The Writers Group by Michael Shannon

Extract from The Writers Group by Michael Shannon, part of Accidental Theatre's Rehearsed Reading series at Blick Studios

There are four members of the Writers' Group:

BETH is a stressed out crime-writer struggling to finish her second crime novel. This mainly involves typing 'cures for writers block please' into Google. And crying.

M.T. is a young actress trying to write a one woman show she can star in. She's even bought a dress and everything.

RYAN is a mouthy student who'd love to show you his script. Which he has definitely finished. No really. It's around here somewhere. Seriously.

KIRK is stuck in a dead-end office job. His only escape is in his writing. Specifically, huge galaxy spanning stories that even Jim Cameron would find excessive.

The group try to offer constructive criticism on Kirk's latest screenplay.

Kirk leans forward, tries to introduce his screenplay in a 'dramatic' voice.

KIRK: We open on present day Earth where everything appears normal, except-
M.T.: (interrupting) They’re all in space.
KIRK: Well, I mean, yes, but, as I explained before, you don’t find that out until the end.
BETH: Uh-huh. It’s sort of, you know, not 'shit' but not any... what's the word?
RYAN: Good?
KIRK: I thought it was an excellent twist.
RYAN: I’d already guessed it.
KIRK: You never said.
RYAN: Oh, c'mon! A space ship in the distant future, its crew suspended in cryogenic sleep as their minds roam a virtual reality of their own choosing?
M.T.: Seen it!
RYAN: Exactly. Even she hates it
BETH: It’s ‘The Matrix’ in Space.
Loud murmurs of agreement - They are clearly all lying about guessing the twist just to save face.
RYAN: What you need is a threat on the spaceship. A ticking clock. That’ll give the protagonist something to do.
KIRK: But that ruins my twist; telling the audience about the space ship.
RYAN: (mocking imitation) ‘But that ruins my twist!’ Grow up.
BETH: They’ll probably have guessed anyway. You should cut between the virtual world, which for some reason that you never fully explain looks exactly like present day Earth, and the real world on the space-ship where your man has to track down the alien or whatever that’s lose on his ship. Killing people.
RYAN: Yeah. But not an alien.
BETH: Oh fuck no. Not an alien. Everyone’s seen that before.
M.T.: Mmm. In ‘Alien’.
RYAN: Zombies! Zombies in space. That’s scary.
BETH: Right, because they don’t need to breathe.
RYAN: They’d be unstoppable. In space.
KIRK: And how exactly did zombies get into orbit? That’s not set-up.
RYAN: How do zombies get anywhere? They just do. Weird shit happens all the time in scripts and is never explained. You just go with it.
KIRK: That's not what it says in the book I got. There's a picture of a pie chart, right, and that represents your story and –
RYAN: Stories don't come from books. They come from your heart and your balls.
KIRK: But my story’s not about zombies or even the spaceship. It’s about the protagonist’s inability to make his marriage work, even in a virtual computer-generated environment of his own creation.
M.T.: Protagonist?
KIRK: Yes, the protagonist. Gerry.
M.T.: Oh, him. I didn’t like him.

This is greeted by murmurs of agreement from all but Kirk who buries his head in his hands.