steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

One Last Job

Was it Keira Knightley* who referred to non-actors as “civilians”? Probably not. But some actress did, a few years ago, and was roundly mocked for it. I was thinking about that in the bath just now, along with the old One Last Job topos, and somehow the following drama took shape in the steamy billows...

* The finger is now pointing at Kate Winslet - thanks to hafren for the correction.

Scene 1. A half-timbered cottage in the Oxfordshire village of Fax-in-the-Burberry.

A distinguished-looking man in his sixties is ushering a bearded, bohemian type into the small but opulently-furnished living room. Signed photos of Gielgud and Richardson adorn the walls.

Jimmy: So, Trevor, what brings you to the Cotswolds? A long way from the National, aren’t you?

Trevor: Oh, I found myself driving from Bath to Stratford, you know, and realized that you and Margery were more or less on my way. I hope you don’t mind the intrusion?

Jimmy: Not at all, not at all. It’s good to see you. Whisky?

Trevor: A small one. And how is retirement treating you, Jimmy? Not missing the greasepaint?

Jimmy: I’ve never been happier. And I never made a better decision in my life than to retire when I did. Margery and I are in good health, we have three grandchildren just down the road, and my golf handicap has improved more in the last six months than it did in thirty years with the RSC! Country life suits me fine.

Trevor: Ah, I see. Good. [Awkwardly] Actually, that was something I was hoping to talk to you about.

Jimmy [Freezes, whisky bottle in hand]: What do you mean?

Trevor: I - it's - it's about Lear.

Jimmy: Lear?

Trevor: King Lear. I’ll come straight out with it, Jimmy. We need you. The RSC needs you.

Jimmy: Now, just wait a minute...

Trevor: It’s only one last job---

Jimmy: Absolutely not! I’m retired, do you understand? My acting days are over!

Trevor: Please, Jimmy! Think about it. He’s the one big fish that escaped your net, isn’t he? Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, you bagged them all. But somehow Lear always managed to wriggle free...

Jimmy: Don’t try to get round me that way! And I thought you were visiting out of friendship! [Mellowing slightly] Besides, I heard you had McKellen on the case. Good man, McKellen.

Trevor: You’ve not heard the news? McKellen’s out of the picture. He blew too hard in the storm scene last night. Worst case of cracked cheeks the doc’s ever known. It’s got to be you, Jimmy. No one else can take on Lear – he’s seen off too many fine actors. It’s only till the end of the season---

Margery [who has entered, unseen, from the kitchen. Coldly]: My husband has already told you that he is not available, Sir Trevor – now, or ever. I think you had better leave.

Trevor: Okay, I’m going. I’ll have to pass on that whisky, Jimmy. But just think about what I’ve told you. You’re our only hope.

Jimmy: I’m sorry. You already have my answer.

Scene 2.
The Next Day, mid-morning. The Kitchen. Jimmy and Margery sit drinking morning tea. The plate of Duchy Originals between them remains unnibbled.

Margery [stiffly, breaking a silence]: You’re going to take it, aren’t you?

Jimmy: What? No, of course not. You heard what I told Trevor.

Margery: Don’t take me for a fool! Do you think I didn’t hear you saying “Two toads totally tired of trying to trot to Tewksbury” in front of the shaving mirror this morning? And you’ve been rummaging through that box of props again.

Jimmy: I was reminiscing!

Margery: And leafing through your cuttings book!

Jimmy [mulishly]: A man can look back over his life, can’t he?

Margery: You’ve always known yourself but slenderly. Go on, ring Trevor Nunn! Walk out into the storm! But don’t expect to find a welcome when you crawl back soaked to the skin with flowers in your hair...

Scene 3: The kitchen. Margery stands alone, gazing into her cottage garden. Off-stage, Jimmy can be heard on the telephone.

Jimmy: Trevor?... Yes, I’ve had a chance to think it over... Yes, I’m going to take it... God forgive me, Trevor. I know Margery never will.

Margery [bleakly]: Vicisti, Stratfordæe.
Tags: maunderings, my writing
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