In the summer, we ran an online course for our members on How to Write a Monologue. We then invited participants to submit their monologues to us and promised to publish our favourite ones on the blog!
We received some fantastic entries which encapsulated some vibrant characters with unique voices, so it was a difficult task to choose the ones we wanted to showcase. However, we managed to make our selection and we’ve published them over the last 3 weeks, with this being the final winning entry…
This week’s selection: A Dark Place by Jane Walker
Jane’s short plays have been performed on the London Fringe, and ‘King of Hearts’ was voted second favourite in a Valentine-themed evening of short plays by Spontaneous Productions. Her one act plays have reached the longlists for the Funny Women Comedy Writing Award and the Windsor Fringe Award for New Drama Writing.
I was inspired by LPW’s online course to write this monologue, which is loosely based on a relative. I changed the setting and the story developed from there.
A Dark Place
By Jane Walker
1922, Whitehaven, Cumbria.
Night. A tired-looking working class woman in her forties, wearing an apron, is cleaning a railway carriage.
The mess these passengers make. Mind you, found a pipe the other day. Exchanged it on the market for some cotton. I’ll run up some dresses for the girls with that, do as Christmas presents. Every job has a little bonus.
She picks up a newspaper from one of the seats and looks at it.
They’re still talking about it. What happened, who’s to blame.
‘Firedamp’ they call it round here. Other people call it methane. Either way it caused an explosion. Thirty-nine gone, just like that. Everyone’s still reeling, two months on. What a Christmas.
Some of those men hadn’t even reached the age of twenty. I don’t know what to say to Evie, she lost her lad.
What can you say?
Puts the newspaper down.
He was a big man. Quiet at home. A presence – you could sense him. The children never spoke when he was at table. He never had to put up with their noise. Always the same announcement when he came home: “Breadwinner’s here.”
Tired, all the time, he was. And filthy, six nights a week. I had to make sure the bath was ready. Haul it up from the cellar, take it back down again later – he didn’t want to see it once he’d had his bath. Sometimes, when I was pouring the water, I’d think about what it must be like, working down there in the dark.
Out to sea on a fishing boat, or down the pit, that’s the choice round here for fellas. And the pit pays better. Me Dad was a miner too. He was good to us. It was just Mam, me and me sister. Tight-knit we were. Wish our Isabel was here now, I’d talk to her. She’s trapped, frozen for ever at the age of eight. Was it Scarlet fever? I wasn’t well after they told me, can’t remember.
Wish I had a timepiece. Maybe I’ll find one. No, I’d have to hand it in. Only keep small things, that’s my rule. Could do with knowing the time though – I want to miss last orders, don’t want drunken oafs following me home. Our Flo will want to get to bed. She’s got school tomorrow. She likes school.
Your husband, they would say. The stories he tells. Has us in bits he does. I never heard them stories. He preferred the company of men. Liked working with them, laughing with them… fighting with them. Bare knuckle champion he was. I went along once, to one of the fights. I wasn’t sure, but people told me it was all good natured.
As soon as I arrived I wanted to leave. They were all standing round, no boxing ring, just a big crowd in a circle. You could taste the fear, sense the bloodlust. I wanted to leave, but someone spotted me and pulled me to the front. I looked down, ashamed. And I could see bloodstains from previous fights. They said, “Your Tom’s on next!”. I was meant to be the proud wife. Had to stand there as he belted the soul out of some poor lad, and when it was over and the lad was spitting blood, his eye swelling, they patted me on the shoulder as though I’d achieved something. I felt sick.
I’m a widow now, a Colliery Widow. Got me name in the paper. People have been sending money for widows and children. I’ll believe it when it’s in me hand. Need it though. Can’t make ends meet.
I stand and nod and accept their condolences, their sympathy for the children. Except while I’m listening I’m having sinful thoughts.
In my heart there’s a dark, secret place, coal black it is and cold, cold as the depths of the earth. And in that place I’m thankful, so thankful for that Firedamp, that pocket of gas which ignited and took him away.