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Waiting for Horizon

Image: Grace Gay for Research Professional News 

Ivory Tower: a theatre of the absurd drama about cross-border research programmes

Act I

A country road. A tree.


Freeman, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his boots.

Enter Donelan.

Freeman: Nothing to be done.

Donelan: I’m beginning to come round to your opinion.

Freeman: Glad to see you are back.

Donelan: I was never away.

Freeman: Didn’t you go to that other place?

Donelan: Only for a bit. Now, I’m back.

Freeman: Like a bad penny.

Donelan: Like the rising sun.

Freeman: So, you were here at the beginning?

Donelan: Of what?

Freeman: When we started.

Donelan: Started what?

Freeman: Waiting.

Donelan: I don’t know. When did we start?

Freeman: Start, what?

Donelan: Waiting.

Freeman: Ever so long.

Donelan: Let me count. How long has it been?

Freeman: Since 2020.

Donelan: Twenty past eight?

Freeman: That’s how long we’ve been waiting.

Donelan: I was here then.

Freeman: I was somewhere else.

Donelan: But I think it started before that. I remember something about a deal.

Freeman: 2020. That’s when one ran out and the other started.

Donelan: But we’ve been waiting longer.

Freeman: Ever so long.

Donelan: Do you think it will be today?

Freeman: Maybe tomorrow.

Donelan: But didn’t the woman say it could be immediately?

Freeman: That was yesterday.

Donelan: Maybe, three weeks ago.

Freeman: Time moves on, things change, and still we wait.

Donelan: For what?

Freeman: All sorts.

Donelan: Who?

Freeman: The DUP, the ERG, Boris, the Treasury, the Commission.

Donelan: I’ve had enough, let’s go.

Freeman: We can’t.

Donelan: Why not?

Freeman: We are waiting for Horizon.

Donelan: Are you sure it was here?

Freeman: What?

Donelan: That we were to wait.

Freeman: By the tree? Definitely. That’s what was said.

Donelan: And if they don’t come what will we do?

Freeman: We’ll come back tomorrow.

Donelan: And the next day?

Freeman: Possibly.

Donelan: And the point is?

Freeman: Until they come.

Donelan: We waited here yesterday.

Freeman: No, we waited somewhere else.

Donelan: I was here. Where were you?

Freeman: I was in Beis.

Donelan: I’ve never been there.

Freeman: Where were you?

Donelan: Here.

Freeman: Here, here?

Donelan: Here, wherever this is.

Freeman: And where were you waiting before that?

Donelan: At the DfE.

Freeman: Sure, that’s not even a place.

Donelan: It is. We’ve been waiting there for ages.

Freeman: For what?

Donelan: For Horizon. It’s all they ever talk about.

Freeman: Who?

Donelan: Those people, in the universities. They won’t stop going on about it.

Freeman: Are they waiting too?

Donelan: Longer than us, so they say.

Freeman: We need a plan B.

Donelan: Now you’re talking.

Freeman: Something else.

Donelan: Our own thing.

Freeman: Something different.

Donelan: But which fulfils the same needs, right?

Freeman: Absolutely, the same thing.

Donelan: Exactly the same.

Freeman: Word for word.

Donelan: When can we have it?

Freeman: After.

Donelan: After what?

Freeman: After we’ve waited.

Donelan: What are we waiting on?

Freeman: Horizon.

Donelan: No, I mean why are we waiting on plan B?

Freeman: We’re not.

Donelan: Aren’t we?

Freeman: We’re waiting on Horizon.

Donelan: You are impossible.

Freeman: I didn’t start this. You were here at the beginning, remember?

Donelan: I don’t remember a plan B.

Freeman: Plan B is my plan.

Donelan: There you go. So, what are we waiting on?

Freeman: Horizon.

Donelan: It’s enough to make you question the meaning of existence.

Freeman: That’s Beckett for you.

Donelan: Look, why can’t we have plan B?

Freeman: Because we are waiting for Horizon.

Donelan: I give up.

Freeman: Plan B is only a threat to make Horizon hurry up and arrive.

Donelan: So, let’s do it then.

Freeman: But if we do plan B, then Horizon won’t arrive.

Donelan: Why?

Freeman: Because we will be doing plan B and Horizon won’t come.

Donelan: Why not?

Freeman: Because Horizon will see that we are doing plan B and say they can’t come.

Donelan: That’s absurd.

Freeman: That’s Beckett.

Donelan: And why hasn’t Horizon arrived yet?

Freeman: Because we’ve been threatening plan B.

Donelan: Let me get this straight.

Freeman: Go on.

Donelan: We can’t do plan B because we are waiting for Horizon.

Freeman: Exactly.

Donelan: And Horizon won’t come because we have been thinking about doing plan B.

Freeman: Up to a point.

Donelan: So, what do we do?

Freeman: We wait.

Donelan: For what?

Freeman: For Horizon.

Donelan: I can’t go on.

Freeman: You must go on.

Donelan: I’ll go on.

Freeman: Can’t give up the day job?

Donelan: No, I’ll just wait.

Freeman: We’ll stand here by this tree and wait.

Donelan: Do you think it will be much longer?

Freeman: Maybe.

Donelan: What if we stopped.

Freeman: Stopped what?

Donelan: Waiting.

Freeman: Oh, for a minute I thought you meant stop the day job.

Donelan: Never.

Freeman: Good. Better just to wait.

Donelan: No, I meant stop waiting.

Freeman: For what?

Donelan: For Horizon. What if we stopped waiting altogether and just did plan B.

Freeman: I despair.

Donelan: That’s Beckett for you.

Freeman: We can’t.

Donelan: Why not?

Freeman: Plan B is only a stop gap. An immediate boost. While we wait.

Donelan: For what?

Freeman: For Horizon.

Donelan: Why?

Freeman: Because it’s the best.

Donelan: Better than plan B?

Freeman: The clue is in the name.

Donelan: Horizon?

Freeman: Plan B.

Donelan: I can’t wait here.

Freeman: You could wait elsewhere.

Donelan: I’ve got to get back.

Freeman: To where?

Donelan: To the new place.

Freeman: Sure, we’ve been waiting longer than there’s been a new place.

Donelan: I know, but there are things to do.

Freeman: Apart from waiting?

Donelan: We are going to be a superpower.

Freeman: When?

Donelan: After Horizon comes.

Freeman: Try again. Fail again. Better again. Or better worse. Fail worse again. Still worse again.

Donelan: Have you read our mission statement?

Freeman: I remember when we held all the cards.

Donelan: Did we?

Freeman: They would be welcoming us with open arms.

Donelan: What happened?

Freeman: We are still waiting.

Donelan: But it must be on our own terms.

Freeman: The waiting?

Donelan: No, when Horizon comes, we need to look them in the eye and say this needs to be all about us.

Freeman: They won’t come then.

Donelan: It must be about what is good for us.

Freeman: Horizon arriving, that’s what would be good for us.

Donelan: I’m beginning to think we might have made a mistake.

Freeman: About Brexit?

Donelan: No, never. Maybe, they said to meet somewhere else.

Freeman: We’ve been waiting here for ages. We might as well see it out now.

[A boy approaches]

Donelan: About time.

Freeman: Who’s this?

Boy: Horizon…

Donelan: You’re not Horizon.

Boy: No, I have a message.

Freeman: How long have you been here?

Boy: I was waiting.

Donelan: What for?

Boy: To tell you.

Freeman: Have I seen you before?

Boy: No, this is my first time.

Donelan: He looks familiar.

Freeman: What is the message?

Boy: Please, sir, Horizon told me to tell you they won’t come this evening but surely tomorrow.

Donelan: I see.

Boy: Do you have a message for Horizon?

Freeman: We have a plan B.

Donelan: But we’ll wait.

[Boy leaves]

Freeman: What now?

Donelan: Shall we wait?

Freeman: Let’s go.

Donelan: Yes, let’s go.

[They do not move]

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