After graduating from the University of Exeter, Jenna became the Writer in Residence of all-female theatre group Rumble Theatre. She completed the National Theatre’s How to Begin Playwriting course with Ryan Craig and has just finished an MA in Creative Writing and Playwriting. Credits include Fishbowl (2018, The King’s Head Theatre), Sardines (2018, The Drayton Arm’s Theatre) and How to Split a Peach (2016, Roborough Studios).
Caroline is an anxious, 26-year-old actress who has just landed her big break in theatre. She’s been cast as a character with the same name, who battles with OCD and tries to fend off her demons, Death and Fire, as they convince her the house is going to burn down. Triggered by the role, Caroline yells cut, yanking the audience and the other actors out of the play within a play. But while this banishes Death and Fire, it gives the actors playing them (Jay and Isaac) a new vendetta. Meanwhile, Chris, the controlling director, keeps putting Caroline in her place, while Amy, the stressed stage manager tries to get the show going again. To put an end to the madness, Caroline becomes her biggest fear: she sets the stage on fire.
The Play That Burns Down
Shortly after Caroline yells “cut”, this scene is one of the first to occur outside of the play within a play. Jay, who is playing the character of Death, confronts her about ending the show prematurely. With pressure mounting from Amy, the stage manager, and Chris, the controlling director, Caroline is tasked with the challenge of carrying on.
Jay: Why are you letting yourself think all this scary shit?!
Caroline: Ican’t control it.
Jay: You’ve got too much free time.
Caroline: No –
Jay: Yes! Too much time to think – the rest of us don’t have the time for it.
Caroline: Jay! It’s not a product of spare time.
Jay: Okay then what? Were you abandoned? Dropped as a child? Forgotten at the supermarket?
Caroline: Sometimes these things just happen. It’s chemical. It’s my wiring.
Jay: Caro it’s not your wiring, saying it’s your wiring is boxing yourself up in ‘anxiety’ and halving the space you have to grow.
(A long silence. Jay watches Caroline, who is actively avoiding his gaze).
Caroline: Were you bitching about me to Isaac?
Amy: (Walking in from off stage) Guys.
Caroline: Sorry, Amy – totally my fault.
Amy: I need to call Chris with an update.
Amy: Because you yelled cut.
Caroline: Why did you tell him?
Amy: It’s my job.
Caroline: Tell him everything’s fine.
Amy: But it’s not.
Caroline: It’s called a lie.
(They stare at each other).
Caroline: Just 5 minutes. Please.
Caroline: Okay. Love you. (To Jay) Were you bitching about me?
Jay: I just don’t like excuses.
Caroline: They’re not excuses, Jay. Come on.
Jay: But you yelled cut – you’re not the only actor here. Some of us were enjoying our roles.
Caroline: That’s because you got a good role that doesn’t trigger you. You get to flounce around playing Death.
Jay: I don’t flounce Caroline.
Caroline: Isaac does Jay flounce?
Isaac: (Appearing from the kitchen) Never.
Caroline: Are you angry too?
Isaac: I’m not angry, I’m disappointed.
Caroline: Don’t give me that.
Isaac: Fine I’m annoyed that you ended the show. No matter how messy it gets we have to carry on – that’s the deal.
Jay: You took the easy way out.
Jay: You shouldn’t have accepted the role.
Caroline: Just give me a minute.
Jay: Think you need more than a minute, honey.
Isaac: Wanna meditate?
Caroline: I’m trying to get outside my head.
Caroline: I’m sorry I yelled cut.
Jay: It’s fine.
Jay: It’s fine.
Jay: And what?
Caroline: I said I’m sorry.
Jay: Yes? And I said it’s fine.
Caroline: Is that it?
Jay: Fine. I’m sorry.
Jay: Being a bitch.
Isaac: You okay?
Jay: Wanna shake it off?
Isaac: We’re gonna jam.
Caroline: I wanna paint.
(Jay goes out to get the guitar. Caroline goes backstage and brings back a massive pot of blue paint. While Jay and Isaac sing Dust in the Wind by Kansas, Caroline paints the entire set blue. Before the third verse, Sophie comes onstage, holding a violin and joins in. Caroline begins to sing as well. Chris charges on stage, grunting, followed by a flustered Amy).
Chris: What the fuck is going on?