Three Sides of a Square by Michelene Wandor


(At dinner. Sitting cross-legged on the ground.)

GERTRUDE Some more lamb? Spinach? Rice and beans.

LAWRENCE We are making schemes for the government of the universe. From Cairo.

GERTRUDE We are treating Mesopotamia as if it is an isolated unit, when it is part of Arabia. Its politics are connected with the great Arab question, We need some sort of wide scheme which will ultimately form the basis of our relations with the Arabs. Why do we continue to muddle through, wading through blood and tears which need never have been shed?

LAWRENCE The first step is to remove the Turks. Have you eaten ices, made of milk, snow and lemonade?

GERTRUDE Do you know the best way to catch fish? You put a basin weighted with stones in the stream. In the basin you put some bread. You cover the basin with a cloth, in which there are a few holes. The fish swim in to eat the bread, and can’t get out again.

LAWRENCE The fish must be very small. In London they are planning to enter Jerusalem. In London they think this will finally be the end of the Crusades.

GERTRUDE After the fire dies down and there are enough ashes, make an immense cake of flour and water, half an inch thick. Cover it over with hot ashes. After quarter of an hour, turn it over and cover it with hot ashes once more.

LAWRENCE Delicious, eaten hot.

GERTRUDE Wooden, when cold.

LAWRENCE There is nothing like a good breakfast of milk, eggs, bread and honey. Miss Bell, I have spent the last two years at a desk in Cairo, thinking hard, in a little, crowded office full of distracting noises. I am not a soldier. I hate soldiering.

GERTRUDE And yet —

LAWRENCE Indeed. And yet. I accepted my wartime status of Lieutenant Colonel to maintain my status with the Arabs. After being turned down as unfit for military service. Imagine! You could be the brains behind Lawrence of Arabia, as well as being the uncrowned queen of Iraq.

GERTRUDE Flattery will get you everywhere. But it won’t get me to Cairo.  You are asking me to be a spy.

LAWRENCE I am asking you to allow me to draw on your reports, for my campaign.

GERTRUDE Your campaign.



ALTER I’m tired.

KHALIL So sleep.

ALTER I can’t.

KHALIL Why not?

ALTER Don’t be stupid. Are you tired?

KHALIL Yes. I’m tired.

ALTER So sleep.

ALTER I can’t.

KHALIL Why not?

ALTER Don’t be stupid. Are you tired?

KHALIL Yes. I’m tired.

ALTER So sleep.

KHALIL I’m not ready to sleep.

ALTER Why not?

KHALIL My hand is throbbing.

ALTER Ask them.

KHALIL I’ve asked them. They don’t care if we die.

ALTER Shall we try again?


ALTER Come on. Let’s try again.

(The men turn to the back, facing their tied hand, working at the knots with their free hands.)

KHALIL It’s no good.

ALTER No. Shall I teach you Hebrew?

KHALIL Shall we try again?

(They work at the knot.)

ALTER   Ah. It’s loosening.

KHALIL Good. Good.

(A bit more manoeuvring.)

ALTER Done it.

KHALIL Oh, my God yes. (He brings his hand forward and rubs at it).

Michelene Wandor, 2009.

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