In the service of two kings, I fight bravely in two wars, I swing my…
Brian is an old man who lives in a seaside town in the south of England (Ilfracombe or something similar). The city itself is a character in the story as it has faded from it’s former glory that it experienced in its heyday may years ago, when it was a resort town that would have been grand and flooded with tourists in the summer months.
Now the town has lost it’s glory and is crumbling.
The people who live here are crumbling here too. There isn’t much pretty left, but you can see that it once was. In some ways, it is that mirrored experience that highlights the inevitable process of people fading away as we all fade away.
The story starts with the backdrop of this town. We see the opening sequence as Brian is leaving his house mid-morning and driving in his mobility scooter through the town, as he does daily.
As he drives through the old town, we get a glimpse into the world that he lives in and the people of that world. It is a grey day, but it is not raining. maybe a little bit windy. He is driving his scooter down to the seafront from his house to go to the Witherspoon’s pub for a cheap lunch. It is the kind of pub that is full of old, lonely men having a beer and sitting at the gambling machines for hours on end, not speaking with anybody.
Brian isn’t exactly like that. He was once a bright, happy kind of guy who loved to have a laugh, but life has worn him down into something that he doesn’t recognize. He is ritualistic about his day and lives alone in his small terraced house with a cat, whom he likes but never shows affection to. This is a nice signal of his transition throughout the story, as we see him at the end patting the cat and being affectionate to it.
When he arrives at the pub, we see that there is a world of people inside the pub, which is a Witherspoon’s, but we do not show that it is, but when you see it, you will know that is what it is if you’re British. In any case, it is clear that the patrons of the pub at this time of the year and this time of the day are regulars.
This is where we first see the exchange between Brian and Sally, the waitress at the pub. She plays a key role in this story, as it is due to her that Brian ends up doing what he does.
Sally and Brian see each other almost every day when he comes to the pub. She is quite opposite to him in her personality and her disposition. She is a positive person, trying to stay happy in her life, and Brian is almost the opposite. His life is okay, and he could be grateful for things, but he isn’t. He tends to behave in an embittered, gruff, reserved way. But Sally can see that just beneath the surface of Brian’s act, he is a kind, gentle, and fun man, but he keeps it guarded.
Brian lives alone with a cat, whom he isn’t particularly affectionate towards. He feeds it every morning but doesn’t pat it or anything. His wife either left him years ago. He has one daughter, whom he rarely sees. They don’t have a strong bond, but he loves her with all his heart. Now that he is older and has stopped working, he doesn’t have much more to think about than her. She lives in Bristol, which isn’t that far away. She works as a nurse and tends to use her night shifts, etc., as a reason not to come down to see him. He is always understanding of this on the surface, but he is saddened in his heart.
It is sally who plays the role of his daughter in many ways. However, sally also want’s to go off and live her life away from Ilfracombe. she is in her early 20s and works at the pub every day. she is beautiful but want’s to study fashion design at university or something and later on when brian learns that she may want to leave Ilfracombe, he takes the news badly. it breaks his heart a little bit because he has placed a lot of his daily happiness on sally in absence of his daughter.
This can be done by B roll, looking around his house and seeing photos of his life in years gone by. Pictures of his daughter, him calling her, and her not being able to answer.
So on this day, Brian arrives at the pub. Greets some regulars in passing. Parks his mobility scooter in the same place as usual. gets out with his walking stick and makes his way to the bar to see Sally, who is doing something under the bar. As he walks up, the music fades once he enters the pub, and then as he approaches the bar, Sally pops her head up from under the bar, and this is when we first see her.
She is happy and bubbly, and he is artificially gruff. They converse. She knows what he wants, as she has this conversation with him almost every day. He does the usual down at the pub and then goes back home that afternoon. Back to his cat and lonely house.
part of the mise en scene all the while was the summer festival flyers that are all around the town. there also pieces in the local newspaper regarding the performance competition applications.
Because he is negative, he criticizes basically everything and everyone around him. For that reason, he is criticizing something around Sally at the pub one day, and the local newspaper is sitting on the table with the competition advertisement facing upwards. Sally then kindly goads him into doing something about it.
This something is to form the synchronized driving team for the talent competition along with Danny the Plumber, one other, and (eventually) Paul. This is the spark and the end of the first act.
Sally manages to bait Brian into entering the talent contest. He was sitting in the pub one morning reading the local paper, which was advertising for acts to take part in the summer fete in Ilfracombe. On the paper, there is a picture of the ballet group posing for a photo and a write-up about how they are entering the contest and how there is prize money.
As usual, he is a slightly embarrassed person, so he and the friendship group that he has at the pub (other old men) kind of ridicule the competition and say, What are you supposed to do if you can’t dance? and make jokes about it. Sally chimes in and says, Well, maybe you can dance. They say, Oh, go on. How come most of us can’t even walk properly? She stops and thinks for a moment and considers that they use their mobility scooters in place of walking, so why cannot they use them to dance as well? So this is how the idea was born. out of her defending the idea of the competition and the bellet class and also challenging his naysaying attitude.
So they have several people: Danny the plumber, Brian, and Trevor, an ex-fisherman, and they need one another. This will end up being Paul, the veteran.
They have a problem; the problem is finding the extra person to be part of the team.
After this, we see him start to embark on the mission to achieve his target. He advertises in the local paper for people on mobility scooters to come to an audition. Whoever turns up is a bunch of misfits.
After putting an advertisement in the local paper, several people come to the lantern building wanting to be part of the team—old and young people—but none of them are the right person for the team. Then finally, when it appears that they are not going to be able to take part in the competition.
Just then, the door creaks open. In walks Paul’s wife, and somewhat reluctantly, Paul rolls in afterwards. He is missing part of his leg, but he is a young, handsome man. Articulate, polite, and just lovely. It is clear to see what his wife loves about him.
He thinks that because they were high school sweethearts from before, and then a couple while he was in the forces, that once he went on tour and got hurt, she is only staying with him because she can’t leave a cripple.
The veteran Paul. Paul is probably the most important character. He did a few tours of Afghanistan and Iraq. His tank hit an ied and most of one leg, and, as we find out later, his penis were blown off. He has retained only one testicle. His wife has seen the advertisement and has pushed him to come along. For this reason, he is on a mobility scooter.
His most powerful statement in the whole work is that he, through tears talks about his time on tour and the effect it had, he says “we leave heroes, but we come back monsters”.
The key idea here with him is that he needs to realize that he isn’t a victim; he is a survivor.
This profound insight comes from Danny the Plumber, who is a man of few words. But when he does speak, he usually says really profound things, but with an accent that makes him both confusing and funny.
Danny the plumber is the best friend of Brian, but he is from far north England, and the point is that no one can really understand what he is saying.
One exchange in practice, Danny says something in a pretty serious moment, Danny says something, no one understands it at all, and Brian says, “Exctly.”
because Paul has PTSD and is going through a very complex period in his life. That is when he tells them that he cannot do it. This is his lowest point in the story. This is when we see him expose his soul to the other men. This is the speech in which he says he cannot fuck his wife. They’ll never have kids. She’s going to leave me. It’s just a matter of time. And why wouldn’t she leave him?
Does he try to kill himself? This is the reason he cannot attend the practice session. A week later, he has a session with a counselor. She is a guardian angel. or is it the men? She is the one who is good at asking him questions. She has a way about her that is deeply maternal and masculine. They spent time walking through the park that overlooks the harbour in Ilfracombe.
In the end, the synchronized driving team doesn’t win, and the ballet dance company full of little girls in pink tutus wins, and that is for the best.
Brian’s daughter doesn’t come to see him in the competition, but Sally does after they had a fight about her leaving Ilfraombe. He will miss her, and it has broken his heart that she has to go, but he sees that if she doesn’t leave now, she will end up like all the other half-lives in that area who never managed to leave.
Paul and his wife announce that they are going to try to have a baby, as the doctors have said that it is possible.
Danny, Brian, and Trevor are going to continue as before, but with a new appreciation for what they have. Not lamenting what has been lost to time, but content with what time they have left and how they can spend it constructively.
The act ends with them back in the same place as they were before in the pub, but this time they are breathing and happy and not gruff and taking the piss out of everything.