“One is left with the horrible feeling that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.” – Agatha Christie.

 

Port Moresby, 1945. In an aircraft hangar on the edge of the Australian naval base, a young mechanic works obsessively on a downed Japanese Zero. As the enemy aircraft slowly returns to life, it begins to speak to him in ways the other planes do not, driving a wedge between his best friend, an American pilot, and his superior, an Australian doctor.

 

As the War moves towards its devastating conclusion, the young mechanic is forced to ask questions with uneasy answers: If your enemy had face, would we still see it as an enemy? And what's the point of living war, if you can't live with yourself after?

Kodak 35

/ a play in one act /
written by jack richardson

CAST OF CHARACTERS

 

WILL, an Australian mechanic, late teens

RICK, an American pilot, early 20s

HOLIDAY, an Australian Medic, early 30s

 

                                                                                                                                                           

The action of the play takes place during the Pacific war, from 1942 to 1946.

 

The set is constructed to look like the interior of a darkroom, with lines of photographs, many hundreds of them, crossing the stage. There is also space for projection and shadow play.

                                                                                                                                                           

 

LIST OF SCENES:

 

SCENE ONE: Port Moresby. May, 1941.

SCENE TWO: HMAS Bendigo.

SCENE THREE: Port Moresby.

SCENE FOUR: HMAS Bendigo.

SCENE FIVE: Port Moresby.

SCENE SIX: Port Moresby. August, 1945.

SCENE SEVEN: HMAS Bendigo. September, 1945.

SCENE EIGHT: Port Moresby. October, 1945.

SCENE NINE: Hiroshima. January, 1946.

SCENE ONE: Port Moresby. May, 1942

 

 

The darkroom, strung with lines and lines of black and white photographs.

 

Will, moving among them:

 

WILL           This corvette was built at Cockatoo Docks in Sydney. Took a little over two months to complete - barely any time to build a boat

                   that big. We commissioned on the 10th of May after a few of days of speed trials up and down the harbour. Bendigo, they said,

                   was the fifth of this class to be completed in Australia, and had promise of being the best. Speed was clocked at 15.7 knots,

                   which wasn’t bad, but we had high hopes for more to come.

 

                   Slipped from the buoy on Friday 16th for a short “shake down” cruise. Ship’s company proceeded on seven days’ leave, in two

                   watches. The crew had settled down excellently and seemed a good mob… if a trifle wild. And then, on July 4th, the great day

                   arrived: we put to sea on the first lap of our journey to Singapore.

 

                   We arrived in Townsville after five days of perfect weather. The boys called the ship the “fair weather” ship, and we believed

                   the ship’s cat, Smokey (whom we stole in Melbourne) to be the cause of this.

 

Rick joins him, moving from picture to picture. Will lowers a fresh sheet of photographic paper into the first chemical bath and begins to agitate it. Throughout the following, he moves the developing picture from one bath to the next.

 

RICK          Wait. You stole a cat?

 

WILL          Borrowed it.

 

RICK          You just took it?

 

WILL          Well I didn’t, Merv did. She’s around someplace. Tawney fur, big eyes.

 

RICK          But you stole someone’s cat.

 

WILL          We’ll bring her back in one piece.

 

RICK          You boys really are from convict stock.

 

WILL          We put to sea after doing Townsville so that they’ll never forget us. That afternoon we sailed through Albany Pass: very narrow,

                   the widest part being half a mile, but so deep in spots the Queen Mary could pass right through. Far and away the most

                   beautiful spot in all the Australian coastline, with this one big house just inside the southern entrance. Someone told me the

                   name of the man who lives there, but it’s gone.

 

                   Here. He came out to watch us pass. On the veranda, with a glass in his hand and a dog at his feet.

 

RICK          I don’t see him.

 

WILL          Thought you needed sharp eyes to fly a Mustang?

 

RICK          That Kodak of yours wasn’t made for distance. The Contax II, however – that sports a lens by Mr. Zeiss himself. Thirty-five

                   millimetres of true European focus.

 

WILL          Not bad, I guess, for German stuff.

 

RICK          Never met a Kraut lens I didn’t like.

 

WILL          Not many swimming ’round Manila, to my knowledge.

 

                   We stored ship in Darwin on the 22nd and sailed out on the last lap of our journey, arriving in Singapore on the 30th after a

                   calm trip through the Dutch East Indies.

 

                   You been to Singapore?

 

RICK          Once. It was enough.

 

WILL          In what way?

 

RICK          The good way.

 

WILL          Right? Mad crazy.

 

RICK          You take all these yourself?

 

WILL          Most of them. When I can spare the film. Clean reels are hard to come by, unless you got someone in supplies.

 

RICK          All in all, a pretty impressive setup you got here for a ship short-stop.

 

WILL          A bunch of the Herald journos kept complaining about having to send their reels to Townsville to develop. This was an old radio

                   shed. Me and some of the boys pitched in to seal the windows. I did up the light. The journos get their film lab, and us

                   amateurs get to use their fixer when the fancy strikes.

 

RICK          What’s this place you’re all gathered in front of? Seems a bit above your pay-grade.

 

WILL          That’s Singapore’s premiere house of refreshment: the Union Jack Club.

 

RICK          I’ve not had the pleasure.

 

WILL          Benefits of a convict past. Not that we got much passed the front door.

 

RICK          Boats. Coast line. Booze bars. They let you take all these? The boys in brass?

 

WILL          Of course. Well… nah, not really. If the Japs ever come aboard, these are first things to go in the drink. Can’t risk them in

                   enemy hands, knowing who’s who about town, what ships are where, which coves we weigh anchor. But there’s one of us on

                   every ship, y’know.

 

RICK          One what?

 

WILL          A bloke with a camera, who likes marking time, like me.

 

RICK          You mean arm deep in grease and a smile on his face?

 

WILL          Grease is just my day job. Once we make shore, it’s all about the darkroom.

 

Rick finds a stack of mail among the pictures. Will checks on the developing image. He moves it to a fresh bath, sets a small egg timer, and agitates it again.

 

RICK          What’re these?

 

WILL          Oh, them? Just some letters from home.

 

RICK          Hope the news isn’t urgent - they’re not opened.

 

WILL          That so strange?

 

RICK          You kidding? I get a letter from home, I drop my bird outta the sky. And I mean that. Wheels-up nosedive, right on the beach.

 

WILL          Well go on, do the honours then.

 

RICK          You sure? If you gotta girl back home, I ain’t takin’ blame for no heat…

 

WILL          It’s hot enough at 30 above. And in case you forgot… (Both hands are in the chemical stop-bath)

 

RICK          All right, all right. But don’t say I didn’t ask…

 

                   “Our dearest William. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

                   Geez, kid - better late than never, huh?

 

                   “We hope this finds you safe and well, and enjoying your time in humid Port Moresby.”

 

                   What d’you reckon, Will? Hot enough for you?

 

WILL          Yeah, keeps the fixer loose.

 

RICK          Atta boy.

 

                   “Tropical summer must be quite a change from stuffy old Mel-born” /

 

WILL          “Melbourne.”

 

RICK          What you said.

 

                   “You’ll be happy to know your father’s Hay Fever has been quite tolerable this season, although his love of Granny Smiths has

                   inflamed his acid reflux.”

 

                   Jesus Christ. Colourful bunch.

 

WILL          You going to read it or not?

 

RICK          “The garage is doing well, though we miss your extra set of hands. You’ll be happy to know that your sister sat her exam last

                   Friday, and in typical Susan form, has passed top of her class. She plans to lodge her application with the Women’s Auxiliary

                   first thing Monday morning.”

 

                   Career girl?

 

WILL          Nursing.

 

RICK          A patriot. I like her. “Your father and I think she should take a position at the Alfred, but there’s no talking her round. You’ve set

                   a bad example for her, but we’re still very proud.”

 

WILL          Thanks Mum.

 

RICK          You’re welcome. “Stay safe and well, and please write to us soon. All our love and wishes…” Yeah yeah yeah… “Mom and Pop

                   Will Stanton.”

 

                   (Looking at the picture enclosed with the letter)

 

                   You got a nice family there, Will Stanton.

 

WLL          They finally sent one. ’Bout bloody time.

 

Will takes the picture from Rick, looks at it, smiles.

 

RICK           (Holding the letter) You got somewhere I should put this?

 

WILL          Oh, you can put that in the bin if you like.

 

RICK          A letter from home? In the trash? You sure about that?

 

WILL          There’s one for negatives by the door. Why? You think I should keep it?

 

RICK          Not to tell a man how to treat his own property, but a letter from home is something I’d think he’d want to hold on to.

 

WILL          That’s all right. I’ve got everything I need to hold right here.

 

Will looks at the picture again, then pegs it with the rest of the photos on a line. He looks at the collection, please at the range of memories it holds.

 

RICK          They told me you boys had an upside down way of thinking, but I think you take the cake. (The egg timer goes off.) Hey!

                   Showtime.

 

Will removes the finished photograph from the chemical bath. He looks at it; squints; turns it on its side; squints again.

 

WILL          What is that?

 

RICK          That, my friend, is the shark of the South Pacific, the bane of every ace to set foot in her skies: the A6M Mitsubishi Zero-class

                   fighter plane. Thirty feet long, twin mounted guns, kill rate: twelve to one; and she’s sitting six degrees off my stern, two fifty

                   hundred yards and closing.

 

WILL          Two fifty? That close?

 

RICK          Close enough to see the wind, pal.

 

WILL          You’re up there, flying, with this thing behind you, and you… you took its picture?

 

RICK          How could I not? Look at it! Cherry red eyes, oil sheen coating, shoulders green as polished glass. The speed! You can see it

                   move! Ain’t you ever seen anything so goddamn perfect in all your life?

 

A long beat as both admire the plane in the photograph.

 

An announcement is made over the Port PA system, calling a regiment to the yard.

 

RICK          Shit, that’s me, pal. I gotta make tracks. Thanks for this. I do appreciate it.

 

WILL          No worries. Do you mind if I make a copy? Full credit, of course.

 

RICK          Knock yourself out. And if I happen to come into another box of, oh, I don’t know, let’s say… 35 millimetre…?

 

WILL          In the interests of maintaining international relations, I expect you’d distribute such contraband among your fellow friends and

                   soldiers. For the war.

 

RICK          Oh, of course. For the war.

 

They shake hands.

 

RICK          Rick Miller.

 

WILL          Will Stanton.

 

RICK          Glad to know you, Will Stanton.

 

WILL          Same to you, Rick Miller.

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