Death by PowerPoint

Death by PowerPoint was premiered in Brighton in 2006. It played in an early version at the Sussex Arts Club, and since then has played at the Komedia Brighton, the Waterfront Belfast, at Coloplast in Denmark as well as in Banff, Canada. The play explores the notions of change and unchange, set in a fictional company, a maker of glue products called “Blanchards.” The play starred Alastair Kerr from BBC Radio’s Count Arthur Strong.

The play is available for booking. Contact us for further information.


 

DEATH BY POWERPOINT

Scene 1

Lights come up on a funeral scene. Joe, Alan and Sandra, and Louise each lay flowers on the floors, as if on a grave, in front of the audience. Sandra lays a large spanner on the grave.

Cue Opening Film – THE FLOATING LAPTOP (exit Louise and Sandra)

Alan: Dust to bloody dust.

Joe: Don’t you ever wonder if they’ve gone anywhere?

Alan: Gone anywhere? You saw where Phil went. Six feet down. Well actually it looked more like four feet to me.

Joe: They’re probably cutting back. Re-Engineering the Burial process

Alan: Funny.

Joe: I wonder if they’re piling them on top of each other.

Alan: They don’t pile corpses on top of each other.

Joe: Apparently in the Middle East they bury them in walls. (Alan gives Joe a funny look): No soil.

(Pause)

Alan: So, Joe – how’s your new life in New Zealand?

Joe: Very different from here.

Alan: You jumped ship just at the right time.

Joe: It was a sinking ship, years ago.

(pause)

Joe: We went on a weekend visit to Prague once. Saw the Jewish Cemetery – they’re piled ten on top of each other there, I believe.

Alan: Efficient. “Efficiency” wasn’t enough to save Blanchard’s was it? Efficiency in graveyards. Nice.

Joe: Oh I think there is a business opportunity there. Perhaps Blanchard’s should have moved away from manufacturing and sales and moved into graveyards. Well actually, they did move into graveyards.

Alan: It’s funny how we have funerals for dead people and not for dead companies.

Joe: What was that spanner thing all about?

Alan: Belonged to his grandfather apparently.

Joe: Ah. I had no idea Phil’s grandfather worked for Ford just after the war.

Alan: Yes, and his father was over in the States when they tried to turn Ford’s fortunes around. That’s before he came over here. Head-hunted.

Joe: Strange expression, that. Head-hunted. They want your head and don’t seem too bothered about the rest of you. I remember reading this play by Kurt Vonnegut all about a mad scientist – Doctor Norbert Frankenstein, keeping a dying woman’s head alive.

Alan: And why on earth would he do that?

Joe: Two reasons on that. Bullet point one: Love. Bullet point 2: He was mad.

Alan: He loved a woman’s head?

Joe: All of her vital organs were preserved in big jars and connected to her head by electrodes. I think he loved those too.

Alan: Romantic. What was the play called?

Joe: Fortitude.

Alan: You do love talking bollocks, don’t you. Have you introduced talking bollocks to New Zealand as well?

Joe: Phil lived and breathed Blanchard’s, didn’t he? Head, heart, blood and bones. Poor bugger. He was trying to save it right until the very end. Fortitude.

(CUT)

CUE FILM PHIL ON SEAFRONT. During the film Sandra enters and walks across to the grave. She picks up the spanner and looks at it, and puts it down. She leaves.

(CUT TO CEMETERY ENTER JOE AND ALAN – DURING THE FOLLOWING AN EMAIL FILM PLAYS OVER THE GRAVE FILM)

Joe: Do you remember your delightful PowerPoint presentation you did about the need for change? You were asking people who hadn’t changed for thirty years to “Move significantly along the road to recovery.” You made it sound like a bloody A.A meeting. Yet all those rows of people, they all sat there, glued to their comfort zones.

Alan: So?

Joe: I remember your wonderfully original little slide of the caterpillar and the butterfly – you were saying these people should be prepared to “take gargantuan strides” from where they are now.

Alan: I did not say “Gargantuan strides”. I said: “Big steps…”

Joe: You wanted them to turn from caterpillars into butterflies.

Alan: We were just trying to motivate them.

Joe: Motivate people? Like Kevin Spitz you mean? Or Irene Biggins ? They were already working bloody hard for not a lot of money. It was ridiculous.

Alan: Kevin Spitz. (looking out into the audience) He’s lost weight hasn’t he?

Joe: Nah, it’s a trick of the light. Cemeteries always make people look infinitely better or infinitely closer to the grave

(Cue Phil Seafront Film 1 – during this Alan and Phil walk through the audience as Louise enters holding a battered clipboard which she lays on the grave, before moving offstage. Re-enter Alan and Phil)

Alan: So, you think some part of us really does “Move on”?

Joe: Who knows? It’s a damp day. The worms are probably already doing push ups.

(Alan looks hard at Joe. Pause)

Joe: Alan, I’m sorry.

(Alan looks at Joe)

Joe: I was screwed up. Still am, a bit. I should have left years ago.

Alan: We’re all screwed up a bit.

(Alan is silent)

Joe: I had no idea about you and Louise.

Alan: No, few people did. We put on a brave face.

Joe: You mustn’t feel guilty.

Alan: It was the stress. I couldn’t juggle a sinking relationship and a sinking ship.

Joe: You didn’t know how stressed she was. She was trying to hold down a new job whilst setting up a new magazine business.

Alan: I should have been there for her.

Joe: “Should have.” I seem to remember you saying it was Lou who was never home.

Alan: Yes, maybe.

(Pause)

Alan: Why did you hate Blanchard’s so much?

Joe: I don’t believe anyone in that place truly enjoyed working there. Except Phil maybe. He loved it. Sandra didn’t.

Alan: You’re wrong.

Joe: I am?

Alan: Yes, you’re wrong. That’s your problem Joe.

Joe: What is?

Alan: You generalised your hate of work to everyone else. Some people loved what they did at Blanchard’s. Not just Phil.

Joe: I’m sure they did. It’s easy to grow used to your own mediocrity and then rename it as contentment. Wretched contentment. The redundancies soon woke them out of their comfy dream.

Alan: You know I knew things were really getting bad when they sent me on a mentoring and coaching course.

Joe: I managed to get out of that one.

Alan: I had to sit there doing amateur life coaching in the name of “Performance Management” and I can tell you I was a consummate amateur. No, I was downright dangerous.

(Light change)

(THEN LIGHTS UP ON ALAN TALKING TO IMAGINARY PERSON WITH JOE WATCHING, BACKROUND FILM OF LEGS AND BODY LANGUAGE)

FLASHBACK

Alan: So, how long have you been working here?

Yes, that IS a long time. And do you enjoy your…you don’t?

And your role in the team, are there any positive… there aren’t.

And you have any goals for your career path in the… you haven’t

I see. So you feel you’ve lost your motivation and don’t see a clear future for yourself in the company……on the planet, I see.

Alan: There’s a strategy I want to put to you. It may not be one you have considered before, but it will significantly clarify your relationship to your job and the world. Have you ever considered… suicide.

Yes, don’t dismiss it straight away. Run with me on this one. It would be a quick win and perhaps boost your clearly battered self-esteem and ‘m not denying it would free up some valuable resource for the organisation; as you’re aware we are keen to cut costs wherever we can…

FLASHBACK end

(Cut to the funeral)

Joe:: You didn’t! Really? YOU?

Alan: Yes, me. Thought it. Didn’t say it.

Joe: I’m impressed you even thought it. There’s hope for you yet, Alan.

Alan: You’d have said it.

Joe: Too right.

Alan: I went home that night and had a huge row with Louise. She sat up all night working; had some kind of deadline with her new magazine. I’d managed to ease the way for her company to do our staff magazine. It was a financial life line for her but she just accused me of being a patronising do-gooder. I went to my flat and slept there.

(EXIT ALAN AND PHIL, WALKING)

(Enter Sandra stage left. CUE CEMETERY FILM She looks at her mobile phone and reads a text which appears on the screen behind her. It is from Phil. It’s almost unbearable to read . She sees Louise who is staring into space lookingtransfixed)

Sandra: Louise? You ok?

Louise: Sandra. Yes, I’m ok. Bad memories. Sad memories.

Sandra: Funerals.

Louise Funerals.

Sandra: Louise. It was good of you to come.

Louise: It was a real shock.

Sandra: For all of us. My Phil said you were HRs only real asset.

Louise: Poor Phil. Sandra, how are you?

Sandra: You know something? I haven’t cried. Not once. Sometimes I think it is such a waste. Phil died trying to save a dying company that made glue and bonding products. You know, when we first met, Phil wanted to renovate a castle in Slovenia. But in the end, he was trying with all the strength he had to renovate a castle in England. Blanchard’s. A factory with a proud history. 250 people were looking to him to safeguard their jobs and the security of their families. But you, Lou; what’s happened with you?

Louise: You mean, life after Alan?

Sandra: You two were chalk and cheese. I was amazed you lasted as long as you did.

Louise: I loved him. I never thought he’d run off.

Sandra: Have you seen him?

Louise: Yes, he acted very sheepish and guilty.

Sandra: He does feel guilty, LLou.

Louise: I know, he thinks if he had stayed we could have worked it all out.

Sandra: And what do you think?

Louise: Oh, I really don’t know. We were both addicted to work. There wasn’t much time for us.

Sandra (reaching out her hand): Come here.

Louise: (taking her hand): It’s good to see you again.

(They hug. Louise starts to cry)

Sandra: Let it all rest with Phil. Here and now. Let’s bury it all.

(THEY LEAVE. ENTER JOE AND ALAN)

(CUE FILM OF ALAN THROWING MOBILE INTO SEA)

Back to Funeral.

Alan: You’re really running a farm out there?

Joe: Yes, we’re really running a farm. Real sheep.

Alan: You used to call us all sheep actually.

Joe: I know.

(pause)

Alan: Baaaa!!!

(embarrassed laugh)

Joe: You know the real rot set in when the consultants arrived. I think that’s the moment when I gave myself permission to go insane.

(CUE BEACH FILM AND SET UP FOR CHANGE TO SALES TARGET)

Sales Target FLASHBACK

(Alan sits at a desk – knock at the door)

Alan: Come in.

(Enter Joe)

Alan: Joe.

(Alan indicates chair – Joe looks at it and looks at Joe)

Alan: Sit down Joe.

(Joe picks the chair up and puts it outside the door, then returns, standing before the desk, looking at Joe)

Alan: Joe…

(pause)

Joe: What.

Alan: Why did you put the chair in the corridor?

(Joe says nothing)

I could order you to tell me.

(silence)

Joe, why did you tell Gordon Pressburger that our reengineering meeting was a kind of death process?

(silence)

Why?

(Silence)

What are you thinking, Joe?

Joe: This: Do you ever weep, Alan? When was the last time you ever cried? Really cried?

Alan: What’s that got to do with…

Joe: You haven’t, have you? You haven’t cried since you were a child. Not a single tear have you shed, have you Alan?

Alan: Why are you being weird again?

(silence)

Bring it in.

Joe: What?

Alan (shouting): Bring the fucking chair back in, Joe!

(Joe calmly brings the chair back in)

Alan: Joe, please…

(Joe sits on the chair)

Thank you Joe.

(pause)

Why is crying so important to you?

Joe: It clearly isn’t to you.

Alan: I can’t say I have missed it.

Joe: No, I don’t suppose you have,, Alan.

Alan: Now, I want to know why you told Gordon Pressburger that our meeting was a kind of death.

Joe: Death process.

(silence)

Alan: Joe…

Joe: (interrupting): Are you afraid of death?

Alan: What? Fuck off Joe. You are a weird man, you know that…?

(silence)

Joe: You wanted to see me?

Alan: Look. You know you exceeded your sales target by 200% again last month which, I concede is another company record…

Joe:…my fifth in six months…

Alan:..So people are prepared to tolerate your bizarre behaviour. But why the fuck did you tell Gordon Pressburger our meeting was a kind of death?

Joe: Is that all?

Alan: Yes! Well?

Joe (getting up): I’ll be off then… See you Alan.

(Joe leaves)

Alan: Joe! JOE!

(Alan lights a cigarette nervously. Joe suddenly returns, picks up the chair, and takes it with him)

(LIGHTS)

(CUE JOE JOKE FILM, DURING THIS ENTER JOE WHO JOINS ALAN)

Back to the Funeral

Joe: Insanity was the only way to get through the day.

Alan: We were just trying to get more sales in.

Joe: And then I realized it.

Alan: What?

Joe: it didn’t matter how insane I went. How many buttons I pushed, there was one thing crazier than any attempts I made to be a fruitcake.

Alan: What was that?

Joe: The company, Alan. The company was psychotic. The corporation was even crazier than me. I realized it one moment back in 2003. I had been charged with the delightful task of inducting your Louise when she joined us as a marketing executive consultant in a desperate attempt to boost sales.

(JOE STEPS STAGE FRONT WATCHED BY ALAN – ENTER LOUISE WEARING SPECS)

FLASHBACK

Joe: Yes, it is quite an old book and all I have done is replace some of the more old fashioned words with more modern ones.

Louise: I see and you think this is relevant to our new marketing campaign.

Joe: Well, you decide. How about this:

(reading): “Every campaign will first have to divide the target market into two large groups: supporters and members. “The function of advertising is to attract interest and support, the function of organisation to win customers.”

Louise: That’s neatly put.

Joe: “A supporter of a campaign is one who declares himself to be in agreement with its aims, a customer is one who commits.”

Louise: True.

Joe: “The supporter is made amenable to the campaign by advertising. The member is induced by the organisation to participate personally in attracting new supporters of the product, from whom in turn new customers can be developed.”

Louise: So, it rests on loyalty.

Joe: Yes it does. Complete Loyalty.

Joe: Get this bit: “Advertising will consequently have to see that an idea wins supporters, while the organisation must take the greatest care only to make the most valuable elements among the supporters into members…while the organisation must carefully gather from the mass of these elements those which really make possible the ultimate success of the campaign.”

(Joe puts the book down)

Louise: Well I like this stuff. It makes a lot of marketing sense even if it IS from an old book.

Joe: Yes, I can see you are impressed.

Louise: They should republish it. Who wrote it? What’s the title?

Joe: The author is a guy named Adolf Hitler. The title is: Mein Kampf

FLASHBACK end

(Louise is shocked – back-out EXIT)

Back to the funeral

Alan: You really loved taking the piss, didn’t you?

Joe: It was a way to survive.

Alan: We needed more sales. Not mind-games.

Joe: It was ALL mind-games, Alan. Making money for invisible shareholders in Wilmington USA is a mind-game. It was workshops, workshops, workshops. Meetings, bloody meetings.

Alan: Process maps and benchmarking.

Joe: Re-engineering, Re-Inventing, Restructuring.

Alan: Empowerment and Involvement.

Joe: Not mind-games, but crap mind-games. They really thought they could workshop themselves out of terminal decline.

Alan: They didn’t know what else to do.

Joe: It’s the ultimate irony. Rationality it its own madness.

Alan: Nice lunches though.

Joe: Sausage rolls, vol-au-vents.

Alan: Scampi Goujons.

Joe: And those little mini pizzas that look like they’ve been downsized after a takeover. Can’t complain there. Blanchards was never a company that skimped on the catering.

(pause)

Joe: He HAS moved on. Phil has moved on you know. I’ve moved on. Lou’s moved on. Sandra will move on soon enough.

Alan: I don’t believe that.

(EXIT ALAN)

(ENTER Louise)

Joe: Lou.

Lou: Joe. You’ve lost weight.

Joe: You haven’t.

Lou: Same old charmer.

Joe: You look better for it, Lou. You were thin as a rake last time I saw you.

Lou: I’m fine.

Joe: I’m glad.

Lou: How’s New Zealand?

Joe: It’s beautiful. I can’t begin to describe how beautiful it is. And there aren’t just sheep there. There are hobbits too.

Lou: Same old Joe. You got out at the right time.

Joe: Yes, I really did.

(pause)

Lou: Married?

Joe: Not a chance.

Lou: Still commitment-phobic.

Joe: Incurably.

(pause)

Lou: There’s something I have wanted to ask you.

Joe: Fire away. Bullet points at the ready (mimics a gun)

Lou, Joe, if you hated Blanchard’s so much, why did you stay for so long?

Joe: Because I was unhappily happy. It’s the hobby of the age you know – paralysis.

Lou: Have you always been a cynic, Joe?

Joe: Not at all. I wasn’t a cynic in 1966

Lou: And how old were you then?

Joe: Three.

Lou: Funny.

Joe: No, it’s true. I became a cynic when I was three.

Lou: No one becomes a cynic at three.

Joe: I beg to differ. I think most children are born into cynicism at around that age. Even earlier in many cases.

Lou: You were probably just a testy baby.

Joe: Actually it was a Nursery School. I still remember it as if it happened yesterday. Every day at the same time – late morning I think, one of the nursery staff brought out a big and battered old Rovers Biscuit Tin filled with sweets – dolly mixtures – I only really liked the jellies… She’s opening this tin and it’s sheer magic. I mean, more sweets than a three-year old could imagine and the tin is being passed around and we are only allowed to take one. One only. There is this boy, Mark Ellingham, I think he had behavioural problems because he was always crying and losing his temper. It comes to his turn to take a sweet and his snotty hand dives into that tin and graps a whole handful of sweets. They tell him to put them back and jusy keep one but he just screamed and refused to uncurl his fist. And they let him get away with it. Even at three I remember thinking – so this is the world is it? I remember thinking – this is an unfair world.

Lou: Its an unfair world because a child with behavioural difficulties has a few extra sweets?

Joe: It’s the tip of an iceberg, Lou. Throughout my life I’ve seen people doing that. It doesn’t matter where you go in the end. If there are people on the scene, you’ll find cynicism in abundance. One day they’ll discover a cynicism gene.

Lou: They’ll find one in you, that’s for sure.

Joe: He still loves you, you know.

Lou: Then why did he walk out when I most needed someone?

Joe: You’ll have to ask him, not me. But he does still love you.

Lou: Alan kept on and on about how at his age he didn’t know if he’s get another job when Blanchard’s finally went under. My new publishing business was supposed to be our parachute. I certainly didn’t expect him to have done a runner to Caracas.

Joe: Oh come on. So he blew some of his redundancy money on getting away.

He was close to breakdown, you know.

Lou: Was he?

(Pause)

Joe: Did Alan ever tell you it was he who found Phil?

Lou: We haven’t spoken.

Joe: Maybe it’s time you did. He found him lying, slumped over a lap top with a PowerPoint presentation still warm on the screen. In a coma.

Lou: That’s horrible.

Joe: Phil’s “death process” began over a two-dimension grid on a PowerPoint slide. Along the vertical axis was the word “Profit”. Along the horizontal grid was the word “Motivation”.

Lou: I hope it was sudden.

Joe: Phil’s road to nowhere began as he was staring at his own rescue strategy for the company he loved. (Pause). Alan does still love you. You were obsessed with your new magazine, and both your Alan and Sandra’s Phil were glued to their own superglue factory.

Lou: Joe McNeil, the relationship mender and sheep farmer. Has a weird ring to it.

(Enter Alan)

Joe: There’s one thing I like about Sheep.

Lou: What’s that? On second thoughts, don’t tell me.

Joe:  Sheep, Lou. Sheep. When you take em to the abattoir to have their throats cut, they look at you all… sheepily… and trust you utterly til the very end. Til their throats are cut. Me ? A cynic?

(Joe Leaves. Enter Alan)

Alan: Lou.

Lou: Alan.

Alan: It’s wonderful to see you. I wish it was under … different circumstances.

Lou: Yes. How are you?

Alan: I’m ok. Actually I’m fine.

(pause)

Alan: Sandra told me how you were doing.

Lou: A phone call? An email? A visit?

Alan: I’m sorry. I ran. Maybe I’m still running.

(They tentatively embrace and a peck on the cheek)

Alan: I got more kisses from you on Messenger than in real life.

Lou: I know.

Alan: It’s ridiculous. Instant  love; it’s an artificial  world. You know,Brian

Morello from scheduling signs all his emails wlth a kiss. “Dear Alan, thanks for

updating  the monthly sales forecast, regards Brian, kiss.” You know the reason

people never provided any reports early for Brian ? He’d sign them, “much love and thanks, Brian, kiss, kiss, kiss”. For a man with appalling B.O and even more

horrific halitosis, he was more than generous with his love online.

Lou (laughing): That’s really funny! It isn’t like you to Be…(catches

herself): funny.

Alan: I find a lot of things funny these days.

Lou: You were too serious, Alan.

Alan: So were you.

Lou: Tell me. What do you find funny these days?

Alan: Alright. Shall we take a walk among the graves?

(They both look at each other and laugh and she takes his arm as they walk)

(CUE MESSENGER FILM – DURING THIS ALAN SITS AT A LAPTOP ENTER LOUISE WHO SITS AT A LAPTOP WHILST TALKING ON A MOBILE PHONE – TWO CONTRASTING PICES OF MUSIC PLAY AT THE SAME TIME):

(CUT TO FUNERAL)

Joe: Do you remember tools and techniques briefing?

Alan: Yes. The “tools and techniques briefing”

Joe: They really thought that tools and techniques would empower us all the turn around the decline.

Alan: I never knew the difference. Still don’t. What’s the difference between a tool and a technique?

Joe: A tool was something irrelevant that we had no use for.

Brian: I see. And a technique?

Joe: A technique was how to make a tool look relevant without actually ever using it.

Joe: It was when I was forced to sit in one of those godawful tools and techniques workshops that I finally decided I had to get out before I really did go insane.

Alan: But you weren’t mad. You were cool and calm.

Joe: All bluff Alan. I was cracking up underneath.

Alan: You weren’t. You were hitting all your targets.

Joe: I was hitting all The targets. But MY targets? I didn’t have any targets. I wasn’t even sure where the dart board was.

Alan: Well, you targeted me a few times.

Joe: I know, and that’s why I had to get away. Far away.

Alan: All in the past now.

Joe: You know we become eloquent after dinner speakers at the banquet of our own pain.

Alan: Jesus, that’s deep.

Joe: What Phil didn’t realise was where the stink was really coming from. I realised it when I was looking out at my twenty newly purchased sheep last month. All fluffy white, branded in soldier blue and ripe for the slaughter.

Alan:: Charming just before a buffet lunch. And where was the stink coming from?

Joe: The stench of decay from Blanchards. Our business was stinking with decay and for five years all the consultants did for their fat fees was to act as a failing air freshener. Near to the end they of course concluded that the only way to get rid of the stink was to cull all of the sheep.

Alan: Re-engineering. Restructuring. Rendunancies.

Joe: What they didn’t realise was where the stink was REALLY coming from.

Alan: And where was that?

Joe: The stink was coming from Bullshit, Alan.

Alan: Ah, the board of directors.

Joe: Got it in one.

Alan: You know I still remember when you jumped the sinking ship. It was in my office.

Joe: Yes, I’m sorry about that.

Alan: Don’t be. You were a cruel bastard for all the screwy, scary and very very right reasons. I see that now.

(CUT TO SALES TARGET)

FLASHBACK Sales 2

(Lights up on Alan sitting at a desk. There is a knock at the door)

Alan: Come in.

(Enter Joe)

Alan: Joe, let’s try again shall we. Take a… have a seat.

(Alan sits down. Pause. Alan takes out some papers)

Alan: Now about the schedules…

Joe: I cry a lot Alan.

(Alan sighs and puts the papers down)

Alan: Bollocks you do.

Joe: When we failed to hit the team bonus last week, I didn’t cry. When I saw a news report about famine in the Sudan last night, I can’t say I cried then either.

Alan: I can believe that.

Joe: You know when I last cried, Alan? I cried this morning when I opened my fridge.

Alan: You WHAT?

Joe: When I opened my Hotpoint Fridge and there on a sad little plate was an even sadder looking lump of cheese. And then I thought of you Alan.

Alan: You looked at a “sad” piece of cheese and you thought of me. Now why am I not surprised to hear you are now associating real people with cheese?

Joe: Oh, I wouldn’t be surprised Alan. I see you all as cheese.

Alan: You know not everyone thinks you are a genius you, know. Quite a lot of people here think you are a jerk.

Joe: Genius. Jerk. Jerk. Genius the line between the two is hair thin.

(Alan sighs again)

Alan: Cheese. You see as all as cheese.

Joe: You, Alan are cheese.

Alan: And what kind of cheese, pray tell am I? Stilton? Gouda? Edam?

Joe (thinks): Mild cheddar.

Alan: Mild cheddar cheese.

Joe: Very mild cheddar.

Alan: Please don’t be too concerned if I don’t write that particular nugget of information down.

Joe: You are all pieces of cheese, sitting there on plates, some smaller, some larger, but essentially, you are cheese. Alan. Cheese.

Alan: And are you cheese as well?

Joe: Indeed I am, Alan. I am cheese as well. Only this particular cheese sheds tears and you don’t. You are cheese, sitting there on a plate, waiting to be sliced and eaten.

Alan: I don’t seem to have been sliced nor eaten yet.

Joe: That, Alan is utterly true. And do you know why?

Alan: I can honestly say, I don’t know why and I am sure you are about to enlighten me, oh Cheese-meister.

Joe: Very good Alan!

(Silence)

Alan (wearily): Why?

Joe: I am glad you asked that. It is because no one can be arsed. In the great fridge of life, you and just about every other mild cheese lump here is sitting on a plate going mouldy. No one even can even be bothered to slice you up and eat you. I could cry at that too… if I could be assed.

Alan: Ok, It’s getting on for half eleven and we really need to sort out the schedules for the sales drive…

Joe: I’d empower you all, you know?

Alan: Eh?

Joe: You cheeses. I’d empower you all if I could.

Alan: (playing along): And how exactly would you empower us cheeses?

Joe: You know Alan, I am 37 years old and I have no idea. No idea at all. I can sell our product to anyone in the world. I have been our best salesman for over five years now, no one sells even twenty percent of what I sell, and I can honestly say I have not the slightest idea in the world as to how I might empower any of you to grow cheesy legs and walk off your tedious, cracked and hopeless plates. But I would…

Alan: Ok, enough now…

Joe: …if I could.

Alan: Look Joe, I am not asking you to like me Joe…

Joe: …but I can’t.

Alan: (rising voice): But we do have to work together on these schedules!

Joe: But I do like you Alan. In fact…

Alan: Yes?

Joe: I love you.

Alan: What? WHAT? Joe…for fuck’s sake…

Joe: I think cheese is pathetic. But I love it. I adore cheese. Come on Alan, eat me, slice me up.

Alan: That’s just what you want isn’t it. Well, no. I am not going to try to get you disciplined. No. I’m not playing into your bored and screwed up hands. Play your games. Make your random remarks. But you aren’t going to push MY buttons any more.

(Joe sighs and sits down opposite Alan)

Alan: Right, now I’ve divided the shifts up based on geographical area.

Joe: I’ve brought you a present.

Alan: What?

Joe: A present, Alan.

(Alan is taken aback and cautiously accepts a wrapped present from Joe)

Joe: This is for you Alan.

Alan: (opens the present slowly – it is a cheese grater): What is it? Ah.

Joe: I’m leaving at the end of today Alan, and I won’t be coming back. Off to New Zealand. Bought some land. And a house. A really big house. With a garden. This, is for you. As I won’t be here after today, This is for you (gives cheese grater)

(Joe gets up and leaves, winking at Alan at the door. Lights)

FLASHBACK end

(BACK TO FUNERAL)

Joe: I had to go, Alan. I realised I really was going nuts. I was on the verge of exchanging bullet points for real bullets.

Alan: Towards the end Phil was actually speaking PowerPoint. He’d turned it into a kind of dialect. “Two Bullets on that on, Alan. Bullet one…”

Joe: I wonder if he used to talk to Sandra like that, after work, when they were in bed.

Alan: Joe! Not at the man’s funeral!

Joe: “Sandra darling, tonight’s love-making is divided into three quadrants. Foreplay 5%, intercourse 15% and the post coital chat about work 85%

Alan: Joe. That’s sick.

Joe: No it isn’t. It a salutary lesson, Alan. When you start flowcharting the human condition, you’re truly on the road to nowhere. Phil really did start to live his work, and the problem with that was this: his particular brand of work was soul-destroying. So he started to earn, not a living, but a living death. And in the end it killed him.

(Pause)

Alan: 80%.

Joe: Eh?

Alan: 80% not 85%.

Joe: I’m afraid I don’t get you..

Alan: Foreplay 5%, intercourse 15% which means the post coital chat about work must have been 80%, not 85.

Joe: Jesus. Forgive me if I take your word for that. Joe: Nowadays, death has become really “last year”. If we were in India we’d be celebrating Phil’s death. It would be an occasion for rejoicing.

Alan: Well, people deal with death in different ways.

Joe: We’d be leaping around for joy at his passing.

Alan: I’m not sure they exactly leap around for joy.

Joe: They do, you know. And some of them twirl. They twirl around madly. For hours and hours Have you ever twirled around madly, Alan?

Alan: Actually, yes.

Joe: What?

Alan: I twirled around madly like a whirling dervish in 1987 and then once again some years later.

Joe: Go on.

Alan: In 1987 I twirled around for about four minutes at Nigel Cayman’s leaving do. I started spinning during “Love Cats” and was still spinning half-way through “Reel Around the Fountain by the Smiths.

Joe: Good song. Crap song.

Alan: By the time I’d stopped spinning, the whole dance floor had cleared, and Martin Molefield had called phoned security and was considering calling an ambulance.

Joe: You twirled for over 6 minutes?

Alan: Yes, I started slowly on “So, wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully wonderfully pretty, which I dumbly mouthed to Angela Clodthorpe from Accounts; gorgeous blonde with a little emerald nose stud. And I just got faster and faster and it just kind of developed from there. I just didn’t want to stop.

Joe: so, I wasn’t the only nutcase after all.

Alan: Do you remember what Phil used to say at project update meetings? “Life is short” he used to say. He’s always put that on the last slide of his PowerPoint Briefings. “Life is short” and that was supposed to motivate us all to get on with it.

Well, Joe. Life isn’t short. Life is long. Life is so utterly and so very long. I see mine stretching out ahead for years and years and years. And I’ve decided, here and now, it’s time to spin more. A lot more.

(Alan starts to slowly spin)

Joe: Not here. Not at a funeral service, Alan! People are starting to stare.

(Alan stops)

Alan: So they are. Alright. I’ll spin later. More discreetly. Perhaps in Phil and Sandra’s Conservatory. Sandra’s conservatory now.

Joe: Well, you’ve got Angela Clodthorpe watching you now.

Alan: She’s really blown up hasn’t she. I used to really fancy her. She’s looking at me now. Look. She’s smiling. That really pisses me off.

Joe: Why?

Alan: Because the first time I twirled in front of her all she did was call me a weird nobhead. And now she’s bigger than the Oriana and uglier than Embassy Court she’s smiling at me like she wants me, at a fucking funderal.

Joe: I’ve never seen you like this before, Alan.

Alan: Welcome to the new me, Joe. I don’t need to flee to the other side of the world and buy three hundred sheep to transform myself. Just give me a funeral and the sound of a few clods of earth.

Joe: He should have been cremated.

Alan: Don’t spoil my flow. I rarely flow like this.

Joe: Sorry.

Alan: Bugger. You’re on.

Joe: What?

Alan: They’re gathering. The Eulogy.

(Joe steps forward)

Joe: Ladies and gentlemen, relatives and friends. Phil was a committed man. In fact, he was one of the most committed human beings I have ever known.

He lived and breathed the company he worked for and loved. When Blanchard’s was taken over by Moreno’s in the States, Phil was put under enormous pressure to turn things around and, much as he tried to shield his loyal and loving wife, Sandra from most of the pressure, like everyone left in the company after the main redundancy programme, Sandra was bearing her own heavy burden in sales and marketing along with Alan and Louise.

Phil was a good friends as well as an able colleague, but he had one flaw, and I think he’d have smiled at hearing it “outed” as his own funeral.

Though anyone who knew Phil well, knew his flaw.

Philip Shaw was an addict. He had an addiction.

He wasn’t addicted to booze, or smoking, or cocaine (though more than a few in marketing were addicted to all or some of those substances).

Phil was addicted to something far more dangerous, far more potentially damaging.

Phil was addicted to PowerPoint. You couldn’t attend a meeting without Phil doing three things:

(SLIDE)

  1. switching on his trust old lap top
  2. plugging it into the nearest available data projector

and 3. presenting yet another project or idea in bullet point format

Phil spent a lot of his latter years engaged in three activities that were out of balance with each other and, sadly, eventually it killed him

(SLIDE OF A PIE CHART)

40% of the time he spent working hard

10% of the time he spent at home with his wife and in leisure time. We all know we hardly saw him in the pub or out for a meal in the last three years.

And the other 50% of the time which should have been spent in realising his own potential not as a manager, nor an employee, or a company man, but as a unique, creative, warm-hearted human being was – MORE hard work.

(Joe begins to break down).

Phil was, above all things, a VNM

(Slide)

In fact I’d go as far as to say that Philip Shaw was a VN! Level 1.

A very nice man.

In fact… a BNM

(slide)

A bloody nice man..

(slide)

No, a FNM

A fucking nice man

Because they don’t come much nicer than Phil. And he died pointlessly work, work, working…I’m sorry…I can’t go on…

(Sandra and Louise go to him, arms around him as FILM comes up of FINAL BEACH – exit Sandra and Louise)

(CUE THROWING MOBILE FILM AND PULLING LAPTOP FILM)

BACK TO FUNERAL

Joe: So what about the second time?

Alan: What second time?

Joe: The second time you spun? When was the second time you twirled?

Alan: George Peterkin used to say “I’d rather earn a living than a living death.” So he earned a living and died at his work bench. He was about to reject a poorly welded copper plate when his heart did Riverdance. He was found flopped forward with the rectangular plate imprinted into his forehead. Apparently you could still see the impression it made during the Wake. Forty-seven years he worked in quallty control. According to Kevin Spitz, you remember, the stores manager? he was such a weirdo – – who went to the funeral – he saw poor old George’s aura at the funeral. “What did it look like?” I asked. “Purple,” he said. “Blue, and yellow gold, and, floating all about the coffin, hundreds- no, thousands -no, millions of little rectangles, silver and purple – each one wlth a llttle pair of angels, wings.”

Joe: There’s a workshop on change management this weekend run by the local Chamber of commerce. One day. Thirty quid including lunch. Fancy going?

Alan: You serious?

Joe: Why not. Be a laugh. For old time’s sake!

Alan: Alright then. For a laugh.

Joe (holds out hand): Deal.

Alan: Deal!

Joe: You still haven’t answered my question.

Alan: The second time I spun?

Joe: Yes.

Alan: The second time I spun was… right now.

(Alan stars to spin, Eventually Joe joins him)

(CUE CLOSING CREDITS) 

The End

(C) Paul Levy 2010

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