Rites of Passage
a one act play

Can success come at too high a price? 



                 Photo by Joshua Sazon on Unsplash /

Manipulated by Michael Simms




Cast

Helen    Early 20s

Jane  Early 20s

Eddy  Early 30s

John   Mid 30s

Although the play specifies music and sound effects in places,  these may be omitted if such resources are unavailable. 

In darkness a violin and piano duet plays the second movement of John Ireland’s “Violin Sonata No 2 in A Minor”, second movement, from when the plaintive theme begins around 01:32, and continues playing as the lights go up in flat in Fulham, West London. It is just before midday on a sunny June morning in 2023. The stage is bare apart from a green two-seater sofa with two cushions, a small round table with two chairs, and a clothes rack. HELEN, wearing a black t-shirt, black trousers and flat shoes, stands expectantly. JANE enters with a suitcase, a bag and a violin case, wearing a black t-shirt, black trousers and flat shoes, and puts on a jacket from the rack. The two women face each other awkwardly. The music fades out.

HELEN

It’s time then.

JANE

Yes: you know me. The Leeds train’s at three minutes past two, but I can’t take any chances. I should get a text from the driver any minute.

JANE checks her phone.

When is your taxi coming?

HELEN

In half an hour. My flight’s at four twenty.  I keep telling myself it’s a great career opportunity. And there’s Skype and Messenger, of course.

JANE

Of course there is, Helen. We’ll never lose touch. That's what we promised each other on the cliffs at Scarborough, remember? And we never will.

HELEN

But when will we see each other again, Jane? When will I see my Mum and Dad, or walk on the moors again? Is success worth giving up all that?

JANE

Oh, Helen. You’ll love it, I know.

HELEN

Good luck with the audition tomorrow. They don’t know how lucky they are.

JANE

Thanks. I don’t know about that.

HELEN

Look, Jane, I’m sorry it didn’t work out … You know, with …

JANE

It’s OK, honestly, Helen. I’m sorry for you, too. But …

HELEN

It’s probably for the best. My Dad would say: “It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.”

JANE

I’d like to meet your Dad someday.

A text pings on JANE’s phone.

He’s here. Well, this is it.

They embrace and can’t say anything more. JANE leaves. HELEN comes downstage and waves at JANE. An electric car starts up and drives off.

HELEN

When I left windswept Oxenhope in the South Pennines to study music[i] in London Dad gave me some advice. Of course I had to look after myself, work hard and enjoy it. But then he became more serious. Life is about making decisions, Helen, he said. When it comes to life-changing ones, you must do what’s in your heart. And then he smiled and in no time I was waving goodbye to Mum and Dad on the other side of the ticket barrier at Bradford Exchange Station[ii] on that drizzly September day four years ago to board the King’s Cross train. I had now physically left home and was about to begin life in a hall of residence, and by taking part in the ritual activities of college life become inducted into the secrets of the tribe.

I soon became friends with violinist Jane, from Bingley. She thought we should form a duet to gain performing experience. But not only that.

Sound effects depict King’s Cross Station in North London. They have faded out by / in the next speech. JANE’s suitcase remains at the side of the stage.

JANE

The main thing was to earn some money. I knew London would be more expensive than Yorkshire but this was daylight robbery! So Helen and I formed a duet to earn some money. And gain performing experience into the bargain./

JANE puts her jacket on the rack.

I’ve thought of a great name, Helen. We both come from near the River Aire. So what about Aireplay!

HELEN

Fantastic! That’s genius, Jane!

JANE

There’s an agency which hires music students for private and corporate events. We  could even arrange pop covers, crossover and classical stuff. And then we could even upload performances onto You Tube with a link to a digital streaming service. And we could sell our sheet music online too. The sky’s the limit, Helen! I’ll register us online now.

JANE sits down at the table and taps on her mobile phone.

HELEN

And so Aireplay took off. We made a sampler for the website and soon the bookings trickled in. We started playing at weddings, then at private and corporate events. It integrated perfectly with our studies. We looked out for each other. We had fun together. We cried together when the River Aire inundated Bingley in The Great Flood of February 2021 and swept away her family home. We were almost inseparable for the first two years. Until that evening the following October[iii].



[i] The inspiration for the college is The Royal College of Music in South Kensington, which offers a four-year Bachelor of Music degree. At most European conservatoires, first degrees normally last a year longer than those at universities.  


[ii] Bradford Exchange Station was demolished in 1973. For many years trains to London King’s Cross have gone from Bradford Interchange. Bradford Exchange sounds better, however.


[iii] Year 3, 2021-2022.