PLAYS
...from the 'pen' of CHRIS GREGORY  
 

 

 
 

THE GREATER BENEFIT
by Chris Gregory

LOCATION
A dole office somewhere in South Wales

CHARACTERS
PHIL DEACON - a young unemployed man
'MAISIE' - an old woman
'HENRY'- an old man
'MR. GREEN', 'MR.BLUE', 'MR. BLACK' - officials
CLERK - at counter
TWO SECURITY MEN
CLAIMANT

NOTE ON ACCENTS
Phil speaks with a 'light' Welsh accent. Maisie and Henry speak with 'thick' Welsh accent. Officials speak 'standard English'.

(FOOTSTEPS. CREAK OF DOOR OPENING. INTERIOR- LOW MURMUR OF CONVERSATION, OCCASIONAL COUGHING AND SCRAPING OF CHAIRS)

DEACON: Excuse me......

(SILENCE)

DEACON: (coughs) I wonder if you could help me...

CLERK: (disinterestedly) Yes...

DEACON: (rustles paper) I'm so sorry to bother you, but I had this letter, you see, telling me to come into the office. But I'm afraid I don't quite understand this first paragraph. What exactly is a 'Greater Benefit Review'?

CLERK: Your name, please. ...

DEACON: Deacon, Phil Deacon.

CLERK: Date of birth...

DEACON: Fifteenth of May, 1977...

CLERK: National Insurance Number...

DEACON: Ah... YT...84...32...B...

CLERK: If you would care to take a seat, Mr. Deacon, you will be seen in turn.

DEACON: Yeah, but ... (in low voice) there's quite a few people in the queue. Couldn't you just give me a general idea as to what it's all about?

CLERK: Mr. Deacon, you must realise that in this office we have an ever-growing workload of claims to process-

DEACON: It's not that I'm trying to jump the queue. I was just ... kind of... hoping you might give me a hint... you know what I mean...

CLERK: (sharply) Please, Mr. Deacon...

(LOW, INDISTINCT, BACKGROUND CONVERSATION)

DEACON: Pardon me, but is anyone sitting here?

MAISIE: Get your head down, boy!

DEACON: Huh?

MAISIE: Come on. Quick. The seat's free.

(CHAIR BEING PULLED UP)

MAISIE: Good job you didn't hang about then, boy. Only last Tuesday it was, this young feller come in. No more than nineteen, if he was a day. One of them Ravers, I think you call them. Tee shirt. Long pony tail down his back. Paced around, he did. All agitated like. They'll get you, I told him. They'll have you, I said. Just wouldn't park his arse. Sure enough, it was a Room 'C' job for him. Pitiful, it was. I tell you. Pitiful.

DEACON: (embarrassed) Yes... ah...(nervous laugh) ...I'm sure...

(BACKGROUND CONVERSATION INCREASES THEN DECREASES)

DEACON: Excuse me, but would you mind very much if I had a look at your paper?

MAISIE: 'Course you can, duck. I can see you're a smart boy. Not one of them druggies or lefties, are you? Obvious, that is. Good to see a young man look so clean and well presented. So polite too.(shouts) Sort of boy we like to see, isn't he, Henry?

HENRY: What you say?

MAISIE: This is my friend Henry. Been through a few battles together, haven't we, Henry? (laughs) Deliberately cocked up filling in a few forms, we have, ain't we?

HENRY: Oh yes. Deliberately. Yes... (cackles)

MAISIE: Henry, don't spit. You'll have to excuse him. Just the way he was brought up. No social graces. And he's lost a few marbles in his old age. Fought in the war, didn't you, though, Henry.

HENRY: What's that?

MAISIE: In the war, Henry. I was saying.

HENRY: Oh yes. Fifth Welsh Fusiliers, it was.

MAISIE: He's a bit deaf, you see. On the big guns, you know. What do they call you then, boy?

DEACON: Phil Deacon...

MAISIE: Maisie Griffiths. What I don't see is why a well- brought up boy like you is doing with deadbeats like us in a place like this.

DEACON: I only signed on for the first time last week, when I turned eighteen, you see. But I didn't expect to be called into the office so soon. You wouldn't happen to know what a 'Greater Benefit Review' is, would you, by any chance?

MAISIE: Phil boy, you stick with me, I'll see you right. Reckon we can give them a bloody good run for their money. Excuse my French. (serious tone) I tell you what, boy, you're going to need my advice. I've been around. (Heavy emphasis) I know the ropes. Get my drift? Here, take the paper. Somebody coming. Just keep mum. Let's see who's for it.

(BACKGROUND CONVERSATION. AS HEAVY FOOTSTEPS APPROACH CONVERSATION FREEZES)

CLERK: Mr. James please. Room 'A' .

MAISIE: (sighs in relief) Lucky, that chap.

DEACON: Lucky? Why?

MAISIE: Room 'A' is a doddle. Long as you get them to give you the right form you'll be sent back into the queue. 'Course, Room 'B' is a different matter. As for 'Room C'...But look you, I know him. Got his head screwed on, has that one. Mark my words, he'll be back. Reckon he'll last out a good few weeks.

DEACON: (laughs) Well, I certainly don't have that long...

HENRY: (sternly) Listen, boy, we don't need that sort of talk in here. Bad for morale. Careless talk costs lives, you know..

DEACON: I don't really think it's worth my while hanging around. I'm sure I could do all this at home by phone. Maybe I should try another time, when they're less busy.

MAISIE: (agitatedly) You crazy, boy? Don't move a muscle.

HENRY: Do as she says, young Phil. You listen to her. Kept me going, she has, all these years...

MAISIE: Really are green, aren't you, Phil my boy. Don't you know that if you try and leave you're setting yourself up for an instant Room 'C' job?

HENRY: She's right, sonny. You do as she says.

DEACON: Yes, of course... (nervous, embarrassed laugh) A 'Room C job'... Well, it doesn't sound too pleasant, does it? ...

(BRING UP LOW BACKGROUND CONVERSATION, THEN FADE)

DEACON: I wonder what's in the paper today..... hang on, this isn't today's........ What's this? Thatcher? Lawson? The paper's all yellow. It's dated....(sounds incredulous) ... October 3rd, 1985!

MAISIE: See how long we've survived? I told you, stick with us. You'll be OK.

HENRY: I'd never have lasted five minutes if it hadn't been for my Maisie here. Such a darlin', she is.

DEACON: But-

HENRY: (enthusiastically) Get him to ask you some questions, Maisie my dear.

MAISIE: Come on, I know every single word in that paper. Ask me who played midfield for Ashington Rangers against Durham United in the Northern Shield. I'll tell you. Cartwright, James, Beatty. Beatty taken off after twenty five minutes, substituted by Peniston.

HENRY: (wheezes) Right every time. She's a diamond, this woman, I tell you, son. A diamond.

DEACON:(dazed) Hang on-

MAISIE: Bet I can tell you what's on page twenty-six, column eight. Review of last night's episode of 'Minder'. (Clears throat) The scriptwriters have come a bridge too far with this episode. The viewer's credulity is strained just a little too much when Terry and Arthur try to outwit the local mafiosa, who looks like he's been imported straight from 'The Godfather'-

DEACON: Word for word. But why-

HENRY: Maisie, I'm disappointed. What about my turn?

MAISIE: Alright, Henry. How about International Politics? Let's start with Page five, column three: Reports from Moscow suggest the possibility... Now you tell me the rest.

HENRY: Just wait a minute.... yes...think I've got it. (Clears throat) ...the possibility of a Soviet withdrawl from Afhganistan in the next.... (falters)... few months gets stronger by the day. Our correspondent James Bailey reports that Mujjaheddin leaders are now preparing for government... (laughs) 'Course, I'm not a patch on old Maisie at this. Come on, sonny Jim, why don't you give it a go. What's your subject then? Sport? TV? Education? Politics?

DEACON: But I don't see the point of memorising all this stuff from a newspaper that's ten years old.

MAISIE: Ten years is a long time to wait in a queue, boy. You've got to think of some games to play in here. Otherwise you'll go gaga. The sooner you crack, the sooner they'll get you. Some of them, they just can't handle the queue. No time at all, they start to gibber. Not a pretty sight, I can tell you. Then it's Room 'C' for them, sure as eggs is eggs.

DEACON: (laughs mockingly) Maisie, you don't really expect me to believe that you and Henry have been in this dole queue for the last eight years...

MAISIE: 'Course, they'll get us in the end, like they do with everyone. But I got my head screwed on. Make it last, I say. Make it last. (Whispers) There are some tricks you can learn...

DEACON: (patronisingly) Sure, Maisie, sure... Maybe you should teach me some of them.

MAISIE: Sssh! Hidden mikes everywhere. Listen, ah, Phil, boy. Don't suppose you have just a little snifter about you?

DEACON: Sorry. I'm not what you'd call a drinker.

MAISIE: I don't suppose you are. Not that kind of boy, eh? For now, just remember what I was telling you. Make sure you ask for a D/4321. Easy as pie, it is. Goes down, doesn't it? (slowly) 4-3-2-1.

DEACON: (highly amused) 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 ....

MAISIE: That's right, boy. Now you listen to me and you listen good. If you fill in a B/5673 you're sunk. You got that, boy? (gasps) They're coming. Quick. Get your head down onto the Sports Page.

(FOOTSTEPS)

VOICE OF CLERK: Mr. Deacon, please. Room 'A'.

MAISIE:(Whispers) Just remember what I said. Form D/4321.

(CHAIR SCRAPING ON FLOOR. SHUFFLING OF PAPERS)

MR.GREEN: (brightly) Ah, Mr. Deacon. I'm Mr. Green. I wonder if we could begin with this B/5673.

DEACON: OK, but first of all, I'd like to know-

MR.GREEN: Perhaps you'd like to use my pen.

DEACON: If you could just tell me-

MR.GREEN: Damn. Ink's run out.

DEACON: Mr. Green, if you wouldn't mind, could you possibly explain to me what a 'Greater Benefit Review' is?

MR.GREEN: Certainly, Mr. Deacon. But first you will need to complete the B/5673 so that I can explain how the Greater Benefit Review process will affect you personally.

DEACON: Oh... I see...

MR.GREEN: Mr. Deacon, I'm sure you will be aware of the changes in the direction of Government policy over the last few years regarding the whole concept of this department and the way it functions...

DEACON: Oh yes. I've just taken 'A' Levels in politics, economics and sociology.

MR.GREEN: I think this pen's working now. Then you may know, Mr. Deacon, that much of the reorganisation of this sector has been somewhat controversial. However I hope you will appreciate that as civil servants we are bound to administer whatever legislation the government of the day brings forward-

DEACON: (slightly anxious) Oh, yes, please don't think I'm being personal. I do appreciate that you have a difficult job to do.

MR.GREEN: Yes. Let's begin with the basics. Name, date of birth. National Insurance Number...

(SOUND OF PEN SCRAPING ....INTERRUPTED BY LOUD MECHANICAL CREAKING NOISE )

DEACON: What was that?

MR.GREEN: I'm sorry...

DEACON: That noise. What was that noise?

MR.GREEN: (slightly agitated) Mr. Deacon, I did say that I would explain the workings of the Review process to you after you had completed the B/5673.

DEACON: It was a kind of creaking, like.

MR.GREEN: I do hope there is enough room on Page Three for you to fill in your educational details. You were saying you've already passed several 'A' Levels...

DEACON: (uncertainly) Mr. Green...

MR.GREEN: Yes...

DEACON: I was just wondering.... why exactly does the form ask for my height and weight?

(MECHANICAL CREAKING NOISE AGAIN, THIS TIME LOUDER. FOLLOWED BY UNIDENTIFIABLE MUFFLED CRY)

DEACON: (alarmed) I heard it again. It sounded like somebody.... No... I mean, it couldn't be.... It came from over there. (gets more agitated) Over there, I tell you.... That's Room 'C', isn't it?

MR. GREEN: I'm very sorry, Mr. Deacon, there's no time to answer all your questions. We have a busy schedule to keep up. Now, if we you could just look at the questions on the final page of the form....

(ANOTHER MUFFLED CRY)

DEACON: Look, I... I'd like one of those other forms.

MR.GREEN: I'm sorry, I don't see why-

DEACON: A D/1234. No, a D/4321.... That's it. A D/4321.

MR.GREEN: Mr. Deacon, a D/4321 would only delay the process. It really is in your interest to help us make things work quickly and efficiently...

DEACON:(breathless) I believe that regulations state that I am entitled to demand a D/4321 before I do anything else.

MR.GREEN: Well... yes... but... (pseudo-sympathetic tone) Mr. Deacon, I must stress that you are required by law to complete the B/5673 as part of the statutory process of The Greater Benefit Review.

DEACON: Whatever you say. Just give me the D/4321.

MR.GREEN: (coldly) Well, Mr. Deacon, if you insist...

(RUSTLES PAPERS)

MR.GREEN: Please take this back to the foyer. When you have completed it one of my colleagues will assist you in the next stage of the Review process. Good day.

(LOW HUM OF CONVERSATION. FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING)

MAISIE: You did it! A D/4321. I'm proud of you, boy. I told you, stick with Maisie and Henry, boy. We'll keep 'em going long as we can.

DEACON: (bewildered) Maisie... you've been in Room 'A' ?

MAISIE: Oh yes. I been everywhere except 'Room C'

HENRY We all go to Room 'C' in the end, boy.(laughs).

MAISIE: Now, don't you listen to him. Still suffering
from that shell shock, he is. Addled his brains, it has. Now let me help you with this form. I got a good feeling 'bout this boy, Henry. Keep this one going for years, we will, I reckon.

DEACON: I heard noises- awful noises-

HENRY: That would be the doodlebugs. Reckon I can hear one now. Keep your head down, boy.

MAISIE: Now, Henry, you're frightening the poor boy again. We all have to stick together at a time like this.

DEACON: It sounded like.... I don't know.... somebody.... screaming, as if-

HENRY: War is hell, boy. War is hell.

MAISIE: Did you hear the news, Henry? The Chetniks have taken Merthyr. Last week it was the Croatians, wasn't it, Henry. Week before that it was that Saddam.... whassisname, Henry my old love?

HENRY: Hussein.

MAISIE: That's the one. He was outside.

HENRY: Damn Jerries get closer every day. Bloody Boche. (begins to sing) We'll hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line...

MAISIE: Do excuse him, young Phil. Been a good comrade though, he has.

HENRY: Probably them shells you was hearing, boy.

DEACON: I can't hear any firing or any shells.

HENRY: Bloody 'ell, boy. Thought it was me needed the hearing aid. Seventy six I am, I can hear every one.

MAISIE: Ah. He's just in shock, you see.

HENRY: Yes. Poor boy. Poor boy. Young slip of a lad.

DEACON: (panicky) I'm getting out of this place.

MAISIE: Don't be a fool, boy. We musn't let him do it, Henry.

HENRY: Listen you, young lad. I was in P.O.W. camp in the war. Lived on rats we did. And as I said to my sarge then-

MAISIE: Henry, the boy doesn't want to hear your war stories-

HENRY: As I said to my sarge then, sarge, I said, all very well it is, thinking of escaping, but what in hell do you do when you get out there? Shoot you down like a dog they will. Shoot you down and kick you in the bollocks, they will.

MAISIE: Henry! Language!

HENRY: Sarge, I says, sarge- it's safer in here. Maybe there's rabbit shit in the porridge, I says. But at least we're still alive.

DEACON: Well, it's really been nice talking to you both, but...

HENRY: Sarge, I says to him, whatever it may be like in here, you can bet your bottom dollar it's worse out there.

DEACON: See you, then.

(QUICK FOOTSTEPS)

DEACON: This door.... it won't open...

CLERK: I'm sorry, Mr. Deacon. New regulations do state that claimants are now not allowed to leave the building during the course of their Greater Benefit Review. I would strongly suggest thsat you resume your seat in the queue...

DEACON: Look, you must have some kind of electronic button you can press to open these doors...

CLERK: Mr. Deacon, I can assure you that all the precautions we take are for your own safety.

(BANGING ON DOORS)

DEACON: Let me out!

CLERK: Mr. Deacon.... I'm afraid I shall be forced to call security...

(MORE BANGING)

DEACON: LET ME OUT! IT'S A FREE COUNTRY! LET ME OUT!

(SCUFFLE ENSUES. GRUNTING, GROANING. WHISTLE BLOWS) (QUICK FOOTSTEPS OF SEVERAL PEOPLE APPROACHING)

FIRST SECURITY MAN: Alright now, sunshine. You'd better get used to the idea that there's no way out of here.

DEACON:(screams) LET ME GO!

SECOND SECURITY MAN: Bit of a rum cove, this one. Never usually have this trouble, do we?

FIRST SECURITY MAN: Aye. Different class you see. Clever boy he is. Got his head firm there?

DEACON: (choking) O.K. I won't try anything. Just let me go. You're strangling me.

SECOND SECURITY MAN: What you think, sir?

CLERK: Mr. Deacon, before this gentleman releases you I will need firm assurances as regards your conduct.

DEACON: Alright! Whatever you say.

(DEEP BREATHS AS DEACON STRUGGLES FREE)

CLERK: Now, Mr. Deacon, you must realise that we cannot possibly let you go out there. It's far too dangerous. You'd be lucky to get past the end of the street.

DEACON: What are you talking about?

CLERK: Why, the shells, of course. From the Chetniks. Can't you hear them?

DEACON: Shells? I can't..... look, this is South Wales, man, not bloody Bosnia.

CLERK: I'm sorry, Mr. Deacon, but what with the Chetniks attacking us from the North and The Libyans from the south, it really isn't safe to be on the streets. We do have a responsibilty to protect our clients. I know that things have been... difficult... since the invasion. But we do what we can to help. Sergeant, please escort this man back to the queue.

FIRST SECURITY MAN: Yes, sir. Alright then, youngfellermelad.

DEACON: But I.....

FIRST SECURITY MAN: Come on. No point in causing any more ruckus.

(SLOW FOOTSTEPS)

MAISIE: You alright, boy? Didn't rough you up too much, now did they, boy?

HENRY: Supposed to follow the Geneva Convention, they are. Bloody joke that is. I was captured by the Japs you know. Built the bloody Burma Road, I did. Fed us on stale bread full of maggots they did. Ones who survived were ones that ate the maggots...

MAISIE: I keep telling you, Henry, not to scare the boy. Now don't pay the old soldier any heed, my love. I'm glad to see you're still in one piece.

DEACON: (breathless) They wouldn't let me out. I was supposed to be at my mam's for tea. She'll be starting to worry about me. What's all this about a war?

MAISIE: There's always a war on, boy. Makes the world go round, doesn't it?

HENRY: (sings) It's a long way to Tipperary....

DEACON: Maisie, I-

HENRY: It's a long way to go...

MAISIE: Now pipe down, Henry.

HENRY: Whassat?

(FEW BARS OF 'TIPPERARY' AS MOURNFUL HARMONICA DIRGE)

MAISIE: Now put that thing away, Henry.

(HARMONICA STOPS IN MID_LINE)

HENRY: Only trying to keep up morale, my love.

MAISIE: Now, boy. Let me help you with that D/4321. If you don't fill it in soon they'll bypass it and you'll have to complete the B/5673.

DEACON: (shakily) O.K. Guess it will pass the time.

MAISIE: You got a pen then?

DEACON: No... oh, yes. I seem to have picked this one up.

MAISIE: (gasps) My God, you stole Mr. Green's pen?

HENRY: Poor boy. Done for. Poor boy.

DEACON: I didn't intend to, I-

MAISIE: You've really done it now. I was about to explain how to keep it all going by filling in the form wrong. Y'see, they can't do a thing to you until they get you to fill in the right form. Unless you break one of the rules....I'm sorry, boy. Too late now. You been spotted.

HENRY: Walls have ears. Poor boy. Poor boy.

MAISIE: For Christ's sake, drop it, boy. You can try saying you found it on the floor.

HENRY: No good, Maisie. Standard issue.

DEACON: But-

VOICE OF CLERK:(sternly) Mr. Deacon, I believe that is government property.

DEACON: What? Oh, well, you see, I was...

VOICE OF CLERK: Please followÿme, Mr. Deacon... Room 'B'.

HENRY: Ah, dear. Said he was done for. Another one bites the dust, isn't it, Maisie, love?

MAISIE: Think of me and Henry, won't you, when they...(begins to sob) I'm sorry, boy. I know I shouldn't cry. Bad for morale and all that. You see... I had a son once... just like you he was. Snipers got him, you know, near Sarajevo. Or was in at Da Nang? So fresh in the face he was, so full of hope.

HENRY: Just sign for the least painful Option, boy.

MAISIE: (sobs) Henry's right, boy.... Make it easy on yourself...

CLERK: Mr. Deacon, I must insist that you accompany me to Room 'B.'

DEACON: I've had enough of this. You're not taking me anywhere.

CLERK: Security!

(SOUND OF HEAVY FOOTSTEPS)

DEACON: You keep your bloody paws off me....

(SOUNDS OF STRUGGLE)

MAISIE: (crying heavily) They come and go so quick, don't they, Henry? So quick....

HENRY: Now, my love. Don't take it so bad....

(DOOR OPENS. CONTINUING SOUND OF STRUGGLE)

FIRST SECURITY MAN: (slighly breathless) Now you stay sat down there. We want no more trouble out of you.

DEACON: You've pulled a muscle in my arm...

MR.BLUE: (Coughs) Good afternoon, Mr. Deacon. My name is Mr. Blue. Now, it has come to my notice that you have contravened Regulation 435/b, which refers to the appropriation of government property.

DEACON: (sarcastically) You mean I picked up a pen by mistake.

MR.BLUE: Aaah... Thank you for your co-operation, Mr. Deacon. I can't tell you how... pleasing... it is to deal with someone so straightforward and co-operative, who takes such a responsible attitude and is willing to admit to his mistakes so readily. I'm afraid that in this job one is faced with many ... troublesome... claimants. If you would be so good as to complete this B/6783, we can get the formalities over quickly and you can consider your Options.

DEACON: But... I've got a D/4321. You said I had to fill this in before-

MR.BLUE: Mr. Deacon, I'm pleased to inform you that a D/4321 will no longer be necessary. A recent government directive specifies that, in the case of a breach of Regulation 435/b, the D/4321 is automatically overruled.

(DISTANT SOUND OF LARGE MECHANICAL WHEEL TURNING. GROWS SUDDENLY LOUDER)

DEACON: Oh my God. Those noises again.

MR.BLUE: Mr. Deacon...

DEACON: They sound closer this time. That must be coming from next door.

MR. BLUE: Mr. Deacon, I really think it is time to fill in the last page of the B/5673.

DEACON: I.... I demand to see the Manager.

MR.BLUE(taken aback): I'm not sure whether...

DEACON: I'm sure I'm within my rights. What about that policy of 'Free Consumer Choice' you were talking about in that leaflet you have in the entrance. As a consumer, I demand to speak to the person in charge.

MR.BLUE:(sighs): Well, Mr. Deacon. I suppose...That is your right. But I must say that I do feel that all these delays are rather unnecessary. If you would just fill in this last page first. As you will see, you do have a whole range of options to consider.

DEACON:(firmly) The Manager. Please.

MR.BLUE: Very well, Mr. Deacon (FOOTSTEPS. CHAIRS SCRAPING)

DEACON: (whispers, to himself) Well, this will sort things out. Always speak to the person in charge... that's the thing... There has to be a simple explanation for all this.

(SOUND OF WHEEL TURNING AGAIN, A MOTOR BEGINS TO HUM. HUM INCREASES IN VOLUME)

DEACON: (still quietly) I'm imagining this. I must have water in my ears. Or maybe I'm having delusions and I need to see a shrink. The manager will sort it out. He's bound to. There must be somebody responsible in charge.

(DOOR SHUTS, CHAIR SCRAPES) MR. BLACK:Mr. Deacon, Mr. Black. Senior Supervisor for Claimants D to F.

DEACON: (highly agitated) I want to see the Manager.

MR.BLACK: I'm afraid to say that Mrs. Red is otherwise engaged at present. But I'm sure I can help you. Mr. Blue gave me the impression that you were having some trouble with the B/ 5673. Now if we can just look at the last page...

DEACON: I refuse to speak to anyone but the Manager.

MR. BLACK:Mrs. Red is in a very important meeting with Amalgamated Utensils. As you may know, various private companies now do subcontracting work for the department, and negotiating with them can take up a great deal of our managerial time. It really would be more sensible if-

DEACON: I insist-

MR.BLACK: (resignedly) Well, you are within your rights...

(CHAIRS SCRAPING ,FOOTSTEPS. FINGERS DRUMMING ON TABLE. THEN MORE FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING)

MR. BLACK: Mr. Deacon, the Manager will see you in Room 'C'. If you would like to go straight through she will join you in there shortly.

(FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPENING)

DEACON: MAISIE! What the-

MRS. RED:(patronisingly) Clever boy! You still recognise me.

DEACON: But the hair... The voice.... The black leather trousers... And ... you look so much younger.

MRS. RED: Sit down, Mr. Deacon. Please. And calm down.

DEACON: But Maisie-

MRS. RED: Mr. Deacon, my name is Mrs. Red. I am the Manager of this establishment.

DEACON: But in the foyer, you were-

MRS. RED (amused): Just one of my professional functions.

DEACON: But you said... and that paper you had from 1985...

MRS.RED(sardonic laugh):Nearly fell for that, didn't you?

DEACON: And the war?

MRS.RED:(laughs louder) I'm sorry, Mr. Deacon. You must excuse us our little.... subterfuges. Please let me introduce you to my assistant. (calls) Mr. Grey! (DOOR OPENING)

MR.GREY: Mrs. Red, I have completed my notes.

MRS.RED: And what is your conclusion?

MR.GREY: Subject has considerable operative potential. Has responded extremely well to disorientation techniques.

DEACON: Henry!

MR.GREY:(laughs politely) Mr. Deacon, please excuse our little ... ah... deception. I can assure you it's all been in your interest. Mrs. Red, I noted 'creditable resistance to disorientating stimuli'. Subject is the first for several months to resist.

MRS. RED: Mr. Deacon, I do not think we have any more time to waste. I would remind you that we are now in Room 'C'. Now I must insist that we look together at the last page of your B/5673.

DEACON: (angrily) Sod your bloody form! I asked to see you because I need some explanation about what the hell is going on here. The noises, the screams, that bloody montrosity over there...

MR.GREY: Interesting... Subject shows considerable initiative and persistently aggressive attitude. Not afraid to express anger towards authority figures. All potentially extremely useful qualities.

MRS. RED: I assure you, Mr. Deacon, that if you read the last page of the B/5673 things will be considerably clearer.

DEACON: (sighs in exasperation) O.K. Let's take a look. What's this:.... I agree to my termination in the interests of The Greater Benefit.... Oh, I get it. You want me to terminate my claim. You're trying to force me to sign off, aren't you?

MRS.RED: (laughs drily) I do think you are misinterpreting the form somewhat, Mr. Deacon.

MR. GREY: Subject still demonstrating considerable inventiveness and aptitude. Utilisation of subject highly recommended.

DEACON: Look, I want to know... what the hell is The Greater Benefit?

MRS RED: Read on, Mr. Deacon...

DEACON: O.K...(reading to himself) Next question. (voice becomes incredulous) ...Which method of termination assistance would you prefer?

MR. GREY: I would like to point out that the options we offer are extremely humane and ecologically sound. You will notice that there are no electronic methods listed. No sensory deprivation. No psychological techniques. No electronic pain implants. Just traditional and tried and tested methods. We operate a policy of Free Consumer Choice between the various Options. And of course we do have regular inspections by private health contractors. This is fully in tune with Government directives regarding the expansion of the range of services we provide within an internal market structure.

DEACON: There's a line of tick boxes. This must be some kind of sick joke.....

MRS.RED: I'm sure you will admit that there is a considerable range of Options.

DEACON: Whayt's this..... thumb-screws.... rack.... eyeball gouger....(Sounding more and more incredulous) Genital squeezer!

MRS. RED: A surprisingly popular Option.

MR.GREY: Mr. Deacon, I can assure you that this policy has been carried out very rationally and very successfully. You may well have heard that unemployment figures have fallen again for the fourteenth month running. And that's even allowing for seasonal adjustments.

DEACON: You mean... are you trying to tell me that ... (voice rising in pitch)... the reason the unemployment figures have fallen is because the excess unemployed have been.... tortured to death?

MRS.RED: (sharp disapproving intake of breath) We never use that kind of terminology. We prefer to refer to 'assisted termination'.

MR.GREY: I would point out that years of research went into setting up this department. Scientific market research has demonstrated clearly that the vast majority of our clients prefer to be assisted with their termination in this way.

DEACON: (slowly) But why... why don't you just... terminate... them painlessly?

MR. GREY: Government policy is quite specific on that point. The use of assisted termination allows an economic infrastructure to be built up around the services we provide, and this allows us to use private firms who can then compete for our custom. The economic advantages of this are obvious, as someone like yourself, with your understanding of the subject, will of course appreciate. Assisted termination is a crucial plank in the overall policy of The Greater Benefit.

DEACON: (slowly, dreamily) The.... Greater... Benefit...

MRS. RED: You see, Mr. Deacon, It's quite simple. Under the old, more inefficient model of a benefits system, in which we used to pay clients, the benefit would go to only a small number of people. Now the benefit goes to the whole nation. By reducing the unemployed population, we relieve excessive burdens on the state. At the same time we create employment for our staff and release much needed public funds which can then, of course, be ploughed back into creating more jobs. One benefit to the nation creates another, and so the benefit becomes greater for us all.

MR. GREY: The purpose of the Greater Benefit Review is to get right down to the roots of unemployment- we seek not merely to reduce the number of unemployed, but particularly to cut down the numbers of the unemployable. So ourÿagents go to certain places- squats, travellers' camps, demonstrations. Anywhere where the worthless, shiftless, unemployables gather. The photographs our agents take are processed through our central search computer. In your case, I believe, there was a sighting at a hunt saboteurs meeting. Overall, we do our job thoroughly. We reduce the unemployment figures and simultaneously cleanse society of its detrius.

MRS.RED: Mr. Deacon, I have a proposition to make you. I can already see that you are beginning to understand... even, I might suggest, warm to... what we are saying. Please don't imagine that we treat all claimants this way. So many of those foul mouthed, dirty travellers and gypsies we have to deal with are given very limited Options. But we have taken the trouble to explain the basis of the philosophy behind The Greater Benefit Review to you, as we do to all those we would consider to be... special. My colleague and I have concluded that you possess the kind of qualities we need here. You see, our workload is forever piling up. We're always on the lookout for fresh talent.

MR. GREY: I must stress to you, however, that you do have a choice. You can fill in this K/LP897 and become part of a successful team in an ever-expanding business. I can personally guarantee that you will be recommended for advanced disorientation training. I even have a particular post in mind for you. Or of course you may choose one of the Options as detailed on the last page of the B/5673.

DEACON:(weakly) Choice? What kind of choice is that?

MRS. RED: A free choice, Mr. Deacon. And remember-it's your choice...

(BACKGROUND NOISE OF ROOM, HUBBUB OF GENERAL CONVERSATION. GRADUALLY FADES OUT)

CLAIMANT: This seat free?

DEACON:(exaggerated Welsh accent) Sure is, boyo. Sit yourself down there. We're in for the duration, you know.

CLAIMANT: I came in for this Greater Benefit Review. You couldn't tell me what exactly-

DEACON: Keep your head down! They're watching you, you know.

CLAIMANT: You what?

DEACON: You mind what you say. Hidden mikes everywhere. And cameras. You stick with me, pal. I'll see you right. We have to keep our heads down. There's a war on, you know. Remember, whatever you do, don't let them give you a B/5673.... Tell me, pal, you wouldn't have a little drink about you for a thirsty man?

(BACKGROUND HUBBUB FADES BACK IN, THEN FADES OUT)


END

 

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