Platypus Header

Platypus Innovation Blog

16 July 2015


An idea for a play of pure blackness came to me this morning. Taking a leaf from the great Borges and being short on time, I will write the synopsis rather than the thing. But unlike Borges, I will also dispense with the beauty and poetry of the writing.

The perfectly normal remnant of a family: A father lives with his one of his grown up daughters. The setting is modern America. The family are normal; everyone works, everyone has it hard. Father is diagnosed with a disease -- painful, deadly, but curable. But the cure is expensive, and his health insurance, which is not very good, will not cover it. The father is a gruff quiet fellow, a man of stoical dignity. He asks for nothing. There is a second daughter, and she is called in to help. Of course she comes as quick as she can, and wants to help. But she is reluctant to part with her savings -- the product of years of toil, carefully set-aside so she can buy a house.

The family look for other ways out. The tension grows between the two sisters. But it is the father who cracks. A gut-wrenching scene follows, where the father breaks down and begs for his life from his daughter.

This horror is the heart of the play. What happens next is inevitably bad: The daughter gives in and says yes. But the next morning her sibling finds she has gone. Unwilling to make this sacrifice, but unable to face her family, she packed and fled. The remaining daughter hides this betrayal from her father. She chooses the sacrifice, giving not only her own savings, but now also needing to take on a crippling loan. She buys the expensive medicine, a few bottles of pills, small yet precious.

While she is out on these life-changing errands, father is home reflecting. Appalled by what he has asked of his children, he commits suicide. The daughter returns home to find him dead, an empty bottle of pills by his side.


The ending is overly melodramatic; there is no need for the suicide. This is a kindness to the audience, to spare them the black bile of realism and instead give the full blood and catharsis of Tragedy.

The moral of course is that there is a better way: the community should provide free healthcare, making fair decisions about what can be provided. For a UK audience, this moral would be obvious, as would be the follow-on of: protect the NHS and the Welfare State, it's a good thing.

Good-Loop Unit