Please note: this is NOT my picture. It is a college of Shakespeare made with words from his sonnets by Erika Iris Simmons. I love it. I have posted a message to her Flickr page (where I found this) and will remove it if she wishes.


Please note: since the internet has spawned a deluge of writing, I know we all have limited time to read these days.  Therefore the following script is as short as I could make it, weighing in at 846 words (apart from the words ‘Scriptum Theatricum’, which takes it up to 848 words, and apart from these words explaining how many words it is composed of, along with the Hamlet quotation about words, and the words underneath the picture which is made out of words, all of which takes the grand total up to 1,060 words, which I am proud of because usually I do have a propensity to rabbit on, although sadly the fact that I mentioned rabbiting on prevented me from limiting the total to a number under 1,000, for which I apologise profusely.  Next time I won’t mention any rabbits at all and hopefully my following play will have a script under 1,000 words which will save everybody time).


Introseductory Notes

From when I was a little boy onwards I was told on several occasions not to over-complicate my writing.  So I have decided to write a play called VERBUS MAXIMUS which is, simultaneously, over-complex and over-simple.   It is a one act, one scene play.  Feel free to perform it as soon as possible.  It is as simple as 1+1=11.  If you do perform it, please let me know at

There are four major inspirations for the play.  The first is the Capek brothers and their creation of the word ‘robot’ and its dissemination into the language through the play “RUR”.   The second is Shakespeare and the vast number of new words and phrases he put into the language.  The third is George Bernard Shaw, whose stage directions in “Caesar and Cleopatra” I read the other day.  I was amazed at how long they were!  I am not criticising GBS, but in this particular play, “Verbus Maximus”, I am following Janet Suzman’s point about the absence of stage directions in Shakespeare and how liberating that is for actors.

“Verbus Maximus” is a love story between two characters, JULIO SEE-SAW and CLEOPATRA NEEDLE.  They are the only actors unless theatre companies wish to have a larger cast, which is up to them.

Act One, Scene One.

SET:  The decline of vocabluary in a language is akin to the decline of a species.  When I was a little boy I had notebooks where I wrote down new words when I discovered them in books, from TV and radio, from listening to conversations, and so forth.  I have recently started keeping these notebooks again and am enjoying augmenting my now rather impoverished vocabluary.  On a personal basis, that feels like the regeneration of a coral reef after a period of its erosion.

So the set is very simple: it is a massive set of words.  If the theatre can afford it, this should look something like the massive boards of timetables at railway stations or airports or, alternatively, like one of those massive banks of screens in a stock market.  On that board words are flashed up and then change into other words.  These words should include a large proportion of words that are not generally used in everyday discourse; as an example, there are the lovely lists of obscure words accumulated at Phrontistery.   It would probably be too complicated to include definitions along with them, though I leave this to the discretion of directors and producers.

If an electronic screen is beyond the means of the company, it is fine for there to be a blackboard with somebody writing and rewriting words in chalk although this might obviously reduce the potential gate receipts from people who are troubled by the sound of chalk on a blackboard.

ACTING: The actors should have some kind of autocue in front of them which is linked to a random phrase generator and is visible to them but not the audience.  Ideally the random phrase generator will not just generate random phrases but sentences composed of entirely new words.  The more of these, the higher the probability that some of the neologisms will pass into posterity and I can claim the credit even though I didn’t actually bother to create them.  They should then act out a love story using the lines generated on the autocue and respond to the particular flavour and texture of the language generated in terms of their phrasing and movements.

THAT’S IT. I invite all literary critics to point out that the play is a) over-simple, because it took me less than half an hour to write and therefore represents an authorial dereliction of duty, and b) over-complex, because the potential number of combinations of words is, essentially, infinite, and will involve lots of very long and obscure words at a speed that is probably far too fast for the audience to absorb and digest.

Because it is a love story and a comedy, the skillful elicitation of laughter from the audience is not antithetical to the spirit of the play.  The greater the loops of positive energy between audience and performers the better, as this will lead to a CIRCUIT MAXIMUS.

The final line of the play is “We saw, we conquered each other, we came.”   When one of the actors decides to utter this line, the curtain falls and the audience members can finally nip off to the loo and go and buy the ice-creams that they’ve been thinking about for the entire duration of the play while they stoically accumulate Culture Points on uncomfortable seats in order to impress the people they’re trying to attract which is the only reason they accepted the invitation to go to the theatre in the first place because just like everybody else they would rather be in the pub, down the football, at the cinema, watching the telly, pottering around the allotment or at the shopping-centre instead of watching some underpaid actors messing about reading totally made-up languages off an autocue for what seems like an eternity.