The Ladder

By John McNeil

Summary

A surreal parable on the hopelessness of modern man.

Characters

Tig

Person 1

Person 2

Props

Torch (flashlight); two boxes.

Setting

An existential no-man's land.

Script

 

(The stage is totally dark.)

Tig

97, 98, 99, 100. Coming ready or not. (Pause) Okay, who was the wise guy who turned out the lights? (Pause.) Look, how am I supposed to find you if I can't see where I'm going?

SFX

(Crash of someone falling over a bucket, or similar.)

Tig

Yowee! Look, you guys, this is getting beyond a joke. So help me, when I do find you... Hello, what's this? (Pause. Then a flashlight comes on, held by Tig.The flashlight should have a weak or narrow beam.)

Tig

That's better! No-one warned me that we'd be playing this game in the dark. Now where do we go from here?

(Walks carefully foward, shining torch on to ground ahead. Suddenly bumps into person on ladder. They both exclaim.)

Tig

Gotcha! Go home and stay home.

P1

What do you mean, 'go home and stay home'? Who are you?

Tig

What do you mean, 'who are you'. I'm It for Hide and Seek, and you've been caught. So go home and stay home.

P1

Are you weird, or are you weird! Here am I lost in the middle of God knows where, and all you can say is 'go home and stay home'. I would if I knew how. Have you come to help me?

Tig

(Shines her light up and down the person. Discovers he is standing on a box.) Lost!? How can you be lost when you're here? And what are you doing standing on that box?

P1

We're definitely not connecting. I'm not standing on a box. I'm up this ladder out in the middle of nowhere, and I'm afraid of heights, and I can't get down, and if you've come to rescue me I'm very grateful, but for heaven's sake will you start talking sense.

Tig

(Walks round him.) Ladder? What ladder?

P1

Are we going to go on for the rest of the night like this? (Spells it out slowly.) This ladder. The ladder I am hanging onto for grim death. The ladder I am hanging on to for grim death because I am too scared of heights to climb down. The ladder out in the middle of nowhere that I am hanging on to for grim death because I am too scared of heights to climb down. Is that simple enough for you?

Tig

(Decides to humour him for the moment.) How did you get like this, then? Did you come out to clean the windows?

P1

Windows? What windows? Now I know you're off your trolley. I heard someone call for help, so I climbed up, and then got stuck.

Tig

There's no one else up there with you, is there?

P1

No, that's the odd thing.

Tig

Whew! I couldn't stand two of you. But ignoring the ladder for a moment, how did you get here in the first place, wherever 'here' is?

P1

That's the darndest thing. I left home this morning for a walk because I wanted to clear my head while I thought over a few things. Then a strange fog came down, and the next thing I knew was I
was totally lost. And then just as it was getting dark and I was still wandering round totally confused, I came across this ladder. So here I am.

Tig

Well here am I too, and I've got a torch - though I must admit it's getting a bit weak - so just climb down and we'll get going.

P1

I can't. I told you. I'm too scared.

Tig

I'll guide you. Just lift your right foot and place it on the rung below.

P1

I can't.

Tig

Just one foot?

P1

No. It's my security.

Tig

(Exasperated) Look, I'll help you. (She takes hold of one leg.)

P1

(Screams in terror.) Don't! Get off, get off! You'll have us both killed. It's not safe!

Tig

(Caught by surprise by the reaction.) Okay, okay. I'm off. Now calm down. You'll get down if you panic. (Realises she's buying into the illusion.) For goodness sake, what am I saying? (Pauses to think.)

Look, I do want to help you, but you have to co-operate.

P1

It's no good. I'm stuck here for ever. I'll die up here. There's no hope.

Tig

Please listen! You won't die. You'll be perfectly okay. Do you believe that I am standing on the ground?

P1

(Non-committal.) Yes!?

Tig

So if I'm standing on the ground, and now I touch you, you must be nearly to the ground yourself. Right? (She touches his foot.)

P1

(Screams again.) Who's that? Who touched me?

Tig

I just did.

P1

How did you climb so high so fast. Get down quickly before we both fall. Save yourself!

Tig

(Sighs) Tell you what. You just hang on to your security, and I'll go and get help. I'll be back shortly.

(She starts off, but has only gone a few steps when she bangs into someone else. They both exclaim.)

Tig

Who's that?

P2

Help me! Help me! I'm stuck up this ladder and I can't get down.

Tig

Oh no, not another one. (She runs off.)

 


© John McNeil 1997
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at soulcommunication@paradise.net.nz
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 2, New Zealand.