THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED won the Best New Play award in 2014 at the Sawston and Cambridge Drama Festivals; it was also the overall winner of the Sawston Drama Festival.
Inspired by Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, it is set in 1914, in Surrey woodland, and shows a young man, enjoying an August break in the country, who encounters a stranger, an older man, at a fork in a woodland path. The two men fall into conversation and it quickly becomes clear that the stranger has a powerful charisma that holds the young man in thrall, and is also keenly interested to know which of the two paths the young man will take. The stranger, who knows far more than he should, tells him that one path will take him to a village where they are recruiting men for the war; but where will the other lead? The young man finds his ideals and self-respect being challenged as the pressure on him to choose his path becomes intense. And when he finally makes his choice, can he be certain of finding safety? Above all – who is the stranger? He finds out all right…
This is an enigmatic play for two actors. It has been performed successfully in four significantly different productions. The text is published in Dramatic Shorts Vol. 1 edited by James Quince.
THE STRANGER: Which road will you take?
YOUNG MAN: Why do you want to know?
THE STRANGER: Answer me. Which road will you take?
YOUNG MAN: I don’t know. I haven’t decided.
THE STRANGER: You must decide.
YOUNG MAN: Why must I?
THE STRANGER: Well, you can’t stay here all day. You’ve got to go somewhere.
YOUNG MAN: Look, don’t think me rude, but I think perhaps I’d better be getting on, if you don’t mind. I’m sure I’ve taken up far too much of your valuable time.
THE STRANGER: But in which direction?
YOUNG MAN: Why do you keep asking me? What is it to you?
THE STRANGER: Which road?
YOUNG MAN: I don’t know. This one. I shall travel down this one.
THE STRANGER: What’s wrong with that one?
YOUNG MAN: Nothing. But you said yourself: I can’t travel down both. At least not at the same time. I have to choose. I choose this one.
THE STRANGER: Where does it lead?
YOUNG MAN: I don’t know.
THE STRANGER: It leads to the town.
YOUNG MAN: I thought you said you didn’t know?
THE STRANGER: It leads to the town. Over the river, past the orchard, the corn chandler and the smithy, into the market place.
YOUNG MAN: It sounds charming. Now, if you’ll excuse me –
THE STRANGER: And what will you do when you get there?
YOUNG MAN: I don’t know!
THE STRANGER: I do. There is a strong possibility – I put it no higher – that you might join the army.
YOUNG MAN: I think that highly unlikely. Why on earth would I do that?
THE STRANGER: Because that’s what lies down that path. The army. They are recruiting in town today. At eleven o’clock in the market place. You should be just in time.
Anglia Ruskin University
Sawston Drama Festival
oneACTS festival, Surbiton