Down at the Beach

maggie and milly and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star

whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

e.e. cummings

In this play (for four actresses) Maggie, Milly, Molly are three sisters struggling to come to terms with the suicide of their youngest sister May. Through childhood scenes and adult scenes we get to know the four sisters and their different characters. We see how each of them deals with May’s death. In the adult scenes May is only visible to Maggie and the audience.

The Sisters

MOLLY: The eldest sister. Coquette, has a temper. Wears red.

MILLY:  The second sister. Practical and proper. Wears green.


MAGGIE: The third sister. Sunny, with a pessimistic side. Wears yellow.


MAY: The youngest sister. Aloof, but not cold. Wears blue.

Scene 6 (fragment)

MILLY: Maggie! Come here and sit down! I have to put on sunscreen. (MAGGIE doesn’t stop her acrobatics.) Maggie! Mummy said so!

MAGGIE: I can do it myself in a minute.

MILLY: But you have to do it now! You’ll burn without noticing. Besides, how can you reach your back?

MAGGIE: I can, I can! Look. (stands still for a moment and demonstrates how she can reach her back using both hands.)

MILLY: You do it yourself then. You should too, Molly.

MOLLY: Shut up, Mills. How am I ever to get a tan if I cover myself in sunscreen? It’s horrid enough to have snow-white tits and an arse the colour of your teeth…

MILLY: Molly! Don’t say those words in front of Maggie and May! It’s your chest and your bum, Molly, your bottom.

MAGGIE (singing): Bum, bum, bum, bottom, bottom, bottom.

MOLLY: You’re such a goody two shoes! I don’t give an arse about saying arse… arse, arse, arse!!

MILLY: Stop it! Stop it! Why can’t you ever listen to what Mummy says!

MOLLY: And why do you always have to listen to what Mummy says! You’re just a scaredy cat. Scaredy cat, scaredy cat, will live at home for ever and grow ugly, old and fat!

MAY: I’m never going to grow old and fat.

MOLLY: Neither am I. I’m going to grow tall and beautiful with sun bleached hair and a tan!

MAGGIE: Look what I found, look what I found! (holds up a big sea shell.)

MILLY: It’s beautiful!

MAGGIE (holding the shell to her ear): It’s the sea! It’s sighing in my ear! I can hear the sea!

Please send me an email at if you would like to read the whole play.

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