St. Bernard’s Catholic High School

For some people, Cancer is a disease that you contract by saying it. Others do not acknowledge cancer or the people who are unfortunate enough to contract the illness.

For the past few weeks in English we have been studying the play, ‘The Best Years of Your Life’. It is a story of a young footballer named Robert, who plays for the Chelsea youth team and contracts spinal cancer at the age of 17.

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In this assignment, I will follow the character of Mark (Mk) throughout the play and show how he changes and develops to cope with Robert’s (Rob) illness and in the next part I will direct scene 6 for a television audience. (A transcript of this scene will be included at the end of my assignment.)

The first part of my assignment will be the character study of Mark to show how he develops and changes to cope with Robert’s illness.

At the start of the play, Mk is anxious as to how Rob’s operation went to remove the tumour from his spine,

‘Dad, what’d he say, ow’d it go, the operation, ow’d it go?’

Mk Scene (S) 2 Page (P) 5

This shows that he is craving information. Then, later on in S4, Mk hesitates and tiptoes around using the word ‘Cancer’.

‘Well you know with-‘

Mk S4 P10

He then tries to cheer Rob up a bit by telling him that they would go somewhere together,

‘Now that you’re ‘ome…So, where would you like to go?’

Mk S4 P10

He then tries to lighten the mood even more by cracking a daft joke in response to his father saying that he is going to put the kettle on,

‘It won’t suit you Dad’

Mk S4 P11

In the next scene, it is the day after and Rob needs his pills so Mk decides to help,

‘D’you wanna hand?’

Mk S5 P14

After helping, Mk is stunned to find out how many tablets Rob has to take. Eight in total! After this he cracks a joke about the amount of steroids he has to take,

‘Mr anabolic Steroid of London, eh?’

Mk S5 P16

Mk then won’t stop fussing about Rob and he eventually snaps,

‘Yes I’m ok Mark! OK?’

Rob S5 P17

Up to now we have seen mark change from not wanting to talk about the disease to being so helpful that it annoys Rob.

In the next scene, Mk and Rob are in a bar talking about what Rob did in scene 5, he didn’t let Mrs Hurst in the house until his father was half way there,

‘Yeah, but why Rob?’

Mk S6 P19

He then makes a comment about his father over at the bar,

‘Yeah all right…Funny that isn’t it?’

Mk S6 P19

Then a man, known only as Reg, comes over to them and cracks a daft joke (speech section 12 on transcript). After this he shouts over to Mk

‘Oi son, sense of humour…liked jokes’

Reg S6 P20

Mk goes over to the bar and doesn’t return to Rob until P23. When he eventually does return, he takes no notice of Rob for a while,

‘(Mark does not notice instead-)’

Directions S6 P23

Later, when Rob shouts at Mk to take him home, he asks the girls to meet him another time

‘Yeah ok…another time?’

Mk S6 P24

In scene 7, Mk doesn’t understand what Rob means when he said that he left him,

‘Leave you, where?’

Mk S7 P24

Then he makes excuses like:

‘Only went to get a bag of crisps’

Mk S7 P25

and

‘Well, I bumped into Derek-‘

Mk S7 P25

Then, when Rob makes a comment about Reg, he tells him not to worry about him

‘You’re not going to start taking what Reg says seriously are you?… how can you expect them to- ‘

Mk S7 P25

A few lines later, Rob starts talking about death for a while. Mk soon gets sick of this,

‘(Suddenly exploding) Just shut it Rob all right? Shut up!’

Mk S7 P26

Then they both finally get to sleep and we don’t hear any more until scene 8.

In scene 8, Mk is sat in the living room with his father when they start to talk about Rob.

‘Well ‘e wouldn’t have would he?…I’m sure he could drop dead in front of you and you wouldn’t even notice! ‘

Mk S8 P28

He is defending Rob verbally because his father has had nothing to do with him since he has contracted cancer. His father’s escape is through drinking alcohol,

‘O yeah, have another drink! That’ll solve everything! ‘

Mk S8 P29

In a way he is defending Rob by telling his father not to keep drinking his problems away.

In the next scene, Mk has changed his attitude towards cancer,

‘Keep fit… Twice around the estate’

Mk S9 P29

He seems to think that if he is fit, he won’t contract the disease. But, cancer can affect anyone, even the fittest of us

He then speaks of going to the Chelsea match, but Rob has an adverse reaction to the words ‘Chelsea’ and ‘Stamford Bridge’, so Mk explodes

‘(Exploding)Oh well sod it Rob…I’ve got my own life to live’

Mk S9 P31

In the next scene, Mk spills the beans about Rob’s illness to another young player named Steve

‘It’s just been going round and round…and our Dad-‘

‘Wearing that silly hat…is sodding Bryan Robson’

‘Secondary cancer…I dunno’

‘Yeah (pause) waiting for the alarm clock to go off’

Mk S10 P35-37

This would be too much for some people to handle, but Steve handles it superbly.

Scene 12 sees the duo in hospital again. Rob can’t go to the toilet and needs a catheter inserted to drain his bladder. To cheer Rob up, Mk cracks a daft joke,

‘Well, I’ve heard of going out on the piss, but this is taking it!’

Mk S12 P44

In the next scene, the boys are reminiscing about their deceased mother,

‘I can’t remember that… I realised’

Mk S13 P46

The next scene shows Mk arguing with his father yet again,

‘The other night…give a toss about either of us’

Mk S14 P48

After Mk has stopped having a go, his father lashes out at him and Mk replies with,

‘Go on then, hit me!…take this to him ‘

Mk S14 P48

Mk is now only included in scene 17, which is the climax of the play. Rob dies just as he arrives at hospital and the only response Mk gives to his father is

‘Come on dad, let’s go home’

Mk S17 P54

Throughout the play, Mk changes from being ashamed of saying the word ‘cancer’ to being able to give Steve a lecture about the subject. Mk has had to have immense emotional pain when his brother died. Pain which I know of, for I have had a similar thing happen to me.

The point is, the death of a family member is devastating but having to see them suffer, that is completely destroying.

In this next part of my assignment, I will direct scene 6 for a television audience.

As the scene starts, have bar full of things associated with a pub on a Friday night, i.e. smoke, people, noise etc. As Mk returns to Rob, track him as he has to manoeuvre through tables and people and have a med long shot of the two as Mk sits down and starts talking. For all talking parts, have the camera cut or pan from person to person throughout the conversation. Have Rob say section 2 sarcastically.

As Reg starts to laugh at his own joke, (section 12, end) have a med shot of Mk and Rob with straight faces starting to look angry. Have Mk say the start of section 13 sarcastically, but very subtly. Have a med shot of Mk’s back as Reg says section 15 until he turns to talk to Rob. When Reg leaves, have a med shot of Rob looking around the room.

As the old man starts talking, have an occasional close up of Rob’s face to show him looking for a way out. When he turns towards Mk, have him say ‘Mark’ in a very anxious tone. When he looks towards the girls, zoom in and cut to Rob’s face and zoom in on his eyes to reveal tears. Throughout the conversation, have an occasional close up of Rob’s face to show him looking for a way out.

As Mk joins the conversation, section 52, track him back to the table. As Rob decides he wants to go, have him sound like a child, i.e. ‘Maaaaaaarrrrk’, to emphasise his immense pressure. As Rob says section 71, have everything go silent. Track Mk and Rob as they leave the bar.