Huddersfield

This translation was developed as a part of INTERPLAY, a playwright exchange project of New Dramatists, Inc., funded in part by The Trust for Mutual Understanding.

CHARACTERS

RASHA, 30, grad school dropout, writer, volatile and adrift
FATHER, his father, 60s, alcoholic: the “last” of his generation
IVAN, his neighbor, 30, a broken man
MILA, 16, his current girlfriend/past-time: the new generation
IGOR, 30, longtime friend who lives in England
DOOLE (pronounced Doo-leh), 30, low-level sales executive, casual longtime friend

TIME AND PLACE

24 hours in the living room of Father’s apartment in the ex-industrial town of Zrenjanin, Serbia.

Adaptation’s history
This version received readings in New York City at New Dramatists (under Michael Sexton’s direction) and the New Group (under Dalia Ibelhauptaite’s direction).
This adaptation premiered at TUTA Theatre in Chicago at the Victory Gardens Studio in June 2006, under the direction of Dado.

Scene 4. THERE, YOU SEE…

Igor and Rasha are sitting at the table. Mila is lying on the mattress. Mila lights a joint, which she and Rasha share.

RASHA
There, you see… Everything’s wrecked.

IGOR
If I missed anything, though, it was our crew.

Igor gets up, stretches, walks slowly around the room.

RASHA
Yeah, we’re nowhere now, it’s true. We’re washed up. Rabbit’s in Belgrade. The Russian got married, had a couple of kids… Want some?

IGOR
Not now… And where are your mother and sister?

RASHA
My father’s insane. He doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore. Delirium… Mom tried to put up with him at first, but… She left him five years ago. My sister went with her. Check this: my mom found herself some old age pensioner guy full of dough… And my sister’s at the University in Novi Sad…

IGOR
Fuck it. Shit. Your old man used to be a cool guy.

RASHA
Used to be. Got ruined with retirement. He died the day they closed the factory. You know what it’s like when they take your baby away? He always used to say he had three children: my sister, me, and the factory. “And the factory feeds us all!” Fucking loon… One day he’s throwing me out of the house, the next he’s ringing the police to look for me. I left for a month once; I had to let things cool down a bit… And he goes and rings the police and says “I want to report a missing child; my child’s gone missing. He ran away and has been missing for a whole month…” So, the cop asks him for stats, right? Sex, date of birth, physical appearance, so on… And Father says “He’s thirty years old…”

Rasha starts laughing, chokes.

IGOR
And the cop?

RASHA
Told him to fuck off!

MILA
Why?

RASHA
What’d you mean, why, Mila?…

MILA
Where does that pig get off telling people to fuck off like that, motherfucker…

RASHA
Cool it sweetie, don’t let the joint out!

MILA
Fuck off. You think it’s funny? Huh? He’s calling for help and they make an ass out of him? I can’t believe you’d laugh at something like that…that is so whacked. That is so fucking like you, isn’t it? Actually, it’s not funny, is it? You’re lying, right? You’re just pretending that it’s funny. You just wait ’til you have to call some pigs for, like, an ambulance or something fucking fucked up like that…and then see what happens, see if you feel like laughing it up…You just wait until you get puking sick and lose your shit.

Mila starts coughing, grabs hold of her head and stays in the same position. She remains in this position for a short while.

MILA
Crap ass fuck…

RASHA
If it hit me, imagine how it’s hit her… My brain is fried… I’ve had it. I’ve reached my limit. We’re not young anymore. Our youth is gone, my friends.

IGOR
And the young lady ?

MILA
The “young lady”’s fucked… Does everybody in England talk like that?

IGOR
I didn’t mean anything by it. Just talking.

MILA
Well let me tell you straight up: this young lady is so fucked up, there is no fucking way she’s ever going to sound like the BBC. Sorry.

RASHA
Come on now, baby-doll… Let daddy kiss it and make it better…

Mila gets up, stumbles towards the bathroom, and goes behind the curtain. Through the sound of running water, Mila is heard coughing and spitting.

IGOR
Hey, how old is she?

RASHA
Enough… High school… They’re reading Hamlet… I’m helping her get ready for her exam…

IGOR
When’d you finish grad school?

RASHA
I haven’t finished anything, not a single thing I’ve started…

IGOR
Why don’t you finish it?

RASHA
I haven’t been out of this shit-hole for five years, man, haven’t even seen the University; I’ve forgotten where it is…

IGOR
What do you live on?

RASHA
Suffering… I’m freelancing. I write an occasional article for the local paper. I get a couple of hours on the local radio… Plug some artsy magazines…

IGOR
And you can live on that?

RASHA
You see anyone ‘alive’ around here?

IGOR
You’re going out with a fucking teenager—you’re alive!

Mila is heard mumbling behind the curtain.

RASHA
I’m finished; I don’t know what to do… We don’t go out. We fuck, that’s all. Like Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. “Step right up, ladies and gents, and see some porno Pygmalion to soothe your troubled souls…” You know me. I like educating pretty girls. It’s not even that important that they’re pretty, as long as they’re nice. Enchante, mon cher. You know where the French got that term from, don’t you? Enchante…Entre…dick. You get a hard-on and you don’t care about anything else but where you can put it, as soon as possible…

IGOR
It’s good, though, right?

RASHA
Good, yeah, like fuck… Eleven years, man! Where have you been? What have you been up to? Sit down… This house is ruined. My old man keeps taking things out of here. Every day, something else goes. He’s gutting the place. He took the toilet door out this morning… He’s taken the freezer, a kitchen shelf… He even sold the complete works of Dostoyevsky… There isn’t a scrap of furniture left upstairs… He even took away the electric heaters… And now what? Winter’s coming…

IGOR
Doole should be here any minute now . He said he’d bring some beer.

RASHA
Dickhead. Doole’s sold his soul.

IGOR
He looks like a good yuppie to me. What is it exactly that he does again?

RASHA
He sells shit-cakes, what else! He looks after a warehouse for some guy who sells Swiss chocolate. He’s put on so much weight he looks like The Blob. Have you seen him?

IGOR
He’s got money; that’s OK.

RASHA
This money thing is riding my ass. As soon as the weekend comes, he can’t be bothered to get out of his house. He just farts around and scarfs down Toblerone— fucking jerk-off. Watching The Simpsons, staring at the same old stories… Sick… Pathetic.

IGOR
You don’t watch The Simpsons?

RASHA
[laughing] I don’t even have a fucking antenna! My old man sold it a year ago. I’m holding onto this video here by the skin of my teeth; he’ll take that away too, if I’m not careful. I watch movies, though. Porn, and the classics. Russian fairy tales. They’re the best. You know what my absolute favorite trip is? To sit down alone, roll up a joint and put on The Stone Flower, The New Gulliver, or The Crippled Mare… I’m telling you, the Russians are unbefuckinglievable… Have you seen their old movies? God knows what kind of magic funghi they were on when they were making those flicks…midget sorcerers with 50-foot beards, hunchbacked witches making insect pies, guys talking backwards to half-bird, half-women creatures…absolutely delirious stuff…sends your mind… Mila, doll, are you alive?

Mila is mumbling behind the curtain.

RASHA
Take a crap! Take a tinkle, babe! Throw up! Wash your face!

IGOR
I’ve often thought of you. I thought, he must be in some school, torturing some kids with literary theory. I thought I’d come across your poetry someday…

RASHA
Fuck it, Iggy. You’re out there in the big bad world. Haven’t you heard? Poetry is dead. C’est mort, my friend.

IGOR
What?

RASHA
Don’t you fucking remember it?! Winter, 1993. All the newspapers in the world ran it on their front page—in big black glossy letters: “Poetry is Dead”…

IGOR
It’s impossible for poetry to die.

RASHA
Well, it died.

IGOR
When was the funeral? Where did it get buried? Where is the grave?

RASHA
Everywhere.

IGOR
You never published that collection of yours…

RASHA
Forget it… I almost wrote a book about my own view of the decline of the Slavic civilization… The publisher was very interested. I had him piqued there for a while. But, in the end, I couldn’t be bothered to write it.

IGOR
Why didn’t you try?

RASHA
[on a jag, altered] Well, nobody is seriously interested, really… My view of history is anti-historical. It’s also got a bit of latent anti-Semitism; the neo-Nazis would have a field day with something like that… Some racist moments too, I’m afraid… The Slavs and the Germans are part of the same tribe. The Germans hate the Slavs because they never gave a fuck about the state, about order and organization. That’s why they wanna get rid of us. Hate your kind, right? Hate your kin. Kill the brother who thinks the same, who is the same, who is your perfect reflecting mirror… The German eagle has one head, the Slav—two. They think the Slav eagle is a mutant. They’re afraid of it because they’re fucked up by rationalism. They’re afraid of it the same way they’re afraid of imagination. The Slav eagle is the eagle of imagination. The German eagle is a one-headed eagle. It looks like the ones that still exist, the ones that still fly about, the ones you see in the goddamn zoo, right?… What I wanted to say was that the Slavs are basically destroyed, if you think about it, absolutely wrecked religiously and culturally… Not a single fucking authentic pre-Christian ritual has survived… I mean, do history books tell us anything about them? Fuck no… The Jews invented Christ to stir up the Romans; then the Christians and the Romans got into bloody wars with each other; and so the Christian faith spread for centuries, all under the control of Jewish rabbis… They invented Islam too, just to stir up the Christians… The Eastern Christians smashed the wooden idols of the Slavs, the Greeks finished off the job that the Romans started, and Prince Vladimir killed off hordes of people in the name of Christ… Byzantium was a travesty… Byzantium destroyed the Slav spirit… And thus destroyed our imagination… No fucking sailing to Byzantium for us… I mean, how come the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans, the Celts, and the Aboriginals all preserved their precious divinities, and the Slavs didn’t…? We just rush headlong into everything…delirious with killing everything off… We don’t have our own god… We’ve lost our imagination… We need to invent Him again… Some people want to print things like that, but not everyone would understand… I know it’s racist crap all that anti-Semitism shit, but it’s also typically Slavonic… It’s who we are. We have to face up to that… It’s only when you face up to things, right?… You need a god, so, there you go—create Him!

IGOR
Would they really print something like that here?

RASHA
It’d be a bestseller with a bullet…

Mila comes out of the bathroom. She is very pale. She goes over to the mattress and collapses onto it.

RASHA
And so the destruction of healthy, young people goes on…

MILA
Spare me your shit, fucking zombies.

In a daze, she slides off the mattress and onto the floor.

RASHA
Let her sleep a bit… Hamlet is fucking hard… What did they used to make us read?

IGOR
Come on. School was great.

RASHA
Bullshit! Tom Sawyer, Crime and Punishment, The Red and the Black… Enough to send you to the loony bin—Huck and Tom chasing up and down the Don river, Raskolynikov in Paris, the Kosaks on the Mississippi—fucking horror—then all of a sudden T.S. Eliot turns up right in the middle of everything and nobody knows which end is up…

IGOR
You take everything too much to heart.

RASHA
To heart, my ass. I used to respect—I still respect—the Pioneers’ cap and scarf. That used to be a good trip. “We’re all one army!” Look at her, do you think she’d be screwing around, smoking weed and whatnot if she had to make a solemn oath to the Pioneers!?

Doole comes in with a crate of beer.

DOOLE
“Today when I become a Pioneer, I solemnly declare that I will defend…!”

Doole puts the crate on the table, hands a can out to each.

IGOR
Right on time!

RASHA
Fuck off; you’re mixing up the Pioneers’ oath with the oath you made to the Yugoslav National Army!

DOOLE
I never served in the Yugoslav National Army; I served the Army of Yugoslavia…

RASHA
That’s why you’re such an idiot… Your general was fucking Milošević. Listen up: we never served in the same army. I served the people and you served Slobo!

IGOR
So what—that means there are two sides now?

RASHA
Yes… So we can exterminate each other…

DOOLE
Shut your trap. What’s the matter with the little lady?

RASHA
She’s just diving to the bottom of the ocean where she’s fishing out an abso-fucking-perfect purple diamond, and when she resurfaces, we’ll be completely wasted… Cheers!

They toast each other.

DOOLE
Who is she?

RASHA
She’s a god.

DOOLE
You’re trying it with children again?

RASHA
No. I’m telling you, the kid’s a god. Not a goddess, but a god. You follow me? God took her form, you see? He put on firm tits and a juicy little ass, and he decided to visit us mere mortals in disguise; so, there you are; bow down and pray to our newly baptized, age-perfect god…

DOOLE
And a very pretty god it is.

RASHA
Hey. Don’t fuck around with god…

DOOLE
I need to take a leak… What’s this?

RASHA
The curtain.

DOOLE
So, what’s the punchline? Where’s the door?

RASHA
Doors are dull.

DOOLE
OK .

IGOR
Come on guys, let’s drink, let’s have fun…

DOOLE
[while urinating] It’s easy for you to have fun when you’re raking in Pounds Sterling, fuck you!

IGOR
Wanna swap?

DOOLE
Kiss my Euros.

RASHA
What are you doing over there, anyway?

IGOR
I’m working as a lab technician in a firm that tests chemical products.

DOOLE
[coming out of the bathroom] In Leeds?

IGOR
I work in Leeds, but I live in Huddersfield. We’re planning to move to Leeds and out of ‘Oodersfield’, as they say in Yorkshire, soon…

DOOLE
You have your own apartment… A car…?

IGOR
I have a car. We’re renting a flat.

DOOLE
You have a chick…?

IGOR
A fiancée. Her name is Ana. She’s Polish—a really wonderful girl.

RASHA
Catholic… I bet.

IGOR
Jewish…actually… We went to grad school together. She’s doing her doctorate now.

DOOLE
Polish girls are great…

RASHA
Cut the shit!? How do you know what they’re like!?

DOOLE
They look great…

RASHA
And you say 10 Euro-an-hour Moldavians are great too… This guy talks nothing but bullshit! He never screws anything.

DOOLE
Who never screws anything?

RASHA
You, comrade! Look at yourself! Putting the tonnage on, jerking off in your sleep, scarfing down Nestle all day; your sperm is turning into Swiss cheese…

IGOR
French cheese…

DOOLE
Whenever Doole screws, he screws with discretion.

RASHA
Oh, come off it… You’ve grown cobwebs on your cock…

DOOLE
I had a fuck…um…four hours ago…

RASHA
For the first time?

DOOLE
I had some old broad. Not bad.

RASHA
The granma took pity on you.

DOOLE
This broad’s been coming on to me for a while. She’s a secretary in the wholesale department. She kept smiling at me, so…

RASHA
I can’t believe it. You fucked a granny?

DOOLE
She’s 45. A real sex bomb.

RASHA
And you turned her on…?

DOOLE
I go over to her department today, and she’s like: “Stay. Have a coffee,” so I did. “We’re alone,” she says. And she was right. We were. Not a fucking suit for miles. So, she takes me into her office and starts to suck me off… Fuck, it was good…

RASHA
So, Iggy, how’s Huddersfield?

DOOLE
What is it, you don’t believe me, you cunt… At least I got it off!

IGOR
I’m planning to move to Leeds. Working all the time. Trying to keep in touch with friends, by e-mail… Do you have e-mail?

DOOLE
I do. At work.

RASHA
I don’t. It’s better that way. My old man would figure out a way to sell it off to some bastard, so he could keep his stock of liquor from diminishing.

IGOR
I’m getting married next month.

DOOLE
That’s great.

RASHA
“I’m getting married next month,” for fuck’s sake—it’s unreal… The guy is planning things months in advance…

DOOLE
That’s how it is…

RASHA
What the fuck do you mean “that’s how it is”!? What? In the world? You can’t count on being alive here one month to the next!

DOOLE
You can. The times are changing, you have to get used to it.

RASHA
You’re up a tree, Mr. Dylan.

DOOLE
We’ll be like England one day. We’ll be like the West. We’ll be able to plan…

RASHA
Listen to him… You’re one of those screwy guinea pigs who believes that one day you’ll get a knock on the door, and somebody will tell you: “Good afternoon, Mr. Nestle, here are your stocks and bonds, and your dreamy bank account in Basel; you’re a capitalist now”: kiss, kiss, yum, yum, finger up your crack, blah, blah, blah…

IGOR
It’s not like that anywhere.

RASHA
Fuck it. I’ve been telling him for years… The Bolsheviks have had it. The Bolsheviks have fucked off; all that’s left is the Mensheviks; they’re our capitalists. All the rest of us are plebeians: poor fucking peasants! It’s backwards, don’t you see? The money’s already been forked over, the world over, and he’s still waiting!

DOOLE
I’m not waiting, I’m slaving away. I’m working hard and saving up…

RASHA
You can thank capitalism for the fact that you can fuck grannies in the wholesale department—that’s your progress!

DOOLE
Who the fuck are you to talk to me like that…? You haven’t lifted your ass off that chair to do anything in five years; you haven’t earned a penny in your life; you just spew shit, and hate everything and everyone around you…

RASHA
I don’t hate anyone.

DOOLE
He’s talking shit; he’s fucked up… You’re thirty years old and you haven’t got a day’s worth of work in your file. The law’s out: if you get a job tomorrow you won’t get a pension ‘til you’ve worked to the age of ninety…

RASHA
The world will fall apart by then. There won’t be any kind of pension, nothing…

DOOLE
Fuck you. Wouldn’t we all like to sit around talking amateur garden-crap philosophy…?

RASHA
Come on, Igor, tell him that the world’s gone to hell! Tell him to cool it… Tell him how it is!

IGOR
Well, Doole, you see, the world has gone to hell…but there’s no reason not to drink to that!

They clink cans, then drink. Mila wakes up, holds her hand to her mouth. Rasha gets up.

RASHA
What is it, baby-doll?

Rasha takes her behind the curtain, Mila vomits.

IGOR
I don’t want you to fight now. I just wanted to have some fun, relax a bit.

DOOLE
I’m sorry, fuck it. I work a lot, that’s all; I do my part, but I don’t like anyone riding me, you know, putting my ass down…

IGOR
Why don’t you help him?

DOOLE
Help who? Help Rasha?

IGOR
It would be good for him to live on his own. His old man is terrorizing him; he looks really bent out of shape.

DOOLE
You’re wrong; he likes it. He has this theory that everything is “falling apart,” so it’s good for everything to be falling apart around him. Cause it supports his theory.

IGOR
It keeps him rooted.

DOOLE
Exactly. I know it could have been different. He had that fallout with his parents five years ago. So, he got disappointed. What you don’t know is that he had other disappointments along the way… He had a girlfriend. Yeah. They were together for a long time. Almost six years! They lived together, in Belgrade, while he was at the University. He wanted to get a job, and just stay there and live with her, you know. He didn’t give a fuck about his parents or anyone. He would have followed her anywhere. He even worked for a while for some respectable literary magazine. He was paying the rent, you know, seeing it all through…

IGOR
And?

DOOLE
Nothing. The bubble burst, and so did he. So that’s where he is now. It’s been two years, but he’s still fucked up about it…

IGOR
When you hit thirty, it’s not as easy to roll with the punches and let things slide…

DOOLE
I thought he was stronger than that.

IGOR
What does he want with this girl?

DOOLE
I don’t know. Some kind of reverse masochism. He feels spiritually superior, so he takes it out on kids. Then he loses his shit, dumps them, and moves on to another. He’s just making more of a mess for himself. Older women are where it’s at, ‘cause they’re not after commitment.

IGOR
Commitment is hard for almost everyone.

DOOLE
You’re talking shit. Like him. “People have lost their concentration, their attention span, they can’t see or hear anything,” blah, blah, blah…

Rasha comes out from behind the curtain, takes Mila towards the mattress.

RASHA
OK, guys, try and avoid the toilet for a bit. Come on baby-doll, bedtime…

She embraces him.

MILA
Rasha…lie down beside me. I told my parents I was sleeping over at Anita’s tonight.

Rasha sets her down upon the mattress gently. Mila falls instantly asleep. Rasha looks at her.

RASHA
I love her…

DOOLE
We get the point, yes…

RASHA
I’m going to clean up the toilet a bit and then I’ll play you some really good music… Motherfucking good! Give me that beer…

Rasha takes a big gulp of beer, and disappears behind the curtain.

Bios

Uglješa Šajtinac

Uglješa Šajtinac was born in 1971, in Zrenjanin. Graduated Playwriting, Drama Arts School in Belgrade. Uglješa is the Dramaturg of the Serbian National Theatre, Novi Sad. His play The Propmaster was produced at the Belgrade Drama Theatre, translated and shown at the festival of Contemporary European Plays, Huddersfield, UK; Pravo Na Ruše was produced at Serbian National Theatre, Novi Sad; Do You Speak Australian? at NT Tosa Jovanović, Zrenjanin. His latest play Banat was given a reading at West Yorkshire Playhouse in November 2003. He published a novel, Marvels of Nature, and books of short stories. Huddersfield was produced at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds in 2004 (in Chris Thorpe’s version) and later the same year at the Yugoslav Drama Theatre, Belgrade; in 2006, it received its US premiere (in Caridad Svich’s version) at TUTA Theatre in Chicago, where it was selected as “Critics’ Choice” by the top three Chicago newspapers. Huddersfield won the “Best Serbian Play” award for 2005.

Duška Radosavljević; U.S. Adaptation by Caridad Svich

Duška Radosavljević (First English Translation) has worked as dramaturg, teacher, and theatre critic. Originally from the former Yugoslavia, she was based in the North of England for over twelve years, where she collaborated with a number of young theatre companies as a performer and director as well as working as a dramaturg with the NSDF, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and New Writing North. She was the Dramaturg at Northern Stage and Newcastle University for three years and has written almost 500 reviews for The Stage Newspaper. For two years, she was involved with the Festival of Contemporary European Plays (FestCEP) in Huddersfield, UK, where in 2002 she directed Gëzim Alpion's controversial play Vouchers. Caridad Svich (U.S. Adaptation) is an award-winning playwright and translator whose works have been seen across the US and abroad at diverse venues including the Royal Court, Traverse Theatre, ARTheater-Cologne, 59 East 59, 7 Stages, INTAR, The Women's Project, and Walkerspace. In development: her music-theatre adaptation of Lorca's Yerma with composer Liz Swados and director Kay Matschullat. She is alumna playwright of New Dramatists, founder of theatre alliance & press NoPassport, and contributing editor of TheatreForum. Her works are published by TCG, Playscripts, Smith & Kraus, Arte Publico Press, BackStage Books, and Manchester University Press. Visit her at www.caridadsvich.com.

Huddersfield. Copyright (c) Uglješa Šajtinac, 2005. First English translation copyright (c) Duška Radosavljević, 2006. U.S. adaptation copyright (c) Caridad Svich, 2007.