Lights up on the function room of the Rambling Elephant inn. Two chairs are set facing one another centre stage. Corianna stands talking with Kullamann down stage as his suit is re-arranged by an Aide.
Corianna: Just remember, Mr Kullamann, this is simply a routine interview.
Kullamann: I know.
Corianna: Just stick to the main points of our manifesto; repeat chunks of this afternoon’s speech if need be.
Kullamann: Just repeat -?
Corianna: And don’t forget, if she tries to lead you into giving a specific answer just ignore it and change the topic.
Kullamann: But won’t that -?
Corianna: And finally, no matter what, don’t say anything that might give our opponents ammunition against you.
Kullamann: What do you mean?
Phyllis: Afternoon, Mr Kullamann.
Corianna: Aren’t you a little early?
Phyllis: Am I? Oh, my watch must be a couple of minutes fast. No matter, you don’t mind starting a little earlier, do you?
Kullamann: Certainly not.
Corianna: Mr Kullamann and I still have a few matters to discuss. Matters pertaining to the campaign.
Phyllis: And it can’t wait?
Phyllis: Doesn’t seem to be much of an accord within the team, does there?
Corianna: Mr Kullamann, I really think –
Kullamann: I’ve decided that I want to speak to Miss . . .?
Phyllis: Quay, Phyllis Quay.
Kullamann: Her. I want to talk to her.
Corianna: (Reluctantly) Of course. I suppose the matters can wait until later.
Kullamann: (To Phyllis) Shall we?
Phyllis and Kullamann sit opposite one another. Corianna stands by Kullamann’s side.
Phyllis: (Glancing at Corianna as she speaks) So, Mr Kullamann, your campaign has . . . your presence in this election, I mean, has . . . I – I’m sorry, but is the escort entirely necessary?
Kullamann: I don’t understand?
Corianna: I’m only here to observe, please don’t let me put you off, Miss Quay.
Phyllis: I had rather thought that this would be a private interview.
Corianna: You won’t even know I’m here.
Phyllis: I can promise you I will.
Kullamann: Is her being here distracting you?
Phyllis: I wouldn’t call it distracting, no.
Corianna: Then what might be the problem?
Phyllis: One can’t help by feel there’s a lack of . . . trust.
Kullamann: I’m a very trusting person, Miss Quay, you can be certain of that.
Phyllis: Perhaps not you, Mr Kullamann, but those with whom you associate. (Stands) Maybe we should postpone this interview.
Kullamann: (Jumps to his feet) No! No don’t! We can’t talk now. (To Corianna) You, leave us alone.
Corianna: But –
Kullamann: I don’t wanna hear it. Out.
Corianna stares at Kullamann and then at Phyllis. Eventually, and with great reluctance, she exits.
Kullamann: Is that better for you?
Phyllis: (Sitting down) I think so.
Kullamann: (Sitting) Good, fantastic, that’s great. Let’s get this started. You know, I’m such a fan of your work. You are such an amazing writer, I love what you write.
Phyllis: Thank you very much, Mr Kullamann.
Kullamann: There are some terrible writers out there, writers who say such terible things about me. I know you’re not like that.
Phyllis: Well thank you for that vote of confidence. I can assure you that my readers are simply enthralled by your campaign.
Kullamann: That’s such a beautiful thing to hear, but, if I’m honest, I’m not that surprised.
Phyllis: You’re not?
Kullamann: Ever since I was a young boy I’ve been successful. I always had a lot of friends, everyone wanted to be my friend, that is a fact.
Phyllis: I see. Do you think that’s part of the reason for your success in the current campaign?
Kullamann: Partly, sure, sure. I also think it’s because I’m the option that they need in this election. I’m running against some very bad people, people who don’t know what they’re doing and are bad for this town.
Phyllis: In what way are they bad for the town?
Kullamann: Well they’re bad people, you know? They – they’re just wrong. They’re not like me, I always have the people’s best interests at heart, that’s just who I am.
Phyllis: Yes, but surely you have some examples. What about Mayor Farckle? Why do you think he is so bad for this town?
Kullamann: (Pause. He begins speaking in a mechanical manner, reciting his speech) If one pays attention to the downward economic spiral this town has taken in recent years one cannot help but come to the conclusion that this is in part due to the disastrous decisions made by a government that has failed to correctly analyse the data –
Phyllis: No, no, Mr Kullamann! You’re just spouting off your speech from earlier today! I’ve already heard that. No, what my readers want is your real opinion. No filter, no polishing from professional speech writers, just your undiluted thoughts. So, what about Mayor Farckle?
Kullamann: I really couldn’t . . .
Phyllis: Really couldn’t what? Give an honest opinion on someone?
Kullamann: Oh I can give you an honest opinion, no one else can. That’s the problem right there. You want to know something about Farckle? He’s a liar. Always lying. Do you think you’d catch me lying? Never. Why? Because I’m honest.
Phyllis: What’s he lied about?
Kullamann: So many things. I could give you a whole list of things he’s lied about.
Phyllis: Just one will do.
Kullamann: Well . . . how about this so-called ‘trade deal’ that he made with the next town over. With this town Ballitz.
Phyllis: Ah yes, the town around which you plan on digging the ditch.
Kullamann: No, the ditch will go around our town. We don’t want their kind getting over here, why? Because we don’t know what they’re bringing. But I’ll tell you what they’re not bringing, and that’s jobs. That’s what they’re taking away, and Farckle helped with that stinking trade bill of his. He said it was going to help people, he said that it was going to bring jobs to the town. I don’t know a single person it helped. It didn’t help me, my business didn’t do any better – not that I’m saying my business doesn’t do well. No one has a business that does better than mine. You should see the profits I’m making these days, so much! So, so much money! And I can bring that same level of success to this whole town, unlike Farckle.
Phyllis: I see.
Barmaid enters. She is a young woman, barely in her twenties. Kullamann immediately fixes his attention on her.
Barmaid: Can I get either of you a drink? Mr Kullamann? Miss?
Phyllis: Hmm? Oh, nothing for me, thank you.
Barmaid: Mr Kullamann?
Kullamann: Water, just a glass of water for me, dear.
Barmaid nods and then exits.
Kullamann: Isn’t she great? Isn’t she a peach?
Phyllis: I wonder, Mr Kullamann, what do you think of your other rival? Mr Beverly Malcolm?
Kullamann: I wish I had a daughter like her. She is so good looking, don’t you think?
Phyllis: I really couldn’t say.
Kullamann: Not like a lot of women in this town, oh no. Most aren’t worth a second glance, but her . . . (Beat) What was your question?
Phyllis: Mr Beverly Malcolm.
Phyllis: Your other rival.
Kullamann: (Shrugs) If I don’t know who the guy is, then how are the voters going to know?
Phyllis: He does seem to be doing well in the polls.
Kullamann: The what? The polls? People don’t care about polls! The only people who care about the polls are people like you and politicians. You only like them because you write them, and politicians only like them when they’re in their favour. I don’t listen to polls.
Phyllis: Very well, we’ll move on from your political rivals.
Kullamann: They’re not rivals. They don’t stand a chance.
Phyllis: Let’s move onto your manifesto. Now, other than your planned ditch around the town and increasing the number in full-time work, what else do you plan on achieving should you become mayor?
Kullamann: So much.
Phyllis: Could you give me any examples?
Kullamann: Yeah, yeah, sure. We’ve got so much planned for this town, so much. You won’t even believe how much we’ve got in store, it’s going to be fantastic.
Phyllis: Okay, but can you actually tell me what those plans are?
Kullamann: Well, what do you want to know?
Phyllis: Some more policies you would introduce as mayor.
Kullamann: We’re gonna build the ditch –
Phyllis: Yes, we already know that one.
Kullamann: We’re going to bring in more jobs –
Kullamann: In great ways, you’ll see.
Phyllis: Yes, but you’re not explaining how you’re going to do that!
Kullamann: For a start we’re going to take back the jobs stolen by the people from Ballitz, that’s for sure.
Phyllis: Really? Now that wasn’t something in your official manifesto.
Kullamann: Well, no, but it’s something I think needs to be done. Oh yeah, definitely.
Phyllis: That is interesting.
Puck: (Off-stage and furious) You left him on his own?!
Puck storms in, looking furious and dishevelled. He immediately stops and fixes Phyllis with a sickly grin.
Puck: Miss Quay, what a pleasure.
Phyllis: Good afternoon, Mr Puck. Do you mind? Mr Kullamann and I are trying to conduct a private interview.
Puck: How delightful; of course, this campaign is dedicated to maintaining a mutually beneficial dialogue with the press.
Phyllis: That’s promising to hear.
Puck: However, at this particular moment, I am going to have cut this interview short.
Kullamann: Oh, we don’t have to –
Puck: I insist, Mr Kullamann. Have you forgotten? We have some important political strategies to discuss, concerning the upcoming mid-election campaign debates.
Puck: So, I do apologise, I’m going to have to ask you to leave, Miss Quay.
Phyllis: Surely your important strategizing can wait another fifteen minutes?
Puck: No. It cannot. Now, if you please.
Phyllis: I see. Perhaps I have enough to be going on with at the moment anyway. (Stands up) Well, Mr Kullamann, thank you for your time. I’m sure my readers will be . . . enthralled with what you’ve had to say.
Puck stands back, allowing Phyllis to exit before him.
Puck: (To Kullamann) Wait here!
Puck exits, closing the door behind him.
Kullamann: (Impersonating Puck) ‘Wait here!’ Who does he think he is? Who does he think I am?!
Barmaid re-enters with a glass of water.
Barmaid: Your water, Mr Kullamann.
Kullamann: Well, thank you. (Stands and takes the water) You know who I am, right?
Barmaid: Who you are? Of course. You’re Mr Kullamann.
Kullamann: That’s right. Abel Kullamann. I’m famous, you know?
Barmaid: Oh yes, yes you are, Mr Kullamann.
Kullamann: I’m a big deal in this town. I’m going to be the next mayor.
Barmaid: But – but isn’t there going to be an election first?
Kullamann: And I’m going to win, and that’ll make me mayor. You know, you’re pretty lucky, getting to be in the same room as Mr Kullamann.
Barmaid: I – I guess. But, I really must be getting back now, sir.
Barmaid makes for the door, but Kullamann steps in front of her.
Kullamann: You’re a very good-looking young lady.
Barmaid: Thank you, sir.
Kullamann: Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of beautiful women, but you’re one of the best, no doubt about it. Women often tell me that I’m attractive as well.
Barmaid: I really need to get back now –
Kullamann: They won’t mind if you’re a bit longer. After all, I’m Abel Kullamann!
He moves in to kiss the Barmaid, grabbing as her as he does so. She tries to pull away, screaming with shock. Puck suddenly enters.
Puck: Kullamann! What are you doing?
The Barmaid pulls herself free of Kullamann and rushes out.
Puck: Shit! Shit, shit, shit! What the Hell was that?
Kullamann: What? What did I do?
Puck: (Pokes his head out the door) Someone grab her! (To Kullamann) We need to sort this, now!
Kullamann: What did I do?
Puck: You don’t realise what this might do to the campaign? What it might do if she tells people!
Kullamann: What?! She came on to me! You should have seen the way she was looking at me!
Puck: I don’t care! Just stay where you are and don’t move – in fact, don’t do anything. Don’t even talk to anyone, not until I come back. Shit! This could be the end of everything! You idiot!
Puck exits angrily.
Kullamann: Idiot? No one calls me an idiot.
Lights up on the exterior of the inn. Mayor Farckle sits at one of the benches, reading a newspaper. He chuckles to himself occasionally and shakes his head. Felicia enters after a moment.
Felicia: Mr Mayor! There you are, I’ve been looking all over for you.
Mayor Farckle: Thought I’d treat myself to a drink. Can I get you one?
Felicia: No, thank you, sir.
Mayor Farckle: (Nods to the paper) Read this yet?
Felicia: Yes, yes, sir.
Mayor Farckle: The fool actually wants to kick out everyone who came from Ballitz! Can you believe that? Ha!
Felicia: Yes, sir. How are we going to respond?
Mayor Farckle: Respond? Why the Devil would we need to respond?
Felicia: He is your rival, sir. We need to make our position regarding this development clear, and quickly.
Mayor Farckle: Our position is already clear: the man is a ludicrous nobody that shouldn’t be taken seriously. To respond to anything he says would simply legitimise him as a genuine political rival.
Felicia: So . . . what should I tell the journalists?
Mayor Farckle: Oh, I don’t know! Why do you keep expecting me to make decisions?
Felicia: Because you’re running for mayor, sir.
Mayor Farckle: Yes, but which one of us is the campaign manager?
Felicia: Erm . . . I am?
Mayor Farckle: Precisely. So, why don’t you go and manage my campaign, whilst I sit here and finish my drink?
Felicia: Very good, sir.
Mayor Farckle: Good. Oh, and where’s Kendle gone?
Felicia: I’m not sure, sir. He said he was going to be late into the office today.
Mayor Farckle: Strange. Not like him at all. (Turns back to his paper. He snorts derisively) Kick them all out, eh? Good luck with that.
Felicia: You know, sir, that’s not the worst I’ve heard about him today.
Mayor Farckle: What, what? Do tell.
Felicia: Well, this isn’t in the papers yet, but apparently Kullamann threw himself on one of the barmaids last night!
Mayor Farckle: (Excitedly) Threw himself? What do you mean?!
Felicia: You know! He . . . propositioned her, and rather forcefully as well.
Mayor Farckle: That dirty devil!
Felicia: It’s more than just being simply dirty, sir!
Mayor Farckle: Oh, yes, yes, of course. Damned unforgivable behaviour.
Felicia: Would you like the campaign to make a statement on your behalf?
Mayor Farckle: No, you know what? I think I’ll make this statement. (Stands) I just wish I knew where Kendle had disappeared off to.
Mayor Farckle and Felicia exit.
Wilhelm Marlton enters, he is followed by Beverly Malcolm and Blitch Nabbly.
Beverly Malcolm: What are we even doing here?
Wilhelm: I’ve already told you. They’ve got one of those wretched journalists staying here, and you’re going to speak with him. Give him your exclusive statement concerning the allegations levelled against that reprobate, Kullamann.
Blitch: We’re getting in before Farckle. That way it gives you the moral high-ground first; improves your appearance in the eyes of the voters.
Wilhelm: The Heavens know you need all the help you can get.
Beverly Malcolm: I can’t imagine throwing myself at a woman like that.
Wilhelm: Of course someone like You couldn’t. (Sighs) It’s a shame that Kullamann had to do something so damned foolish. He was just beginning to make sense. He actually made some suggestions I could get behind. He’s right, you know? Get rid of all those rats from Ballitz, get the poison out of this town. In fact, why even stop with them? Get rid of the invaders from all the neighbouring towns! Ballitz, Farkrow, Gilham, get this town back to its pure roots.
Blitch: Careful, Mr Marlton, we don’t want to antagonise the minority vote.
Wilhelm: I know, I know. I’m not like Kullamann; I’m not stupid enough to actually say what I think. Come on, let’s get this over with.
The group turn to enter the inn just as Puck exits, he looks harried and stressed. He pauses when he spots the trio.
Puck: (Attempting bravado) Oh? And what are you jackals doing here? Hmm? Here to admit your defeat already, eh?
Wilhelm: (Snorts) You drunk already, Puck?
Beverly Malcolm: Actually, we’re here to bury the corpse of your campaign.
Wilhelm and Beverly Malcolm push past Puck and enter the inn.
Blitch: My offer still stands, Puck, just remember that.
Blitch enters the inn.
Puck: Those smug, self-serving shits! Who do they think they are? What I’d give to wipe those smiles off their faces. I would have done it too, if it hadn’t been for that fat idiot, Kullamann! (Pulls out his hipflask and takes a swig) There must be something I can do! Must be someway to fix this disaster! Maybe I should take Nabbly up on his offer. With his support we’d actually look like a legitimate party! No, no what am I thinking? That shifty little bastard would just take over! He’d wrap Kullamann round his little finger, and then where would I be? But that Johan Johansson, he’s been lingering around a lot. He might be more useful, and less likely to get in my way. Yes, I could use him easily. That sorts out the credibility angle, but these allegations are another matter.
Kendle enters, he carries a brown envelope in his hands.
Kendle: All right, Puck, here it is. (Hands Puck the envelope) That’s everything regarding the Upton bill.
Puck: Eh? Oh, oh yeah, that. Thanks.
Kendle: There’s plenty of information in those documents that not even the councillors know about.
Puck: Is that so?
Kendle: If they knew even half of what Farckle had tried to achieve with that bill, they would have murdered his career in a week.
Puck: (Stares at the envelope) Yes, but it’s not enough.
Kendle: I don’t care. I’ve done too much for you already. This is it, understand? Remember our deal? You leave me alone!
Puck: Yeah, that’s not going to work.
Kendle: What? What are you talking about?
Puck: I need you to do one more favour for me.
Kendle: Are you mad? Of course I’m not!
Puck: Yes, yes you are.
Puck turns around and re-enters the inn.
Kendle: Puck? Puck?! Where are you going? Puck!
Scene is as the same, only it is now early evening. Two Villagers sit at the table, each one reading a paper.
Villager #1: Can you believe it?
Villager #2: What is the world coming to?
Villager #1: Disgusting, that’s what it is.
Villager #2: You expect better of these sorts of men, don’t you?
Villager #1: Poor girls. Can you imagine what they must be going through?
Villager #2: Too right, too right.
Villager #1: Then again . . .
Villager #2: Yeah?
Villager #1: Well, you can hardly blame them, can you?
Villager #2: I guess I see what you mean. Apparently it was the barmaid who complained about Kullamann. Now that’s a bit of skirt I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on.
Villager #1: What? Jenny Wattle? What’s she complaining for? She throws herself on every man who walks into that pub! She’s got more scandals under her pinafore then I’ve had pints of beer.
Villager #2: Yeah. But courting an underage girl, now that’s just wrong. No excuses for that.
Villager #1: Agreed. Do you know who it was?
Villager #2: (Shrugs) Might have been the Leibowitz girl.
Villager #1: She’s not underage, is she?
Villager #2: (Nods) Wouldn’t have thought it, would you?
Villager #1: Nope. He mustn’t have either.
Villager #2: Mustn’t have.
Villager #1: But it’s still wrong though.
Villager #2: Oh, no doubt.
Villager #1: At least Kullamann apologised.
Villager #2: Eh?
Villager #1: Kullamann, didn’t you hear? When this was announced he held one of them emergency press conferences.
Villager #2: I didn’t hear about that.
Villager #1: All very last minute. Well, anyway, he comes out and he apologised straight away for his conduct. Said that he was a changed man and it would never happen again.
Villager #2: That’s pretty good. At least he owned up to it.
Villager #1: Exactly. More than what that Farckle’s said.
Villager #2: I thought it was his assistant, that Kendle fella, who had the affair?
Villager #1: Yeah, that’s right.
Villager #2: Still, I heard that Kullamann’s got support from some of the councillors now.
Villager #1: Really? Who?
Villager #2: Johannsson.
Villager #1: What? Even after all this?
Villager #2: Surprising, isn’t it?
Villager #1: Yeah. Then again, I voted for Johannsson; so if he thinks Kullamann is all right – well, then he must be, mustn’t he?
Villager #2: Must be.
Villager #1: But are you going to vote for him?
Villager #2: Oh, of course not!
Villager #1: No, me neither.
Gil and Phyllis enter, the former from the inn and the latter from stage left. They approach one another downstage.
Gil: Thought you might be popping along.
Phyllis: I got tired of waiting for you to visit me!
Gil: Can you believe it?
Phyllis: Which part?
Gil: Well, any of it?!
Phyllis: He’s still running!
Gil: That’s not the bit that I’m struggling with. It’s this sudden outpouring of support that’s got me shocked. Who even is this guy?
Phyllis: He’s a long-term councillor, had the post for years. I get the feeling that he’s more sensitive to how the wind blows than some of his colleagues.
Gil: You mean he thinks Kullamann has a chance?!
Phyllis: Don’t you?
Gil: Well . . . I don’t know anymore!
Phyllis: What do you think we ought to do?
Gil: Us? We just do what we always do!
Phyllis: Yeah, but what about Kullamann?
Gil: The readers love him! Well, they love reading about him. Bowerman would throw a fit if I just started ignoring him now.
Phyllis: Yeah, but now we have to start taking him seriously!
Gil: I know. But that might actually help us.
Phyllis: You mean, if we start telling it how it really is, people might start thinking differently about him?
Gil: We’ve tried everything else, the only thing we’ve got left is the truth!
Phyllis: All right, but I’ll be honest, at the moment the truth is sounding more bizarre than anything you and I could come up with.
Gil: Ha! You haven’t read me at my best!
Phyllis: We’ve got two weeks until voting day. Do you think we can do it?
Gil: Anything’s possible.
Phyllis: By that logic, so is Abel Kullamann winning this election!
Gil: I guess we can’t complain. If he does end up winning, there’ll be no shortage of stories for us to cover!
Phyllis: That’s what I’m afraid of.