A Ten-Minute Play by Shane Worrell
ZACH, the incoming communications officer at the Ministry of Peace
ALICE, the outgoing communications officer at the Ministry of Peace
STANWELL, the communications department head at the Ministry of Peace
The scene is a comfortable, lightly furnished office, typical of a high-ranking government official. The wall is adorned with posters, including one that reads “PEACE, FREEDOM, DEMOCRACY”, and a portrait of a political leader. The door into the room is R., and there is a main desk in the middle facing R. A second desk, designed for an assistant, faces the audience.
[On the rise of the curtain, Stanwell is sitting at the main desk, while Alice hovers around the second desk, packing up belongings and rifling through paperwork to indicate she is leaving. Zach enters through the door.]
STANWELL (with gusto): You’ve made it! Welcome to the Ministry of Peace.
You must be Zach.
ZACH: (jovially): Reporting for duty, sir.
ALICE (sniggers): Reporting for duty? So you’re the new conscript.
ZACH (turning to Alice): I’m the new communications officer. Who are you?
ALICE: The old communications officer.
ZACH: I see. (Whispering) Why are you leaving?
STANWELL (moving towards Zach to interrupt): Alice is pursuing other avenues of professional covenant.
ZACH (looking back and forth between the two): What does that mean?
ALICE: I quit.
STANWELL (cutting in): It was a mutual agreement to withdraw from engagement – Alice needs to explore external funding and political streams, independent of our peace-promoting efforts.
ALICE: I was frog-marched out of here last Friday.
ZACH (probingly, turning to Stanwell): Bit aggressive for the Ministry of Peace, isn’t it?
STANWELL: Our human resource liaison officers—
ALICE (interrupting): Hired goons.
STANWELL: —carried out an instant peace assurance dispersion exercise.
ALICE: I was severely manhandled. Once you quit, you’re an immediate national security threat – the next cyber-terrorist until you’re off the premises.
ZACH: That’s extreme.
STANWELL: Cyber-terrorism is very extreme.
ZACH: Why are you back?
ALICE: They saw how messy my desk was and demanded I return to clean it.
ZACH (jovially, to Alice): So I get to meet my predecessor.
ALICE (nodding): Yup.
ZACH (smiling): Tell me everything.
STANWELL (moving closer to Zach and putting an arm around his shoulder): The past is in the history books, my boy. Forward thinking. Future projections.
ZACH (unsure): Right.
STANWELL (enthusiastically): Think of this as embracing fresh synergies. You, the new communications officer, and me, the Ministry of Peace’s communications department Head.
ZACH: Head what?
STANWELL: That’s right, the Head.
ALICE (sniggers): Wait till you meet the Peace Council’s Chair.
STANWELL: Chair . . . yes do take a seat, lad.
(Stanwell points to a seat facing the audience next to the main desk. Zach walks over and sits down. Stanwell joins him by sitting on the other side of the desk.)
STANWELL: Allow me to properly introduce myself – I’m Stanwell.
(The two men exchange a handshake.)
ZACH: Is that your first or last name?
STANWELL (proudly): It’s a fusion of both. A forward-reaching amalgam that appeals to Generation Tech-ers. It’s my handle. My digital handprint.
ALICE: They’re very (gestures quotation marks with hands) “hip to the groove” here.
ZACH: How so?
ALICE: They made me use “hip to the groove” in a press release targeted at young people. It was a military recruitment drive.
ZACH (looking to Alice, suspiciously): Military recruitment drive?
STANWELL (interrupting): Here at The Ministry of Peace we’re proud of what we do.
ZACH: You conduct military recruitment drives?
(Stanwell stands up, moves to the front of the desk and faces the audience.)
STANWELL (boastfully, gazing into space): We facilitate peace as part of a proactive, overarching engagement strategy.
ALICE (coldly): Their business is war.
STANWELL (oblivious): Yes, Zach, The Ministry of Peace delivers the public the crucial information relating to national prosperity.
ZACH: That sounds more like it.
STANWELL: We’re exponents of world’s best practice – democracy-wise, freedom-wise and sovereignty-wise.
ZACH (uneasy): Right.
STANWELL (turning to Zach): You’re a recent graduate, yes? Ivy League, I understand?
ZACH: Not exactly . . . I’m from Ivy Creek. I studied at a community college there. Got a good, honest education.
ALICE (muttering while rifling through paperwork): You mightn’t be indoctrinated enough for their liking.
STANWELL (gazing into space again): Here at The Ministry of Peace, we promote peace – without fear or fervour.
ZACH: Don’t you mean favour?
ALICE (sarcastically): Oh no, things can get pretty dry.
STANWELL (ignoring question, pacing back and forth across stage): We’re proactive in ensuring information we dispense to the media is succinct.
ALICE: They give nothing away.
STANWELL: And transparent.
ALICE: The jargon in press releases is so empty it’s often completely see through.
STANWELL: But what we value most here at The Ministry of Peace is … information rationalization.
ALICE: They carefully censor all the juicy stuff.
STANWELL (stopping to look at Zach again): What inspires you as a communications specialist?
ZACH: I’ve always wanted to be a journalist, actually. I like story telling.
ALICE: Oh, they tell stories here. Fairytales.
STANWELL: Perfect. We’re so proactive we forward plan happy endings – we call them mutually beneficial risk-assessed outcomes.
ZACH: Who’s the mutual party?
STANWELL: Our engagement partner.
ALICE: The resources-rich Third World country we invaded.
ZACH: Not the Northern Provinces War?
ALICE: You got it.
STANWELL (paces again): The northern provinces have been breeding grounds for barbaric enemies of freedom for too long. It’s exciting to make a difference in a country whose civilians dream of being . . . more like us.
ZACH: I’m all for democracy. But when will the war end?
STANWELL (pauses): When will peace begin, you mean?
STANWELL: Our strategic peace-building endgame doesn’t specify. Even if it did, it would be top secret.
ALICE: And if it weren’t top secret, it would be lost in all the jargon.
STANWELL (paces again): But our democracy building will incentivize our engagement partner to create conditions conducive to affirmative cross-border funding streams.
ALICE (moving towards front of stage, attracting Zach’s eye): Our big multinationals are already moving in. The locals will be exploited. Profits will be shifted into offshore tax havens – before eventually being funneled in full to the fat cats back here.
ZACH: (standing up and walking towards front of stage): Well, that doesn’t sound fair. (Turning to Stanwell). What’s my role in all this, as communications officer?
STANWELL (leaving desk and joining Zach at L. side): This is the Ministry of Peace – we forward promote civil harmony.
ZACH: What will I do?
STANWELL: You will forward promote civil harmony.
STANWELL: Where it’s needed.
ZACH: Which is where?
STANWELL: Well, to give you one off-the-cuff example . . . civil harmony is slightly fraught in the northern provinces.
ALICE: Since our invasion over there, it’s been full-scale civil war.
STANWELL (begins pacing again): In this role, you’ll write speeches for the Peace Minister and press releases for the media.
ZACH: Writing is my strength.
STANWELL: You’ll also deal with the Ministry of Defence.
ZACH: Are they in this building? I could go introduce myself.
ALICE (interrupting): They’ve shifted to the northern provinces.
ZACH: Overseas? Whose Ministry of Defence are they?
ALICE: Nothing to defend against here. We’re not the ones under attack, are we?
STANWELL (steps towards Zach to put arm around his shoulder again): We foster remote, collaborative and holistic governance.
ALICE: We’ve installed a puppet regime – we’re pulling the strings from this very building.
STANWELL (gazes into distance): Our engagement partner is moving towards free and fair elections – so we’re fostering the conditions for parliamentary democracy.
ALICE: Now that we’re done overthrowing their leader.
STANWELL (unperturbed): We’re still experiencing some operational challenges in the northern provinces.
ALICE: Insurgent groups have turned on each other – they’re even killing women and children.
ZACH: That’s horrible.
STANWELL: To counter, we’re implementing coordinated gravitational descents to safeguard freedom and sovereignty.
ALICE: We’re dropping bombs.
STANWELL (nodding): There are logistical challenges.
ZACH: Such as?
STANWELL: Collateral damage.
ALICE: Now we’re killing women and children.
STANWELL: It’s the inevitable flow-on effect of a mutually beneficial risk-assessed strategy.
ALICE: The WikiLeaks cables aren’t as wordy – I’ll send you a link.
ZACH: This is shocking.
STANWELL: Sometimes force is necessary to counter evil in its purest, most unadulterated form.
ZACH: But it sounds like it’s pretty violent on both sides.
STANWELL (defensively): Force, dear boy.
STANWELL: They use violence, we use force.
ZACH: What’s the difference?
ALICE: The side you’re on and how you write the speeches. The operative word being “you”.
STANWELL: As I said, we’re implementing strategic gravitational descents.
ZACH (overwhelmed): Didn’t you say they were co-ordinated gravitational descents?
ALICE: Like I said, dropping bombs.
STANWELL (paces again): You’ll also deal with the Ministry of Health.
ALICE: They work with the sick.
STANWELL: The Ministry of Employment.
ALICE: People who can’t get a job.
STANWELL: The Ministry of Water.
ALICE: Drought-stricken farmers.
ZACH: What do those departments have to do with the Ministry of Peace?
STANWELL: We employ a coordinated approach to information refinement and delivery.
ALICE: They’ve sacked hundreds and shifted their work onto . . . well, you now, I guess.
STANWELL: Collectivity enables us to capacity build.
ALICE: After two years writing that in press releases, I still don’t know what it means.
STANWELL (smugly): It allows us to streamline the information we disseminate. Quality over quantity.
ZACH: I’m all for that.
STANWELL (stopping, getting up close in Zach’s face): So . . . any questions?
ZACH: Umm . . . OK, sure. What are my prospects of career advancement?
STANWELL: That can be actioned in due course. You can upwards transition into a more technologically geared workspace – if you fully opt in.
ZACH (nodding): Sounds promising.
ALICE: You’ll be up on the sixth floor pressing buttons that launch drone attacks a million miles away.
ZACH (despondently): Seriously?
STANWELL: So there’s no need at all to endure before you procure here at the Ministry of Peace, Zach.
ALICE: You’ll wish you could try before you buy, believe me.
STANWELL: Zach, it’s great to have you on board. The culture here must already gel with your functionality style.
ZACH (undecidedly): Well, I’m all for freedom and democracy. But I’m really against war – and you seem to be up to your necks in it.
STANWELL (enthusiastically with arms flailing): Anything free comes at a price. Peace is a constant fight.
ALICE: Contradictions like that are why I’m leaving to study physics.
ZACH: Yeah, it’s just that . . .
ZACH: Well, I feel a bit conflicted about being here now. And the whole “communications” side of this communications officer role is confusing me.
ALICE: That’s the plan. If you’re confused, so is the public.
STANWELL: But you’ve already signed on, and we’ve got some important speeches to write for the Peace Minister. So come on, let’s get to it!
ZACH (dropping shoulders): I’ve made a commitment, I guess.
ALICE (whispering to Zach): You can give a week’s notice if you’ve been here less than a year.
ZACH: At least as an “officer”, I know I’ll be in this nice office – that much is clear.
STANWELL (interrupting): Oh, that’s the other thing I needed to tell you, Zach. We’ve stimulated our resources.
STANWELL: Spiral ascent and descent are the new parameters of our productivity – at least for junior officers, the kind inclined to (turning to Alice) … chatter more than is necessary.
ZACH: So . . .?
STANWELL: Your workstation is being reoriented, effective immediately.
ZACH: What does that mean?
ALICE: You’ll be waging this war from out in the stairwell. (Raising fingers in a “V” and heading towards the exit). Peace, man.