Set in present day Cairo, Cry Havoc is about the dissolution of a loving relationship between a British expatriate writer and his young Egyptian translator/lover. In this excerpt, Nicholas attempts to get a visa for Mohammed to escape the country after a brutal police beating. Nicholas will lie through his teeth if necessary.
(Lights come up in the British visa office area. Two chairs and a table. NICHOLAS rapidly fills out forms. As MS. NEVERS watches him, she slowly clicks her pen, in, out, in, out, in, out. Nicholas looks up. She smiles. He goes back to the forms, writing even faster. He finishes and pushes them over to Ms. Nevers, who slowly peruses them.)
MS. NEVERS: Right...right...right...Comfortable?
MS. NEVERS: Comfortable?
NICHOLAS: Oh. Yes. Thank you.
MS. NEVERS: The air-conditioner.
MS. NEVERS: A bit wonky I'm afraid.
NICHOLAS: Oh. Right.
MS. NEVERS: Foreign.
NICHOLAS: Didn't notice really.
MS. NEVERS: Right. We'll just glance through these, make sure everything's in order, then try to schedule you to see the Head.
NICHOLAS: I won't be able to see him today then?
MS. NEVERS: No one can see the great and powerful Oz!
NICHOLAS: Sorry? What?
MS. NEVERS: Joke, Mr. Field. From the film?
NICHOLAS: Ah. Great! Yes, terrific. Wizard, in fact!
Bit of diplomatic humor? What?
MS. NEVERS: Quite.
NICHOLAS: Very good. Ms...? I'm sorry?
MS. NEVERS: Nevers. Ms. Nevers.
NICHOLAS: Nevers. Right. Then no chance for.....?
MS. NEVERS: 'Fraid not, actually. Bit of a jam today. Two hundred Sudanese refugees climbed over the wall last night trying to claim political asylum. Very disturbing.
NICHOLAS: Oh dear.
MS. NEVERS: Impossible situation really. Can't be done you see. You must be physically in England to claim asylum. Otherwise can't be done.
NICHOLAS: Oh...I see. Difficult.
MS. NEVERS: And these days we try to be very, very careful who we let in. No one who might be considered an "undesirable". No one dangerous.
MS NEVERS: Without money.
NICHOLAS: Ah, yes.
MS. NEVERS: That's my job now you see. Asking questions. Discovering fact from fiction. Keeping our home safe from "undesirables". You wouldn't believe it Mr. Field but there are people who come into this office and lie through their teeth to get into our country.
NICHOLAS: Not really.
MS. NEVERS: Oh yes indeed. Through their teeth. Pure fantasy. So, you understand the necessity of these little interviews.
NICHOLAS: Oh absolutely.
MS. NEVERS: So, a few questions about your "friend". Mr. El-Masri? Is that right? Who will be accompanying you?
NICHOLAS: Yes. Right.
MS. NEVERS: I see. Will he be your employee Mr. Field? Or just a traveling "companion" ? (sexual innuendo)
NICHOLAS: My assistant! He's my assistant. Helps with my research.
MS. NEVERS: There are strict rules concerning foreign employees in England, Mr. Field.
NICHOLAS: Oh..well he's not really an employee. Not really. More of a protégé I suppose. Good opportunity I thought. The libraries. Museums. Universities.
MS. NEVERS: Ah.
NICHOLAS: I'm encouraging him to apply for University, you see. Graduate degree. Brilliant student. Top of his class.
MS. NEVERS: I see...I wonder if you would like to take your jacket off?
MS. NEVERS: The heat...
NICHOLAS: Oh. Right.
(Nicholas takes jacket off and hangs on chair.)
MS. NEVERS: No reason not to be comfortable.
MS. NEVERS: It's better in the morning.
MS. NEVERS: The lovely light touch of morning.
MS. NEVERS: That's what I miss most.
MS. NEVERS: England in the morning.
MS. NEVERS: Are you a poet Mr. Field?
NICHOLAS: I beg your pardon?
MS. NEVERS: Your form says "author".
MS. NEVERS: Ah, well that's all right then. Anything in particular?
NICHOLAS: Love poems.
MS. NEVERS: Oh? (Worried tone to her voice)
NICHOLAS: Nothing dangerous.
MS. NEVERS: Love can be very dangerous Mr. Field.
NICHOLAS: D'you reckon?
MS. NEVERS: Oh yes. Oh yes. Passion.
NICHOLAS: Oh dear.
MS. NEVERS: The emotions as distinguished from reason.
MS. NEVERS: When you think of the things that have been done in the name of love, Mr. Field. Love of family. Love of country. Of freedom. Of religion. Power. Money. Honor. Love of a good cigar.
MS. NEVERS: Sexual love. Romantic love.
NICHOLAS: I see, yes..
MS. NEVERS: Romeo and Juliet. The Inquisition, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan. My Mother and Father. Love always means eventual pain. Do you see? Pain is the evidence of love.
NICHOLAS: I guess I hadn't thought of it quite like that.
MS. NEVERS: You think Molotov didn't love Mr. Field? Or Savonarola when he burned Michelangelos and DaVincis? The Nazis on Kristallnacht? The Taliban when they strike a man down for not having a beard? Is that not love? The blind eyes of a fanatic. The hot forehead of your fevered child. The wife who kills her husband to keep him from abusing the children? The brother that kills his sister to save the family honor? The sheikh who calls for a jihad? When does the flame of love become flames of hate? When does hate become love? Love isn't just lips and breasts and roses and baby kisses. Is it? Love is a search for faith. Love is passion. Putting your hand in the fire and believing. Drinking Christ's blood. Ripping your heart out and laying it on a sidewalk for mobs to trample. What would you do for love, Mr. Field? Lie, cheat, steal, kill? Would you kill for love Mr. Field?
NICHOLAS: Well I...
MS. NEVERS: Don't you find that in your translations, Mr. Field? That love can be very dangerous indeed?
NICHOLAS: Well I never...I mean I hadn't really...
MS. NEVERS: Your "friend" is also a writer? Your "protégé"?
NICHOLAS: Oh..not really. I..no.
MS. NEVERS: Maybe you should take your shoes off.
NICHOLAS: I beg your pardon.
MS. NEVERS: Your shoes.
NICHOLAS: My shoes?
MS. NEVERS: Be more comfortable.
NICHOLAS: Ah. Right...(hesitating)...
MS. NEVERS: Please.
NICHOLAS: Yes...all right.
(NICHOLAS hesitates and then removes his shoes, which he places next to his chair.)
MS. NEVERS: Socks too.
MS. NEVERS: Let's bare our soles, shall we?
MS. NEVERS: Soles, Mr. Field? Ha, Ha?
NICHOLAS: Oh...right. Riiight. Soles. Right. Very good.
MS. NEVERS: I find it easier to talk when one is comfortable. May I call you Nicholas, Mr. Field?
NICHOLAS: Yes, certainly. Of course.
MS. NEVERS: Your socks then...Nicholas. If you don't mind?
(NICHOLAS takes socks off, doesn't know what to do with them, sniffs air, stuffs them in pocket.)
NICHOLAS: Sorry. Bit of a pong actually. The heat...
MS. NEVERS: Better?
NICHOLAS: Yes..uh..quite. Thanks.
MS. NEVERS: Now...your "friend"?
MS. NEVERS: Not a writer?
NICHOLAS: Well..not really, no..helps me a bit as I said.
MS. NEVERS: He was never a writer?
NICHOLAS: What? No. No..I don't...
MS. NEVERS: You must be absolutely boiling with that tie on.
(NICHOLAS protects his tie with hand.)
NICHOLAS: A cartoonist! He's a cartoonist..or was. Yes, I remember now. At university.
MS. NEVERS: Ah.
NICHOLAS: Nothing serious.
MS. NEVERS: Nothing..?
NICHOLAS: Dangerous? No! Definitely not. Just the odd cartoon.
MS. NEVERS: Cartoons can be very dangerous Mr. Field.
MS. NEVERS: Oh yes.
NICHOLAS: Oh no.
MS. NEVERS: Oh yes. People laugh at them you see.
NICHOLAS: Not these though. He told me. People didn't think they were funny. Anyway he's chucked all that. No future in it apparently.
MS. NEVERS: And you say he couldn't come in today because..?
NICHOLAS: Ah..right...bit of trouble I'm afraid.
MS. NEVERS: Trouble?
NICHOLAS: Medical! Medical trouble!
MS. NEVERS: Oh dear.
NICHOLAS: Uh..yes..laid up actually.
MS. NEVERS: Really?
NICHOLAS: Oh yes.
MS. NEVERS: What's the problem exactly?
(NICHOLAS is getting hot under the collar. Fingers his tie. Very uncomfortable.)
NICHOLAS: Accident! Bit of an accident. Unlucky. I say...do you mind?
(NICHOLAS indicates he does want to take tie off.)
MS. NEVERS: Please.
NICHOLAS: Thanks awfully. (Takes tie off.)
MS. NEVERS: Accident you say?
MS. NEVERS: I'm sorry to hear you say that. Serious?
NICHOLAS: Rather. Bus actually. Run over by a bus I think.
MS. NEVERS: You think?
NICHOLAS: Uh..well..bus..minibus..you know how they are here. Lucky any of us...
MS. NEVERS: And what is your relationship to this man?
MS. NEVERS: Your relationship? To this "unfortunate bus victim cartoonist"?
(Lights down on office as call to prayer rises. Dim lights in the flat. The call to prayer in the distance. Mohammed is standing by the window listening and looking out. As the play continues he is drawn more and more to the window and the outside world. The call to prayer fades.)