Short story radio drama- Broken Porcelain by Tim Crook

Broken Porcelain by Tim Crook (1988) This is an example of a short story radio drama where the main protagonist is not heard but still present throughout as a listener or eaves-dropping dramatic character. The script demonstrates dialogic writing, but primarily with the other character present only as the listening audience. The audience in emotional and intellectual imagination is an effective characterisation by proxy. The emotional response and presence of the central character without words in the play is expressed through sound symbolism- the effects of domestic destruction and going out to ride his bicycle. The play was written and produced by Independent Radio Drama Productions for LBC in London to form the stimulus of a live phone-in programme discussion on the impact of divorce and warring parental couples on their children. It was one of three short story dramas which won Gold Medal recognition at the International Radio Festival of New York.

1 FATHER I know you think I’m a bastard . . . I probably am . . . I didn’t give you the bike as some sort of . . . you know sop . . . the sweet before the left hook . . . Huh! . . . We . . . we . . . both of us . . . went together to buy it for you . . . because we still love you . . . whatever happens we still love you . . . Do you understand that? . . . It’s not going to make any difference . . . We’re still a family . . . Even when we’re apart . . . You can still see me . . . anytime . . . Well you’ll have to phone during the week . . . not during the day of course . . . I’ll be working . . . but later . . . On second thoughts why don’t you write . . . it’ll be cheaper . . . People don’t write enough nowadays . . . Well I don’t think so . . . You write . . . and I’ll ring . . . that’s a promise?

[Sound of domestic destruction. Faster bicycle on gravel.]

2 MOTHER Subtle wasn’t he? . . . A twelve speed racer and a Piss off . . . I hate your mother . . . I’m shacking up with some slut . . . I’ll introduce you later sort of thing . . . Don’t look at me like that . . . It’s not my fault . . . I’m not the one who’s been screwing around . . . I’m not running out on you . . . I’ll still be here . . . Washing, and cleaning and cooking and working now . . . I’ll be working now . . . To keep you in the style to which you’re accustomed . . . Yeah! . . . I’m bitter . . . I’m sorry . . . but how can you know what I’m talking about? . . . at your age . . . What do you know about bitterness . . . twelve years . . . That’s how old you are isn’t it? . . . Twelve years . . . You . . . Yes . . . You . . . One of life’s accidents really . . .

[Sound of domestic destruction. F/X bicycle. Continuous run on road. Traffic passing.]

3 SISTER Wasn’t much of a surprise was it? . . . I’m glad really . . . They’ve been kicking lumps out of each other for years . . . I can’t remember when there was ever a day they didn’t scream at each other . . . I can’t remember a day when there was peace . . . Why do people marry? . . . Why do they have kids? . . . Well I’m leaving soon . . . Thank God! University! Freedom! I won’t have to hear mum going on and on about what a sod he is . . . It’s so boring . . . So you’ll be on your own . . . with Mum of course . . . At least there won’t be the arguing . . . Silence and space . . . Air to breathe . . . lots of it . . . You’re lucky really . . . Tell you what . . . You can come up and see me at college . . . Oh but you’ll be at school won’t you . . . And I’ve only got a small room in a hall of residence . . . So you can’t stay for more than a day . . . but then it’s a long way isn’t it . . . it’s a long way by train . . . Perhaps Dad could run you up when he’s not working . . . When is he ever not working? . . . I’ll write . . . Yeah . . . I’ll write . . . Remember . . . we’re in this together . . . brother and sister . . . Nice bike . . . Bet it cost him!

[F/X approaching and skidding to a stop.] [Sound of domestic destruction.] [Telephone actuality.]

4 FATHER Yeah…I’m sorry your Mum isn’t in…I had something to tell her…I needed to talk . . . Well . . . Look you’ll do . . . You had to find out in the end . . . I’m sorry . . . God! I’m always apologising . . . Well I am sorry . . . It’s . . . It’s . . . When you’re older you’ll understand . . . course you will . . . you’ll understand . . . I promise . . . You’ve got to believe me . . . I’ll come to the point then . . . This holiday we’d planned . . . well we’d only talked about it . . . It didn’t really get beyond the discussion stage . . . Something’s come up . . . I really argued . . . but no can do son . . . I’ve sent you something . . . in the post . . . Nancy helped me choose it . . . I hope you like it . . . and there’s always next time eh? . . . I promise . . . So you’ll tell your mum . . . I reckon she’ll be pleased . . . Reckon she likes having you around . . . I’m sorry . . .

[Telephone hung up.]
[Sound of domestic destruction.] [Telephone.]

5 MOTHER The bastard…the bastard…I’ve always told you…Now you know… Proof! . . . You know why he’s done this don’t you? . . . To get at me . . . He’s screwed me up for 18 years . . . and he’s not giving up now . . . Did you tell him I was going on this course? If you did I’ll bloody well teach you . . . You tell that bastard nothing do you hear me . . . Not a bloody word . . . What I do . . . who I see . . . It’s my life now . . . I owe that pig nothing! . . . Nothing! . . . . What excuse was it this time? Something to do with work . . . God the times I’ve heard that . . . Why doesn’t he just tell you the truth . . . Bonking Nancy in Tenerife is more important than spending a few days with you. He’s probably bonking somebody else . . . Nancy won’t last long . . . Some father you’ve got there mate . . . Well you listen to me . . . I’m going on this course . . . You can fend for yourself . . . Be a big boy and all that crap eh? It’s about time men learned to cook for themselves . . . Anyway I’ll sort it out when I get in . . . I’m going to be late . . . Put one of those packets in the microwave . . . don’t forget to do your homework . . . and . . . I’m sorry . . .

[Telephone hung up.]
[Sound of domestic destruction.]
[Telephone.]
[Sounds like she’s at some sort of party, she’s tipsy and a man is tickling her to leave the phone.]

6 SISTER Hi! It’s me . . . How you doing! I’m great thank you . . . I shan’t ask about mum . . . Not in the mood . . . [To boyfriend] Ow! Get off . . . I’m on the phone . . . [To brother] Bet you can’t wait to leave home eh? God, University’s really great . . . You wait and see . . . only six more years . . . What I want to say is this . . . Um . . . I know I said I was coming and that . . . but we’ve ah . . . we’ve got this field trip on and I can’t really say no . . . I’m sure you understand . . . and anyway me and mum will just start shouting so you’ll have a bit of peace and quiet . . . Oh but Mum’s away isn’t she . . . I forgot . . . Well then more peace and quiet . . . [Giggling in reaction to her boyfriend’s tickling] . . . Yeah . . . this is not funny I suppose . . . but I’m sorry . . . I’ve got to go . . . What’s that you said? . . . OK . . . I’m sorry . . .

[Telephone hung up.]
[Sound of domestic destruction.]
[As though writing a postcard: town traffic.]

7 MOTHER Thought I’d send you a postcard of Cambridge. Course going well. Lots of interesting things going on. Will be ringing tonight of course, but hope this card will give some idea of where I am . . . Oh . . . I’ve run out of room . . . Much . . . there’s nowhere for the love . . . I’ll just scribble Mum near the address . . . I’m sure he’ll understand . . .

[Sound of domestic destruction.] [Tapping on word processor.]

8 FATHER This is the latest model and I am tapping this message on it . . . Hope you like it . . . Computers are the way ahead and Nancy and me thought you deserved something special for . . . well . . . you know . . . [To himself] I’ll delete ‘for’ . . . just leave it as something special . . . Ah . . . Oh yes . . . Much love Dad . . . [To himself] Now just tap it and save it . . . Shit . . . I’ve lost the last line . . . Christ the time . . . It’ll have to do . . . [Shouting] I’m coming Nancy . . . Won’t be a moment . . . Just packing the bloody apology! Kids! Who wants them?

9 SISTER My brother…Well…I don’t know him really…He doesn’t know me… There’s six years between us . . . I reckon Mum and Dad didn’t exactly plan him . . . one of those accidents . . . We’ve never really got on . . . You see I think the reason it was so bad . . . specially in the last six years . . . was because of him . . . They felt they had to keep things going . . . And didn’t they just . . . Like he was some sort of foam . . . smothering all the heat and warmth . . . Our family . . . like an empty quarry . . . An ugly great scar and he’s somewhere there playing about on the broken stones and kicking an old rusty can . . . That’s how I see him . . . When I say love . . . I don’t feel I mean it . . .

He did go out didn’t he? Course he did . . . Wouldn’t want him to hear what I’m saying . . . I’m sorry I’m going on like this . . . Did you hear a noise . . . I thought I heard something . . . OK . . . I’m sorry . . .

[End.]

Published in Radio Drama: Theory and Practice by Tim Crook in 1999, London: Routledge, pages 194-197.

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