ONE CONTINUOUS SCENE:
Conference centre, central London, present day.
[ SCENE SET BY RADIO ANNOUNCER OUTSIDE THE BUILDING, JOSTLED BY PAPARAZZI ETC..
…Tickets for todays appearance at the enquiry into the allied invasion of Xistan by the Foreign Affairs minister Martha W Devine
are harder to come by than anything in the West End…]
IN ROOM OF OFFICIAL ENQUIRY INTO UK ROLE IN ALLIED INVASION OF XISTAN.
M, IMPECCABLY DRESSED NEW LABOUR SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS SIDE STAGE
IN A POWER NAP. VERY REPOSED EVEN IN SLEEP. OPENS ONE EYE, STARES OUT INTO SPACE.
TAKES IN THE ROOM. SETTLES AND SNOOZES AGAIN. NIGHTMARE.
M No, No, if I’d known, if, if only...if only...No No No
WAKES WITH A START, UPRIGHT , FULL LIGHTS ON AS FROM A TV CREW / PAPARAZZI,
SHE SHIELDS HER EYES , VOICE SOFTLY NOW
No, of course I have no regrets, I’d...
SUDDENLY MORE COMPOSED & ASSURED, NO TRACE OF ANY ANXIETY.
USES A LAPTOP LID TO CHECK HAIR ETC. TOTALLY COMPOSED NOW, POWERFUL.
SHE MOVES FROM LEFT TO CENTRE STAGE AS CHAIRMAN WALKS IN FROM RIGHT.
HE NODS –
SHE DOESN’T LOOK AT HIM, THEY ARE SIDE BY SIDE CENTRE STAGE THEN FACE OUT TO AUDIENCE
CHAIR I believe it is customary to open these proceedings with a minute of silence in respect of...
IN REAL TIME WE ARE WELL INTO MINUTE OF SILENCE BUT IT IS BREAKING DOWN
CHAIR CONTINUES STANDING, STARING OUT RIGIDLY. M SECRETLY LOOKS AT WATCH
M 32, 33, 34.. rapacious mob, don’t even know what they want themselves.
Can’t be blood after all this.
Or may be it is. Just someone else’s. A mob is a mob. Even if it’s made up of liberals, fence –sitters , ‘bien pensants’ or off their head riff raff who just want off with my head, French revolution style.
THE MINUTE SILENCE JUST HOLDING DESPITE THE FIDGETING, CONTINUE IN REAL TIME
I’m beyond caring now. ..43, 44, 45, What is this , fourth, fifth enquiry? The truth is a circle, it never gets any closer. Wouldn’t mind myself if it got a bit further but that’s another narrative. 54, 55, I expect Sir Pompous Burke will be clearing his throat that purposeless way he does and...
CHAIR GIVES A MANNERED COUGH, CHECKS HIS FOB WATCH
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen. Secretary of State, please be seated. I declare this trial, this show, this er, ASIDE, SHUFFLING PAPERS - let me see , what the hell is this one, indeed, this enquiry, open. Secretary of State welcome. Do take a seat.
M REMAINING CENTRE, STANDING , STILL NO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF CHAIR
SPEAKING DIRECTLY OUT AS IF ADDRESSING A FRIEND-
Do you know I am the only woman to appear before this inquiry? Proud of that.
Proud of everything. I’d do it all again. For you.
CHAIR For the record, on the record, we are here today with our guest – I stress guest –
Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs...
M Foreign Affairs...
CHAIR ...The Right Hon Martha W Devine ...
M Right. Honourable.
M MP, Martha the Prat. Pride. Fall. Should have known, should have known it would end. End like this.
A gas of tears.
CHAIR Secretary of State? Can I get you anything, offer you anything before we start?
STILL LOOKING DIRECTLY OUTWARDS
M What could a man like you possibly offer me?
SUDDENLY THE SMILE IS SWITCHED ON, POWER MODE
CHAIR Call, me Sir Michael, please. May I call you Martha? HE WAITS
M Mr Chairman.
CHAIR Minister, I want to reassure you this isn’t a trial...
M SHE GESTURES BACK OUT TOWARD THE AUDIENCE
Have you told them that?
TO CHAIR Thank you Chair, I am well aware of the status of your, er, yes, perhaps you would be so good... water...no, I don’t want anything from you. ASIDE , It’ll just make a mess, glass overflowing with tears onto the surface..
CHAIR THE COUGH, THE PAPER SHUFFLE
Quite. Your point is taken Minister. My enquiry, this enquiry has no status in law.
We are simply concerned with the truth.
M Of course the whole truth. Nothing but.
SHE LOOKS AT HIM DIRECTLY THEN BACK OUT TO AUDIENCE the whole truth, everything but...THEN BACK TO HIM
CHAIR As I said we have no status in law, our concern, the public’s concern is the truth.
You are our guest, so perhaps I can begin today’s proceedings by asking you for a statement.
If you would be so kind.
Of the truth, I mean.
M You mean I would give you a statement of something other than the truth?
CHAIR Secretary of State, I wasn’t inferring...
Please. A statement.
M Of the truth?
M SHE STARES BACK OUT INTO THE DISTANCE The truth.
CHAIR I’m so sorry. Is there a problem ? A statement I mean, the statement. Thank you , minister.
SHE LOOKS AT HIM AND BEGINS
M You are not a minister, a cabinet minister, you, a civil servant, can never know how it feels to embark on a course of action that may result in death. Reaching a place from where there is no way back..
CHAIR Minister, could we begin with a statement of fact? If you would be so good...
M Good, it isn’t a question of good, it is a question of right.
CHAIR I didn’t mean to...
M LOOKS AT HIM, BEGINNING TO GET UP...
CHAIR A statement, the statement...
M BACK STANDING CENTRE STAGE, SPEAKING OUT TO THE DISTANCE
M I didn’t meant to hurt you, I didn’t mean to hurt any one, I’m just...
I’m just ...I’m just what? Just New Labour, just a foreign secretary – correction foreign affairs – just a woman, just a grammar school girl, you took me to places I could only dream of, you can’t have nightmares without dreams. When did I last sleep?
CHAIR Forgive me, shouldn’t have sprung it on you like that, rather ungentlemanly some might say, perhaps we should adjourn, time to compose yourself, compose...the statement I mean, I mean...
M I wasn’t prepared, prepared for where it could all lead, how could I be? It led me here.
Statement. Everything I did for you. For love. I have no regrets. I did it for you.
Love and death. The makings of a perfect enquiry. You GESTURES TO THE AUDIENCE will love it. I guarantee. Best seats in the house, not a dry eye. You know they are touting tickets for my appearance here. Everyone else – well, except the PM, - everyone else, all the other men, who cares. Empty seats like the House of Commons on a Friday afternoon.
I’ll try not to disappoint you. Let you down. You see it was all for love. And all is fair in love and war. But of course you know the ending. Death. So what is the point?
CHAIR For the record there now follows a statement by the Right Honourable Martha...
M I met her in Brussels. It was a reception. Diplomatic. I can’t remember who introduced us.
American diplomat maybe, if that isn’t a tautology.
No names. Real names. Diplomatic, coded. I said to her what do you do?
She said, arms dealer. What do you do, she fired back. I said Foreign Affairs. So I ended up in her arms that night. Lots of things happen in Brussels. Secret things. At night. But I’ll never tell anyone.
TO CHAIR BUT REMAINING CENTRE STAGE
Least of all you, people like you, have you ever been in love, made a wrong move..?
ANGRILY SHE WALKS BACK TO CHAIR LEANS ACROSS TABLE AND SHOUTS IN HIS FACE
Do you regret anything, have you any regrets, do you, do you?
CHAIR Can I offer you anything Secretary of State. Water? Break? May I suggest you prepare your statement during the adjournment, though I would prefer it if you stay in the building and don’t at this stage consult external documents.
M It isn’t a trial...
CHAIR As I adumbrated in the preamble. However, like you, I am a servant of the crown, my, our only concern in these proceedings is
CHAIR AND M TOGETHER The Truth.
M MOVES BACK CENTRE STAGE
A statement, our statement, the statement.
Brussels. One night. Wasn’t even Paris. But it was a start.
OUT AT AUDIENCE I’ll tell , kiss and tell, BACK TO CHAIR BUT AS ASIDE But I’ll never tell you. I swore.
CENTRE STAGE LOOKING INTO THE DISTANCE
To Sidiq. I’m Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I can keep a secret.
Sidiq, Brussels, 2003, - she told me her name in the morning, when I’d earned her trust. I was in love with her by then. That’s all it took. A night in Brussels, she deals in arms, you see. There were many nights in that – I travel a lot in my job – we loved each other.
Scenarios can happen very quickly. Pillow talk is such a cliché – careless talk costs lives –
But it happened. You can fall in love as quickly as you can get killed.
One morning, must have been Vienna, no, - nothing was ever written down – Geneva –
no Vienna, there was some music in the background, she’d never heard a waltz before –
it was there she asked me. I mean the first time. After you’ve taken the first step you may as well keep on dancing. Surface to air, armour piercing, semi-automatics – snipers prefer them apparently. A shopping list. Went straight to my heart. Flowers, waltz, coffee, croissants, semi-automatic.
Just so happens, in my job, I could oblige. Sure other lovers do it, lingerie salesmen, florists, bakers. Your lover wants something, give it to them.
Yes, I am aware of what armour piercing means, what it entrails.
CHAIR Secretary of State, your statement, your quid pro quo...
M What was in it for me? Love. Sex. Power. Anything else on the list?
CHAIR ...your causus belli, your cri de Coeur..
M CONTINUING from Brussels, to Vienna, to Geneva and back, from London to New York , Copenhagen in the snow. Never held hands in public, even in Amsterdam, kissing, every dreamy off duty moment in the arms of my arms dealer...
SHE SUDDENLY NOTICES THE CHAIR AGAIN
M You said quid pro quo?
CHAIR Quid pro quo, I mean...
M ANNOYED BY PATRONISING SHE WALKS OVER TO THE TABLE AND SITS DOWN. LOOKS AT CHAIRMAN , EVENTUALLY SAYS
M Schools. For girls.
CHAIR That is your statement, your raison d’etre, could you amplify at all. Minister?
The public would be obliged.
M The what, who, the public, yes, of course, the public
SHE DRIFTS BACK. CENTRE STAGE
We could never have that. A public life. Private. So intense. We loved each other.
Sidiq and I. I gave her everything. All an arms dealer could ever want. Kisses, air to air.
Clothes from South Molton street, a street only I could ever see, just doing the shopping, perhaps she got a fraction greedy – but the stakes were escalating, it’s true, anti-tank, mines, I drew the line at cluster bombs. Got a little...
M Got a little asymmetrical after that. Said she’d leave me, yes, Oman, no Tangiers, said she’d leave me. I can’t get clusters I said. Maybe you’re not the woman I first met. Brussels, a not so peaceful night in the arms of my arms dealer.
CHAIR Would you care to amplify? Schools?
M I went along with it. Schools for Girls. It was the right thing to do. I’m grammar school myself. Not like his sort GESTURES TO CHAIR. Grammar school for girls. Taught me everything I know, well almost. Actually even that, Sidiq wasn’t the first, just the best, I’d do anything for you I said, that night in ..Tangiers.
She played for the right side. Weapons for a fit purpose. Schools for girls. The first in the region. We had to set them up, make it stick, even after we left. Sidiq said it was the only way. Means. Ends.
Bombs first , then schools for girls , then no more war, even have women in a democratically appointed cabinet in what, 3, 4 years. Course we’d be out by then , safe house in Kensington, handy for the shops. Trust me , I know how these things work.
CHAIR Minister, let me put it another way if I may. In foreign policy generally – we can get into specifics after the adjournment – is it your belief, or were you so advised by officials that the ends justifies the means? It would give the public some illumination.
M STILL CENTRE STAGE FACING OUT
Tangiers. Got clingy first, then threatening, suppose I should have seen it coming, in my job, with my antennae, then lovey again , my Sidiq, in the arms of my lover, revert to threatening, her job when you think about it, but we were only together off duty. Made it as far as Cairo.
The she dropped the bomb. We need the clusters. Tipping point. Defeat the insurgents, spike, new government, school for girls. It’s just a sequence. Course if you’d rather call it a day. I’ll still love you, of course I wouldn’t know if you still love me. Maybe we should just bury it here, mum’s the word, put everything in the pyramid, love is a funeral pyre, it only takes you so far. I need more now, some proof. Show me you’re still with me.
I thought I’d been showing her that since Brussels. You’re my love bomb she said, you make me...
CHAIR ...regarding the ethical foreign policy Her Majesty’s Government adumbrated in the House of Commons second reading concerning categorisation of weapons , export provisions, UN treaty of...
M I was alone in New York. She said she’d join me when I’d used my contacts. I never slept in the city that never sleeps. Nights with Sidiq were wasted with sleep. I wonder if I’ll ever sleep again with or without you...
CHAIR Shall we pursue this after the break , Minister? We can proceed to summarise , ethical foreign policy, achievement of specific goals, school for girls, cabinet appointments
M Said she’d break it up, can’t go on with her, can’t go on without her, already done the armour piercing, cluster bomb just another step, love bomb, a broken heart is a broken heart, all’s fair in love and war.
You have a job where you can help a loved one out, why not? Don’t want it to blow up in your face. Have you ever heard the silence after an explosion she used to say, lying there on her side. One day it will all be over, shopping in Kensington, school for girls there , shopping here. Hermes scarves, high heels with phosphorous tips, all the rage.
Prove you love me, she whispered, I know you can’t live without me, it’d be like a death, no Sidiq, no sleep. Clusters. Together. it’s just on the shopping list, the last item. You’ll be in trouble if you go home without it.
CHAIR Secretary of State , who did you meet in the margins of the UN in New York in...?
SEES M STRUGGLE FOR ANSWER
I’m most terribly sorry, rather ungallant of me, I say, yes, of course, we’ll make the break now.
HE STANDS UP , JOINS M IN CENTRE AS AT START , THEN HE WALKS OFF, LIGHTS BEGIN TO DIM
M GOES BACK TO DESK. SITS. RESTS, GUARD DOWN:
M Don’t leave me, don’t leave me. I’ll do anything. I only want to sleep , with you.
SHE IS DRIFTING INTO A NAP.. Brussels, Tangiers, be with you, I never want to have regrets, I know that now. Learned my Iesson, lessons in...
FX (OR NEWS ITEM ON TV MONITOR/ RADIO) HUGE EXPLOSIONS IN QUICK SUCCESSION, SCREAMS OF WOMEN, CHILDREN, M IN THAT ONE EYE OPEN THROUGH FINGERS AWAKING FROM NIGHTMARE
Don’t leave me, don’t leave me...
SUCCESSIVE FLASHES OF EXPLOSIONS, THENBLACK OUT