Out of the Wings

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Ruido (c.2006), Mariana de Althaus

Noise, translated by Gwendolen MacKeith

This is the opening of the play

Sample text

AGUSTA watches TV in the living room of her house. An alarm goes off. AGUSTA seems not to hear it. The alarm gets louder and louder.   Someone knocks on the door. AGUSTA doesn’t bat an eyelid.  They knock again. AGUSTA doesn’t react.  They knock again, harder this time. AGUSTA goes towards the door.

AGUSTA: Who is it?

NEIGHBOUR: It’s your neighbour. Sorry to trouble you but …

AGUSTA: Which of my neighbours?

NEIGHBOUR: (Pause) The one from the blue house.

AGUSTA: The one married to that grumpy man who drives the blue car?



AGUSTA: What was it I said to you when I was coming back from the shop to buy bread?


NEIGHBOUR: Look, I just wanted to let you know about …

AGUSTA: If you don’t remember what I said to you, you can’t be the neighbour from the blue house.

NEIGHBOUR: Aha. (Pause) I do remember.

AGUSTA: What did I say to you?

NEIGHBOUR: That you’ve got 50 bread rolls frozen in the freezer.

AGUSTA opens the door.

AGUSTA: You never know. Come on in, please.

NEIGHBOUR: Thanks, but there’s no need, I just wanted to let you know …

AGUSTA pulls the NEIGHBOUR indoors and quickly closes the door. The NEIGHBOUR is wearing a dressing gown over pyjamas covered with pictures of little animals.

AGUSTA: It’s awkward to leave the door open.

NEIGHBOUR: Of course. But all I wanted to tell you is that the alarm’s going off.

AGUSTA: Is it?

NEIGHBOUR: Of course it is. Can’t you hear it?

AGUSTA: Of course I can hear it, I’m not deaf. But it must be the neighbour’s alarm.

NEIGHBOUR: The neighbour doesn’t have an alarm.

AGUSTA: What do you mean he doesn’t have an alarm?

NEIGHBOUR: You are the only person in the whole block who has an alarm.


AGUSTA: Oh. (The alarm stops). Would you like a coffee?

NEIGHBOUR: No, thanks, I just wanted to let you know about the alarm. My husband was trying to finish an article and he couldn’t concentrate with the alarm going off, and asked if I’d come and ask you to switch it off. He’ll be waiting for me.

AGUSTA: I don’t think so.


AGUSTA: You’re shivering.


AGUSTA: I’ll bring you a coffee to warm you up.

NEIGHBOUR: Thanks, but seriously, my husband …

AGUSTA: Your husband’s very good looking. I went to buy milk today, they only want to give two tins per person but I made my kids queue up with me so that I could get six. Do you like café con leche?

NEIGHBOUR: Very much, but I don’t wish to have one right now, thanks.



NEIGHBOUR: It keeps me awake.

AGUSTA: Are you sleepy?

NEIGHBOUR: No, but …

AGUSTA: Then have a glass of wine. The best thing for insomnia.

NEIGHBOUR: I don’t have insom…

AGUSTA: We have some things to talk about. (Takes out a bottle of wine from underneath the sofa and takes a corkscrew out of her pocket.) We’re neighbours and we’ve never spoken about your insomnia or your husband.


NEIGHBOUR: No, we’ve never spoken.

AGUSTA: Sit down. I have a relative who brings me wine from Argentina … (Lowering her voice.) smuggled in. It’s very good, they don’t sell it in the shops. I drink very little, but a glass a day is good for the health. Are you healthy, neighbour?


NEIGHBOUR: I think so.

AGUSTA: You can tell. You can tell these things.

NEIGHBOUR: (Takes a glass) Thank you, Mrs …

AGUSTA: Agusta.

NEIGHBOUR: Thank you Agusta.

AGUSTA: Cheers.


AGUSTA: I wanted to tell you. Make no mistake, I have nothing against the individualism of the modern world, but in the face of the incomprehensible scarcity of basic stock in the corner shop, I think that we neighbours should organise ourselves and create a system of reciprocity. That is to say, if I’ve run out of sugar and you’ve run out of bread, then I give you a few rolls of bread and you give me a cup of sugar, if another neighbour’s run out of spaghetti and another of rice, then they exchange spaghetti for a bit of rice, if another neighbour needs chicken and another needs …


AGUSTA: Jam, of course, quite possibly, then they exchange spaghetti for marmalade, if another needs lentils …

NEIGHBOUR: I get your point. Seems like a good idea to me.

AGUSTA: That’s why I say that your husband is unkind.

NEIGHBOUR: What’s my husband got to do with it?

AGUSTA: The other day I told him about our plan for solidarity, he looked at me for a few seconds as if I was mad and scurried away.

NEIGHBOUR: I don’t understand why he would do something like that.

AGUSTA: There are very strange people in the world.

NEIGHBOUR: No I’m being unfair, he has a lot on his mind.

AGUSTA: We all do. But it’s not fair that you take it all on. Does he know that he gives you insomnia?

NEIGHBOUR: No, I don’t have insomnia, only sometimes when I go on thinking, you know how it is, all those ideas quarrelling in my head, and he sleeps so soundly …

AGUSTA: Like sleeping beauty. And you study him, sad and bored, yearning for him to invite you to come into his dreams.


NEIGHBOUR: He works late, almost always, I read a good deal, sometimes I have a good book and it gets to three in the morning and I can’t stop … reading because it’s very … good.


AGUSTA: He should know.


AGUSTA: That his wife goes in search of neighbours when she has insomnia.

NEIGHBOUR: No, I never … I only came this time to …

AGUSTA: This is good wine, don’t you think? It’s from Argentina. (Lowering her voice.) They smuggle it in for me. Let me give you a bit more.

NEIGHBOUR: Thank you, but I have to go now. My husband must be worried about me.

AGUSTA: I doubt it.


[Insert space here]
AGUSTA: Let’s be realists.

NEIGHBOUR: I said I’d be back in a minute, it’s going to seem weird to him …

AGUSTA: Just a little more, seeing as you still don’t feel sleepy. (She pours her some more.) I see a lot of people with insomnia walking through the city. I see them from my window. But not all neighbours open their door. I practically don’t sleep at all. Barely three or four hours. I have a lot of energy. I also have a lot of work to do in the house, happily. Housework is a full-time job, you know, no days off, not Sundays or bank holidays. But I love my work. And you, what do you do?


NEIGHBOUR: Computing.

AGUSTA: Ah, so you’re a modern woman. I should have known when you agreed to put into practice our solidarity plan.

NEIGHBOUR: No, no, I haven’t agreed, I have to consult my husband …

AGUSTA: Let’s make a pact. You won’t speak about your husband, and I won’t mention the noise.


NEIGHBOUR: The noise?
AGUSTA: Let’s talk about positive things. About you, for example, what do you want for Christmas?


NEIGHBOUR: It’s a long time till Christmas.

AGUSTA: That doesn’t matter, think.

NEIGHBOUR: I don’t know, it’s so long, I haven’t thought about it.

AGUSTA: But now is the moment, think.

NEIGHBOUR: I never think about that, I actually don’t care about presents, what I like is giving presents to others …

AGUSTA: Think.




AGUSTA: Well, you’re ambitious. What make?

NEIGHBOUR: My husband has one, sometimes I use it, but I … haven’t wanted to buy myself one, yet , a friend of mine had his stolen and he ended up with a clapped-out banger …

AGUSTA: A clapped-out banger, how extravagant. I’d like a television.

NEIGHBOUR: But you’ve already got one.

AGUSTA: A bigger one.

NEIGHBOUR: Oh, a bigger one. (Pause.) Why do you want a bigger one?

AGUSTA: So I can get inside it.

Pause. AGUSTA smiles.


AGUSTA: Agusta.

NEIGHBOUR: Agusta, it’s been a pleasure to have a glass of wine with you. I’ll come back another day and we’ll go on talking.

AGUSTA: You haven’t finished your glass yet.

NEIGHBOUR: It’s true, I haven’t finished it.


AGUSTA: Going out into the street is like getting into the sea. Do you remember that there used to be a milkman? There should have been a wineman, so that he could always bring wine and we wouldn’t have to go out to buy it.

NEIGHBOUR: But your relative smuggles yours in for you.

AGUSTA: Shhh. Don’t say it so loudly.


AGUSTA: Some things are better said quietly.

NEIGHBOUR: There’s nothing wrong with it, everyone buys things on the black market these days …

AGUSTA: But I’m not everyone.

NEIGHBOUR: Of course.

AGUSTA: I wanted to be a singer. But now I’m happy being a stay-at-home mum. Fortunately my son inherited my musical gifts. He’s in a rock band, very quirky. Once he invited me to one of their gigs, when he started the first song I almost fell off my chair, the youth today shout and jump, it’s all very confusing.

The alarm goes off again. The two look at each other for a few seconds.

AGUSTA: They’ve also got me American chocolates. Do you want one?

NEIGHBOUR: Er … there it goes again …

AGUSTA: Your stomach? I’ll bring you the chocolates right now.

NEIGHBOUR: No, the alarm. It’s going off.

Pause. AGUSTIN enters with an electric guitar.

AGUSTIN: Mum, you have got to sort out that bloody alarm.

AGUSTIN turns off the alarm.

AGUSTA: Agustín, say hello to our neighbour who’s come to visit us.



AGUSTIN, almost without looking at her, plugs in his guitar and tunes up.

AGUSTA: She has agreed to my contingency plan, she’s a very modern woman.

NEIGHBOUR: I really have to go. My husband must be calling the police by now. (To AGUSTIN.) He’s waiting for me because I came to …

AGUSTIN: I just saw him leave in his car.

NEIGHBOUR: My husband? Where?

AGUSTIN: He looked like he was in a real rush. Is there anything to eat?

AGUSTA: Yes, there’s bread.

NEIGHBOUR: You must have confused him with someone else.

AGUSTIN: Isn’t your husband the guy with the blue Volkswagen?



AGUSTIN: He looks like an idiot.

The NEIGHBOUR freezes looking at a fixed point.

AGUSTIN: Bread with what.

AGUSTA: Bread with bread. There wasn’t any bread in the shop. If you like I can make you a tomato and butter sandwich.

AGUSTIN: Tomato and butter don’t go together.

AGUSTA: Of course they do, you love it. Would you like one too? I made it up myself, it’s my speciality. (Pause.) Would you like one?


AGUSTA: A tomato and butter sandwich. I’m going to make you one, you’ll see how tasty it is.

AGUSTA exits. Pause.

NEIGHBOUR: Are you sure it was him?

AGUSTIN starts to play his guitar.

AGUSTIN: This is the story of the pretty lady two doors down/ One day she left the house in just her dressing gown / In his flashy wheels away he sped / And she ate a slice of butter and bread

(Serves himself) Cheers neighbour.

NEIGHBOUR: He couldn’t take it when the alarm started to go off.

AGUSTIN: It’s always going off and my mum doesn’t even realise.

NEIGHBOUR: First he started to curse it and then he started yelling at it.

AGUSTIN: I don’t know if she’s deaf or just pretending to be mad.

NEIGHBOUR: I thought that he would go mad with the alarm so I decided to come out to see what was going on.

AGUSTIN: This wine’s really good.

NEIGHBOUR: They smuggle it in.

AGUSTIN: For my mum? I didn’t know. Has she got more?

NEIGHBOUR: Where can he have gone to?

AGUSTIN: Where did she bring it out from?

NEIGHBOUR: He got irritated because I got held up?

AGUSTIN: Did she bring it out of her bedroom or the kitchen?

NEIGHBOUR: Where can he go to at this time?

AGUSTIN: No wonder she sometimes seems half drunk.

NEIGHBOUR: Maybe he went to the police station to look for me.

AGUSTIN: If he had wanted to look for you, he’d have come here first.

NEIGHBOUR: Of course. Surely he went to get petrol to avoid the queue in the morning.

AGUSTIN: Maybe he ran out of cigarettes and he went out to buy some more.

NEIGHBOUR: He doesn’t smoke.

AGUSTIN: I do. Have you got a cigarette?

NEIGHBOUR: I left them at home.

AGUSTIN: Go and get them.

NEIGHBOUR: Your mum’s making us sandwiches.

AGUSTIN: Oh, that’s true.

NEIGHBOUR: I hope it doesn’t take too long.

AGUSTIN: No, bread with tomato and butter takes no time.

NEIGHBOUR: No, I’m talking about my husband. I hope he doesn’t get caught by the curfew, there’s not long to go.

AGUSTIN: He was carrying a suitcase.


NEIGHBOUR: A suitcase?

AGUSTIN makes noises with his guitar.

NEIGHBOUR: What would he need a suitcase for?

AGUSTIN continues with the noises. Pause. The NEIGHBOUR runs to the door and leaves.

AGUSTIN plays a violent melody. He drinks what’s left in the NEIGHBOUR’s glass. He pours himself some more wine and studies the label on the bottle. He searches for more bottles and finds that there are several under the armchair. He also finds other secret things.

The doorbell rings. AGUSTIN opens the door. The NEIGHBOUR enters out of breath and collapses onto the sofa.

NEIGHBOUR: I didn’t take a key. He really has gone. I can’t get into my house.

AGUSTIN plays a sad melody on the guitar.

NEIGHBOUR: Why did he go?

AGUSTA sings the chorus ‘Why did my baby go?’ from the kitchen.

AGUSTIN: Why did she go? I often ask myself that question. (Pause.) I fall in love every month and I offer myself as a volunteer to eternal love. Soon enough my eyes wander and they dump me. The problem of falling out of love is a vicious circle.

NEIGHBOUR: We’ve been married for four years.

AGUSTA comes in with the sandwiches.

AGUSTA: Here they are. Drape some napkins over yourselves so they don’t get your clothes dirty.

NEIGHBOUR: Thank you.

AGUSTA: It’s very nice to have visitors. Especially modern women. Agustín, did you know that our neighbour works with computers? She could teach you.

AGUSTIN: (Eating) I know how to play ATARI.

AGUSTA: Is it tasty? It’s my speciality.

NEIGHBOUR: (Rather unconvincingly) Yes, very tasty.

AGUSTA: I’m very creative in the kitchen. I work wonders with just a few ingredients.

NEIGHBOUR: I can see that.

AGUSTA: Agustín is also very creative, the lyrics of his songs are very clever. What’s that song called that you sang this morning?

AGUSTIN: (Chewing) Squeeze my acne with your bruised tit.

AGUSTA: So eccentric.

NEIGHBOUR: I’d love to finish your sandwich, but I have to go.


NEIGHBOUR: I’ve got a friend who lives nearby.

AGUSTA: Food doesn’t go to waste in my house, finish it and then you can go.

NEIGHBOUR: (Gets to her feet.) No, no, now I really do have to go, it’s two minutes to go before curfew.

AGUSTA: (Gets to her feet.) Two minutes? Where’s your sister?

AGUSTIN: Eating banana.


AGUSTIN: (Taking the NEIGHBOUR’s sandwich.) You don’t want this anymore, do you?

AGUSTA: I’m going to die.

AGUSTA faints.

NEIGHBOUR: Are you okay?

AGUSTA: I’m going to die.

NEIGHBOUR: Calm down, deep breaths.

AGUSTA: She said she was going to … that she was going to … that she was going to … that she was going to …

AGUSTIN: The stuck record again.

AGUSTA: I don’t remember where my daughter went.

NEIGHBOUR: Nothing’s going to happen to her, she must be at a friend’s house. Would you like a little wine?

AGUSTA: They’re going to put her in prison.

NEIGHBOUR: No, wine no. I’ll bring some water.

AGUSTA: I’m dying.

NEIGHBOUR: No, no! Inhale. Exhale. Inhale, exhale. Bring her some water, Agustín.

AGUSTIN: (Eating, without moving.) Right away.

AGUSTA: Now I really am dying.

NEIGHBOUR: Bring her some water!

AGUSTIN: In a second.

NEIGHBOUR: Are you going to do something? Your mother is dying.

AGUSTIN: (Chewing.) Mum, don’t die.

NEIGHBOUR: I’m going to call for an ambulance.

AGUSTIN: There she is.

NEIGHBOUR: The ambulance?

[Insert space]
AGUSTIN: No, Agustina.

Silence. Everyone looks towards the door. The doorbell rings. AGUSTA runs towards the door and opens it. She hugs AGUSTINA.



AGUSTIN: Eleven on the dot.


The NEIGHBOUR runs to the door but AGUSTA stops her.

AGUSTA: Don’t go out! I will not let them put you in prison.

NEIGHBOUR: I’ll run, the curfew’s only just started …

AGUSTA: Don’t do it, please. It’s very dangerous.

NEIGHBOUR: I can’t stay here.

AGUSTA: It’s better than prison.

AGUSTINA: There’s a police officer outside.

AGUSTIN: He could shoot you.

Pause. The NEIGHBOUR sits down.

NEIGHBOUR: And now what do I do?

AGUSTA: I thought the communists had kidnapped you.

AGUSTINA: I was talking with the neighbour.

AGUSTA: Her husband?

AGUSTINA: No, someone else. A young guy.

AGUSTA: You almost killed me with fright.


AGUSTA: Don’t do it again, Agustina. It’s gone eleven. Nearly gives me a heart attack.


AGUSTINA: And what’s the neighbour doing here? Shouldn’t she be at home?

NEIGHBOUR: That’s exactly what I say.

AGUSTIN: The neighbour’s had a fight with her husband and came here to seek refuge in our house.

AGUSTINA: The idiot in the blue car?


NEIGHBOUR: Bloody hell.


AGUSTA: It’s no problem. You can sleep on the armchair. It’s really cushy. You can stay here until you make up.

NEIGHBOUR: We haven’t been fighting.

AGUSTINA: Why were you fighting?

AGUSTIN: Because of the alarm.

AGUSTINA: Because of the alarm clock?

AGUSTIN: No, our car alarm.

AGUSTA: Our guest bathroom has a shower.

NEIGHBOUR: Can I borrow your phone?

AGUSTA: Of course, it’s just there.

The NEIGHBOUR goes to the telephone and dials a number.

AGUSTA: You hungry, Agustina? There’s bread with butter and tomato.

AGUSTINA: No thanks.

AGUSTA: You’re very thin, you have to eat.

AGUSTINA: Did the neighbour bring the wine so that we could drown her sorrows with her?

AGUSTIN: Yes, she’s inconsolable.

AGUSTINA: Poor thing.

AGUSTA: I’m going to make you something.

AGUSTINA: I’ve already eaten.

AGUSTA: Oh well that’s good, because there’s only …

AGUSTINA: Bread with tomato and butter.

The NEIGHBOUR hangs up in a rage. All turn to look at her.



The above sample taken from the translation Noise by Gwendolen MacKeith is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 24 February 2011.

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