A synopsis of the play ‘The Games People Play’ by Imogen Word – this farcical drama played out almost entirely in an ordinary office workplace starts out as a comedy of errors, and ends in tragedy.
The curtain opens to a split stage set, divided in two with only one half of the stage lit up, showing an open-plan and otherwise empty office environment where Mary, the older of the two main protagonists, is already deep in conversation with her much younger friend, Louise. A confidence relating to the alleged behaviour of her cousin, who happens to be their boss, leading to his current suspension pending investigation has just been shared by Louise, and Mary has been sworn to secrecy.
The lights fall on the two women, and immediately rise again on the other side of the stage where Louise’s cousin Alan is in the pub having a few drinks with his mates, drunkenly bemoaning the apparent injustice that has befallen him, completely forgetting himself in his cups.
It soon becomes clear that all three – Mary, Louise and Alan – work together in a busy, gossipy office environment where everyone generally knows everyone else’s business. Varying levels of grape-vine one-upmanship and knowledge-is-power games are being played out on set, and word soon gets back to Louise that her cousin Alan, for now on what appears to be unexplained long-term leave, is clearly the subject of much rumour and speculation regarding whether or not he would ever be returning to work.
Without waiting to check the facts, Louise, convinced that Mary has broken her confidence, has a screaming row with her in the middle of the office, dramatically and publically breaking off their previously close friendship.
Meanwhile, voices off-stage – Alan’s erstwhile drinking partners – are heard repeating to select other parties the situation as told to them by Alan in the pub, embellished with the inevitable effects of Chinese whispers. Mary overhears this and tries to tell Louise, who is holding court in the middle of the office, clearly enjoying all the attention of being the ‘wronged friend’ and so refuses to listen.
As much of the office remains oblivious to the real facts behind the very public fallout between the two women, no-one is quite sure what to think, and this, too, soon becomes the topic of ever-increasing gossip and speculation. Louise doesn’t let it drop, and continues to make life increasingly difficult for Mary at work, sniping to colleagues behind her back, making snide underhanded comments, and generally behaving like a spoiled, petulant child.
Mary, tired of being cast as scapegoat for whatever ongoing family issues are so obviously upsetting Louise, appears despondent and decides to leave her job altogether rather than have to deal with so much ongoing unpleasantness, but is initially convinced by others to stay. On hearing this Louise accuses Mary of being difficult and over-dramatic, of making much ado about nothing, and Mary finally leaves in tears, distressed, vowing never to return.
The scene opens to bewilderment. All has been revealed. The source of the scandalous gossip about her cousin that so incensed Louise has indeed been traced to Alan himself, not to Mary, who is now known never to have betrayed Louise’s confidence.
Mary, however, is no longer there for Louise to apologise to. It transpires that Mary was not being difficult and over-dramatic in her decision to leave; Mary was in fact dying, and Louise had known of this long before the two fell out. The cancer that had been growing quietly and steadily inside Mary for months was presumably helped along in the end by the cancerous growth of the childish game-playing tactics of her so-called friend.
The curtain falls to stunned silence with everyone looking in disbelief at Louise after hearing Mary’s voice off-stage, sighing deeply before finally breathing her last…
Written in response to Ronovan’s Friday Fiction: A Comedy of Errors