On The Corona Monologues, The Passage of Time, and Bob

On The Corona Monologues, The Passage of Time, and Bob

Maku’s Note: I wrote this foreword in 2021 prior to our debut show, The Corona Monologues. I got it printed out and placed it on every seat. It felt important to contextualise it, to elaborate on why it was created in the first place and why it is a one of a kind to us. It’s 2024 now, Corona, as I conclude further down, has indeed become Lord Voldemort and everyone is sick and tired of works of art dealing with it. For that reason, I believe it’s unlikely we would ever put this play back on. The act of collective suppression is far too strong and real. But looking back on the text, it’s funny how improbable and distant it all seems. Since it’s unlikely you’ll see it on our stage anytime soon, I attach one of the three monologues I wrote for it. It’s called Bob. It’s about, well, it’s about Bob. Bob was beautifully and empathetically portrayed by Logan Hillier for which I am grateful till this day. Bob took a couple of drafts to write. The reason I’m choosing Bob is because he’s my writing and I can do whatever I want with him without feeling like I am exploiting somebody else’s labour. But more importantly, Bob is one of the few monologues (if not the only), which posed a counter-argument to everyone else involved. He was also the one to close the show. And I have a complicated relationship with Bob, which I would like to pass on. Hope you’ll enjoy Bob. And in case you’d like to have a read the rest of the script, send us an email. We don’t bite. Usually. (16th of January 2024)

I’m not usually opting for lengthy forewords and contextual descriptions, when it comes to my shows. I believe that any work of art should speak for itself. That said, The Corona Monologues is a play performed by an unlikely group of people, written during unlikely circumstances, premiering in an unpredictable political and artistic climate. 

The first time I got an idea to write a play was in a car. But I have no idea where I was or what I was doing, when I got the idea for this particular play. Probably between the four red walls of my sister’s flat. It couldn’t’ve been anywhere else, as everywhere was, well, closed. Its plot was not solidified in my mind but the criteria seemed crystal clear – it had to be flexible enough in case anyone gets sick and last-minute character cuts are in order. It had to be versatile yet cohesive. And it had to be Corona-related because no one seems to get it off their mind anyways and if there’s a good time to write about it, it is NOW. It had to be monologues. I mean, it worked for vaginas, right? There’s no reason it shouldn’t work for ‘Rona. 

“Hey, got a concept for a play but I’ll need a hand. You in?” 

Several Zoom calls later, five writers gave me the greenlight, nine actors eagerly nodded, and I got clearance on the flat. And then? The usual – drafting, writing, editing, re-writing, cutting, casting, rehearsing, teching, Covid testing, more Covid testing, and performing. Performing only in front of ourselves (the cast, that is) and performing only once, as the government at the time changed indoor capacity limits more often than the internet changes its opinions on Céline Dion and it did not exactly fancy the idea of a full house.  It didn’t stop us though. We snuck through the crevices of our fleeting freedom with zero regrets. We managed to pull off a play that complied with regulations and gave us a sense of purpose. If anything, finally seeing live theatre and creating art just for the sake of it was a long-needed encouragement, a light at the end of the – sorry, couldn’t take myself seriously, if I finished that sentence. So, what is this play that I keep rambling on about?  Thought you’d never ask.

“Their lights were on and they have those glass walls so you can see all the details of their life.”  (Ronald Prokeš, I’ve Been to the Moon)

That is our play. That cheeky peek through your neighbour’s window, catching a glimpse of private moments that almost, almost, make you turn your gaze away. That is what’s happening in every one of those nine living rooms we’ve created. Or, to put it more aptly, nine distinct living rooms with a tendency to mirror one another. For as soon as we finished writing, we started noticing overlaps – Zoom, TikTok, jazz (for some reason?), substance abuse, silence, mental (un)health, talking for the sake of talking, deflection, denial, and the harrowing, looming loneliness. 

It was initially intended to be a mixture of genres, a well-balanced diet, if you please. And though there are moments of light-heartedness and hope, the winter lockdown did not allow for much comedy to seep through. The play is heavy. And though our current plan is to write more and write happier, what you see before you today is a genuine reflection of our post-Christmas psyches. What may seem long-resolved and melodramatic now, felt uncertain and pressing six long months ago. 

In fact, whilst rehearsing for the second round, we have noticed how short-lived our memories are and how quickly we managed to adapt. The jittery anticipation of the New Normal had simply been replaced by the New Normal. Cotton swabs penetrating our noses have turned into autopilot motions that no longer make us tear up. A big chunk of us is still working from bed every day and some have developed a drinking problem they’re not giving up on, just in case she decides to mutate into any other letters of the Greek alphabet.  

The cold, lonely winter made only colder and lonelier by our isolation and the ever-present closure of any and every business in our vicinity or out of it, now feels like a sooty, nondescript blur. February blues and grays are currently being upstaged by a rushed FOMO kind of summer, during which everyone avoids the topic of last Christmas in the fear of jinxing it and bringing about yet another lockdown. Lockdown has, to an extent, become Lord Voldemort. 

But despite our fears, we can’t seem to shut up about ‘Rona either. She is inevitably a part of every conversation – she somehow managed to replace the weather, to the endless horror of the British.  “Are you a Pfizer gal’ or a Moderna gal’?” has made it to the top lists of pick-up lines, whilst dating apps are enquiring about one’s vaccination status. She became the New Normal and we are being forced to collect the remnants of our broken selves whilst frantically learning to navigate our lives around her. That is why we decided to do a second round. To vent, to ramble on about the topic we can’t seem to get enough of and to start a dialogue with those who might be able to relate.

In the punchy words of Dan Collins: “We’d had enough. We called a meeting. We can’t keep going like this, ain’t in our nature. We fight. We scream, we get angry and we fucking do things. So let’s fucking do it. As it turned out, we’d each of us already started.”


BOB: She doesn’t talk to me anymore. My own daughter. Flesh and blood. I raised her. Brought food to her table. Drove her to school every morning. And she doesn’t even talk to me.

“I’m cancelling you, dad.” She says. Cancels me! As if I was a newspaper subscription. A cancelled father of a twenty-four-year-old daughter. And the worst thing is, I don’t even know why. 

The wife doesn’t talk to me either. She didn’t cancel me, I don’t think she’s legally allowed, but I’m getting the cold shoulder all right. She forgets to make my coffee in the morning, we’ve been out of butter for over a week now, and as I’m crunching on my cold, dry, 8.30AM toast, we sit in silence. She says she won’t talk to me until I call her. 

She blocked my number, you see. But I’m glad she’s not picking up, ‘coz I’m not sure what I’d say if she did. “Sorry would be a good start, Robert.” Says the wife. Through her teeth. But I’m not sure what I should be sorry for. The incident? 

It was nothing. And I stand by what I said, every syllable. It was nothing. It’s not my fault her little video app wiped out her critical thinking. I didn’t tell her that, of course. But I did say I refuse to be a puppet of this pandemic. Yeah, “puppet of the pandemic” is what I said. I’m still kind of proud of that one, I’m not very good with words unless I’m angry. And I was angry then all right. 

I’ve always been wary of chemicals. Always scrubbed my hair with a bar of soap and used baking soda for a toothpaste. Until the wife interfered, that is. “This is an intervention, Robert.” I knew it was an intervention. She only calls me Robert when she is disappointed.  She made me buy toothpaste and pledge allegiance to Head & Shoulders. I obliged then because if I didn’t, she’d get angry. If she got angry, I’d get angry. I’d end up saying “that I refuse to become a puppet of the fluoride industry”. I’d be proud of that but she wouldn’t and she’d legally cancel me. Shirley picks up after her, all right. I pick my battles and knew all too well not to pick that one. But when Shirley waltzed in, in her alternative cardigan and unbuttoned dungarees, telling us to register for the vaccine, I couldn’t sit idly by. One thing is to let Head & Shoulders dry your scalp, another is to inject me and the wife with something that just came out of the lab. “You’re gonna’ kill mom.” She says, “When she catches it and dies, it’s gonna’ be all your fault. Because of people like you, we’re still locked-up a goddamn year later and the end is nowhere in sight. At least wear your fucking mask when I’m here, you psycho.” She stressed the “you” in “people like you” and that stung. Really did, for all I tried to do was protect my wife. But she didn’t see that, she stormed out after announcing she’s cancelling me. It’s been two months. 

I miss her, I do, but I don’t think I can apologise for my beliefs. She called me a murderer and I’m not feeling like one. Wouldn’t hurt a fly and she knows it. But it’s been two months and she seems to stand by what she said too. She picks up after me as well. But I hope she renews her subscription to her old man one day. 

Cannot stand the dry toast for much longer.

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