jay sharpe

playwright

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instagram: @jay.sharpee

Hello! My name is Jay (they/them), and I am a current student on the MLitt Playwriting and Dramaturgy course with the University of Glasgow. I am not based in any single place but most of my work has been centred in Lincolnshire, England. My work primarily focuses on the nonbinary experience of those living in England and the complications, the struggle, the beauty, and the vibrancy of living life outside of the gender binary. 

I have always used writing as a form of self-expression, utilizing forms spanning both prose and verse. My interest in playwriting was sparked during my undergraduate study at the University of Lincoln, where I wrote and directed my first original play. Since, I have vowed to never write anything absent of a nonbinary character or narrative. This began with my autobiographical one-to-one performance in which I reconciled with the rejection of my identity from my close family, and a segment can be read here, titled 'The Future'. 

'Don't Look Down' is another semi-autobiographical piece where I processed aspects of my past experience with intrusive thoughts associated with my gender dysphoria. I blended aspects of poetry and playwriting together to formulate both a rhythmic and disturbing landscape that expressed my pain and anger. 

Although my initial works started out as angry and personally vulnerable, I now endeavour to make work that is celebratory of the nonbinary identity and that attempts to normalize it for audiences. In 'On The Hill' I wanted to write a character who was established in their identity, understood who they were, and the issue was those around them who did not understand, rather than pain being caused by the very fact of realizing one's nonbinary identity. 

I am currently working on a full-length playscript that takes inspiration from Beckett and Sarah Kane and is to be complete in the early summer. This is my most ambitious work yet, and I am working with a world in which nonbinary identity is in fact normal. While I understand that our duller real world is not there yet, I hope that my work will add to the fantastic work of other genderqueer and nonbinary writers who are working towards a reality in which our identities are not questioned, we are not doubted, we are not strange or fake. I am working towards a world in which being nonbinary is simply another way of existing.

On the Hill

A clifftop at sunset. Sea birds flock in the ocean below.

The ocean is battered by far-off rain.

A gluttonous party can be heard in the distance.

Oma enters, wearing an ill-fitting dress and dirty trainers. They radiate anger.

They swiftly climb up the path to the top of the hill.

They ride up the skirt of their dress to their hips, revealing boxer shorts underneath. They sit cross-legged. They rustle their hair.

They spit on their fingers and rub away at their makeup.

They put in their earphones and play music on their phone.

Oma begins to silently cry.

A feather lies on the ground. They pick it up and fiddle with it. They come close to ripping it.

They rip at the grass instead.

Their crying becomes audible. 

It gets louder.

Louder.

Louder.

They scream.

Someone is approaching, but Oma does not hear them.

Oma shifts, pulling in their knees and hugging their legs.

A man enters in a bland suit and coat. He is unassuming.

He struggles climbing the path.

Chris:    Hey there kidd…

               …

               …

               …

               Alright.

He reaches the top.

He slowly approaches Oma, and leans around their side.

Chris:    He…

Oma:    Go away.

Chris:    You alright there, kiddo?

Oma turns their music down.

They swiftly wipe away their tears.

Chris:    Kiddo?

Oma:    Uh huh.

              …

              I just wanna sit.

Chris:   How long? Your mum is already worrying, you know how she gets.

              Come on, we don’t have time for this.

Oma:    Sure.

The sun is almost set. 

Oma:    Go away. Ain’t it your party?

Chris:    I want you to be there.

Oma:    Tough.

Chris:    It’s already dark. We’ve not got long left.

Oma:    Good.

Chris:   Kid, there’s no time for this, just come back and…

Oma turns up their music.

Chris:    …we can all have a good last night before…

               …

               Kid?

Chris realises Oma can’t hear him.

He is exhausted.

Chris takes a few steps back. He takes off his coat and lays it on the ground. He sits.

The rain is louder, but still far off.

Chris keeps looking back at the party.

Oma’s music shuts off.

They take out their phone. It is out of battery.

Oma starts humming.

Chris checks his watch.

Chris:    Come on. If you come now we’ll dodge the rain.

                …

                You don’t have an umbrella…

                Jo…

Oma:    (now standing) Will you just fuck off, uncle. I don’t care about your stupid party. I don’t care about the rain.

               If anything, I’m waiting for it to come and you will get scared and run back inside leaving me in peace. I’m not going back.                 Ever. So stop trying. 

               Fuck. Just fuck off. I just want to be alone and I want you to leave. Fuck off Chris, you sad, lonely, worthless piece of shit.

Chris:    I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

Oma:    You look like you’re about to cry.

Chris:    We never wanted you there anyway.

Oma sits back down, back to Chris.

Chris stands, resigned. 

He picks up his coat.

He stumbles back down the cliff and leaves.

It is fully dark now.

No moon.

No stars.

The rain is louder, slowly getting closer.

Birds sing and scream after it.

Oma does not listen.

They stare at the oncoming rain.

Until…

Oma:    Piece of shit.

Oma takes out their earphones.

They push themselves to standing.

Holding it by the wire, they dangle their phone over the edge of the cliff.

Chris:    (off) Wait! 

Oma:    They lock you out?

Chris enters. Panting.

Chris:   I brought you something.

Oma:    I don’t want…

Chris:   Power bank. Umbrella. A couple of sausage rolls.

Oma:    I…

Chris:    If you want, keep my coat as well. Can you help me up this bit?

Oma:    You can just leave…

Chris:    Give us a hand, would you?

Oma:    Whatever.

Oma goes to Chris and takes the items off his hands.

They allow Chris to hold their shoulder as he climbs.

They reach the top.

Oma:    I told you to fuck off.

Chris:    Didn’t I?

Oma:    Why (are you back)?

Chris:    Why don’t you come back?

Oma:    These rolls are warmer than I thought.

Chris:    They just got cooked.

Oma:    Isn’t this your umbrella?

Chris:    You need it more.

Oma:    Well, you good now? Done your good deed for the year. Surely you want to get some of the food for yourself if it’s freshly                    cooked?

Chris:    You want some too?

Oma:    I’ve got some.

Chris:    Indeed.

Oma:    So, I’m just gonna sit here for a bit. You sure this bank is charged?

Chris:    Maybe. Was in your mum’s bag.

Oma:    Maybe.

Chris:    Why don’t you come back?

Oma:    No.

Chris:    Come back. There’s no time.

Oma:    No.

Chris:    Do you hate us that much?

Oma:    Sure.

Chris:    Really?

Oma:    This look like a liar to you?

Chris:    I just wanted to…

Oma:    You want me to come back so you can control everything.

Chris:    You don’t want to come back because you’re being a brat.

Oma:    I hate it there.

Chris:    I didn’t mean it like…

Oma:    Yes you did.

              Why do you want me to come back so bad? Not like we’ll be here to remember it anyway.

              Did you ever think that people may want to spend time alone right now rather than being forced to perform for a family                      full of strangers?

Chris:    I want you back because it would mean I get to see everyone one more time, together. We were happy way back when.

               I want that back. Just for tonight.

               It would mean so much to me.

Oma:    No.

Chris:    Everything would feel complete.

Oma:    I’m gonna be honest. I want the rain to come. 

              I can’t wait, because then it means that everything can just be gone and done and I wouldn’t need to think about                                    pretending anymore.

Chris:    I understand.

Beat.

Chris:    I understand. 

               I have lived for so long, and never have I felt like I belonged anywhere.

               I always find a way of fucking everything up.

               The family will use any excuse they can to get rid of me.

               The only reason everyone showed up tonight was because no one else was doing anything, and your mother sweet-talked                   them to death.

Oma:    I thought mum hated you.

Chris:    Times like these do weird things to people.

Pause.

Oma:    I really want to tell you to go away.

Chris:    Can I sit? 

               Rest the bones a bit?

Oma nods.

Chris sits on his coat on the ground.

They listen to the birds calling.

Oma remembers they have the power bank.

They take it out, and plug in their phone.

They do not put in the earphones.

Oma:    What happened to you?

Chris:    Ah, no matter.

Oma:    Mum won’t tell me. I keep asking but every time she only tells me that you had ‘fallen out of line’.

              Tell me.

Chris:    A shit life. That’s what.

Oma:    You have until the rain gets here.

A bird feather tumbles down from the sky.

Chris:    After all that happened with Angela.

               I lost it.

               At your mum.

               At everyone.

               I was going mad.

               It was all Angela’s fault, you know?

A bird feather falls down from the sky.

Chris:    I did some bad things.

               I regret everything I did.

               You know, your aunt made me return my copy of her house key because of what happened that summer.

               But I never stopped loving the family.

A bird feather falls down from the sky.

Chris:    I put on this party.

               I wanted to see everyone one more time before…

               Before I won’t be able to anymore.

Oma:    Even if everyone is miserable.

Chris:    I guess.

Oma:    Even if I ran away?

Chris:    I’m glad you did. You made me realise they’re not really worth it.

Several bird feathers fall from the sky.

Chris:    Fucking birds.

Oma:    Fucking birds.

Chris:    This happen often?

Oma:    Not really. Maybe they just don’t like you.

Chris:    That’s fair.

Oma:    No it’s not.

Chris:    I want to do something.

Oma:    Do it, then.

Chris:    When you were dangling your phone like you did, it gave me a moment of inspiration.

He takes out his wallet.

He takes out a photo of Angela.

His ex-wife.

Oma:    Nice.

Chris rips it apart.

He holds it over the edge of the cliff.

And…

Let’s go.

Oma:    Better?

Chris:    It looks like feathers from this far.

Oma:    Good. I never liked her anyway.

Chris:    What?

Oma:    People only took her side because she bribed them. Or that she was a better liar than anyone.

Chris:    Bitch.

Oma:    Bitch.

Chris:    Total bitch. God, this rain has the birds riled up tonight.

Oma:    You know, I managed to save one as a kid?

              A chick got left in the nest, so I climbed the cliff and took it to the ground.

              Fed it some canned tuna and it perked right up.

              Took it to the vet after.

              It was proper cute.

Chris:    You ever find out what happened to it?

Oma:    Yeah, they sent me pictures. Wanna see?

Chris:    Go on, then.

Oma shows the pictures to Chris on their phone.

Oma:    Well, you’ve had your moment. 

               You gonna ask me to come back to the party again?

               I’ll hate you.

Chris:    No. 

              But tell me why.

Oma:    I love this place so much.

              Because it’s not in there.

              I ran away because…

              Because…

              Because I don’t have to pretend here, hide here. 

              Back there, It’s like I have to encase myself in steel with no room left to breathe.

              Here I can take all that off.

              I can rip it away like paper and it floats away.

              This damn thing (their dress) … is like chainmail that’s too small for me.

              Give me your coat.

Chris:    The mud…

Oma:    Give me your coat.

Chris stands and gives his coat to Oma.

Oma hangs it over their shoulders. 

Oma turns their back to Chris.

The dress flies away.

It disintegrates in the wind.

And becomes like the feathers.

Oma:    I want to show you something.

Chris:    Now?

Oma:    Yes, now.

               I want you to see me.

Oma drops the coat.

Their clothing has changed.

They are wearing smart suit shorts, a patterned shirt and a bow-tie.

There is a pin of a hawk on the shirt pocket.

More feminine elements may be added to the outfit if desired by the actor.

Oma:    Can you see me?

Chris:    Who are you?

Oma:    Me. I’m Oma. 

Chris:    It suits you.

Oma:    Yeah, it does.

Oma makes a strong pose, hands on their hips, chin raised.

They laugh together.

Chris:    Nice to meet you, Oma.

Oma:    Your turn.

Chris:    (starting to put his hands on his hips) You want me to…

Oma:    Who are you?

Chris:    I’m Chris. Single. Happy. Your uncle. 

Oma:    Hello Chris!

Chris:    Your friend?

Oma:    Yeah, friend. You’re not all bad.

Chris:    That’s a relief.

They laugh together again.

Something has been lifted.

Shed.

As they enjoy each other’s company, feathers from the sea birds fly out towards the rain.

The rain engulfs them and makes them disappear.

The rain approaches.

Oma grabs the coat and hangs it over their heads.

The rain comes.

It is happy.

Oma sticks out a hand.

Chris does the same.

Oma throws off the coat and rips off their shoes.

Oma:    Pick a song. 

Chris:    Wh(am)…

Oma:    Something I know.

Chris:    Uh … just shuffle your phone. 

Oma:    Can do.

Chris:    You know the…(words)?

Oma:    One sec.

Oma plays the song through their phone.

Chris removes his shoes.

They dance in the rain together. Singing their song.

The rain continues down the hill, and engulfs the stage.

Screams and yells can be heard in the distance.

Sirens. Alarms. Hurried shouts.

The music takes over. It swells.

The world is about to fall apart.

But not for them.

Chris.

Oma.

It is finally for them. 

If only for now.

 

Blackout.

Don't Look Down

TW: Blood and violent intrusive thoughts.

Character:

THE STRANGER

--

Punctuation and spacing implies delivery.

--

The voice of THE STRANGER is delivered through a pair of headphones. The vocal track is pre-recorded.

There is a chair facing a full-length mirror. The lights dim to total darkness once the audience member is sat in the chair.

The track begins. The sound of running bath water starts, then the turning off of the tap. A body gets into the bath water and relaxes.

--

THE STRANGER

You are in your bathroom, in your bath. There is a sink to your right and a toilet to the left, with towels on top of both. 

You are in the bath. You have not been in the bath long enough. Bubble are floating on the surface of the water. Mist fills the room. 

You are warm, but know that the water will soon start getting cold. But in this moment, you are relaxed, and you don’t want to leave the bath yet, but you need to get to bed.

Why can’t you stay for a little longer? Why can’t you just freeze time and stay in this moment for a little while longer? You sigh.

 

You take in a deep breath. You slowly lift your arms out of the water. You look at your hands, your forearms, your upper arms.

You sit up, looking straight ahead.

You take in another deep breath.

You get your legs under you, crouching in the bathtub.

You brace yourself.

Brace.

You had braces once.

 

You stand.

The water drips down your body.

Water.

Water.

Water.

Down water.

Water down.

Down.

Cold.

Down.

Fuck, your nipples are pointy. There are goosebumps on your chest.

No.

Don’t.

Don’t.

Cold.

Bed.

You step over the edge of the bath with your right leg. You do the same with your left. You hit the bath with your foot. It feels hard and cold.

You stand with both feet planted firmly on the bathroom mat. It is grey and soft beneath your bare feet.

The mirror.

 

You see it.

Fuck.

Don’t.

Fuck.

No.

Look.

Don’t.

w…

Down.

Look do…

Fff…

Down.

U...

Up.

COLD.

 

It’s cold.

 

Towels.

 

Right.

 

Left.

 

Sink.

 

Towels.

 

You pick up the towel to your right, on the sink.

You must hide. You must hide it. It. H…

Hide from me.

Yourself?

 

You tell the reflection to go away.


 

You try again.


 

You repeat it to yourself.

It doesn’t listen.

I never do.

Never.

Listens.

It.

Fine.

Everything.

Listens.

Fine.

You put the towel over the mirror.

 

Cold.

 

Hair.

 

With the towel on the toilet to your left, you dry your hair. It’s cold.

Cold.

Quick. You need to be quick. You try to be. It’s still there. You turn your back to it. It’s still there.

 

You grab the dressing gown.

You avert your eyes.

You look at the wet tiles on the wall.

You hold the dressing gown in front of you.

It dangles in your hands.

It reminds you of…

No, it doesn’t.

 

What time is it?

Something hanging…

Water feels gross.

Swinging in the…

Why are sinks always white?

What?

The bin needs emptying.

You know that you need to look down to tie the belt.

You are holding the dressing gown in front of you.

You hug it tightly.

Maybe then it will go away.

Silence. It feels like it will go on forever. 

The sound of dripping water slowly fades in.

You don’t want to let go.


 

You hold the dressing gown in front of you.


 

You try not to look down to tie the belt.


 

You put the dressing gown on.


 

You double tie the knot.


 

What if you tied it so tight that you couldn’t breathe?

 

What if you tied it so tight that you sliced your stomach in half?

 

What if you…

 

What?

 

Do you want me to stop it?

 

What if?

What?

No water.

Blood.

Red and thick.

Falling.

Falling.

Splat.

Falling.

Falling.

Do you feel like you’re falling?

Do you feel trapped?

Am I cruel?

Why do you see me as cruel?

Am I only cruel?

No.

No.

You…

Are Scary.

To me?

To you?

Am I you?

Why do you not want me to be?

Cruel.

Blood.

Cuts.

Dripping.

Down.

Down.

Falling.

Splat.

Drowning.

Red.

Falling.

I won’t stop.

You know I won’t.

You decide to take the towel down from the mirror.

You need to get dry.

THE STRANGER talks faster and faster until the words blur together.

Still.

Breath.

Breathing.

Hard.

When

In

Out

Why

In out in out

Fuck

In out in out in out in out in out in out in out in out inout inoutinoutinoutoutinoutoutinoutininininoutinout

AlloutAllin.

All out.

All in.

All out.

All in.

 

All out.

 

Still there?

 

You see it again.

 

Is that you?

 

They look like you.

 

But also not like you.

They look wrong.

But that’s not you. It can’t be.

Can’t.


 

You reach up.

 

You slowly trace down the middle of your chest with your finger.

 

Up.

 

Down.

 

Up. 

 

Down.

 

Down.

 

You reach your stomach.

You continue slowly down and to the side.

 

Down your hip.

Your hip curves out too much.

 

Down.

Up.

Down.

Curves.

Too much.

Why?

 

You want to get rid of it cut it off cut all of it off

Your voice needs to be better your chest needs to be flatter, your hips need to disappear your legs need to be longer

Why does you body do that out-in-out thing?

You know why.

This is wrong.

This is not you.

You find something red to draw with.

You look at THE STRANGER in front of you.

You look at me dead in the eyes.

You can’t look away.

As each part is marked, the sound of cutting plays.

Your eyes drift down to the throat. You mark it.


 

Your eyes fall to the breasts. You mark them.


 

Your eyes find their way to the hips. You mark them.


 

You can’t move.

The sound of water dripping gets louder and becomes a waterfall.

You need to get to bed. 

Now.

Silence.

The lights snap on.

The mirror is cracked and covered in smears of blood.

The Future - Snippet

If it’s alright, I want to tell you all the things that I wish I could tell my mother. Some I have wanted to say for years, others for weeks, some maybe just for days. But these are all things that I wish I will be able to tell my mother in the future and that she understands and accepts.

I want to tell my mother that she has not raised me wrong and that she has done no fault that has resulted in my nonbinary identity.

I want to tell my mother that some days I feel intense dysphoria that cripples me and makes me feel like I can’t move.

I want to tell my mother that when I answered her question ‘are you comfortable being a girl?’, the only reason I said ‘yes’ was because I was scared. I wasn’t trying to deceive her or confuse her, and I myself was not confused.

I want to tell my mother that I have received my deed poll documentation and have begun correcting my recorded name where needed. Finally seeing my name on the university register feels like the weight of the sky has been lifted off my shoulders. 

I want to tell my mother that I sometimes feel left out of the LGBT+ community.

I want to tell my mother that I am polyamorous. That doesn’t mean I’m greedy, I just have a lot of love to give, and a lot of love to receive.

I want to tell my mother to let the rest of the family know about my nonbinary identity, and to ask them that at the next family gathering, it’s Jay and they/them pronouns, or nothing.

I want to tell my mother that the reason I’m terrified of going back to live them is because my name and pronouns are rejected and ignored.

I want to tell my mother that I miss our ‘girl’s shopping days out’, and I want to do them again, just minus the ‘girl’s’ bit.

I want to tell my mother that this is not a phase, or an internet trend. This is who I am, and I don’t see that changing, ever.

I want to tell my mother that her reading my diary was actually traumatic, and I’ve had trust issues ever since. That I now have an anxiety when I write down my thoughts, and when I do, I want to hold back anything that is too depressing.

I want to tell my mother that I still love her.

I want to tell my mother that the reason I chat so much shit is because then at least I don’t have to deal with the horrible silence in your house.

I want to tell my mother about the joy I feel when I see a trans or nonbinary character in fiction, especially when the representation is done really well.

I want to tell my mother that her rejecting my name and pronouns makes me feel terrible, that all of my house mates see you as selfish, and if you ever visited my house again, they won’t hesitate to correct you when you call me the wrong name or pronoun.

I want to tell my mother that I have doubted my identity a lot in the past. And that’s normal.

Finally, I want to tell my mother that no matter the hardship that we have been through, I hope that we can all move on from everything that has happened between us, and come to love each other again.

Pause.

Thank you for listening.