Theatre Space

Chat # 1

Borough Road

Jenny & Gina

Weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, Gina wants to warn her friend, Jenny, what is coming to the UK. But not everyone shares her concerns.


Jenny is in a pub, talking with her friend, Gina, on the phone. Gina is in northern Italy, a month after the Lombardy outbreak. Also present is a male, middle-aged Pub Bore. 

GINA: (panicked) All I’m saying is get prepared. It’s coming! 

JENNY: What’s coming? You mean the virus? 

PUB BORE: Have you seen you’re not allowed to shake hands any more? You have to do, like, an elbow bump, or this Wuhan toe tap! Ridiculous! 

GINA: Is someone there? 

JENNY: I’m just in the pub. 

GINA: Listen to me. You need to get out of there. In the red zones here, all the pubs are closed. All the theatres, all the cinemas, all the churches. Smaller shops are closing. Soon, only supermarkets and pharmacies will be open. If we go out, we have to stay apart from people. And you can go to jail if you go outside for no reason. You can only go out for shopping or exercise. There are cops everywhere. And the queues… people are panic buying soap. Toilet roll. Pasta! Can you imagine? Jenny moves through the pub to a quieter spot. 

JENNY: How are you running out of pasta in Italy? What’s happened? I thought it was just a few of cases? 

GINA: Not any more. So, you know there was an outbreak in Codogno last month, not far from here? A man was sent to the hospital. They thought he had flu, so they took no extra precautions. He infected so many people at the hospital, including the doctor who treated him. And, you know, the danger here is that flu can easily become pneumonia. And there aren’t enough machines, there isn’t enough oxygen. Doctors are having to choose who they even try to save. Based on likelihood of success, you know? Every night, you hear the ambulances. They never stop– 

PUB BORE: They’re calling it a pandemic?!? What the hell for? More people die from the flu! And there’s a vaccine for the flu! Mark my words, this is just another scare story to sell a few papers and keep us all jumping through hoops, like good little citizens. They’ll be up to all sort of shady stuff off the back of this.  

GINA: Over 600 people have died here. And that’s just the beginning. Many more will die. From the virus and from the impact it will have on healthcare. They’re already asking retired doctors and nurses to work in hospitals again, even though they’re the most vulnerable. 

PUB BORE: You know what kills more people than this glorified flu? Suicide. Especially blokes our age. But, aye, let’s close everything down and see how many people top themselves. I mean, we’re only men. We don’t count, do we? 

GINA: Honestly, if I could leave, I would. But where would I go to get away from this? And Luca won’t leave his mother anyway. You know, they’re saying the Italian Prime Minister will extend the lockdown to the whole country. JENNY: Seriously? Is it that bad? 

GINA: It’s everywhere. And it will be the same for you.

JENNY: I dunno… We’ve only had a couple of deaths so far. 

GINA: It will get worse. Believe me. And when it does, I hope Johnson acts more quickly than Conte. 

PUB BORE: Right, I’m not an expert, but hows about this? It’s mostly old people who need to worry about this thing, right? And a few people with other health problems. Let them go into lockdown, while the rest of us get on with our lives. Sooner or later, we’ll all have had it, and we’ll be immune. What do they call it? Like, herd immunity. Then we won’t be able to pass it on to anyone and all the nanas can go back to their knitting circles. 

JENNY: Okay, thanks for the chat, Gina. We’ll talk soon, yeah? 

GINA: Yes, yes. Just be careful, okay? 

PUB BORE: Have you heard about these COVID parties? Basically, one person tests positive, and then they invite all their mates round and everyone tries to get infected at once. Now that’s the sort of lock-in I could get behind. Can you imagine? (Churchillian) We will fight this virus in the night clubs. We will fight it in the Wetherspoons. We will never surrender! 

JENNY: (to Pub Bore) Excuse me. Can I get past, please? 

PUB BORE: Where you off to all by your lonesome? Do you want us to walk you to the bus stop or whatever? 3 

JENNY: No, thanks. 

PUB BORE: Aw, you’re not worried about a little old flu virus, are you? 

(He makes a show of coughing all over Jenny.) 

Oops! I think I got some on you! 

JENNY: Urgh! What is your problem? Jenny shoves past the Pub Bore and leaves. The Pub Bore laughs, but after a couple of seconds, his laughter becomes a suspiciously dry cough.