The Two Hander
a short play
by Clive Handy ©2014
The distinguished actor, Sebastian ffolkes-hamilton expected and usually got good parts. However time and the sun hadn’t been kind to his once handsome face, and good parts for older men were more difficult to come by. The scene is set in his agent’s (Milton Keane) office, just off Charlotte Street, round the corner from the old Middlesex Hospital. In the office is a desk in front of a window, with a swivel chair behind it. In the corner is an old fashioned hat stand with a baseball cap perched on a hook. Opposite the desk are two, two-seater settees which have seen better days. On the desk is a laptop computer and a printer, a telephone and scattered bits of paper. Down stage left is a door.
Sound Effect (knocks on door)
Milton (sat at the desk, telephone in hand. Typically dressed with jacket, bow tie, slightly balding long hair, 40ish, and a bit foppish): Come in.
The door opens and in strides Sebastian. He is just under 6 feet, very slim and effete looking. He’s wearing a suit with a carnation in the buttonhole, a trilby and of all things; a cape!
Seb: (In a very plummy accent) My dear Milton old boy, how the devil are you?
M: Don’t you ‘how am I’ you waste of space. I’ve been trying to get hold of you for two weeks since you sent me that handwritten note. HANDWRITTEN! Don’t you answer emails, texts, telephone calls?
Seb: I don’t go for that new fangled stuff, you know that Milton old bean.
(Seb sits down in a settee)
M: Well I suggest you perk up and start using them, the telephones’ been around for about 150 years. And to be honest old son, without text or perhaps an email account, your career is up the Swanee.
S: Don’t call me that, I most certainly am not your son. Now, what have you got for me, you know my last part was in Downtown Abbey, but I got killed orf.
M: You mean you got the sack and they couldn’t wait to write you out.
S: That is most unkind (he gets up and starts pacing the room) as you know with age comes difficulties and I have suffered more than most, I need an income to support my admittedly high lifestyle, but I’m counting on you Milton. (He stares at M pointedly, the telephone rings)
M: (Picks up phone) Oh hello Sid, yes mate I’m good, what you got? (Pause) Oh really? Sounds good, might have someone right here in my office as we speak (pause) OK Sid I’ll bell you.
S: Well? (Looking exasperated and holding his face in his hands)
M: Right could have a job for you, walk on part in EastEnders. But there is slight problem (gets up and turns to look out of the window).
M: (turning round) It’s a cockney part, obviously.
S: Obvious? What’s obvious about that?
M: You know about EastEnders, right?
S: (Acting ignorant) Never heard of it dear boy. (Slightly snooty look, nose in the air).
M: I’ll let that pass, it’s a TV soap set in the East End of London, oh for God’s sake watch it on the box tonight. Good pay though.
S: But my dear boy, I don’t do cockney.
M: Well that’s a lie; you’re from bloody Walthamstow, hardly upper crust country.
S: That was a LONG time ago (paces across the stage and back)
M: (Sits down) Yes, you can take the boy out of Walthamstow, but you can’t take Walthamstow out of the boy.
S: (haughtily) I am NOT a boy, you impertinent pipsqueak.
M: Sit down Sebastian you’re making me giddy pacing up and down. Now this job could be for six weeks and pays £600 a week. Like I said you’ll have to do cockney and …er dress down a bit; you’ll be an old tramp. And he gets murdered, and I know you do dead very well (mumbling under his breath) ‘cos you’re close to it, that’s why.
S: Absolutely not; I shall not denigrate myself for the coin of the realm.
M: You might not have a choice, there’s not much else except….
S: What? What? (Looking earnestly at Sid)
M: Well it’s not main-stream, in fact it’s a daytime soap.
S: What, you expect me to do a part that will only be seen by old grannies and the unemployed?
M: Well it’s a slightly wider demographic than that. They want someone to play a middle aged (Sebastian looks horrified) Lord something who needs help at the local doctors surgery. The show’s called ‘Doctors’ and it’s on BBC1 at lunchtimes. Oh and it pulls in up to 2 million viewers daily, not bad for what was; it ‘old grannies and the unemployed’?
S: Oh that’s sounds OK, how long is the part for?
M: That depends on you, sometimes characters join the show, make a big impression and they are asked to carry on. Up to you really.
S: OK well you give it a glossy edge and of course I would rather play someone who is closer to my station than a downbeat part where no one will recognise me.
M: You bloody snob, Sebastian. Right I’ll give Sid a ring.
(Picks up phone and dials)
M: Hello Sid, I’ve got someone for the Doctors part. It’s Sebastian ffolkes-hamilton. Oh I see …well…I don’t know…..yes, yes if course…but he’d be very good…oh OK Sid I’ll tell him.
S: Sorry mate (Seb looks aghast at this word) they don’t want you for that, Sid says you’re more trouble than you’re worth. How about Benders?
M: (reverting to his cockney roots accent) Well love a duck, cor blimey and me apples and pears where’s the script?
M: (picks up phone and dials) Hello Sid? Yes mate Sebastian ffolkes-hamilton, he’s agreed to be a tramp. (replaces receiver)
S: (looks suitably disgusted) Oh well, if I have to prostitute myself. Does anyone know me on the EastEnders production team?
M: Luckily no, they don’t watch Downton, so you’re safe. Oh and Seb?
M: Don’t call yourself Sebastian ffolkes-hamilton, just use your real name.
S: Oh OK, oh well Jim Smith here I come, ready or not.
M: Thank gawd for that. (holds head in hands)
Black out and curtain.