Here’s something a bit different…
I was set a challenge yesterday, to come up with a full plot for a play based purely on a props list, a title and a handful of characters. I have never seen the play before, I have never heard of the play before. This was merely an intriguing experiment/writing exercise to see what I could come up with, and to me and my friends surprise, there were areas where I was getting pretty close.
Everything highlighted in bold was a listed prop. You can find the full prop’s list at the bottom.
Martha is a Cannabis plant. Martha belongs to Tom and is his prize plant. Tom’s partners in crime, Gerry and Joel want to sell “Martha” to a prospective buyer, Jago, but Tom is a little too attached and won’t sell. Jago brings a suitcase full of cash to pay upfront for the prized Martha, but Tom just won’t budge.
Gerry and Joel sneak back in the dead of night, armed with head torches, a sack and spades to dig up Martha so they can sell her to Jago. Joel is the dim one and also brings a pickaxe until Gerry tells him to put it down. But as they’re digging, they find a Femur bone and a library card. Knowing how attached Tom is to Martha, they deduct (wrongly) that Tom has murdered the last person who tried to take Martha away from him. Tom then catches them in the act, a little tired (or a little stoned, who knows) and doesn’t really comprehend what’s happening. He goes to make a cup of coffee to wake up. Afraid that they’ll end up in the dirt and become plant food for Martha, Gerry and Joel abandon their endeavour.
Gerry and Joel contemplate what they’ve just discovered. Gerry is terrified, wrapped up in a blanket for the shock, while Joel sits beside him playing his guitar and editing his music sheets. Gerry’s wondering what they should do, but Joel (oddly being the voice of reason) asks why should they do anything? Just play it cool and pretend like they found nothing. Gerry eventually agrees, then turns to Joel and asks: since when do you play the guitar? Joel turns back to him and says: I don’t. We’re stoned. Sure enough, the scene changes to reality, with both of them smoking joints. Joel stubs his out into the ash tray and Gerry finishes the last of his whiskey before throwing the bottle into a bucket.
Next day, Gerry and Joel go back to Tom’s, only to find that the police are there! There’s police tape across the doors, a police officer called Roger with a police badge and everything, but they don’t seem to have noticed that Tom is growing a massive cannabis plant in his front room. Tom explains that two people broke into his house and attacked him last night and the police are investigating. Gerry and Joel do a terrible job of pretending that everything’s normal as Tom gets checked over by the official medical officer, using a stethoscope, otoscope and reflex hammer. The entire search gets video-taped and Officer Roger continually takes down notes.
Worried about what Tom is going to do to them when he finds out what they did, they take more drugs to try and calm down. But the subject matter and hallucinogenics is not a good combination, as Gerry finds himself on a medical trolley with Tom bearing over him in a surgical mask, with an array of medical equipment including a Victorian surgical saw that Tom prepares to dissect him with. Joel is in the corner watching, munching on a sandwich. Blood and guts empty onto the stage and once he is finished, Tom covers Gerry with the surgical sheet. Joel still eats his sandwich.
Gerry and Joel go back to the scene of the crime (quite literally) to see Tom. But to their surprise, the place is empty. The police have gone, but all their things are still there. Martha stands there, watching. Looking around for Tom, Joel finds a sack which turns out to be full of bones. Elsewhere, Gerry finds a kneecap bone, a breast bone, a skull, the police badge and Jago’s phone and suitcase. Officer Roger’s Dictaphone lies nearby and playing back the recording, they hear cries for help and a very angry voice in the background. Fearing the worst, Gerry and Joel safely assume that Tom has gone off his rocker. He’s also standing right behind them.
Tom has gone psychotic. He knows that it was Gerry and Joel who broke into his flat, who tried to take Martha away from him and how he would never let anyone take Martha away from him. He goes to his cupboard, cycling through his arsenal of weapons, deciding which one to kill Gerry and Joel with. There’s a sledge hammer, machete knives, a shotgun, but he decides to settle for the sickle (or scythe). Gerry and Joel, pleading for their lives, grab whatever they can to defend themselves with. Gerry grabs a baseball bat, Joel grabs the suitcase but Tom is going to let them take Martha. With pure rage, he strikes!
Gerry, Joel and Tom all pull off their blind folds, in the same room, in the same place, except Martha has gone. Each of them has got a huge joint that they’ve all been smoking. “That’s some strong shit”, Gerry says, stubbing the rest out into the ash tray. “I told you” replies Tom, “She’s perfection. I raised her good and proper.”
It was all a dream! Or a hallucination. Cliché still applies.
Rather fittingly, this play seems to have been written by someone on drugs (I will stress however that I was very much of sound mind!) but it was the props list to blame for the rather bizarre series of events that unfolded during this challenge.
That being said, there were some plot points that were pretty close to the mark, which was surprising since I was aiming to be as far away from the mark as possible. They are as follows:
- Two characters do attempt to dig something up and the library card is found where the digging takes place
- There is a “dim one”
- The policeman does fail to notice that there is a cannabis plant in the room
- There is a hallucination involving the medical trolley, the medical equipment and involves human dissection.
- There is a moment where loads of weapons are taken from a cupboard.
- There is a lot of ‘what should be do’ wondering
However, there was one thing that I got 100% wrong with my version of Raising Martha.
“Martha is definitely not a Cannabis plant”
If you like to write then I would 100% recommend using this challenge as some form of an exercise. Maybe 120 props was a pretty tall order to merge into some form of tangible plot. But how about this? Pop into your local charity shop, pick something random and start from there. See what you come up with. That’s where I’m heading next, so be warned! There could be some other weird and wonderful plot lines coming your way, so stay tuned for more.
Coffee Table, Wooden Chairs, Briefcase, Headtorch, Coffee Cup, Tea Bag, Spray Bottle for Cannabis Plants, Scissors for Cannabis Plants, Keys for USL Door, Mag IIt Torches x2, Pick Axe, Spade 1, Spade 2, Inhaler, Sack, Femur Bone, Policeman Badge, Policeman Radio, Police Tape, Library Card, Blanket, Guitar, Guitar Strings, Cannabis Plants, Music Paper, Pencil/Pen, Poker, Towel, Dish Cloth, Evidence Bag, Bucket, Metal Crash Box, Incident Sign, Head towel, Empty Whiskey bottle, Joint, Lighter, Ash Tray, Shower Gel, Jago phone, Police Notebook and Pencil, Scales, Black hardback book, Plastic zip bags, Cling Film, Cannabis, Tank, Cane Toad, Resin, Pen Knife, White clipboard, Medical Form, Fountain Pen, Stethoscope, Otoscope, Reflex Hammer, Scalpel, Heavy Metal Instrument, Evidence Bag (for Camera and Tripod), Video camera, Tripod, Mini pad of paper, Black Flag with Frog, Pad of Yellow Paper, Pen, House Brick (with note), Measuring Tape, Notebook/Pencil, Ear Plugs, Whiskey Glass, Bottle of Whiskey/Scotch, Coke, Scissors, Peeling Device, Bucket with Mud and Wood, Sandwich, Saw (Victorian Surgical), Surgical Masks, Medical Trolley, Silver Tray, Medical equipment, Syringe, Magnifying glass, Bowl for hand washing, Surgical sheet, Blood and guts, Duvet and duvet cover, Sack of bones, Mandible bone, Kneecap bone, Breast bone, Bath towl, Tibla bone, Mug, Sandwich, Dictaphone, Skull, rucksack, Roger’s phone, Jago’s phone, double barrelled shot gun, baseball bat, machete knives, sickle/scythe, man trap, crowbar, sledge hammer, suitcase, table cloth, hand-tie rope, blind fold, large knife, huge joints, ash tray.
(48 out of 120 props successfully used)