Genre: horror/psychological thriller. Length: 60 minutes
Location: Farmhouse/present day
I’ve written a first draft for a concept I’d had for a 60 minute play that is just one sustained conversation between 2-3 characters in a single location. Originally I wanted it to be about two people, an abducter and abductee, just having a conversation, relying purely on dialogue and subtle shifts, without it being immediately apparent that one was actually the prisoner.
I haven’t really succeeded in making it a battle of wits, as I’ve relied on a few horror movie cliches and made the characters less intelligent than I wanted, so it’s become more a ‘battle of the dimwits’. I tried to make it as realistic as possible, avoiding repetition or including too much sex and violence; however it does contain some sex and violence inspired by Lars Von Triers’ ‘Antichrist’ and Sarah Kane’s work.
I’d orignally written the story with two men, Terry and Jack, but wrote another version where Jack is a women, Terry’s younger sister ‘Jess’, to see what the effect would be and if this would change the dynamic of the characters. Interestingly, I feels like Jess is alot more sympathetic as Terry’s abused sister than Jack, the equally abused but more complicit mentally handicapped younger brother.
After some research, I’d discovered the Greek myth of Tiresias, an oracle who appears in Homer’s The Odyssey, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Euripides’ The Bacchae, in which different texts describe his encounter with the gods. In one story he stumbles across two snakes mating, which he kills, and then punished by Hera (The Goddess of women and marriage) by being transformed into a woman for seven years. In another, he is blinded by Athena (The Goddess of wisdom, craft and war) for spying on her bathing, and in a similar story he is blinded by Hera following an argument about men and sex with the God Zeus.
In this sense, I find Amy’s actions to seduce and deceive the two men interesting, in that she has an opportunity to use the scissors to castrate Jack, but chooses to pleasure him instead, showing him as weak and childlike. Ironically in the climax, he is humiliated and oblivious to the knowledge that Amy has taken control and the threat defeated. Her ability to manipulate the men and hide her weapons, which ultimately prove as lethal as her sexuality, reminds me of Athena, especially since she blinds Terry to immasculate him. An interesting coincidence was the name ‘Terry’, which resembles ‘Tiresias’, and also in a general sense relating to the structure, Amy and the audience possess a knowledge (the hidden knife) and power (sex, kindness) which Terry and Jack do not. Furthermore, in the horror genre itself, the female protagonist (Neve Campbell Scream, Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween and Jodie Foster Silence of the Lambs) is destined to overcome an omnipresent and metaphorical villian, an Oedipal symbol of childhood trauma, which is about confronting fear, and which the audience is expecting her to do, and which inevitably causes the male character’s masculinity to be doomed in the story.
Synopsis ‘She is the girl’:
A young woman called Amy is held prisoner in a room where she is shackled by a chain to a bedframe. She awakens when one of her captors, Jess, enters the room. She is in love with Amy and has brought her a dress she’d been told to get for her by her older brother Terry.
Jess discusses her shopping trip to Tescos and Amy tries to convince her that they should get married and run away together, but which Jess says isn’t safe. Jess persuades Amy to try on the dress but they have an argument after she tries to touch her. Amy asks for a foot massage and for some scissors to remove the label.
Jess agrees to get the scissors in exchange for a kiss. While Jess is gone, Amy hides a knife that she had forgotten about. She seduces Jess just as Terry arrives home from work. Terry is suspicious and humiliates Jess, and tells him to make some tea. Terry sits down as Amy listens to him talk about his day.
When Jess returns with the tea, Terry beats her when she interrupts their conversation in which Terry explains why he can’t let Amy go. Terry forces Jess out the room and continues flirting with Amy. Amy invites him into bed where they start to have sex until she uses the hidden knife to blind Terry. Terry crawls across the floor calling for Jess, who opens the door and panics when she sees Terry.
Amy tells Jess to bring her a phone so she can call an ambulance, which she does, and then sends her away to get bandages before calling the police. Jess returns and believes Amy when she tells her the ambulance is coming. She tells her not to say anything about the kidnapping before they both relax to watch Terry whimpering in pain.
Terry Snead (43). Terry lives in a farmhouse with his brother. He works at a garage, but has a criminal record and served time in prison for assault and sexual assault. He grew up in poverty, spent time in the woods hunting, and avoiding his alcoholic father. He was sent to juvenile detention at 16 and then later discharged from the army for insubordination. He volunteered with several charities, and is where he met and abducted several women including Amy Stevens.
Jack Snead (22). Jack is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and spends his time cleaning the house and watching the women who Terry keeps locked in the spare room. Terry inherited the house and became Jack’s legal guardian once their parents died. He struggles to make friends but enjoys football and attends a community centre where he plays board games. He suffers from social anxiety and an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Jess Snead (30). Jess is mentally handicapped and spends her time cleaning the house and watching the women who Terry keeps locked in the spare room. Terry inherited the house and became Jess’s legal guardian once their parents died. She struggles to make friends but enjoys arts and crafts at the local community centre where she plays board games. She suffers from social anxiety and an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Amy Stevens (27). Amy had worked for several charities as an Assistant Manager and fundraiser. She is independent and lives alone, but enjoys her single social life. She studied art and psychology at college, but dropped out of University. She has her own online business designing and restoring antique furniture.
Download synopsis here: Synopsis for She Is The Girl
Download script PDF here: She is the girl
Download the revised version: She is the girl 2
14th August 2017
Thanks for sending us your play, and for your patience while we read it. We receive many scripts a year and it can take us time to read them all properly.
We enjoyed reading She Is The Girl. The juxtaposition between the heightened nature of a kidnapping and a regular Tesco shop is darkly comic. However, we would question what you are trying to achieve in writing this piece? At the moment it feels like we have no sense of why any of it is happening? What are the motives of the Terry and Jack? They could be more clearly explored. Although Amy triumphs ultimately, there is little to celebrate for her. It would be worth considering if you can build the characters that you so clearly and excellently explain in your synopsis into the body of text. It might be worth you watching Happy Valley by Sally Wainwright, for a great example of domestic, gritty horror with an incredibly well developed characters and motives for every thought, word and action.
Ultimately, the play is not for us but we wish you all the best with your future writing.
The team at Pentabus.
13th August 2017
It has taken the summer recess here among the Player-Playwrights editorial team to process all submissions we have received over the past six months. I hope you managed to attend one of our Monday nights? Alongside our regular short writing competitions and our large scale Summer new writing award the group has been active on a number of fronts. Now some of the best work seen at our Kilburn venue this past few months is being played at both the Camden Fringe and in Edinburgh.
“She Is the Girl” is uncompromising with its language and themes of control, sexual politics and dislocation from society. From Joe Orton down this territory has been worked up in various ways to invariably outrage, shock or challenge theatre audiences. For a staged reading within our own small forum I fear it would fail to win the sympathy of our audience. Explicit language and overt sexual references in a small space are a big turn off and quickly lose the ability to shock.
Once you lose the sympathy or ability to involve an audience in the character’s predicaments/motivation/desires I am afraid you are on a slippery slope. The dialogue is heavy on exposition and repetitive. I am not suggesting your characters as portrayed lack realism – there will for sure be people living like this in todays’ underbelly of all our major cities. However, you have presented us with no journey of interest or enlightenment we wish to undertake. There are many chunks of long speech and your writing is yet to find any tone or engagement.
I would recommend work shopping this further with some willing actors while doing more research into case histories of recent real life episodes of abduction, imprisonment and sexual deviancy. (Californian, Austria et al).
As to adapting this into a compelling structure (that also tells us something new) you should study the craft of creative writing from the books of Alexander Mackendrick. His teachings will give you all the impetus you need to develop your craft. I wish you well.
PP Editorial Board