The vinceunlimited Parachute Sketch
Type: 6 minute sketch with 4 actors [one to be a voice off stage] set inside an aircraft fuselage [side view] with background inflight noise continuously. Props include three seats, two packages and a newspaper.
This is a visual as well as aural sketch and no names are given. For reference purposes the three actors are sat line astern and referenced as A, B and C below. The action is as viewed by the audience from the actor's side. A sits ahead of B, who sits ahead of C. They face left (stage right).
Aeroplane pilot (voice off) "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. This is your pilot speaking. Welcome on board on this internal flight between London and Edinburgh. Now that we have successfully taken off we will be maintaining our flight path at around ten thousand feet and expect to arrive at our destination in around thirty-six minutes time. Visibility is good and the weather forecast is fair. So relax and enjoy your flight. I'll keep you informed of future developments."
B to A: "Isn't this marvellous. All this technology keeping us up. Ten thousand feet and you can see all the land whistling by below."
A: "Indeed, it is. Orville Wright would be proud. We've come so far from those pioneering days of aviation."
B: "Yes. But it's reassuring to know that in spite of all this they provide the basics." He pats the package beneath his seat.
A (agreeing): "Yes. The parachute." A pats the package beneath his seat.
A and B laugh and slump back into their chairs. Up to now C has not been involved, merely reading his newspaper. He did hear the parachute conversation. He checks that the others are occupied and subtly reaches down to feel for his package. There is nothing under his seat. He checks again, in desperation swinging his hands wildly from side to side. Nothing is found so his hands return to holding his newspaper, that starts to quiver. Another check, but still no success.
Then C surreptitiously slides forward in his seat and hooks the package from beneath the seat of B, unbeknown to A or B.
B to A: "Wasn't the meal nice?"
A: "Yes. Three courses and wine. Very good."
The pilot on the intercom interrupts the conversation.
Pilot: "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry to disturb your peace but we've just received some weather reports. A spot of bad weather appears to be in our path. It's only a patch of storm so don't be too alarmed if our altitude and speed drops."
All three passengers simultaneously swing to look 'out of the window' (away from the viewpoint). They slump into their chairs and look concerned. A reaches down and assuredly pats his package, whilst turning and smiling at B. B also reaches down but now there is no package. He frantically searches around with his hand, much like C did. Finding nothing, he puts his head between his knees and looks under the seat. He spots the package under the seat of C. C has seen this and casually crosses his legs across in front of his package.
B looks concerned then spots the package beneath A. He slides forward to take the package with his feet but it gets caught up in the seat legs of A's seat. The pilot's voice is heard.
Pilot: "Ladies and gentlemen, please do not be alarmed. A couple of passengers have reported seeing white smoke trailing from the starboard engine."
A, B and C simultaneously look out of their 'windows' (away from the viewpoint).
Pilot: "But don't worry. This is just a vapour trail due to our descent to a lower altitude."
A, B and C slump back into their seats. B reaches forward to grab the package beneath A with his hands and starts to pull. This attracts the attention of A, who turns round quickly.
B is embarrassed so he pretends he was looking out of the window. B (explaining to A): "The vapour trail..."
A (suspiciously): "Yes?"
B: "Just routine."
A (now satisfied): "Yes. Still we've still got the parachutes."
A reaches down and grabs the package from beneath his seat. He holds it on his lap. B is disappointed. Then he has a brainwave. He points toward the viewpoint.
B (to A): "My God. The port engine as well!"
A leaps up placing the package on his seat and rushes over to 'look out' of the viewpoint side. At this point B snatches the package from the seat of A and sits back smugly in his own seat.
A, returning (to B): "It's alright. Just vapour."
B (clutching the package): "Best to be certain though."
A spots his package is missing. B looks away 'innocently'. A looks all around and under his seat, then under the seat of B and finally under the seat of C, who is still reading the paper. He notices the package under C and dives down to steal it. He then strolls 'nonchalantly' back to sit in his seat, smiling and caressing the package. He holds it on his lap.
Pilot: "Do not be alarmed ladies and gentleman but the suspected engine fire..."
All three simultaneously 'look out' (away from the viewpoint)
Pilot: "...on the port side..."
All three simultaneously turn to 'look out' the other side (toward the viewpoint)
Pilot: "...means that we have turned the engine off. There is no need for panic as we are under full control and able to fly on one engine."
All three slump back in their seats, satisfied that there is no need to worry.
C then folds up his newspaper and places it under his seat. He notices that his package is missing. He checks under the seat of B and looks angry. He believes B has taken his package.
C to B (aggressively): "Where did you get that?"
B (defensively): "Nowhere. Under my seat."
C: "Under whose seat?"
C pokes at B towards the eye. This makes B defend his face and drop the package. C grabs the package and returns to his seat, holding the package tightly on his lap. B rubs his eye and looks back over to C. C menacingly grimaces. B decides a novel approach and slides down between his seat and that of A. He puts his hand out ahead as he tries to crawl beneath the seat of A. Due to his positioning he doesn't hear the next announcement."
Pilot: "We have good news ladies and gentlemen. We have restarted our failed engine and as a precaution will be landing at Birmingham airport in three minutes time."
A and C look relieved and place their packages on the ground. They place them to their left, rather than under their seats. B is still struggling under the seat of A and eventually gets his hand between the legs of A. B feels around for the package and reaches up into the lap of A. Naturally A is shocked, but decides to grab the hand of B and give it a sharp tug before letting it go. This hurts B who emits a barely concealed squeal and scrabbles back out to his own seat.
A angrily turning to B: "What on earth do you think you are playing at?"
B (defensively): "But you have got my parachute."
A: "How dare you accuse me."
B: "But it's mine." He spots the package on the floor. "There. That one. It's mine."
A (knowingly): "Alright then. If it makes you happy." A picks up the package and tosses it to B, then slumps back in his seat.
B looks smug and looks about as if he needed a friend to gloat to. He turns to see C. C notices.
C: "As you are so keen. Here, have mine." C tosses his package into the lap of B and sits back into his own seat.
B looks doubly smug and sets about peering at his two packages, trying to see how to use them both.
Pilot: "Ladies and gentlemen. Please fasten your safety belts we are approaching the landing runway. The crew is glad that the trip proved uneventful. I suppose it is lucky we were not flying over the sea as you would all have been grabbing for the lifejackets under your seats."
You are welcome to use this sketch, on stage or video but credit and royalties must be given to Vince Poynter as the author. An invite to see it performed would also be welcomed, along with requests for more sketches, which can be scripted on any subject. Contact me for more information. You may be surprised how reasonable I am. Or it may be a Wednesday, in which case I'll be like a rampaging bull elephant with a nasty itch on the end of his trunk. You have been warned.
Author: Vince Poynter
Version 5.056 11 Jan 2018
First Published: Version 1.02 in Mar 2004
The photograph was taken by the author in May 2015 and shows a Virgin aeroplane circling over London and was added in Version 5.056 11 Jan 2018