Authors: Simon Brett
Table of Contents
CAST, IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE
SO MUCH BLOOD
AN AMATEUR CORPSE
A COMEDIAN DIES
THE DEAD SIDE OF THE MIKE
MURDER IN THE TITLE
NOT DEAD, ONLY RESTING
WHAT BLOODY MAN IS THAT?
A SERIES OF MURDERS
A RECONSTRUCTED CORPSE
SICKEN AND SO DIE
DEAD ROOM FARCE
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This title first published in Great Britain in 1987
by Victor Gollancz
eBook edition first published in 2012 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 1987 Simon Brett.
The right of Simon Brett to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
ISBN-13: 978-1-4483-0012-9 (epub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This eBook produced by
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Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
To Lucy again,
in case she feels neglected
CHARLES PARIS looked out from the bar of the Pinero Theatre, Warminster, over the gathering September twilight, and felt mildly guilty that he wasn't really listening to what Gavin Scholes was saying. The warmth of the third large Bell's and the glow of being in work cocooned him and he only caught the occasional word of the director's exposition of
âFor me, Charles, it's the tragedy of an unimaginative man, whose imagination, which has for so long lain dormant, is suddenly awakened. And he doesn't know how to cope with this new dimension in his life.'
âDon't you see it that way?'
âWell, er . . .'
âSo, I mean, the Weird Sisters . . . well, they just knock him sideways. His mind's kind of invaded by these alien thoughts that he can't understand. You know, “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy” . . .'
âSurely that's Hamlet, isn't it?'
âErm . . . yes, of course it is, but I always think that in approaching a Shakespeare, one has to think in terms of the Complete Works.'
âEach play is just another facet of the sparkling diamond that was Shakespeare's Genius. Don't you agree, Charles?'
âWell, er . . .' The actor didn't feel up to pursuing this metaphor. He indicated the director's wine glass. âGet you another of those, Gavin?'
Charles looked along the counter, but there was no sign of the barman. Everything was empty and unready, the Pinero Theatre gearing itself up slowly to the start of another season of creative endeavour.
âI think Norman's just putting on another beer barrel,' said Gavin. âHe'll be back in a min.'
But the break in their conversation did not deflect him from his theorising. âYou see, Charles, I think this is the only way that Macbeth's behaviour makes any kind of sense. He's not a particularly sensitive man â indeed, he's probably the least sensitive of all Shakespeare's tragic heroes â so when he suddenly develops an imagination, the shock is profound. Cataclysmic almost. Don't you agree?'
Charles nodded and, as he did so, remembered that Gavin had always been like this, always seeking agreement to bolster his vulnerable confidence. He remembered, too, that Gavin had always been a talker, and that he always selected one person in every production as his confidant, the honoured recipient of long anxieties over many drinks at the end of each day's rehearsals. Charles was rather afraid that he had got that particular short straw, that he had been cast in the role for the duration of Gavin's production of
As the director continued to impose his preconceptions on Shakespeare, Charles thought back to how he had got the job, how elated he had been to hear about it, how conveniently his mind had forgotten what a bore Gavin Scholes in full flood could be.
The call had come through from Charles's agent, Maurice Skellern. One afternoon in early August, the actor had been lying on the yellow candlewick bedspread of his Hereford Road bedsitter, trying to remember what being in work felt like, when he had heard the payphone on the landing ring. Assuming it was yet another call connected with the bemusingly complicated sex-lives of the Amazonian Swedish girls who occupied most of the other bedsitters, he had let it ring on until it became clear that he was alone in the house. Only then had he stirred himself to answer it.
âCharles, it's Maurice.'
For his agent to ring him was sufficiently unusual for Charles to do a quick mental checklist of what the call could possibly be about. A cheque for a fee due on the sale to Zambia of some long-forgotten television series had just come in? No, Maurice would never ring him to mention that; the agent's method was to sit on any money that came in until he was virtually prised off his chair.
The National Theatre had finally seen the error of its ways and was inviting him to give his Lear? No, no, Charles, don't be ridiculous, you're far too old and cynical even to give such fantasies mind-room (and yet he still did, he still did).
No, to be realistic, if Maurice was calling him, it was bound to be something riveting like a National Insurance enquiry.
So, without much optimism, he had replied, âHello, Maurice. What gives?'
âCharles, you know I've been saying for some time that you ought to be getting back to your roots, in the classical theatre . . .'
Charles didn't know this. So far as he could recall, Maurice had never said anything of the kind. On the rare occasions that the agent did proffer any advice on what the actor laughingly referred to as his career, the recommendation had always been, âGet a good telly, Charles. That's where the money is.'
But there was never any point in taking issue with Maurice on minor points like the truth. Charles confined his response to a non-committal grunt.
âWell, I think,' Maurice went on, âthat my careful groundwork's beginning to pay off.'
Again, Charles could not be bothered to contest this. Maurice was congenitally incapable of careful groundwork. If any offer of work had come in for one of his clients, it had nothing to do with the agent's ministrations. Any groundwork that had been done had been done by the client himself. Or the offer had just come in out of the blue.
So it proved. But Maurice once again demonstrated that, whatever his shortcomings in other aspects of an agent's work, he was highly skilled at taking for himself any credit that might be available.
âListen, I've just had a call from Gavin Scholes . . .'
âOh yes? He's Artistic Director of some place out in the West Country now, isn't he?'
âThe Pinero Theatre, Warminster.' There was a note of reproof in Maurice's voice implying that the least his client could do was to keep up to date with who was in charge of the various provincial theatres. Since Charles was confident that his agent had been unaware of Gavin's appointment until the moment of his telephone call, this too was mildly galling.
âAnyway, he's just starting a new season, doing
, and, thanks to all the ringing round and prodding I've been doing . . .' (Lies, lies, thought Charles) he's specifically asked for you to join the company.'
âOh.' Any offer of work was gratifying. And, once again, despite the curbs his cynicism tried to impose on them, Charles's fantasies strained at the end of their leashes. He'd worked with Gavin Scholes a couple of times, and the director had always seemed pleased with what he'd done. So it should be a substantial part. Banquo, maybe . . .? That was all right, you got the nice haunting bit in the Banquet scene . . . unless you'd got one of those stupid directors who thought the ghost should be invisible . . . Hmm, trouble with Banquo was, he did tend to fade away a bit in the second half. Excellent part, though, for nipping off to the pub after the interval and just staggering back in time for the curtain call.
There are quite a few good Shakespearean parts like that, actually . . . Tybalt in
Romeo and Juliet
, that's terrific, killed off in Act Three Scene One . . . The one you want to avoid at all costs is bloody Fortinbras in
. One boring scene leading your soldiers, then you have to wait right till the very end of the play for your “Go, bid the soldiers shoot” routine . . . And
's such a long play, it nearly always finishes after closing time, anyway . . .
Or what about Duncan in Macbeth . . .? Charles wondered. He's certainly a good boozer's part . . . gets killed off good and early . . . Trouble is, though, he hasn't got many lines, and directors have a nasty habit of doubling him with the Scottish Doctor in the Sleepwalking Scene, which really wreaks havoc with your drinking . . . And, surely, Charles thought, I'm not old enough for Duncan, am I? I mean, that's a real old stager's part . . . not right for someone who's . . . well, let's say in their fifties . . .
Macduff, though . . . Not a bad part. True, he goes a bit quiet in the middle of the play, and he has got that turgid scene with Malcolm in England . . . But, on the other hand, he gets good chances of a bit of emoting when he hears his family's been killed . . .
, of course, he's got the sword fight at the end. Yes, quite a lot to be said for Macduff.
Or . . . was it possible . . .? Charles had been around for a long time . . . He'd certainly got the experience for therole . . . And Gavin did like his work . . . Hadn't the director said, when Charles had been giving his Lane the Manservant in
The Importance of Being Earnest
(âsubtly insolent' â
), that he'd like to work with him in a bigger part . . .? Yes, it was about time . . . After all, why not? Every director has to take a chance some time . . . And every actor has to get his big break some time . . . And, God knew, Charles had waited long enough.
Yes, why not Charles Paris as Macbeth?
All this flashed through his mind in actor's mental shorthand before he casually asked Maurice, âWhat's the part?'
âWell, he definitely wants you to do the Bleeding Sergeant in Act One.'