DOWN BOTTLE ALLEY by Tom O’Brien

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available to buy on Amazon

extract from play:

1
DOWN BOTTLE ALLEY
By
Tom O’Brien
Character list
OLDER BRIAN
YOUNGER BRIAN
TONE
SHOPKEEPER
FATHER
NELSON
DOCTOR
NURSE
FAY
LYDIA
PAT
SALLY
MOTHER
All the parts with the exception of Older Brian and Younger Brian can be played by 2 actors. Big Tone, Father, Man and Nelson can be played by one actor. Pat, Sal, Lydia, Fay and Mother can be played By one actress
There are 3 acting areas on the stage:
Stage-left. This is Brian’s space, his bed/ living space. It is bare except for a single bed, a bucket, an oxygen cylinder and mask, a bedside table and a chair. The table has some cans/bottles of cider on it.
Centre-stage. This area has a bench and a square of green/grass. This is where much of Brian’s life is lived. It represents Bottle Alley, the gathering place of the alcoholic.
There’s such a place wherever there are alcoholics.
Stage- right. This is where OLDER Brian, the narrator, holds court. This is the Brian that Brian would like to be. The only thing in this area is a card table with some of Brian’s books on it, and a card saying BOOK SIGNING TODAY. Resting against the table legs is a placard with the legend below printed on it
I know every thing about drink – except how to stop.
2
Act one
Enter the cast singing ‘The Logical Song’, by Supertramp
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical. And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily, Joyfully, playfully watching me. But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible, Logical, responsible, practical. And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, Clinical, intellectual, cynical. There are times when all the worlds asleep, The questions run too deep For such a simple man. Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned I know it sounds absurd But please tell me who I am.
OLDER BRIAN comes on stage. He is smartly dressed, holding a book under his arm. This is how Brian wants to be seen.
OLDER: It’s 6.20am. In seconds I will be sick, violently and seemingly without end. Today I have a free day, no doctor. Early morning sickness is all part and parcel of being an alcoholic; we accept it. This isn’t attractive to a potential mate, and is also why most of us are alone. After all, who wants to wake up with a bloke whom you think at any minute is about to die?
BRIAN, in bed, awakes slowly, taking a while to become aware of his surroundings. One of his first acts is to crawl from the bed to the bucket and be violently sick for several minutes, then put the oxygen mask to his face and inhale. After a while he staggers to his feet, takes a long sip from the cider bottle, then lurches to the bathroom (off)
OLDER: Some people do press-ups in the morning, I do sick. Every morning
without fail. You could set your clock by me. It’s been like that for as long
as I can remember. So long now that sometimes I think it’s the norm for
everybody. Then my brain-cells kick in – what’s left of them – and I
realize it’s just me. Brian going through the routines that will – hopefully
– see him through another alcohol-fueled day.
My affair with alcohol has rendered me, for the most part, incontinent, impotent and without any real place in this society. I have no reference as to how life would be without drink. I don’t honestly remember a time when I wasn’t drunk. I am drunk now. I quite probably won’t finish this story.
3
Brian returns from the bathroom, drying his hair with a towel. He begins his daily ritual, checking his money, his cigarettes, decanting cider from a flagon into coke/pepsi bottles, storing them carefully in his hold-all. All the time he is doing this he is sipping from the bottle. After a while he is satisfied, looks around him, then picks up the hold-all. As he goes through his routine OLDER is watching, nodding his head in agreement
BRIAN: Good morning Hastings!
Brian moves centre stage and sits on the bench, drinking from his ‘coke’ can. This is Bottle Alley. He lies on his bench as BIG TONE comes along, singing.
TONE: I’m a rambler, I’m a gambler, I’m a long way from home
And if you don’t like you can leave me alone
I’ll eat when I’m hungry and I’ll drink when I’m dry
And if the moonshine don’t kill me I’ll live till I die.
BRIAN: Leave it out, will ya? I’m trying to sleep
TONE: I like a good warble in the morning
BRIAN: I like a good shit in the morning. I don’t expect all the neighbours
to have to listen to the racket though!
TONE: Ah, shure I was reared to it
BRIAN: Shittin’ or singin’?
TONE: The first sound you’d hear of a morning around the Horse
and Jockey would be me ould fella’s rendition of ‘I’ll Take
You Home Again Kathleen’ as he scraped the face offa himself
in the bathroom . (sings a bar)
BRIAN: Did you say jockey? I wouldn’t like to be the saddle on any
horse you were riding!
TONE: Horse and Jockey you pratt. It’s a small town in Tipperary,
where I was reared.
(sings)
It’s a long way to Tipperary, It’s a long way to go…
He staggers and almost falls on top of Brian
TONE: I haven’t been back there for nearly thirty years.
BRIAN: Well, fuck off back there now and leave me in peace!
TONE: I couldn’t go skippering there. Jaysus, how
would I live it down. If me mother saw me she’d
die with shame.
BRIAN: Get a fucking job then.
TONE: Ha ha…
4
OLDER Brian looks over at them
OLDER: Hey, you pair of cunts. Did you ever see yourselves as others see you?
BRIAN: Take no notice of him. He’s like that every day. I only have to catch sight
of him in the mirror and he’s off on one.
TONE: What’s wrong with us? Not sartorial enough for you?
OLDER: That’s a new one on me, an intellectual alcoholic. People like you give tramps a bad name. No wonder people cross they road when they see you.
TONE: People like me…?
OLDER: I don’t mean you personally. I mean all of us. You, me, the whole alcoholic community- we’re the dregs of society
TONE: Some of the best people are alcoholics. Doctors, lawyers, politicians…
OLDER: You don’t agree they are the dregs? Give it time, they will be. When the drink becomes master they will be. Just like us. The country is full of bottle alleys.
BRIAN: Ignore him, he’ll go away after a while
OLDER: The early bird catches the alcoholic. That’s how this damn puppeteer works. Remember how you started off, Brian? You were still in short trousers.
Brian suddenly stands and becomes smarter, more respectable as a MAN enters
BRIAN: Bottle of cider please.
MAN: Bit young for scrumpy, ain’t ya? What age are ya? Eleven, twelve?
BRIAN: It’s for me da.
MAN: Is it now? And why should I believe you?
BRIAN: Please, mister. He’ll kill me if I don’t bring it back.
MAN: I could go to jail. You goin’ to make it worth my while?
BRIAN: What d’you want.
MAN: What d’you think I want? What I usually want.
(he places a bottle of cider in Brian’s arms)
Two and six to you.
(Brian’s two hand are engaged holding the cider to his chest)
I’ll help myself, shall I?
5
He puts a hand in Brian’s trouser pocket and begins playing with Brian’s genitals
MAN: That’s it. Help myself.
Brian tolerates it for a few moments, then suddenly lashes out with his feet, catching
the man in the shins.
BRIAN: Bloody pervert.
He runs out of the shop, grabbing a packet of cigarettes of the counter as he does so.
He sees his friend, Billy (off), in the distance.
BRIAN: Hey Billy! (he holds up the drink and cigs)
See you in the Big Wood in five minutes.
Later, in The Big Wood. Brian is smoking, clearly drunk. Of Billy there is no sign. His father comes upon him and grabs him by the scruff. He drags him off home, and into the bathroom.
FATHER: What have I told you…?
BRIAN: I wasn’t doin’ nothing…
FATHER: Out there with that band of…of vagabonds. If I was a religious man ‘tis down on my knees I’d be right now, beggin – no beseechin’ – the Blessed Virgin for guidance. To think that I raised a gurrier like you…(pause). You thought you’d get away with it, I suppose. Not only a drunk but a thief too. Stealing cigarettes from our neighbour. Bringing shame on the family. Well I have just the thing for boyos like you.
He indicates the bath. Brian looks at it in horror.
BRIAN: But it’s cold, dad.
FATHER: Like I said, just the job for boyos like you. GET IN.
He heaves Brian into the bath, then urinates over his back. He exits, grinning.
Lights change to signify passing of time
BRIAN: Did you hear what I said, mum?
(Enter Brian’s MOTHER)
6
MOTHER: Don’t talk about your father like that.
BRIAN: I’m not lyin’, mum, I’m not.
MOTHER: I don’t know where you get these notions from.
BRIAN: I tell you, he did. Four or five years ago. I was only a child. He beat me, then he threw me into a cold bath. I had my clothes on an all. Then he pissed all over me.
MOTHER: Well, you’re not a child now. You’re sixteen. Time you got a bit of sense. It’s your imagination, that’s what. And that awful drink you take. Cider rots your brain, I suppose you know that? Why can’t you be normal like everyone else your age. Take up sport…go and chase girls. (pause) You know you can’t stay here, Brian love. Not if you keep drinking like that. Your father won’t have it.
BRIAN: He won’t have me, drunk or sober. He won’t even speak to me. I’m ‘that silly slop’, or that ‘bloke over there’. He can’t even look at me. You know how I always have to sit in the chair behind the door, so that when it’s open he can’t see me? Why does he do that?
MOTHER: I don’t know, love?
BRIAN: How do you think that makes me feel?
MOTHER: He’s not a bad man.
BRIAN: He hates me. You all went on holiday without me earlier. Why?
MOTHER: I know we shouldn’t have left you, love.
BRIAN: And I had to get out of the house for a week. Why couldn’t you trust me? I spent most of the week in…well it doesn’t matter where. What’s wrong with me, mum?
MOTHER: Nothing, love. (pause) It’s just that…your dad, well, he had a hard upbringing.
BRIAN: And that makes it right? How he treats me? If I was a dog he would treat me better. I wanted him to be proud of me. Instead he…he… (he doesn’t finish) I sometimes think he’s not my dad at all.
MOTHER: How dare you say something like that. I won’t have you speak like that.
BRIAN: Tell me it’s not true, then.
7
MOTHER: Get out. Get out! With your filthy notions!
(OLDER BRIAN picks up the story)
OLDER: Look at you. Pathetic isn’t the word. You were afraid of him. You, a big strapping lad and you were afraid of him. You were afraid of your own shadow! And what did you do? What was your answer? You ran down to the woods and hid yourself away. Drank yourself stupid. And who did you have for company? Your shadow! (OLDER croons and smooches)
Me and my shadow… Me and my shadow…
BRIAN: You don’t know anything…
OLDER: I was there, wasn’t I? That’s where you met what-you –ma-call her. Fay. That’s it. You lost your virginity to Fay. Another alcoholic. Like yourself. Well, I suppose it takes one to know one.
BRIAN: Fay was beautiful.
OLDER: Fay was a cow. A fucking slag. Can’t you see that? She was the kind that would suck you in and blow you out in bubbles. You were fifteen. She was only using you.
BRIAN: That’s not true. (pause) Anyway, she paid for it.
OLDER: Yeah, she did pay for it.
(Enter FAY)
FAY: You’re a nice looking fella. What’s your name?
BRIAN: Brian
FAY: Big too. Are you still at school?
BRIAN: I’m working! Apprentice painter. I know your name. It’s Fay.
FAY: How do you know my name, Brian?
BRIAN: I’ve seen you around. Lot’s of times.
FAY: You been following me? (laughs) Do you fancy me or what? (pause) You must know Nelson then?
BRIAN: Yeah, I know Nelson.
8
FAY: Have you seen him around today?
BRIAN: No.
FAY: Probably in one of the boozers. Drunk as a skunk. The bloody creep.
BRIAN: He’s your boyfriend?
FAY: I wouldn’t say boyfriend. We…mess around sometimes.
BRIAN: He’s dangerous.
FAY: He’s a bit of a head case alright. Are you afraid of him?
BRIAN: I’m not afraid of anyone.
FAY: Oooh, that’s tough talk. What would you do if he came along and saw the two of us?
BRIAN: We’re not doing anything.
FAY: But if we were. Say we were…making love.
BRIAN: Wha!
FAY: I’m serious. Have you got a place? A room?
BRIAN: I live at home.
FAY: What age are you?
BRIAN: I’m…seventeen.
FAY: You sure? Where do you suggest then?
BRIAN: You serious?
FAY: Why wouldn’t I be? You got any drink?
(Brian shows her several bottles of cider he has in his bag. Fay shows him a bottle of gin she has in her shoulder bag. The both laugh like conspirators)
BRIAN: How would you fancy sleeping under the stars? It’s going to be a nice warm summer’s night.
FAY: What a romantic you are, Brian.
9
BRIAN: I have a quilted sleeping bag that I keep in the big woods.
FAY: You’re well-prepared, I must say. Why in the woods?
BRIAN: I like sleeping under the stars.
FAY: Especially if you’re too pissed to go home, eh? Is it big enough?
BRIAN: I don’t know. How big should it be?
FAY: (laughing) The sleeping bag, you berk!
BRIAN: It’s a double.
FAY: I’ve always been the outdoor type. I suppose we had better go and inspect your…lair then.
(They link arms and head off for the woods. Brian pulls his sleeping bag from the undergrowth and the both get in and snuggle up. They make love and fall asleep.
NELSON: (Off) Fay! Where’s my money, you bitch? I know you’re here somewhere
FAY: Christ! It’s Nelson. He’ll kill me if he finds me…
BRIAN: What did you do?
FAY: He’s a tea leaf. He’s at it all the time. I nicked some of the money he nicked from somebody else. He was doin’ my head in. I just had to get away…
There’s pandemonium for a few moments as they grab their belongings and make their escape. Shortly afterwards, NELSON, bursts into the clearing, brandishing a knife.
NELSON: By Christ. When I do find you… (exits again)

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