Dialogue Extract (Don’t Rock The Boat)

by Robin Hawdon
JOHN This whole charade. This… this… debacle of a week-end. (Rises) It’s time we left.
ARTHUR Debacle? Well, I’m sorry you feel that way about our hospitality. I know we’ve had the odd set-back, but Mary’s put a lot of work into this week-end….
JOHN I’ve nothing against Mary. Thank you for all your efforts, Mary. But I think, in all honesty, we should stop beating about the bush, and call it a day now.
ARTHUR You feel that?
JOHN Yes, I do. In fact…
ARTHUR Carol? Do you feel that?
CAROL Well….
ARTHUR In all honesty? To be quite honest? I mean… honestly?
CAROL No. I’ve quite enjoyed myself actually.
ARTHUR Oh, well that’s a relief.
CAROL I’ve enjoyed myself rather a lot in fact.
ARTHUR Wendy? Have you in all honesty enjoyed yourself?
WENDY Yes. Honestly.
(SHIRLEY sniggers)
ARTHUR Well, two out of three. Not too bad, eh John?
JOHN (to CAROL) I don”t know how you can do it.
JOHN Pander to this man. Play his outrageous games.
ARTHUR Games? I’m not playing games. This is life, John. The real thing.
JOHN It may be life to you, but it’s not our sort of life, I can assure you.
ARTHUR Oh. And what is your sort of life? No, really, I’m interested.
JOHN You wouldn’t understand if I told you.
ARTHUR Well I might. But so far I haven’t had the chance. I mean, to be quite honest myself, John, I’m at a loss to know what it is you want from life. I’ve learnt a lot this week-end about what you don’t want – about all the things you disapprove of – but not very much about what you’re for.
JOHN I’m for a great deal, Arthur. Moral standards, a code of behaviour, Christian beliefs. But I’m certainly not going to try and explain my philosophy to you now! Come along, Carol. We’re going to get packed.
(He marches out of the saloon. CAROL pulls a wry face to the others and follows JOHN to their cabin.)
ARTHUR Oh dear. Well I’m sorry the trip has been a bit of a trial for you, Wendy.
WENDY Oh, but it’s been the best week-end I’ve had for years, Mr Bullhead. I think I’ll always remember it.
ARTHUR Yes – well I hope it doesn’t leave you with too much to remember it by.
MARY (sharply) Arthur!
ARTHUR Sorry. (Next door, JOHN has opened the suitcases and is throwing things into them. CAROL helps, more calmly.)
 JOHN (suddenly bursting out) I can’t understand it! I just can’t understand it, Carol.
(In the saloon, ARTHUR and MARY hear the sound of his outburst, and look at each other. ARTHUR sneaks to the wall to listen.)
JOHN How could you do it? You were positively condoning that dreadful family’s attitudes. You’ve been practically a conspirator in all their appalling machinations.
CAROL Machinations?
JOHN Well, what else would you call them? This whole week-end has been one long subterfuge designed to undermine our entire way of life. They’re the most amoral bunch of people I’ve ever come across.
CAROL Oh, I wouldn’t say that.
JOHN Oh, you wouldn’t, eh?
JOHN And what would you call them? Eh?
CAROL Just a fairly ordinary family trying to muddle through like the rest of us.
JOHN (appalled) Like the rest….!
MARY (next door) I don’t think we should listen to this, Arthur.
ARTHUR (gesturing at her) Shhhh. I can’t hear.
JOHN Carol, they have threatened my livelihood; they’ve attempted to blackmail me into what amounts to criminal procedures; they’ve destroyed the years of ethical teaching we’ve instilled into Wendy, and compromised her chances of making a good marriage…
CAROL Oh don’t be ridiculous!
JOHN Ridiculous? What do you mean, ridiculous? She’s…
CAROL Are you trying to tell me that, in this modern day and age, no-one who isn’t a virgin has a chance of making a good marriage?  You’ve just disqualified ninety five per cent of the unmarried population.
JOHN Look, this conversation’s getting off the point. I’m talking about us!  The decent, caring example our family has always stood for….
CAROL The stuffy, pompous, holier-than-thou example, you mean. It’s no wonder we haven’t any real friends. It’s no wonder nobody asks us to anything except church coffee mornings and ban the by-pass meetings!
JOHN Oh, I suppose you’d rather they invited us to local wife-swapping parties….?
CAROL Yes! Yes, I would!
JOHN Carol!
Carol Anything to bring a bit of reality, and spontaneity, and… and…  fun into our existence!
JOHN Fun! Carol, what are you saying? After all these years of happy married life….
Carol Who says it was a happy married life? Eh? When have you ever asked me if I’ve been happy in our married life? When have you ever given me anything I’ve wanted?
JOHN Wanted?
Carol Yes – wanted, desired, hungered for? (Strides up and down)  I haven’t realised it myself up to now, I’ve been so indoctrinated by your prissy moral posturing – but this week-end has really opened my eyes. I’ve seen life as Wendy must see it – as I used to see it when I was her age – with all the chances, and the excitement, and the romance ahead of her…
JOHN But we’re not Wendy”s age any more, Carol. We’re mature, responsible adults, with…
Carol Does that mean we’ve got to stop living? We’ve got to forget passion, and joy, and adventure…?
JOHN Passion for what? Adventure where?
Carol Adventure here and now – like having a boat, and sneaking off for naughty week-ends on it…
JOHN Naughty week….!
Carol Passion for good food and wine and all the other nice things that are supposed to be bad for you. Joy in…. in sex!
Carol Yes.
JOHN We enjoy sex.
Carol No, we don’t.  We go through the dutiful motions of it, like cleaning our teeth, and washing the car on Sundays. I’m talking about real, glorious, gutsy, bonking!
JOHN (almost fainting) Carol!
Carol D’you know, John, I’m really seeing you… no, not you – us, for the first time.
JOHN What do you mean?
Carol All these years I’ve gone along with the charade. I’ve thought, how lucky we are. What an example of all that family life should be. What a wonderful husband – standing for everything that is strong, and sensible, and right. And what a perfect wife I must be, to be able to live up to him. Yugh!
JOHN What would you have preferred?
Carol What would I have preferred? I’ll tell you. Deep down, all I really wanted was to be part of one of those corny T.V. commercials, where the almost naked girl strides dripping out of a tropical sea, to the strains of Mahler, to where a bronzed gorilla waits on the beach for her with a Bacardi in each hand, and a bathing costume about to split at the seams with lust!
(Long pause)
JOHN (eventually) I can’t think of anything to say.
Carol Good. You talk too much anyway.