The Turn of the Tide

Act 1, Scene 1

July 16th 1918 (AM)

The free space on the stage is minimal, with rustic wine barrels towered over the actors, which lends the basement a confined atmosphere. Upstage there are three narrow slits no bigger than those found in prison, with a mesh sheet that replaces the poorly removed glass, exposing the grey moss-infected walls. It can be assumed the mesh provides the room with some sort of ventilation, however the remains of dry hay cemented with animal debris, found in the left corner downstage, infuse the air with a scent that resembles rotting plant residue. The air is thick and almost cloudy, like when the lid on a boiling saucer is lifted and quickly creates a hazy shield. A leaking iron ‘pipe’ resembling an oversized oven hangs with its door open above centre stage. To the right, there is a thick decaying timber door, which has been further barricaded by an additional steal wall.

ON THE RISE: Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and his mother, Alexandra, are sat on two chairs, which have been brought by the request of the Tsar, whilst Nichollas and Duchesses Olga, Tatiana and Maria stand packed like sardines. Their bodies are still asleep and their legs struggle to support their upper bodies – the heavily embroidered sarafan adds to the struggle.

Nichollas II, a middle-aged man whose stresses have caused him to age like milk, has a stale expression, the lines on his face suggesting years of tremulous events, which equate to a lifetime of stories. His eyes hang heavy and tired, yet free and rested.

Alexei, like any other child of 13 years, seems un-phased by the wakening and appears to be sleeping on his chair. His slim build and lack of bodily insulation leads him to shiver and shuffle with the pass of a draft.

(BANG, BANG, BANG)

(Officers scurry in like a family of mice through the door situated on the upper left of the stage. The fusillades are being fired and a colony of cockroaches scatter at the sudden bang. Crimson red liquid begins to spray around the room. It’s unclear where the liquid is coming from as the smoke from the pistols fill the air.)

Officer 1:         ‘STERLYAT, STERLYAT!’ (Officer one continues to volley from his pistol before the rest of the men quickly reload and continue to shoot.)

(A crimson red as deep as the juice of a ripe pomegranate continues to lustrate the soldiers and the room.)

Alexei:              MAMA! MAMA! PAPA! (crying muffled, yet still a strong voice)

(Officers run out of bullets and stop and wait from smoke to diffuse.)

Alexei:             (Still crying, nursing a minor arm injury)

Officer 1:         Prikonchi yego bystro zakonchite – Finish him, quickly finish him.

Officer 2:         (Proceeds to refilling and shoots 17 bullets)

Alexei:             (Crying gets weaker with each shot and is muted by the 10th shot)

Act 1, Scene 2

July 14th 1918 (midday)

The stage is almost empty with a grand bed set in the centre. There is a spotlight over it, and the rest of the stage remains in dark shadow. Down stage right there are two seats, with two military guards sat. Despite them being on the stage, there will be a door before which divides them and shows that they are on the outside. They will not be able to hear what Alexei says.

ON THE RISE: Alexei is sitting alone in his bed after he has been forbidden to attend his regular Boy Scout meetings after another relapse of his haemophilia. He is away with his father and his father has instructed two navy officers to accompany him at all times and to take care of him.

Alexei:           Papa! Papa! (shouting)

(No response despite the prominent sound of footsteps and conversation on the other side of his door)

Alexei:   I often feel like an old man trapped in here away from the others. My shoulders are frail and the memories I have of being outside are distant. Like the memory that a man of 50 years has of his younger days. (Throat begins to crackle, so he clears it by coughing). It’s as if I’m watching from above, way, way in the clouds.  So detached, so uninvolved, so close yet so far. It’s papa’s fault – all of this. (Long pause to gather thoughts whilst eyes look far into the distance) These four walls seem to cave in and if I remember… (silence, lost in thought) now it seems a struggle to gasp the air to sustain the life in this room. Time has changed things. Papa has thick straw-like grey hairs which contrast his dark locks. And mama? (pause, eyes begin to fill tears) Well, I don’t know, it’s been so long since I’ve seen her. I can’t really remember what she looks like. (tears rolling down his face now, crawls to the edge of the bed, closer to the front of the stage) That’s Papa’s chair (points at the chair situated in the  front corner left of the stage). He used to sit there to tell stories when we travelled here for Christmas. (Pause) I never see him no more. Not really. When he’s there, I can’t read him. It’s like a clear mist covers the eyes of his soul to prevent anyone getting in. One day, he wants me around and takes me out with him on his missions. Another day, he flips. (Impersonates an older man’s voice) ‘Stay indoors, my son,’ he says, and then leaves me. (starts coughing loudly before splitting blood, and then gradually it sounds like he is beginning to choke blood. The 2 guards situated outside the room run in and start shouting.)

GUARDS:         (in unison) ‘Pomogite bystro!’

Act 1, Scene 3

15th July 1918 (3pm)

ON THE RISE: The young Tsar Alexei is tucked in bed still, the stage light is dim and there is a stronger white light above his father.  Alexei is sleeping now and there are signs around his bed that a doctor has been to visit – gauze and blankets, etc. The layout of the stage remains the same and the 2 officers are still sat outside the room.

Nicholas:         (Strokes hair of Alexei whilst tears begin to fill his eyes. The stage is quiet.) I’m sorry my dear son; I’m so sorry. (sobbing) I try to protect you, but I can’t. I tried to wrap you up and keep you safe, hidden away like a piece of rare fine china. (Moves to the front of the stage, light slowly trails and follows him.) To me, that’s what he is – my only son, my pride and honour, me heir.I thought that having overcome such vast obstacles, it’d be easy to deal with having an unable son. But I can’t do it. I try to protect him (pause). I fail. I keep him wrapped up. (pause) He suffocates. I set him free. (pause) He drowns like a fish out of water.

GUARD 1:        (runs in the room out of breath) Tsar! You’ve got to leave! You have to run!

They’re waiting outside!

(Lights go down and the stage is suspended in darkness.)

Act 1, Scene 4

 17th July 1918 (midnight)

ON THE RISE: We are back to the opening set – stage is cluttered as described earlier, and the lights are resumed. The tsar and the two officers have moved closer together, and they are situated in the centre of the stage. There is a brief moment of silence to mimic the suspense and build up of tension, which has risen. The insides of the bodies of the mother and two daughters remain scattered all over the floor and walls. The two officers, and tsar Nicholas are stood in a compact sandwich position, with Nicholas as the filling. Young Alexi continues to whimper in the background, left upper stage.)

Officer 1:         Hurry up! We have to go (sternly looks at Officer 1 ).

(Spotlight above the 2 officers and Tsar Nicholas, a dim light on Alexei behind them. All is silent apart from Alexei’s weak weeping in the background. Suddenly, the officers turn away from Nicholas and smirks at the audience. They then simultaneously face the Tsar, who looks back at them with an expression of knowing horror.)

Officer 2:         (sarcastically, raising his weapon) Da Zdravstvuyet Korol!’ ( Long Live the King!)

BANG! (Lights down, submerging the stage in complete darkness.)

About haringeyunchained

Haringey Unchained is a collective of students aiming to show case the creative talent of Haringey Sixth Form College in Tottenham, London. We think that through the promotion of our creative thoughts, we can educate our community, bringing to the foreground the critical and creative consciousness of a vibrant school in a deprived part of London. We are endeavouring to provide this blog as a platform for our community, giving the space to those whose work otherwise might not be seen or read. Being that the cuffs are off, we are able to express through our photography, art, short fiction and poetry, what’s really on our minds. We are free.

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