The Head

Introduction

I wanted to use this piece to explore my experience of being an outsider in Australia and look at how a false sense of isolation from world issues can prevent a person from perceiving the real-life issues around them. I used Mags to represent an extremely America-centric view, and Mira to represent a more rational cross between insider and outsider. I purposely avoided showing things from the point of a complete insider until the end because I wanted to show how distorted the perceptions of a place can be.

My objective in using horror tropes was to look at the ways we compartmentalise and simplify fear. To do this I started with the Scooby Doo trope, which is the least scary and the simplest. In this, the girls attack the most obvious problem – Donald Trump. In the second scene I used the teen slasher conventions for them to look at racism and nationalism. Unlike the previous scene, they are not able to fully understand it and latch only onto the gun, which is the most superficial aspect. In the last scene I followed the example of cannibal exploitation movies, putting equal guilt on the filmmakers for their selfish and narrow perspective as on the cannibals. I made the murderer attack and the head come alive in order to take control away from Mags’s perspective, showing that she really doesn’t understand what’s going on and that her distorted perception is just as dangerous as her America-centric fantasies.

I wanted to make this a play so that I could explore the use of alternate realities occurring in a single narrative timeline. Also, because I was so inspired by films, I wanted to maintain the visual conventions while showing the artificiality of the girls’ perception with the purposely unrealistic portrayal of life on the stage.

I was inspired by Ryan O’Neill’s Their Brilliant Careers and the many reimaginings in The Drovers Wives’ in making fun of old conventions. It was really important for me for this piece to be funny because Australian humour and the convention of ‘taking the piss’ is one of the most accessible things to latch onto as an outsider. I also felt that by making it funny the audience would be less able to empathise with the girls, and therefore more able to see the faults in their perceptions.

CHARACTERS
MARGARET (MAGS), 19, American, female
SAMIRA (MIRA), 19, Egyptian-Australian, female
MURDERER/ OLD MAN DONALD/ CHAD/ MELBURNIAN, 25-40, male
THE HEAD, Australian, attached to a body
SETTING

St. Kilda Beach, winter, night time. A jetty juts out into the audience, which is acting as the ocean. Behind it is the beach. Upstage is a bench. A few meters left of the benches are rubbish bins. Seaweed is scattered on the beach. THE HEAD should appear to bob around in the shallows, ideally by having the actor’s body under the stage and head protruding up through an opening. THE HEAD must be still and silent.

SCENE ONE

Low light, around 10pm. A fan blows, making it windy.

MAGS and MIRA sit on the jetty, dangling their legs over the ‘water’. MIRA has a cigarette and a lighter and wears a leather jacket. MURDERER wears nondescript clothing with the hood of his jacket down. He sits on the bench, smoking.

MAGS: Dude, is that a head?

MIRA: No way.

She tries to light her cigarette, but can’t because of the wind. They watch it bob around for a minute.

If that’s a head, where’s the body?

MAGS: Buried. That’s what that guy with the metal detector was looking for. No one innocent goes beachcombing this late at night.

MIRA: Did this guy have like, a ton of piercings or something? Why would you look for a body with a metal detector?

MAGS: Duh, he was made of gold. That’s why they killed him.

MIRA: That doesn’t make any sense.

She fails again to light her cigarette.

If it’s made of gold, shouldn’t we go down and get it?

MAGS: Dude, the head isn’t made of gold, just the body. The head is made of, you know, head stuff. Skull and eyeballs and hair and whatever. And [zombie voice] braaaains.

MIRA: I still think we should go and check.

MAGS: Are you crazy? I don’t want to die. This is how horror movies happen.

MIRA: What do you care? I’m African. I’m like, guaranteed to die first.

MAGS: [eye roll] Yeah dude but you’re brown, not black. You’re the smart one who almost figures everything out and then dies right before the final girl. But it doesn’t matter, because in this case we’re not even the main characters. There’s gotta be at least five people. Final girl, smart brown person [gestures to MIRA], douchey guy, nerd who doesn’t wanna be there, and final girl’s best friend who gets murdered when she’s not wearing enough clothes. Right now we’re Drew Barrymore in Scream, the dumb girls who get killed before the opening credits. If I die I at least want to be part of the plot.

MIRA: [moves her hands around like a mime, trying to shield her lighter from the wind] This wind is going to make me light my hair on fire. I might go over where that guy is to smoke [gesturing to MURDERER].

MAGS: I wonder what’s up with him. Who comes to the beach in the middle of the night in winter just to smoke?

MIRA: Us.

MAGS: Yeah, but we’re here together. Like bonding and stuff. He’s probably the murderer. They always come back to the scene of the crime.

MIRA: So he’s just sitting there doing what, watching the head?

MAGS: Admiring his handiwork.

MIRA shakes her head and gets up, walking along the jetty back towards the beach. MAGS runs to catch up with her.

MAGS: Dude, don’t leave me alone over here with the zombie head!

MIRA: How can it be a zombie head if it’s still full of brains? Wouldn’t it be zombie food?

MAGS: If we go down there we’re all going to be zombie food.

MIRA: But it’s in the water. Can zombies swim? What kind of zombies are we talking about here, Romero or Walking Dead?

MAGS: Fuck, I don’t know. Just let me be scared of something fun once in a while.

MIRA stops and turns back to face her, suddenly serious.

MIRA: You’re really scared?

MAGS: Aren’t you? The world is fucked, dude! North Korea! Donald Trump! The leader of the free world or whatever is a tang-faced, white supremacist, pussy-grabbing, tiny-handed egomaniac and because of him every KKK Nazi machine-gun wielding nutcase thinks it’s time to come out of the woodwork. We’re on the brink of World War fucking III.

MIRA: Bro. We’re in Melbourne. This is like, the safest place in the universe. Even if they have World War III up there it’s not gonna get us. Anyway, Melburnians have never even seen real danger. My friend actually told me not to come down here at night because it’s a [air quotes] sketchy neighbourhood. Here! Can you believe it? She says there’s all sorts of [air quotes] Sketchy Characters around here.

MAGS: Sketchy characters?

MIRA: Ruffians!

MAGS: [still visibly scared, but starting to calm down and giggle] I’m shaking in my Louboutins.

She kicks her feet around, displaying muddy old trainers.

If this was a sketchy neighbourhood back in Portland, that guy [gesturing to MURDERER] would be carrying a gun and that [pause] thing [gesturing to THE HEAD] would be a group of heroin addicts crawling up here to mug us.

MIRA: I’ve lived in four different countries, three continents, and two hemispheres. I have seen some shit. I can say with complete confidence, we’re safe in Melbourne.

The wind has died down. She’s finally able to light her cigarette. She takes a deep drag, mirroring Mags’s deep, relieved breath.

SCENE TWO

MURDERER is dressed as OLD MAN DONALD. He is wearing the same clothes, but the hood on his jacket is covering his hair. He should be easily recognizable as MURDERER. He stands with MAGS, and MIRA on the beach.

OLD MAN DONALD: Something’s been off and I just can’t figure out what it is! Thank you so much for helping me, girls! Just be careful! The last kids who tried to figure out—

MIRA: What happened, Mr. Donald?

OLD MAN DONALD: Nothing, never mind. I’m sure you’ll be fine.

MAGS: Of course we will! Mags and Mira always catch our guy! Now, let’s go look for some clues!

Exit OLD MAN DONALD

MIRA: Let’s split up and look for clues. You take this side of the beach and I’ll take the dark, spooky area under the jetty.

MAGS goes toward the bench, while MIRA goes back towards the jetty. Both tiptoe cartoonishly. MAGS steps on a piece of seaweed. She screams.

MAGS: Come on self, it’s just seaweed. I’m supposed to be looking for clues.

She continues tiptoeing around, terrified.

MIRA: [drops her cigarette and reaches down to grab it] Where is my cigarette? I know I dropped it here…

She grabs onto something. It is not her cigarette, it is THE HEAD. She screams and runs over to MAGS.

MIRA: Dude [pant] dead [pant] bod­­—

OLD MAN DONALD enters and creeps up behind them.

MAGS: What? Talk faster dude.

OLD MAN DONALD: That’s right, and you’ll be next!

Both girls scream and run, exiting left, OLD MAN DONALD chases them.

Girls continue screaming, and run back across the stage, exiting right, repeat left and right once more until MAGS stops and turns around, bumping into OLD MAN DONALD. He falls, and she steps over him, removing the hood. Under the hood is a Donald Trump wig. MAGS screams.

MIRA: [to MAGS] Dude.

OLD MAN DONALD freezes.

MIRA: Are you still thinking about all of this stuff? I already told you, we’re safe in Melbourne.

SCENE THREE

MURDERER is dressed as CHAD. He is dressed the same except that instead of the hood and a wig he wears a backwards baseball cap. MAGS, MIRA, and CHAD sit in a circle on the beach. CHAD is drinking a VB. CHAD’s arm is around MAGS.

MAGS: Thanks for inviting us up to the beach, Chad.

CHAD: No worries, babe. Hey Mira, why don’t you show us some of that sick poetry you’ve been working on.

MAGS: Yeah, do it, nerd!

MIRA: You’re not going to be calling me a nerd when I get a scholarship and you don’t.

She stands up and takes a deep breath

MIRA: Here we go. This piece is titled ‘Goon Bag.’ [rambling] It’s about my difficulties reconciling my identity as a foreigner with my Australian-ness and womanhood­—

CHAD [interrupting] get on with it already!

MIRA: High culture [She claps high in the air]

My culture [She claps low]

Meat pies, thick like my thighs [Slaps her thighs]

Mother!

I have been away a-drovin’

And every town I passed through had a bloody good bakery

Awkward silence for a few moments, until another clapping sound is heard from offstage.

CHAD: I don’t get the last clap.

MAGS: I don’t get any of it.

MIRA: What last clap? There are only three claps, one representing each of my warring identities, Australian, Egyptian, and Woman—

CHAD [interrupting] no one cares!

MAGS: Seriously though, where did that sound come from?

CHAD: It wasn’t me.

MIRA: Me neither.

CHAD: I think it came from over there [gesturing offstage]. I’ll go check it out.

Exit right CHAD

MAGS: It’s kind of creepy out here at night, isn’t it?

MIRA: I can’t believe we came here on a weeknight, I have stuff due tomorrow. We should just go home.

MAGS: Stop being such a party pooper [passes her the beer] come on, lighten up!

MIRA: No way. I told you, I have stuff due tomorrow. Can’t we just go home?

MAGS: We can’t leave without Chad. [pause] He’s been gone for kind of a long time.

MIRA [calling out] Chad! Stop messing around! Come on back, we’ve gotta go home!

No answer

MAGS: Chad! Come on babe, let’s go!

MIRA: He’s such a dumbass, he probably got lost. Let’s just go look for him.

MAGS and MIRA walk together, clinging onto each other out of fear, around the stage. First, towards the bench, then to the right, where they peer off the stage into the wings, then do the same thing on the left, all the while calling out for Chad. After a bit, they give up and go to sit back down.

MIRA: Hey, what’s that thing over by the jetty?

MAGS: Looks like a volleyball. Wanna play?

MIRA: We don’t have a net.

MAGS: Who cares? Just try to have fun for once.

MIRA: I’ll have fun once I’ve submitted this paper. I’m going to go look for Chad so we can leave.

MIRA exits right

MAGS walks over to the volleyball, which is actually THE HEAD. CHAD, with a gun and MIRA’s jacket on creeps up behind her. She bends down to pick it up and realises it is THE HEAD. She screams and turns around to run away, but there is CHAD right behind her, pointing the gun at her head.

MAGS: Chad? What’s going on?

CHAD: They deserved it.

MAGS: Chad, who deserved it? Deserved what? What are you talking about?

CHAD: This is my country! Her people are coming in and taking over the whole world, and it’s time for the real Australians to send a message! This will never be a Muslim country! White Australia today, white Australia forever! I killed her to defend MY country. And I’m gonna kill you too, race traitor!

MIRA walks back on stage. CHAD freezes.

MIRA: Dude, seriously. That stuff doesn’t happen in Australia. Gun control, remember? [She takes the gun out of CHAD’s hand and throws it into the ocean. He is still frozen.] Stop projecting your weird paranoid fantasies on everything. We are completely, totally, 110% safe in Melbourne. Stop freaking out.

SCENE FOUR

All back to their original positions, as in scene one, except MAGS and MIRA are standing. MIRA is holding a video camera pointed at MAGS. The beer bottle is still lying on the beach. MURDERER as MELBURNIAN is holding a takeaway coffee.

MAGS: Melbourne, Australia! Far south of the equator is the state of Victoria, and at its far southern tip, the city called Melbourne. I’m here on St. Kilda beach with my trusty camerawoman, Mira

MIRA turns the camera to face herself and waves, then turns it back on MAGS

MAGS: To explore this strange city and its unusual inhabitants in Mondo Melbourne! A warning: what you are about to see may be graphic and disturbing.

MIRA: [pointing to MELBURNIAN] There’s one right there!

Both girls crouch down, MIRA aims her camera at MELBURNIAN, who is walking to the bins on stage left to put out his cigarette.

MAGS: A genuine Melbournian in his natural habitat! These are a strange and unique people that’s for sure! Watch how slowly he walks, I’ve never seen anything like it. What’s that in his hand?

MIRA: It looks like a flat white.

MAGS: Wow! Can you zoom in on that?

MELBURNIAN hears something, cocks his head toward the jetty where the girls are crouching.

MAGS: Crap, he heard us!

MIRA: There’s nothing to worry about. Although strange and well-dressed, Melbournians aren’t dangerous.

MAGS: So why are we whispering?

MIRA: It’s a lot more dramatic. If we want to sell this to the network we need tension!

MAGS: There’s no tension if you say he’s not dangerous. Isn’t there anything we can play up here?

MIRA: Not really.

MAGS: Remind me why we chose here to make this movie?

MIRA: It’s far enough away that our American viewers will be able to exotify it, but so safe that we don’t actually have to do any difficult work. You wanted ratings, I want to not die. Do you really want to be waving a camera around some psycho neo-fascist rally?

MAGS shakes her head.

MIRA: How about Syria?

MAGS shakes her head again.

MIRA: Gaza?

MAGS: What? no!

MIRA: Well, that’s where all the action is. You wanted to make some Mondo Cane bullshit exploitation thing without putting yourself in any real danger so here it is: Melbourne, possibly the least interesting and least dangerous place in the world. Deal with it.

MAGS: Whatever, let’s try that part again. Okay, [overacted fake fear] Crap he heard us!

MIRA: Keep it down! I can’t get a good shot of him through these railings, we’re going to have to get closer.

The girls crawl up the jetty toward the beach, MAGS in front and MIRA behind her. When they reach THE HEAD MAGS gasps.

MAGS: Are you rolling? You gotta see this shit.

MIRA: You can’t say ‘shit’.

MAGS: Whatever, we’ll cut it. Now get a shot of this!

They walk off the jetty and to THE HEAD, completely forgetting to stay out of sight of MELBURNIAN until they hear his slow footsteps coming toward them. They try to run away, but he is too close! MIRA trips and falls on the beer bottle from scene three and the video camera goes flying. MAGS picks the camera up and keeps running.

MIRA: Mags! Margaret! Mags help me!

MAGS: I need this footage!

MELBURNIAN walks up to her very slowly. He kneels down and takes a bite out of her ankle. Blood squirts everywhere and covers his mouth.

Instead of helping her friend, MAGS is crouched behind the bin, filming the whole thing.

MAGS: [whispering, turns the camera on herself] Don’t stop watching! Mira, God rest her soul, had told me that these people weren’t dangerous. Looks like she was wrong. Their slow pace doesn’t hinder their ability to hunt, and they seem to have no qualms about getting blood on their designer clothes. [She turns the camera back on MIRA and continues watching]

Meanwhile, MELBURNIAN has ripped open MIRA and is devouring her organs. He completely disembowels her, then tosses the corpse into the ocean, next to the head.

MELBURNIAN: [wiping his mouth] I need another coffee to wash that down. I wonder if there are any cafes around here still open.

He begins to walk off, going in the direction of the bin MAGS is hiding behind. She knows it’s too late to run, so she turns the camera back on herself.

MAGS: [quivering and crying] This isn’t supposed to happen in Melbourne! I thought it was safe!

THE HEAD rises out of the water, exposing a body. Its clothes are smart-casual, but wrinkled, soaked with seawater and sand. Unlike MIRA’s cartoonishly mangled corpse, it has only a little blood, now old and browning, coming from a wound on the back of its head. There are shards of glass sticking out of it.

MELBURNIAN exits.

THE HEAD: Is that seriously it? I’m done being a prop for you. [He takes the camera out of MAGS’s hands and throws it in the bin.] I got fucking murdered here. You wanna know why? Because it’s not fucking safe. We don’t have Donald Trump or guns for everybody or whatever but you know what we do have?

MAGS: [Absolutely terrified] What?

MELBURNIAN enters from the other side of the stage, picks up the beer bottle, takes a swig, and bashes her in the back of the head, killing her.

THE HEAD: Stupid kids, who come here acting like they’ve seen everything.

MELBURNIAN bashes THE HEAD on the back of the head, causing them to fall to the floor. He shakes his head and sighs.

MELBURNIAN: Shut up you dead cunt.

exit MELBURNIAN

_____________________________________________________________________________

Daisy is an international student from the US and in her last semester of the masters of creative writing, publishing and editing program at Melbourne uni. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music and fantasising about having a robot arm.

Banner image supplied by author.

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