Photograph by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan
On Sunday 24th June 2018, Fishamble and Irish Rail partnered to create a day-long playwriting workshop between Dublin and Bray called #PlaysonaTrain, taking place on train carriages and in Bray itself. 9 playwrights were chosen from a social media competition, and by the end of the day these playwrights had each written a short play based on trains.
A SHORT PLAY by Linda Butler
A young woman, mid-twenties, sits on the DART, alone. She is crocheting. We can't see what she's making as she has just recently begun. The wool is white. Her eyes are red and swollen.
Two small boys under five years old are running up and down the carriage, screaming and playing. Their mother is standing at the connecting door between carriages, shouting at someone in the next carriage. There is a child's buggy beside her.
MOTHER: “And where were you while I was raising your boys?
(a pause, indistinct shouting from next carriage)
You were not working – you haven't done a tap of work in your life.
I want to know where you were for three years!”
ANNOUNCEMENT: “The next station is Shankill. Sean Chill”
The train stops and the doors open. An elderly man gets on and sits opposite the crocheting woman as the train pulls off again. The indistinct shouting continues as the man takes a bottle of sunscreen out of a backpack, removes his cap and glasses, lathers his face with sunscreen, and replaces his glasses.
MOTHER: “You can go to fuck! I'm keeping it, and you'll never find us, you bleedin' lazy shite!”
The mother slams the connecting door, barricading it with her buggy. The others on the train have frozen with shock, but go back to what they were doing after a second. Then, in a Kerry accent:
OLD MAN: (awkwardly, to crocheting woman) “'Tis a beautiful day.”
The woman feigns a brief smile and continues crocheting.
OLD MAN: “I'm off to the seaside for a bit of icecream. And a bit of a tan I suppose. Haha!”
WOMAN: (reluctantly) “Yeah, it's a lovely day all right.”
OLD MAN: “Bit warm for a scarf. Or what is it you're knitting?”
WOMAN: (stops crocheting, doesn't look up) “Em...it's a blanket”
OLD MAN: “Ah, very good. My wife did a bit of knitting herself, Lord rest her. Was very good at the baby stuff. Did all the Communion cardigans, Christening robes. Baby blankets for all the grandchildren. Is it for a boy or a girl?”
WOMAN: (pause) “...a girl”
OLD MAN: “Oh very nice. Very nice.
(The two boys run past. The first one screams as his brother chases him with a foam sword.)
I suppose you're happy not to be having a boy! Haha!”
WOMAN: (stops crocheting and looks up at the two boys) “I wouldn't mind either way.”
MOTHER: (to boys) “Wha? No, I've no more bleedin' crisps. You'll have to wait till we get to McDonalds.
(boys start to cry)
“Shurrup! Or the man will throw ye off the train!”
OLD MAN: “So, have you made a lot of blankets?”
WOMAN: “No, actually this is my first one.
(does the wrong stitch)
Shit! Sorry, I've lost count.”
OLD MAN: “Oh God, sorry, that was my fault distracting you! Sure, we're coming into Bray now. Take care now. Congratulations again! Take care.”
The old man gets up, grabs his backpack and walks to the door.
ANNOUNCEMENT: “This train terminates at the next station, which is Bray. Bré”
The crocheting woman unravels her work and throws the crochet hook and wool back into her bag. The train doors open. The old man gets out, followed by the boys and their mother.
MOTHER: (leaving, ushering the boys outside) “Gerroff the train!”
The crocheting woman sits, staring out the window, leaning on her hand. She sniffs, but struggles not to cry. She's alone. A train worker enters the carriage by the connecting door. He picks up crisp packets left by the boys, and checks the remaining seats. He sees the woman still sitting.
WORKER: “Sorry love, did you not hear the announcement? We're terminating in Bray. If you're going any further, you have to get off here.”
WOMAN: (looks up at the train worker, on the verge of tears) “Terminating?”
WORKER: “Yep. You have to get off and wait for the next one.”
WOMAN: (gathers her stuff together and stands up.) “Yeah....I'll wait for the next one.”
She leaves the train.
Fade to black.
Linda Butler is a mother of two who enjoys crochet, science fiction and thinking about writing. She keeps meaning to write that mini-series, and already has her IFTA dress picked out.
Fishamble: The New Play Company is supported by