Here are the first few scenes of my award winning play The Tent. Contact me for more info, or if you would like to see the whole thing, which can be downloaded in PDF form here


SELLO: In the twenty seven years that I have been pumping petrol here, in this desert   village of Treurigheid, very far from Beaufort Wes and even more miles away from Kuruman, she was the first and only umlungu who asked me my real name Sello, which means ‘weeping’. I know it was then that her story and my story were becoming the same. I didn’t know that it was going to be me to tell the story of her, the men, the children, the village and me. That is the thing with stories. Once they find a mouth, all the strands are like baby spiders in the wind, moving in the same direction and joining together. One story. Many threads. My words. Our memories. Everybody’s secrets.

My own story is the story that brought me here, to this garage. It is here that the stories of Treurigheid, the people who live here, the people who work here, the strangers who came and even those people who ran away all joined.

I was on duty the night it came. But I was sleeping. Bafana Bafana had lost again; this time to Tunisia. I had watched the whole game in the box, on the little black and white TV that we had to keep hidden from the boss. I had to force myself to sleep I was so angry. It is hard to support a losing team.

And when I woke up, my bones were stiff from the cold, and it was there.

Scene 1

The lights come up further to reveal a tent

Sello stumbles clumsily in sleep, rubbing his face and jumping from foot to foot. He finally sees the tent.

SELLO: What? What the hell…[he looks around and creeps cautiously closer to the tent.]

No, no, no, no, this is not right. This is not good. You can’t just…Where did this come from? Uh uh. Yo, and on my shift. The boss will go crazy. Shit. No, no, no, it must go away before anybody comes. [He knocks the air.]  Hello, hello, knock knock. Knock knock.

Nothing happens. Sello’s panic rises

SELLO: Hey, is there somebody inside? Wake up wena, you can’t sleep here. This is a garage man. Hello…knock knock.

Nothing happens. Lights fade and change. Sello goes back to the petrol station and begins the daily business of filling watering cans and sweeping, all the while stealing glances at the tent and shaking his head.

Lights change.

Scene 2

Willem and a female customer stand in a huddle. They are staring at the tent, but from a distance.

WILLEM: As I said, I arrived this morning and there it was. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Nobody has come in or out of it. And, I mean, take a look around. There’s no car or anything parked anywhere. The bloody cheek of it!

CUSTOMER: I bet you it’s a hippy. Hippies have tents. My son used to know a hippy once. Sis.

WILLEM: It can’t just stay here. What does it take me for man? Why here? At my garage. It’s got to go. I’ll be the laughing stock.

CUSTOMER: And hippies take drugs.

WILLEM: There must be a law against this sort of thing, hey? There must be a law. You can’t just put up a tent like that in the middle of the night.

CUSTOMER: And they don’t bath, hippies.

WILLEM: Why does this stuff always happen to me?

CUSTOMER: Or cut their hair.

WILLEM: I’ve got a good mind to go there and tear the bloody thing down with my own two hands.

CUSTOMER: Or even wash their clothes.

WILLEM: Why do I have to do everything myself? [He stands stock still.]

CUSTOMER: Maybe they don’t even have clothes. Hippies.

Lights change.

Scene 3

Two white, male customers stand in a huddle. They are staring at the tent as they eat crisps and drink coke bought from the shop.

CUSTOMER: I saw this movie once where the guy was forced to live in a tent by his mother because he was born with a squashed face or something; and at night he would come out and slash all the normal people’s faces with his fingernails.

CHARLIE: Ag kak man. That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard.

Customer: And he grew up and he took revenge on the whole neighbourhood and especially his mother by slashing her face with his fingernails.

CHARLIE: Oh please! You can’t force someone with dangerous fingernails to live in a tent!

CUSTOMER: Oh. Ja. Maybe he was forced to live in the cellar. In a cage.

CHARLIE: Ag kak man. What’s that got to do with anything?

Lights change.

Scene 4

Willem and Sello have a chat.

WILLEM: Now look here Patrick, I’m not blaming you, but you need to tell me exactly what happened. It was your shift. You were in charge here. How the hell did this happen man?

SELLO: Honest boss, I’ve told you everything. I didn’t see anything. It’s very quiet here on a week night. It was there when I woke up this morning.

WILLEM: OK. Well that’s it. Now that everybody in the damn village has come to stare at a bladdy TENT, for god’s sake, it’s time for the law to deal with it. I’m going inside to call Andile at the police station.

SELLO: You know boss, I spoke to Andile when he came past on his way to the station this morning. He already got a few complaints from Mrs Viljoen, the mayor Vukile and from Hendriks. You know, BP Hendriks. He said he bet you had come up with a new funny idea to bring more people to the garage and he wanted to know if it was legal.

WILLEM: So Sergeant Andile already saw the tent? Well, why didn’t he get rid of it? Did he look inside? He’s the law for god’s sake. What’s his problem man?

SELLO: He says this land here next to the garage is owned by the church and unless they put in an official complaint and ask the local government to [he reads from a crumpled piece of paper that he takes out of his pocket], “evict the occupants of the temporary structure in accordance with the land rights of the country” his hands are tied.

WILLEM: Typical. This country has gone to the dogs I tell you. Next thing they’ll make me hand over my whole bladdy garage. I am sick of it.

I swear Patrick, if I come here tomorrow morning and that thing is still here there will be hell to pay. Hell to pay. Just get it out of here.

The lights change.