Age and youth. Their concerns are disparate. Where youth sees the promise of love and a bright future ahead, age has the wisdom of the past to forewarn of the dangers of such optimism. I wasn’t sure whether this was the right place to go. It may not be apparent in this scene as yet, but I am going back in time to revisit the theme of the first act, but from a somewhat different angle. This scene opens the door a little only. It announces without revealing. What do you think will happen next?
SMOKE… Act I/Scene 1
ACT II/ SCENE 2
Same room as scenes 2 and 3 Act I. Emma now fifty-two is sitting at the table typing away on her laptop. Laura, nineteen, is sitting on the bed reading a book. She is distracted, She keeps looking up from her book and towards her mother. Eventually she puts her book aside and walks to the window.
Emma. (not looking up from her computer) Yes dear?
Laura. Mum, I need to talk to you.
Emma. (continues to type) I have a deadline. Can’t it wait?
Laura. I suppose.
Laura. Returns to the bed and takes up her book. Leafs it for a few moments as if searching for a specific page. Gives up and puts it back down. She fidgets trying to get comfortable then gives up on that too. She stands up and walks back to the window, looking wistfully towards the audience.)
Laura. (to no one in particular) What a beautiful evening.
Emma. (typing away) What did you say dear?
Laura. (turning her head towards her mother) It’s nice outside. I think I will go out for a walk.
Emma. It’s going to rain. (stops typing and looks in the direction of her daughter) They said it was going to rain tonight.
Laura. I’ll take an umbrella.
Emma. You lost our last one.
Laura. (sighs) Oh, never mind. I don’t think I’ll go. (turning towards her mother) Can you talk now?
Emma. Sure. I can talk now. (indicates for Laura to approach) I’ll take a break. Do you want some tea?
Laura. No, no. I just want to talk to you. (takes her mother’s hand and brings her to the bed. They both sit down).
Emma. Observes her daughter. Begins to look apprehensive..
Laura. (exhales loudly) I met someone.
Emma. Is that all?
Laura. (tentatively) We’re in love.
Emma. (laughing) Already?
Laura. (stands up from the bed, looks offended). Yes, already. How else do people fall in love?
Emma. Fine. Fine. So who is he?
Laura. (sits back down.) How do you know it is a he?
Emma. (a little surprised) Isn’t… this person a he?
Laura. You don’t have to look so worried. Yes. A he.
Emma. It wouldn’t have mattered, you know.
Laura. I know.
Emma. (waiting) I’ll make us some tea…
Emma disappears through a lateral door into an adjacent room. The sound of a kettle being filled up and some clattering of china is audible. Laura paces from the bed to the door of the kitchen, peers through about to say something, but then changes her mind and walks back to the bed. She sits down. She stands up again. Emma appears in the frame of the kitchen door, leans against it and crosses her arms on her chest, watching her daughter. Laura smiles and sits down on the bed again.
Laura. So what?
Emma. Well! Are you going to give me any details? Who is he? How did you meet?When do I get to meet him?
Emma walks over to the bed and sits down again, next to her daughter. They hold hands as Laura confides.
Laura. He is someone from uni. We met at a party. You won’t get to meet him any time soon.
Emma. What do you mean ‘someone’? What bloody party? You’ve never been to any!
Laura. (lets go of her mother’s hands and stands up, incensed) I knew it! You don’t like him already and you don’t know the first thing about him!
Emma stands up from the bed and faces her daughter.
Emma. (now sounding worried) Answer my question. What do you mean ‘someone’? Is he an OLDER man?
Laura. (laughing) What if he is?
Emma. Don’t play games with me. This is serious. Who is he?
Laura. Oh! Stop worrying for nothing. He’s a student.
Laura catches her mother’s hand and draws her near. Emma looks relieved and embraces her daughter. The sound of the kettle from the back room announces that the water is ready for tea, so Emma goes into the kitchen. The audience cannot see her, but they can hear her voice clearly as her conversation with Laura continues.
Emma. So why don’t I get to meet him?
Laura. Because you’re going to scare him off.
Emma. I’ll do no such thing.
Emma, re-enters the room, two steaming mugs in hand. She walks over to the bed and holds one of them out for Laura.
Emma. (mocking) I solemnly swear!
Laura. On your job?
Emma. Do I have to?
Emma. Alright then.
Laura. Takes the extended cup and sips from it. She burns her lip slightly.
Laura. I’m meeting his parents on Sunday for brunch. Wanna come with?
Emma does not answer. She takes her mug over to the window and sets it on the windowsill. She retrieves a pack of cigarettes from the inner pocket of her cardigan and opens it up slowly, all the while looking into the distance.
Laura continues to stand in the exact spot as when she asked her question, unmoving.
The light dims on the entire scene, with the exception of the window where Emma lights up a cigarette and draws the smoke deep into her lungs before exhaling. The lights go out.
As it was emotionally subtle, I found it to be believable.
That’s very helpful again, navigator. Realism is certainly what I was going for, but I hoped to create some degree of tension as well – although of a different nature from that created at the end of act 1. Thank you.
This is something I can relate to, well, I’m sure most women can. So strange how a woman’s mind is intense and can easily be entranced about something even in subjects that we know little of as long as it involves someone we must protect. Good job!
I love the fact that you picked up on Emma’s protectiveness. In a novel there is more scope to develop a relationship and show how it evolves. I find this the most difficult aspect to get through in a play, because I have a limited amount of time and words to get across a whole world of emotions, so I am very pleased that you thought I managed to capture it and create empathy for the reader too. Thank you 🙂
It is always an absolute pleasure to read your works! Thank YOU for such a marvelous presentation. 😀
I am very happy that my writing brings you enjoyment and pleasure. Working on the next scene now. It is taking a little longer than envisaged, as there are many aspects requiring attention. 🙂
I think that initial avoidance techniques are well observed in this scene. To me, Emma clearly feels some bitterness and regret about past relationships, possibly including her pregnancy with Fred which resulted in Laura. A sense perhaps of a life lost, or perhaps jealousy? This scene, for me, hints at a little more meaning in the previous one; but what,exactly, was the earlier trauma?
This is just wonderful, Chris. The conflicting nature of a mother-daughter relationship is to me the most difficult to express well. I do try, but these opposites of protectiveness and yes – perhaps a little jealousy, of contentment mixed up with regret, and a guilt for feeling that way too – I tried to hint at them without making them too stark. And great question for me to mull over. Thank you.
You’re welcome! I’m always a bit reticent about making any constructive critcism comments as I fear that they may be either misconstrued or cloud any thought processes that someone might have. I’m glad that you’re ok with my comments, and hope that they are helpful.
Take care, Chris.
Very helpful, Chris, certainly. Plays are a new medium for me so I find that the feedback helps clarify aspects that I’m struggling with, so all feedback is very welcome. Thank you.
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I felt a little tension there, Emma comes across as a hard ass. Okay I know I need to expand on this, but I picked the hesitation and protective nature of Laura. Perhaps the relationship path has not been well between her and her mom. Why would she assume Emma will scare him away? I feel some sort of tension between these two…mainly from the mom, why worry about the age? could this be a case of past mistakes and now fear of history repeating?
Your scenes and dialogues are very real Missy 🙂
“Your scenes and dialogues are very real Missy :)” – I am so very pleased that you mentioned this. There is a balance to be struck between how much you reveal and how much is best left to the imagination of the reader/audience so it’s very reassuring that the scenes feel “real” and yet at the same time suggest a lot of reading in between the lines.
I’ve just realised that I have a very difficult act ahead of me if I’m going to both move the story forward and explain some of what has gone on so far. I may let the latter to the reader, but perhaps inadvertently things will become clearer as the story unfolds.
Thank you, Dotta. I appreciate you taking the time to think this through and comment 🙂
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It seemed like a more realistic relationship to me than most, my mother and I where a lot harsher to each other. I have a bad feeling about Laura’s bf!
Thank you, Scarlet. I really appreciate your feedback on this, especially as I am now working on the scenes in act 3, trying to develop the theme further. Yes, Laura and Emma’s relationship is a mixture of closeness – after all they only have one another – but also of detachment. Emma has made her choices, but that also means that there were things she might’ve done that she couldn’t as a result, and this is the time when the past catches up with her.
My mother had vicarious designs on me, she wanted me to do the things she couldn’t but we didn’t see eye to eye so I was petulant and hostile about it. This put me off being girly for a long time until I hit puberty and then I tried to do that without her noticing. My mother was more vain than me, more snobby. But she is a different type to Emma, weak and needy.
It is always difficult when parents put their needs and desires before those of their children. It is bound to end up in conflict. Thank you, Scarlet.
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