The basic set design consists of a number of large black gauze screens, which can be changed to white as and when required. Some of these can move across the stage in either direction, and others can be flown in or out. The screens are used to create the various locations during the show, while at the same time hiding the removal of people, chairs, tables etc. They can be lit from behind so you can see what is happening behind them, or lit from the front so that the upstage area is not visible. It is also possible to hang things such as paintings, posters, curtains etc. from them to assist with the creation of locations. The stage floor is a large marble effect chessboard; it is not under-lit and does not move in any way - though in my dream production, it would both be under-lit and move! I would also love for the screens to contain a number of TV monitors or for these to be suspended (flown in) around the stage when required, if not actually attached to the stage screens.
As the house lights fade, the sounds of a busy Bangkok street begin to filter through the darkness. At first the sounds are low and distant – a few cars passing by, people talking and laughing. The ‘listener’ begins to move. Other sounds are introduced – a tuk-tuk, someone shouting the price of a bargain, more laughing, more talking. The sounds continue, but they grow louder and fainter as the listener moves towards and away from them. Snatches of music are heard as the listener passes by the doors of various nightclubs and bars. Instrumental versions of certain songs from the show may be used here – a bit like an overture and would be the same as the songs used in the reprise at the end of the show. The sounds become even more numerous and louder, to the point where nothing is decipherable – it becomes noise. During the latter half of this the faint sound of an orchestra tuning-up becomes audible. It too builds gradually, mingling with the street noise. Eventually the street sounds and the orchestral discordance recede and the auditorium is filled with the vibrancy and power of the Bangkok intro.
During Golden Bangkok, with the help of the gauze screens, various sections of the stage are used to depict glimpses of Bangkok city-life. The first image we see is that of two Thai warriors dressed in golden uniforms. They are positioned behind screens down stage left and right and as red lights slowly fade up on them they begin to enact the movements of battle. They continue to fight with each other during an extended drum intro, but they freeze when the music begins and become statues at the entrance to the Oriental hotel. At this point the lights slowly fade up on the centre stage area, showing two porters standing in front of two screens – the hotel doors. As the music continues we see various people arriving at the hotel, including the Arbiter. The doors (screens) slide open to let them in. Outside there is a sense of urgency, a few photographers are seen running up to the hotel and taking photographs of the people arriving.
These people are members of the American and Russian delegations and rumour has it that the American champion Freddie Trumper will also be arriving tonight. Much to their surprise Anatoly Sergievsky (the Russian champion) and his second Alexander Molokov arrive before Freddie. The reporters bombard Anatoly with questions and take numerous photographs. When Freddie Trumper arrives, along with his second and lover Florence Vassy and Walter De Courcey, Freddie’s publicity manager, the press instantly loses interest in the Russian. All their attention and questions are directed at the Americans. Freddie refuses to answer any questions and when it’s suggested that he shake hands with Anatoly, he waits for Anatoly to offer him his hand and then storms off, refusing to touch a red! The remaining champion and delegates quickly leave too, as do the reporters.
When they have gone the focus returns to the warriors who continue their ‘battle’. Eventually the centre screens open again, this time it’s not the hotel foyer behind them, but a Bangkok bar. A bar girl is seen doing a slow dance on a platform. When she freezes, some female Thai dancers join the warriors in a demonstration of traditional Thai dance. Some tourists appear and take photographs of them. They continue to dance slowly, while other people arrive on stage. The girl on the platform eventually starts to dance again and she is joined by more girls on the stage - one behind each of the down stage right and left screens. By this time the stage is becoming quite crowded and more people continue to come on. There are monks and market holders, tourists and prostitutes. With the use of the screens and lighting we get to see various glimpses of Bangkok life. Eventually all of Bangkok is there. The more people there are the less dancing there is, gradually it subsides completely and a naturalised movement takes over. These are now the real people of Bangkok going about their daily lives.
ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK
A major chess championship is about to begin in this exotic city, but life goes on as normal in Bangkok, the bars are full of girls, the temples full of monks, the streets full of everything imaginable. From behind the hotel doors/screens the Arbiter makes an appearance. He leaves the hotel (with two assistants) and attempts to discover what this city is all about.
As he moves down stage he passes by some market people, who try to sell him some fake watches/t-shirts etc. Before he knows it, he’s in the more exotic part of town and he’s being approached by various street girls. He and his assistants witness in more detail some of the things that we have just seen glimpses of. Thai boxing, the market stalls, a bar etc. At the instrumental break, the up stage screens will open again, this time to reveal a temple. We see the monks tend the Buddha and pray at its feet. This is the first thing that actually interests the Arbiter. He is a man who appreciates tranquillity and spirituality rather than the more sleazy side of life - which seems to have the monopoly in this strange yet intriguing city. Before long he is knocked out of his daydream of serenity and he is once again back on the streets, taking one final look at all that Bangkok has to offer.
As the song comes to an end, the Arbiter is seen centre stage surrounded by the people of Bangkok, he is prominently lit in white while everyone else is lit in red. On the very last beat his light snaps off and he disappears from view. The Bangkok people are now once again going about their business. The light begins to brighten and it’s obvious that the sun has begun to rise. The market people are setting up their stalls, the girls of the night are finishing their shifts and the men who accompanied them through the night are making their way back to their homes and hotels. Among them are more than a few US and USSR delegates! We see them straighten ties, hand over money and generally make their way out of this seedy part of town. The natives eventually fade away and we are transported to the championship arena where the delegates are beginning to arrive for an early morning press conference.
US v USSR
Alexander Molokov and Walter de Coursey are no strangers to the international world of chess, nor are they strangers to each other. They’ve met before on numerous occasions and are happy to put on a show of East West camaraderie. They both know the game and are experts at playing it. Their delegates know it too and there is an abundance of hand shaking and backslapping as the two opposing sides perform their show of friendly sportsmanship for the press, who are also now in attendance. The press is not so easily fooled and they are only too aware that these are highly political and dangerous times. While the delegates reflect on their sportsman like attitude to the tournament, the press begin to form their own opinions and make notes for inclusion in their stories for tomorrow’s papers and evening TV reports.
PRESS It’s the US versus USSR
DELEGATES Yet we more or less are…
PRESS No one can deny that these are difficult times...
THE STORY OF CHESS
During all of this, various TV crews and floor managers have been working on lighting equipment, cameras etc. and they are now ready to begin recording the opening ceremony and title sequences.
The Arbiter addresses the press and begins to explain to them part of the long and fascinating history of chess.The lights fade and we see the Arbiter leaning over the chess table and arranging the pieces. As he does so, he utters the first words of ‘The Story’. “Each game of chess means there’s one less…” Eventually various Arbiter assistants join him and they tell the full story. During this there are a number of sequences, which help to depict the words being song. Various cameras are seen recording the action and monitors around the stage show what the cameras see. Towards the end of the story a number of the human chess pieces make their way to upstage centre where they freeze into a tableau of the championship logo. The tableau splits and the two champions emerge from within. The human chess pieces disperse and a three dimensional version of the championship logo takes their place. This all happens as the two champions make their way toward the chess table. They shake hands and sit at the table. The Arbiter starts the clock and the game begins. Of course this is only for the cameras, so the director calls ‘cut’ and the Arbiter introduces the champions to the press.
WHAT A SCENE
The Arbiter offers the press the chance to take photographs at this point and they of course rush forward to do so. Freddie and Anatoly are expected to pose and depict an image of harmony and East West friendship. Walter is busy trying to get his boy as much attention as possible. He’s brought along an extra large size chess piece and gets Freddie to wave it above his head like a trophy. The press love it and they give very little attention to Anatoly. Freddie glories in the attention and reflects to himself on how the ‘mob’ has become so interested in the game of chess – mostly if not completely because of him. It’s now Molokov’s turn to muscle in on the action by trying to get the two champions to shake hands. They agree, but the press want the handshake held just a bit too long for Freddie and he shakes off Anatoly’s hand, knocking some chess pieces to the floor as he does so. He then makes his first real attack on his opponents. He accuses the Russians of cheating, claiming to have found a bugging devise in his hotel room, which he throws at the feet of Molokov. Molokov of course denies this and accuses Freddie of being just a little deranged. The Press is quick to jump to the defence of the Russians and they begin to question Freddie on his motives.
Molokov has, however, been making plans for his own first move against the Americans. He realises that Florence is a key factor in Freddie’s success, so he tries to disarm him through her. He has leaked to the press some information about Florence’s past, information she would rather have kept private. It seems that nobody knew about her Hungarian origins and her father’s involvement with the 1956 uprising. Now it is destined to be spread across the world’s newspapers – a brilliant and effective first attack by Molokov. He has leaked just enough information to make it unclear if Florence’s father was for or against the Russians and this has given the press plenty of scope for speculation. They begin to question Freddie about his lover’s past, but he refuses to answer any of them and in a pathetic attempt to regain some ground he stages a walk out, but not before lunging at Molokov and grabbing him by his jacket lapels. The Russian delegates intervene and Freddie storms out. As he goes he expresses his opinion to the press - that the Russians must be extremely frightened of losing if they have resorted to underhand tactics even before the game has begun. He tells them that he is not prepared to start the match while there is cheating in the Russian camp. The Press then turns on Florence and they follow her as she tries to follow Freddie. She gives up that idea eventually and she stays in the upstage area of the arena and faces the barrage of questions the reporters throw at her. Meanwhile, downstage Molokov tries to convince Anatoly that Freddie is losing his grip on reality. Anatoly is less than convinced about this and he tries to make Molokov see that his opponent may be many things but he is not mad!
Molokov then turns his thoughts to Florence and suggests to Anatoly that she is Freddie’s weakness. If they can get at her, they automatically get at Freddie. She may be his secret weapon, but they can use her to disarm Freddie in a way that will destroy his game. Anatoly is having none of this and he makes certain that Molokov knows it.
Molokov however is determined to salvage what he can from the press conference, he convinces Anatoly to allow the press to take a few more pictures before they leave. He moves upstage to alert the press about this perfect photo opportunity that is waiting for them.
WHO NEEDS A DREAM (Where I Want To Be)
Anatoly is furious about the bug in Freddie’s room. He realises that things have already started to get out of hand. This is just another example of how Molokov and his KGB cronies are ruling his life. He’s beginning to see that he needs to make changes in his world and the sooner he can the better for him. He’s made his first move against Molokov by refusing to go along with his plan to ‘steal’ the American’s woman, but there are so many other things wrong with his life that he finds it difficult to see quite how he can put them right. While Molokov is still upstage, Anatoly returns to the chess table and begins repositioning the fallen chess pieces. While he does so, he reflects further on how his life is being manipulated by everybody around him.
Molokov eventually returns with the press and with Florence. She unwittingly has fallen into Molokov’s trap and has agreed to speak with him after the press have gone. She is unaware that what Molokov really wants is a photograph of Anatoly and Florence together. He knows that such a picture in the morning papers would enrage Freddie and that’s exactly what he wants. He almost gets it, but Anatoly realises what he’s doing and brings the photo opportunity to an end, but not before some photos have been taken. All of this has been taking place during the final chorus of the song and it is at the end of the song that Anatoly begins to retaliate against Molokov and refuses to have anymore photographs taken. He feels a strange sympathy for Florence and seeing her being manipulated in much the same way as he is, makes him want to do what he can to help her. The Arbiter calls the conference to a close and the members of the press leave.
MODEL OF DECORUM (Quartet)
When they have gone Molokov is quick to turn on Florence and condemn Freddie’s accusations. Florence has a tough time trying to make Molokov see that her side is the blameless one in this current argument. Meanwhile the Arbiter is trying to exert his authority, but nobody is really listening to him. Anatoly has been a little shocked by his desire to protect the woman who is his opponents second. She has sparked an inherent but until now hidden desire within him to protect. He discovers he has a fondness for her and feels a need to express this. He realises that what Molokov had been trying to get him to do, is actually something he now wants to do himself, but for very different reasons to those of Molokov. Anatoly sees in Florence a free spirit he wishes he seen in himself. He takes his chance and makes a few coy remarks to Florence. They don’t go unnoticed by her, but she doesn't quite realise what he’s doing and she is too much on the defensive at the moment to allow it to have much of an effect on her. She does however feel just a little bit flattered and does begin to see Anatoly in a slightly different light.
The Arbiter eventually has enough of this discussion which, is simply going round in circles. He brings it to an end by reminding all concerned that they have 24 hours to sort out their differences and that he expects both champions to be in attendance and be on their best behaviour at the opening ceremony the following day. If they are not, fines will be imposed and he will not be happy at this kind of disrespect to the game of chess. He leaves and Molokov orders Anatoly to leave too. Molokov and Florence are left to sort out the next move.
WE NEED TO TALK
Molokov wants a public apology for Freddie’s accusations. Florence is quick to point out that their room WAS bugged and so there is no way an apology will be given. Molokov is not happy, but after some discussion he decides that a public meeting between Anatoly and Freddie, to show that there is no acrimony between them, is what is required. He wants them to meet in the hotel riverside bar, which Florence thinks is a bit of a ridiculous idea, but she goes along with it and agrees to try and get Freddie to attend.
YOUR ONLY FRIEND / SOMEONE ELSE’S STORY
Florence arrives back in their hotel room and is furious with Freddie for leaving her to defend his actions and to face up to the barrage of personal questions about her past. Freddie still seems to think that his walk out was a brilliant publicity-grabbing stunt. Florence is quick to remind him that her past is what will be grabbing publicity when the papers come out in the morning. He doesn’t seem to be able to understand how important this is to her and all he can go on about is his need to insult the Russians at any opportunity. If she was made to look foolish along the way, then that’s just the price they have to pay.
When he hears about the meeting he is even more furious and refuses to consider the idea. Florence is almost at breaking point and in an attempt at scaring him into a change of attitude she threatens to leave him. He in turn tries to deflect her move by accusing her of changing sides and not being supportive enough of him. He practically calls her a traitor - to him and her people and suggests that if her father were still alive he’d be "dying of shame". This is the worst possible insult he could throw at her and she is deeply hurt by the remark. She realises that if he can say such a thing, he cannot respect or love her in the way in which she thought he did. Freddie then stages another of his walkouts and leaves her to reflect on her relationship with this man who seems to no longer appreciate her. She realises that things have gone very wrong between them. Maybe leaving him should be her next move, but can she really do it?
Florence pulls herself together and begins to pack some papers into her briefcase. As she does so the scene changes to the streets of Bangkok. Walter is keen to make his presence felt in Bangkok and his next move is to entice the locals to support his man. He sends a troupe of merchandisers through the city giving away Freddie t-shirts, baseball caps, flags, posters etc. He hopes this will provide Freddie with a psychological advantage – having the support of the locals should give Freddie the buzz he needs to really thrash the Russian. At first only a few American tourists are interested, but eventually the locals are won over too and soon everyone is waving Freddie banners and flags in the air.
The scene changes to the Riverside Restaurant where Anatoly and Molokov are waiting for Florence and Freddie. When she arrives she tells them that Freddie has refused to meet with Molokov, but that he will meet with Anatoly on his own. This move is of course an attempt to remove Anatoly’s support system and to give Freddie the chance to talk to his challenger direct. Molokov doesn’t like it, but Anatoly does, so it is agreed. Anatoly of course likes it not only because he too welcomes the chance to talk with Freddie without Molokov’s interference, but because it also gives him the chance to have some time alone with Florence. Still not sure what exactly he feels for this woman, he knows there is something about her that intrigues him and he wants to know more.
Molokov leaves and Anatoly and Florence smile at each other, but then feel totally at a loss as to what they should do or say next. They mention the sunset, but after that the ‘conversation’ dries and an awkward silence falls upon them. They are both uncertain how to act around each other. There is a strange tension between them, but neither of them really understands it. Florence is slightly on the defensive, but Freddie has weakened her and before long she falls all too easily for the charm of the gentle Russian. They talk and laugh and soon find they are strangely attracted to each other.
WHO’D EVER GUESS IT
It is obvious from their body language and the laughter that they feel very comfortable together and this is what Freddie perceives when he arrives. He is furious and becomes abusive. His attempt at removing Molokov has backfired on him; he is now the one deprived of his support system and he fights back in the only way he knows how. He accuses Florence of betraying him and helping the Russian. He’s not even sure that he believes this at this point, but it’s all he can think of to retaliate with. He tells Anatoly that no matter what she’s told him he’ll never get to keep his title. He’s here to win this championship and that’s exactly what he’s going to do. She might think he needs her, but he doesn’t and he’ll be happy to prove it to her. Of course he needs her more now than he ever did, but he feels hurt and he wants to hurt her in return. He brushes off her appeals to be reasonable and storms off.
PITY THE CHILD
As the scene changes we see Freddie leaving the hotel. He feels betrayed and falls into a state of depression and needs to get away from Florence and everyone involved with the tournament, so he begins to wander through the streets and markets of Bangkok. As he does so, he reflects on the last woman who he trusted (his mother) and how she betrayed him too! While he walks the streets he thinks about his childhood and wallows in his own self-pity for quite some time. The screens would move occasionally to show glimpses of the different streets he’s walking through. During the instrumental break they would all move at once and Freddie would be seen wandering amongst them. At the end of the break he would be in a completely different part of town and it is here that he sees some kids wearing oversized ‘Trumper’ t-shirts and playing with ‘Trumper’ flags. They are mimicking what they saw Walter and his people do that afternoon – walking around waving their flags and chanting “Freddie Trumper USA.” They really don’t know who he is, but they are enjoying their game and don’t even recognise Freddie when he passes by. They do however have an effect on Freddie and he is reminded of just how far he has come – on his own! He didn’t need his mother and he doesn’t need Florence.
Inspired once again by his own talent he decides that nothing is going to stop him from realising his dream to be the world champion – with or without Florence. During the play-out of the song the set and Freddie would both throw off the glare and dirt of Bangkok and the scene would transform to the tranquillity and peace of the championship arena. In the arena we would see the Arbiter checking the board and Anatoly and Freddie approaching the table in exactly the same way as in the ‘preview’ version of the opening ceremony from ‘Story Of Chess’. As the final few bars of music are played, they shake hands, take their seats and the Arbiter starts the clock as the first game begins.
THE ARBITER'S SONG
With most of the arena in a fairly low level of light, (only the chess table is brightly illuminated) the first game begins. The Arbiter reflects to himself how he is in control of everything that happens within the arena. “As they settle down behind their pawns, power passes to me!” He begins to dream of all the things he’d like to do to those players who don’t follow the rules and begins to fantasise about acting them out.
For this scene the Arbiters assistants would probably be dressed in either black and white or all white and be standing in front of or maybe even behind various screens. As the Arbiter gets carried away with his dream fantasy the assistants would begin to take on his thoughts and enact what he is thinking about – in a highly stylised choreographic way! The stage would be quite dark at this point and the aim would be to make the scene look a bit like a moving negative, a half-truth of reality. The chess table would be brightly lit at all times and it would be seen that the players were simply getting on with the game. The Arbiter’s ‘dream’ would have no effect on them whatsoever. Though there is the chance that he might actually 'interact' with them - within his dream - but in reality they are simply concentrating on the game.
As the Arbiter and his assistants regain their composure, the arena returns to a quiet 'model of decorum', but off the board things are far from tranquil. During the games that follow, the relationships between the key characters develop and break down respectively.
At the end of the Arbiter’s song the first match comes to an end and the music for ‘Chess’ begins - continuing as underscoring throughout all of the following sub-scenes. The chess table would remain in the centre of the stage at all times, with the various sub scenes taking place down stage left, right or centre. Screens may slide in front of the table for some scenes, as it may be desirable to ‘play’ some games in silhouette. This would allow for body doubles to be used for Anatoly or Freddie to assist with fast scene changes during this sequence. The music for Chess would begin as soon as the Arbiter’s song came to an end, and the two players would rise from the table and leave the arena straight away. The first sub-scene would appear almost immediately in the down stage left position.
Sub Scene 1 (Freddie and Florence – Downstage left)
Freddie has not so easily recovered from his perceived betrayal by Florence. He’s motivated to win, but no matter how hard he tries the thought of Florence with Anatoly keeps distracting him. He holds her responsible for this and blames her for his losing the first game. Florence yet again tries to convince him that she did not betray him and that nothing was ever going to happen between her and Anatoly. She points out that it is him who is making silly mistakes on the board, not her! It’s up to him to get these stupid ideas out of his head and start concentrating on the chess; she has done all she can!
Sub Scene 2 (Molokov and Anatoly – Downstage right)
Anatoly is fighting against Molokov’s control, while Molokov in turn is trying all the harder to control Anatoly. He tries once again to persuade him to make a move on Florence. Anatoly does not want to use underhand tactics to win the game and tells Molokov that he will not take part in these psychological games. Molokov points out that they are already beginning to work and that’s before Anatoly has even made a proper move on Florence. Freddie thinks he has and that is all that has been required to make him lose his form. Imagine what could be achieved if Anatoly did make a move! Anatoly secretly does want to see Florence, but at the same time he does not want it to be for the wrong reason. He’s really uncertain how to make his own move on Florence and not one that will help with Molokov’s plans.
Sub Scene 3 (Anatoly and Florence – Downstage centre)
Anatoly is trying to speak with Florence. He manages to catch a few minutes with her in a corridor at the arena. He asks to meet her somewhere, but she refuses. He then tells her that he thinks he loves her! She’s surprised and flattered, but she still cannot allow herself to be seen with him. She walks away, but inside, her heart is starting to question how she really feels about this man.
Sub Scene 4 (Anatoly and Molokov – Downstage right)
Freddie has begun to regain his form and has won the next two games. Molokov is becoming worried and once again tries to convince Anatoly to at least be seen with the woman. Anatoly of course knows that Florence won’t let this happen and he tells Molokov that he’s tried, but she won’t speak with him. Molokov suggests that maybe if Anatoly were to change the way he looks at Florence this would do the trick. “Just look at her as if there is something between the two of you, Trumper’s imagination will do the rest.”
Sub Scene 5 (Anatoly and Freddie – Chess Table)
Anatoly, though loath to take any advice from Molokov, has no better ideas of his own, so he does begin to look at Florence in a slightly different way. During the next game he catches her eye on several occasions and makes sure that Freddie sees him smiling at her. This of course has the desired effect and Freddie is enraged. Unable to endure it any longer he interrupts the game and accuses Anatoly of trying to distract him. Anatoly denies it, but it’s enough to unhinge Freddie a little more and he storms out.
Sub Scene 6 (Florence and Freddie – Downstage right)
Back at the hotel Freddie begins to doubt Florence again and accuses her of leading Anatoly on. Why else would he sit there staring at her? She tries to remind him that he’s the one who always said never to trust a Russian. Why can’t he see what they are doing? He can’t, his paranoia has taken control of him and he suggests that Florence is turning into a Russian herself! She has had enough of his abuse and decides to walk out on him. She throws a few things into a bag and leaves. She’s made the move she’s been feeling in her heart for several days. Freddie puts on a front to show that he doesn’t care - reminding himself that he doesn’t need her or anyone else. That HE is going to be the world champion and that she needn’t think she can come running back to him when he’s won!
Sub Scene 7 (Anatoly and Florence – Downstage centre)
Anatoly just happens to be in the right place at the right time and he meets Florence just after she has left Freddie. He tries to console her but though she tries to ignore him he won’t let her and when he pulls her towards him she falls all too easily into his comforting arms.
The final bars of ‘Chess’ are played as Anatoly and Florence embrace and kiss. During this the downstage screens begin to close and the lights fade to a single light on the couple, this too fading as the screens close in front of them.
END ACT ONE
There may be a brief reprise of the Bangkok intro, possibly at a slightly slower tempo. During this a similar scene to that from the top of the show would be shown. This time we see a woman being escorted into the Oriental hotel under the cover of darkness. We don’t know who she is, but she’s obviously not a local.
HEAVEN HELP MY HEART
The music would then begin to change to the Heaven Help My Heart intro and dawn would settle over Bangkok as the city slowly began to wake up.
The streets are quiet and people are beginning to set up their market stalls etc. Florence is up early too and trying to make sense of what she has allowed to happen. As she returns to the hotel’s waterfront terrace she ponders on the sudden and overwhelming love she now feels for a man she hardly knows. Uncertain where this passion is likely to lead her she fears for her future with him.
The scene changes to Anatoly’s hotel room, where he is being harassed by Molokov. The fact that Anatoly and Florence have shared some intimate moments has not gone unnoticed by Molokov or the press. Speculation is rife about the new lovers and the possibility of a defection. Molokov is now in great need of finding a move that will keep his man on his side of the board and the boarder. He has flown Anatoly’s wife - Svetlana into Bangkok the previous night, but he has not yet told Anatoly.
What he has told him is that the rumours of a possible defection must be quelled. A statement has been written by Molokov, which he insists Anatoly must read to the press. He is whisked off to meet them in the hotel lobby. Florence looks on as Anatoly reads the statement. She is shocked by it, but not half as much as by Molokov’s next announcement. He tells the press that Anatoly’s wife arrived in Bangkok last night and will be joining her husband at the Chess Federation’s Sponsor's Evening the following night.
YOU AND I
The reporters try to ask more questions, but Molokov brings the press conference to an end. They leave and Anatoly storms out. By this time Florence has left the hotel and is now wandering in the gardens. The scene changes to the gardens as Anatoly joins her. He explains to her that the words he said to the press were Molokov’s and not his own and also that he knew nothing about his wife being in Bangkok. He hands Florence a small box, which has a gold necklace inside. He helps her to put it on and they kiss.
It seems the lovers have reached stalemate. Where can they go from here? They want to believe that everything will turn out fine, but they know the chances of this are slim – yet they keep on hoping that their dream of love, happiness and freedom can become reality.
Back in Molokov’s hotel suite he gathers his cronies around him in a bid to boost morale within the Russian camp. He explains how he has manipulated the situation to his advantage and that no matter what happens Russia will be the victor in this war. He tells them how he has just left Svetlana in Anatoly’s hotel room and how she will be sure to convince him that he must stay loyal to Russia. He then goes on to explain that he has located Miss Vassy’s father, in Russia and that if all else fails this old man will be sure to prove the winning pawn in any game their champion is unable to win on his own.
HE IS A MAN, HE IS A CHILD (Or a new lyric to the tune of Glöm Mig Om Du Kan)
Svetlana is sitting in Anatoly’s room waiting for him to come back. When he does, Florence is with him! Florence makes an excuse and leaves them alone. Svetlana tries to convince Anatoly that he should forget this English woman who is destroying his game, and that he must give their marriage and her the respect they deserve. Anatoly is not willing to listen to these pleas and before long he walks out. Svetlana is left to reflect on how their life together has changed since Anatoly became a chess champion and how the Russian chess system has destroyed their love.
LET’S WORK TOGETHER
Molokov has decided that he should enlist Walter’s help - just in case he can’t rely on his other ‘pieces’ to play in quite the way he hopes. He has sent Walter a letter asking him to meet him just before the sponsors evening. He offers Walter the chance to stage a “Great human rights victory.” He tells him that if he helps to convince Florence that her father is alive then it may be possible to get some other people released from Russia – instead of Florence’s father! Walter is interested and they agree to collaborate. They seal their working relationship with a handshake and Molokov hands Walter a large brown envelope.
Walter has managed to pull off a major marketing coup and with the assistance of the Chess Federation has been able to arrange a huge sponsorship event. It’s basically a drinks party with various important media and marketing people in attendance. The press has been invited too and of course everybody involved with the tournament will also be there – including the champions and their women!
The staging will be similar to ‘Chess’ but with all sub scenes taking place in or around the banquet hall. It will be similar to London in that everybody will be in black or white eveningwear.
During the intro music we would see photographers taking pictures of various guests as they arrive. Florence, Anatoly, Freddie etc would all be seen arriving. Freddie and Florence are seen arriving separately and this of course is of great interest to the press. I would like there to be the occasional question asked by the press, with probably none of them being answered.
Sub Scene 1 (Walter and Florence)
Walter is the first to make his move. He tells Florence about her father being alive and how, if she gets Freddie to throw the game he will be able to get him released from his Russian prison. She is amazed that anybody would expect her to believe that her father is still alive and moreover that Freddie would ever throw a match for anybody let alone her! Walter gives her the envelope and tells her that once she reads the evidence she WILL believe him. But in the meantime, there is no deal!
Sub Scene 2 (Svetlana and Anatoly)
Svetlana and Anatoly are together, but they could not be farther apart. Anatoly resents his wife for trying to make him go along with Molokov’s plans and also for being yet another obstacle between him and Florence. She tries to talk to him, remind him how she loves him, cares for him and wants what’s best for both of them. She’s convinced that Molokov is only trying to help them, but Anatoly knows this isn’t true and is determined not to let his wife convince him otherwise.
Sub Scene 3 (Molokov and Freddie)
Molokov then makes a move on Freddie. He tries to convince Freddie to throw the match to Anatoly - for the love of Florence. If he throws the game for her and her father then surely she will come rushing back to him. Freddie of course does not believe that her father could be alive and even if he were he would never throw a game to a Russian. He tells Molokov what to do with his scheming ideas. Yet another unsuccessful attack! Still no deal!
Sub Scene 4 (Florence and Anatoly)
Florence finds Anatoly and tells him about the envelope from Walter. Anatoly admits that Molokov had been doing some research into her past and that he very likely had this information on standby just in case it was useful to him. They long to be together right now, but Molokov’s attacks have had some impact and his number one weapon (Svetlana) appears at this point and takes Anatoly away. Florence is left to reflect on her feelings about her past.
Sub Scene 5 (Walter and Molokov)
Walter and Molokov regroup and discuss their success so far. Walter makes it sound like Florence is only too willing to help them and will do anything to get her father back. Molokov though, knows how this game is played and he feels the need to add some additional power to his attacks. He goes to find Svetlana.
Sub Scene 6 (Molokov and Svetlana)
Molokov now wants Svetlana to make an attack on Florence. He feels sure that a few aggrieved words from a scorned woman may do more good than anything he or Walter could devise. Svetlana is more than willing to assist.
Sub Scene 7 (Anatoly and Molokov)
Anatoly is furious about Molokov’s new attack on him and Florence. He tells him that he’s wasting his time and that Freddie is never going to throw the match because of some exaggerated story about Florence’s father being alive. Molokov assures him that it’s not exaggerated and that her father is alive. If he (Molokov) can make everything turn out just as he planned, then her father will be released. He’s not an unreasonable man and he will stick to his word. Anatoly walks away, uncertain how to react to this new information.
Sub Scene 8 (Freddie and Florence)
Freddie then tries to recapture his queen. He’s beginning to realise that he does need her. He can play chess and he can win without her, but he misses her and he wants her back in his life. He tries to convince her that if she were to come back to him they could once again take the chess world by storm and then almost as an afterthought - that he loves her. She is not convinced and believes that it is really only for the love of his game and not for the love of her that he wants her back. He says he loves her, and yet he can’t throw the match!
Sub Scene 9 (Svetlana and Florence)
Svetlana then makes her attack on Florence. She tries to make her feel guilty by telling her that although she thinks she’s making Anatoly happy, she’s really destroying him. She knows better how to help him and what he needs. She also tries to get Florence to convince Freddie to throw the match. If she loves Anatoly then she should be willing to do what’s best for him. Florence tells her she can’t ask Freddie to throw the match and that he wouldn’t do it anyway. In that case, Svetlana suggests that she should just get out of Bangkok and leave the men to fight their battle on their own.
Florence walks away - very close to tears. She leaves the banqueting hall and goes into the hotel gardens. She takes a seat on the terrace and begins to read the documents about her father. As she does so, she reflects on everything that's been happening. The information in the envelope does seem to be genuine, maybe it is true, maybe her father is still alive! She begins to realise her moves have become indecisive and that she has been doing what is right for everybody else. Maybe it’s time for her to start thinking about herself – make a bold and a firm decision. Only a strong attack will get her through this and she decides to make it. She returns to the banquet hall and looks for Freddie. As she walks back into the banquet hall she sees various groups of people chatting and no doubt plotting their own little schemes. She reminds herself that everybody is out to help themselves, she must keep telling herself this and go ahead with what she’s decided to do.
THE DEAL – Part Two
Sub Scene 10 (Florence and Freddie)
Eventually she finds Freddie and she asks him to throw the game. She’s convinced that her father is alive and she must get him out. Freddie says he loves her, but he cannot throw the game!
Sub Scene 11 (Florence and Anatoly)
Florence’s move has failed. She is now in an even weaker position than before, as Anatoly is furious when she tells him what she has done. He now feels inferior, as she has made it clear that even she doesn’t believe that he can beat Freddie. He tries to deflect some of this by blaming Florence for ruining his game and blocks anymore attacks from her by asking that she leave him alone until after the tournament.
Florence runs away, once again almost in tears. Svetlana goes to put her hand on Anatoly’s shoulder, but he shrugs it off and walks away. She shouts after him, but he ignores her and she is left stranded in the middle of the banqueting hall. She turns and storms out.
The Arbiter and the press begin to reflect on what’s been happening. The hall gradually clears and the screens begin to move to create two new scenes.
I KNOW HIM SO WELL
Downstage left we see Svetlana arriving in her hotel room and beginning to take off her earrings etc. As she does so she reflects on how her time with Anatoly seems to be at an end and yet how she now seems to know him better than she ever has. She feels certain that she could make him happy once again, but will he ever give her the chance?
Meanwhile, downstage right Florence is seen putting the various documents back into the envelope and taking off the necklace that Anatoly gave her. She too reflects on her time with him. Like Svetlana she believes that she now understands him better than before and that under different circumstances they could have had that happy ending they dreamed off. Now she’s pretty sure that she will never be exactly what he needs.
Towards the end of 'I Know Him So Well', the centre stage screens slide apart to reveal the empty chess arena. Anatoly is sitting at the chessboard - staring at the pieces. As ‘Champions’ begins he remains seated, but eventually gets up and leaves.
The arena remains empty for the rest of the first part of the ‘Champions’ intro. On the first crescendo, the screens at extreme upstage fly out to reveal the delegates, press etc. It is now the final game of the tournament and the TV Company has once again created a slightly theatrical ‘opening’ as the players prepare for their most important game ever.
And so it’s time for the final moves to be made…
Molokov is confident that his position is secure. He has no need to make any further moves.
“How straightforward the game, when one has trust in ones player.”
Florence too feels that she’s done all she can, but she’s far from confidant. She can only wait and watch.
“Though it gives me no joy…”
Walter doesn’t really care what happens, he’s set up his pieces so that he simply can not lose – no matter what.
“It’s the weak that accept tawdry untruths about freedom.”
Svetlana is angry that Anatoly can only think about his own desires and not about her.
“Does the player exist in any human endeavour…”
Freddie still has his move to make, but he’s not sure what it should be. Should he throw the match and lose all that he’s ever dreamed of, or win it and lose the only woman he’s ever really wanted? Either way he loses something.
“They all think they see a man…”
Anatoly is trying his best to win on his terms and by his own strengths, but he is having trouble concentrating. He begins to think that he cannot beat Freddie, maybe Florence was right! He desperately wants to win and does all he can to take the lead; he must not give Freddie the chance to throw the match.
“Anyone can be a husband lover…”
Freddie eventually decides that he must sacrifice his title to keep his queen.
“And so today I throw away my work, my fame…”
Anatoly is left with no option but to win by default, there is no other move he can make, Freddie has left him with no choice.
“Is there no one in my life who does not claim…”
The arena is filled with the noise of excited chatting and laughter. Florence approaches Freddie to thank him for what he has done - they embrace lightly. Molokov then approaches the two of them with a huge grin. He shakes hands with Freddie and then Florence. The arena begins to clear and soon only Florence and Anatoly are left.
YOU AND I
Florence and Anatoly talk about Freddie throwing the match and about her father. She has series doubts about it actually being her father, but she’s hoping that at the very least she might be able to get some more information about what did really happen to him. From the information she has already been given she is certain that somebody knows the truth.
They reflect on their time together and the wishes they have of being able to continue with their love. They know this can never be, so they accept it and vow to remember it as a moment of joy and happiness.
While Florence and Anatoly kiss and embrace for the last time, Freddie and Svetlana appear up-stage left and right. They see the embrace and reflect on their own feelings about this love affair and their own relationships with these two people. All four speak to each other as they say their farewells. As they do so, echoes from their pasts are heard – sung by the chorus.
CHORUS Didn't I know how it would go? If I knew from the start Why am I falling apart? Hoping to keep that best of moments When the passion starts Heaven help my heart And what I'm feeling now Has no easy explanation Reason plays no part I love him / her too much
When the crazy wheel slow downs Where will I be? Back where I started Pity the child who has ambition Knows what he wants to do Although the feelings run just as deep The promise she made has grown impossible to keep Each day got through Means one or two Less mistakes Remain to be made
FLORENCE, ANATOLY, SVETLANA & FREDDIE You and I We've seen it all Chasing our heart’s desire But we go on pretending Stories like ours Have happy endings
+ CHROUS Have happy endings
As the song comes to an end the screens begin to move and all four of them turn and walk off stage alone. At the very end of the music, the lights begin to fade and we catch just a glimpse of Molokov and Walter shaking hands up-stage centre. It seems only their story really had the happy ending.
BAnd now the game assessment begins…
Anatoly is still the champion. He’s won the tournament, but he didn’t win by his own merit, so he feels he has lost. He now needs to go back to Russia. Much as he would like to defect and run away with Florence, he knows this cannot be. He has to go back for the release of her father and for the sake of his wife and family. He knows that if he did defect, Molokov and his KGB associates would make life difficult for his wife and other members of his family. The crazy wheel HAS slowed down and as he expected he IS back where he started.
Freddie has just sacrificed his life’s ambition for the sake of Florence’s father. He loves her dearly and knows he needs her back. He also knows that winning back her love will be the biggest and most difficult challenge he has ever had to face. He hopes that in time she will forgive him for how he treated her in the past and that they can once again become a winning team. With or without her, his life will never be quite the same again. He has learned a valuable lesson about himself. All his life he’s been putting up a front in order to prevent himself from being hurt again in the way his mother hurt him. When that barrier fell, he became human again and he learned how to cope with the hurt and face up to it, rather than hide it away. He realises now that when you make the opening gambit of loving someone, you sacrifice a piece of yourself, but it is a sacrifice that is worth making because of the benefits that you gain later in the game. Somehow he had managed to block out the rewards and only see the sacrifices. Recent events have helped him to understand himself and life in a way he never could before.
Florence has seen both her lovers make huge sacrifices for her and a man who might not be her father. The more she thinks about it the more she suspects that it could all be a trick. Again, like all the rest, this was a chance she had to take. If it is her father then she will be able to fill in many missing pieces from the jigsaw of her life, but if it isn’t, her life may become even more confused than it ever was before. Whatever happens she will adapt and adjust her moves to suite the events. It’s all she or anyone can do. No one stands still, life is always moving on.
Svetlana knows that her husband is coming back to Russia – not to her. She wonders if their marriage will survive these recent events. Nothing she can do now will ever remove the memory of this woman that has captured her husband’s heart. She can only stand by and wait - ever hopeful that he will return to the heart of his family and her.
Walter and Molokov are of course the winners here. Molokov has kept his champion and the title, Walter has his ‘human rights victory’ to console him, not to mention the huge financial bonus he is due to receive from his excellent merchandising campaign!
And so the game has been played. Those who made the biggest sacrifices are also the ones that have the least to show for them. Nobody knew that things would turn out the way they did. Like chess, the game of life has rules, which can be adhered to or broken, but no matter what way you play the game, you can never predict the ending…
But what ending did this story really have? Was there a happy ending after all?
The screens continue to move and it is now a few days later. Florence has been flown to Russia to meet the man who Molokov claims is her father. As the screens continue to move in various directions we see Florence and Molokov move between them. Eventually the screens settle and an elderly man is seen sitting on a chair. Molokov introduces Florence to the man and leaves them alone. The old man (unable to speak much English) begins to sing a lullaby to Florence. As this begins to stir a memory in Florence’s mind we see a similar scene appear behind the upstage screens. In this one, a man of about thirty is seen singing to a young girl of about five. As he sings, the two enact various hand movements and then the little girl circles the man by walking around his chair. When she is back in front of him she bows and he rises and bows to her. He then lifts her up in his arms and hugs her tight.
Very similar actions have been happening downstage too. Florence has remembered the movements that she so often enacted with her father when she was a little girl. After he has bowed to her, Florence falls into his arms and they embrace tightly.
The music builds to a crescendo, possibly a mixture of ‘Apukad’ with ‘Chess’ or ‘Anthem’.
There have been many sacrifices in this story, but maybe they were worth it? It’s all give and take in a world where nothing is free. Florence has lost a lover that could have become the love of her life, but she has gained the love and freedom of the man who gave her life in the first place. To win you must lose something and when you lose something you will win something else. Each move will lead to another; each move made is one move closer to where you are supposed to be.
Or in this case SCREENS, as they slowly close in front of Florence and her father and the lights fade to the sound of an audience going wild with their applause!