A BURNING ISSUE

a sketch

based on an idea by Matthew Petty

written by R**** D*****, Matthew Petty and G*** W*****, Winter 2001

INT: BOARDROOM - DAY

Three SUITS sit around a table in a boardroom. Inside the room is various paraphenalia including a flipchart, its contents hidden. A meeting is drawing to a close. SUIT 1 is in charge, SUIT 3 is his deputy. SUIT 2 is the rookie.

SUIT 1

Ok, any other business?

SUIT 2

Actually, there was something I wanted to...er ...bring off.

The other two SUITS tut and roll their eyes

SUIT 3

And what would that be?

SUITS 1 and 3 exchange knowing glances

SUIT 2

Well, it's primarily about the current heat levels in the office.

SUIT 3

(Dismissively) Yes, the management are aware of the situation...we've been aware of the condition for some time, but I don't really think this is the time or the place. A date for a meeting has been arranged.

SUIT 1

(to SUIT 3) The air conditioning is functioning isn't it?

SUIT 3

Yes, it...

SUIT 2

(Interrupting) Well, with respect, the air conditioning isn't really the issue. There's the smoke as well, you see.

SUIT 1

What, people are smoking in the office again? How many times do I have to tell them...

SUIT 2

Again, that's not exactly what I'm talking ab...

SUIT 3

Look, just relax. What we want to do is extinguish these rumours about smoke and heat, what have you.

SUIT 2

The rumours that there is a fire in the building.

Beat: SUITS 1 AND 3 visibly stiffen

SUIT 3

Yes, those rumours. Bob, keep your voice down. That's not going to help matters.

SUIT 1

There are health and safety issues here Bob, I'll grant you that, but we do have some people coming in from risk assessment a week Tuesday.

SUIT 3

And we've been looking at ways this information can be presented. This is all in it's early stages, but we've set the research department to work on it, and they've come up with some pretty good ideas.

SUIT 1

So what have you got so far?

SUIT 3

We've got a logo.

SUIT 2

A logo?

SUIT 3 turns over the first page of the flipchart, revealing a logo with the words "Fire Focus". He switches into smarmy salesman mode.

SUIT 3

Yes Bob, a logo. And as you can see, we started with this...'flame' motif, and from there, y'know, we brainstormed, (turns page) and came up with the 'burning executive' motif. It's quite exciting actually...we'll be issuing business cards and stationary to all those involved.

SUIT 1

And it's good to see the text in italics, implying a certain...urgency.

SUIT 3

Exactly...

SUITS 1 and 3 are very pleased with themselves. SUIT 2 is frustrated.

SUIT 2

So, ok, we've got a logo. Now has anybody considered calling the fire brigade?

SUIT 3

Look, the management assures you that we have a meeting scheduled to discuss an agenda pertaining to these issues. These things take time...you know that. Meanwhile, I've drawn up a pie chart, (turns page) and as we can see, the, er...thermal situation is currently occupying 60% of the office space.

SUIT 3's mobile phone rings. He answers it. Listens. Ends call.

SUIT 3

Ok, bit of an update; the er...heat occurrence is now occupying 70% of the office space. Now qualified people are at this very moment investigating possible action plans.

SUIT 1

And of course Sue is looking at a budget for the telecommunications plan.

SUIT 2

What, dialling 999?

SUIT 1

Woah! Don't go getting ahead of yourself with all this 'dialling 999' nonsense.

SUIT 3

As I'm sure Sue could explain to you...it's not as easy as that.

SUIT 1

I mean, dialling the number 9...three times. Tell me, what's that going to solve?

SUIT 3's mobile phone rings again. He answers it. Listens.

SUIT 3

(into phone) Tony, you're breaking up...calm down...Tony, are you there? (Ending the call and turning to other SUITS) An unconfirmed report, but looks like the...conflagration has consumed 90% of the office space. Didn't really like his attitude...

SUIT 1

90%...which totally screws up our space allocation for the next financial year.

SUIT 2

(Becoming exasperated) Look, has anybody considered evacuation?

SUIT 1

(sharp intake of breath) Again, not a popular subject.

SUIT 3

I mean, how do you announce this to people? I've heard horror stories of people being evacuated by tannoy...it's too impersonal. Face to face consultation is definitely required.

SUIT 1

Yeah, and what you'll get is people trying to wangle a half day.

SUIT 3

You know, you'll have people actually leaving the building.

SUIT 1

And then where would you be?

SUIT 2

I don't know.

SUIT 1

I'll tell you...in an empty building.

SUIT 3

Bob, it seems to me that you maybe aren't happy here.

SUIT 2

Well, at this very moment...

SUIT 1

Didn't you read the terms and conditions of your contract?

SUIT 2

Well they didn't say anything about a fi...

(SUIT 3 GLARES)

Sorry...I don't know...an ionisation incident?

SUIT 3

(Noting down, impressed) Ionisation incident...good.

SUIT 1

So it didn't occur to you to ask about this at the time? In your interview perhaps?

SUIT 2

What whether or not there was a fire in the building?

SUIT 1

(Icily) Bob, you're on thin ice now. I suggest you choose your words very carefully from now on.

SUIT 3

If the increased speed of sub-atomic particle movement within the most combustible materials in the building wasn't a problem then, I fail to see why it's a problem now. And there was certainly no mention of it in your appraisal.

SUIT 1

It maybe better for all concerned if we came to a parting of the ways Bob.

SUIT 2

What, you're dismissing me?

SUIT 1

No Bob, I'm firing you.

SUIT 3

F-I-R-E

SUIT 2

Can we just get this straight? You've actually sacked me?

SUIT 1

No Bob, you've been FIRED.

SUIT 2

Fired?

SUIT 3

Yes Bob, Fired.

SUIT 2

Good, good. Got there in the end.

SUIT 3

And er, Bob...on your way out, could you ask Sue to dial 999? It seems the buildings on fire.

This ending is shit. Any suggestions?

FIN