THE WAITING ROOM:
A Play In One Act

Scene: A waiting room. It is brightly lit with strip lighting. It could be a doctorís waiting room, brightly furnished but sterile. There are four leather seats facing each other in two sets of two. There is a poster on the wall which has written on it in big red letters:

NO EATING, NO DRINKING, NO SMOKING

There are three doors. The entrance is behind the Receptionistís desk, a side door is marked TOILET and a third is at the far end opposite the entrance. In the middle of the waiting room is a big desk with a Receptionist sitting behind it. The Receptionist is male, very stockily built and wearing a dark suit. He has his head down and is reading a book intently. On three of the four chairs sit men. They are all over forty, dressed in dark suits with shirts and ties; they sit tight-lipped and bolt upright.

The door behind the Receptionist opens and a man walks in. He is about thirty and slightly built. He is casually dressed wearing an open neck shirt and suede jacket and is holding a brightly coloured plastic carrier bag in his hand. A tall, stockily built man who could be a clone of the Receptionist shows the man in.

Tall man: TAKE A SEAT, MR BRIGHT; IT MAY BE SOME TIME BEFORE HE CAN SEE YOU, SO BE PATIENT.

Mr Bright: (Nervously). THANK YOU. IS THERE A COFFEE MACHINE OR...

The tall man ignores him and walks out closing the door noiselessly behind him. Mr Bright turns, looks at the door, then turns back to the Receptionist. He waits for a few seconds for the man to look up. He doesnít. Mr Bright clears his throat; the man continues reading.

Mr Bright: ER, EXCUSE ME.

No answer.

EXCUSE ME.

Still no answer.

MY NAME IS BRIGHT; I HAVE AN APPOINTMENT TO SEE...

Receptionist: (Interrupting). TAKE A SEAT, MR BRIGHT.

Mr Bright: I WAS WONDERING IF...

Receptionist: (Interrupting again). TAKE A SEAT, MR BRIGHT.

He still doesnít look up from his book.

Mr Bright: (Shuffling nervously). YES, THANK YOU. (He walks over to where the other three men are sitting and addresses the first one). EXCUSE ME, IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?

First Man: DOES IT LOOK LIKE IT?

(Mr Bright opens his mouth to speak, thinks better of it and sits down clutching his carrier bag with both hands placing it between his legs. There is silence for the next few seconds; Mr Bright looks round and up at the ceiling).

Mr Bright: (To the man sitting next to him). ITíS VERY MODERN, ISNíT IT, THIS BUILDING?

The man continues staring straight ahead tight-lipped. Mr Bright starts swinging the carrier bag backwards and forwards. The buzzer sounds on the Receptionistís panel; he looks up from his book and picks up one of the telephones.

Receptionist: YES SIR. (Pause). YES SIR. (Pause). RIGHT SIR.

He puts down the receiver, gets up from the desk and walks round to and through the door at the opposite end of the room. Mr Bright looks up at him and smiles weakly as he goes past, but the man ignores him.

Man: (To man opposite). BEEN WAITING LONG HAVE YOU, TO SEE HIM?

The man smiles feebly. Mr Bright is still swinging his carrier bag back and forth between his legs. There is silence for a full half minute. He looks around the room. Then the man next to him turns towards him and speaks.

Man: MUST YOU?

Mr Bright: (Turning to face him). MUST I WHAT?

Man: KEEP SWINGING THAT DAMN THING UP AND DOWN? ITíS GETTING ON MY NERVES.

Mr Bright: (Stopping at once). SORRY. IíM JUST NERVOUS, I SUPPOSE. HAVE YOU BEEN WAITING LONG?

The man turns away then answers.

Man: YES. THIS IS MY SECOND VISIT.

Mr Bright: YOUR SECOND? I DIDNíT REALISE YOU COULD COME MORE THAN ONCE.

Man: I CAME SIX MONTHS AGO. HE TOLD ME MINE WAS A DIFFICULT CASE; IT COULD GO EITHER WAY SO HE WAS DEFERRING IT FOR SIX MONTHS.

Mr Bright: ARE YOU NEXT IN?

The man nods.

Mr Bright: WELL, GOOD LUCK, I HOPE YOU PASS.

Man: THANK YOU.

They sit in silence for another half minute, then the man sitting diagonally opposite Mr Bright fumbles nervously in his pocket, takes out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter and lights up. Mr Bright looks up at the NO SMOKING sign, opens his mouth to say something, then thinks better of it. The other two continue to stare blankly ahead.

Suddenly the entrance door opens, and the man who had shown in Mr Bright comes in. He walks straight up to the smoking man, looks down at him and speaks in a nasty, aggressive tone.

Orderly: SMOKING IS NOT PERMITTED HERE; PUT YOUR CIGARETTE OUT AT ONCE.

Man: (Looking up). IíM SORRY, I COULDNíT...

Orderly: PUT IT OUT AT ONCE OR LEAVE, MR PLANT.

Mr Plant pinches the end of the cigarette so that the ash falls on the floor. He drops the cigarette and raises his foot to stamp it into the floor.

Orderly: NOT ON THE FLOOR, USE THE TOILET. THATíS WHERE FILTH BELONGS: THE TOILET.

Mr Plant: IíM SORRY. IS THERE A DUSTPAN AND BRUSH SOMEWHERE?

Orderly: (Leaning forward and speaking in a low, angry tone). MR PLANT, IF YOU DONíT PICK IT UP AT ONCE, YOU CAN LEAVE RIGHT NOW.

Mr Plant: (Almost jumping off his chair, gets down on his hands and knees and starts scooping up the remains of the cigarette). YES, IíLL PICK IT UP. IíM SORRY, IíM SORRY.

He stands up with his hand full of the spent cigarette and ash, looks at the Orderly, then rushes to the toilet. The door closes behind him. The toilet flushes and Mr Plant comes out cleaning his hands with a handkerchief. The Orderly watches him as he walks back to his seat and sits down. Then he leaves, closing the door noiselessly behind him. The man sitting next to Mr Bright, still staring straight ahead, speaks.

Man: YOU SHOULDNíT HAVE DONE THAT.

Mr Plant: I KNOW, BUT I HAD TO; I HAVENíT HAD ONE ALL MORNING.

Man: THEY DONíT LIKE SMOKING HERE.

Second man: (Dull, plodding voice). ITíS SINFUL.

Mr Plant: (Loud and frightened). ITíS NOT! (Softly). IS IT?

Man: ITíS DISGUSTING TOO. MY WIFE USED TO SMOKE. (Pause). LIKE A CHIMNEY.

Mr Bright: IS SHE DEAD, YOUR WIFE?

Man: (Turning to Mr Bright and smiling slightly). YES, THATíS WHY THEY SENT ME HERE.

Mr Bright: (Gulping). OH.

The door opposite the desk opens and the Receptionist emerges. He has a woman with him. She is about fifty and he is dragging her. She tries to resist, planting her feet firmly on the floor, but he is too strong.

Woman: NO, PLEASE, LET ME SEE HIM AGAIN.

Receptionist: HE SAYS YOU HAVE TO LEAVE.

Woman: (Crying). NO. NO! PLEASE, LET ME TALK TO HIM. JUST ANOTHER TWO MINUTES. IíLL MAKE HIM SEE REASON.

Receptionist: YOUíVE FAILED. HE TOLD YOU. NOW YOU HAVE TO LEAVE.

Woman: (Growing louder). NO! NO! NO!

The Receptionist bundles her towards the entrance door, opens it and forces her out. He closes the door behind her. The woman bangs on the door from the other side four times, then silence. The man sits down at his desk, picks up his book and carries on reading where he left off as if nothing had happened.

Man: (Turning slightly to Mr Bright). I KNEW SHE WOULDNíT PASS. (Stressing the word she).

Mr Bright: DO YOU KNOW HER?

Man: DIDNíT YOU RECOGNISE HER?

Mr Bright: NO, WHO IS SHE?

Second man: JUNE CLAY.

Mr Bright: THE JUNE CLAY? (Incredulously).

Man: YES.

Mr Bright: BUT I THOUGHT SHE WAS...

Man: (Interrupting). DEAD?

Mr Bright: NO. I HEARD SHEíD BEEN SENT TO BROADMOOR.

Man: SHE WAS.

Mr Bright: BUT SURELY THEY WOULDNíT SEND HER HERE IF SHE WAS (He shrinks from using the word). ILL.

Second man: PEOPLE CAN BE BAD AS WELL AS MAD.

Man: SHE MUST HAVE BEEN FAKING IT: THEY CAN TELL.

Mr Bright: HOW?

Man: THEY CAN TELL.

Second man: THEY KNOW EVERYTHING; YOU CANíT FOOL THEM.

Man: NO ONE CAN.

Mr Bright: WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO HER?

Man: SHE FAILED.

Second man: THE SAME THING THAT HAPPENS TO EVERYONE WHO FAILS; THERE ARE NO SECOND CHANCES.

First man: NOT FOR THOSE WHO FAIL, BUT I DIDNíT FAIL.

Silence.

Mr Plant: ITíS NOT VERY BAD, IS IT? SMOKING? I MEAN, ITíS NOT LIKE DOING SOMETHING TERRIBLE...LIKE HURTING SOMEONE.

Second Man: IT STILL COUNTS AGAINST YOU.

First Man: ITíS STILL DISGUSTING.

Silence.

The buzzer sounds on the desk. The Receptionist puts down his book and answers the phone.

Receptionist: YES SIR. YES SIR. (He puts the phone down and walks round to the four men. He looks down at the first man). MR SWIFT: TIME.

First man/Mr Swift: (Standing nervously). YES, THANK YOU.

Mr Bright: (Looking up and trying to sound optimistic). GOOD LUCK.

Mr Swift: THANK YOU.

The Receptionist returns to his seat and his book; Mr Swift leaves the room in silence through the exit door. There is silence for a few seconds, then...

Mr Bright: HOW WILL WE KNOW IF HE, ER?

Second man: IF HE PASSES WE WONíT SEE HIM AGAIN.

Mr Plant: WHEN WILL WE KNOW?

Second man: YOU SHOULDNíT WORRY ABOUT HIM; HEíS A NON-SMOKER.

Mr Bright: THATíS NOT VERY NICE; WE SHOULD ALL STICK TOGETHER.

Second man: WHY?

Mr Bright: TO GIVE EACH OTHER MORAL SUPPORT.

Second man: IF YOUíD HAD MORALS IN THE FIRST PLACE YOU WOULDNíT BE HERE NOW.

Mr Bright opens his mouth to reply but the buzzer sounds again.

Receptionist: (Putting down the book and picking up the phone). YES SIR. (Pause). YES SIR, IíLL TELL HIM; HE WILL BE PLEASED.

He puts the phone down and walks over to the second man.

Receptionist: MR GRANGER, THERE APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN AN ALMIGHTY COCK UP; APPARENTLY YOUR PAPERS CAME THROUGH LAST MONTH.

Second man/Mr Granger: (Looking up). WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Receptionist: IT MEANS YOU CAN SKIP THE INTERVIEW.

Mr Granger: (His face lights up as he speaks). I DONíT HAVE TO SEE HIM?

Receptionist: NO, YOUíVE PASSED QUALITY CONTROL; YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED WEEKS AGO. GO THROUGH THE SAME DOOR, BUT TURN RIGHT BEFORE THE ADJUDICATION ROOM.

Mr Granger: (Standing up). THATíS WONDERFUL.

The Receptionist returns to his desk and picks up his book.

Mr Granger: THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

He leaves through the exit door.

Mr Bright: (Calling after him). GOOD LUCK!

Silence.

Mr Plant: DO YOU THINK YOUíLL PASS?

Mr Bright: I HOPE SO.

Mr Plant: (Stressing the word think). BUT DO YOU THINK YOU WILL?

Mr Bright: (Bowing his head). I DONíT KNOW. I HOPE SO. I DONíT DESERVE TO FAIL. AT LEAST, I DONíT THINK I DESERVE TO FAIL. YOU SEE, IíM ONLY TWENTY-EIGHT. THATíS YOUNG REALLY.

Mr Plant: ITíS NOT VERY YOUNG.

Mr Bright: NO, BUT IF IíD HAD MORE TIME I MIGHT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO...YOUíRE FOOLISH WHEN YOUíRE YOUNG. YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING BUT REALLY YOU KNOW NOTHING.

Mr Plant: TWENTY-EIGHT ISNíT THAT YOUNG.

Mr Bright: I SUPPOSE NOT.

Mr Plant: I WISH I WAS TWENTY-EIGHT AGAIN; IíD PASS FOR CERTAIN THEN.

Mr Bright: YOU DONíT THINK YOUíLL PASS NOW?

Mr Plant: YES, BUT IíM NOT CERTAIN, NOT ONE HUNDRED PER CENT. IíVE DONE ALL THATíS REQUIRED OF ME, WITHIN REASON.

Mr Bright: IT HELPS TO MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION, YOU THINK?

Mr Plant: YES, THATíS WHY I PUT A SUIT ON.

Mr Bright: (He looks down at his own casual clothes). I DONíT THINK THATíS SO IMPORTANT; I DONíT THINK SMOKINGíS THAT IMPORTANT EITHER.

Mr Plant: OF COURSE NOT. (Brightening). IT DOESNíT HURT ANYBODY ELSE, DOES IT. (Sinking). I WISH I DIDNíT THOUGH.

Mr Bright: (Sadder). I WISH IíD PUT A SUIT ON.

Silence.

The buzzer rings and the Receptionist picks up the phone.

Receptionist: YES SIR. (Pause). YES SIR.

Mr Plant: ITíS MY TURN NOW; THATíS FOR ME.

Receptionist: YES SIR.

He replaces the phone and stands up. Mr Plant bits his bottom lip but the Receptionist walks over to Mr Bright instead.

Receptionist: HEíLL SEE YOU NOW, MR BRIGHT.

Mr Bright: (Standing). YES. THANK YOU.

The Receptionist returns to his desk and book.

Mr Bright: (To Mr Plant). WELL, IíLL SEE YOU THEN.

Mr Plant: I HOPE SO.

Mr Bright walks to the door.

Mr Plant: (Calling). GOOD LUCK.

Mr Bright: (Turning and pausing). THANK YOU. (He closes the door behind him).

Time passes.

The exit door opens and Mr Bright returns. Mr Plant looks up.

Mr Plant: (Stuttering). Y-YOU...YOU...

Mr Bright: HE SAYS HEíD GOING TO DEFER JUDGMENT FOR SIX MONTHS, LIKE THAT OTHER CHAP.

He closes the door. The phone rings, the Receptionist puts down his book and answers it.

Receptionist: YES SIR. (Pause). YES SIR. (Pause). RIGHT SIR, IíLL TELL HIM SIR.

He puts the phone down and walks round to Mr Bright.

Receptionist: YOUíVE TO WAIT HERE, MR BRIGHT. HEíLL SEE MR PLANT, THEN YOUíRE TO RETURN TO THE HOLDING AREA. YOU KNOW HOW TO GET THERE?

Mr Bright: YES, GO BACK THROUGH THERE (He points to the door). AND TURN RIGHT BEFORE THE ADJUDICATION ROOM.

The Receptionist nods.

Mr Plant: (Looking up). WHEN WILL HE SEE ME?

Receptionist: (Ignoring Mr Plant). WHEN YOU TWO ARE FINISHED, WEíLL BE CLOSING DOWN TILL TUESDAY. WE DONíT WORK OVER THE HOLIDAY.

Mr Bright: OF COURSE NOT (Lowering his voice). ITíS EASTER.

Receptionist: YOUíLL HAVE TO WAIT HERE FOR A WHILE BECAUSE THEREíS A BIT OF A BOTTLENECK. WEíRE NOT THE ONLY ORDER PROCESSING UNIT, YOU UNDERSTAND.

Mr Bright: YES, OF COURSE.

Mr Plant: WHEN WILL HE...

The buzzer sounds and the Receptionist returns to his desk, leans over it and picks up the telephone.

Receptionist: YES SIR. (Pause). YES SIR, IíLL SEND HIM THROUGH.

Mr Plant stands up and the Receptionist replaces the phone. He walks over to Mr Plant and speaks to him.

HEíLL SEE YOU NOW, MR PLANT.

Mr Plant: THANK YOU.

Mr Bright: GOOD LUCK.

Mr Plant: THANK YOU.

Mr Plant leaves the room.

Time passes.

The buzzer on the Receptionistís desk sounds: he looks up from his book and picks up the phone.

Receptionist: YES SIR. (Pause). RIGHT AWAY, SIR.

He gets up and leaves the room via the exit door. Mr Bright sits swinging the carrier bag between his legs. Half a minute passes then the exit door opens again and Mr Plant walks in. He is sullen. He stares blankly ahead as if in a trance. The Receptionist is standing behind him.

Mr Bright: (Looking up). HELLO, DIDNíT EXPECT TO SEE YOU AGAIN SO SOON. DID HE...DID HE... DEFER... JUDGE...JUDGMENT?

Mr Plant: (He looks towards Mr Bright slowly and shakes his head very slowly two or three times. He begins to cry). ITíS NOT FAIR, ITíS NOT FAIR. (His voice rises to a whine).

The Receptionist moves in front of Mr Plant and takes him by the arm. Mr Plant looks back at Mr Bright as he is led across the room to the entrance door.

Receptionist: YOU CAN GO NOW, MR BRIGHT: TURN RIGHT BEFORE THE ADJUDICATION ROOM.

Mr Bright: YES, THANK YOU. WHAT A...WHAT ABOUT...

Receptionist: MR PLANT WONíT BE COMING WITH YOU.

Mr Bright: NO.

He walks towards the exit door. Mr Plant and the Receptionist have nearly reached the entrance door.

Mr Bright: (Opening the exit door and looking back over his shoulder). GOODBYE, MR PLANT, IíM SORRY, IíM SORRY.

The Receptionist opens the entrance door. There is a mass of flames on the other side. He releases Mr Plantís arm. Mr Plant walks trance-like into the flames. After two steps he falls down and out of sight. Mr Bright winces, then turns back and opens the exit door wider.

Mr Bright: (Muttering under his breath). SEE YOU IN SIX MONTHS, PERHAPS.

Mr Bright closes the door behind him. The Receptionist walks back to his desk. He picks up the telephone and, leaning over the desk, presses a button.

Receptionist: YES SIR. THEYíVE BOTH LEFT. NO SIR, HE WAS NO TROUBLE. YES SIR. IíLL AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.

The Receptionist puts down the phone, sits down behind his desk and picks up his book.

END


To A Diagram Of The Waiting Room
To The Original Diagram Of The Waiting Room (JPG)
To Explanatory Note
To Details Of The Performance Of This Play, April 2013

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