Felicity Brangan

Seeing Red

‘There was never a saint with red hair.’

Russian Proverb.

‘The media always call me ginger in a derogatory manner and I’ve come to find it very offensive indeed. It’s racist.’

Mick Hucknall

‘It is observed that the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest, whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity.’

Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
CAST:

Rose Hardman – mid forties, high placed government official.

Frank Hardman – mid forties, Rose’s husband.

Sydney Mellor – mid forties, government official.

Bernard Pickles – mid forties, government official.

(Sydney Mellor and Bernard Pickles can be played by the same actor.)

 

SCENE 1:

 

Bare, soulless committee room in a government office.

 

Rose:     Committee now in session, first item on the agenda to elect a chairwoman.

Sydney you can propose me.

Sydney: I propose Rose, I mean, Mrs. Hardman.

Rose:      I second the motion – carried. Second item on the agenda, this extraordinary

meeting brings together: The Department of Food, Environment and Research, and

The Department of Health to select items for immediate prohibition.

Selected items will be excluded or retained by the chairwoman: (myself)

Mrs. Rose Hardman. Let’s get on with this I have a meeting with the

Prime Minister in 40 minutes.

Sydney: ‘The Department of Food, Environment and Research Agency, DEFRA responsible

for environmental protection, food production and standards.’

Rose:     Get to the point.

Sydney: ‘Food policy is the area of public policy concerning how food is produced,

processed, distributed and purchased. This often includes decisions regarding

production and processing techniques, marketing, availability, utilisation and

“consumption of food in the interest of meeting or furthering social objectives.”’

Rose:   Yes, yes.

Sydney: ‘Section 1a, relates to items causing offence. It will serve as a useful guide to the

prevention of certain conditions unhelpful to society’s wellbeing.’

Rose:     Does it specify which ‘certain conditions?’

Sydney: ‘For the protection of children; safeguarding health and wellbeing against certain

propaganda which may harm or influence children.’

‘Liquorice…’

Rose:    Horrible stuff, especially those stick things – excluded.

Sydney: ‘Haribo Starmix.’

Rose:     Yes, terrible for the teeth – excluded.

Sydney: ‘Happy cola bottles…’

Rose:      Yes, excluded.

Sydney: ‘Strawberry laces…’

Rose:      Teeth killers, excluded.

Sydney: ‘Gummy bears.’ Gummy bears? But I like gummy bears.

Rose:      Exclusion … denied.

Sydney: It also states, you may put forward your own suitable items for consideration.

Rose:      That green/blue slushy stuff, full of sugar. What’s the name?

Sydney: Eh?

Rose:    Come on Sydney, we can’t prohibit the wretched stuff if we can’t name it.

Sydney: Slush Puppies.

Rose:      Brilliant. What’s that popping sherbet thing? My children love it. Pop it in your

mouth and it explodes on your tongue, goodness knows what’s in it?

Sydney: I don’t know, Rose.

Rose:      Well find out.

Sydney: Why not have done and prohibit sugar altogether?

Rose:    Reduce child obesity overnight.

Sydney: Whoever thinks of that idea will surely receive an offer of a ministerial post.

Rose:      Make sure you put my initials next to the sugar suggestions. Fancy a move up to

the fifth floor Sydney? What’s next?

Sydney: ‘Ginger.’

Rose:    Ginger? That’s odd. Why would they choose ginger? In fact ginger has many health

benefits. This will have to be relooked at. Get a job done properly, do it yourself.

Sydney: The next items for exclusion have been pinpointed by the Department of Health.

‘Freckle.’

Rose:    Freckle?

Sydney: Freckle.

Rose:    Freckle?

Sydney: Freckle.

Rose:    Did you say…?

Sydney: Freckle, yes.

Rose:    Definitely a mistake. Somebody’s been on the G and T’s before elevenses on the

Sydney: No, it states it quite clearly. Freckle. This is one of several words to be substituted.

Rose:    Enlighten me.

Sydney: ‘Dot is to replace freckle. Dots to replace freckles. Dotty to replace freckly.’

Rose:    Now I know you’re joking. So, for example, ‘I am freckly’ is replaced by ‘I am dotty.’

Very good Sydney.

Sydney: No, Mrs. Hardman I’m not joking.

Rose:    It’s Steve from the fourth floor, cracking sense of humour. Wait till I get hold of him,

Cheeky beggar, nice one.

Sydney: It’s not him. He has been excluded, fired – too many jokes. It looks kosher to me.

Rose:    Pass it here, ridiculous: ‘Haribo mix, happy cola bottles, strawberry laces, gummy

bears…’

Sydney: Gummy bears not excluded.

Rose:    ‘Ginger, freckle replaced by dot, freckles replaced by dots, freckly

replaced by dotty, frecklitis,’ no such word, ‘frecklability and freckluality.’

Freckluality?

These aren’t even real words. How can you exclude items that don’t even exist?

Sydney: To be on the safe side. You’ve missed a few, they’re at the bottom.

Rose:    ‘Carrot top, ginger nut and ginga.’ Did you know about this Sydney?

Sydney: Here’s a letter from the Prime Minister.

Rose:    This should clarify matters. Read it.

Sydney: It’s a press release from Prime Minister Putdown’s office regarding the new law.

Rose:    What new law? Read on.

Sydney: ‘Prime Minister Putdown states that a new law prohibiting ginger propaganda has

nothing to do with persecuting individuals for their physical orientation. “I myself

know some people who are ginger.”’ He is probably talking about you.

Rose:    Get on with it.

Sydney: ‘“We’re on friendly terms. I’m not prejudiced in any way. Read our law carefully –

and pay attention to its name. It’s prohibiting the propaganda of gingerism,

freckluality and paedophilia. Gingerism may be a real danger to our children,

sufferers often display a fierce temper, craziness and an excessive libido!”’ He is not

supposed to use freckluality or gingerism they’re prohibited.

Rose:    Not yet they aren’t.

Sydney: More foods to be prohibited forthwith:

‘Gingerbread men/women/persons/animals’.

Rose:     It’s a ginger bread man and he is a biscuit.

Sydney: I think it’s the ginger bit causing offence.

Rose:     To whom Sydney?

Sydney: It says here ‘against social objectives’. There is a whole list: ginger nuts,

ginger snaps…

Rose:     Move on.

Sydney: ‘Carrots.’

Rose:   Carrots are a healthy food. They are a massive source of beta carotene which

cleverly converts to Vitamin A in the body as needed.

Sydney: ‘Carrot and coriander soup…’ Basically anything with the ‘c’ word in it. Should I list

them?

Rose:     No. What’s next?

Sydney: ‘Oranges and their derivatives, juices, pulps, followed by tangerines, mandarins,

apricots, mangos, butternut squash, sweet potatoes.’

Rose:     It that it?

Sydney: ‘Red Leicester, double Gloucester, sweet and sour sauces (regular and light), sweet

chilli, Persil orange burst washing up liquid, Mr. Muscle kitchen and bathroom

spray, Morrisons own band of orange and jasmine super concentrated liquid, Surf

with essential oils sunshine lemons and mandarin flowers – biological washing

powder freshness that lasts and lasts.’

Rose:     Well not today it doesn’t. Enough.

Sydney: One last note from the Fisheries Department regarding fish fingers – total ban, too

Rose:     That should help to replenish fish stocks.

Sydney: Always looking at the positive.

Rose:     That’s enough. No more.

Sydney: There is a memo from the Department of Education.

Rose:       That’s my department. I don’t know about this. What are you doing with it?

Sydney:   I was told to read it to you ASAP.

Rose:       Who told you?

Sydney:   The Minister.

Rose:       Sneaky snake Sydney, is there an opening on the fifth floor?

Sydney:   They said you’d be as mad as hell.

Rose:       Go ahead Sydney, you’d better read the memo.

Sydney:   From the children’s minister: ‘See as top priority, important safeguarding issues.

As from immediate notice the following children’s characters have been found to

be supporting propaganda promoting Gingerism and Freckluality.’

The Gingerbread Man…

Rose:     Well that was a dead cert.

Sydney: Garfield…

Rose:     Obnoxious.

Sydney: Ariel the Little Mermaid, the Gruffalo…

Rose:      He’s brown isn’t he?

Sydney:    Ron Weasley and all his family members, Tigger…

Rose:        Not so wonderful now.

Sydney:    Pippy Longstockings, Jessica Rabbit, Wilma Flintstone, Basil Brush, Mr. Tickle,

Anne of Green Gables and Postman Pat.

Rose:        Anne of Green Gables? I don’t think so. This meeting is over I am going to see the

Prime Minister myself.

Sydney: Spacedust.

Rose:     What?

Sydney:  Poppy stuff that explodes in your mouth.

 

Scene 2:

 

Rose is waiting in an outer lobby unable to open a large door to an office.

Rose tries to open the door. She presses the intercom button.

 

Rose:       It’s stuck. Kindly open the door.

Bernard: Who is this?

Rose:       You know perfectly well who this is Bernard, open the door.

Bernard: State your name and position.

Rose:       I haven’t time for your nonsense today.

Bernard: Please Rose, for security reasons, state your name.

Rose:       Mrs. Hardman to you, BA, PGDE, MA, PHD, Permanent Secretary to the Minister of

Bernard: State your business.

Rose:        You are in so much trouble Bernard when the Prime Minister hears about your

Bernard: State your business.

Rose:       You know perfectly well why I am here. I have my weekly meeting with the

Prime Minister at the usual time and place, as has been the case for the last five

years.

Bernard: Sorry your name is not on the list.

Rose:       List? I don’t need to be on any God damn list. Tell the Prime Minister I am here

this instance.

Bernard: He won’t like that.

Rose:       You are holding up official government business. I have Prime Ministerial papers

that need to be signed by the Prime Minister.

Bernard: Leave them on the table.

Rose:       I’m not going to leave important official papers on the table. Put Gladys on the

Bernard: She’s not here, it’s only me.

Rose:       Where is she?

Bernard: She has been excluded; lost her security status.

Rose:       Why, what did she do?

Bernard: I think she was too…

Rose:       Too what?

Bernard: Too the ‘G’ word. She’s in the basement in the mail room in a supervisory

position, of course.

Rose:       Open this door, or you’ll be joining her.

Bernard: I can’t, I’m not allowed, I wish I could, it’s lonely here.

Rose:       Let me keep you company.

Bernard: It’s not permitted.

Rose:        Tell the Prime Minister I am here. You’re permitted to do that? That’s your job!

Bernard: He doesn’t want to see you.

Rose:       How do you know?

Bernard: He told me?

Rose:       Tell him I have something very personal and confidential he would like to hear.

Bernard: He said if you wouldn’t go away, I was to tell you…

Rose:       What? You snivelling moron.

Bernard:   You’re on the list.

Rose:         I thought I wasn’t on the list.

Bernard:   The other list, the ‘G’ list. It’s a cautionary move, until the new legislation is

passed.

Rose:         The treacherous little SHIT. I was one of his main supporters in his election.

Bernard:   Ooooo, he said you’d be mad as hell.

Rose:         Open this God damn door.

Bernard:   Mrs. Hardman, Rose, please leave quietly, don’t revert back to type or else I will

call the guards.

SCENE 3:

Seven weeks later -Rose is at home with her husband Frank.

 

Rose:         Frank? Frank, he wouldn’t see me.

Frank:       Why not?

Rose:       I wasn’t on the right list.

Frank:       It’s been six weeks.

Rose:         Seven.

Frank:       You have really upset him this time. He can be a bit temperamental and you can

be…

Rose:         What?

Frank:       Well, opinionated.

Rose:         That’s what I get paid for, to advise, to guide, to give my educated opinions.

Frank:         Sometimes…

Rose:         Yes?

Frank:       You know?

Rose:         No?

Frank:       Cracking the odd inappropriate joke at his expense. You know he’s sensitive

about his height and being follicly challenged.

Rose:         That joke about the bald midget wasn’t about him. He laughed. Everybody

Frank:        Did he? He’s a short arse and you’re a smart arse. Come on children, kiss and

make-up.

Rose:         I tried.

Frank:       Sometimes you can be…

Rose:         Yes?

Frank:         Possibly…

Rose:         I’m all ears.

Frank:       A bit of a bossy boots.

Rose:         I have a very demanding job in which I need to make sure certain responsibilities

are fulfilled if not, I’m for it. I need to look after you and the children. Where are

the children?

Frank:         At your parents.

Rose:         Are they safe?

Frank:         Of course they’re safe.

Rose:         No one would complain if a man was ‘a bit of a bossy boots’. He probably

wouldn’t even be described as one.

Frank:         Yes you’re right. Sometimes you may be…

Rose:         Yes, come on, spit it out.

Frank:         A bit high spirited.

Rose:         What does that mean? That I’m alive?

Frank:         You’re wonderful, passionate, enthusiastic, excitable, sometimes it

might come across as a little bit fierce.

Rose:         So this is my fault?

Frank:       No, but you might have upset him. He might want to teach you a lesson.

Rose:          This is madness.

Frank:         I’m trying to see a possible motive. Maybe he is threatened by you. Your

dedication and enthusiasm could be misconstrued as ruthless ambition.

Rose:         So I’m being punished for ambition?

Frank:       You need to talk to him.

Rose:         You don’t understand the severity of the situation.

Frank:         It will all blow over. You can convince him of the merits of being ginger. Big up

the Gingers. Produce some ginger propaganda of our own.

Rose:         It could be dangerous. Propaganda against him? You’re talking about treason.

Frank:        I’m talking of gingers.

Rose:         ‘Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!’

Frank:       You’re being over dramatic. Get the Church on our side?

Rose:         How do you propose that?

Frank:         Haven’t you heard the new scientific evidence proving Jesus was a ginga? They

found a ginger hair on the shroud of Turin.

Rose:         You’re breaking the new law saying that word in front of minors.

Frank:         Good job the children are at your mother’s. Jesus was definitely a carrot top.

Rose:        Jewish? Living in Palestine? Pass me the ‘acceptable skin colour chart,’ he was

probably a number 4, caramel or even number 5, honeycomb.

Frank:       He’s dead, nobody can prove it.

Rose:         The Church have their own hang ups about carrot tops. They are only too happy

to agree with the Prime Minister.

Frank:      What have they got against freckle faces?

Rose:         Mary ‘bad girl’ Magdalene and Judas Iscariot according to Titian and

Michelangelo were both Gingas.

Frank:         What about making up a few? Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela

all had a ginger sheen.

Rose:         Now you’re being silly.

Frank:         There are loads of real ones. Henry VIII.

Rose:           Adulterer, wife killer, he agreed to the dissolution of the Monasteries.

Frank:         Without Henry VIII we would never have had the ‘Vicar of Dibley’. Or Elizabeth I:

the Age of Discovery, defeating the Spanish, religious tolerance and the mighty

Shakespeare. Then there was Boudicca and Florence Nightingale. Winston

Churchill, but most of it was gone by the time he became Prime Minister. The

wonderful Emily Dickenson, she was a quiet ginger.

(Frank recites Emily Dickinson’s poem, I dwell in possibility (#657)

I dwell in Possibility–
A fairer House than Prose–
More numerous of Windows–
Superior–for Doors–

Of Chambers as the Cedars–
Impregnable of Eye–
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky–

Of Visitors–the fairest–
For Occupation–This–
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise–        (Frankembraces Rose)

Rose:         I love you. You’re guilty of gingerphilia.

Frank:        You’re getting me all excited.

Rose:         This is much more serious than you realise, Frank. Poetry won’t magically make

the world alright.

Frank:       It feels alright to me. It will all blow over once you speak to him.

Rose:         Frank, this isn’t about me. Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands

of people are affected by this madness. Not only ‘gingas’ or those of a ‘freckual

orientation’ but many others.

Frank:       You’re freckles are sexy. You’re sexy.

Rose:         Listen, the fishing industry supplies fish factories with fish to produce fish

Frank:       They can make fish pies instead, I never liked fish fingers.

Rose:         That’s not the bloody point. The farming industry harvesting carrots, they’re easy

to grow, full of vitamin A. What – grow something else?

Frank:         It won’t come to that.

Rose:         The developing world provides us with oranges, mangoes, tangerines, then

gone in a moment of madness. That’s going to affect the global economy. Do you

know how fragile these countries’ economies are? They rely on our imports.

What about our children’s health, they need fruit and fruit juice?

Frank:         You will have to talk to him. It’s up to you.

Rose:         Say what? ‘What the bloody hell are you playing at?’

Frank:       He has always fancied you.

Rose:           No he doesn’t.

Frank:         I’ve seen him look at you.

Rose:           It is not about me.

Frank:         Try and change it back.

Rose:           Listen to me. They banned the Gingerbread man and Postman Pat and nobody

cares. We are powerless to stop this. Look at the chart, can you read what it

says, ‘acceptable skin colours’ white – acceptable, pinky white- acceptable,

cream – acceptable, cream caramel acceptable, honeycomb, coffee latte, milk

chocolate, coffee, dark chocolate, black, all are acceptable. Freckly –

unacceptable, banned, prohibited, excluded. Is that the sort of society we want

our children to grow up in? What about the children? Will they be safe? Where

does it stop? Next week people with big noses will be outlawed. Outlaw

Pinnocchio? Where does it end? They will take the children away to safeguard

them from ginger and freckle propaganda. They can do that. They’ll take them

away or you’ll have sole legal custody.

Frank:        Now you are being ridiculous.

Rose:           I’m not. Let’s go.

Frank:         Where?

Rose:           Anywhere. Together.

Frank:         What will we do?

Rose:           Start again.

Frank:         We have a great life here. The children are in great schools doing well and you

want to take them away on a whim because you had a fight with your boss?

Rose:           Would you prefer it if I was blonde and non freckly and this was somebody else’s

problem?

Frank:         Maybe you could go to the countryside until this blows over?

Rose:         Away from the children? Not to be with you? I don’t want to leave you, please

don’t send me away.

Frank:         Rose, I’m not going to send you away.

Rose:           You and the children, that’s all that matters to me, nothing else. Give me the

colour chart. I’ll change. Don’t send me away. I’ll go darker. It will hurt too much

to bleach out the freckles. Coffee latte, that’s a lovely shade. It will be easy to

hide. I’ll resign quietly, no condemnation of the government. Everybody will

forget me soon enough. I’ll live a silent life here. You can get permanent skin dye.

 

(Frank reaches for Rosie’s arm strokes it and kisses her freckles on it. He gets up to leave.)

Where are you going?

Frank:       To pick up the children. Pack all your jewellery, anything light and

valuable. We leave tonight.

 

THE END


About the writer:

Felicity is at present completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. She graduated last summer from the University of Bolton receiving a First Class honours degree in English and Creative Writing. She was awarded the Bolton Octagon student prize for playwriting for her play Clap Trap. Felicity’s professional debut as a writer was fort he NewScript Night at the Lowry studio theatre with her piece Seeing Red.

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