The Old Grey Barn

This is a script which is very much loved at my best friend’s readthrough parties.  We almost always do this one, sometimes even twice at the same party with a different cast.  To the best of my knowledge and belief it is now in the public domain, but if anyone knows any different, please do not hesitate to contact me; if you are the owner of the copyright I will take it down immediately.  The script is available nowhere else on the Internet, which is why I have reproduced it here.

Gloom; or, The Old Grey Barn

E Preston, 1922

Scene: A room in a Russian house.

MARIA crouches by the fire, stirring a small saucepan. ELIZAVETA stands looking out of the window. There is a table in the centre of the stage.

ELIZAVETA. It is very cold outside.
MARIA. It is cold in here. The fire is dying. (They sigh. A pause.) Is anyone coming yet?
ELIZAVETA. No, not yet.
MARIA. They will not come till too late.
ELIZAVETA. The snow is very heavy. It reminds me of the day when Vladimir Vladimirovitch hanged himself in the old grey barn.

They sigh heavily. A slight pause.

MARIA. The fire will soon be dead.
ELIZAVETA. Someone is coming. It is my brother and three others. I must welcome them to this unhappy house. (Exit.)
MARIA (stirring saucepan) Dmitri Petrovich and three others. (Counting slowly on fingers) One, two, three, four, five, six. Six to supper. And Yonsky. There will not be enough. (Sighs) There is never enough.

Enter ELIZAVETA, IVAN, NADIA, SERGEI and DMITRI. NADIA and SERGEI stand by the fire. IVAN and DMITRI seat themselves at the table. IVAN buries his face in his hands.

ELIZAVETA. Why have you not brought Vassili Mikhailovitch?
DMITRI. He hanged himself yesterday in a barn.
ELIZAVETA. Whose barn?
DMITRI. The Copskis’ barn. (They all sigh.)
NADIA. It was very cold coming here. I am very cold.
ELIZAVETA. It is cold in here.
SERGEI. Put your hands to the fire, Nadia.
MARIA. What is the use? It is nearly out.

NADIA crouches by MARIA.

NADIA. That is a little better.
MARIA. Now, I cannot cook the supper. It does not matter. (Sighs) There will not be enough.
DMITRI. There is never enough.
IVAN (raising his head). I do not need much. I am not hungry.
SERGEI. Neither am I.
ELIZAVETA. Here is the postman. I expect he brings bad news. I will go and see. (Exit.)
DMITRI. It is getting dark. Maria, light the lamp.
MARIA. There is no oil.
DMITRI. There is never any oil.
SERGEI. It is better in the dark.

A pause. IVAN sighs deeply.

NADIA. Elizaveta is a long time. It is bad news.
IVAN. It is always bad news.

Enter ELIZAVETA, reading a letter.

DMITRI. It is bad news?
NADIA. I said so. Who is it from?
ELIZAVETA. It is from the Letoffs. Semyon has hanged himself in their barn.
SERGEI. Which barn?
ELIZAVETA. The red one. (They sigh heavily.)
NADIA. Elizaveta, I must speak. I came here to ask you a favour.
ELIZAVETA. I have little to give, but I will do for you what I can.
NADIA. You know, Elizaveta, my parents live in the town. Our house is very small. We have no barn. (Sighs)
NADIA. I wish to hang myself, and I want to know whether I may borrow your barn – the old grey one.
ELIZAVETA. Of course you may, my dear Nadia. I am only too glad to be able to oblige you.
NADIA. Thank you, dear Elizaveta. Is it free now?
ELIZAVETA. I am not sure. I will find out. Maria, call Yonsky.

MARIA goes to door and calls: “Yonsky! Yonsky!”


YONSKY. You called me?
ELIZAVETA. Is the old grey barn empty?
YONSKY. Yes, quite empty, mistress. It has been empty since Vladimir Vladimirovitch hanged himself there last week.
ELIZAVETA. Thank you, Yonsky. You may go.


NADIA. Then I will go. Goodbye, Sergei, Dmitri, Ivan, Elizaveta, Maria.
ALL. Goodbye, Nadia.


MARIA (stirring in saucepan). More room at the fire now. And one less to supper. Perhaps there will be enough.
DMITRI. There is never enough.
ELIZAVETA. It is snowing again.
IVAN. That snow comes from Siberia.
SERGEI. It has crossed the Steppes.
DMITRI. Think what a lot of barns it has fallen upon.
IVAN. And what a lot of people were hanging in them.
ELIZAVETA. It is getting darker.

A pause. SERGEI sighs, gets up and goes to door.

DMITRI. Where are you going, Sergei?
SERGEI. I am going to hang myself in the old grey barn.
DMITRI. Very well. Goodbye.
ELIZAVETA. Shut the door. There is a draught.


MARIA. One more gone. That leaves one, (counting on fingers) one, two, three, four, five to supper. (Examining saucepan) I believe there will be enough.
IVAN. Surely it is getting colder.
MARIA. Yes, the fire is dying. Yonsky says it is much warmer in the old grey barn than in here.

A pause. IVAN sighs heavily and gets up.

ELIZAVETA. You are going to the old grey barn, Ivan?
IVAN. Yes, it is better. It is warmer there, and there will be more supper for you.
DMITRI. You are going to hang yourself?
IVAN. Oh yes.
ELIZAVETA. Goodbye, then.
IVAN. Goodbye. I will shut the door because of the draught.

Exit IVAN.

ELIZAVETA. It has stopped snowing. The wolves are howling in the forest.
DMITRI. They are hungry. Is supper ready, Maria?
MARIA. Not yet, master.
DMITRI. It is a long time. Hark at the wolves!
ELIZAVETA. Our guests are all gone, Dmitri. Is it right that we should stay on here?
DMITRI. It is not right. But must we go to the old grey barn?
DMITRI. Would not the white barn be better?
ELIZAVETA. No, it has no beams strong enough.
DMITRI. Very well, then. Let us go.
ELIZAVETA. To the old grey barn. It will be better. Goodbye, Maria. The rats will come out soon to keep you company.
MARIA. Goodbye, mistress. Goodbye, master.


MARIA takes saucepan off fire, empties contents on two plates and places them on the table. Goes to door and calls: “Yonsky! Yonsky!”


MARIA. Come. They are all gone.
YONSKY (shaking his head). I do not like it. It is too full.
MARIA. What is too full? Your plate?
YONSKY. No, the old grey barn. There are too many. They are in rows.
MARIA. Never mind. Come, eat your supper. There is plenty now. (They eat.)
YONSKY. Hark at the wolves!
MARIA. Yes. It is very cold. (They eat.)



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