Folk songs have long intrigued me, both for their memorable events and characters, and for their strange universal applicability. Many of them are based on real life incidents, then the song takes the occurrence into whole realms of meaning, elevating those particular people into folk who’ve done this stuff in all sorts of times and places. A great example is ‘Duncan and Brady’, aka, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, aka ‘Been on the Job Too Long’.
It all began when Police Officer James Brady was shot dead in the Charles Starkes Saloon in St. Louis, Missouri in 1890. Harry Duncan was convicted of the murder, and later executed. But there remains some suspicion that the real killer was the bar owner, Stark.
My play dramatizes this story, and also stages the universal applicability of the tale. We see the original St. Louis killing, then another version in 70s London, then another long in the future. Sometimes it’s the black man getting the blame, sometimes it’s an Irishman, sometimes they even blame an outdated model of robot. Seems like this stuff is never going to stop.
Because some of the 21st Century characters were AI, I had to do a fair amount of research into how all that might work. I'd never written a play using purely monologues before. so I gave that a go, meaning all of these people tell you their stories from their own particular point of view.
1890 New Orleans. Officer James “King” Brady is throwing his weight around in a downtown saloon. Barkeeper Duncan gets fingered for the crime. Years after he is hung, Charles Stark makes what sounds very much like a death bed confession.
1970s London. Another barman named Duncan, another murdered cop named Brady, another man takes the rap for a fellow named Starke’s crime.
Late 21st Century, Greater China. A.I. Lawdroid Brady (model K.I.N.G) is terminated and it appears that an outmoded Roboto model, Duncan, did the deed. Only old businessman Chiang Starke knows the truth…
Casting requirements: 3m
Premier: Theatre N16, Stoke Newington, London 26-27 May, 2015
Cast: Joel Arnold (Duncan), Mark Hyer (Brady), David Patrick Stucky (Starke)
Directed by Matthew Bosley
Produced by Jamie Eastlake for TheatreN16
Revival: North London Literary Festival, Middlesex University, May 2016
Cast: Edmund Dehn (Starke), Andy Umerah (Duncan), Ben Woodhall (Brady)
Directed by Benet Catty
Produced by Middlesex Creative Writing Students for North London Literary Festival
Revival: Talos II: Science Fiction Theatre Festival of London at Bread & Roses Theatre, Clapham, London, 23 March 2018
Cast: Radostin Naydenov (Brady, Starke), Stefano Puppio (Duncan, Starke)
Directed by Simone Giustinelli; Costumes by Kinga Pietraszek; Lighting by Geraldo Monteir
Produced by Christos Callow for Cyberphoric
Tom Hayes performing two Brady monologues for Sci-Fi Theatre conference ‘Stage the Future’ at Royal Holloway in 2014: