Student Playwright Spotlight: 'Without a Punchline' by Rory Mackenzie

We here at Tribe Theatre are constantly impressed by the quantity and quality of student playwrights in St Andrews and want to help showcase their talent by publishing snippets of their work. On the Rocks presents us with an amazing opportunity to do this because not only are the theatre productions in the Student Arts Festival produced, directed, and acted in by St Andrews students, but some are also written by students! So we contacted the writers of these shows and talked with them about their experience in theatre as well as writing in general and asked them to send us segments from their shows.  Without a Punchline is the theatrical debut for first time director and playwright Rory Mackenzie. It goes up on Wednesday the 10th of April at 8pm in Venue 2: Rory: This is my first foray into the mysterious world of ‘the theatre’ and all I can say is that it’s a more intoxicating place to be than I had anticipated. Frighteningly so at times. “But what took you so long Rory?” I hear literally no one ask. Well no one, I can only reply that it was not until I came across St Andrews’ very own buzzing theatrical community that I was inspired to contribute, in my own small way, to what is a very exciting student arts culture. I feel privileged to be working with and among such a talented bunch of people. And if Without a Punchline goes well then I look forward to working with more of them, and if it doesn’t go well then heck I’ll probably still give it another go.


Show Summary: “Norman Sullens, a struggling comedian with a struggling marriage, is approaching the biggest gig of his career. The problem is he has no jokes. Obsessive drinking, the impeding arrival of his mother-in-law and a nervous hallucinatory breakdown all come out in one night of hilarious poignancy and antagonizing one liners.” 

Excerpt from Without a Punchline

Norman-         [Slurs and shouts] Hello, hello? Honey, yeah I'm not going to make it home tonight. There has been an, eh, unavoidable conflict of schedule. You understand honey, don’t you?Mother-in-law-[Shrill] Who is this speaking?Norman-         Unavoidable, yeah. I know you’ve got that old bat there but you’ll just have to ignore her all on your own tonight.Mother-in-law-What on earth? I demand to know right now who this is.Norman-         It’s your husband Mary, you remember your husband, Norman, yeah? Well that’s me.Mother-in-law-Oh you wretched man. And why, pray tell, can’t you make it home tonight?Norman-         Well, look baby I got into a fight with this baby seal and his bartender friend-Mother-in-law-Ah yes, bar. That was the word I needed to hear. That explains everything.Norman-         Hey Mary, you sound funny. Did you do something with your hair?Mother-in-law-This isn’t Mary you blithering idiot, this is her mother. And we are currently both waiting for you to come home because Mary has cooked a delicious meal of-Norman-         Of live goat?Mother-in-law-No, not of goat. Why goat?Norman-         Of puppy dog tears?Mother-in-law-Why you foul man.Norman-         Well, whatever it is it I advise you season it with as much gratuitous salt and fat and unnecessary shocks as possible. Thereby fulfilling your promise.Mother-in-law-I don’t follow. But then why should I follow the mad ravings and rantings of a drunkard like yourself who, even on the odd occasion when he is sober, only ever aspires to be a professional clown? I have never heard the like of it.Norman-         I may be drunk, but you are ugly. And tomorrow I will be sober while you will be-Mother-in-law-Yes, that’s Winston Churchill, dear. So not particularly original.Norman-         [Pause] Can you put Mary on?Mother-in-law-No.Norman-         What do you mean no?Mother-in-law-There has been an unavoidable conflict of schedule and she can’t come to the phone. You’re talking to me instead.Norman-         Oh I see what you did there. You referenced something I said earlier and then you gave it an ironic and witty twist. You’d make a terrific comedian.Mother-in-law-But at the risk of being a terrible husband. Speaking of terrible husbands Norman, when you going to give me a grandchild? I would so awfully like to tell my girlfriends that I’ve finally acquired a grandchild.Norman-         Yeah, about that. There’s something I really need to tell Mary. Some news I got today, which might explain why I'm here. So if you could give her the phone.Mother-in-law-I'm sure I can pass the message on.Norman-         No, it’s something that belongs between husband and wife.Mother-in-law-Oh, Mary has no secrets from me.Norman-         Then Mary can tell you herself.Mother-in-law-[Pause] I see.Norman-         It took you long enough. logo  Play and Bio by Rory Mackenzie. Reporting by Emily Grant.Photo credit goes to On the Rocks. The show summary is taken from the On the Rocks 2013 Programme.