Updated: Sep 2, 2019
The Phone Call
A play in one act
Theresa May (Headteacher, retired)
Alexa - voice controlled digital assistant
Philip Hammond (ex Business Manager, now School Resource Management Advisor)
Philip May (Theresa’s husband, does something in the city)
Setting: Berkshire. Theresa is sitting on her patio in the last days of summer, relaxing in the eace and tranquility of her perfect garden. In the background we can hear buzzing bees and the chattering chirp of a chaffinch. On the nearby table sit the daily newspapers, untouched. On the ground beside her bare feet lay a pair of leopard print ballet pumps, discarded.
She is waiting for her husband Philip to return from the local garden centre, where he has been despatched buy some hyacinth bulbs to plant, ready for Christmas. She is holding a transistor radio, and she is fiddling with the tuning dial, muttering to herself grumpily.
Theresa: How do you work this bloody thing? I don’t want to listen to bloody radio 4, I’m sick of listening to Radio 4. I’ve been listening to Radio chuffing 4 for 40 years and right now, today, I want to listen to something other than the state of the perishing nation. Doom, gloom and politics. Ha! Well not for me, not anymore. I am now officially retired and I can listen to whatever I like, whenever I like.
She fiddles with tuning dials some more, and we hear radio crackle. An announcer’s voice comes over the radio, crisp and clear “And now on Radio 4 we head over to the House of Parliament live for Prime Minister’s Question Time”.
Theresa: Bloody hell fire, how can a radio only receive one station? I am NOT listening to this nonsense, never, ever again.
She flicks he radio off and turns her head to look into the conservatively decorated but comfortable drawing room behind her.
Theresa: Alexa, play me some music that will fill my heart with joy.
Alexa: Hmm, I don’t know that one.
Theresa sighs: Alexa, play me happy music
Alexa: Playing Happy by Pharrell WIlliams.
The sound of techno drum beats fill the room
Theresa: Good God! Turn it off! Oh, for goodness sake, ALEXA, stop.
Theresa: Alexa play something older, play something from the 70s.
Alexa: Playing Dancing Queen by Abba
Theresa (distressed): Nooooo! Alexa STOP! Never ever play that song again. Delete that song.
Theresa walks fractiously around the room, straightening magazines on the coffee table and photographs on the mantelpiece. She pauses at one, lifts it up. It is a framed photograph of herself, standing outside the main entrance to her old school, in her academic gown, proudly standing next to the Prince of Wales. She sighs, and a flicker of a smile passes across her face, but quickly disappears. She puts the photograph down hastily and runs her finger along the ledge of the bookshelf, inspecting it for dust. She tuts and rolls her eyes, a sure sign that the housekeeper will be in for a telling off tomorrow.
Alexa: Incoming telephone call from your contact Philip. Would you like to accept it?
Theresa: Accept call
A crackly phone line. It’s difficult to hear clearly but it’s definitely a male voice
Theresa: Philip? Where are you?
Philip Hammond: Oh, hello Theresa, I’m actually in Chipping Norton
Theresa: Well get the bloody hell back here with my hyacinths.
Philip H: What the? Hyacinths? Theresa, are you quite well? I know you were under a lot of pressure towards the end but...
Theresa, interrupting: Wait! Who is this? You’re not my husband!
Philip H: I should bloody hope not. No Theresa it’s me, the other Philip. From work.
Theresa, guarded : Fiscal Phil?
Philip H: At your service
Theresa (under her breath): Oh for fuck’s sake.
Philip H: Sorry?
Theresa: Nothing. (sweetly) Philip, I wasn’t expecting to hear from you (whispered) ever again. What on earth do you want?
Philip H: Well the thing is, I’ve got some rather worrisome news. (pauses) They’ve found it.
Theresa: Eh? What are you saying? For goodness sake, who’s found what?
Philip H: The new Headteacher they appointed. At the school. Boris, and the new Bursar chap, Sajid.
Theresa: Pah. Blithering Idiots, both of them. I’m surprised they’re still there. Not an ounce of teaching experience between them. But wait, what have they found?
Philip H: It. You know. The (whispering) ‘other’ budget.
An audible intake of breath.
Theresa: Shhh! (whispering) But...How could they have, no one even knows that it exists?
Philip H: Well quite. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve just had a very difficult phone call from Nick in Finance. Apparently they sent some work experience kid down to the archives to search for some ancient rulings on preroguing the Governing Body, of all things - they’ve got some lunatic plan to stop the board from meeting until after they’ve launched the new development plan to parents.
Theresa: That’s insane! They can’t prerogue the Governing Body, the governors won’t stand for it and neither will the LA.
Philip H: Well you’d think so, but apparently he’s quite utterly bonkers and is going ahead anyway. It’s total mayhem, apparently. All of the senior leadership team have been replaced. Anyway, Nick says that this work experience kid was rummaging around in the undercroft...
Theresa (Interrupting) It’s not a fucking undercroft Philip! How many bloody times? This is not 1536, the school is not a church and the monasteries are not being dissolved. I do wish you’d stay in the right century.
Philip H : Right, yes sorry boss, I mean Theresa, old habits. Yes, right, so the kid was in the under - the archives, and accidentally came across the books - you know, the ‘other’ books, the ones we hid.
Theresa (agitated) Yes, yes I’m quite aware of what the other books are thank you. Carry on.
Philip H: Yes quite, well, he fetched them up to the new bursar chap, who had a bit of a shufty throigh them, and eventually they worked out about the (cough) depreciation line.
Theresa: Oh good God! And what are they going to do?
Philip H; Well that’s the thing. They’ve already done it. They’ve spent the lot.
Theresa: You can’t be serious? They can’t have, it’s impossible to spend that amount of money at once - that money took us years to stash away.
Philip H: You don’t have to tell me Theresa, I had to spin the whole austerity bullshit line for 3 years, if you remember? I had to cut the budgets and get rid of half the staff and close the nursery and get rid of the photocopier, reduce the lunch portions and write the begging letters to the parents. All whilst we were stashing away heaps of cash into YOUR secret reserves. So you do NOT have to tell me.
Theresa: Alright Philip, you’ve made your point, but those reserves were absolutely necessary to ensure the strong and stable future of the school. We had to put aside staff room politics and deliver on our promise of a great deal for our school, and a strong and stable school improvement plan.
Philip H: You said ‘strong and stable’ twice there.
Theresa: Shut up Philip.
Philip H: Sorry.
Theresa: Oh saints alive, I didn’t mean actually shut up, you fool. Tell me how they could possibly have spent it already.
Philip H: Well apparently they're hell bent on taking the school out of the local authority and making it an independent.
Theresa: But that would mean they’d have to buy back the entire site, and the grounds, from the LA. The site they’ve already got free licence to operate on! That's a total nonsense. The school relies on the LA for procurement deals and for cheaper trading contracts. What kind of lunatic would pull out of the LA for no reason and spend a fortune to lose every support mechanism it has?
Philip H: Yes, exactly that. But apparently they’re going to change the name, go private and become a fee paying free school, some new fandangled initiative. They generate income by raising all the money from the parents, and they’re going to use that money to give a bit back to the departments to make them feel they’re better off.
Theresa: But that’s completely arse-about-face insane. You can’t take something that was free, buy it, cut put all the good bits and then sell it back to yourself at a huge loss, and then make the parents pay for it?
Philip H: Well, it appears that you can. So, what should we do?
Theresa: Right, OK, it’s risky, but it might work
Philip H: Go on
Theresa: We’ll write an anonymous letter to the local paper, make it look like a leaked memo from the LA, saying that they’re concerned about Boris’s mental health, make him out to be a bit of a wazzock, which shouldn’t be hard, ha ha! Say the LA are considering taking action, suspending him on safeguarding grounds and hint that they will be asking Jeremy, that shabby little man from the community college, to take over.
Philip H: Sorry, I’m not following you.
Theresa: Well let’s be honest, Phil, you never really were.
Philip H: I say, I greatly resemble that remark!
Theresa: Philip, remember we agreed - I’m the one that does the jokes? I’m sure you won’t have forgotten the 2018 budget meeting where you told the Monty Python jokes about the curtains? Or the “Hammo House of Horrors” finance report?
Philip: (sighing resignedly) yes Theresa, sorry Theresa, no more jokes.
Theresa: Good, so as i was saying, the leaked memo should scare the horses enough to take their minds off the money for a while. Then, we’ll come up with a sex or drugs scandal, topple Boris and put Nick in charge as caretaker Head while they recruit a new top man. The Bursar will have to go with him, of course, but that’ll be easy enough. Make up some stuff abput a huge falling out between the two of them. Sack the admin girl without telling him first.
Philip H: OK, so then what?
Theresa: Aha, you may well ask.
Philip H: Well yes, I am asking. I did ask actually.
Theresa: Shut up Philip.
Philip H: Sorry
Theresa: So then, THEN, I get myself invited back to support the recruitment process, nobble the other candidates and then put our man Gove into the mix as the only possible alternative. He gets appointed, I keep pulling his strings, Nick shifts the income back into the depreciation line without anyone noticing, and within a couple of years everything will be back on the straight and narrow again.
Philip H: But the money will still be spent, the school will be privatised, all of the parents will have taken their children out of the school and the place will be ruined.
Theresa: Ah but Philip, think of the pension.
Philip H: What? Oh (considers) right. I see. The 'depreciation' line will go straight into the pension fund, which your husband's firm will administer. Oh that's devilishly clever. OK Theresa, I’ll get right on it.
Theresa: Good man. Oh and Philip?
Philip H: Yes Theresa?
Theresa: Don’t ever call me again, OK?
Philip H: Yes Theresa.
Theresa: Alexa, end call.
Alexa: Call ended.
The sound of tyres on gravel. A car door opens and closes, we hear a central locking device followed by footsteps towards the front door. The front door opens and closes. A smallish, slightly battered-looking man walks into the room carrying a brown paper bag.
Philip M: Hello darling, I’m home. Did you have a good morning?
Theresa: Perfect darling, absolutely perfect.
Philip M: Tea?