First performed at Hampstead Theatre, London, on May 19, 2011. The production transferred to Trafalgar Studios on June 16, 2011.
Jim Ian Bailey
Deb Joanna Horton
Jo Kirsty Bushell
Sarko Calum Callaghan
Director: Maria Aberg
Designer: Naomi Dawson
Lighting: David Holmes
Sound: Carolyn Downing
Stage Manager: Sarah Cowen
Publication: Lloyd Malcolm, Morgan. Belongings. Oberon Modern Plays, 2011.. Drama Library PR6113. A43 B4 2011.
Setting: A home in Chippenham; a British Army camp in Afghanistan; during the war.
Language: Contemporary; a few English slang terms but nothing that impedes understanding; however, the odd turn of a phrase might be challenging for some
Yeh alright. Chucked it didenI?
Plot: Deb, a young lesbian soldier, returns home to Chippenham from Afghanistan, and attempts to make a place for herself while dealing with memories of the war and unresolved feelings for her parents and an old love—who just happens to be her dad’s new girlfriend. Through the characters of Deb, Jo, and Deb’s absent mother, the play deals with the role of women in the modern world as mothers, lovers, daughters, soldiers, etc. Although the issue are serious, there is humor in the grimmest of places. A late in the play act of violence seems both inevitable and yet unnecessary.
Representative Monologues: Monologues contain the first few lines and the last few lines; please consult the published text for the monologue in its entirety.
p. 39–40: Deb responds angrily to her father’s assertion that women don’t belong in the military because men can’t cope with women getting hurt.
Hold up—male soldiers ‘can’t cope’ with seein’ us injured? ‘Can’t cope?’ Oh fuck off. I’m sorry but if we’re in a battle situation—which by the way I have been in; I have been shot at and I have shot back. Just because it aint the official line don’t mean it don’t happen. [Lines cut] And I was carryin’ 50 pound of kit in 50 degree heat. Can you do that you fat bastard? Course you can’t ‘cos you aint trained. But I am. And someone gave me that chance and I took it and I proved that I was capable.
p. 49–50: Deb tells Jo how she used to wonder about the women in Afghanistan and what kind of sex they must have had with their husbands. Jo’s line can be cut.
When I was out there I would have to search the women. On patrol. I would do this and I never once found anything other than what you’d expect. A body. Arms. Legs. Breasts. [Lines cut] What kind of sex must they have with their husbands?
You’re interested in everyone’s business, aren’t you?]
Like. I’m looking at this woman and thinkin’ it must be pretty shit livin’ under all that cloth all the time. I’m thinkin’ her husband must be keepin’ her under lock and key. That their sex must be horrible. [Lines cut] Right there. In that moment. The two of them. Or am I assumin’ right? Is it cold, mechanical, brutal?
p.57: Jim defends his involvement in the porn business. Deb’s line can be cut.
Oh come on Deb. You’ve seen it. You’ve seen how dark it is out there. I’m on the surface of it. Not even scratchin’ it. I’m the tip of the flippin’ iceberg what’s gonna send us right down into the pits of hell/
/There are people out there with things in their head that you don’t even want to glimpse. The majority of people have thoughts every fuckin’ day that, if they ever acted on them, you’d be yellin’ for the return of capital fuckin’ punishment. [Lines cut] We like the base, the dirty, the wrong. We fuckin’ lust after it every waking hour. So why, when we’re all thinkin’ it, can’t we indulge in it? Just a bit? Just to relax? No hurtin’ no one. Just a man and his computer.
p.61–62: Deb talks about how when you get your kit, they take a death photo of you, the picture they send to the press if you’re killed in action, and make you write letters to your loved ones in case you don’t make it back. She talks about the letter she wrote to her mother. This extra long monologue ends the play.
When you go out you get your kit and they take your photo. We call them the ‘death photos’ because they’re the ones they will use to send to the press when you’re injured or killed. In my last tour they took the photo and I was blinkin’. Fucksake. They were in a rush so they wouldn’t let me do another and they were all like ‘better make doubly sure you don’t get killed then hadn’t you?’ [Lines cut]
What I didn’t write. And what I should have. Was. That I think that she has this, like, massive heart inside her and that no one’s let her use it properly. And that I’m sorry for not. For not standin’ up for her more.
She puts the letter back in her pocket.
I’ve been covered in this thin film of dust see? Not just in the desert. I’ve felt like my skin hasn’t been able to breathe.
p. 19–22: Sarko discusses his theory of the desert with Deb in Afghanistan, about how it’s insane to be killing people in a place where there’s so little life. Starts with
I’ve got this theory about the desert.
and ends with
p. 38–40: Jim expresses disbelief that Deb might have actually enjoyed being a soldier, doesn’t believe that women should be soldiers at all. Starts with
You sayin’ you actually wanted to do the stuff you did out in Afghanistan?
and ends with
Suddenly I’m really tired.
p.105–108: Jo apologizes to Deb for the less than stellar homecoming and they play word association, a game they have played many times before. Starts with
and ends with
Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism: (Note: article title links are to the online versions, mostly UW-only restricted unless designated as open access.)
(22 June, 2011). Army debut ranks high. The Evening Standard (London).
Billington, Michael. (23 June, 2011). Review: Theatre: Multifaceted women grapple with one-dimensional men: Belongings Trafalgar Studios, London 3/5. The Guardian (London).
Cavendish, Dominic. Gripping tale of skirmishes on all fronts. The Daily Telegraph (London).
Jones, Alice. (20 June, 2011). On the frontline in the battle of the sexes; Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s first West End play, ‘Belongings’, will confirm her as an exciting new talent, says Alice Jones. [open access] The Independent.
Purves, Libby. (23 June, 2011). Heart of darkness for a woman in male worlds; Theatre. The Times (London).