Anno Domino: Synopsis

Cast: 3m / 3f - with 2 off-stage voices
Running time (approximate):
1 hour, 45 minutes (not including interval)
Availability: Not available for production.
Acting Edition:
Anno Domino has not been published.

Note: Sam & Milly are written as off-stage voices to be performed by the members of the company, they do not appear on stage.

A view of a section of two homes: Ben & Ella's lounge / hallway in their period country retirement cottage and Craig & Martha's kitchen in their Victorian terraced home. Weaving between the two areas, occupying a separate third area, is a bistro.

Act 1, Scene 1:
Preparations

Characters

Ben Martin (76, a former barrister)
Ella Martin (70, his wife, a former magistrate)
Martha Wray (47, their daughter, a teacher)
Craig Dean (45, Martha's partner a mechanic)
Cinny Greene (20, a trainee restaurant manager)
Raz Wray (18, Martha's son from a previous marriage)
Sam Martin (48, Ben & Ella's son, an architect) *
Amelia Wilkes-Martin (Milly) (49, Sam's wife, a solicitor) *

* Off-stage voices intended to be played by members of the company.
Ben & Ella are preparing for a night out with the family to celebrate their son's 25th wedding anniversary - unaware that Sam and his wife Milly are actually intending to announce their divorce during the meal.

Ben & Ella's daughter, Martha is also preparing for the meal with her partner of six weeks, Craig, but is concerned that her reclusive 18 year old son, Raz, won't come with them and may not be capable of preparing himself his supper.

Ben & Ella's conversation reveals that Sam is - certainly from Ella's perspective - the favoured and 'golden' child with a successful marriage compared to the disappointment of Martha, whose first husband - the poet Sefton - committed suicide earlier in the year.

Amidst this, the waitress - Cinny - is seen preparing for the party to arrive at the bistro.

Act 1, Scene 2: Revelations
It is the following morning after Sam & Milly have announced at the meal that, after 25 years of marriage, they are to divorce with boredom cited as the reason.

Ella takes the news badly refusing to believe that boredom is a reason to divorce nor that anyone could actually be bored with her son and that Milly must be entirely to blame for the situation. The first hints of cracks in Ben & Ella's marriage begin to show as she is of the firm belief Milly should have soldiered on as anything would be worth being married to Sam. She reveals that Craig has called her in a panic and mentions how much she despised Martha's late husband, Sefton.

Martha has taken the news badly and can't get her recalcitrant son to speak to her; although he did turn up at the meal but spent the evening on his phone texting Cinny. With no sign of Craig, Martha calls him apologising for what she apparently said the previous evening and that she didn't mean to hurt him.

Craig has actually gone to meet Ella to ask for advice about Martha. Unfortunately, Ella is interested only in herself, closely followed by her 'perfect' son, Sam; she shows no interest in Martha or her relationship with Craig. He reveals that Martha has taken Sam & Milly's break-up very badly, which Ella dismisses as Martha just being self-centred having always worshipped her brother growing up. Craig, frustrated, tries to ascertain whether Martha actually wants to be with him. Ella promises to speak to Martha and Craig leaves no wiser than when he arrived.

Ben & Ella discuss the conversation and it becomes apparent that Ella mistreated and despised Martha as a child and that Sam could do no wrong. Ben wonders if Sam & Milly have the right idea and whether it might be a similar time for him and Ella to live apart. Unbelieving, Ella won't countenance the idea nor believe that Ben could survive without her.

Throughout the scene, we see Cinny texting and being texted by someone to her delight.

For Act 2, there are the same locations but with variations. Ben & Ella's living room is replaced by a section of the back lawn. Martha & Craig's kitchen is replaced by their small paved inner-city backyard. The bistro setting is now outside also.

Act 2: Repercussions
It is Monday morning and Ben & Ella are in their garden - which Raz helps maintain with his grandfather - admiring his variegated hybrid Anno Domini roses. Ella is dismissive of her grandson, but Ben speaks fondly of him.

Sun-chasing in Martha's backyard, Craig has an uncommunicative talk with Raz, wondering why the teenager has caused disruption in the shed pulling out all the Christmas decorations. Raz leaves having never uttered a word.

Ella is at the Bistro waiting for Martha whilst criticising Cinny for her lack of attention both now and at the previous meal. Cinny reveals she and Raz have been texting each other since the meal.

Back in Ben's garden, Ben is teaching Raz about the plants and we hear Raz speak for the first time. He tells Ben he's been texting Cinny and took her to a garden centre the previous day on a date as she likes plants. In a moment of honesty, Ben talks about Martha's upbringing and how she didn't receive the love she deserved from Ben & Ella - as opposed to Sam who received all the attention when he did not need or appreciate it. Ben urges Raz not to lose trust in human nature.

Martha arrives at the Bistro and Ella's patronising and demeaning attitude to Martha - and the world in general - is exposed. Despite this, Martha reveals she knows why Milly and Sam are splitting up and that they have had a far from happy 25 years together with Sam frequently having affairs and neglecting Milly. Ella refuses to believe that Sam could do anything wrong nor that he and Milly were anything but a 'golden couple'. Martha reveals that both she and Milly married the wrong men who took advantage of their love.

Ella contradicts Martha at every time and Martha reveals she has never been able to talk to Ella about Sam because of this idolisation. She tries to convince Ella that he has never shown any consideration or affection to anyone and that he has always been a monster. Ella refuses to accept any of this and vitriolically turns on Martha, accusing her of undermining Sam's marriage and trying to bring him down to her level. Martha flees to the sound of her mother's painting her as a despicable, disappointing child asking how dare she do this to her.

Martha returns home and locks herself in the shed, much to Craig's worry. Not getting a response, Craig prepares to break into the shed when he hears Raz return. He implores Raz to say something to his Mum to coax her out of the shed. For the first time, Raz breaks his silence to his mother, telling her he loves her and has a present for her. A shaken Martha emerges to find a box - made by Raz from the Christmas decorations - containing a bunch of the Anno Domino roses or Anno Dominos as Raz mistakenly calls them. She is delighted - although Craig realises what Raz has actually done - and mother and son are reconciled.

Craig and Martha talk as she admits she thought Craig had left her. It transpires, unlike her son, Craig does not read texts and she'd misinterpreted his lack of response to them. Craig says he thought Martha wanted him to leave and - realising both had misinterpreted the other - they also reconcile.

In the garden, Ben complains to Ella how Raz has decimated his Anno Domini roses. Ella - patently not interested - complains she had the most stressful day.

Raz & Cinny meet and she reveals what happened at the Bistro at lunch with Ella and Martha. Raz, more clear-headed than anyone else, points out no-one - not even her husband - likes Ella. Raz has promised Cinny a present - which he obviously gave to his Mum instead - and when Cinny asks for it, he instead produces a poem. Embarrassed he reads it to her and she kisses him as…

Martha and Craig snuggle in the yard looking at the flowers Raz has given her as…

Ben, shrugs and with cheerful resignation notes: "Life goes on, I suppose. Life still goes on, doesn't it…?"

Synopsis by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.