The Cure


This one-act play takes the form of a lecture on the subject of improving your brain, which is disrupted when the audience insist on starting to solve a murder.

Extract from The Cure

A reproduction of Constable’s The Haywain is projected on the whiteboard behind Henry, the lecturer.

HENRY: Now. What I want you to do, is think about how you would describe that scene to a blind person who won’t accept the use of any nouns. I know it’s a situation that probably won’t come up… But it’s a very important exercise.

There is a pause, while Henry looks behind him at the board and scribbles his own suggestions on a piece of paper.

HENRY: OK, how would we do it. Well, how about, the white… no. The wooden carrying… There was wet… The trotting continued slowly through the wet onrushing… I’m having a few problems with the cart.
The trotting and the wooden turning continued slowly through the wet onrushing and above was clouded.
Tthe point is, you have from an early age accepted some rules of grammar, and now you are frozen within them. You need to loosen up.

He claps his hands together happily.

HENRY: We’re making progress! You are becoming a new person. Now. I need a volunteer from the audience.


Come on, hands up. Or I’ll just pick someone. OK. You.

He points at a plant in the audience who hasn’t put her hand up.

HENRY: Come up here, please.

The plant comes up on to the stage.

HENRY: Now, watch CLOSELY.

A video sweeping around the interior of a bedroom is projected onto the screen. A tray holding a kettle and cup full of teabags and sugarlumps are visible in the background, and a fire notice on the wall. It is a room in a bed and breakfast place, judging by the dusty valance and cheap, impersonal but fussy ornaments. Some jarring details are lingered on for longer: a cut-up dress, a pile of broken glass, a torn-up newspaper.

HENRY: Now. (Henry hands the ‘volunteer’ a pointer stick) It’s pretty obvious something is wrong here. Can you point out to me the objects you would use to start your deductions from.

The volunteer points at the tray with the kettle, and the fire notice.

HENRY: You seem to be paying attention to rather strange things here. (Pause.) What do you mean by that? (The volunteer stares back silently.) We’re talking about deductive reasoning. We’re talking about selective attention. Focus! You seem to be on some complete other line of enquiry!

Pause. Henry seems disturbed.

HENRY: You’ve got a long way to go in developing focused, deductive reasoning. There’s no better way to shrink your brain than to be easily distracted. So what’s your line of enquiry? Fill me in.

VOLUNTEER: It’s not a private room. It’s a bed and breakfast. (She points again at the kettle and the fire notice.)

HENRY: The room isn’t the point! Those aren’t clues.

VOLUNTEER: It tells you about the person who lives there.

HENRY: No, it doesn’t! Please sit down.

VOLUNTEER: They’re short of money, on their own, down on their luck…

HENRY: Sit down.

VOLUNTEER: Also, what institution are you affiliated with? Academically?

HENRY: Er, I’m…

VOLUNTEER: Thought so!


The volunteer returns to the audience and sits down.

HENRY: I’d like another volunteer, a better volunteer, please.(Points to second volunteer with her hand up.)

2nd VOLUNTEER: Can I ask you a question?

HENRY: It’s not time for Q&A yet.

2ND VOLUNTEER: What happened to Mrs A? In the case study you were talking about earlier?

HENRY: I can’t answer your question.

2ND VOLUNTEER: Was it Mrs A in the garden?

HENRY: Why are you asking that?

2ND VOLUNTEER: I’m deducing…

HENRY: You’re deducing the wrong things! You’re looking at the wrong things! Look at the board! You might as well start reading the furniture.

2ND VOLUNTEER: (pointing at the board) Whose room is it?

HENRY: This is a reconstruction. The setting itself is unimportant.

1st VOLUNTEER: (stands up) It’s Miss B’s room!

HENRY: It isn’t! It isn’t Miss B’s room.

Henry raises a hand for silence.

HENRY: We’ve gone a little… off-piste.

1st VOLUNTEER: I want to know if it’s Miss B’s room in that picture, because if so I think I spotted a clue.

2nd VOLUNTEER: Clue to what?

1st VOLUNTEER: Her disappearance. In Australia.

HENRY: Ladies and gentlemen! Please take your seats! Sherlock Holmes should not be our cognitive role model! He’s a caricature.

1st VOLUNTEER: It’s obviously got to be this guy’s room (pointing at Henry). Isn’t it? (to Henry)

HENRY: Sssh.

1st VOLUNTEER: You have no academic affiliations, so no lab or anything. You have to assemble your research material in your room.

2nd VOLUNTEER: What qualifications does he have, I wonder.

1st VOLUNTEER: And where does Miss B come into it? Old girlfriend?

HENRY: No! Stop! These are case studies, not clues!

2nd VOLUNTEER: Sister.

1st VOLUNTEER: Sister!

2nd VOLUNTEER: And you were hiding in the garden, wearing short trousers so fairly young… Am I right? Am I on the right track?

HENRY: This isn’t the point! It isn’t important. Back to your exercises!

2nd VOLUNTEER: Aaah! I’m getting it!

1st VOLUNTEER: Mrs A is the woman in the garden and Mrs A is…

2nd VOLUNTEER: The mother!

1st VOLUNTEER: Bingo!

2nd VOLUNTEER: Go back to that photo. The girl and her travelling companions. From earlier.

1st VOLUNTEER: Of course! That holds the key. I wasn’t really looking.

2nd VOLUNTEER: He warned you to pay attention!

1st VOLUNTEER: He did.

2nd VOLUNTEER: There was a man in the background. I’m sure of it.

1st VOLUNTEER: So what happened to Mr and Mrs A?

HENRY: I can’t tell you.

1st VOLUNTEER: (has got hold of the slide projector) It’s all right! I’ll talk you through it. I’ve got it!
(Slides that have appeared earlier start to be projected, in a new order)

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