen)
Mary: You coming?
(Sarah turns around slowly, taking her gaze away from the wall)
Sarah: Yes, I’m coming.
(Sarah continues to stare at the Swastika. She walks up to it. She climbs on a chair and reaches, just able to touch it. She turns to face the audience, steps down from the chair and walks to front-stage centre staring ahead. Lights fade slowly, last of all on the swastika. Sounds of an air raid siren)
Mary: (from offstage) Damn ! Damn and Bloody hell!
(Lights up on the living room, all seating as Scene 1)
Kitty: I went to the library and looked it up of course, you can’t find anything real about the Nazis, just a lot of pamphlets. But there was an old book about India.
Sarah: I have always dreamed about going to India.
Kitty: Well I am leafing through this big old book.
Kitty: And halfway through in a chapter on the religion on the Hindus there it was
Kitty: (points to the wall) That.
Sarah: What do you mean?
Kitty: There on the page that bloody weird cross; a swastika apparently it’s a very old symbol and you know what?
Kitty: In the Hindu religion it’s a symbol for good luck
(Sarah flushes and looks away)
Kitty: Apparently the Germans stole it and adopted it for their third Reich. Some versions of it are reversed but it is supposed to be a sign of good fortune and peace.
Mary: Doesn’t look very peaceful to me.
Kitty: Well, it just shows how a sign can mean different things to different people.
Sarah: That will never be a sign of peace again.
Kitty: It might. Who knows? In another ten thousand years, it might be a little design on someone’s wedding ring.
Sarah: How dare you.
Kitty: (taken by surprise) What?
Sarah: Shut up
Kitty: What have I said? I only said it was a symbol of …….
Sarah: (getting up as Vicky enters): Shut up will you, how bloody dare you!
Vicky: It’s only a stupid sign anyway. It ain’t pretty like OUR flag.
Sarah: That’s the trouble with you, Vicky Sutton. You can be all kind and Pearly Queen nice one minute but it doesn’t take much for your Union Jack colours to suddenly burst through.
Vicky: What do you mean?
Sarah: Just a few pints and your English tongue soon loosens up. Then it’s Frenchie this and Kraut that and (to Mary): and Paddy’s. It’s all Paddys and Krauts once you’ve had a few too many in the pub with your real friends!
Vicky (getting up): I’m not gonna listen to this.
Sarah: Next it’ll be send all the Yids back to where they come from, won’t it? And then (to Mary) your precious Mrs Reuben will be packed off to join her family in some ghetto in Poland.
Mary: That isn’t fair. Sarah stop this right now.
Vicky: I’d never say nothing like that!
Sarah: So you say, as long as they don’t move in next door to you or try to marry one of your precious brothers.
Vicky: Stop it!
(Vicky is becoming angry and tearful)
Vicky: You better shut up this very minute, Sarah Bennett…
Sarah: Oh, don’t you worry. I’ll shut up. Just like you’d like me to. I won’t utter another word. I’m going out.
Kitty: Calm down, everyone! Sarah, what’s wrong with you? If I’ve upset you in any way, I’m sorry…
Sarah: Always something wrong, eh? Always something for the mother hen of the roost to be bothered about…
Sarah: I’m sorry. Vicky, I’m sorry.
Vicky: She’s talking out of her hat. She’s talking bloody rot.
Kitty: She just blew up. Don’t ask me why.
Vicky: I’m not what she says I am. I’m bloody not!
Kitty: Of course you’re not, Queenie.
Vicky: Why did she say those things?
Kitty: Something set her off. It wasn’t you.
(Mary goes towards the door putting on her coat)
Kitty: Where are you going?
Mary: I’m going out as well. (with a look of anger at Vicky): This particular “Paddy” is going to see if her friend is alright.
(Mary leaves. Pause. Vicky and Kitty look at each other)
Vicky: She hates me. They both do.
Kitty: No one hates you, Vicky. But I want you to do us all a favour.
Kitty: Get something to wash that thing off. Or to cover it over. As soon as you can.
(Lights up on Kitty and Mary sitting at the table in the living room)
Kitty: She’s calmed down. I think she’s gone out for another walk.
Mary: I said sorry to Vicky.
Kitty: Good. She doesn’t have a bad bone in her body.
Mary: I know. She’s one of the kindest people I know.
Kitty: I think we all got rather too used to this place being a safe haven from a London that’s growing stranger to me by the day.
Mary: I walked down by Bank Station today. So many killed. They thought they were safe down there.
Kitty: The Tube is still safer than being out and about when the sirens call.
Mary: Yes, I know. It was on my route to work. I used to love to walk by St Paul’s, through the city to work. The tall buildings, standing proud, the bustle of the morning, the cry of paper boys and the chestnut sellers.
Kitty: That’s all still there in its way. Life goes on.
Mary: Yes, life always goes on.
Kitty: Sarah will be alright.
Mary: You know, I think I know what it is. She’s lonely.
Kitty: Aren’t we all?
Mary: You know what I mean. She’s not close to her family. I don’t think she sees her mum and dad more than once or twice a year. You remember when she moved in? Her father shook hands with her when they said goodbye. Shook hands. Not even a peck on the cheek. And apparently her mother never leaves the house.
Kitty: She needs to find a nice bloke. That’s what she needs.
Mary: Maybe that’s what we all need. But you know what my sister Lily says. Take your time, Mary, she says. Men are mostly overrated. They control the press you know, she says. They make propaganda for themselves worse than any Adolf Hitler. Take your time she says!
Kitty: She’s probably right. But don’t leave it too long either. Don’t be left up there on the shelf! We’re a strange crew, the four of us. Not one of us has tied the knot. Sarah mostly scowls at men. Vicky has at least a half a dozen proposing to her at any one time. And you Mary, still waiting for Mr Right. A good Catholic, I suppose?
Mary: He wouldn’t have to be a Catholic. Just kind.
Kitty: You’d marry a Protestant? (indicates the Swastika; Or a Jew?
Mary: If he was kind. Yes, I would.
Kitty: Kindness is important to you.
Mary: People weren’t kind to us when we came over. But things are changing. This war will give birth to more kindness. Won’t it?
Kitty: People are kinder here, I think. But is that BECAUSE we are at war? If this war ever ends, will we go back to ignoring each other in the street?
Mary: And what about you, Kitty Reynolds? You’re almost thirty now and I haven’t seen you showing any signs of finding a good man to settle down with.
Kitty: There’s time enough for that. When the war ends, there are places I want to see. I want to see the world. If there’s a man who’ll come with me, then all well and good. If not, then whoever he might be will have to wait for Kitty Reynolds to come home from her travels first!
Mary: You might meet one on your travels! A tall Swede or a dark-skinned Turk.
Kitty: Who knows? I might. There’s a war to win first or the only country in the world will be called Germany.
Mary: You might meet a German.
Kitty: I won’t meet a German. Mary Daly. But who knows. I might have them all. And then I might just come home and marry a nice, steady Englishman.
Mary: Kitty. You are bad!
Kitty: (reaches and takes Mary’s hand): In a good way I hope.
Mary: Yes, Kitty. You’re bad for ignoring the Blitz. You’re bad for wanting to have a man in every country of this world. You’re bad in the best way I know. If good means being tied to someone who is more the choice of your mother and father than your own. Then stay bad, Kitty. Stay so very bad.
Kitty: And your family Mary, do they have you in mind for anyone?
Mary: Oh yes. Dermot Gaughan. Son of the fine and upstanding Gaughans of Kilburn High Road. Butchers and Abattoir Workers the lot of ‘em. Even his mother takes pleasure in slicing beef and lamb off the bone. They all have faces like the cattle they slaughter, with little piggy eyes to match.
Kitty: Even this Dermot?
Mary: Oh, he’s not so bad I suppose. A good, hard grafter who keeps my mum and dad smiling with weekend off-cuts on the sly in the hope of a ring on my finger one day.
Kitty: But he hasn’t stolen the heart of Mary Daly?
Mary: Jesus, no he hasn’t. Once I let him take me to tea, after my mother begged me after he brought her an extra bag of faggots for an Easter Treat. We sat there, all sipping Yorkshire tea from thin bone china cups and eating scones. He tried so hard. He managed to eat the scone in two mouthfuls instead of the usual one. He isn’t a bad looker but there’s only so much conversation about cleanliness in an abattoir and the importance of sharpening knives a girl can take. He told me he always keeps his sharpest garrotting string under his pillow just in case…
Kitty: Just in case of what…?
Mary: I have no idea, I had a coughing fit and he got the bill.
Kitty: Don’t you ever miss it though?
Mary: Miss what?
Kitty: A man to look after, to share your cares with. A warm cuddle in the night?
Mary: A man to miss?
(Mary points to the Swastika)
A man to worry about every moment of the day and night ? To wonder if he’s lying dead as one of the Gaughan’s sheep in a field somewhere overseas? Colder than the place in your bed next to you where your hand rests lonely and useless? Miss the doubt and the tears and the awful helpless anger when a telegram is brought to give you the all-too-terrible news that he won’t be coming back? I’ll wait, Kitty. I’ll cuddle up to a hot water bottle.
Kitty: Sometimes I get afraid Mary. Up here. When the bombs are falling.
Mary: Then why on earth do you stay up here?
Kitty: It isn’t easy to put into words. There’s a freedom up here.
Mary: A freedom? In the Blitz?
Kitty: Tell me, am I cold hearted? They are packed on the platform, wrapped in their blankets and clutching their flasks, singing songs as the bombs rumble overhead. Sometimes you hear a tube train and the sound of a bomb and you can’t tell which is which. And so many cheery faces; they play I Spy and Gin Rummy and someone takes off Will Hay with a monocle. And I am covering my mouth and nose with a handkerchief. Is that bad? I am covering my mouth at the smell.
Mary: The smell?
Kitty: The stench of humanity all packed together in one place – the stench of people who could do with a hot bath. The stench of greasy hair and musty coats and damp blankets and sweat and the sheer reek of fear. Up here, when the blackout is an hour old and the sirens have gone and the German planes are dropping their late Christmas presents I open the kitchen window; the air rushes in and the smoke…
Mary: The smoke? What about it?
Kitty: It smells so good, it smells so fine. Am I cruel? I love it when the Blitz is in full swing – the air is good and I feel so alive.
Mary: I don’t know about cruel. I think fruitcake is a better word. You could be killed at any moment.
Kitty: Yes but that is part of it. An old woman died today at Holborn on the Piccadilly line right down on the platform. It took ages to get a doctor and by then it was too late. There were children crying and the daughter went hysterical. Don’t you see, we could die anywhere at anytime? I would hate to die amongst that stench of people. I love it up here in the dark, dancing in the dark in the danger; I love London when it is on fire; it sets me alight as well.
(The living room in the dark, except for a small candle centre stage on the floor. The sounds of bombs falling. Kitty is alone on the sofa staring into front space. She holds a glass of wine. Flashes of light reveal the swastika high on the wall and Kitty staring ahead. She starts to hum “Dancing in the Dark”. She hums more loudly as the sounds of bombs get louder and the flashes brighter. A few very loud explosions sound much nearer and Kitty jumps up spilling her wine and knocking the candle over which she stamps out with her foot for fear of fire. She hums more angrily and starts to dance with an imaginary person as the bombs get even louder. She hums louder now almost shouting. Suddenly a huge explosion rocks the room and Kitty stops dancing, staring at the Swastika lit by incendiary bomb light (the light of flames nearby). She suddenly explodes into anger and hurls her glass at the swastika. Flashes continue to light it as lights fade to black)
(Lights up on Sarah working at the table in the living room. Vicky enters)
Sarah: Hello Vicky. Did you have a good day?
Vicky: Spent most of it in a shelter near Russell Square.
Sarah: I was in the school shelter, again. I feel like I haven’t been out for days.
Vicky: Me too. I’ve had enough. Let’s go out later.
Sarah: Alright. Where?
Vicky: I don’t bloody care. Anywhere.
Sarah: Anywhere sounds perfect!
(Vicky has taken off her coat and flopped onto the sofa. She looks a little tired and shaken. She looks at Sarah. They hold pairs of hands and face each other)
Sarah: I’m sorry, I blew my top.
Vicky: That’s alright. Really it is.
Sarah: t hit me hard seeing that thing, painted so rudely up there. It shouldn’t get to me like that. I’m a bit more used to it now.
Vicky: It won’t stay there. I’ll see to that.
Vicky: Sarah. I don’t care where people come from. I can’t help the way I was brought up. I can’t help the way I talk. But people are just people. We are all the same.
Sarah: I know. I KNOW. It was me. Not you.
(They hug. Pause)
Sarah: You alright, queenie?
Vicky: Not really. You know, it’s strange – there’s a calm hanging over London. Most of East India Dock went down last night. A whole area is now a pile of rubble. The boys had to just let it burn away, so fierce the fire was. And the Fleet Sewer still hasn’t been properly mended; they were short of water again.. And now it’s all dead quiet.
I don’t like it Sarah. Me mum wouldn’t either. I was wandering through Berkeley Square. A fire engine was there and two trees had caught alight from a nearby fire in a house. But it was nearly out as I walked by. The square looked beautiful in the remains of the golden light. The fire-glow was like an orange sunset over Shewberry Ness. A little girl was crying and her mum picked her up and hurried away with her and then I saw why.
Lying on the grass right near the tree was someone who’d died in the blaze. She was laid out ‘til an ambulance arrived. She couldn’t have been more than thirty. But it was all so quiet, so bloomin’ calm. No one was saying a word. The firemen were silent as they hosed the last of the flames. And passers-by, like me, we was just watching silently like we were in the picture house on the Mile End Road watching a weepie. It was the calm.
And as soon as one of the firemen laid a blanket over the poor dead woman, it was like it went even quieter. Quiet as the grave they say. I know this sounds potty, Sarah. But all that scary, creepy-like quiet. Then I realised it. It was coming from that dead woman under that red blanket. It was like her death had crept over all of us, shutting up the whole Square; cold and quiet like the grave. I never experienced nuffink like that before. And I hope I never do again. Oh, blimey, can you put something on the gramophone. Something lively. Or let’s have a sing song. I feel like I wanna scream and shout.
Sarah: Let’s do it: Let’s scream and shout!
(Sarah gets up and goes across to Vicky pulling her off the sofa by the hands)
Vicky: What you doing?
Sarah: Come on queenie. After three. One..two…three!!!
(They both scream at the top of their voices. Enter Kitty, almost bursting in the front door)
Kitty: What’s the matter? What’s happened?
(They both turn and look at Kitty, suddenly serious at Kitty’s worried look and then burst into laughter.)
(Lights up on Kitty and Mary on the sofa drinking tea. Sarah enters and sits at the table)
Mary: She’s such a dear soul. Though she has a temper on her. I don’t know how she puts on such a brave face to the world. She hasn’t a soul over here you know.
Kitty: She has you, Mary.
Mary: You know what I mean. They’re all trapped over there. Her son said he’d join her here as soon as he’d sold the house and found a way of getting some money out.
Sarah: She still hasn’t heard from him?
Mary: Not a word. Well worse than not a word. Rumours. Rumours via a friend of a friend in Italy. I managed to do some searching via a number she had in Milan.
Kitty: And what do the rumours say?
Mary: One rumour is that her son and some of the family had managed to get out via Austria into Switzerland.
Kitty: Well, that’s good isn’t it. Switzerland is neutral.
Mary: With very precious borders Kitty. I’ve heard that story once too often amongst the refugees of London. It’s used more to give hope than real news. Another rumour was that the whole family had been put on a train. I didn’t tell her.
Sarah: A train? To where?
Mary: A place called Lodz.
Sarah: Lodz. Oh.
Kitty: That isn’t good is it?
Mary: But there are a lot of people who are kind to her here. And they’re not all of her kind.
Sarah: There are a lot of kind people around us.
(She looks up at the Swastika)
Mary: Not such fools and idiots. Did Vicky say she’s getting something to clean that horrible thing off?
Sarah: Yes, when she gets back from work. She’s bringing some whitewash and brushes.
Mary: That’s true about kind people. There are a lot of my people, old now, came over before the last war, in London, without anyone at all. But the community is there for them. We tend to look after our own.
Kitty: I’m not sure I’ve ever had a community. Essex was more of a series of princedoms really. I prefer it down here. Even with all the bombs. Chipping Ongar was a different kind of Blitz. A blitz of silence and boredom.
Mary: She lights a candle for her husband – Samuel. Samuel Reuben.
Kitty: I like that name. It sounds grand.
Mary: She showed me a picture of him. He has jet black hair and thick bushy eyebrows, and a scowl that is betrayed by a lovely twinkle in his eyes. Every night, she lights a candle for him, one for her sons, her sister and her niece. And her two grandchildren. A boy and a girl. Every night, if she can get hold of the wax. That reminds me.
(Mary takes out a list and a pen out of her pocket and writes)
Mary: Candles. Kitty do we have enough?
Kitty: Plenty I think. Why?
Mary: She can have my allowance this month. It’s only one stamp.
Sarah: Good on you Mary Daly!
Mary: You know, she was making Coffee yesterday. In the German style she calls it – strong and black , which was just as well as there wasn’t any milk. It was when I dropped by after work and suddenly Mrs Reuben turned to me and demanded I call her Leah. It was the first time she’d ever told me her Christian name.
Kitty: Seems strange saying a Jew has a Christian name.
Mary: Funny you are. She said “Call me Leah”. So I said: “Hello Leah, call me Mary.” And we drank this coffee. I nearly choked on it, it was so horribly strong. While we were drinking, quiet as anything, as if she was remarking on the weather, or the price of tea she said: “They’re dead. All of them.” “You don’t know that,” I replied. Then she gave me a withering look and grabbed my hand – the coffee spilled everywhere. She grabbed my hand and held it to her heart. “You think I don’t know? All of them!” she said. “All of them.” Then we cleared up and sat silently for a while. Then she apologised and went into the kitchen and brought in some little coconut pyramid cakes she’d made.
Kitty: Poor Leah Reuben.
(Again Mary looks at the Swastika)
Mary: I thought someone was going to clean that bloody thing off this morning.
Sarah: Vicky tried. But it won’t come off. She scrubbed for ages. It’s some kind of military paint.
Mary: Then let’s cover over it tonight. I can’t stand it there.
(Lights up on the living room, Sarah is sitting alone at the table trying to work. She looks at the Swastika high on the wall. Enter Vicky carrying a cup of tea in one hand and a small knitted blanket in the other; she sits on the sofa with feet up, covering her feet with the blanket. Silence. Enter Mary, in an overcoat, she is home from work. She notices the silence in the room, takes off her coat, notices the Swastika, finally sitting down next to Vicky)
Mary: Our visitor’s calling card is still there, I see.
Vicky: Kitty’s dropping by my work to fetch the whitewash.
Vicky: Soon as she gets back you won’t know it had even been there.
Mary: Any more of that tea in the pot?
Vicky: Should be. If you don’t mind it strong.
Mary: That’s what I need. A strong cup of tea after the day I’ve had.
(Mary gets up and goes towards the door. She turns towards Sarah)
Mary: Sarah, I had no luck I’m afraid. I asked around at work but there are no reports of any similar incidents. It seems it was just us. Either one of us was followed home so they could find out where we live, or someone already knows where we live.
Vicky: Well I don’t why you’re all getting so worked up anyway. It’s only a sign and it doesn’t mean anything. I can’t say I’ve even noticed it. What’s a sign anyway? Kitty’ll have it covered soon enough. And they won’t risk coming back a second time. Not now I’ve spoken to the Sarge.
(Sarah has turned to Vicky and is staring intensely at her. Mary has gone offstage)
Vicky: What? Well it is. It’s only a silly sign. They could have done much worse you know. At least they didn’t break anything.
(Sarah returns to her writing but can’t concentrate. Enter Mary with her tea. She sits down next to Vicky again and sips her tea)
Mary: The one thing I’m looking forward to when this damn war ends is a proper cup of strong tea that hasn’t had the same leaves stewed for three days.
Vicky: You look tired, girl.
Mary: It’s like an endless river, only it isn’t water, it’s paper. Proformas, applications and meetings, too many meetings. It makes me angry Queenie – we have to triple check the purchase of fifty pencils and fifty notebooks and yet we haven’t got the time to investigate a break-in.
(Enter Kitty, carrying a pot of whitewash and a paintbrush, as well as her bag)
Vicky: Hello, Kitty Cat.
Kitty: Queenie. Hello all.
(Sarah sees the whitewash)
Sarah: You got it. Good. You’ve got it.
Kitty: Yes, (to Vicky): and your mate Fred says we can bring back what we don’t use and if we clean the brush like new we can take that back as well.
Vicky: And what did you do Kitty Reynolds, to negotiate that agreement, I ask you?
Kitty: Don’t be cheeky, Queenie Sutton. Fred Morrison is a noble man!
Mary: And old enough to be her father.
Kitty: Besides, you organised it all I did was pick it up.
(Mary sips her tea and grimaces)
Mary: I’m going to make a fresh pot. If I want to drink stewed dishwater I can take it straight from the washing up bowl.
Kitty: Oh. I could murder a cup.
(Vicky gets up)
Vicky: I’ll get the dinner on.
(Sarah begins to get up)
Mary: Don’t worry Sarah. I’ll make sure she doesn’t burn it all.
(Kitty takes off her coat as Vicky and Mary leave the stage)
Kitty: How are you, Sarah?
Sarah: Oh, I am alright. I’ve been reading. Can’t seem to concentrate.
Kitty: Well you could read something lighter than the Murder in the Rue Morgue.
Sarah: I like Poe!
Kitty: You can be a dark and moody soul sometimes, Sarah.
Sarah: I suppose I can.
Kitty: Still, you can be pretty when you scowl. And prettier when it turns suddenly to a smile.
Kitty: Now that’s better. A smile suits you well.
Sarah: Does it?
Kitty: It’s really bothering you isn’t it.
Sarah: Yes, it is. I know it shouldn’t. But it’s been there three days and I want it gone.
Kitty: We all want it gone. Well, the whitewash should do the trick. Fred from the fire station pulled out all the stops to get us this.
Sarah: Thank him from me, won’t you.
Kitty: Already did. He’ll want his pay though.
Sarah: Well it’s worth the money.
Kitty: No, not money. He wants to take, and I quote, “four beautiful ladies for tea at the Lyons Corner House”. He said that will more than cover it.
Sarah: Well, I think we can agree to that.
Kitty: He’ll want a smile, not a scowl.
Sarah: He’ll get a smile. A big smile.
Kitty: That’s just perfect then. I better give Vicky a hand. You know what happened the last time she tried to do a stew for us all. She might look like her mum, but she can’t cook like her.
(Kitty leaves. Sarah continues to work. She looks up at the sign again, then the whitewash. She tries to work again, looks again. Eventually she gets up, moves a chair over to the wall, opens the pot and takes pot and brush to the chair. She climbs up and starts to whitewash over the sign. Her whitewashing is clumsy and becomes frantic. She tries several coats getting frustrated as the whitewash is too thin to fully cover the swastika.)
Sarah: Damn! Damn you!
(Sarah whitewashes with the brush more furiously and begins to cry as Mary re-enters with a cup in her hand.)
Mary: What’s the matter, Sarah?
Sarah (painting furiously then turning in despair) It isn’t working? It’s still there. Can’t you see? It’s still bloody there!
(Enter Vicky and Kitty, Vicky with a mixing bowl in her hand)
Kitty: What’s up?
(Sarah is standing on the chair facing them, crying)
Vicky: Who’s making that racket? Oh.
(Sarah is in silent tears. Mary walks towards her)
Sarah: It won’t come off the wall. It’s coming through. No matter how much I cover it up, it keeps showing through! And it won’t whitewash over!
(Sounds of an air raid siren. Lights)
(Lights up on the living room. Vicky and Sarah are sitting on the sofa. Vicky hands Sarah a mug of hot tea and brandy)
Vicky: Now drink that. And drink all of it.
Vicky: Should have known whitewash wouldn’t be enough. Kitty and Mary will get some turps and that should do the trick. Though the whole wall will have to be repainted.
Sarah: You’re so good with practical things.
Vicky: Not with cooking, I ain’t.
(They both laugh)
Vicky: Dad taught me all there is to know about engines. Actually, at first he wouldn’t let me go near his vans. He wanted his boys to take over the business. But I soon put him right on that.
Sarah: I am sure you did!
Vicky: And mum was happy enough. I am a better knitter than she is but I can’t cook for toffees. As you all well know!
Sarah: You’re not that bad!
Vicky: And you’re a bad liar! And the boys don’t want to drive vans all day. George hasn’t got the patience and if Dad doesn’t want to replace gear boxes every week, or be paying speeding fines, he knows that George is better doing what he is good at. Both our boys know how to put houses up. Dad says that’s going to be one of their jobs as soon as the barracks job is done; rebuilding some of the houses that was done in the bombings in Liverpool last month. Wish it was London they were being posted to.
Sarah: Well, they won’t be short of work when this is all over. Half of London is in ruins.
Vicky: You’re not wrong there.
Sarah: You know, don’t you.
Vicky: Know what?
Sarah: Is it just you, or do all of you know?
Vicky: We all know.
Sarah: Who told who?
Vicky: It just came up in conversation one day. And I suppose that thing (indicates the Swastika) confirmed it. We all twigged at the same time.
Sarah (looks at the Swastika): I can’t bear to look at it. But that isn’t why I was angry really. I’m angry at myself for being angry.
Vicky: It’s just a silly sign. If we let it get to us, he’s halfway to winning isn’t he? Adolf bloody Hitler.
Sarah: I got angry that you all seemed more concerned with what might have been stolen than having that awful thing on our walls. Suddenly I felt very alone. Very different.
Vicky (suddenly angry) You think I want that thing on the wall of our flat? You think any of us do?
Sarah: No, of course not!
Vicky: But until we get some paint or something to get rid of it it’s THERE. And our life goes on. And the bombs keep dropping. And fires keep burning and people keep dying! And you want us all to be stamping and shouting over that bloody bit of nuffink?
Sarah: (sudden outburst) That bloody bit of nuffink might be flying over Buckingham Palace quicker than you want to think about! And people like me. (to herself): People like me. I don’t really believe in any of my religion Vicky. And when I came to London it just seemed easier to keep quiet about it. But now I feel like a betrayer of my own people and that damn thing is mocking me, right in my own living room.
(Sarah falls into crying. Vicky sits down and lets her cry in her arms)
Vicky: No need to cry, Sarah Bennett. You ain’t done nothing wrong.
(Sarah quickly recovers)
Sarah: Bernstein. Sarah Bernstein. And that was another reason. My surname. It sounds German. I thought it would just be easier.
Vicky: It doesn’t matter Sarah. You have got three good friends who love you whatever your name is. If you want I’ll change my name to Bernstein as well! Victoria Bernstein, East-end, cockney Fire Service Engineer!
(Sarah laughs and Vicky joins in)
Sarah: You’re funny! And kind!
(Vicky gets up and looks at the Swastika)
Vicky: We’ll get rid of it today. Soon as Mary and Kitty get back, we’ll turps over it. And then, I’ll spoil a nice stew for you all.
Sarah: You sort out getting rid of that thing and I’ll cook us all supper.
Vicky: You’re on!
(The living room as before. A step ladder is up against the back wall centre stage. The Swastika has gone. A dirty mark showing red brick through remains where it was, Sarah and Kitty are on the sofa. Vicky enters with some paint in a bucket dressed in an overall. Mary follows with some brushes)
Vicky: This is going to smell for a bit you know.
Sarah: Why not do it at the weekend.
(Vicky looks up at the mark on the wall)
Vicky: You sure?
Sarah: Yes, I’m sure. That patch of brick looks rather beautiful to me.
Mary: Yes it does. Looks a bit like a map of Ireland! Look, there’s Galway Bay, bottom right!
Vicky: Looks like the Isle of Wight to me!
Kitty: It doesn’t look anything like the Isle of Wight.
Vicky: Yes it does. If you turn it on its side!
Sarah: Well I don’t care what it looks like. It can wait until the weekend.
(Vicky puts the bucket down)
Vicky: Suits me. I’m knackered.
Sarah: I’m sorry if I’ve been … difficult.
Vicky: Sarah Bennett… it’s why we love you. You want Bennett or Bernstein?
Sarah: Oh, I hadn’t thought.
Vicky: Well, I prefer Bennett. I bet it’s easier when I’m tipsy. Bernshtein. Bernshteen. Yep. I vote for Bennett.
Kitty: It has to be your choice Sarah.
Mary: You’ll always be Sarah to me.
Sarah: Fat lot of help you all are.
Kitty: Save it for the weekend as well.
Vicky: Yeah, what’s the rush?
Sarah: Good idea.
Vicky: So what do we all do now with a whole evening ahead!
Kitty: What’s on the radio?
(Mary puts the radio on)
Voice Over: “This is the BBC Home Service bringing you an hour of Light Music to while away the Winter Evening. Blackout times will be broadcast at the end of this programme. Enjoy the sounds of Carroll Gibbons and His Boyfriends as a Nightingale Sings in Berkeley Square..”
(Mary joins Kitty and Sarah on the Sofa. Then Vicky joins them as well. As the words come in on the song Vicky joins them as well ’til they are squashed on the sofa)
Vicky: Come on you three – shove up!
(They sing to each other)
Kitty: That certain night
Sarah: …the night we met…
Vicky: There was magic abroad in the air…
Mary: There were angels dining at the Ritz…
And four of them (raucously followed by giggling): And a Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square!
(The music continues. Then the sound of an air raid siren)
Mary: Here we go again!
(Mary gets up, followed by Sarah)
Vicky: Bloody hell!
(Vicky gets up, leaving Kitty on the sofa. Mary goes to get her coat)
(Vicky and Mary turn. The siren continues to get louder as lights fade. Sounds of bombing as before getting louder. Music comes up – “Dancing in the dark” vying with the sounds of the bombs. Lights begin to flash, lighting Mary dancing with Kitty, Sarah with Vicky. They dance to the rising music mixed with the bombing noise and the flashes. There is laughter and chatter. Sarah and Vicky hum to the music. Slow fade out of lights, flashes, bombs and music to black)