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  MRS

No Small Parts

A performance inspired by Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan

 

*  *  *  *  *

 

No Small Parts was originally presented at the University of Sheffield

Theatre Workshop on April 17-18, 2008.

 

CREDITS

 

Parker, the Butler.                Rob Neumark Jones.

Rosalie, a maid.                 Lauren Williams.

Frances Babbage appears in Act 4, as herself.

 

Co-devising and direction:                  Frances Babbage, Rob Neumark Jones and                                                            Lauren Williams.

Script:                                                  Frances Babbage, Rob Neumark Jones, Lauren                                                      Williams and Oscar Wilde. 

Original video footage:                        Rob Neumark Jones and Lauren Williams, with                                                         Joe West.

Production manager:                          Rob Hemus.

Stage manager/technical operator:    Amy Gunn.

Poster design:                                     Victoria Pratt.

 

The production includes film footage from Lady Windermere's Fan, dir. Fred Paul (1916, BFI) and Lady Windermere's Fan, dir. Tony Smith (1985, BBC).


PROLOGUE

The audience enters. ROB is standing by the door, in butler's costume. LAUREN stands by the seating area, in maid's costume. ROB is rather stiff and formal, LAUREN more smiley. When the audience is all in, lights go down and then back up to reveal ROB and LAUREN quietly Ôbustling' in the performance area. They pay little attention to each other, but move to and fro in the space doing a naturalistic mime of their servants' duties. Some of their actions involve real props, e.g. LAUREN uses a duster and ROB lays out cutlery and carries a tray.

Music begins. (It is the music from Fred Paul's silent film version of Lady Windermere's Fan.) Lauren and ROB continue their movements. The lights close in slightly to frame a somewhat smaller square of performance space, and ROB and LAUREN come closer in to the centre accordingly. Their movements alter: they hurry a little, encounter each other frequently (exchanging a bow or curtsey); small stylized actions appear within the otherwise still naturalistic mime. After approximately two minutes of this, the lights close in further to light an even tighter square of space. At the same time the video of the silent film comes on, and ROB and LAUREN continue to move in front of it so that from time to time the image is partially obscured. The film shows the opening of the silent film, which begins with Mrs Erlynne in her home, reading of Lady Windermere's birthday and the forthcoming ball in the newspaper. She is attended by a maid. In the sequence we see, Mrs Erlynne forms the intention to go and meet Lady Windermere, who – it is revealed – is the daughter she abandoned when still a child.

In the final movement section, played out in front of the film, the actions of ROB and LAUREN are wholly stylized. Each has a set of gestures, which are presented first simultaneously by each; then the two performers present the same actions at the same time. ROSALIE'S actions consist of a gesture of entrance; a curtsey; a gesture of shaking out linen; a gesture that suggests a fan; a gesture of dressing a lady's hair; a gesture of turning and leaving. PARKER'S actions are a gesture of entrance; a deep bow; a gesture of announcing guests; a gesture of carrying a tray; a discreet cough; a gesture of turning leaving. In this last, stylized section these actions are each repeated three times before the next one is presented. Whilst this is happening the stage lights get steadily darker to the point where the only light is the light of the film. We can no longer see the performers' faces; they appear only in silhouette. The film sequence ends.

*   *   *   *   *

ACT ONE

The stage is divided so that on one side is the servants' quarters (SQ) and on the other the screen and projected silent film: the film shows the living room (LR) of the Windermeres' house. Through the majority of the scene, ROB as PARKER remains onstage, whilst LAUREN enters and exits in a series of costumes representing a variety of characters (each indicated by minimal but distinctive additions to her ROSALIE costume).

The video of the silent film plays up to the point where we see Parker in LR warming the newspaper. LIGHTS UP to reveal PARKER onstage in SQ, warming a newspaper.

LAUREN enters as if from LR, as LADY WINDERMERE, holding the fan.

PARKER.                                Is your ladyship at home this afternoon?

LADY WINDERMERE.            Yes – who has called?

PARKER.                                Lord Darlington, my lady.

LADY WINDERMERE.            (hesitates a moment) Show him up – and I'm at home                                              to anyone who calls.

PARKER.                                Yes, my lady. (Exit Parker.)

LADY WINDERMERE.            It's best for me to see him before tonight. I'm glad he's                                             come.

LADY WINDERMERE exits SQ immediately followed by her entrance on film into LR.

PARKER enters SQ, quickly followed by LAUREN as LORD DARLINGTON (with top hat).

LORD DARLINGTON.           Parker!

PARKER.                                (turning, with a bow) Your lordship?

LORD DARLINGTON.           Yes, look here, do cut the crap.

PARKER.                                Lord Darlington?

LORD DARLINGTON.           Look here, look here. Do you have them?

PARKER.                                Have them, sir?

LORD DARLINGTON.           Yes, my lines, my lines! And you can stop calling me      'sir' like that. Just cut that out at once, I don't appreciate    the tone.

PARKER.                                Ah. Your lines. At once sir... I mean, your lordship!... I    mean... ahem, yes. Yes, at once.

LORD DARLINGTON.           Must we go through this ridiculous charade every time? You know the drill by now, or at least you should. No wonder you ended up a butler, with a brain like that.  Must be the size of a walnut.

PARKER.                                Yes, your lordship.

LORD DARLINGTON.           I rest my case.

PARKER rummages in his pockets and produces a number of cards. Hands them to LORD DARLINGTON, who scrutinizes them.

LORD DARLINGTON.           (chuckling) Where do you come up with these? Brilliant, simply brilliant! Anyone would think you were a genius. Until they met you, of course.

PARKER.                                Yes, your lordship.

LORD DARLINGTON.           (chuckling) 'I can resist everything – except temptation.' Hah! Simply marvelous. Lady Windermere is sure to swoon, I can feel it! Love, so close! Well, wish me luck. Today may well be the day. After all, there is the matter  of the affair...

PARKER.                                Affair, your lordship?

LORD DARLINGTON.           Yes! Lord Windermere and Mrs Erlynne! Everyone   knows about it. The scandal! He's been visiting her daily, giving her mon... Hold on! Why am I telling you all this? Good day! (He goes to leave)

PARKER.                                Your lordship?

LORD DARLINGTON.           (stopping, turns) Yes?

PARKER.                                There is the small matter of payment, your lordship.

LORD DARLINGTON.           Ah. Yes, of course. (Takes out some cash, gives it to Parker) Can't complain really. They are pretty good, after all. (Takes one of the cards, reads it, smiles) This one, 'Life is far too important a thing to be serious    about.' Simply magnificent. Wherever did you get the idea for that one?

PARKER.                                I do my humble best, sir.

LORD DARLINGTON.           Indeed. Anyway...

PARKER.                                Of course.

Parker shows Lord Darlington through to LR. Video up (it is the BBC version):

PARKER. (on video)               Lord Darlington.

PARKER reenters onstage and bustles in SQ. On screen, we see but do not hear Lady Windermere and Lord Darlington talking together. Onstage, PARKER loads a tea tray and exits; on screen, Parker enters LR with a tea tray accompanied by footmen. He exits LR, and PARKER reenters SQ. He swiftly gathers up the silver cutlery that is on the table and drops it into a holdall bag; he replaces it with cheap plastic cutlery. Remembering something, he exits to LR.

Parker enters LR.

PARKER. (on video)               The men want to know if they are to put the carpets on the terrace for tonight, my lady?

LADY WINDERMERE. (on video) You don't think it will rain, Lord Darlington, do you?

LORD DARLINGTON. (on video) I won't hear of its raining on your birthday!

LADY WINDERMERE. (on video) Tell them to do it at once, Parker.

Exit Parker to reenter SQ. A moment later, enter LAUREN as the DUCHESS OF BERWICK (plus hat) and LADY AGATHA CARLISLE (here represented by a duck's head umbrella). PARKER bows.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK.     Show us in at once.

PARKER.                                Yes, my lady.

They exit SQ. Parker enters LR onscreen.

PARKER. (on video)               The Duchess of Berwick and Lady Agatha Carlisle.

The Duchess of Berwick and Lady Agatha Carlisle enter LR. Exit Parker to SQ.

The video plays (it is the silent film). PARKER eavesdrops, standing at the edge of onstage SQ as near to on screen LR as possible. We understand from the action on film that the Duchess is gossiping, telling Lady Windermere about her husband's 'relationship' with Mrs Erlynne. At the appropriate moment LORD DARLINGTON (LAUREN) enters the SQ on his way out of the house, slightly startling PARKER who is caught unawares. He attempts to regain his composure with a bow, as LORD DARLINGTON sweeps past him to exit.

PARKER returns to his spying, until the Duchess and Lady Agatha exit LR and reenter SQ.

PARKER.                                Shall I show you out, my lady?

DUCHESS OF BERWICK.     No, we know the way. Come, Agatha darling! Exeunt    DUCHESS and 'LADY AGATHA'.

The video now plays (silent film) showing Lady Windermere deliberating over whether to look at her husband's cheque book. PARKER continues to spy on the action. At the appropriate point, LAUREN as LORD WINDERMERE enters SQ (wearing a greatcoat, which he takes off and gives to PARKER).

PARKER. (with a bow)            Your Lordship. Lady Windermere is at home.

LORD WINDERMERE.           Thank you, Parker.

Exit LORD WINDERMERE to LR.

The rest of the scene is focused entirely on the video of Lord and Lady Windermere's confrontation in LR (silent film). PARKER spies on them. At one point he takes an apple from his pocket and crunches it a little too loudly. Happily, Lord and Lady Windermere do not notice this. The scene finishes with the action on video, and the announcement of the ball: 'The most select affair of the season.'

*   *   *   *   *

ACT 2

Drawing-room in Lord Windermere's house. Projection of Ballroom scenes from silent film, intercut with same scenes from BBC version. Long table has been set up downstage right. On it is a table cloth, small flower arrangements, half-emptied. Emptied old-fashioned champagne glasses and bottles of champagne, and discarded masks, thrown aside by the guests during the joyous dancing of the 'masquerade' ball. The flower arrangements create a terrace area of the table. PARKER and ROSALIE are clearing up the mess - they may also have been finishing off the champagne...

In this scene all the guests at the ball are represented by individual half-masks on sticks which are manipulated by PARKER and ROSALIE. Each mask is decorated to signal the character in question, as described below. ROSALIE manipulates the female characters: black mask with netting (Duchess of Berwick); gold mask with daisies (Agatha); black mask with pink bows (Lady Stutfield); black mask with string of pearls (Mrs Cowper-Cowper); white and gold mask with white feathers (Lady Windermere); show-stopping green mask with peacock feathers (Mrs Erlynne). PARKER manipulates the male characters: black mask with wispy grey eyebrows (Dumby); black mask with corks (Hopper); black mask with ruddy cheeks and bushy moustache (Lord Augustus); unadorned black mask (Lord Windermere); black mask with National Health glasses attached (Mr Cecil Graham); black mask with miniature top hat and monocle chain (Lord Darlington). PARKER also appears in the scene as himself.

When a character will not appear again in the scene, he or she is dropped unceremoniously into one of two bins placed at either end of the table, with an audible clatter.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK.     Mr. Hopper is very late. You have kept those five      dances for him, Agatha?

LADY AGATHA.                      Yes, mamma.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK.     The last two dances you might pass on the terrace with  Mr. Hopper.

LADY AGATHA.                      Yes, mamma.

PARKER.                                Mrs. Cowper-Cowper. Lady Stutfield. Sir James        Royston. Mr. Guy Berkeley.

DUMBY.                                  Good evening, Lady Stutfield. I suppose this will be the last ball of the season?

LADY STUTFIELD.                 I suppose so, Mr. Dumby. It's been a delightful season,  hasn't it?

DUMBY.                                  Quite delightful! Good evening, Duchess. I suppose this will be the last ball of the season?

DUCHESS OF BERWICK.     I suppose so, Mr. Dumby. It has been a very dull      season, hasn't it?

DUMBY.                                  Dreadfully dull! Dreadfully dull!

Mrs. COWPER-COWPER.     Good evening, Mr. Dumby. I suppose this will be the last ball of the season?

DUMBY.                                  Oh, I think not. There'll probably be two more.

ROSALIE takes 'Dumby' from PARKER.

PARKER.                                Mr Rufford. Lady Jedburgh and Miss Graham.          Mr Hopper.

HOPPER.                               Capital place, London! The balls are not nearly so     exclusive in London as they are in Sydney. But I should       like to dance with Lady Agatha, Duchess. 

DUCHESS OF BERWICK.     Well, I hope she has a dance left. Have you a dance left, Agatha?

LADY AGATHA.                      Yes, mamma.

PARKER takes 'Agatha' and 'Hopper' and sets them aside in the terrace area of the table, pushing their sticks into champagne bottles behind the flower arrangements.

PARKER.                                Lord Augustus Lorton. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Bowden. Lord and Lady Paisley. Lord Darlington.

LORD AUGUSTUS.               Who is she, Windermere? Where does she come from? Why hasn't she got any demmed relations? Demmed                                         nuisance, relations! But they make one so demmed  respectable.

LORD WINDERMERE.           You are talking of Mrs. Erlynne, I suppose? I only met   her six months ago. Till then, I never knew of her    existence.

LORD AUGUSTUS.               You have seen a good deal of her since then.           

LORD WINDERMERE. (Coldly) Yes, I have seen a good deal of her since then. I                                      have just seen her.

LORD AUGUSTUS.               Egad! I might be married to her; she treats me with    such demmed indifference. Hem! Well, look here, dear old fellow. Do you think she will ever get into this        demmed thing called Society? Would you introduce her to your wife?

LORD WINDERMERE.           Mrs. Erlynne is coming here to-night.

LORD AUGUSTUS.               Then she's all right, dear boy. But why didn't you tell  me that before? It would have saved me a heap of             worry and demmed misunderstandings!

ROSALIE plays with 'Agatha' and 'Hopper' and makes them kiss.

PARKER.                                Mr. Cecil Graham!

CECIL GRAHAM.                   Why don't you ask me how I am? I like people to ask    me how I am. It shows a wide-spread interest in my                                      health.

LORD WINDERMERE.           Margaret! I MUST speak to you.

LADY WINDERMERE.            Will you hold my fan for me, Lord Darlington? Thanks.

LORD WINDERMERE.           Margaret, what you said before dinner was, of course,  impossible?

LADY WINDERMERE.            That woman is not coming here to-night!

LORD WINDERMERE.           Mrs. Erlynne is coming here, and if you in any way    annoy or wound her, you will bring shame and sorrow on us both. Ah, Margaret! A wife should trust her       husband!

LADY WINDERMERE.            London is full of women who trust their husbands. One can always recognise them. They look so thoroughly  unhappy. I am not going to be one of them. . . I want a   friend to-night, Lord Darlington.

LORD DARLINGTON.           Lady Windermere! I knew the time would come some    day; but why to-night?

PARKER.                                Mrs. Erlynne!

Mrs Erlynne enters, she is proud and magnificently attired (peacock feathers), she stands very tall, swoops majestically, bows to Lady Windermere, flirts with Lord Windermere, and is placed centre of the table, prominent position.

LORD DARLINGTON.           You have dropped your fan, Lady Windermere. You  look faint. Come out on the terrace.

LADY WINDERMERE.            Yes. (To PARKER) Parker, send my cloak out. Yes. Her coming here is monstrous, unbearable.

LORD DARLINGTON.           If I know you at all, I know that you can't live with a man  who treats you like this! What sort of life would you have with him? You would feel that he was lying to you  every moment of the day. You would feel that the look    in his eyes was false, his voice false, his touch false,    his passion false.

LADY WINDERMERE.            You said you would be my friend, Lord Darlington.--  Tell me, what am I to do? Be my friend now.

LORD DARLINGTON.           Between men and women there is no friendship         possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship. I love you -

LADY WINDERMERE.            No, no! (Rises.)

LORD DARLINGTON.           Yes, I love you! Leave this house to-night. There are    moments when one has to choose between living one's   own life, fully, entirely, completely--or dragging out     some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world    in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now.  Choose! Oh, my love, choose.

LADY WINDERMERE.            Ah, give me time to think. I cannot answer you now.  (Passes her hand nervously over her brow.)

LORD DARLINGTON.           It must be now or not at all.

LADY WINDERMERE.            Then, not at all! (A pause.)

LORD DARLINGTON.           You break my heart!

LADY WINDERMERE.            Mine is already broken. (A pause.)

LORD DARLINGTON.           To-morrow I leave England. For one moment our lives  met--our souls touched. They must never meet or touch again. Good-bye, Margaret. (Exit.)

LADY WINDERMERE.            How alone I am in life! How terribly alone!

DUCHESS OF BERWICK.     Agatha, darling!

LADY AGATHA.                      Yes, mamma?

DUCHESS OF BERWICK. (Aside.) Did Mr. Hopper definitely - ?

LADY AGATHA.                      Yes, mamma.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK.     And what answer did you give him, dear child?

LADY AGATHA.                      Yes, mamma.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK. (Affectionately) My dear one! You always say the right  thing. Mr. Hopper! James!

HOPPER.                                You don't mind my taking Agatha off to Australia, then,  Duchess?

DUCHESS OF BERWICK. (Indignantly) To Australia? Oh, don't mention that dreadful vulgar place.

HOPPER.                                But she said she'd like to come with me.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK. (Severely) Did you say that, Agatha?

LADY AGATHA.                      Yes, mamma.

DUCHESS OF BERWICK.     Agatha, you say the most silly things possible.

LADY WINDERMERE.            To stay in this house any longer is impossible. To-night  a man who loves me offered me his whole life. I      refused it. It was foolish of me. I will offer him mine     now. I will go to him! (Writes a letter, on a discarded serviette, and leaves it on table.) Arthur has never    understood me. When he reads this, he will. It is he who has broken the bond of marriage-- not I. I only   break its bondage.

MRS. ERLYNNE. (to Parker)   Is Lady Windermere in the ball-room?

PARKER.       Her ladyship has just gone out.

MRS. ERLYNNE.     Gone out? She's not on the terrace?

PARKER.       No, madam. Her ladyship has just gone out of the     house.

MRS. ERLYNNE.     Out of the house?

PARKER.       Yes, madam--her ladyship told me she had left a letter  for his lordship on the table.

MRS. ERLYNNE.     A letter for Lord Windermere?

PARKER.       Yes, madam.

MRS. ERLYNNE.     Thank you. (Dismisses him) Gone out of her house! A  letter addressed to her husband! (Goes over and looks at letter. Takes it up and lays it down again with a shudder of fear.) No, no! Does life repeat its tragedies? (Tears letter open and reads it, then sinks down into a  chair with a gesture of anguish.) The same words that   twenty years ago I wrote to her father! and how bitterly I have been punished for it! No; my punishment, my real    punishment is to- night, is now!

LORD WINDERMERE.      Have you said good-night to my wife?

MRS. ERLYNNE. (Crushing letter in her hand) Yes. She is very tired. She has gone   to bed. She said she didn't wish to be disturbed. Will you ask them to call my carriage, please?

LORD WINDERMERE.     Certainly. (Exits)     

MRS. ERLYNNE.     What can I do? What can I do? I feel a passion     awakening within me that I never felt before. What can it mean? The daughter must not be like the mother. How can I save my child? A moment may ruin a life.    Who knows that better than I?

Enter LORD AUGUSTUS with a flower from one of the arrangements on the table.

LORD AUGUSTUS.     Egad! Dear lady, I am in such suspense! May I not   have an answer to my request?

MRS. ERLYNNE.     Lord Augustus, listen to me. You are to take Lord Windermere down to your club at once, and keep him there as long as possible. You understand? Don't let Windermere out of your sight to-night. (Mrs Erlynne    exits.)

LORD AUGUSTUS.     Well, really, I might be her husband already. Positively I  might. (Follows her in a bewildered manner.)

PARKER and ROSALIE end the scene by dropping these last two character masks into their respective bins, chinking champagne glasses and toasting each other.

*   *   *   *   *

ROB, in interview (on film)

The images on screen is of ROB, lounging in a director's chair. He has a long scarf draped around his neck and is smoking in an affected manner.

 

ROB.  Yes, hello. Well the play is Lady Windermere's Fan by   Oscar Wilde of course, and well, the fan is the main   focus of the play....

 Then, of course, there's my character.

 Now, I play the role of the, well, the man who's, in control, of the whole thing.

 

 What do I mean?

 Well, he's the... hero. The one, responsible for... who   goes in and comes out...and...the one who... gets to tell all the BIG news...

 I mean, there's this scene, where he tells Lady     Windermere about Mrs. Erlynne having returned her   fan, and, as anyone who is familiar with the play will know that, is, of course, massively significant.

 

 Lord Windermere? Goodness no. No, that's not as big  a part as you may think. No, the character's name is   Parker.

 

 Just Parker yes.

 

 No, not lord Parker.

 

 No, not Duke Parker either, just Parker. Look, what are  you driving at?

 

 The butler? Well, I guess that's one word for it, yes. But  you see, he's really so much more than that. But I really    couldn't say much more on the subject, I wouldn't want to spoil the play of course.

 

 Favourite speech? Erm, well. The character isn't really given to long speeches. No, he's more of a terse talker.    Y'know, the enigmatic type, the one with all the cool lines, that sort of thing.

 

 Well... like - well, there's this one (under his breath) something about carpets... (Huffs, manneredly)  The   men want to know if they are to put the carpets on the  terrace for tonight my lady?Ó

 

 Look, look, ok. Look, I didn't want this part did I? I mean who the hell wants to be a (side of mouth) butler?  you ever hear of a butler stealing the show? Precisely. And, y'know, it doesn't help that the other cast        members pretty much ignore us servants, and treat us with this vague, distant contempt. I mean (scoffs), the actor playing Lord Darlington actually asked me to fetch him a drink yesterday.... And I did it! Jesus, it's even  seeping into my subconscious, like I'm becoming a   butler...

 

 I wanted  to be Hamlet you know. 'Too stuffy' they   said. Me? Stuffy?

 

 'Try butler jobs, much more your thing. We may even have a part for you in an upcoming play.'

 

 Well, at least I'm not Rosalie, she only gets 4 lines!  (satisfied laugh) And she always makes the tea – even  for the stage hands! Speaking of which... Lauren!

 Yes, thank you. (He gets up from the chair and leaves.)

*   *   *   *   *

ACT 3

 

In this act, LAUREN plays both Lady Windermere and Mrs Erlynne. Lady Windermere is signalled chiefly through use of the fan. ROB plays a composite figure based on all the male characters who appear in this act. The two performers are spot-lit centre stage. At the beginning, LAUREN faces us while ROB is next to her with his back to the audience. LAUREN's lines as Mrs Erlynne are represented in bold.

 

LAUREN.          Why doesn't he come? Why is he not here, to wake  some fire within me? I am cold as a loveless thing. Oh! it was mad of me to come here, I must go back –  no; I can't go back, my letter  – Arthur would not take me back! That fatal letter! No! No, no! I will go back. As for Lord Darlington –  What shall I do? Will he let me go    away at all? I have heard that men are brutal,    horrible... Oh!

 

 Lady Windermere! Thank Heaven I am in time. You must go back to your husband's house          immediately.

 

 Must?

 

 Yes, you must!

 

 Don't come near me!

 

 Oh! You are on the brink of a hideous precipice. Your husband has never seen the letter. I –  saw it, I  opened it. I – read it.

 

 You opened a letter to my husband? You wouldn't     dare!

 

 Dare! Oh! to save you from the abyss into which    you are falling, there is nothing in the world I would not dare. Here is the letter.

 

 I cannot trust you. You, whose whole life is a lie, could you speak the truth about anything?

   

 Go back to the husband you love.

 

 I do NOT love him!

 

 You do, and you know Arthur loves you!

 

 Arthur? And you tell me there is nothing between you?

 

 Lady Windermere, your husband is guiltless of all  offence towards you! You have a child, Lady    Windermere. Go back to that child who even now, in pain or in joy, may be calling to you.

 

 Take me home. Take me home!

 

 Come! Where is your cloak? Here. Put it on. Come at once!

 

We hear a mumbling from ROB.

 

 Stop! Voices! Oh! that is my husband's voice! Save me!

 

 Quick – behind this curtain! The first chance you   have, slip out, if you ever get a chance!

 

LAUREN as LADY WINDERMERE hesitates in panic, then in one swift action drops the fan to the ground and pulls her 'ROSALIE' apron up so it covers her face. ROB turns to face the audience, simultaneously LORD DARLINGTON, MR. DUMBY, LORD WINDERMERE, LORD AUGUSTUS LORTON and MR. CECIL GRAHAM.

 

ROB.  nuisance

 club

 cigar

 ha ha!

 dear boy

 thanks

 I say!

 Demmed important

 Mrs Erlynne

 The ladies

 No business of yours

 Bores me to death

 Whisky and soda?

 Wicked woman

 Demmed amusing

 Good women

 Demmed dull

 A past

 The future

 when I was your age -

 game of cards?

 Cecil

 Tuppy

 Lucky fellow!

 Dreadful cynic

 I say

 

Sees fan lying on the ground.

 

 I SAY!

 Good woman?

 Here in his rooms?

 By Jove! By Jove!

 Good God! (Seizes the fan.)

 Meaning of this?!

 Darlington!

 Demand an explanation!

 

LAUREN. (lets apron fall)       Lord Windermere!

 

ROB.  Mrs. Erlynne!

 

LAUREN.        I took your wife's fan by mistake. I am so sorry.

 

ROB.  Look of contempt!

LAUREN.        Look of defiance!

*   *   *   *   *

LAUREN, in interview (on film)

 

The screen image is of LAUREN sitting in the director's chair. She is dressed in arty black polo neck and mini skirt. She is wearing the dark glasses of a 'celebrity'.

 

LAUREN.        Well it was a pleasure really to work with such a supportive cast. It was a real privilege really as a new actress to be given such a prestigious character. Wilde  is so renowned and it's an honour really to do anything, let alone a character of such...calibre.

 

 There's such a lot of depth to Rosalie as a character,  not only is she Lady Windermere's friend and       confidante, but she's also a device, really, which Wilde uses to...in many ways...orchestrate the entire plot.

 

 Her presence can be felt throughout I think, it resonates through the entire house for the first two acts, with all of the characters and audience aware of this almost omnipotent character.

 

 Finally the revelation of her in Act Four, is really the climactic culmination of events, and her apparent      obliviousness to the truth is sheer brilliance, really, by   Wilde. Her questioning of, the socially superior Lady  Windermere, and how she defies Lord Windermere by  sending him away, truly portrays how she is, in fact,  master manipulator, within the plot.

 

 Yes, there are few lines, but the central figure does not necessarily need to speak...often it is what is not said which is more powerful. I mean, Dumbo is known for being Disney's only main character who does not   speak...it doesn't make him any less the protagonist!

 

 Yes. I can see why people might think - that. We must remember that Wilde is a very highbrow writer and perhaps his themes and true intent are not  always...grasped, shall we say, by the...erm...masses.

 The critics? Well, I don't like to read reviews...it's what  the real people think that counts.

*   *   *   *   *

ACT 4

 

LAUREN is standing in the wings, visible at the side of the stage, really excited because it's her scene at last. ROB is sitting in a chair, also in the wings. He is reading Stanislavsky's An Actor Prepares. LAUREN is fussing, seems to be asking him if her hat is on straight, patting her hair and so on. He gets her to turn around to check her appearance, points out that she still has the duster in the band of her apron, takes it out – they laugh. She is terribly happy and terribly on edge.

 

VOICEOVER. (neutral)  Fourth act. The scene is the same as in Act One, the  morning-room of Lord Windermere's house in Carlton House Terrace. Lady Windermere is lying on a sofa.

 

LADY WINDERMERE (voiceover) How can I tell him? I can't tell him. It would kill     me. I wonder what happened after I escaped from that  horrible room. Perhaps she told them the true reason of  her being there, and the real meaning of that – fatal fan of mine. Oh, if he knows – how can I look him in the  face again? He would never forgive me. (Faint sound of a bell. LAUREN gets even more excited.) How securely one thinks one lives – out of reach of temptation, sin, folly. And then suddenly – Oh! Life is terrible. It rules us, we do not rule it.

 

LAUREN as ROSALIE enters onstage, to play out the scene with an invisible Lady Windermere. LAUREN's performance is extraordinary – she leaps on, smiling all over her face, dancing her way through the following exchange.

 

ROSALIE.       Did your ladyship ring for me?

 

LADY WINDERMERE (voiceover). Yes. Have you found out at what time Lord       Windermere came in last night?

 

ROSALIE.       His lordship did not come in till five o'clock.

 

LADY WINDERMERE (voiceover). Five o'clock. He knocked at my door this morning, didn't he?

 

ROSALIE.       Yes, my lady – at half-past nine. I told him your  ladyship was not awake yet.

 

FRANCES. (Interrupts from the audience) Lauren!

 

LADY WINDERMERE (voiceover). Did he say anything?

 

ROSALIE.       Something about your ladyship's fan. I didn't quite catch what his lordship said. Has the fan been lost, my lady? I can't find it, and Parker says it was not left in  any of the rooms. He has looked in all of them and on the terrace as well.

 

FRANCES. (louder)        Lauren, stop! What do you think you're playing at? Is    this how you conduct yourself in front of Lady     Windermere?

 

LAUREN.        Um – I –

 

FRANCES.      Go back, do it again. Take it from: 'Oh, life is terrible...'

 

LADY WINDERMERE (voiceover). Oh! Life is terrible. It rules us, we do not rule it.

 

Re-enter LAUREN. She is horribly confused. Keeps looking at FRANCES/audience for reassurance. In the following exchange she makes uncertain, twitchy little movements.

 

ROSALIE.       Did your ladyship ring for me?

 

LADY WINDERMERE (voiceover). Yes. Have you found out at what time Lord       Windermere came in last night?

 

ROSALIE.       His lordship did not come in till five o'clock.

 

LADY WINDERMERE (voiceover). Five o'clock. He knocked at my door this morning, didn't he?

 

ROSALIE.       Yes, my lady – at half-past nine.

 

FRANCES. (Interrupting again, angry) No! Lauren! That is not how you should enter  a room! The way you keep drawing attention to yourself, those bizarre little gestures - you're not a character, you're a function. We should barely notice  you!

 

LAUREN.        But I thought that it was quite important Rosalie should-

 

FRANCES.      Lauren, do you want this part?

 

LAUREN. (Mutters       Yes.

 

FRANCES.      Do you? Do you?

 

LAUREN.        Yes!

 

FRANCES.      Because if you don't, there are plenty of others who  would. (She gets up, starts to walk down the audience  aisle towards the stage.) Have you seen how many girls there are in this place, just queuing up for a part like this? And any number of them would make a better job of it than you.

 

LAUREN. (rebelliously)   The thing is, it's hard doing this role – I mean I know  there aren't many lines, but the movement bit at the   beginning is really tiring and repetitive, and then in the   dressing-room it's cold and poky and -

 

FRANCES.      Oh really?

 

LAUREN.        Rob thinks just the same, he's finding it really difficult!

 

FRANCES.      I don't hear Rob complaining.

 

LAUREN.        Rob?

 

ROB says nothing – studiously ignores her, makes a kind of shrugging gesture to FRANCES.

 

FRANCES.      It seems like it's just you who isn't satisfied, Lauren.

 

LAUREN.        I – I didn't say I wasn't satisfied exactly, it's just –

 

FRANCES.      The thing is, Lauren, I thought I saw something in you, I  thought you deserved a chance. But now I realise I was   wrong. I'm afraid I'm going to have to let you go.

 

LAUREN.        You mean – but – but what shall I do?

 

FRANCES.      Well - that's not my problem anymore. And as I can't in conscience give you a positive reference, you will have  to make your own way in the world as best you can. Please – just get your things.

 

LAUREN scrabbles around awkwardly, takes off her apron and cap and bundles them up.

 

 Not those! Those belong to the Workshop, and they will  be kept for the next maid. I meant the various (with    distaste) - personal items – I've seen lying around in the dressing-room. You can pick them up on your way out.

 

LAUREN makes an undignified exit, as a last gesture throwing her cap and apron at ROB as she goes. There is an uncomfortable pause.

 

FRANCES.      So – Rob – until I can find a new maid, I'm afraid you will have to do Rosalie's work as well as your own. I assume you'll be able to manage that?

 

ROB.  Well – it'll be a bit – I mean – yes, I can manage, absolutely, that shouldn't be a problem. I'll cover it. You   won't even notice her absence.

 

FRANCES.      Excellent. Well, carry on. You might as well go from Parker's next entrance.

 

ROB.  His next – you mean, when he comes in with the tray – when Mrs Erlynne has arrived – the thing is, in that bit –

 

FRANCES.      You did say you'd be able to manage on your own?

 

ROB. (Pause.)        Yes.

 

FRANCES.      Because I've already intervened enough. It looks very  odd to have someone interrupting from the audience.

 

ROB.  Yes, of course.

 

FRANCES. (back in her seat) So now it's down to you.

 

ROB.  Right.

 

He turns his back on the audience, and messes about in the (visible) wings preparing to re-enter as PARKER. We see him look around for something, then begin to rummage rather desperately and scratch his head. A longish pause, then he turns and enters with a tray – on it is a card and Rosalie's feather duster.

 

ROB/PARKER.   Mrs Erlynne has called to return your ladyship's fan  which she took away by mistake last night. Mrs Erlynne has written a message on the card.

 

Pause. He picks up the feather duster. Initially addresses FRANCES, who ignores him – then he starts to talk to the audience more generally.

 

 Erm - I know it's not Lady Windermere's fan. The thing  is, I couldn't find the fan. It's normally in the wings. It's just – Lauren normally looks after the fan? As well as  being Rosalie, she's kind of an unofficial stage   manager – I mean, I am too – but Lauren always looks after the fan... and I couldn't find it. I looked all over the  place! But in the end I thought it would be better to   improvise with something rather than just come on without it.

 

 Pause.

 

 I've never done much improvisation.

 

 Pause.

 

 I've generally had a script.

 

 Pause.

 I suppose – I suppose the point would be for the audience to believe in the importance of the fan,   whatever it looked like. And the moment when Parker comes on with the fan is just massively significant –  because Lord Windermere gives the fan to his wife as a gift, and so it's a symbol of his love for her, and when she leaves it behind in Lord Darlington's rooms, it's like she's lost his love for her, or at least she thinks she  has! And the fan says 'Margaret' on it, and that's her name but it's also Mrs Erlynne's name, so it's like the  fan really could have belonged to either of them, and that mother and daughter aren't so different after all!  And so when Parker comes in with the fan, here on the tray, it's a kind of coup de theatre – it's as if he's holding all the characters' fates in his hands! They are all anxious, terrified – but he stands firm, unmoved, like he's this real rock in the midst of all this turbulence...  And Lady Windermere says to Parker: 'ask Mrs    Erlynne to be kind enough to come up', and Lord  Windermere says: 'Margaret, I beg you not to, she's a  very dangerous woman', and Lady Windermere says: 'It is right that I should see her' and Lord Windermere  says: 'My child you may be on the brink of a great   sorrow' – I mean, she's his wife, but he's calling her  'my child' – and he says: ÔIt is absolutely necessary  that I see her before you do' and she says: 'Why   should it be necessary?' and then Parker just cuts right  across it all and announces: 'Mrs Erlynne!'

 

LAUREN enters, dressed in a posh dress and ostentatiously carrying the fan.

 

LAUREN.    How do you do, Parker? I am so sorry about the fan. I  can't imagine how I made such a silly mistake. Most  stupid of me. And as I was passing by, I thought I  would take the opportunity of returning it in person.

 

ROB. (Hisses)    What do you think you're doing?! It is monstrous your intruding yourself here after the way you behaved!

 

LAUREN.    Why do you say that?

 

ROB.  You totally screwed up – and you made me look a fool -  you were disgraced before every one! You've had your chance and you spoiled it all tonight by showing off!

 

LAUREN. (With a strange smile.) You are quite right, I spoiled it all tonight.

 

ROB.  And as for your blunder in going off with the fan - it was unforgivable! I can't bear the sight of it now. The thing is soiled for me. You should have kept it and not    brought it back.

 

LAUREN.    I think I shall keep it. It's extremely pretty.

 

ROB.  Well, I hope Frances will give it to you.

 

LAUREN.    I'm sure she will have no objection.

 

ROB.  What do you mean by coming back here – and dressed up like that? What is your object?

 

LAUREN. (With a note of irony.) To bid good-bye, of course. Oh, don't imagine I am going to have a pathetic scene, weep on your neck and  disappear into the night and end up working the streets,  as they do in silly modern novels? No, as far as I am  concerned, you can keep your play. You can struggle  on if you like, playing Parker night in and night out, hoping that Lord Darlington falls under a bus so you  can step into the breach!

 

ROB.  I'm ready to be him! 'Nowadays so many conceited people go about Society pretending to be good, that I think it shows rather a sweet and modest disposition to pretend to be bad..' See? I'd do it so much better!  (Confidentially) He didn't get to play that part on merit, he didn't even audition, it's all about who you know in    this place... But one day I'll get the chance to show   what I'm really capable of...

 

LAUREN.        You think so? That you'll be able to work your way up,  Parker one day, Lord Darlington the next? Or that      maybe in between you'd get to try out in a bit part like    Mr Cecil Graham – a role where you'd at least have a   Christian name, even if there was precious little else to say for it?

 

ROB.  Parker does have a Christian name! I mean, when I  was researching the role and exploring his life story, I  came to think of him as Edward Parker. I thought it  suited him – it's an upright, almost heroic kind of -

 

LAUREN.        He's a servant! He doesn't have another name, he    doesn't have a life story. You're stuck when you play a   part like this: once a servant, always a servant. I lost my illusions when I got sacked! Oh don't worry – I'm  going. My coming here at all has been a mistake – I  discovered that tonight.

 

ROB.  A fatal mistake!

 

LAUREN.  Almost fatal.

 

ROB.  Why - what will you do?

 

LAUREN.  Do you think this little play is the only kind of theatre  there is? What about postmodern drama? What about performance art?

 

ROB.  What could you know of such things?

 

LAUREN.  Enough to know that in them, you can play any part –   you don't have to be a servant, you can be anything,  and even someone like me can reinvent herself! You can recover from your mistakes, in fact sometimes audiences actually like you for your mistakes!

 

ROB.  I don't believe in performance like that. I have devoted  my life to proper drama – and if I lost my ideals, I  should lose everything.

 

LAUREN.  Ideals are dangerous things. You're so dependent on other people to live up to them. Realities are better.  They're dirtier, messier - but they're better.

 

ROB. (Shaking his head.)    Lauren, you and I belong to different worlds.

 

LAUREN.  Don't say that, Rob. There is the same world for all of us: serious and playful, realist and postmodern, go through it hand in hand.

 

ROB.  I don't know if I understand you, but I feel – you are better than I thought you.

 

LAUREN.  I am afraid I must go now.

 

ROB.  Oh no, don't.

 

LAUREN.  I think I had better. Anyway, don't you have a play to finish? Parker must not be seen to neglect his duties... I am afraid it is really good-bye. (Starts to leave.) Oh, I  remember. You'll think me absurd, but do you know I've  taken a great fancy to this fan. Now, I wonder would you give it to me?

 

ROB.  Yes - keep it. The audience doesn't see it in the last bit of the play anyway.

 

LAUREN.  Thanks – it will always remind me of you. (They shake hands.)

 

Rob becomes PARKER; Lauren becomes MRS ERLYNNE.

 

PARKER.  Mrs. Erlynne's carriage has come!

 

MRS ERLYNNE.  You don't look at all well, Parker. You work too hard – it  is so bad for you. You really should take more care of  yourself. Good-bye! (They hold a look for a few seconds and then Lauren exits.)

ROB is left alone on stage. He stands stiffly, 'on duty' as Parker. A minute passes. His eyes shift from side to side. He stands on one leg briefly, rubbing his shoe on the back of his trousers. He coughs – and the cough leads him into a version of the choreographed 'polite cough' of the opening movement sequence. He tries a couple more actions from this sequence, getting mixed up with whether he is now Parker, Rosalie, or both. He starts to get irritated with himself: he sees the feather duster still in his top pocket and takes it out. He has lost his 'motivation'... Half-heartedly he begins to dust the shoes of the front row of audience members, but then, as if making a sudden resolution, he drops the duster in a spectator's lap and runs from the theatre. Cut immediately to:

*   *   *   *   *

Film projection

 

The audience see a projection in the style of the black and white silent film. ROB is emerging (dressed in his butler's costume) from the main door of the Theatre Workshop, looking into the street outside. He looks eagerly down the road for LAUREN, but can't see her. He looks the other way, and we see LAUREN (dressed in her Mrs Erlynne costume) at the end of the road about to turn the corner. ROB gestures wildly and calls out to her, then runs after her to catch her up. They meet, talk and laugh: ROB is excited and relieved to have caught her. There is one intertitle:

 

Tell me more about this 'Performance Art'...

 

ROB and LAUREN link arms and walk off together, chatting enthusiastically.  The image gets smaller until it disappears, and the final screen image cuts in the last intertitle of Fred Paul's 1916 film:

 

 

Lady Windermere's Fan

 

The End

 

 

 

Blackout.

 

 

 

 

© Frances Babbage (script editor)

Rob Neumark Jones

Lauren Williams

 

 

 

 

(c) 2006 University of Sheffield Department of English Literature :: designed by nagzaka :: maintained by Bunnyphobia