Cutting it. To be sufficient. To pass the test.
Cutting the cord. To become independent. To leave behind a limiting relationship.
Cutting the cake. To celebrate a commitment. To consummate.
Cutting It is a new play that examines the things we need to cut in our lives.
Mona is a single mum living in Altona, Melbourne. She and her son Donny are a stable unit – perhaps a little too stable. But when Donny brings home a runaway knife salesperson and Mona finds herself developing feelings for her son’s best friend, a train of events is set in motion that will change their lives forever.
Inspired by The House of Blue Leaves and Australian Idol, Cutting It combines kitchen-sink realism, absurdist comedy and a healthy dose of karaoke to convey a unique vision of the Australian suburbs.
This is the first scene.
Mona Pickett – a woman in her late forties.
Donny Pickett – Mona’s son. Late teens.
Ted Scammell – Their neighbour and Donny’s best mate. Late teens.
Claire Biggens – New arrival to Melbourne. Salesperson. Early twenties.
Bernice – Mona’s best friend. Hairdresser. Forties.
The Pickett family home in Altona, Melbourne. The stage is divided in half by a wall; there should be an opening in this to allow passage between the two halves. The kitchen occupies stage left. The furniture is battered but homely – there’s a table with two chairs and a bench with a toaster and kettle. One of these chairs should be an office chair on wheels. The bench should have cupboards containing a bin and a teapot, as well as several unmatched mugs and plates. Actors exit stage left to reach the back garden and the bathroom, which stands separate to the house. The living room is stage right; this should be floored with a blood-red Persian rug. There’s a trolley downstage with a karaoke machine on it; the microphone and a book of song selections sit on top. Actors exit stage right to reach the bedrooms and the front of the house. The set should strike a balance between naturalistic detail and a slightly abstracted bareness – there should be plenty of black space around the bones of the furniture. It’s important that everything is portable – the set will be completely re-arranged between each act.
MONA enters stage right; she shuffles through the living room into the kitchen. She’s wearing tracksuit pants and a loose T-shirt. Her hair is dishevelled and her eyes are still half closed – she’s only just woken up. She puts on the kettle and, remembering something, crosses to the opening between kitchen and living room.
MONA: [Yells.] Donny!
She walks back into the kitchen. Throughout the following her voice rises in unconscious competition with the kettle, until she is nearly shouting.
MONA: There was this fellow on the television. I forget the program. But – get this – he hated his leg. As if there weren’t problems enough in the world without hating your leg. I called Donny in and I said, “This is what happens when you have too much time on your hands – you wind up hating your leg.” I don’t have much patience for a lot of idle thinking. [Puts a hand to her head.] God, I feel like crap this morning.
[Crosses again to the door.] Donny! It’s time to get up, son. [Returning.] It makes no sense at all – hating your leg. But this cuckoo, he felt so strongly about it that he dipped his leg in something – some poison – until the doctors had to cut it off. And the audience sat there and the host sat there very respectful and no-one said the obvious thing – the thing that I was thinking and Donny was thinking and I’m sure most of them were thinking. What have you done to yourself? What you need is help – not amputation.
[The kettle has nearly boiled. Mona goes again to the door.] Do I have to come in there? There are things I want to do today. Donny! It’s not getting any earlier, son. [She crosses to the kettle and pours water into a teapot.] I’m at the end of my rope with that boy – I mean, really. He’s a Cancer and yes, they are homebodies and late bloomers, but there’s no tension in him anywhere. No push. And you have to keep pushing – if you want to get anywhere, that is. God helps them that helps themselves.
[Fills her lungs again.] Donny! It’s not easy being a single mum. Sometimes I feel it’s just me pushing the both of us. [She rests the strainer on a mug. Suddenly she can’t wait any longer; she crosses to the door.] God help me, Donny …
DONNY has just entered stage right; Mona almost runs into him as he enters the kitchen. He’s still wearing last night’s clothes.
DONNY: I’m here, Mum.
MONA: It’s about time. I need you to drive me to the shops today, Donny. I …
DONNY: I know, Mum, I know. Lay off a minute, will you? [Sees that there’s only one mug beside the teapot.] Were you going to pour me some? Geez.
MONA: You have to learn to fend for yourself. That’s the rule.
DONNY: Really? I’ll remember that next time you want me to drive you somewhere.
MONA: It’s for your own good. I can’t go on … Oh, who am I kidding? You look awful, Donny. Do you want some toast?
DONNY: [Makes a face.] Food … [He sits at the table.]
MONA: [Pouring tea for both.] What did you get up to last night, anyhow? I hope you didn’t wreck the car.
DONNY: [Ignores this last statement.] House party. In Willy. You should have seen Ted, Mum – he was gone.
MONA: I don’t understand that boy.
DONNY: [Warming with the recollection.] He ate a whole green pepper. On a dare. There was stuff running out his eyes, his nose, his mouth, everywhere – it really turned on the tap. We laughed our arses off.
MONA: [Carries tea to the table.] He comes around here and he’s so well-mannered – such a nice boy. Then you tell me stories like that. I can’t put it together.
DONNY: It’s the quiet ones you have to watch. [Mona sits.] You know what, Mum – I will have that toast. Take the edge off. [Mona leans her elbows hard on the table but decides not to protest.] I was thinking about that guy on TV the other night. Remember him, the amputee?
MONA: Remember? How could I forget?
DONNY: You know the really stupid thing about him? He goes to all this effort to get rid of his leg – [CLAIRE has entered stage right and appears in the kitchen doorway. She’s wearing a skimpy nighttime outift.] and then he gets a prosthetic. [Mona is watching the toaster and has not seen Claire. Donny shoos her away.] What’s the sense in that?
MONA: [Buttering toast.] And acting as if it was just like plastic surgery! As if it was an improvement he was making. The whole thing made me sick to the stomach. [Claire crosses to Donny and puts her hands on the back of his chair. Mona turns, sees Claire and drops the toast.] Who’s this? What are you … [To Donny.] You didn’t tell me you had a visitor.
CLAIRE: [Steps out from behind chair.] Pleased to meet you, ma’am. I’m a friend of your son’s.
MONA: [Needs a moment to recover; with some misgivings she takes Claire’s hand.] I don’t think you said your name.
CLAIRE: Claire. I’m a friend of Don’s.
MONA: You said that part already. [To Donny.] Have you known Claire long? I don’t think I recognise her from the school.
DONNY: No, Mum. We’re new friends.
CLAIRE: Do you mind if I … Could I grab a chair from somewhere?
MONA: Donny, look after your friend, will you? You can bring a chair in from outside. [Donny exits stage left. Mona bends to recover the dropped toast.] So, where are you from, Claire? You don’t strike me as a local.
CLAIRE: I haven’t been in Melbourne long. I’m staying with my auntie in Seddon.
MONA: On holiday?
CLAIRE: I’m looking at it as something more permanent, actually. Make a go of it here.
MONA: [Looks hard at Claire.] And how did you …
DONNY: [Enters holding a canvas chair.] This chair is wet.
MONA: You’ll dry it out soon enough. Have a seat, Claire. [Indicates Donny’s kitchen chair to Claire. Donny places the canvas chair and sits. To Donny. ] I was just asking a few questions of your friend here. [To Claire.] Would you like some toast?
CLAIRE: Thanks, Mrs. …
MONA: Call me Mona. [She puts the dropped pieces of toast in front of Claire.] There you go, lovey – they’re only a little bit dusty. [There’s an uncomfortable moment of silence. Mona nudges Claire with an elbow.] I’m only kidding you. You have to watch me, Claire – I have a sense of humour.
DONNY: You’re a laugh a minute, Mum.
MONA: [Puts a hand to Donny’s cheek.] Now, now, Donny – don’t be cross. You don’t want to make your friend uncomfortable. [To Claire.] You were just telling me how the two of you met. Weren’t you, Claire? It was a lovely story.
CLAIRE: I don’t think I …
MONA: I assume you were at this house party last night.
CLAIRE: I stuck out quite a bit, I guess – I’m still not used to this Melbourne weather and so this is what I chose to wear. I was freezing. Then Donny loaned me his jacket.
MONA: He loaned you his jacket?
CLAIRE: He was the perfect gentleman. [To Donny.] Do you mind if I get it now, Don? I’m cold.
Claire exits stage right. Donny and Mona sit in silence.
DONNY: It had a name – the condition that guy had. The amputee. It was a proper disorder with a name.
MONA: She’s very pretty, Donny – I’ll give you that.
DONNY: It was something fancy and hyphenated. Or maybe they named it for someone. I forget.
MONA: Why not just call him a fruit loop and be done with it? [Claire returns, wearing Donny’s jacket.] You found it, lovey.
CLAIRE: Yeah. [Another silence.] What were you talking about?
MONA: This fellow we saw on the TV. He had his leg cut off on purpose.
CLAIRE: Do you know what? I read in the paper about this man without a penis – he lost it in an accident or something. So he gets a penis transplant – someone dies and donates his weenie to the greater good and the doctors sew it on. It all goes well. The operation’s a complete success. You’d think he’d be thrilled – him and his wife. But a month later, he’s back in the hospital. He can’t stand it. His wife can’t stand it – sex with another man’s penis. He’d rather have none at all. So they cut it off again.
MONA: That’s disgusting.
CLAIRE: I didn’t mean …
MONA: Imagine looking at your husband and seeing a dead man’s bits. I wouldn’t touch them.
CLAIRE: It was just the penis. The balls were his.
MONA: Would it even … I mean … [Waves away the thought.] I don’t want to know.
CLAIRE: I think we’re making Don uncomfortable.
MONA: Are we making you uncomfortable, lovey?
DONNY: No, Mum – I love it when you talk about bits.
MONA: I think we’d better change the subject. [She puts new bread in the toaster.] So, Claire, what do you do? Assuming you do something.
CLAIRE: I’m a salesperson. Well, my official job title is sales representative.
MONA: What do you sell?
CLAIRE: I work for a company called Sharpest Tool.
MONA: I think I might have seen them on TV.
CLAIRE: Yes, we’re on Kerri-Anne on quite a regular basis.
MONA: You’re not on TV, are you?
CLAIRE: No, no – I’m one of the foot soldiers. My job is, I go into people’s homes and run demonstrations. It’s not really a door-to-door thing – it works more on recommendations. Word of mouth. Sometimes I do parties – little gatherings, fifteen, twenty people. That’s my end of the operation.
MONA: So it’s like Tupperware.
CLAIRE: It’s a similar model, yes.
MONA: You don’t have your knives with you? I’d love to see a demonstration.
TED enters stage right and pads into the kitchen.
TED: That’s the problem with last night – there’s always the morning after. [He crosses to the table and sits heavily in Mona’s chair.] I had a dream I was a tap and I couldn’t stop running.
DONNY: That was no dream.
MONA: It’s like a magician and his handkerchiefs. [To Donny.] Is that the lot? Or are there more of you going to show up in my kitchen? Just for my information.
TED: You should check under the bed, Mrs. P. You might turn up a couple of stowaways.
MONA: [Slaps the back of his head, playfully.] Will you get out of my chair? [Puts plate in front of Claire.] There you go, lovey.
DONNY: Where’s mine?
MONA: [Settles into chair.] You can get your own.
DONNY: I thought we settled this before.
MONA: I didn’t realise then I was housing half the western suburbs. Go on – the butter’s there and everything. [Donny goes to the toaster with extremely bad grace. Ted immediately takes his chair. A thought occurs to Mona.] You didn’t … the three of you, did you? Because I won’t have any of that non …
DONNY: [Still turned to the bench.] Mum, you’re an embarrassment.
MONA: What? I have a right to know what goes on under my own roof.
DONNY: What do you take us for? Ted slept on the floor, just like always. [He turns around with his toast. To Ted.] You piece of shit. [He tries to tip Ted out of the chair while holding on to his plate. Ted takes his toast.] You are such a dog.
TED: A good host serves himself last. Isn’t that right, Mrs. P.?
MONA: You always have such nice manners, Ted. Unlike some others I could name.
TED: Come on, Mrs. P. – I’m sure Donny wants to be a good host. He just doesn’t know how. What about … she … [To Claire.] I’ve forgotten your name.
TED: [To Donny.] Maybe Claire would like another piece of toast.
DONNY: Would you like another piece of toast?
CLAIRE: Do you know what – I really would.
Donny lets Ted’s chair rock back onto the floor. Ted drops his toast.
TED: Look what you made me do.
DONNY: I’m all broken up about it. Really. And now we’re all out of bread. [To Claire.] Except you. There’s enough for you. As long as you don’t mind crusts.
CLAIRE: Crusts are fine.
Donny crosses to the toaster. Ted recovers the fallen piece of toast from the floor and starts munching.
MONA: You don’t know how lucky you are, lovey. I don’t think Donny’s made breakfast for anyone, ever. Certainly not his mother. Have you, Donny?
DONNY: Lay off, Mum.
MONA: [To Claire.] I’m afraid we don’t have any spreads. The cupboard’s just about bare. I’ve been at Donny for days now to take me to the supermarket. I’m not allowed to drive, you see.
DONNY: And why’s that, Mum?
MONA: I got picked up after a night out with the girls. One of those big rolling drink tanks. And Bernie swore up and down that a Fisherman’s Friend would mask it for the reader.
DONNY: So it’s Auntie B.’s fault, is it?
MONA: I didn’t say that, did I? [To Claire.] The long and short of it is I had my license suspended. It’s been a real shock to the system, I can tell you. Suddenly I’m helpless – I have to rely on Donny for everything.
TED: I could drive you, Mrs. P.
Donny makes a V shape with his fingers and licks it out. He puts the buttered crust in front of Claire.
CLAIRE: Thank you. [She catches Donny’s hand and kisses it.]
TED: Claire and Donny, sitting in the tree …
DONNY: Will you shut up? When’s the last time you had any?
MONA: Boys, boys, boys – there are ladies present. [To Claire.] I apologise, lovey. Where are you from? Originally.
CLAIRE: Sydney, born and bred.
MONA: From Sydney to Melbourne – that’s a big move.
CLAIRE: Yeah, I needed a change. Things had … reached an impasse.
TED: That sounds serious.
CLAIRE: My patch was running dry. Sharpest Tool – it’s all about contacts. You run a demonstration for someone and they like you and out of that come four or five other demonstrations. It’s exponential. But eventually everyone owns a set of knives and you’re up against it. So … greener pastures. I’m looking for greener pastures.
MONA: But isn’t there already a local person?
CLAIRE: [Pauses.] You know what, I’ve decided not to worry about that. It’s a big city …
TED: Not as big as Sydney.
CLAIRE: … and you can’t argue with sales, can you? Once I start bringing in the customers they’ll be glad I moved.
MONA: You’re a determined young woman. I’ll say that much for you.
CLAIRE: You have to be in sales. Half the time they’re not even sure if they want the knives or not. It’s a force of will. You have to make them feel they do.
DONNY: That sounds a bit dodgy to me.
TED: Yeah, like Obi-Wan Kenobi using his mind control powers.
DONNY: Obi-Wan only uses his powers on Imperial forces. What I’m trying to say is – don’t you think it’s a bit wrong, getting someone to purchase something against his will? That’s, like, corporate behaviour.
CLAIRE: They do want our knives. We sell an exceptional product. The person I’m selling them to just doesn’t know that yet.
DONNY: Do you know that George Bush used the exact same logic? When he announced the war in Iraq, all round the world there were demonstrations – people in the streets, yelling, “We don’t want this war!” What does he do? A sales pitch. A song and dance. He says, “You do want this war – you just don’t know it yet.” I read this article …
CLAIRE: Yeah, well, my war in Iraq paid for our cab home last night.
MONA: Cab? You didn’t leave the car there, did you? Donny? Where was this party?
DONNY: I told you – Williamstown. We were pissed, Mum. Do you want me to lose my license too?
MONA: I’m not going to get any shopping done, am I? [Turns to Ted.] And you – what’s the use in offering to drive when you got here in a cab?
TED: I got a lift with Donny, Mrs. P. My car’s just down the road.
MONA: All I wanted from today was the chance to buy some groceries. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is too much to ask.
DONNY: I was going to say I’d get the train out after breakfast. But I can’t seem to get a word in edgewise. [Claire has left half her toast.] Are you going to eat that? ‘Cause that was, like, the crust.
Claire raises her hands to indicate no. Donny takes the toast and stands there munching. Something in his manner causes everyone to defer to him. Claire stands.
CLAIRE: Why don’t you sit down, Don? I’ve had enough of sitting.
MONA: You know what, Donny? Once we’ve been to the supermarket I can make us breakfast, a proper one. Would you like that?
DONNY: Beats a piece of toast.
MONA: I’ll make it really nice, Donny. I’ll get some of those hash browns you like – you know, the deli ones. [Thinking this will please him.] Why don’t you take Claire with you?
Donny is about to protest.
CLAIRE: That’s a great idea. [Starts to massage Donny’s shoulders.] You can show me around a little.
MONA: And if Ted picks up his car, he can drive me to the market. I can have it all on the table by the time you two get back.
TED: I’ll just run down the street, Mrs. P.
MONA: There’s a cooked breakfast in it for you, Ted. Nothing spared.
TED: I never could resist your cooking, Mrs. P.
DONNY: [To Claire.] I can put you on a train to Seddon. Back to your aunt.
CLAIRE: [Withdraws hands.] Well, I …
MONA: Let her stay for breakfast, Donny. Besides, I want to see her demonstration.
DONNY: Come on, then. [He stands up abruptly.] It takes forever on a Sunday. Have fun at the market, Ted. If you’re really lucky Mum’ll let you push the trolley.
TED: Yeah, ’cause I’d much rather be on a train to Willy.
DONNY: You’re such a nice boy, Ted. [To Claire.] Let’s go. Though I don’t know what there is to show you between here and Williamstown. Don’t forget the sausage, Mum. I’m in the mood for meat.
Donny and Claire exit stage right. We hear a door slam offstage.
TED: Looks like it’s just you and me, Mrs. P.