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Sunset
one-woman play
"utterly convincing portraits of love" reviews


Produced: London 2013, Edinburgh 2019
Published*: Arbery Books 2016



"How well do you know those closest to you?"

Sunset began as a short story in my collection First and Fiftieth and was turned into a play for the trilogy Californian Lives, set in that state in the 1990s. It was rewritten to be set in the UK for the 2019 production at the Edinburgh Fringe. At the end of the day a grandmother remembers her first date, the man she married and their lives together.
Extracts (US version)


Another fine evening, David. A beautiful sky. Pale, pale blue with clouds like cotton candy.


Remember when we first moved here? Every evening I'd come in here to watch the sun go down. The first few times you joined me. Then you said one sunset was like any other and you had better things to do. I probably did too. But it's an old woman's privilege to do what she wants, especially if what she wants is to do nothing at all. Besides, why else had we moved here, if not for evenings like these? So most times I'd sit by myself and watch the day end. Only the last few months have been different, you beside me, holding my hand as the light fades and the mountains disappear.


Do you remember the first time we held hands? The Goldrusher at Magic Mountain. Our first date. I'd asked you to take me there and you were not impressed. You were a young lawyer going places and sitting on some damn roller coaster wasn't one of them. But you took it in your stride. "Sure," you said and took me there.


Performing rights
2013 poster, London
2019 poster, Edinburgh
That day was so hot. You were sweating and trying not to show it. Kids all around us screaming, but I didn't hear them. All I saw and heard was you, five foot ten, slim and handsome, quiet and polite. Pigheaded too, though it took me time to find that out. Anyhow, you waited till I was seated with my skirt tucked under me, then you got in, pulled down the safety bar and, without even asking, took my hand.




Then the children came and changed my life. They lost me my job and my freedom and they almost lost me my husband. I wish I could have loved them all from the first moment I felt them stir. Equally, blindly, overwhelmingly. I tried, God knows I tried, but it wasn't joy they brought me; it was responsibility and resentment.


The children turned me into my mother. Every morning she stared at me from the bathroom mirror. When I spoke to them, it was her voice I heard. I loved my mother but I wanted to be myself. But with each diaper I washed and every tantrum I soothed, I felt myself slipping further and further away.




I started my own business. Not just as an agent, but buying, selling and renting too. I wanted to be as good as that first mistress of yours. I proved myself her equal in more ways than one. Robert was as good-looking as Rock Hudson in his Doris Day days. Unlike Rock Hudson, he was married. And unlike you, he could talk as well as listen.


I would call him when the office was empty. We would meet for lunch in Fremont or San Josť, then we'd go through the pretense of my showing him houses before checking into a motel. The first few times I returned home guilty, horrified that I was betraying you and the children. Then I saw, as years before you must have seen, that we can keep our emotions in separate compartments. In the evenings and at weekends there were you and the children. The days were for Robert.


We might have married, if we had both been single. He asked me once; we were both relieved when I said no. It ended soon after and I wondered about another affair. With someone different: a younger man or an artist; even a black man or foreigner. Of course they were fantasies. An African-American? Too many people would notice. A toy boy? He would have wanted too much or offered too little. Besides, by then you knew. An old letter from Robert at the back of a drawer.



* Californian Lives, which includes the script of the original version of Sunset, is out of print.
Pdfs of the US and UK scripts are available for £1.


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