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HOME LAND Gary Henderson

C HA R ACTE RS

Ken Taylor

an old farmer, 80

Trish Taylor

his daughter-in-law, 40

Graeme Taylor Denise Mason Paul Mason

Sophie Mason

his son, 42

his daughter, 45

his son-in-law, 47

his granddaughter, 16

S ETTI N G

Two rooms in an Otago farmhouse, 2003. Stage left (audience right) is the lounge; stage right is the kitchen. The lounge has carpet, a sofa, and a couple of chairs, including a comfortable one lined up to give a good view of the television. There’s also a dresser with family photos on top, and a few drawers. There’s a woodburner.

The kitchen has lino, a table, and four chairs. There’s a sink, bench, a pantry, cupboards, a microwave, and a hot-water cylinder (airing) cupboard.

Between the kitchen and the lounge, the design should give the impression of a wide door, such as a bifold or sliding door. There’s a not-quite-open-plan feel. By raising their voices, people can converse between rooms. By lowering their voices they can talk privately in either room.

A door leads off the lounge to the interior of the house. A door leads off the kitchen to the laundry, porch, and outside.


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Both rooms have net curtains across the back, through which we should gain the impression of fertile paddocks rising to meet a range of hills in the middle distance. Home Land by Gary Henderson had its world premiere at the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin, on 1 October 2004, with the following cast and crew: KEN TAYLOR

Simon O’Connor

DENISE MASON

Julie Edwards

TRISH TAYLOR

GRAEME TAYLOR PAUL MASON

SOPHIE MASON DIRECTOR

SET DESIGNER

Clare Adams

Colin Kitchingman Ralph Johnson Anna Nicholas Hilary Norris

Peter King


ACT ONE

Friday July 25th 2003

Southland Radio is playing cheery country music. Ken Taylor enters the lounge from the interior of the house. He is 80 years old and uses a walking frame with a cane hanging from it. He has an emergency call button hanging around his neck. You can see that he used to be fit. He is crossing the room, heading for his chair. He walks with difficulty. His legs just don’t seem to do what he wants. The walking frame starts to get away from him, and he leans farther and farther forward as his feet lag behind. Finally he is stuck. It would almost be comical, if not for Ken’s obvious distress. He tries vainly to walk his legs up to the frame. Finally, he takes one hand off the frame to reach for the cane, but his other arm can’t hold his weight. A look of panic seizes him as he loses control and crashes awkwardly and painfully to the floor, overturning the frame. He lies there a moment. KEN.

Aahh, ya stupid, useless old man.

Mustering all his strength, he rolls, crawls, and claws his way up into the chair. It’s a huge effort, and he ends up sitting awkwardly. On the radio the news is announced, and the musical sting plays. At the same time, Ken hits the remote and the TV comes on. Familiar news music comes from the TV too. The TV and radio news play simultaneously, both loud.

The news bulletins lead with the same story about the American invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, have been killed in a firefight. The result is a cacophony of voices. Maybe there’s a speech from George Bush. Ken can’t reach the radio to turn it off. He watches the TV.

Over the noise of the news bulletins we can just hear the sound of a ute pulling up on the gravel outside the back door. A door slams.

Graeme Taylor enters the kitchen from the cold outside. He’s a farmer, in his work clothes, minus his boots. He’s immediately struck by the noise.


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GRAEME.

Jesus Christ.

GRAEME.

What happened here?

Graeme walks through to the lounge and sees the overturned walking frame. No response from Ken.

GRAEME

(louder). What—Jesus.

He turns the radio off.

GRAEME.

Ya deaf ?

GRAEME.

Eh?

GRAEME.

I said, are ya deaf ?

Ken is staring at the TV. Doesn’t reply.

KEN.

Eh?

KEN.

Aww, I don’t know. Probably.

GRAEME. Well if

you’re not, you soon will be if you have everything going like that.

Graeme rights the walking frame.

GRAEME.

You have another fall?

GRAEME.

Did you have a fall?

GRAEME.

Why didn’t you use your thing? Your call button?

KEN.

Eh?

KEN.

I just knocked the silly thing over.

KEN.

No need to bother anyone. I’m all right.

That’s what it’s for. So if you have a fall you can call someone. Look at you, you’re all bunched up there.

GRAEME.

He tries to adjust the cushions behind Ken.

KEN.

I’m all right.

KEN.

Yes I am.

GRAEME.

No you’re not. Look at the way you’re sitting. You’re not comfortable.

GRAEME.

Here.

Graeme stands over Ken and takes hold of him.


I’m all right. What are you doing?

Graeme lifts Ken and settles him more comfortably. He does this quite tenderly. There, that’s better.

GRAEME.

More comfortable now?

GRAEME.

You are. D’ya want a cup of tea?

GRAEME.

I’ll put the jug on anyway.

GRAEME.

The Masons’ll be here soon.

KEN.

I’m not a sack of spuds.

KEN.

I suppose so.

KEN.

No thank you.

Graeme heads back into the kitchen and plugs in the kettle.

KEN.

Eh?

GRAEME. The Masons. They’re getting a rental car from the airport. What sort of

biscuits d’y’want?

KEN.

Is that today?

KEN.

Eh?

KEN.

Aw, just whatever’s there.

KEN.

Either one.

GRAEME.

Gingernuts?

GRAEME.

D’y’want gingernuts?

GRAEME.

There’s gingernuts and chocolate wheaten.

GRAEME.

Gingernuts, then.

GRAEME.

What are you doing?

GRAEME.

What for? Just sit down.

Ken starts to get out of his chair as Graeme re-enters the lounge.

KEN.

I should tidy up a bit.

Graeme starts poking wood or shovelling coal into the woodburner.

KEN.

I didn’t know they were coming.

L AN D

GRAEME.

H OM E

KEN.

5


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GRAEME.

Yes you did.

GRAEME.

It’s up on the calendar—look.

GRAEME.

Yeah. That’s today.

GRAEME.

I don’t know. I suppose so.

KEN.

I didn’t know it was today.

KEN.

That says Friday.

KEN.

Are the beds made up?

Ken makes a move to get up.

GRAEME. Just stay there. Denise’ll sort that out when she gets here. Don’t you worry

about it.

KEN.

They ought to be. No one’s used them since last time.

GRAEME.

Yeah . . . well . . . let Denise handle it.

GRAEME.

You sure you don’t want a cup of tea? I’m gonna have one.

Graeme returns to the kitchen.

KEN.

All right, then.

KEN.

What’s happening with tea?

KEN.

I should put some spuds on or something.

Graeme clatters around making tea.

GRAEME.

You’ll have it here with the Masons, and we’ll have it over at home.

GRAEME. Denise’ll sort it out. They’ll probably pick up some groceries on the way

down.

KEN.

There might be some meat in the freezer.

KEN.

I’d’a got something ready if I’d known. You shoulda reminded me.

GRAEME.

Don’t worry about it, Dad. It’s all organized. Watch the telly.

Graeme comes through with cups of tea.

GRAEME.

What good would that’ve done, eh? Here y’are.

GRAEME.

Hang on, hang on.

Ken reaches for his cuppa.


Let’s get this round.

GRAEME.

Have you taken your pills?

He sets Ken’s chair-side tray table within easy reach. There is a pill dispenser on the tray.

KEN.

Eh? Aw yeah, I think so.

Graeme checks the dispenser.

GRAEME.

Yep. Good.

GRAEME.

There y’go.

GRAEME.

Bloody Iraqis, eh? Don’t know what’s good for them.

Graeme puts Ken’s cuppa on the tray.

Graeme sits with his own cup of tea. They both gaze at the TV for a few moments. News of Iraqi backlash against Americans.

KEN.

Get that fencing done?

GRAEME. Yeah. Mostly. Gonna need new posts down the shed end. Ones there are

completely shagged. Ground’s like bloody concrete, too.

KEN.

Might have to wait.

GRAEME.

Might. Long as it’s done by lambing.

GRAEME.

Elaine rung up this morning.

They sip tea in silence, eyeing the TV.

KEN.

Aw, yeah, how’s she?

KEN.

Aw well . . .

KEN.

Well, that’s the way it goes these days I suppose. They all leave home.

GRAEME. Freezing, by the sounds. Wants us to bring her in some more bedclothes.

Place oughta be condemned if you ask me. But nope . . . she’s determined.

GRAEME.

They gaze at the TV. The cordless phone by Ken’s chair rings. Ken picks it up.

L AN D

GRAEME.

H OM E

Graeme puts both cups down somewhere.

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