SMOKE… Act III/Scene 3

This is the final scene of the play. Smoke… this title has multi-layered meanings for me. I have attempted to be very light-handed in weaving it into the story, but I would be very curious to know how you have interpreted the name. What does “smoke” mean to you?

Smoke… by Vic Briggs

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 1     SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2     SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3

SMOKE… Act II/Scene 1    SMOKE… Act II/Scene 2    SMOKE… Act II/Scene 3

SMOKE… Act III/Scene 1   SMOKE… Act III/Scene 2

20s strawberriews

ACT III/ Scene 3

The  curtain is still drawn. A reddish light pulsates from behind, then a heartbeat can be heard in synchrony with the light. It beats four times, then its beat is drowned out by the sound of a clock. On the eleventh stroke the curtain is drawn and the same small room is revealed, with a door at the back and one to the side, the empty space towards the stage has a large window-frame hanging from the rafters.

When the curtain rises the first impression is one of noise. The room is full of people, all talking loudly, trying to make themselves heard over the music which is going at full strength. Laura (twenty), in a sequined black dress, is circulating amongst the guests, champagne bottle in hand. She makes her way towards an old man standing by the window and replenishes his glass. He leans in and kisses her forehead in thanks, tapping her shoulder.

John. How are you holding up, dear?

Laura. (kisses his cheek and takes his hand in hers) I’ve never seen mother look so happy. Or Dani. And the church! Just lovely.

John. (shakes his head) If I had a say in the matter…

Laura. They looked beautiful together, didn’t they? (looking around) They should’ve got here by now. I wonder what’s keeping them.

John. (viciously) It should’ve been you walking down the isle. I don’t know where my son’s head’s at half of the time.

Laura. (brightly) Do you know if Freddie and Margaret will make an appearance? I thought they said they would.

John. (concerned) Laura…

Laura. I must go and check if we’re ok for champagne. Will be right back.

Laura walks away in a hurry. John watches her depart, his shoulders slump. He looks both worried and a little upset.

The back door opens. Emma (fifty-three) and Daniel (twenty) walk in hand in hand. The whole room cheers and a round of applause follows. John looks away and downs his glass. Emma is wearing a short cream lace dress, her hair in loose waves on her shoulders. She looks happy. There is a youthfulness to her as she moves amongst the guests to greet them and accept their congratulations. Daniel, in a smart suit, always at her side, keeps nodding happily as he shakes hands.

Laura walks in through the side door and freezes in her step when she sees them. For a moment she looks distraught, but then Daniel notices her and her features transform instantly. She smiles, nods at him, then pulls up the bottle of champagne she’s holding in her hand and points at it as if to ask if he would like some. He nods in acknowledgement and she disappears back through the door and into the kitchen.

The back door opens again. Fred (forty-seven) and Margaret (forty-five) enter. He looks eager. She looks uncomfortable. Fred spots Emma and Daniel and goes straight to them.

Fred. (shaking Daniel’s hand) Congratulations old man. (turning towards Emma, embraces her and plants a peck on her cheek) You look stunning, as always.

Daniel. (pulling Emma back towards himself, his hand around her waste in a possessive as well as protective stance) Glad you could make it. Quite a party isn’t it?

A Woman. (overhearing) Heavenly! (raising her glass) To the newlyweds!

The rest follow suit. Waves of cheers “To the newlyweds!” resound around the room. Laura re-enters the room with a bottle of champagne and a couple of empty glasses. A young man follows her, holding four more empty glasses. Laura reaches the group and hands her glasses to Emma and Daniel. The young man does the same for Fred, Margaret and Laura, keeping one to himself. Fred takes the bottle from his daughter and fills up everyone’s glasses. They toast.

Fred. To love.

Daniel. (leaning in and kissing Emma on the lips) To my beautiful bride.

Margaret. Looks away.

Laura. To both of you, and a lifetime of happiness!

The Young Man. (raising his glass) Here-Here!

Emma. (embracing her daughter with one arm) Thank you, darling.

Margaret. Notices her father standing by the window alone, and leaves the group to join him. Fred and Laura move slightly to one side from Emma and Daniel who are being questioned by the young man about their plans for the honeymoon.

Fred. (to Laura, gesturing towards the departing Margaret) She’s not taking it too well.

Laura. She’s here, isn’t she.

Fred. Only because I insisted on it.

Laura. Why did you?

Fred. (raising an eyebrow) You’d rather she didn’t come.

Laura. There are many things I’d rather didn’t happen, Freddie, but it doesn’t do to dwell on it, does it?

Fred. (pulls her into his arms and kisses her forehead) You’re a wonder, you know that?

Margaret. Calls Fred from across the room. He kisses Laura’s forehead one more time and then moves towards his wife and her father. Laura stands in the middle of the room for a moment longer, glimpses over her shoulder towards Emma and Daniel, then joins her father, Margaret and John on other side of the room, by the window. Margaret was observing her.

Margaret. All credit to you, Laura. I don’t know if I could put up with this if I were you.

Laura. (towards John) Are you hungry? There are these little pigs-in-blanket. To die for!

John. You know what. I think I’ll go and get some.

Fred. I’ll come with you.

Fred and John depart to the back of the room. Margaret and Laura stand side by side in silence for a while. Margaret, keeps wrinkling her nose as she sips from her drink. Laura notices a packet of cigarettes on the windowsill. Takes it and picks out a cigarette.

Margaret. I thought you didn’t smoke.

Laura. I didn’t. (she handles the cigarette as if it’s a cigar; rolls it between her fingers, puts it to her nose and breathes in the scent of tobacco.)

Margaret. Neither did Dani. (pause) Before Emma showed up.

Laura. Shrugs. Empties out the lighter from the pack and lights up.

Margaret. I can’t stand it. Sorry. Do you mind if I leave you?

Laura. Smiles and shakes her head to indicate that she doesn’t mind. Margaret walks away. Laura draws in the smoke. Nearly chokes. Steadies herself against the window frame, then sits on it. The second time she inhales it goes down better.

The music turns mellow. A slow song begins. The light dims in the room. Emma and Daniel are in the middle of it. Laura watches him as he draws Emma into his arms and they begin to dance. Other couples join them. Laura looks away. She pulls her feet onto the windowsill, and then pulls them around and over to the other side, face on towards the audience. She holds on to the window frame to balance her weight, inhales the smoke deep into her lungs. We hear the pulse of a quickened heartbeat in the background. She exhales, lets go of the frame and plunges downward.

The heartbeat stops. The light flashes a bright red.

Someone’s loud scream reverberates around the room. The scene freezes.

Curtain.

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24 thoughts on “SMOKE… Act III/Scene 3

  1. Hmmmm took me by surprise, the ending I mean. But understandable from her angle, even though I don’t commend suicide. But by doing it on the day of their marriage what did she gain? She rather opposed it don’t you think? Or was it part of her revenge (which I don’t think so from what I understand of her)?

    Is the smoke here the remnant of a burnt heart?

    It was an interesting journey with these characters for me Vic, because I am just a reader and have never been on a journey of a developing story / play till now. Thanks for the opportunity.

    • I find it fascinating to read how others interpret each scene, and your interpretations always make for interesting reading. Thank you, KG.
      I love the association you make between smoke and the remnant of a burnt heart. It’s rather beautiful. You put it as a question, but I think the beauty of all stories is that they lend themselves to interpretation. Each reader can make them their own. So if this is what you see in “smoke”, then that is what it means.
      Thank you so much for coming along on this journey with me, KG, and for being always so generous with your comments. I really appreciate that and it’s been a great help. I’m glad you enjoyed it as well.
      Regarding the ending… I left it deliberately ambiguous. So… yes, you could see it as suicide. Having lost her first love, Laura is distraught and while she’s done her best to conceal it from the world and be happy for her mother, their wedding day was bound to be a tough one for her. You could say… that if she acted, it was without the full faculty of her mind.
      But this is only one interpretation, as there is no way of knowing if Laura jumped or fell. I wanted to leave the ending somewhat ambiguous so that each reader can make it their own, see it through their own eyes and experience.
      Thank you, KG xx

      • I found it to be such a joyful experience, sharing this journey with you. Felt rather vulnerable at first, sharing work in progress, but the support has been helpful in more ways than I had expected 🙂 Thank you x

  2. I have really enjoyed reading your script, Vic; right to the end you have posed a lot of questions. I love the inferred meaning in the line ‘There are these little pigs-in-blanket. To die for!’ (for me a reference to Emma and Daniel). Also, at the close, I was left with a nagging feeling – suicide? or perhaps an accident induced by the dizzying effects of deeply inhaled smoke on a non-smoker? Questions, questions… A wonderful piece which I honestly feel would work well on the stage. Great work, Vic.

    • Thank you so much, Chris. I love the way you picked up the “pigs-in-blanket” reference. I had some other party food in its stead at the beginning, but I wanted to include something that could be interpreted in more than one way so… I was simply delighted when you mentioned it.
      You are right about the ending. I was careful not to be too precise in the way I depicted it, so that it may remain somewhat ambiguous, open-ended and therefore give the audience an opportunity to inscribe their own reading of it. In reading KG’s comment earlier, I realised that I was right to do so. For KG it was a clear instance of suicide, which made her question Laura’s motivation. You have opened it up to the possibility of an accident – which works just as well, and if that were the case, the interpretation of the rest of the play changes as well, at least in part.
      What I love most about it, is that there is no wrong answer as such. The question – as to what actually happened) remains open and I hope that this is a good thing.
      Thank you for sticking with “smoke” till the end, Chris. Great commentary throughout and I really appreciate it.
      Warm regards,
      Vic

      • I’m pleased that my comments have been of some help to you. I have tried to be as honest and open as I could – and yes, the ambiguous ending, in my opinion, works well – you know I like to read something that makes me work a little!
        Take care, Chris

      • I really appreciate your honesty and the fact that you asked challenging questions and made me reconsider the story-line. Since this is the first draft I may well look into how I can integrate some of your insights into the next. Will see how it goes. I’ve sent a copy of the play to four people in the industry: two directors and two actors, getting the gender balance nicely divided as well. It’s a busy time for all of them at the moment, but I do hope they’ll take the time and read it and give me some feedback.
        Thank you, Chris. Once again. Great help and much appreciated.

      • Thank you, Chris. I’m preparing myself for whatever comes. Whatever the feedback, it will be a step forward. I got a reply from one of the directors yesterday to let me know that they received it and will get back to me as soon as they’ve had a chance to read it. Fingers crossed.

  3. I like harsh endings they seem more lifelike, nice shock! I saw the cigarette as a last minute bucket list type of thing and giving her mum the middle finger. 🙂

    • What I loved most about this process was not knowing how everything will pan out and going on instinct. All I had to guide me was the theme and the symbolic resonance throughout.
      I love your interpretation. It’s always best – or at least to me it seems so – when a play lends itself to multiple narratives. Thank you, Scarlet.

      • When she got up on the windows I thought, hmm that’s why they featured in the dream like parts but even then I didn’t expect it, great work 🙂

      • Oh! That’s amazing, Scarlet, thank you. This is what I always try to do with endings: make them unexpected, but also inevitable and this is why I have clues throughout so that it could be guessed at, or at least so that once the reader knows what happens and go back they can say: “so that’s what this was trying to tell me.” 🙂

      • I’m a big fan of David Lynch, I tend to look for clues a lot – not that this helps in his films lol.
        Thanks for putting so much effort in very creative, I love complex things I’m geeky 😀

      • The image of the broken mirror in Twin Peaks was one of the most unsettling sequences.
        I’m glad you enjoyed it. I have another few ideas for plays, but will see if I can turn them into something in the near future. 🙂

      • I loved that series, some brilliant things in it.
        Cool, best of luck with them, I’m reading writingthebody’s Zed the free rider blogs, I’m utterly addicted!

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