A short play in one act (after the painting by Walter Sickert)
or a day in the life of Mr and Mrs Hubby
A couple in a small living-room. A kitchen perhaps. A non-descript painting hangs on a wall of discoloured floral wall-paper.
A clocks ticks.
A portly man, Mr Hubby, sits back in a wooden chair. He is smoking a cigar. He is wishing that the glass of water on the table in front of him is wine. His wife is in the corner of the room behind him looking at her collection of stuffed birds which perch in a bell-jar.
They are not talking to each other, but we hear their thoughts.
Woman: Sitting on his fat arse all day long blowing smoke rings. He wonders why I spend my time looking at my birds. Well, why not, they were lovely song-birds, I say, they gave me joy and happiness when they were alive. Unlike you who have given me precious little to sing about these last, ooh, I don’t know how many years. I don’t say that of course. I don’t say much to him.
Man: Nice cigar. Shame the wine delivery didn’t happen. What other joy is there these days?
Mrs Hubby has her stuffed birds and I have my wine. Those are our pathetic pleasures. God, how bored I am. I tried to tell a friend the other day and he said all marriages go that way, so welcome to the club Hubby, and he bought me a drink.
Woman: I talk more in my Thursday french class than I talk to him all week. Ennui, that’s what they call it. Boredom. Je m’ennuie. I am bored. I am ennuied out of my head, trapped in this soulless house. (Silence. She turns and looks for a long time at her husband). If only we could wind the clock back.
There is a lighting change, and some french romantic music. The man and woman exit the room. As if by magic, the wallpaper becomes colourful and fresh, the bland painting looks lustrous, and – most incredibly – the birds in the cage come to life. They are singing beautifully. The man re-appears. He has lost many kilos, is looking much younger. He holds out his arms to his wife., who comes in smiling and lifts up the bell-jar to let out the birds. She turns round to her husband and they dance to the music. As they dance, the birds fly around their heads.
Woman (speaking for the first time): Ma cheri, on a renversé le temps.
Woman: That’s french, hubby darling. We have wound back the clock.
Man: I am not bored anymore. How incredible. I will never be bored again.
Woman: No more ennui. Would you like to go to Paris with me?
Man: Oui, oui, oui, Mrs Hubby!
They kiss. The birds go back and settle happily on their perches. Lights fade.
Mark is a freelance theatre-maker and writer, living in South Queensferry