Taking Care of Business: Act Three

25th April 2021

Nicholas Young (Elvis) & Martin O’Shea (the Colonel). Original Berlin cast

ACT THREE

     Elvis appears. He goes over to the TV’s and repeats his movements from Act One, but without any enthusiasm. Finally, he goes to a chair and slumps down. On a table he sees an old pizza box, with some left-overs. He picks one piece and eats, but mechanically, his jaws moving in a uniform rhythm, also without enthusiasm or pleasure. There is more debris in the room and rubbish on the floor. After his food, Elvis just sits staring vacantly into space.

     Enter Colonel, slowly, with a sideways glance, a look of pity and confusion rather than disgust.    

Col: Well, I’m still here. I was re-instated in my post. For the sake of peace and quiet, I apologised and promised not to do it again, a promise I have every intention of keeping, I might add … my back was aching for days afterwards. I left my girlfriend or at least tried to … she wanted to break up with me. Something about me not being so much fun anymore, no sense of adventure. Work’s the same. I no longer bother to speak about what’s going on in my life … I merely listen to others drone on. I’ve developed a whole series of gestures and non-committal phrases like these …

(demonstrates various movements of head and body to match his words)

You don’t say; no, really ? Well, whatdoyaknow ? How do YOU feel about that ? What do YOU want to happen …Thanks for coming, hope to see you again, real soon … When I come home … it’s this. The work has dried up and so has he. No-one seems to want an Elvis, anymore. I felt in some way responsible for his depression. I tried to cheer him up by doing things like this …

(to Elvis)

Hey, Elvis, I put some flyers around town and some adds in papers, how about leaving Graceland for a while and going back on the road ? You know your public needs you.

(addresses audience)

we got a little response … we were put on a short list for a walk-on part in a TV add … Elvis likes TV, but they chose to go with a George Michael look- a-like in the end.

Elv: Won’t they get a surprise when they go to the can !

Col: Right ! Who needs it ? Walk-on parts ! Opening shops selling any old tack.

Elv: You know, I think you’re right there, boy. I shouldn’t be limiting myself to small commerce. I have a higher calling. Doggone right, you know, I’ve got it, I know what I have to do … call the Limo, Colonel, we’re off to … the Reichtstag ! (1)

Col: Say what ?

Elv: Yeah, I’m gonna offer my services to the state, hell knows they could use them. What do those politicians know about real life ? C’mon let’s go see ol’ man … er, who’s the big boss man, these days ? Is that big mother still there ? (2)

Col: No, there’s a new kid on the block. And that kid’s a woman.

Elv: Hilary ? Man, she’s cute. Love that hair-band thing.

Col: No, not Hilary. Not cute, either.

Elv: But a woman ?

Col: More or less. Give or take, though you’d probably want to take more than give. Name’s Merkel.

Elv: “Urkel” ? Oh, well, I be damned if I’ll go then. Wait till they get a President worth clambaking … can’t have a man like me wasting photo-ops with a two-bit cow-faced in-bred hillbilly.

Col: (To audience) Then I had an idea and bear in mind that I’m getting increasingly desperate. This is something I tried a few weeks back.

(To Elvis)

Hey, Elvis, Paul McCartney’s outside, he wants so much to meet you. Can you find the time to give him an audience ?

(A mere nod from Elvis. Colonel goes off stage and returns presently, dressed as a Beatle, dark suit and Beatle wig. Throughout, he speaks with an exaggerated Liverpool accent.)

Col: All right there, Mister Presley, honour to meet ya, like, it really is, fab, gear and groovy. Me and the lads got all your records, we really love you, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, like every time we write a song, we think, “how would it sound if Elvis sang it ?”

Elv: Better.

Col: Hey, you could be right there, Cock.

Elv: Bet your arse I’m right.

Col: So, which one of us is your favorite … everyone has a favorite Beatle ? Is it me ?

Elv: None of you.

Col: Oh, ‘ey, ain’t you a one, hey, a right Bobby Dazzler. Is it me ? It’s normally me. All the girls like me.

Elv: Boy, you sure as hell look like a girl. Whoa … I like the drummer … Bongo. He’s all right. ‘Course, he’s not the best drummer in the world.

Col: “In the world” ? He’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles. Ta-da ! An oldie but goldie. But can I ask you, where does your talent come from. People ask me all the time to …

Elv: Stop talking ?

Col: Oh, you do like a laugh, oh, ‘ey, fab, like, gear, WWHHHHOOOOOHHHHHHHHH

Elv : No, boy, I mean … stop talking ! You can get a signed photo on your way out. It’s my time to commune with the higher power now. An’ if you wanna know where my gift comes from, well, I suggest you get your skinny, white arse down to the local Baptist church. Randy Scouse git !

Col:

(To audience, as he removes his Beatle garb)

I gave it my best shot, what do you expect ? It got to the point where I was past caring, I thought I’d just let him rot, what’s it to me ? If he couldn’t pay his rent, I’d sling his fat arse out of the joint. ‘Course, I might need some help, someone with a JCB, maybe, but then … something happened. I was at work, drying glasses, when this guy comes in. He orders a beer and we strike up a conversation, you know, I’m thinking about the tips, well, this guy, he’s talking about his house and he’s got some light switch, which, I dunno, either it worked, or only sometimes, doesn’t matter … this guy’s talking to me … about light switches ! I don’t know the guy and he’s not drunk, he just goes on and on and on, he presses the switch one way, on comes the light, then when he tries it the opposite way, the light stays on, that kinda thing … and I’m LISTENING TO HIM ! I’m trying to follow him, see where he’s going with this … then it struck me … OK, the Ku’Damm (3) is hardly the road to Damascus, but this night, could I honestly say that my flatmate was any crazier than this guy, Mr Off-Switch ? Or any of the others in that sad and sorry place ? The guy playing video games all day long ? The girl who puts all her hope in computer-dating ? Anyone who’s ever gone to a Karaoke bar ? Maybe he had the answer … he felt that his life simply wasn’t good enough so he did something about it … little extreme for some tastes, I grant you, but … he did something. He was happy … was … so who was I to judge ? He made people laugh and, for a time, forget their own lives, their own problems. You know, I think people envied him. Really. He had the balls to be what they wanted to be. HE’S NOT ELVIS … he knows that. Did I have any better solutions, any answers, any … thing ? The next day, a letter arrived which gave me an idea. It was actually a bill for 46 Euro that’s 45 for the pizza and 1 for the stamp. I phoned and put a little proposition to them. They could have Elvis eat there every night for a week. I got him a booking …                   

Elv: What’s that you say, boy ?

Col: Elvis, you listen and listen good. 

(Speaks in a heavy, Southern accent)

I’m an old army man and I’m used to discipline. Now I’ve been good to you, almost too good, lettin’ you enjoy the fruits of your labour, an’ all. But heavens to Murgatroyd, they want you ! Your public’s crying out … they’ll be banging on the doors… Elvis, you’ve got to throw a little bone once in a while. I’ve got you booked into a week’s residency and by golly, you’re gonna do it.

Elv: A gig ?

Col: You betcha a gig.

Elv: Enough to keep us here, safe in Graceland ?

Col: More pizza than even you can imagine … but ya gotta get back into shape, son, back into motion.

Elv: Yeah, I have to … warm up a bit, that’s all. Why I can hear the crowd now … faint but expectant … murmuring. I can feel the excitement mounting … the lights, the make-up people running around, the choir doing their scales, musicians tuning. I gather my children around me for a little prayer, the audience getting louder and louder, sweat beginning to pour. I’m calm, gotta keep my people under control, but my heart’s pounding. I owe so much. People living their humble, God-fearing lives, have this one night to get a taste of, a glimpse of … something … higher. They need me … they need me to show them the way, to give them hope, belief, happiness … they need my love … they deserve … my love.

(Colonel slowly exits during Elvis’ speech. As Elvis reaches the end, ‘If I Can Dream’ comes on so that he can go immediately into his routine. He mimes along to the entire song. There should be no parody in the performance. Elvis can give out towels or flowers to women and as the music ends, the play finishes and lights go down.)

Notes

(1) Reichtstag – the German Parliament building.

(2) A reference to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl

(3) Ku’Damm the main shopping road in west Berlin

Adult Class, Level 3: The Times They Are A-Changing

2nd December for 3rd December 2019 AEF Listening p. 72 & Review p. 103

This block of lessons is something of a mixed bag; there’s a long listening piece, a review with a chunk of text, and a printed scenario for speaking practice. Listening is perhaps the hardest. Consequently, the students can be less than engaged with the lesson, faces fall and participation plummets. Although my hands are tied – I have to teach this assigned lesson – I can endeavour to bring it alive, take it off the page and into context.

To kick off – let’s go over the highlighted text and focus on ‘less than’.

In plain English, I would say, “The students will be bored.” This is rather hard and sets a negative tone so, using British politeness, I soften the language. We practised a similar technique in a previous lesson. To recap, how would you describe this gentleman:

Image result for fat man

We can all see that the gentleman could benefit from going to the gym and maybe reducing his intake of unhealthy food, but we want to be polite and not blunt (or indeed, rude). Consequently, we would say:

“He’s not the thinnest man in the world.”

Here’s how it works – we take the negative adjective (here, and excuse the impolite word, it would be ‘fat’, maybe even ‘obese‘), then apply the opposite (‘thin’) and use it in the superlative form (thin, thinner, thinnest). We simply form the sentence by saying that the subject IS NOT the opposite superlative form – he IS NOT the thinnest man … Try these two for practice – there may be more than one negative adjective you could use:

Image result for Urkel
Image result for confused by computer

Now, today’s expression (and expressions are vital for boosting students’ English up to the next level) – ‘less than’ – what sentences could you make here ? The subject could be the man, the film or, more generally, cinema today.

Image result for bored by film

Examples: The man is less than excited by the film // The man is less than engrossed with the movie // The film is less than thrilling // Films today are less than intelligent.

This item comes from China:

Image result for bad product from China

Products from China are less than perfect // less than top quality // less than well-made. Finally:

Image result for Terrible karaoke singer

Movin’ on; Tonight’s listening is about a ‘boys’ night out’. What do you think that means ? If they had a friend visit Sai Gon and he asks for a ‘boys’ night out’, where would they take him ?

Image result for Food shopping
Shopping in a supermarket ?
Related image
Bui Vien backpacker street ?
Image result for saigon opera
Sai Gon Opera House ?
Image result for visiting relatives in hospital
Visting elderly people in hospital ?
Image result for clubbing in Asia
Going to a club and meeting new people ?
Image result for library
Late night at the library ?

How do you think this man spent his boys’ night out ?

Image result for massive hangover

And now for something completely different; what do you think of this man ?

Image result for bob dylan in hoodie

What’s My Line. I will pretend to be this man answering questions truthfully, and the class have to guess what this man does.

Firstly, are the following true or false ?

This man is said to be worth $180 million.

He is married to the Queen’s grand-daughter

He was arrested in 2009 because the police thought he was a homeless person.

He travels a lot for work, around the world.

In 2016, he tried to become President of the USA

He has a Noble Prize for Literature in 2017 although he has only published two books.

Class must now ask open questions and from my responses, have to guess why I am famous.

He is, of course, a singer-songwriter, an icon of the 1960s, and still releasing music to this day.

Here’s one of Dylan’s early songs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90WD_ats6eE

Now the students chance. In small groups, they can select a famous person and the other team(s) have to guess who they are. We can limit the guessing to a certain number of questions, or fix a time limit.

A variation on this game is to have a student sit in front of the board and write a name behind them. The student has to ask question and the rest of the class can only answer ‘Yes,’ or ‘No.’ For example, I could write HARI WON and the student could ask:

Am I a man ? // Am I alive // Am I famous ? // Am I old ? // Am I on TV ? // Do I play sports professionally ? // Do I act ? // Am I in the news a lot ? // etc