Verongelijktheid

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

This short one act play has been loosely inspired by the murder of Theo Van Gogh. Working alongside the writer and women’s rights activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Van Gogh directed the short film Submission, which portrayed violence against women in Islamic societies. Both Hirsi Ali and Van Gogh, as champions of free speech, sought to publically cinematise and raise awareness of the brutal crimes that had been inflicted on women in the name of religion. The short film triggered offence and outcry from the Dutch Muslim community and on the 2nd November 2004, Islamic extremist Mohammed Bouyero murdered Theo Van Gogh on the sunlit streets of Amsterdam. A letter addressed to Hirsi Ali was affixed to Van Gogh’s corpse with a knife, warning that she would be next.

CHARACTERS:

ALINA, thirty-two. A short, stumpy woman with mousy brown hair and a friendly face.

VINCENT, thirty-five. Tall, dark and handsome.

THE SCENE:

This one act play is set in an upstairs flat in Ruritania on a cold and stormy night in November 2014.

PRODUCTION NOTES:

– = interruption

O.S. = off stage

……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 

VERONGELIJKTHEID

[ALINA is nervously pacing up and down a living room in a dark and dirty upstairs flat. Mould lines the window frames, and wallpaper is peeling off the walls from which empty picture and photo frames hang askew. Having checked her watch for the second time, ALINA wearily lowers herself onto a small two-seater sofa and flicks through the manuscript lying on the table. There’s a knock at the door. ALINA takes a deep breath, stands, and makes her way towards the door. She opens it and VINCENT stands before her.]

ALINA: Hello. Come in.

[ALINA moves aside to let VINCENT through. He walks in and awkwardly navigates the space. ALINA closes the door behind them, but not before checking the corridor outside.]

ALINA: Yeah, none of the lights work so it’s a bit… well, anyway. Please, take a seat.

[ALINA gestures towards the two-seater sofa. VINCENT doesn’t follow his cue.]

ALINA: Sorry, I should take your coat –

VINCENT: No, it’s ok, really. I’ll just keep it on.

ALINA: Yeah, sure –I know it’s nippy in here, sorry. Can I get you a drink or anything?

VINCENT: No, I think I’m ok.

 [The two stand in awkward silence.]

VINCENT: Can I just check that we’re alone?

ALINA: Yes.

VINCENT: And we’re not likely to be interrupted at any point?

ALINA: No. I live alone.

VINCENT: And does anyone know I’m here? Have you spoken to anyone about –

ALINA: No, nobody.

VINCENT: Good.

[Pause]

ALINA: I haven’t done this before.

VINCENT: Neither have I.

ALINA: I’m nervous.

VINCENT: Me too.

ALINA: We’ve both got a lot at stake.

VINCENT: Yes.

ALINA: I should say thank you for… well, for coming here, for agreeing to talk to me.

VINCENT: You didn’t leave me with much choice.

ALINA: Well, I knew it would get attention. I just didn’t know what kind. [Pause] Look, please sit down.

[ALINA indicates the small sofa and VINCENT takes a seat. ALINA, aware of the lack of space, crouches on the floor beside him.] Do you know what? I’m gonna make us a drink. [ALINA gets up again] It’s too formal, this, and I don’t really do formal so… drink?

VINCENT: Water would be good.

ALINA: Water. Sure. Coming up.

[ALINA leaves VINCENT alone as she heads to the kitchen. VINCENT quickly flicks a page or two through the manuscript.]

ALINA O.S.: Biscuit?

VINCENT: Er no. No, thank you.

[VINCENT stops flicking. ALINA returns with two glasses of water.]

ALINA: Here you go.

VINCENT: Thanks. [Looking around] Nice place.

ALINA: Ha! I mean thank you for saying something nice but it’s clearly a hole.

[ALINA crouches down on the floor again.]

VINCENT: Well, it’s got a certain –

ALINA: Don’t say charm.

VINCENT: Character.

ALINA: I’m not really the domestic type.

[VINCENT takes a sip of water]

VINCENT: So, Alina, tell me about yourself.

ALINA: What do you wanna know?

VINCENT: Well, I guess we could start with what you do?

ALINA: You know what I do.

VINCENT: Aside from –

ALINA: I’m a nurse.

VINCENT: A nurse?

ALINA: By day, yes.

VINCENT: Where?

ALINA: OVLG.

VINCENT: And by night, I’m guessing you’re a – ?

ALINA: I’m attempting to be, yeah. [Pause] Sod this, I’m getting the wine.

[ALINA stands and heads back to the kitchen]

ALINA O.S.: I’ve got Malbec or… Malbec?

VINCENT: I’m ok, really.

ALINA O.S.: No, no, I insist. If we’re gonna do this, we might as well do it in style.

VINCENT: Ever been to Argentina?

ALINA O.S.: Random!

VINCENT: Malbec.

ALINA O.S.: Ah yes, of course. A man who knows his wine, I’m impressed. No, I haven’t but I’d love to someday. Have you?

VINCENT: No.

[ALINA returns with two large glasses of red wine. VINCENT looks apprehensive.]

ALINA: Don’t worry, I rinsed them.

[ALINA returns to her crouching stance on the floor.]

VINCENT: Why did you decide to trust me?

ALINA: I had to trust someone.

VINCENT: So I’m the only one who knows about all of this?

ALINA: Yes. And I’d like to keep it that way for now.

VINCENT: That suits me just fine.

ALINA: You hear about what’s happened to the others and… well… it takes balls to trust anyone these days. You’re the first and only person I’ve talked to.

VINCENT: Why me?

ALINA: I’ve heard things about you, Vincent. Good things.

VINCENT: Nice to know. Who from?

ALINA: People talk.

VINCENT: They do, do they?

ALINA: Yeah. Well, when they think it’s safe to. And I’ve read stuff. Figured if I had to –

VINCENT: What have you read?

ALINA: Everything you’ve ever published. I know the language of the underworld, you see.

VINCENT: You do?

ALINA: Yep.

VINCENT: Elaborate for me.

ALINA: Oh come on, you know what I mean. We don’t have to play games here. [Takes a sip of wine] And I figured if I had to trust anyone, it might as well be you. So yeah, I do trust you. Well, I’m trusting you. Not sure if there’s a difference.

VINCENT: I’m risking a lot too, you know.

ALINA: I know. [Pause] What is it about this then? What’s making you take the risk?

VINCENT: I can sense your passion.

ALINA: That’s enough?

VINCENT: No, passion is never enough. But you have a lot of important things to say and I want to help you say them.

ALINA: You do?

VINCENT: I do.

ALINA: And I do, yeah. Very important things to say.

VINCENT: And you say them well.

ALINA: Thank you.

VINCENT: We need to start talking. People need to know.

ALINA: Yes.

VINCENT: No one has pushed back against them before and unless they’re challenged, they’ll win. That’s why I want to help you, why I’m putting my neck on the line.

ALINA: It’s not for me, it’s for them.

VINCENT: Of course.

ALINA: I want this to change or to at least start changing the way things are.

VINCENT: Well, I think you’ve got the potential to do just that.

ALINA: You do?

VINCENT: Change is possible at the edges.

ALINA: The truth’s trouble, eh?

VINCENT: The truth’s our weapon.

ALINA: And the book is an axe to break the frozen sea within us.

VINCENT: One you prepared earlier?

ALINA: Oh that’s Kafka’s. I pinched it.

VINCENT: How did you get your hands on him?

ALINA: These mitts get everywhere.

VINCENT: Seriously though?

ALINA: If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.

VINCENT: Ha.

ALINA: Probably shouldn’t joke about that.  [Pause] Forgot to mention I’m a lightweight.

VINCENT: I like it.

ALINA: Lightweights?

VINCENT: ‘An axe to break the frozen sea…’

ALINA:  Yeah, me too. The sea’s powerful, as is the human spirit.

VINCENT: Cheers to that.

ALINA: Cheers.

 [VINCENT and ALINA clink glasses] 

VINCENT: [Looks at manuscript] That’s it, right?

ALINA: Yeah.

VINCENT: Has anyone else got a copy?

ALINA: No, just you.

VINCENT: Is there an e-copy?

ALINA: I don’t trust computers, no. And we all know about the cloud.

VINCENT: Yes, probably best hand-written. And yours is just about legible.

ALINA: You say the sweetest things.

VINCENT: Verongelijktheid.

ALINA: Bless you.

VINCENT: I didn’t… it’s –

ALINA: Ha, I know. Sorry, I’m making fun. You said it all wrong.

VINCENT: Well, it’s a bitch of a title.

ALINA: There’s not an English equivalent.

VINCENT: What does it mean?

ALINA: A feeling of being wronged, not by a person, but by a society.

VINCENT: Apt.

ALINA: I thought so.

VINCENT: And how do I say it?

ALINA: Ok so, let’s take it syllable by syllable… “fur”, like the coat made of animals. You go.

VINCENT: “fur”

ALINA: Very good. Next; “ron”, like the name, Ron. Do both.

VINCENT: “fur ron”

ALINA: Yeah, like fur on a coat. The next bit you have to say fast; “hellick”. The ‘g’ is like an ‘h’. You?

VINCENT: “hellick”

ALINA: Kinda. But with a throaty, guttural sound. hhh-hhh-hhh –

VINCENT: “hhh-hell-”

ALINA: “hellick”, yeah. Try again.

VINCENT: “hellick”

ALINA: Then the “heit” bit, “heit”, the ‘d’ sounds like a ‘t’ so “heit”.

VINCENT: “heit”

ALINA: All together?

VINCENT: FUR-RON-HELLICK-HEIT.

ALINA: Verongelijktheid.

VINCENT: FUR-RON-HELLICK-HEIT.

ALINA: One more time. Verongelijktheid.

VINCENT: FUR-RON-HELLICK-HEIT.

ALINA: Ok, maybe we’ll change the title.

[Gentle laughter.]

VINCENT: So these stories are real then?

ALINA: Yes.

VINCENT: Verbatim?

ALINA: Pretty much. I edited and dramatized where necessary but they’re all true.

VINCENT: Where did you – ?

ALINA: The hospital. They come in on a daily basis.

VINCENT: And you’ve got evidence of this?

[There’s a sound in the distance.]

ALINA: [Quietly] Hold on.

[ALINA gets up and checks the peephole on the front door. She then heads towards the window and pulls the curtains aside to check the street down below.]

VINCENT: [Quietly] Alina?

ALINA: It’s nothing, sorry, I thought… [returning to her crouching position on the floor] Anyway, where were we?

VINCENT: Evidence? Have you got – ?

ALINA: Yeah. I’ve kept hard copies of all the interview transcripts and I’ve got the recordings. All on tape.

VINCENT: How did you manage to interview them?

ALINA: Again, the hospital. Who would suspect a nurse?

VINCENT: Where are they? The tapes?

ALINA: Safely hidden.

VINCENT: So you have proof?

ALINA: Yes, Vincent. I can prove it all. Every claim.

VINCENT: Are there any others?

ALINA: There are always others.

VINCENT: Are you writing them all up?

ALINA: Every single one.

VINCENT: Can I have a look?

ALINA: Yes, of course.

[ALINA gets up and walks over to her bag. She retrieves a case file.]

VINCENT: Is that all of them?

ALINA: No, just the last few years.

[ALINA hands VINCENT the case file.]

VINCENT: I asked you to bring everything.

ALINA: I know but I figured it was safer to go through it in stages. You know what it’s like out there.

VINCENT: Right.

ALINA: I didn’t want to risk it all in case they’re watching.

VINCENT: Yes, you’re completely right, Alina. I’m sorry.

[VINCENT starts flicking through the case file. ALINA takes a seat next to him on the small sofa.]

VINCENT: The last few years, you say?

ALINA: [Nodding] You really think we need to include more cases?

VINCENT: I think we need to include as many of them as possible. Perhaps we can even work on a handful of volumes and get them printed and distributed in one go, so we don’t get our throats slit before we get the chance to publish them all. That’s why I asked for everything.

ALINA: Well, we can always meet again, can’t we?

VINCENT: ‘Course we can. Is it ok if I take this with me?

ALINA: No. Sorry but I like to keep everything together.

VINCENT: In the safe place, right?

ALINA: Yeah. I call it my anarchist library.

VINCENT: Cute.

ALINA: It’s not supposed to be cute.

VINCENT: So all the others are – ?

ALINA: Yeah, the rest of them are –

VINCENT: In your “anarchist library”?

ALINA: Yes.

VINCENT: And you’re sure they’re safe?

ALINA: As safe as they can be.

VINCENT: Do your friends know about this? Your family?

ALINA: I haven’t got any.

VINCENT: No family?

ALINA: No nothing. My parents died when I was quite young and I move around too often to keep any friends I make along the way.

VINCENT: Nobody?

ALINA: No. But it’s alright, I’m a tough cookie.

[VINCENT downs the rest of his wine]

VINCENT: I take it that it’s not an actual library?

ALINA: No, it’s a van.

VINCENT: A van?

ALINA: Yeah, my motor home.

VINCENT: What about – ?

ALINA: I don’t live here.

VINCENT: Then where the hell are we?

ALINA: Well, technically, I do live here. For the next forty-eight hours anyway.

VINCENT: You’ve lost me?

ALINA: I rented it out especially. In your honour.

VINCENT: Seriously? You rented out a flat for this?

ALINA: Yeah, well, you know. We live in a soulless society. You can’t trust anyone. I figured that in case we were being watched, they wouldn’t be able to find us or set my house on fire or anything like that.

VINCENT: You thought of everything, huh?

ALINA: I’ll take that as a compliment.

 [VINCENT returns to the file]

VINCENT: “Francisca Van Alst…”

ALINA: The women have to be kept anonymous. I promised them that.

VINCENT: Yes, of course. [Begins to read the notes on Francisca Van Alst] “They think we do not talk, but we do…” Clearly.

ALINA: I haven’t finished writing that one up yet.

VINCENT: How many?

ALINA: Hundreds. Maybe more.

VINCENT: What about the hospital?

ALINA: What about it?

VINCENT: Do they know? The management, I mean?

ALINA: Probably, yeah, but they’d never do anything about it.

VINCENT: Why’s that?

ALINA: They don’t want to ruffle any feathers, I guess.

VINCENT: They won’t say anything?

ALINA: I doubt it. They’re a peculiar kind of evil those management types.

VINCENT: And your patients?

ALINA: Current ones, you mean?

VINCENT: Yeah?

ALINA: Well, I’m encouraging them to speak up but fear’s a pretty powerful deterrent.

VINCENT: But there’s a chance they’ll stand up for themselves and say something?

ALINA O.S.: There’s always a chance.

[Pause]

VINCENT: Give us a top up, will you?

ALINA: Sure.

[ALINA gets up, picks up the empty glasses and goes to the kitchen.]

VINCENT: So… tell me more about this van of yours?

[VINCENT quietly withdraws a handgun from his coat pocket]

ALINA O.S.: Well, it’s beige. Pretty dull, I know, but at least you can’t see the dirt on it. And it’s got really old school curtains, a cute little shower, and a single bed… I know, I’m thirty-two and I sleep on a single bed, tragic, huh?

[VINCENT nonchalantly attaches a silencer]

VINCENT: Where’s it parked?

ALINA O.S.: Right now it’s in The Hague but I’ll move it tomorrow. Not tonight – I’m too squiffy.

VINCENT: The Hague, hm? Nice. A friend of mine grew up near there.

ALINA O.S.: Oh really?

[ALINA returns carrying two full glasses of red wine. VINCENT shoots her… a double tap…and she drops to the floor, dead. VINCENT calmly packs the case file into his bag and, avoiding the spillage of wine and blood, makes a phone call]

VINCENT: [On the phone] It’s me. Send someone to The Hague – tell them to look out for a beige motor home and call me when it’s found, ok? [Pause] Have we dealt with Vincent Evers yet? [Pause] Good. The usual protocol with 43 Van Goghstraat, please. Oh and as for OVLG Hospital – burn it to the ground. [Pause] No, no evacuation necessary.

[Blackout]

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