Desk Sergeant Tomkins
WPC Louise Barnham
Cleaner, Emily Wetherspoon
Escaped Convict, Harry Stephens
Norman/Norma Wilde, a cross-dresser
Evelyn Wilde, Norman’s wife
Green Lane Police Station
The action takes place somewhere in suburbia in the public waiting area of a police station. Stage left there is a long desk, the width of the room, with the sergeant’s office behind, segregated from the public by glass panelling. One of the panels is missing and is awaiting replacement. At the upstage end of the office the desk swings up to form a door into the public area. Stage right are three doors: two lead to the male and female toilets and one to the locker-room and staff rest room. There are two doors in the upstage wall: one to the Inspector’s office and one is the main entrance from the street. In the sergeant’s office there are three telephones, office furniture, a safe, a radio communications set and an intercom connected to the inspector’s office. In the public area there are several padded chairs, a filing cabinet, a plant in a pot and several small tables, on one of which is a coffee machine. The curtain opens on Sergeant Tomkins, alone on stage, shuffling papers on the desk.
(The phone rings and Tomkins lifts one receiver.)
TOMKINS: Good evening; Green Lane police station; how can I help you? (The phone continues to ring. Tomkins lifts the second receiver.) Good, evening, Green Lane…. (The phone continues to ring. He picks up the last receiver. In an irritated manner.)
Good evening, what do you want? Oh, I beg your pardon. Green Lane police station; how may I help you, madam? (Pause) I do apologise, how may I help, sir? Your wife is missing? Gone out into the woods with George? How long ago was this, sir? Three hours ago. And what gives you cause for concern?
(Another telephone rings.)
I’m sorry, sir; would you mind holding the line for a moment?
(He picks up a receiver)
Good evening; Green Lane police… (The ringing continues. In his haste to pick up the third receiver, he knocks the first two onto the floor.) Good evening; Green Lane police station; how may I help you? (Pause) There’s a man doing what? Hiding in your cherry tree and looking into your window. Do you recognize this man? He’s your husband? Just a moment, madam, will you hold on please?
(He bends down to continue the other call but picks up the wrong phone.)
Hello! Hello? (Realising his mistake he throws the phone over his shoulder and it hits him in the back. He takes the first phone now.)
I’m sorry about that madam – sir! Now, you were telling me about George. (Pause) Full name, please? George Clooney? George is very strong, you say, and sometimes your wife can’t control him and he gets his own way. Tell me, sir, have you been drinking? Alright, alright, can you please hold a moment?
(He throws the first phone over the other shoulder, replaces the third one on the hook and takes the second phone.)
Sorry for the delay, madam. Now, will you please explain what your husband is doing up a tree. I know you said he’s hiding, but who is he hiding from? Alright, whom is he hiding from? From your boyfriend? Your husband is hiding from your boyfriend! Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Oh, I see, you live with your boyfriend. I’m sorry but will you hang on a minute.
(Taking the other call again)
Now sir, your wife is in the woods with George Clooney and he is getting his way with her. Now would this be the George Clooney? Oh, I’m the one being ridiculous am I? You’re worried about George? I thought you were worried about your wife. He’s recovering from an operation? He’s been what? He’s been neutered? Look, will you hang on a minute, please.
(Muttering to himself, he takes the other phone.)
Ruddy nutter! Oh, not you, madam, the person on the other phone. Now, about your boyfriend, does he know your husband is up a tree? What? Your boyfriend’s up a different tree? Now you’ve got me confused. Just a moment, please, I need to find out what’s happened to George Clooney.
(He throws the phone over his shoulder again and takes the other call.)
Now sir, you were telling me about George Clooney’s operation. He has a weak bladder as well? He lifts his leg all over the house? Do you mean George Clooney is a dog? Of course I did – just making sure. Just one moment please.
(Taking the other phone.)
But madam, why is your boyfriend up a tree? Hiding from your ex-boyfriend. And where is your ex-boyfriend? Hiding in the bathroom! And who is he hiding from? From you? You’ve lost me now. I just don’t….
(The third telephone rings. Tomkins throw the current one over his shoulder and picks up the third one.)
(Angrily) Yes, what is it? Oh, I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t know it was you. No, I don’t normally answer like that, it’s just that I’m trying to deal with George Clooney and a woman with a husband and two boyfriends. Oh, never mind! (Pause)
The new Detective Inspector? Coming tonight? Here? Oh my! Please excuse me for a moment.
(He picks up the other two phones and speaks into both at once.)
Just one moment, I am passing you over to someone who may be able to help you.
(He puts the two receivers together, earpiece to mouthpiece and secures them with parcel tape. He then puts them both in a drawer. Taking the other phone again…)
Sorry about that, sir, I just had to deal with a couple of nutters! Yes, sir, I will make him very welcome. Inspector Pickard, you say? Very well, sir. Goodnight, sir. (He slams the phone down and mops his brow.)
Just when I thought we were in for a quiet night.
He leaps over the desk, taking a short-cut through the missing glass panel, and crosses to a plant pot in the public area. Reaching into the pot, he takes out a bottle and a glass, pours himself a drink and sinks into one of the padded chairs. The bottle is a mineral water bottle but the liquid is clearly something a lot stronger by his reaction. Louise is heard singing off-stage in the locker room. Tomkins panics, drains his glass and is about to hide it in the plant pot when Louise enters. He quickly conceals glass and bottle behind the coffee machine, but in view of the audience.
LOUISE: Evening Serg!
TOMKINS: (With his back to Louise, he fans his breath to dilute the alcohol fumes.) Oh, hello WPC Barnham. You’re early.
(Louise looks around the room.)
LOUISE: Is there someone here? You never call me WPC Barnham.
TOMKINS: Things have become too informal around here lately. I need to tighten up on discipline.
LOUISE: In other words, the new inspector is coming soon.
TOMKINS: As a matter of fact, yes, he is. (He crosses to the desk and leaps through the missing window into the office.)
LOUISE: Then you’ll have to start using the office door, like everyone else.
TOMKINS: I’ll have to soon anyway. The glass is due to be repaired.
LOUISE: Thank goodness for that. Anything to report so far this evening?
TOMKINS: It’s been very quiet except for a couple of telephone calls – absolute raving lunatics. And – news has come in of an escaped convict seen in our patch; a conman. Non-violent but very clever at deception.
LOUISE: Is that all?
TOMKINS: Oh, and this. (He opens the safe and takes out a glittering diamond necklace. Louise gasps.) Found in the street by a twelve-year-old boy. Forensics are trying to discover whether it is part of a larger haul from that bank robbery last week.
LOUISE: Wow, are they real diamonds?
TOMKINS: Of course.
LOUISE: Can I try it on – just quickly?
TOMKINS: Certainly not. It is in our custody for safe keeping. (He locks it back in the safe.)
LOUISE: Well, I think I need a coffee before I start my shift.
TOMKINS: I’ll get it, Louise, I mean WPC Barnham. (She starts to cross to the coffee machine but Tomkins leaps over the desk again and tries to pour it for her. The machine is empty, however.) I’ll make coffee in the inspector’s office – I could do with one myself.
LOUISE: Thank you. I suppose we won’t be able to do that once the new man arrives. When does he arrive?
LOUISE: My goodness, then I’d better tidy the office. Is Emily in?
TOMKINS: Yes, Miss Wetherspoon is cleaning the locker room at present. (Exits to inspector’s office.)
LOUISE: Good, this floor needs mopping.
(She enters the sergeant’s office, sees the wires coming out of the drawer, takes the two telephones out, unwinds the tape and replaces them on the receivers with an incredulous look on her face. Enter Emily from the locker room, dressed as a cleaner.)
Ah Emily, there you are.
EMILY: Evening, Miss.
LOUISE: Emily, do you think you could give this floor a mop, please? The new inspector is coming in later.
EMILY: Certainly, Miss. As a matter of fact, it’s my next job. (She fetches her mop and bucket and begins to mop.)
LOUISE Oh, and be a dear – the coffee machine needs topping up with water.
EMILY: Certainly, Miss. I’ll do that first. (She crosses to the coffee machine and sees the bottle of whisky.) That’s a good idea! Saves taking the whole machine out to the kitchen. (She empties the whole bottle into the machine.)
TOMKINS: (Over the intercom. This makes Emily jump.) The train for Clapham Junction is about to depart from Platform Three.
EMILY: I really wish he wouldn’t do that. It always gives me a fright.
TOMKINS: Mind the doors! (Emily jumps again.)
LOUISE: He certainly can’t do it when Pickard arrives.
EMILY: Who? LOUISE Inspector Pickard – our new boss.
TOMKINS: (In a Geordie accent) Would Louise please come to the diary room! Your coffee is ready.
EMILY: Now Big Brother wants you.
LOUISE: He loves his little games.
EMILY: I’ll go and get your coffee for you.
LOUISE: Thanks, Emily; I need to sort out all these files.
(As Emily exits to the Inspector’s office, Louise drops an armful of files and bends down to pick them up.)
Enter Norman Wilde, in female attire. He does not see Louise, who is picking up the files but she is in full view of the audience. Norman rings the bell for attention and stoops to do up his shoe-lace. Louise leaves her files and stands up but sees no-one at the desk. She stoops down again to pick up the files. Norman stands up and rings the bell again. He then turns away from the desk and hitches up his false boobs, just as Louise stands up again. When she notices what Norman is doing she quickly bobs down again to hide. A few seconds later she tentatively rises and looks over the desk. Without turning round Norman impatiently rings the bell repeatedly.
Hanham Players, Bristol, England 13th and 14th September 2019