The Write Stuff

Mr Hat (James Bachman), an old-Etonian army Colonel, is sitting in a double seat on a train and reading a newspaper, preferably the Telegraph. Mr Cap (James Pooley), a rather nerdish yet sly loony, mimes his way along the carriage and sits down next to him.
Hat ignores him.
CapWould you by any chance be interested in the secret and arcane art of graphology?
HatNo, I think by no chance would I be interested in the secret and...
Cap...arcane art of graphology.
CapWell, "graphology" comes from two ancient source words: "ology", meaning "the study of", and the word "graph", meaning "graph". Hence, "graphology", the study of graphs.
HatGo away.
CapWell, no. You see, unfortunately the ancient source of these particular words was an unreliable one, because "graphology" actually means the study of handwriting.
Hat ignores him.
(Louder.) Yes, and I see that a man of your discerning tastes can begin to see the advantages of such an undertaking almost immediately.
No reaction.
(Louder and closer.) For through graphology, one is given profound insights into the workings of one's very soul—nay! (He pulls the paper away and puts his nose inches from Hat's face.)—into one's destiny.
HatWhat do you want?
CapWrite something and I'll predict your future.
Hat(Sees the light) Oh! You mean... I'll be able to find out... when you're going to leave me alone?
CapMost likely so. All will be revealed through the mystical art of graphology! All I require is a sample of your handwriting—your signature, for example—on this piece of paper.
He holds up a big rectangular sheet of paper drawn up like a cheque for a thousand pounds, with a blank space for a signature.
CapJust sign here.
Hands over cheque and a big texta. Hat signs in bold, deliberate strokes.
HatThere you are.
Cap(Quickly.) Thank you.
He grabs the cheque and holds it up to the side to look at it, in a way so the audience can see that Hat has signed with a big "X".
CapHang on a minute... that's an X. Why?
HatNo, it's just an X. Not an X-Y.
CapNo; I said, why X?
Hat(Confused) Z-Y-X?
CapNo... why did you write an X there?
HatIt's my signature.
CapYour signature is an X? Wh... (he doesn't say it)...how come?
HatWell, I never did get around to learning how to read and write, so I'm afraid you'll just have to make do with an X.
CapCan't read and write? But... but you were just reading the newspaper.
Hat(Indignant) Well, of course. I can still read numbers. And the letter X. You can get quite a bit out of a newspaper with just those. Look here; take this article for example. Now, it's about someone who's... aged 29... and somehow he's got something to do with £100,000. And look, there's an "X" word. Probably saying he's X-cited to have £100,000, no doubt. Good comfortable income. And here you are—Real Estate. A nice looking home, 2 something 3 something, with something to do with the number 78, and they're asking only £2,474,981. Or is that the phone number. Anyway, the next time I'm after a house with a whole stack of somethings for only something pounds, I'll just ring that number, or something, and Bob's your uncle.
CapThat he may be... but look—you seem a successful man. Why is it you can't read or write? Is it dyslexia?
HatWhat lexia? I don't see any lexia. It's quite straightforward; I just decided at Eton that I'd be better off building up my old boys network than doing any actual work. Or as we were then, young boys.
CapYou went to Eton?
HatI was made head prefect. Of course, not being able to read or write I encountered a few difficulties at Oxford...
Hat...But mostly I stuck to those things which required only numerical skills, like maths and bribery.
HatAnd of course I've never had any trouble at the treasury.
CapWell you wouldn't, would you.
HatNo... Well I've signed my name. Predict away.
He grabs the paper from Hat and finds the horoscope section.
Cap"Today is a good day for solving marital problems, but be cautious before lending your car to a friend. The twenty-first of the month may find your sister in the family way, and with Mars in the house of Aries you could become intimate with a herring."
HatWell I'm not married, I don't have a car and my sister's a nun. And as for the—
Cap hits him round the head with a herring.
CapI was right about the herring.


First performed by Three Men and a Penguin (who modified the original a little to this form) at the ADC Theatre, Cambridge, November 1992.
This page: 12 February 2000; last modified 6 September 2002.

©1992, 2000 Rory Ewins