Rosie Brown 47
Henry Foxham-Chipper 57
Felicity Foxham-Chipper 55
Henry's armchair is stage centre, with an open laptop computer on a coffee table to its right. Books and papers are spread around on the floor.
Also on the coffee table is a phone.
There is a stool to the left for Felicity to sit on.
Henry is sitting in his chair, swivelled with its back to Rosie’s entrance. She doesn’t see him.
There is a vacuum cleaner on
stage, and separately a new power
head for it, with wires and an extension tube awaiting assembly.
Rosie enters with a booklet (or instruction leaflet) in her hand.
Referring occasionally to the booklet Rosie studiously plugs a nozzle and electric cord into the machine, catching her nail while doing so, and goes to plug in the new power head.
Her mobile phone rings in her apron or white housecoat pocket.
She puts the handbook onto a pocket, takes out the phone and answers it.
Oi’m at the Foxham-Chipper’s ‘ouse right now, fixin a new power 'ead to me vacuum cleaner ta turn it inter a magic Broomstick.
Well not naow you corn’t speak to em. The Professor’s in at the University and she’s gorn art shoppin’.
soon as they’re back I’ll ask
Oi better get on wi’ me werk now. Bye-bye naow.
Puts phone in apron pocket. And looks back to the vacuum cleaner saying.
I’ve plugged A inta B, C inta D, and E inta F — that nearly took me nail orf. So switch on and . . . and . . . and . . . nuffin’ ‘appens!
Ah, Mrs Daftie, how dim can Oi be. I ain’t plugged me electrics in.
She extends the power cord from the
vacuum cleaner, removes a
plug (Henry’s computer supply) from the power extension
socket and plugs her
vacuum cleaner in. She depresses the
start pad on the cleaner with her foot.
The machine starts up, the power head is unattached and runs across the floor by itself.
Aaww! Me ‘ead’s run away withaowt me!
She hits the off switch.
Henry swivels round and then stands and puts the computer onto his chair, startling Rosie.
H: Are you having trouble with your Broomstick, Mrs Brown?
RB: Aaww! Sir! Yer ‘ere? Why ain’t yer in at yer University?
Henry goes to machine and efficiently fixes it up.
H: Now just look here.
This nozzle fits in like this, firm and tight.
And we won’t have your head rolling across the floor by itself.
RB: Yeas Sir, but Sir — yer got paperwork all over me flawer.
H: It’s my work, Mrs Brown. All carefully laid out.
RB: But see, I clean in ‘ere - Tuesday and Friday.
She bends and picks up a book.
H: Mrs Brown, don’t touch anything! I have stayed at home to concentrate on a very important piece of work. I have everything just where I want it. Leave them all exactly where they are.
Henry picks up the laptop and sits again with it on his lap.
Mrs. Brown continues, meekly but purposefully continues to pick up the papers and books.
RB: But it’s Tuesday, Sir, and I as ta clean in ‘ere on a Tuesday.
H: You are relentless, Mrs Brown.
He puts his foot down on a piece of paper she is about to pick up
Yeas, Sir, the
Missus wouldn’t ‘ave it any other way.
Now would yer lift yer foot, please, Sir.
He purposely lifts the wrong foot. She wriggles and shakes the paper under his other foot.
don’t want this piece o’ paper
getting’ torn, do we, Sir?
Cause there’ll be no peace for anyone til I ‘ave this up off the flawer.
He lifts his foot off the paper; she picks it up, stands, puts it on a stack on the coffee table beside him, then puts a book on top of it.
Thank yer, Sir!
H: Are we quite finished now?
As she goes to the vacuum cleaner Henry tosses a piece of paper crossly off the table onto the floor
Aw no, Sir. Naw
I ‘as ta vacuum the carpet.
The Missus ‘as bought a new power ‘ead special ta git the grit out er yer carpet. It ‘as real strong suckin’ power.
She starts the vacuum cleaner and aims for the piece of paper. The vacuum cleaner sucks it in.
H: Mrs Brown! Stop that infernal machine at once!
Henry leaps up, putting the laptop on the chair.
RB: Sir! Yer shoutin’s doin me ‘ead in.
She switches off vacuum
H: That was an extension of Goedel’s theorem. Ten years of my life have gone into that theorem.
RB: Naw it’s gorn up me spout . . . and may ‘av stuffed up me poipes.
H: I have sat up and worked on it all night. A vital solution was only moments away. I could have revolutionised scientific thinking.
RB: Yer could try pokin’ about in ‘ere for it, Sir?
H. bends down and pulls the machine apart.
H: I’ll have to.
RB: Yer don’t want ta get yer ‘ands dirty, Sir.
H pulls out a rather torn piece of paper.
H: Here it is, and just look at the state of it.
RB: There it is, and no ‘arm done to the Universe.
H: (reads) If S is the set of all sets that do not contain themselves, does it belong to itself or not? That is the question, but where is the solution?
Rosie looks into the vacuum’s cavity
RB: There’s nothin’ else in ‘ere. And anyhow what you read out ain’t Goedel. I appen to know that is — Russell’s paradox.
H: Yes, indeed, Mrs Brown. Goedel would tell us that there are theorems that are true but cannot be proved. You have correctly identified Russel’s paradox!
RB: The Missus gives me a copy of all yer books. My son, Arfur, ee‘s grown up with ‘em. “Mysteries erv Mafmatics”.
H: One of my early books.
RB: “Fun with Conundrums”. Ee loikes ‘em best. Tries ‘em out on me.
H: And do you come to any conclusions, or find solutions to them?
RB: Yeas, all ‘ere in me pocket. Loike a second cousin to Goedel, I am.
H: Would you like me to take a look at them and check them for you?
RB: No, Sir, me
are that a lot cleverer people than me are wastin’ a lot er
time on all
that. While I ‘as real work to do.
And I don’t waste me time on the Su-do-ku neither.
H pouts, as she waves the Sudoku at him. Then curiosity overcomes Henry.
H: Well, thank you for your honesty. But tell me, I had no idea that that your son has an interest in science. What is he doing these days?
RB: Ee’s out now. Ee’s done ‘is four years.
H: Out of, um? He has been inside, has he?
RB: Yes, ee’s been in
University. Ee’s got ‘is h-onours
degree, in IT.
‘I T’ stands fer Information Technology.
Yes, so it does —
thank you, Mrs Brown.
And erm, did you pay all his college fees?
RB: Naah. A scholarship took him roight through.
H: Ah, and what does a son like that think about you working here, doing a menial cleaning job?
RB: Ee’s right proud
me. See, I takes on the most difficult
and needy folks. People like you,
Professor. And I sorts ‘em out.
Oh yeas ee’s right proud of me keepin’ you toidy.
Henry has been prodded by Rosie's finger, is displeased, sits.
H: Well, Goedel’s
conundrum is waiting for me.
Where is the page I annotated in a blue book? It was right here.
She picks up and offers him a red book. He takes it.
RB: ‘Ow about this in the red book with the pen still in it, Sir?
H: Thank you. I have managed to relate Propositional Calculus to Quantum Theory.
RB: Yeas Sir, but before yer get stuck in again . . .
H: Yes, Mrs Brown?
RB: There is a small matter of a ref’rence I needs to get from yer.
RB: Oh, it’s not that, Sir. It’s . . .
H: Ah. Excuse me.
H answers it.
Ah, just hold on will you.
(Mrs Brown, would you please find something to do in the kitchen for a few moments, it’s my son Gerald.)
RB: The kitchen’s all done, Sir. But about the ref’rence, Sir . . .
H: Later, Mrs Brown, please.
RB: But Sir, I ought ta say . . .
H: Please, Mrs Brown! I'm sure you have lots to do elsewhere.
RB: ‘Ave ta let washin’ finish first, Sir.
H: Please, but please just go away!!!
RB: Alright, Sir.
Rosie starts to exit but returns.
Oi’ll just take the vacuum cleaner away.
H: No, leave it there and go, please. I like having it there. Just go away and give me a bit of peace, will you!
RB Alright I’m goin’ quick as I can, Sir.
H: Thank you, Mrs Brown.
RB: Thank you Sir.
H: Goodbye, Mrs Brown.
Exit Mrs Brown.
Gerald, now I can
talk to you.
I am glad you rang; we never seem to have a chance to catch up.
How are you getting on over there?
can’t speak to your Mother
She’s gone out shopping.
Won’t I do?
your Mother gave you a hundred
dollars only yesterday.
So, you’ve missed another probation appointment and you are asking me for another hundred dollars?!
warned you, I will not pay another
fine and that's my last word on it.
She won’t help you either. Your Mother can be tough too. She puts me through it. Oh yes, I have to cope with Mrs Brown on a regular basis. You should count your blessings, my boy.
You get a job, son; that’s how you pay for it. You get up off your backside and . . .
What was that? You’ve been offered an — interview?
Then Son, don’t waste a moment! Go to it! Grab the chance, boy. A job would entirely change my feelings for you. It might smooth your way with the authorities too.
You do that, son, and keep me informed.
He rings off and rubs his hands together.
Hum, hah, mmn-hmm. Hmmm, well now where was I with Goedel? Perhaps I’ll get a bit of peace now.
Enter Felicity behind him, carrying a quantity of upper-class shopping bags. She rustles them.
No, Mrs Brown, go away and find someone else to annoy!
F: It’s me dear. It’s me, your darling Felicity. Remember me?
H: Ah, Felicity, my dear, how were the shops?
F: Dreadful. Absolutely dreadful! I kept bumping into people all asking me about Gerald and sympathising with me.
F sits, pulls off show, rubs foot. Henry notices, but is still intent on the work on his laptop.
H: Not more shoes?
F: Yes, and they are agonising. I limped out of the shop trying to look brave.
H: So why on earth did you buy them?
F: It’s the tension! The tension with Gerald!
F: And waiting to hear if I got a part in the new musical, of course.
H: (sardonically, looking up momentarily) Was it Beauty? Or the Beast?
F: It’ll be the Merry Widow, in one moment!
F: No one actually asked me if Gerald was in prison yet, they just longed for it.
Henry, go on line and see if Mr what’s his name has any news for us. Gerald’s probation officer, he said he’d keep us informed.
H: I was about to tell you that — Gerald phoned.
F: Gerald phoned? And what?
H: He has missed another probation appointment this week.
F: Oh, the poor lamb. So, what does that mean?
H: It will cost me another hundred dollars.
F: That’s not too bad. Is that all?
H: No, not quite. (Henry’s eyes swivel up from his work) I hardly dare mention it but there is a tiny light on the horizon.
H: Our son has been offered an interview for a job!
an interview? Really?
Why didn’t you say!! This could change everything. They can’t lock him up in prison if he’s got a job, can they?
H: I don’t know. He has a fine hanging over him. And moreover, he has yet to get the job.
Henry becomes intent on his work on the laptop.
F: What job is it? What can he actually do?
H: Hold a couch down, perhaps, (shrug) in a showroom.
F: No, Henry, what nonsense. A showroom, phew, let him sit on a new settee. Not in his filthy, stinking jeans. He hasn’t had a wash since he left here.
H: All he said was that he’d been offered an interview.
her hands, standing on a
stool waving a foot)
No! Truly, I’m not amazed! Deep down I’ve always had the greatest faith in Gerald, ever since he won that colouring competition?
H: He was in pre-school,
four years old.
And you did it for him.
F: Don’t argue over
semantics, not now with a job in sight.
I'll phone him right away and give him some encouragement.
F jumps down and H hands her the cordless phone.
His attention goes to the computer.
It is only half past three, but if he phoned you, he must be up.
She phones out.
are you up and dressed, darling?
Not dressed yet! Never mind, my dearest darling, I’ve just heard that someone rather special has got a job interview!
Now thinking about it seriously, sweetheart, as one must. Interviews are an art in themselves, so I’ve a couple of teeny-weeny suggestions to make.
you go to the interview, Daddy
and I both suggest you should — get your hair cut.
Gerald, if ever there was a moment for a hair cut . . .
H: And a wash!
F: Shush Henry!
She gets up and walks away from Henry, wearing only one awkward tight shoe.
Darling, I’m simply telling you what I would do
myself. I would
take a leisurely shower; buy new
clothes - and shoes! They will make you
feel so much more confident.
(The shoe twists, hurting her ankle) Ouch!
No, you silly boy! Of course I’ve never been to a job interview.
Well, because your Daddy copes with that sort of thing for me. But what I am telling you is plain ordinary common sense.
new things because whenever your
father needs me beside him, I want to be there, looking my best. Alright!
Here is your father now.
F hands the phone to H rather forcibly.
H: Gerald, buck-up, get
a shave! And take out all your
That language will get you nowhere, boy!
Now, would you like to hear my offer or not?
H thrusts phone back to Felicity and looks back at his computer.
Your son. He is not prepared to listen to me.
F: Now listen to me. All
morning I’ve been avoiding my friends because we are so
worried that you will
end up in prison!
Do as your father tells you and he might pay that fine. Otherwise we shall have to come and peer at you through the prison bars!
Unfair nothing! Four constables were in that car. The young policewoman was horrified. You’ll probably be charged with indecent exposure and be locked up with the sex offenders.
However many drinks you’d had, however bursting you were; peeing on the side of a police car was sheer perversity!
F hands phone back to H
H: Take out all your piercings! Get yourself cleaned up and we’ll talk again about that fine. Goodbye Gerald.
H puts the phone down
F: Oh dear. Oh bother! Where did we go wrong with him?
She unpacks another pair of shoes.
Henry, I’ve been thinking.
The answer might be a car.
I mean a nice car might really turn things around.
Perhaps if Gerald turned up at the interview in a sprightly little - red – sports car?
H: Absolutely not!
F: Don’t forget, he did pass a driving test.
H: After the umpteenth attempt, and only after we’d spent a fortune on driving lessons and crash repairs. Forget the car!
F: You are so fierce, Henry.
H: I have to be. You’ve spoilt him. He’s no son to me.
F: You never played
football with him like normal fathers do.
He missed out on that.
H: I couldn’t tear him away from the TV. He was a couch potato and a crisp muncher. You gave him TV meals on a tray, and he never showed any interest in me except as a source of pocket money.
Felicity comes to sit on a stool beside Henry to snuggle up to him. He looks up form his work, stares balefully at her and then out towards the audience.
F: What did your father do with you in his spare time?
H: He spent his time in the pub.
F: Did you resent that?
H: I suppose I did, but not the absence of football, not with my eyesight and flat feet.
F: But you’d have liked him to do something with you?
H: Not really.
F: What could he have done with you?
H: I don’t know really.
For one birthday I was given a model aeroplane. A real grownup's glider,
balsa wood and
It hung on my bedroom wall, looking very fine.
H: Then one Saturday, at lunchtime, he came back from the pub and decided we ought to go out and fly it.
H: He threw it straight into a tree and that was the end of it.
F: Do you remember when we bought Gerald a model aeroplane?
H: Yes, I do. I was looking forward to flying that one. But before we could get it unwrapped, Gerald trod on it.
F: We haven’t had
luck with aeroplanes.
You know, my father was a very fine sportsman.
He rode to hounds.
H: Did your Mother ride them too?
No, she had weak
She sat down a lot, looking charming, but rather inane.
H: Rather like Gerald then.
F: Yes, I suppose so.
Goes to sit in her own chair.
She just sat about all those years – until she died.
H: She probably needed a to get a job to buck her up.
F: More likely she needed a little red sports car to zoom about in.
H: I’m sure the trouble was a lack of football.
F: My Mother –
football? Oh, you mean for Gerald?
No, he’d have hated it. He liked to sit.
I probably should have had his ankles tested.
Anyway, at least Gerald is not mooching on our lounge any more.
H: No. Now he is mooching off the government.
F: But not for much longer. Young people can so quickly become upwardly mobile. He’s getting a job. You watch him now. Gerald is about to prove himself to us!
H: He needs to make a start soon, dear. He is nearly thirty!
F: I know.
And heels are getting higher every year.
I just can’t wear them any more.
H: Weak ankles, perhaps?
H: Sorry! But I have to say that lower heels do suit you better.
Now, Henry, are you on line? Has the theatre has sent anything. The new secretary loves emails. If I phone I have to hear her say say ‘no’ and I’d feel her gloating.
H: Now what’s the password? MRSBROWN
Henry logs into the internet on his computer
Ah, I have to tell you something about Mrs Brown.
F: Yes, why has she left her vacuum cleaner in here?
H: I told her to leave it there. I needed to concentrate.
F: But she has to clean. You can’t stop Mrs Brown from working! She only has two days for us and I refuse to live in a slum.
H: I should warn you that your precious cleaning woman has asked us for a reference. I think Mrs Brown is going to leave us.
F comes right behind Henry saying forcefully as she stands behind his chair.
F: Oh, Henry, you've quarrelled with her again. What did you say to her this time?
F: Yes you! Why else would she be going?
H: Perhaps she has decided to become upwardly mobile.
F: Mrs Brown?
Maybe she’s squeezing someone else into her week. I don’t want her
to get too busy.
I asked her to sort out Gerald once a week.
H: You told me that Gerald was learning to cope.
F: I know, but I lied. When he left us saying so triumphantly that he was going to cope on his own, he hadn’t realised the magnitude of the task.
This is the worst news ever! Starting someone new is a terrible ordeal.
H: I don't see why you
need to have anyone here at all.
Just the two of us can’t cause very much work.
Now shush, I am online.
F: If Mrs Brown leaves I will go into a decline. I’m headed that way.
H: You will cope.
F: Cope! With all the housework? All the dusting. You know that I am acutely allergic to dust.
H: I promise you dear, if I’m allowed to sit here in peace and quiet I won’t raise any dust. There is no need for all this vacuuming.
Henry looks down at his keyboard and
stays looking at it until
F demands he look up.
F moves left, slightly upstage of Henry.
F: We have to have
And the dishes.
And the bed linen.
And the ironing.
All your shirts.
It a full time job! This is an emergency!
Henry, will you please look up from that computer and listen to me!
This is a crisis. You have to do something! Now!
H: I don’t see what I can do except write her the reference.
First, you apologise for everything you’ve
said to her, and you compliment her, cajole and coax her.
She’ll appreciate it coming from you.
H: She’d think I’d gone bonkers and probably sue me for harassment.
F: Then you must offer to outbid the opposition. That will fix it!
F points to the computer.
H: Nothing here from the probation officer, or from the theatre, but — hang on, here’s a message from a computer company asking about Gerald!
F: Ooh, the job! Gerald, the dear boy, has chosen us as his referees.
F sits on the stool beside Henry, taking an interest in the computer.
H: Who else could he call upon? The probation officer?!
F: Well, what do they want to know?
H: How would you describe his character? “Arrogant?”
F: Strong minded
Henry types, repeating resignedly:
H: “Strong minded and
His manner of speech? - "Pompous and disrespectful"
F: Well spoken and personable.
H: “Well spoken and
General Attitude and Demeanour? - Rude and stubborn?
or should I say - loud and resentful?
F: Articulate and resolute.
H: “Articulate and
Experience? - None?
F: He is well travelled.
H: Well travelled?
F: Yes. He moved across the road to the unit.
H: That’s stretching
it. “Well travelled.”
Stop! A pre-school colouring competition won’t cut the mustard.
H. types as she speaks
F: Try this: “From an early success in the arts his talents took him into the leisure industry, followed by a recent short study of the legal system.”
And be sure to mention his Culinary expertise!
H: Culinary? Gerald never even boiled an egg.
F: When I cooked his breakfast, he would lean over to see if I was doing enough sausages.
H: And he caught his long hair on fire. We’ll forget about ‘culinary’.
F: But mention his inquiring mind.
H: What did he ever inquire about?
F: Obviously - the
number of sausages in the frying-pan!
You can mention his interest in mathematics and numeracy too.
H: I seem to remember that he set the whole kitchen on fire.
F: He reacted quickly in an emergency.
H: Gerald did? How?
F: When his hair caught fire he instantly threw the boiling chip fat over the red hot cooker. It would have been wise to use water, but anyway fortunately Mrs Brown came in with the fire extinguisher and quenched the blaze. She saved his life and probably mine too.
H: I don’t think I’ll mention Gerald’s culinary efforts. Delete.
You realise, they are going to have to meet Gerald at some point.
F: Yes, I suppose they
will. If we can only get him to his
I'll have to smarten him up.
So put down, - ‘you will find him extremely well presented.’
H: Well presented.
F: ‘Extremely well presented.’
H: You mean, no expense spared!
“Extremely well presented.”
F: And why not say that he will arrive in a chirpy little - red – sports-car!
H: He is not having a car! But I’ll tell them he passed his driving test.
F: What if the little red sports car were mine to lend him?
Henry looks very agitated and furious.
No, no! Stay calm. We’ll get you some coffee.
H: I need something a lot stronger than coffee.
F: Coming up, right away! (calls) Mrs Bro-own!
H: Motivation: How do I say “Couch potato”, “lay about”, “drifter?”
F: “You will find him a steady, level headed employee.”
H: I’ll send it, before I change my mind.
H. hits a key triumphantly
F: Good! I just hope we haven’t made him sound over qualified.
H: Mrs Brown’s a long time.
F: She must be out
by the clothesline. I'll
go and find her.
Unless she’s already left us! Or perhaps she’ll come rushing in to say that the theatre wants me for a superstar, and the country has elected Gerald to parliament, for prime minister!
are theorems that are true but
which cannot be proved.
But if I can show that there are theorems that can be proved but are not true, the whole of mathematics will be face down in the mud!
Henry smiles at his idea and then becomes highly agitated and hurriedly stabs keys on the laptop!
Blast! My machine is shutting down. It hasn’t saved my work! I’ve lost everything!
Tugs the power cord and the plug bounces towards him until he holds it in his hand.
That blasted woman. Mrs Bro-owwn!!
RB: (off) Yeas, Sir. I ‘ear yer, Sir.
H: Come in here right now!
RB: Yeas, Sir, what ‘as ‘appened?
H: You have cut off my power. All my work has been lost!
RB: What a shame, Sir. See with a decent computer it wouldn’t ‘appen.
H: This computer does me very well when it does not get unplugged!
Rosie takes the phone out of her pocket and looks at it.
excuse me, Sir. It
is my son, Arfur.
Turns away from Henry, to face downstage.
Henry closes his computer and puts it on a table. He moves purposefully behind Mrs Brown as she says:
Ah-yeas. So it’s alright? Right-oh. Bye-bye now.
She pockets the phone.
H: Mrs Brown — I believe I shall write that reference for you directly!
RB: Sir, it’s
yer already done the reference by email.
That was my Arfur; he says ‘thank you for replying to his questions so quick.’ I recommended your Gerald to my son fer ‘is business. I hope yer don’t mind.
Henry gasps and seizes Mrs Brown’s hand
H: Er? Ah, so it’s your son who runs the computer firm! Mind, not at all, I am very grateful to you. Thank you.
RB: It’s no trouble, Sir. See, the Missus asked me to ‘elp out with Gerald. So I'm startin' in as best I can by getting him some werk.
H: Do you think there is a chance that your Arthur will employ our Gerald?
RB: Ah yes, Arfur’ll ‘elp aowt, bless ‘im. He needs a deliveryman. It’ll be a bit of a start fer Gerald. I just weren’t sure if Gerald ‘ad passed his drivin’ test. But yer say, ‘e ‘as.
RB pulls her hand free and picks up the vacuum cleaner power head.
H: Yes, oh yes he certainly has. And Mrs Brown, I have to say that you are a marvel. Don’t you go flying away on that Magic Broomstick now, will you?
F: Sir, yer a fine one with yer jokes! And yer boy’ll come around.
Henry sadly closes the computer.
H: Well, I think I should go in to the University and mark some assignments, don’t you?
F: Yeas, and I'll go finish 'angin' aut that washin’ and then Oi’ll get this flawer cleaned up noicely.
They exit in opposite directions.