The committee of the Mountain Ash Drama Club for Senior
Citizens, a group of octogenarians and life-long friends since their
primary school days, have always shared each others trials and
tribulations. Joy and happiness, grief and pain have forged deep
rooted friendships that only death itself can sever. They know
everything there is to know about each other; or do they?
When Tori Greenhouse, the patronising Entertainment Manager
at the Mountain Ash Day Centre for Senior Citizens, is brutally
murdered in her office a dark secret comes to light that tests the
bond of friendship to its very limit.
The Drama Club is a hilarious, though often poignant account of
the events that lead up to the murder of Tori Greenhouse, the
unpopular Entertainment Manager at the Mountain Ash Day Centre for Senior Citizens, and the sharing of secrets, scandalous
in their enormity more than fifty years ago but the telling of which
today, would hardly raise an eyebrow.
Black Leaf Publishing
Kathleen Ann Mescall
What’s that you are saying? Stop mumbling and speak up,” Kitty Ward grumbled as she spitefully jabbed her boney elbow into the arm of the old man sitting next to her.
“It do give me an headache straining myself to understand what you are saying, so it do.”
“Mumble!” I don’t mumble you crabby old bat,” Dougie Lewis bristled indignantly. “I’ll have you know they do still ask me to sing in the choir down at the Club. Why only last week Dai Griffiths did say as how the choir has never been the same since I packed it in.”
At eighty-five years old, Dougie was proud of his still rich baritone voice and was deeply offended by Kitty’s accusation of mumbling.
“You do need a new battery for your hearing aid you silly bugger - and watch where you are poking your elbows. They are as sharp as knives!”
“Just like your tongue then,” retorted Kitty with a sniff. “Now tell me what you said - and mind you speak up this time.”
“I …did … say … that … Tori … is … late … coming … and … we … should … start … with … out … her.
Did you hear that alright then?”
“There was no need to shout, Dougie Lewis. I’m not deaf you know. Thinking of your belly again are you? Anyroad, maybe she’s gone off on one of those tangent things again. You always do say you can’t hold a conversation with the girl owing to how she do go off on a tangent. Maybe she’s gone on one again.”
“Bloody hell Megan,” said Dougie rolling his eyes up at the tiny woman peering out the window of her pretty green and pale lemon kitchen—where the committee of the Mountain Ash Drama Club for Senior Citizens were holding their weekly meeting.
“I do swear that the older she do get, the dafter she do get. Not that you was ever very bright to start with,” he shouted at the woman sitting next to him. “I always remember my mam did say as how you was at the very back of the queue when brains was being dished out, Kitty Ward. And in my opinion, you wasn’t much further down the line in the beauty queue either,” he added spitefully.
“There’s a wicked boy you are then Dougie,” interjected Blanche Ward, Kitty’s sister-in-law, who was sitting opposite the garrulous old man.
“Our Kitty can’t help being a bit backward. It do come from picking her nose so much when she was a girl - always had her finger stuck up her nose she did. Her da used to say all her poking and prodding about would damage her brain. She never did listen to him though. I do think it comes from never being married. It’s not natural.” Blanche added with an air of authority. She leaned across the table to Dougie and spoke in lowered tones, so that Kitty wouldn’t hear her.
“She’s going back unopened you know,” and then added with a note of conspiracy in her voice, “but keep that under your hat.”
Any further conversation was halted by the sound of Megan Medway’s chiming door-bell.
“That’ll be Tori then, so you all stop your palaver,” Megan admonished her friends as she patted her mop of silvery curls, and went out into the hall to open the door for the late arrival. Next moment she came rushing back into the kitchen.
“Mind as how you behave yourself now Dougie - she’s got someone with her. I can see two shadows in the glass.”
“What are you going on about Megan? I do always mind myself.” But his injured voice was addressing Megan’s back as once again she made her way out into the hall.
“I wonder who she brought with her,” mused Dougie, more to himself than to the two women sitting with him. “Whoever it is I do wish they’d hurry up and get in here. Parched I am for a nice cup of tea.”
“Always thinking about your belly, so you are,” Kitty snapped, which brought forth another torrent of abuse from the aggrieved old man.
Tori Greenhouse, Entertainment Manager at the Day Centre where the drama club usually met, breezed into the kitchen with a huge silly grin all over her face.
“Well, this is all very cosy I must say, and so very kind of you to invite us all to meet here, Megan. You must allow us to reimburse you for the cost of our refreshments though - it wouldn’t do for you to be out of pocket on our account; would it everyone?” she shrilled patronisingly as her gaze took in the people seated around the table.
“I think fifty-pee each should cover it. What do you think, Dougie?”
“What do I think? Well now then, I’ll tell you what I do think. I do think that I didn’t come all the way up the hill, instead of just crossing over the road to the centre, to pay fifty-pee for a cup of tea and a piece of bread pudding. That’s what I do think.”
“Quite right, too, Dougie,” interjected Megan who couldn’t keep the outrage at such a dreadful suggestion from her normally soft spoken voice.
“In all my born days never have I heard such an idea. Take money from my friends for a cup of tea, indeed - and you stop pushing me now, Harriet Griffith” she snapped angrily at a tall, refined looking woman hovering in the kitchen doorway behind her.
Megan was very upset at Tori’s tactless suggestion. She went across the kitchen muttering under her breath, and switched on the kettle to make the tea.
“Bloody hell, Harriet, I thought you left the club last week,” said Kitty, clearly surprised to see the newcomer, who was now sitting serenely on the chair opposite her.
“I instinctly remember you saying as how you’d had enough of the club. All meetings and no acting, that’s what you did say,” Kitty accused.
“I think you meant distinctly, Kitty dear,” offered Tori, with the same silly grin on her face.
“You said instinctly, I think you meant to say distinctly.”
“Instinctly, distinctly, what do it matter what she said - you did understand what she meant, didn’t you? And anyroad, it’s rude to interrupt someone when they are talking, so it is,” Blanche chided as she stood up and dragged her chair towards the end of the table, away from Harriet.
Megan was placing the tea-pot on the table and complained to Blanche that she hadn’t left her with enough room to pour out the tea.
“Well, I don’t want my feet getting all wet if she do piss herself then. I’ve got my best shoes on today,” she offered as an explanation; which Megan accepted with a knowing sigh.
“Incompetent she is, so I do think it is very rude of you to bring her to Megan’s home without asking,” Kitty berated the Entertainment Manager— seated at the top end of the table; between Kitty and Harriet.
“Instead of asking us for fifty-pee for tea,” she sniffed airily, “it would do more good if you was to move Megan’s good cushion. She won’t thank you if Harriet do piss all over it then. Anyway,” Kitty went on talking to Harriet - as though there had been no interruption, “If you did leave the club, why are you here then?”
“Because Tori asked me to come,” Harriet replied, taking hold of the cup and saucer being passed to her by Blanche.
“You mind how you don’t drink too much of that now, Harriet,” Blanche cautioned. “You don’t want to be having any little accidents now, do you?”
“Why did you ask her to come to our meeting then?” Dougie asked Tori as he sank his teeth into a hunk of bread pudding.
“Smashing it is, Megan - ta very much. You always was a good cooker,” he praised as he slurped up a last mouthful of hot sweet tea.
“In that case,” Megan chuckled “mind as how I don’t give you a bill when you do leave,” and then stared pointedly at Tori Greenhouse sitting opposite her at the far end of the table.
“Go on then, woman, said Dougie addressing Tori,” but at the same time passing his empty tea-cup to Megan for a refill. “I’m waiting for you to answer my question.”
“Well I can hardly get a word in, Dougie.” Tori raised her right hand and drew it theatrically across her forehead. “Everyone is talking at once, and it’s giving me a bit of a headache. Maybe you and I can change places, Megan dear. I think I might be better off nearer to the window.”
“Bloody liar you are then,” interjected Kitty. You are worried Harriet will piss herself, and your shoes will get wet. You stay where you are, Megan. If she do get wet, it’s her own fault for bringing her.”
“Have a piece of bread pudding, Harriet – it will help to soak up the tea, offered Blanche kindly. “You should get some of those pads from the doctor. You know, like a baby nappy. I do think they would be very useful for you.”
“Actually I have some,” Harriet admitted with a flush of embarrassment. “But thank you for suggesting it. I got them last week - from the chemist next to the centre. Megan, may I have another cup of tea … now that my waterworks problem has been taken care of?”
“Of course you can, dear.” Megan was smiling brightly because she didn’t have to worry about her cushion getting wet. “Pass her cup to me Blanche; I don’t want to stretch across the table.”
“How much longer do I have to wait for you to tell me why you brought Harriet here then? Which if you ask me is a bit rude considering as how she did resign - and you didn’t notify us through the proper channels then.”
“That’s exactly what I did say, Dougie Lewis,” Kitty snapped, stopping the old man’s sermonising. “You do sound just like a parrot, going on and on repeating what’s already been said then.”
Dougie slammed the palm of his hand down on the table.
“Megan, I do swear I’ll swing for this old bat if she don’t shut her big gob up. Daft as a brush she do be, and her chairman of our committee and all. Now then,” he went on, stretching himself over the top of Kitty’s head, so he could see Tori Greenhouse as he spoke to her. Kitty was resting her head in her arms, which were folded on the table in front of her; crying. “I want to know why you did ask Harriet here to come to our meeting.”
“Pee Cee, Dougie. You’re not being very Pee Cee are you?”
“Excuse me,” interrupted Harriet indignantly. “Who are you calling pissy? I sincerely hope you weren’t referring to me, young woman - or I shall report you to Mrs. Davis.”
Tori mentally cursed her employer for insisting she work closely with this awful group during the month long refurbishment programme at the centre. Members of the Mountain Ash Day Centre could still drop in for lunch, but all activity classes were suspended. No one had minded at all except the committee of the Drama Club. They had almost demanded that their dreadful weekly meetings go ahead; even though all the activity rooms were closed. Ms. Davis had gone along with their tiresome idea of home meetings, but only because Dougie Lewis’ obnoxious nephew sat on the borough’s Arts and Entertainment Committee—from whom the centre received a very generous annual grant. Tori would love to tell the old farts what to do with their bloody meeting; they are all speaking such gibberish nonsense but instead, kept the silly grin plastered across her face and took a deep breath.
“I said Pee Cee, Harriet, not pissy. It means politically correct. Dougie was not being politically correct when he referred to Kitty as being the Chairman of your committee. He should have referred to her as the Chair.”
Kitty raised her tear stained face from her arms and dug her elbow into Dougie’s arm.
“And you did say I was as daft as a brush, Dougie Lewis. We are supposed to be having a meeting of our drama club - which you did resign from last week,” she shot at Harriet. “Now this silly daft cow is talking about politics, and she thinks I’m a chair! And she still hasn’t told us why Harriet is here. Not very clever for an Entertainment Manager is she then? And not very entertaining either.”
Tori opened her mouth to speak…….
“Gareth Jones was a very clever boy, so he was,” Blanche mused, “until he married that girl from Ponty.”
Megan began collecting the cups and saucers from the table.
“I do think you have wasted a lot of our time, Tori, so I do. First you came late,” she accused. “And then you wasted time telling everyone to pay for their tea - the like of which I have never heard in all my life. Now you are wasting even more time talking about politics and furniture, and you won’t answer a simple question. It’ll be time for everyone to go home for their dinner soon, so it will, and we haven’t even started the meeting yet.”
All eyes in the room glared accusingly at Tori Greenhouse.
“She’s got a play for us to do,” piped up Harriet. “That’s why she asked me to come today; we have to choose a cast from the members. As you all know, I did quite a lot of acting in my younger days,” she added with a slight toss of her straight, silver-grey hair, “so she said I may have the starring role,”
“Well, I am very sorry to disappoint you, Miss Bette Davis, but playing Mary in the school nativity more than seventy-five years ago, doesn’t make a lot of acting in my book,” Dougie scowled. “And it do be up to the committee to decide who will be in the play - after an audition, not before.”
“Quite right, Dougie,” agreed Blanche. “Anyway Harriet dear, how would it be if you was to take stage-fright and pissed your drawers in front of the audience then? You’d have to walk around the stage with a glass of water in your hand - make out you spilled it down yourself.”
“I think we should put up a poster in the centre,” Megan suggested. “We can ask anyone who wants to be in the play to come to an audition. We can have it in your house, Harriet because it’s much bigger than ours - and you are the one with all the acting experience then.”
“Good idea, Megan, said Kitty. “And it won’t matter about pissing yourself in your own home, Harriet - unless you do do it on one of the chairs we do have to sit on. I do think I’ll wear my old mac on that day - just in case.”
“Well then, if that’s the business concluded, I’ll be off. I want to call in at the Legion for a pint before I do go home for my dinner.” Dougie stood up and pushed his chair back. Megan’s cat curled up underneath let out a screech of indignation, and spitefully scratched Tori’s leg as it shot passed her. The woman looked down at the multiple ladders creeping up the leg of her torn tights, and once again cursed the committee of the Mountain Ash Drama Club to Hell and back.
“Right then everyone,” she called out brightly. “Next Monday at Harriet’s house at ten-thirty; try not to be late. We’ll have a lot of hard work to do.”
“Hark at her then,” said Kitty scornfully. “It was her who did keep us all waiting while she did go of on a tangent to collect Harriet.”
Dougie rolled his eyes to the ceiling, said goodbye to everyone, and left as fast as he could.
“Who’s going to make the poster then?” Blanche asked, looking directly at Tori. “And you haven’t told us the name of the play yet.”
“Silly me, so I haven’t,” Tori responded with a big smile. “It’s Romeo and Juliet - and I’ll make the poster, Blanche. I can do it when I get back to the centre, and stick it up on the wall in the dining-room.”
“Bloody hell, Harriet,” Kitty Ward laughed as she ushered the other woman through the kitchen door. “You are a bit long in the tooth to be playing Juliet, aren’t you - and which old coot is to be Romeo then? I do think it’s a bloody daft idea for a play, so I do and just you wait ’till Dougie Lewis hears,” she warned Tori who was following behind her. “There’ll be hell to pay - you mark my words. I’m going right down to the Legion to tell him, now then. Don’t be surprised if he do come to the centre for his dinner today.” Then as an after-thought Kitty called back to Megan.
“I do think we should all have our dinner at the centre today, Megan. Get your hat and coat on - we can all go down and watch the fire-works. Bloody Romeo and Juliet indeed!”