3. All the Things You Could Have Been if Not for Me
Part 3. A play about people who have to navigate their interdependence so they can proceed along their individual paths to autonomy and freedom.
DAVID OLDMAN. Mid-fifties, libertarian broadcaster.
JANET SMAIL. Early-fifties, David’s long-time producer.
SOPHIE WILLIS. Thirties, barrister, David’s daughter.
MIKE VAN KLEE. Thirties, well-known actor, Sophie’s partner.
TIA MERCER. Thirties, struggling content creator, Sophie’s best friend.
TAMA THOREAU. Thirties, author, isolationist.
It’s set in the present.
Tia tried to sell her photo of reclusive author Tama to the Daily Mail.
Janet hosted an omnichannel AMA with television star Mike.
David failed to impress Mike with his libertine lifestyle. Mike failed to impress David with his plan to marry Sophie.
INT. SOPHIE AND MIKE’S HOUSE.
Mike walks Sophie into the lounge with his hands over her eyes. She’s wearing her coat and carrying a briefcase.
MIKE And a few more steps --
SOPHIE Hon, I don’t have much time to --
MIKE Yes you do.
He takes his hands off her eyes.
SOPHIE Oh my God, what’s this?
MIKE It’s a complete selection of your favourite take-out food and a bottle of the finest non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice known to man.
He uncorks it and pours two glasses.
SOPHIE What are we doing?
MIKE We are going to take a brief pause in the middle of our hectic lives to watch some TV.
SOPHIE I don’t have time for TV.
Mike presses a button on one remote, then uses another to switch on the TV. Title card. White letters on black background. “True Justice.”
SOPHIE Babe, this is lovely, but I need to work.
MIKE You can watch me work.
Mike appears onscreen, standing in a courtroom dressed as a lawyer. He addresses an unseen judge. The camera is close on him.
MIKE Your honour for the last three and a half years I have stood before you and told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. But all along I have been concealing a secret so powerful that it has been the single guiding influence of my life and informed every action I have taken. I can remain silent no longer. I am guilty. Of loving you forever. I love you Sophie Willis, and I want you to marry me.
On stage, Mike kneels and presents an engagement ring.
TV MIKE Will you be my wife?
SOPHIE Oh. My. God.
MIKE Will you be my wife?
MIKE Whaddaya say?
SOPHIE Is this on TV?
The screen image goes to a card: Marry Me Sophie.
MIKE No, no, it’s a, it’s a private [premium video hosting platform], look--
Still on one knee, as he will remain for the rest of the scene, Mike clicks out of the video – the proposal video sits alongside a bunch of self-tape auditions.
MIKE I shot it on set with the crew.
SOPHIE I don’t know what to--
MIKE Sophie, since I met you I --
SOPHIE This is completely out of the blue.
MIKE Sophie. Since I met you I have gone from an unfocussed, fringe dwelling dude to everything I am today. As far as I am concerned that is all thanks to you.
SOPHIE No, Mike.
MIKE It is. I had a talent, and you had a drive and together we’ve created this life, bought our own house.
MIKE And since we’ve been together, you’ve gone from that pit you were living in with Tia to a truly great advocate for actual justice.
MIKE Don’t be modest. You have.
SOPHIE I mean --
MIKE I want us to take our lives to the next level. I want us to be married.
SOPHIE No, Mike. No. I don’t want to marry you.
SOPHIE You’re such a great guy, and I’m so fond of you, and we’re such a great team but I don’t ever want to be married.
SOPHIE To anyone.
MIKE That’s what people say that when they haven’t met the person they want to marry.
SOPHIE I have such bad associations with marriage.
MIKE I’m not your dad.
SOPHIE No. You’re the opposite. You’re the complete opposite of everything I don’t like about everything.
MIKE Well that’s a... great start to --
SOPHIE Which is why I can’t believe you’re doing this, that you’ve thought about this for so long.
MIKE OK. This is a surprise, and you don’t like surprises, so you don’t have to answer now, just think about it.
SOPHIE I’m sorry, we should have had this discussion ages ago, I just had no idea.
MIKE Let’s sleep on it, think on it --
SOPHIE I... I need to go for a walk.
MIKE Good. A walk. That’s a great idea.
SOPHIE But my answer is still no. No. It’s always going to be no.
MIKE One more thing to think about, one more surprise I should mention, is that I have won the green card lottery. For America.
Sophie looks at him with incredulity.
MIKE Now that’s not to say we have to go, but we could go, and I could try and expand my career, and you, this is not forcing your hand, but you would only need to do one year, paid for by me, of study and you could have your same job. In America. But we can only go together if we’re married. It’s the rules.
She shakes her head in wonder.
MIKE Or we could go to Australia or anywhere really, but we kind of have to go, because, I, I‘ve asked to be written out of the show, and they’ve agreed, the scripts are done, they, it’s done.
SOPHIE Oh Mike, why?
MIKE Because I didn’t think you’d say no. It didn’t cross my mind. But I’m an idiot. And you know that, which is probably why you don’t want to marry me.
Sophie runs her fingers through his hair.
SOPHIE You’re such a sweetheart. I do love you.
MIKE You do? That’s... That’s great, so you’ll go for a walk.
MIKE And you’ll reconsider?
She shakes her head.
MIKE You’ll think. Sorry. You’ll think.
MIKE About where we can possibly go from here.
She nods. She kisses the top of his head and walks away.
MIKE Do you want to take the ring?
She shakes her head and exits.
MIKE Of course you don’t. Of course you don’t. Oh fuck. What am I going to do?
EXT. DEEP IN THE FOREST.
TAMA moves around the stage, with his gun and his GoPro helmet.
His GoPro is live-fed and projected, so the audience sees themselves cast in the role of all the people visiting him. Every way he turns there are people. Singles, couples, a group. Young, old, middle aged. He can’t get away. The impression is they are not literally all there at the same time. They’re visiting in ones and twos, groups of annoying pilgrims.
TAMA Oi. Get out of here. Piss off. Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk to you. I’m not interested. Not cool. Not cool. No. You can’t come in. This is my place. My private --
A gunshot. He runs offstage, deep into the ‘bush’, into the wings. Beyond people. It’s dark. He sees something in the near distance. He walks towards it.
TAMA Oi. Hey. Hello. I can see you.
He gets closer. It is the body of a woman (played by a female stagehand) with a gunshot wound to the back of her head. He kneels down. It’s a horrible sight. He doesn’t know whether to touch her.
TAMA Oh shit. Oh my fucking shit.
INT. DAVID’S BROADCAST STUDIO.
JANET It’s breaking news, David, we have to go with it.
DAVID Is it anywhere other than twitter?
JANET Not yet, but it will be soon.
DAVID You’re making me very nervous.
JANET I know what I’m talking about. Trust me on this.
David presses a button. A caller is rambling.
PAM (V.O) So I think at the very least, my neighbour should take half the kittens.
DAVID Half of five Pam? I don’t think you’ve thought that through. My advice? Get your cat spayed.
He cuts her off.
DAVID Big news. Big, big, news. Reports are coming through about the discovery of a body in the bush, in the domain of Tama Thoreau. It’s not him. He’s still alive, but some poor woman is dead, and it appears to be murder. Whodunnit? Police have their suspicions and Thoreau is now in custody. So, in the next few minutes we’re going to find out who he really is and what he has or hasn’t done. Madness. What do you think is going on? Get on the phone or text us and tell us. We’ll be discussing it right after these messages.
He punches a button.
DEEP VOICE (V.O) This is All Talk, with David Oldman. Call now --
JANET David. Problem.
DAVID Don’t tell me it’s a hoax.
JANET It’s not a hoax.
DAVID Bloody twitter.
JANET It’s not twitter. It’s Millie’s on the phone. Your guest from last night won’t check out.
DAVID Another one? What’s wrong with these women? Patch her through.
Janet presses a button.
DAVID Sweetheart. Oh, you’re the receptionist? Sorry, can you buzz me through to the room? I don’t know her name, just buzz me through. Yes. Good morning sunshine. It’s David Oldman here from All Talk. No, you’ve already won your prize, and if you don’t clear out in the next ten minutes they’re going to bill YOU for another night. Six hundred dollars. Yes it’s a lot isn’t it? I don’t know where you’d find that kind of money, but I tell you what, you won’t be earning it doing what you did last night. No one would pay for that. OK. Thank you.
He rings off.
DAVID Problem solved.
JANET Thank you David.
DAVID No, thank you.
JANET And three two one.
DAVID We’re back, with me David Oldman on All Talk. We’re talking murder, we’re talking suspects, we’re talking Tama Thoreau.
Sophie is waiting at a table. Tia enters, flustered.
TIA Have you seen the state of those bathrooms?
SOPHIE Yeah. I’m holding it in.
MIKE Sorry I’m late.
Tia stands and gathers him in a big hug.
TIA So good to see you. Loving you on the box. And Soso. I hear you’re telling the judges how it is ALL ON YOUR OWN?
Sophie shrugs and nods. Mike looks at Sophie.
Mike gives Sophie a kiss on the cheek and sits.
TIA You guys. You guys. Wow. Four years. So in love. You guys just grow. Law school, judge’s clerk, courtrooms. Drama school, fringe shows, courtroom sets. Actually, that must be weird right? Pretend lawyer, real lawyer.
MIKE It’s funny watching it with Soph actually, cos she’s pretty quick to point out the bits that are bullshit.
He looks at Sophie.
MIKE Which is all of it. It’s all bullshit. It’s a TV show. Yeah.
TIA Have we talked about this already?
SOPHIE We’ve discussed it quite a bit in the past.
TIA Thank God. I was getting deja vu. It’s been so long.
MIKE So what about you, Tia? How’s the photography going?
TIA Good. Bad. Terrible. Amazing. God. You know in the papers when people are arguing about living wage and it’s like [$living wage] an hour and people say that’s too low or too high or whatever, I mean I’m a freelancer, so my hourly rate would be, God, let’s not even talk about it. It’s depressing.
MIKE Would you guys like a drink?
SOPHIE Are you still sober?
TIA Oh God, yes. God. Two years eight months and a day. When Mike said ‘drink’ right now, that word is in my head means ‘soda water’. Or coffee. Not the diet stuff, nothing with sugar. I’m just done with chemicals, full stop. So yeah, Mike, thanks. A soda water would be great, with lime. The fruit. Not the cordial.
TIA What about you?
SOPHIE Yeah. Maybe get a big bottle of San Pellegrino.
Mike moves to the counter.
TIA I mean. Are you still going to AA?
SOPHIE Honestly. No.
TIA Sophie. You have to go to AA.
SOPHIE My job is like AA all day.
Mike returns with three glasses.
MIKE Here’s the glasses.
SOPHIE So it was a bit of a surprise, to hear from you. I never know when we’re going to hear from you.
TIA You know what it’s like. But guys, come on. We have to keep in touch. We were best friends. We’re still best friends. If it wasn’t for me you guys would never have met. You’re like my little project. I’ve got to keep up to date with my investment.
Mike returns with a big bottle of sparkling water and sets it down.
MIKE So what are you working on at the moment?
TIA Funny you should ask that, God, that is so freaking funny. I’m still in the middle of the whole... You heard about my Tama Thoreau drama, right? My iconic photo. And the footage?
MIKE A little.
TIA Come on guys, you don’t read the papers? You don’t watch the news?
Sophie shakes her head.
TIA The Daily Mail? [Popular social media platforms]?It was, like, big news.
MIKE The guy is a writer? Libertarian philosopher?
TIA He’s not a ‘libertarian’ philosopher. He’s an all round philosopher. I found him. He wrote this amazing book about self-sufficiency in the digital age. He built a house, this kind of tech palace in the bush, on DOC land, to live free, but no one knew where. And I found him. And did a photo essay. One image just.. It was massive. I can’t believe you guys didn’t... I started a movement like a pilgrimage movement to his... Anyway it was huge all over the world. And you know what I got out of it? Nada. The Spanish word for nothing. Cos I’m creative, but no business sense. None. Biggest break of my career.
Tia bursts into tears. Sophie rears back. Mike tries to comfort out of politeness.
MIKE Hey. It’s OK. The guy that took that photo of Che Guevera, he never got paid either.
TIA What’s his name?
MIKE I don’t know --
TIA Exactly. Exactly. Anonymous. Massive big fucking no one.
SOPHIE How can we help you, Tia?
SOPHIE I’m pushed for time, my bladder is about to burst. Say what you came to say.
TIA You think I want something from you? I’m the one who gives you shit. Everything we’ve done together. All those experiences. I gave you your boyfriend.
TIA Whatever? God. If that’s... Then let me think. If you’re going to be that mercenary about this relationship then give me a second to consider what the fuck you have that I could possibly want. Hmm. I haven’t done anything illegal lately, so I can’t use your professional services, I’m not an actor, so I can’t get any benefit from you. Just about the only thing you could do for me... I suppose... Would you guys like to do a photo shoot for a women’s magazine? I could take the pictures I guess.
MIKE If there’s anything else we can --
TIA Actually, wait. Think about it.
TIA It could be a good idea. You’d get paid, I’d get paid. I’m sure I could pitch it.
MIKE There’s not really any news.
TIA Come on. Just being you is news. I could set up a shoot, star of True Justice doing… You guys must have something going on? Getting married or something maybe?
Sophie checks her phone.
SOPHIE I have to go. Sorry. See you.
TIA You’re gonna walk out? She’s walking out. You didn’t get a text just then. She’s walking out.
Mike stands to go.
MIKE Sorry Tia, but you know what it’s like with her and news, with her dad and that, we just don’t do that kind of thing.
TIA No, Mike, wait. It’s me. I’m not the fucking paparazzi. Of Sophie We were best friends. She stole you from me.
MIKE That’s not true.
TIA I’m not bitter about it, fuck.
MIKE We dated once.
TIA You fucked me, then you woke up and found her. And you stole her off me. And now you’re doing it again.
MIKE If you can think of anything else I’d love to help, I really would.
MIKE I have to go catch Sophie. Here’s... this is for the drink.
Mike takes out his wallet.
TIA You paid for the drink at the counter.
Mike cleans out his wallet and puts down about $100 in notes on the table and dashes off.
Tia looks at the money. She considers for a moment, then takes it and stuff it in her purse.
When her hand comes out she’s holding a small bottle of vodka. She dumps it into the bottom of her glass. She’s about to water it down with soda, but decides against it, and necks it neat.
Sophie decides to defend Tama. Tia tries to cash in. David confronts Janet about her wandering mind.