I have been thinking about sharing these for a while, partly because I miss having the time and conditions to regularly write creatively and have a someone who is willing to edit my work (thanks Miss A!) I am going to share three of my portfolio pieces from the Intermediate 2, Higher and Advanced Higher years of English – Scottish qualifications but basically the three highest qualifications of high school English. Due to the fact that these were for my assessments some are quite short due to word counts but I am still quite proud of them. We were allowed to choose any form of creative writing for the portfolio and my teacher encouraged me to pursue my interest in drama so they are all dramatic monologues. This first one was from S4 (aged 14/15) and was based on the Ernest Hemingway’s six word story which is supposed to be the saddest story to be gathered from six words. Here is Henry’s Shadow…
To the left side of the stage there is a man – HENRY’S SHADOW – sitting on a park bench holding an old newspaper, yellowing with age, he is in spotlight and speaks in soliloquy. Children’s laughter can be heard faintly in the background throughout.
HENRY’S SHADOW: (looks up mumbling) For sale: baby shoes, never worn
The right side of the stage is lit up to show a couple walking hand in hand. The couple are looking into one another’s eyes and are smiling; the male has his other hand over the woman’s heavily pregnant stomach. This is all done in silence while HENRY’S SHADOW, in a spotlight, is speaking to the audience.
HENRY’S SHADOW: When I was born I had a twin brother, but he died during birth. My childhood was depressingly fraudulent. I was, more often than not, completely alone; people would look straight through me. My parents were cold and distant, different to what I assume they were like before we ruined everything. (HENRY’S SHADOW is smiling) One time, when I was in primary school, I was given the title role in our school play. I had practised in my room for months and was really excited for it. (HENRY’S SHADOW’s smile drops) I peeked out from the wings before the performance and couldn’t spot my parents. When I was onstage I was looking out to the audience trying to see their faces to no avail. (Children’s laughter grows louder between squeals of joy). After the performance other kids were being hugged by their mothers, being told by their fathers that they were talented, I walked myself home. (HENRY’S SHADOW’s shoulders drop and he looks down at the floor. Spotlight dims slightly.)
The right side of the stage changes to the couple in a baby shop. The couple are looking at boys’ things and pick up two identical pairs of little baby boots.
HENRY’S SHADOW: My father was particularly horrible. I never knew how to act around him because his mood could be so unpredictable. He was always drunk, or drinking. It was as if he needed the alcohol to prevent the look of agony that graced his face when he was sober. (HENRY’S SHADOW glances across to the scene at the right and sighs before turning back to face the audience) In those rare cases, he would tell me that he couldn’t stand to look at me and then he would walk out the door. (Spotlight dims slightly)
The right side of the stage changes again to show a scene at Christmas, the couple are decorating the Christmas tree, they begin to throw sequins and fake snow at each other laughing. The two pairs of baby shoes can be seen, lain on top of the mantelpiece, a spot light highlights them to the audience.
HENRY’S SHADOW: I remember the worst times were the days that were supposed to be my happiest. More often than not on Christmas Day, I would sit alone with no presents or Christmas dinner. I would listen to my parents screaming at each other over something so unimportant that I can no longer remember. They were screaming for hours until the finale, mother slammed the door as she left and father opened the fully stocked alcohol cupboard. In the evening I would sweep the broken pieces of glass and china from the glasses (some fake snow falls on his knees, he sweeps it off), they had thrown at each other in their rage. This violent tendency of theirs always worried me greatly. (Spotlight dims slightly)
On the left side of the stage HENRY’S SHADOW is silent and is looking down at the old newspaper he is holding. The right side of the stage shows the mother in a hospital bed in labour. We hear screaming from the mother on top of the beeping of the hospital machines. As one child is born, a crying baby can be heard amongst further screaming. The nurse is rushing around to deal with the babies, her shoes squeaking on the floor. As the second baby is born the stage is completely silent. The screaming, crying and children’s laughter ceases. Long pause. A nurse offers the living baby to the mother but she turns her head away from the nurse. Next to the hospital bed the father is in a seat with his head in his hands, as the nurse walks towards him, he raises his hand to signal for her to stop as he gets up and walks away.
The stage fades into darkness.
As the lights fade back in, they are dimmed, although there is a spotlight on the park bench which has now moved to the centre of the stage. The man stands up revealing one of the pairs of the baby shoes sitting on the bench. Children’s laughter has stopped.
HENRY’S SHADOW: They called him Henry but it felt like they forgot to name me. I am his shadow – solid but ignored. He left us the day I was born, and he took our laughter away with him. (points at the shoes on the bench) These shoes were never wanted, just like me. I never could understand how it was my fault. My life would have been a lot easier should he have lived. In fact, at many points throughout my childhood I had wished that I could have switched places with Henry. Surely it would be better to have lived no life at all than the life I have had to live. No one seems to be able to let it go, any adults here associate me as the guy whose brother died at birth. Everyone is always telling me that they wish Henry had lived, worked, played, loved, achieved. What about me? (Spotlight dims slightly)
The spotlight shrinks and focuses on the shoes, as the man walks away from the bench while a lullaby is heard being played softly.