This play was first performed at Melting Pot Theatre, Bundanoon, in
July 2020, with Miranda Lean playing Advisor 2 and winning a best actor award.
Cast: Minister (M); Adviser One (A1); Adviser Two (A2)
[Parliament House, the Minister’s outer office, the Minister is offstage]
[A1 and A2 are onstage, A1 standing, phone in hand: A2 is seated at a desk]
M [yelling, angry, frustrated]
Get in here someone! Now! Can’t find the bloody thing anywhere.
A1 [looks hard at A2; points to the Minister’s office] Your turn.
A2 But I have my life ahead of me.
A1 You won’t if you don’t go.
A2 I won’t if I do go, by the sound of that.
A1 Come on. It’s a learning journey.
A2 I’m not sure I want to find out.
A1 It’s high time you earned all that money we pay you.
A2 Oh, alright.
[A2 stands, takes a deep breath and exits; loud, angry, unintelligible yelling offstage; A2 rushes back onstage]
A2 You might have warned me!
A1 You have to experience it sometime.
A2 I didn’t sign up for this.
A1 So what did you sign up for?
A2 [dreamily] To … to do good. To make the world a better place. To always put others first and never play the games that go on around here.
A1 [hand on head] Oh no, another idealist! What is wrong with the education system these days?
A2 Why are you so cynical? Shouldn’t we aim high?
A1 Now let me tell you a few hard— [A1 is interrupted by more yelling]
M Where is that damned thing? I’m surrounded by idiots!
A2 Shouldn’t we help her look?
A1 Nah. It’s hardly the first time she’s lost something. One of the first things to go were her principles. Happens to them all.
A2 I don’t believe you. I just don’t believe you. There’s got to be goodness in some of those we work with. Maybe, many of them.
A1 [shakes head in wonder] What a romantic you are. Nice in a way. But sad.
Do you know that the basement is chock-a-block with discarded principles. They truck them offsite these days.
A2 [optimistically] To recycle them?
A1 To take them to the tip, dummy.
[more unintelligible yelling from the Minister’s office]
A2 [points to the Minister’s office, plaintive] Was she always like this?
A1 Who knows? Who cares? She’s on the inside looking out. Best place to be. That’s where I want to end up. And she’s had a bit of fun along the way. I can tell you that.
A2 What do you mean?
A1 Well, it’s Australia. The 21st century. In the wee small hours, everyone needs a special sort of comfort.
A2 [shocked] What about the code-of-conduct? The Barnaby Principle?
A1 Oh dear me. Another one who hasn’t read the fine print.
[speaks slowly, carefully] Ministers-aren’t-allowed-to-have … liaisons … with-their-staff. [smiles, speaks normally again] Don’t you just love that word? Liaison.
But there’s nothing to stop staff having liaisons with ministers.
A2 That’s appalling. Hypocrisy of the highest order. We’re supposed to be setting an example.
A1 And we are. In creative implementation.
A2 Now you sound like a lawyer.
A1 Very kind of you to say so.
A2 I feel sick.
A1 Maybe you’re not really cut out for this life. Be honest though, wouldn’t you just love to be in there? The warm, tingly feeling that power gives you. The fact that you can yell at others without any justification whatsoever.
A2 That’s what my children are for.
A1 Ha ha! Let me give you a bit of advice. Love the bubble – or leave it.
A2 I’ve got a better solution. I’ll start my own party.
A1 Oh no, not the dreaded Third Way.
A2 I can see it now. The crowds gazing expectantly. Each and every person looking to me, and me alone, to salve their wounds, to lift their spirits, to offer them hope for the future.
A1 And just how will you do that?
A2 By the power of my words. All you ever come up with is cliché.
A1 They’re very useful around here. They have a soothing effect on ministers, and everyone. Helps them to forget.
A2 Amnesia is no substitute for action. I offer a vision.
A1 If you say so. Go on then, give us a taste.
A2 Well, it’s a bit off-the-cuff, but here goes.
[takes a deep breath, confident]
As Bismarck once said, it’s better never to watch laws or sausages being made. So, at the outset, let me be absolutely open and frank for my message is clear and simple. The fact of the matter is we inherited the current deplorable situation from our predecessors but the only thing we have to fear is fear itself as honesty is the best policy and money isn’t everything. Besides, it doesn’t grow on trees. Nonetheless, we’re spending more dollars in real terms – whatever that means – than any other government in the history of the world and when it’s all said and done and the cows come home to roost …
[frowns, rubs chin]
Aw … something went wrong there. It’s only a first draft though.
[The Minister appears around the corner; A2 does not see her]
[The Minister gives A1 the thumbs up then disappears again]
A1 Go on, go on. You’re doing really well.
A2 So my friends, at the end of the day, the ball’s in our court. We’ll go over the top at first light determined to play hard but fair, to make the ultimate sacrifice if need be, so that in the fullness of time and going forward we will maximise mutually beneficial outcomes for all those deserving to share in the riches of this great nation. Can we do it? The answer is inspiring. Say it with me. In just three words.
A1/A2 [looking at each other, they speak in unison, enthusiastic]
Can we do it? Yes we can!
A1 Very impressive. Very. You’re a natural. Bit of a surprise really.
What I like so much is the freshness of the ideas and the originality and the vigour of the language. You’ve definitely got something. Just give me a moment, will you. [disappears offstage briefly and returns] I hope you’ll think this is good news.
A2 Try me.
A1 [points to the Minister’s office] She liked what she heard. Liked it a lot. Was very complimentary. She wants you to become her strategic communications adviser. Big pay rise, of course.
A2 That’s definitely good news. But what about you?
A1 No need to worry about me. I’m her life coach, for life.
A2 Well … it’s a very tempting offer. I need to be clear, though. I’m not thinking of myself. [shakes head, emphatic] Not for a single moment.
A1 Of course not. Perish the thought. [rubs hands together] Well, that’s all settled. Why don’t we go and have a celebratory drink with the Minister?
A2 [hesitant] But what about the thing she lost? It sounded quite important.
A1 Forget it. You can’t hold ministers accountable for anything they did or said five minutes ago. The place would grind to a halt.
A2 Mmm … am I doing the right or the wrong thing? I don’t know. I really don’t know.
A1 Relax … after a while you won’t know the difference.
A2 Doesn’t that bother you?
A1 Did for a while. But I grew out of it. We all do. Come on! Can’t keep the Minister waiting.
A2 I suppose what I’m doing is in the national interest.
A1 Of course it is.
A2 Well, then, lead the way!
[they exit, lights down]
© Peter Rodgers 2020