Thursday, 6 November 2014


A short time ago, just before the referendum, even though it does seem an age ago,  I was involved in the National Theatre of Scotland's  Five Minute Theatre project.

You had to write a drama piece around the decision to vote Yes, No or Maybe.  You had to film it and not edit afterwards.  There were contributions from all over the world and not just Scotland.

I loved the whole process.

I wrote a monologue entitled  'By Its Nature Uncertain.'  Its sad!

You can watch it wonderfully performed by Janet Coulson of Firebrand Theatre co here:

You can watch other contributions here:


(The text is slightly different from the final performance.)

Mhairi has lost her husband a few months earlier. She sits alone in her house on referendum night. She and her husband always discussed matters both personal and political and decided things together. Now she is alone with the decision and she wonders if it matters at all now that she is on her own. She has to decide not only yes or no on the referendum, but either yes into an unknown personal future and the chance that she might emerge emotionally alive or no and stay wrapped in the emotional numbness of the present.

Performed by Janet Coulson

Written by Tom Murray

CHARACTER:  Mhairi: Early thirties

 Mhairi sits coat by her side.  

MHAIRI-- And she says Yes.  Tell me why mum.
‘Well Mhairi my darling it’s like this.  When I left your father it wasn’t because I didn’t love him. Or I had found someone else with a better sense of humor. Or I had a yearn for when I was young free and single.  Now have you seen me partying since?’
No mum.
‘  Or doing that speed dating thing? Well okay there was that once. But that was your Aunt Mary thinking I needed a life.  She didn’t understand that I had one. At last.  I told her. ‘ Mary.  I’ve made my choice.  And there’s good and bad things about it but…’ I was me Mhairi. She never understood.’
And who are you mum?
‘ Not the wife.’ 

And he says No.  Tell me why dad.
‘ You know why Mhairi.  I have no intention of jumping off a cliff at my age.  Maybe if I was a bit younger.  If fact not even then.’
But dad you’re surviving aren’t you?
‘ Maybe.’
And you and mum are okay?
‘ Maybe.’
Who was she dad?
‘ Who?’
‘ Don’t be daft.  Who was she?  She was…is your mother.  She was my wife. I gave her the best years of my life.  And she ups and leaves.  I worked all the hours God sent me to make things comfortable for her.  For you. Your brother.’
Maybe she didn’t want that dad.
‘ All she had to do was say.’
 Maybe she did dad.
 ‘I wanted her to stay you know.  I said to her we’re a team.  A partnership. We work well together.  I told her.  I’ll change I said.  If you’re bored there’s clubs.  Things to do.  Night classes! I said.   She didn’t want to listen.  We had a nice house didn’t we?  She had the garden. I was happy.  And now you want me to think about the future! I’ll tell you what the future is. No.’

What about you Johnny?
‘Doesn’t matter Mhairi. I don’t get a vote.  I’m dead.’
What do I do Johnny? I need to know.  You remember this? (Her coat.) Christmas present last year.  Your usual Christmas Eve thing.  But I loved it.  Love it.  Do I lock it away in the cupboard?  Or do I walk down that road to the polling station?  Johnny?
‘ Can’t help you Mhairi.’
But we always talked Johnny.  Lying in bed till we fell asleep with the words floating around the room.  Plans for this and that.  For us.  Tell me it still matters Johnny.  Tell me all those words haven’t crumbled into dust.
‘Like me Mhairi.’
Yes.   Do I walk down that hill Johnny?  Alone. Johnny?!
‘You’ve got to talk to the living and then decide Mhairi.’
Talk to the living Johnny.  You make more sense inside my head dead than…
‘Talk to the living Mhairi.’

And he said….
‘ Not interested.’
Come on wee brother.  This is your future.
‘ I’m not voting.  What does it matter? Nothing’ll change. Can you guarantee me things will be tickety boo big sister.’
By its nature uncertain Robbie.
‘That’s Johnny talking.’ 

And Rose at the bus stop says…Yes or is it No or Maybe a maybe.
‘ Thing is Mhairi.  When I get on this bus I know more or less where its going.  You know what I mean?!’

And the man on the TV says…
And the charity woman at the door says…
And the woman at the garage says…
And the man on the moon says…

 ‘And what does Mhairi say?’
Why did you leave me Johnny?

And Mhairi says she wants to lie in bed a future only words inside my head. 
And Mhairi says she scared of putting on her coat and walking down that hill alone.
And Mhairi says she loves you Johnny.
‘Lie together Mhairi you and me and let the words float.  What do they make?’
I can’t see Johnny. 
‘Yes you can.’
I don’t want to see without you.
‘I’m gone Mhairi. What do you see?’
(She puts on her coat and exits.)



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