WHEN ALL AROUND YOU
(This play has featured on BBC Radio,
as well as a stage play)
Eugene: A medieval executioner
Sir John: An aristocrat about to be executed.
Running time: 10 minutes
Sir John is about to be executed, and finds his executioner is very keen on customer
service and desperate to make friends.
(LFX: Lights up to an empty set aside from a wooden execution block and
wicker basket placed in front of it.)
(Eugene is on stage, wearing an executioner’s hood and medieval dress.)
(Sir John enters, reluctantly, also in medieval dress, with his hands tied in
front of him.)
Eugene: Good morning, Sir. Sir John Turnberry, isn’t it? And how are we this morning?
Sir John: Um… A bit nervous.
Eugene: No need to be nervous, Sir. You’re in the hands of a professional here. What could go wrong?
Sir John: Seriously?
Eugene: (Oblivious.) My name is Eugene, and I’ll be your executioner today.
Sir John: Right.
Eugene: Now, before we go any further - and it really won’t make any difference to the quality of your dispatch - I do have to inform you that one of our services is currently not available.
Sir John: Really?
Eugene: I warned them about buying French but unfortunately we have a technical problem with our guillotine so it’s temporarily out of use.
Sir John: Oh, goodness me. I really thought I was going to be executed in a minute.
Eugene: Sir, sir, don’t you worry your head about that…well, for as long as you’ve still got your head… we have a very good alternative to the guillotine and certainly won’t be letting you down.
Sir John: I really wouldn’t feel let down if the whole things was put off.
Eugene: When we promise an execution, we always deliver. And the good news is I have an axe.
Sir John: An axe?
Eugene: Oh, you’d prefer a sword? We have a very nice line in swords. It’s not for me to try to influence your choice in any way, but the sword option does occasionally end up in a bit of hacking. Conversely, the axe is really quite the thing for a nice clean cut. I really do recommended it. (Picking up a large axe.) Now this one is an absolute beauty… (seeing it’s covered in blood) Oh!
Sir John: It looks a bit used.
Eugene: Sir, I cannot apologise enough. If I’ve told the early shift to clean up before they clock off once, I’ve told them a thousand times. This really is a poor show. Dried blood dulls the blade you know.
Sir John: (Look of horror.) I can imagine.
Eugene: But don’t you worry, I’ll give it a good clean and sharpen and I’m confident you’ll be very impressed.
Sir John: I really was relying on the reliability of the blade dropping so fast I wouldn’t feel a thing. Couldn’t I just wait for the guillotine to become available?
Eugene: Hmm, I’m afraid that’s not possible. And if we don’t fit you in today, you could find yourself waiting weeks. Months, even.
Sir John: That’s okay. I don’t mind.
Eugene: No, no, we couldn’t possibly put you out to that extent. You’re booked in for an execution today, and an execution you shall have.
Sir John: I’m really happy to be flexible. I’m not in a
Eugene: You’re very kind, Sir, but if we were to let our standards slip and have executions put off, it would only be a matter of time before our reputation would suffer.
Sir John: But…
Eugene: …And we do have to think about the paying audience.
Sir John: Huh?
Eugene: (Pointing to the audience.) There’s a particularly good turn out today and they’ll all be expecting to see at least one head fall into a basket. Can you imagine how nasty they might turn if they don’t get what they came for?
Sir John: (Looking at the audience.) I see your point. They do look a pretty blood thirsty lot.
Eugene: And some of them have been drinking. Actually, some of them never stop.
Sir John: Won’t they get upset about not seeing the guillotine?
Eugene: Oh, they’re not too fussy. They don’t mind, so long as they see at least one head roll off the block.
Sir John: So, we can’t do this another day?
Eugene: I’m afraid not.
Sir John: Look, can I ask if you’ve been doing this long?
Eugene: Are you asking if I’m a professional?
Sir John: Sorry, I didn’t mean to…
Eugene: None taken. Look, let me get this axe cleaned and sharpened and you’ll see what a quality service I provide. (Starts wiping the axe with a cloth.) So, tell me, have you come far today?
Sir John: My cell is just in there. (Points off stage.)
Eugene: Ah, you’re local. We get customers from all over you know. Do you mind my asking what you were in for?
Sir John: Treason.
Sir John: But I’m innocent.
Eugene: (Laughs.) That’s what they all say, Sir.
Sir John: No, really, I am. The King thought I was plotting against him, but I was only saying I was going to the loo.
Sir John: I told someone I was going to sit on the throne – you know, visit the bathroom - and the archbishop overheard and thought I was saying I was going to depose the King. He told his royal highness and, well…
Eugene: That was a little unlucky, Sir.
Sir John: I’ll say.
Eugene: Have you thought about an appeal?
Sir John: There is no right of appeal.
Eugene: Yes, I know, Sir, but have you thought about it just to try and cheer yourself up? You know, a happy little fantasy.
Sir John: No.
Eugene: Happy fantasies are very helpful. You might be surprised how many people turn up to their execution a little depressed.
Sir John: Can’t think why.
Eugene: But I always say, think happy thoughts.
Sir John: Such as?
Eugene: Do you have a family, Sir?
Sir John: Yes.
Eugene: There you are then. There’s a happy thought.
Sir John: The King evicted them from our lands, imprisoned my sons and sold my
daughters into slavery.
Eugene: But are they happy?
Sir John: No.
Eugene: Oh. Well, here’s a happy thought. I’ve got this axe gleaming again.
Sir John: Right.
Eugene: In two shakes of a lambs tail I’ll get the blade as keen as mustard and then we’ll be all set.
Sir John: Wonderful.
Eugene: Did I detect just a smidgen of sarcasm there, Sir?
Sir John: From me? Heavens, no. I’m too busy thinking happy thoughts.
Eugene: (Taking a sharpening stone to the axe blade.) That’s the spirit.
Sir John: You enjoy your work, don’t you?
Eugene: I do.
Sir John: Have you always been an executioner?
Eugene: Oh no, Sir. I’ve had all sorts of jobs. Undertaker, grave digger, body collector…I’m a people person. I like working with people.
Sir John: Dead people.
Sir John: All those jobs, and what you’re doing now, they’re all working with dead people.
Eugene: Are they? I’ve never really thought about it.
Sir John: Haven’t you ever thought you might like a job working with the living?
Eugene: Well, I have a very particular skill set, so I’m not sure what sort of jobs you have in mind.
Sir John: Oh, I don’t know. Surgeon? Dentist? Torturer?
Eugene: Do you think I’d be good at those things?
Sir John: I hardly know you.
Eugene: Goodness me, you’re absolutely right. What was I thinking? Here I am, about to chop your head off, and you’ve never even seen my face. Very impersonal. (Taking off his executioner hood) There. I like to think I’m the friendly face of execution, and I can’t believe I’ve let this silly hood get in the way. Thank you.
Sir John: For what?
Eugene: You probably have things on your mind at the moment, but you’ve taken a real interest in me. It’s very kind.
Sir John: You’re welcome.
Eugene: Such a shame.
Sir John: What is?
Eugene: Well, in a couple of minutes, your head will be in the basket and I’m just thinking I’ll miss you.
Sir John: What?
Eugene: Oh, I know we’ve only just met, but I’ve really enjoyed our chat. I wonder if we might have been friends if I didn’t have to execute you.
Sir John: Friends?
Eugene: Yes. You’re easy to talk to. I could imagine us having a few ales together at the tavern. A spot of hunting, perhaps. Going to the witch ducking together.
Sir John: Sounds nice.
Eugene: It does, doesn’t it? Look, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t really have any friends. I always try to strike up
relationships with the people I work with, but somehow it never lasts.
Sir John: Is that because you behead them, perhaps?
Eugene: It’s my job.
Sir John: Can I suggest something?
Eugene: Of course.
Sir John: What if you didn’t take my head off with that axe and we went for a pint instead? Or if we went hunting? You said you’d like that. We could even make it to the pond for the witch drowning. That doesn’t start until five.
Eugene: Oh, I don’t know, Sir.
Sir John: We could be friends.
Eugene: Do you really think so?
Sir John: Trust me. If we did all that instead of me losing my head, I’d be your best friend forever.
Sir John: Really.
Eugene: Well, it would be nice to have a friend to do things with. And I don’t suppose one less head on a spike will make much difference. And we could always tell the audience there are free drinks at the bar. That would definitely placate them not seeing an execution.
Sir John: Come on, Eugene. Ten minutes from now we could be clinking tankards in the ale house.
Eugene: Oh, go on then, Sir. You’ve talked me into it.
Sir John: Excellent. Could you untie me then?
Eugene: Of course. (Untying his wrists.) Oh, I’m so looking forward to this. And may I compliment you on how calm you’ve been
this morning? You know what they say; If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs…
(Curtain as They exit, ad libbing.)
About the text and about the author
The short plays and monologues published in this book are offered for performance without a requirement to pay performance rights. The writer just asks that you credit him in your programme and signpost people to the largest part of his published work at www.lazybeescripts.co.uk. A number of these comedies and dramas have been nominated for awards and featured on BBC Radio. They are simple and inexpensive to stage and have been produced on radio, in theatres, studios, classrooms, pubs, hotels and cafes. They are ideal for drama groups, workshops and students.
Tony Domaille is a multi-award-winning playwright with more than twenty full-length, one act, and short plays published in the UK by Lazy Bee Scripts. He also has scripts published by Pint Size Plays, Stage-Write Plays, Café Lit, and Ilkley Playhouse. His work has been performed in eighteen countries, from the USA to Australia, and has regularly featured on BBC Upload. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and contact him via email@example.com