Bad moves – A duologue for actors.
I was working with an actor at my acting school who hadn’t yet got into her stride, but had great potential. I coached her intensively on a restoration comedy monologue “Célimène”, from Molière’s The Misanthrope, if I recall correctly, and for contrast ‘The Colour of Justice’, Doreen Lawrence’s speech, from a play by Richard Norton Taylor. We were both proud when Sarah Mann, a director of the school, excitedly told me that Hilda’s performances were the first to show real potential.
We also wanted to do a scene together, so I wrote this for us. We wanted something new, gritty, and dramatic. I had seen an article about human trafficking and a woman who had escaped the clutches of a gang. Some of the horrors she described, and the ease with which she was ensnared in her home country, inspired me to write this.
This is it in its original form.
Bad Moves – A duologue by David Rayden
(Warning! Graphic content and language.)
Ebony: Aged 20’s, Foreign (From Africa as written, but could be East European), Enslaved Prostitute, Drug Runner for Pimp, Skinner.
Skinner: Aged late 30’s, English, Pimp, Drug Dealer, Middle Man, Wannabe Drug Baron
A cheap bed-sit in London. Ebony is hurriedly packing a large bag, almost finished. Nervous, rushing. Her mobile phone rings. She looks at the caller ID, and answers the phone.
Ebony: Hi! Still at the flat. I’m scared. Yes, I know I can trust you. I Know. I can do this. Gotta go. (Disconnects phone. Picks up the bag, looks briefly around and leaves for the door. Skinner enters. Ebony quickly dumps the bag beside bed.)
Skinner: Hi! Where’re you going? (Sits on Sofa)
Ebony: To the gym.
Skinner: I need you here.
Skinner: I said, I need you here.
Ebony: (Looks agitated) For how long? (Looks at Ebony until she lowers her head)
Skinner: Sit. (She sits on the bed.) No, on second thoughts, get me a beer.
Ebony: (Gets a beer)
Skinner: You’ll never guess what that fucker said. He only said I was homo-fucking-phobic and racist!! I told him I got black girls working for me. (Laughs at own humour) Anyway, I got off. Self-defence. My witnesses performed. That gay twat has got it coming to him now. Him and his whole fucking club. I can understand you taking it up the shitter, but blokes! No fucking way. It’s not natural. (Ebony puts beer in front of him)
Skinner: (Looks at watch. His mobile rings) Skinner. Yeah! Oh good. I can pick it up tomorrow then? Great. See you first thing. (Disconnects) My new car. Mercedes. The dealer gave me a great fucking deal when I showed him those pictures. Great job there girl. (Laughs) If his missus could see them! (Looks Ebony up and down) No. (Looks at watch) I haven’t got the time. I’m expecting people over.
Skinner: Yeah! Got a problem with that?
Ebony: No. I just thought …
Skinner: How was the last drop to Morton today?
Ebony: I took it early…..so I could go to the gym……he was there.
Skinner: Ooh! Took a risk there. Changing the plans.
Ebony: I didn’t call you. I’ve dropped it off early before.
Skinner: I know. He always tells me. I told you. I know everything you do. Everything.
Ebony: (Edgy) I Know.
Skinner: Everything. (Beat) Is there something you should be telling me?
Skinner: Where’s your gym bag?
Skinner: Your gym bag. If you were going to the gym……. (Ebony is silent) Let’s have a look shall we? (Picks bag up from beside bed and carries it to table.) Open it.
Skinner: Open it!
(Ebony slowly opens the bag. She then stands back by the bed, silent) Skinner looks in the bag and removes two large clear plastic parcels with white powder in, and bundles of money)
Skinner: I got a call from Morton half an hour ago. He said you were late. Tell me you were just on your way to Morton with this lot.
Skinner: Go on; please tell me you were just on your way to Morton with this lot! Otherwise I might think you were trying to run away. And that would be a bad thing.
Skinner: Good answer. I think it was lucky for you that I turned up.
Ebony: (Defiantly, bravely, knowing she’s in big trouble anyway) Beat me again if you like. I’ve had enough. It can’t get any worse. (Motions to the money) I deserve this. I worked hard for it. It’s mine.
Skinner: I don’t recall giving you permission to own anything. I own this. (Beat) I own you.
Skinner: And why is that then?
Ebony: Because I quit.
Skinner: (Laughs) You Quit! Can I see your resignation letter? Or shall I write it for you. With your Obituary.
Ebony: I’ve had enough, so I’m leaving.
Skinner: Number one; I say when I’ve finished with you. Number two; assuming you get over my dead body, where exactly would you go?
Ebony: I Know people.
Skinner: (slight concern) Who?
Ebony: People. (Bluffing)
Skinner: Name someone I might know.
Ebony: You don’t know them.
Skinner: As I thought. No need for me to worry then. Whereas you… (Grabs Ebony from behind) Have plenty to worry about. (Pushes her head onto the bed, bent over.) (Beat) Now then, let’s remind ourselves, shall we? (Pulls her up, leans close into her face, leering and threatening. Licks her face slowly.) (Beat.) Are we clear? (Beat.) (Ebony nods. Skinner releases her and she pulls away. Defeated) Anyhow, I have other plans for you. (Pause.) I need you in one piece tonight. You’re not my problem now. (Pause) Fletcher needs a new star for his latest films. Perhaps one of his dungeons is just right for you, given your newfound taste for freedom. (Dials number on his mobile.)
Ebony: (Pause) Fletcher! No! Please! I’ll do anything! Please! I beg you! That Psycho nearly killed Sammy.
Skinner: Changed your tune? It’s too late I’m afraid. He’s coming over.
(This next line is said during Skinner’s phone call)
Ebony: No, Please no……please…….for gods sake no….
Skinner: Yeah, it’s Skinner. She’s ready. (Looks at bag) She’s even packed to go, she’s that keen. (Laughs into phone) You collect her, then she’s your problem. Yeah, she’s clean. Oh Yeah, worth every penny. Look after her. (Laughs into phone.) I’m sure you will. See you when you get here. (Disconnects.)
Ebony: You know He’ll cut me. I’m your best girl. You won’t make any more money off me.
Skinner: I don’t need to. I assume this lot is your ‘personal tips’. Naughty girl, you ’should’ve declared this. Still, I got it now.
Ebony: You bastard. Don’t I mean anything to you? Think about the money I make…
Skinner: Oh I think a lot! I’ll tell you what I think. I think it’s lucky for me that Fletcher likes you. He’s paid a good price. I think it’s lucky for me that I came over here after Morton’s call. I’d be missing this, and you. The drugs I can cope with, but you are worth more, especially as Fletcher isn’t the kind of man I’d like to piss off. I also think I’d love to see you on film. I’ll ask for copies. It’ll be fascinating seeing you in action in a dungeon. Yeah! Gang rape and torture. Punters love that. What does he call them? Sex Slave Smashups! I may ask if I can help. I can be handy with a knife. Perhaps I could show the new girls the alternative to the comfortable life I offer. (Laughs)
Ebony: I’d rather die.
Skinner: That was an option. Consider yourself lucky I need you alive tonight.
Ebony: Why me?
Skinner: Fletcher made me an offer I can’t refuse. There’s more flesh where you came from. I’m bringing another new girl tonight. Fresh from Africa. Just finished her breaking her in.
Ebony: And so it continues.
Skinner: I’m counting on it.
Ebony: I’ll kill myself.
Skinner: After tonight you’re not my problem. (Beat.) I’ve sold you. (Beat.) You can blow me before they get here. Call it a parting kiss. (Stands up and starts to unzip his fly. Ebony walks slowly towards him.)
Ebony: (In a burst of fury, a grabs knife from hiding place. Stabs Skinner hard in the chest. A fatal blow.)
Skinner: Jeesus! (Drops dead.)
Ebony: (Ebony is shocked, and stands staring over body. She spits on Skinner’s body, picks up bag and heads for door. Just before she reaches the door, there are two heavy knocks on it.)
Notes: I wanted the audience to believe Ebony and Skinner were a couple at first, perhaps thinking Skinner is at first controlling, certainly not nice, but actually light-hearted and therefore more sinister as the scene develops. The hope is that even after the drugs are found, Ebony’s true situation and fate are not known until later in the scene. The total disregard for another human being should come across in Skinner’s tone as he sees nothing wrong in his actions, even finding it funny.
Originally there was a monologue at the end where Ebony speaks about her history, but I realised, with coaching, that I wrote it because I wasn’t confident enough in the scene that the audience would complete the picture, and it became simply exposition; so much so that it stands on it’s own. I may post it later.
We were both proud of the fact that the audience were repulsed by the scene as it unfolded, and felt dirty having watched it. From a writing perspective, as well as acting, I was proud of the reaction. Writer and acting coach Jim Madden encouraged me to keep writing and, in this scene, kept asking “what can you take out” as he thought I’d written too much about who has the power in the relationship. Eventually, I replaced a few lines with a simple action that showed this without question. Can you spot it?