Here’s the final section of Bewick Gaudy, which first appeared at the O’Reilly Theatre ten years ago. (The other sections are there: Scene One – Scene Two, Part I – Scene Two, Part II – Scene Three, Part I) Unearthing it now, the near-fight followed by the last scene reads as if I was determined to be dramatically low-key, but I don’t remember that being a conscious decision. Of course it could have turned out that someone vandalised the board with the football captains on it overnight (and, if we wanted to be really over-neat, Geoff’s gift would be exactly enough to repaint the bits which had been defaced), or that Chrissy turned up just as Patrick and Jeanie were saying goodbye (or just afterwards), but it didn’t. In fact, I’ve just noticed that it ends with the students carrying on the conversation they were having at the very beginning whilst everyone else pisses off, as if the whole play has literally been an interruption in their discussion of whether Patrick and Chrissy shagged the night before she left for the vacation. Probably more telling that this wasn’t deliberate, since it reveals (especially at a decade’s distance) the play’s insistence that students rule the place huzzah huzzah and everyone else is around on sufferance.
Rehearsing the last scene was also when I realized a very profound and ghastly thing about my play in performance. I’d been standing at the very back of the O’Reilly, reading a copy of The Witch of Edmonton (there is no significance to this, I don’t think. I just had it in my pocket during quite a few rehearsals.) As I heard the last lines, I thought how splendid it would be on opening night, with some friends and my parents coming down for the occasion. Then it struck me: my parents would see this play. This was an aspect of dramatic production which had not occured to me before. There were many bad words in my play, and my parents were going to hear them. The prospect was appalling. It is, I think, a fact about the nature of performance which is often overlooked.
SCENE THREE (cont.): THE QUAD ABOVE THE BAR
DAVID reenters, and apparently looks around. He comes over and sits down by ED.
DAVID: That Mr. Lonsdale gone?
DAVID: Oh. There were a couple of things he wanted me to clarify about the college, I thought he’d still be here.
ED: Not so’s you’d notice. Just me and some quad.
DAVID: Yes, slight laugh. How are you finding the job, by the way?
ED: Yeah, it’s ok. Not mad about all the chairs, I guess, but I’m quite glad I’m not in the kitchens.
DAVID: It at least gives you a chance to stay in college during this part of the vacation, I suppose.
ED: Yeah. Lets me keep my bar average up during the off-season.
DAVID: Laughs again. You’re ok for a drink, are you?
ED: Hey, easy, man. I haven’t graduated yet, remember? Far as you’re concerned, I’m gaudy jailbait.
DAVID: What a phrase. Gaudy jailbait. But you don’t need another drink?
ED: I’m just fine.
DAVID: Completed your innings for this evening, then? I thought English students were supposed to be dipsomaniacs in training.
ED: Hey, don’t you start.
ED: Ah, nothing. Just all these gaudy types are all down going on about booze and football like it’s what we do all day. I mean, I hate to break up the party, but can any of those fuckers down there even write an essay, let alone two every week, and commentaries on demand?
DAVID: I suppose it is a long time since they’ve been students.
ED: You damn right it is. And they seem to have spent most of the last decade reading Rules of Attraction.
DAVID: Ha, ha, yes.
ED: Swear to God, the next one of them talks to me, I’m just gonna ask him. I’m gonna come straight out and demand to know.
DAVID: Um, really?
ED: Fuck, yeah. No beating about, I’m just gonna be, “So, what real effect did Chaucer’s reading of Boccacio have on his poetic career?” And they’ll just have no answer.
DAVID: No, I shouldn’t think they would have.
ED: Damn right.
DAVID: It must be very annoying for you to have to wait on people in your own college.
ED: Yeah, well, it is. Not that we’re above waiting or anything. Job has to be done, and we may as well do it, we need the cash badly enough. And gaudys have to happen.
DAVID: It’s very understanding of you to realize that. I shouldn’t think all the students appreciate what it means to these old members to come back to the college they used to live in.
ED: Well, I guess they were here once and everything.
DAVID: You’re very understanding. Leans across to kiss him. ED, thinking he’s going to say something, turns his head towards DAVID, but shies back when he realizes what’s going on.
ED: Woah, what’s it?
DAVID: Come on, aren’t there Bewick rules of attraction? Tries again, and ED moves back.
ED: Hey, I’m sorry, I had no…look, I’ve got a boyfriend.
ED: Yeah, I’m sorry, I had no idea you were thinking that. He’s called Josh. Over at Univ.
ED: Yeah, I’d feel really bad, what with him being out of town for the vacation and everything.
DAVID: I see. No, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were attached.
ED: Yeah, well. No problem.
DAVID: Not at all. I’ll just…there are some old members I ought to talk to. I’ll be in the bar if you need me.
He exits, just as MARK enters. MARK walks across, and, in doing so, sees ED.
MARK: Oh, alright, mate?
ED: Oh, you think, do you?
ED: You think you’re alright, do you?
MARK: No, I was asking whether you…
ED: Been drinking? At all? Have you?
MARK: Yeah, actually, just had a snakebite and black, just like in the day. You guys still drink the snakebite and black, don’t you?
ED: Right, that’s it! I’ve got news for you, mate; yeah, Chaucer. Bocaccio, ring any bells? The one, on the other, eh? No?
ED: Right then! Fuck off! I think my point is proved. Run along home. Back to your own country.
MARK: Fuck you, you fucking….whipper-snapper.
MARK leaves in some confusion
ED: Yeah, exactly…
and MARK returns almost immediately
MARK: Who the hell are you, anyway?
MARK: Who are you? Who do you think you are?
ED: Sorry, didn’t catch that, couldn’t hear with all the old coming off you.
MARK: Old? I was here before you were born, son!
MARK: I used to, was in this bar way before you.
ED: Frankly it shows.
MARK: What the hell do you mean?
ED: I mean you’re past it.
MARK: Past it? Past what?
ED: Past it all. Look around you.
MARK: All this, you mean? Past this? Listen, son, I’ve got a good job up in Town, got a flat, decent motor, I don’t have to take this from nobodies like you.
MARK: When I want to head off at the weekend, like to come down here, I don’t have to answer to some bitchy old professor on Monday. And I didn’t come here to get lip from a bar full of little kids who think they know it all, and their spotty girlfriends.
MARK: Think you got women here, do you? Little bitches who have to be up early tomorrow to write an essay…You think I miss all this? Laundry machines that don’t work shared between fifty. Turning up to clubs early to get in cheap, then sitting around ‘cos you can’t afford the drinks? Am I past that?
MARK: Fuckin’ right, I am. Crawling round libraries with a hangover and explaining myself and eating slimy kebabs on a stomach full of beer. Racing to the shower to get hot water, you think I miss spending my evening drinking cheap lager, four pints and a game of pool? Getting yelled at by the guy next door for putting on a CD at two in the morning after a club session. Partying like crazy to try to put off the exams.
ED: Yeah. I do. I think you miss it like mad.
MARK: Screw you. I wouldn’t come back here. Keep your tatty little college!
ED: Oh, what’s wrong, decent motor can’t get a good bloke laid round here?
MARK: Talk to me like that, you little shit…
ED: You’re pathetic!
MARK: I’ll fucking lamp you…
ED: Do you even know how pathetic you are?
They both realise that DAVID has entered during the last couple of exchanges, and stop the yelling.
DAVID: Oh, Mr., er…
DAVID: Mark. Actually, that reminds me, I forgot to show you the new rowing trophy, didn’t I?
MARK: Right, yeah
DAVID: It’s down…over, in the lodge. Gestures in that direction.
MARK: Leaving in the direction indicated. Right.
DAVID and ED don’t say anything.
DAVID leaves in the direction DAVID went. ED sits back down by the steps.
ED looks up.
ED: Get lost. I’m too drunk to want to deal with you tonight.
PATRICK: Ah, come on. I’m really sorry.
ED: You can’t just stroll up here and, fucking, expect everything to be OK. Who do you think you are?
They look at each other.
PATRICK: Yeah, look, I know. I was out of order. Fuck, man, I’m sorry, yeah?
ED: Yeah, well.
PATRICK: Don’t give me this shit, man, this is Bar Quad, alright? What am I gonna do if I can only come here when you’re not about? You want this place to become just another fucking lawn overrun by wankers and rugby players? I just met David and some gaudy bitch around here just now. David, man! You want David to be all sitting on these steps, ‘cos that’s what’s gonna happen. Steps you blew chunks over, Ed, you want the likes of David to be all over them?
Look, I’ve said I’m sorry.
ED: Wants him to crawl. What for?
They look at each other. At length;
PATRICK: Fucked if I know.
ED: Yeah, me either.
PATRICK sits down by him.
ED: They were pretty good chunks, weren’t they?
PATRICK: Proper chunks. You’d just had a hot dog to try and stabilise the red wine and cider.
ED: Bad call.
PATRICK: As it turned out. But worth a try. Couldn’t be called a rookie mistake.
ED: I suppose not, no. Hey, you know what just happened.
ED: David made a pass at me.
ED: Oh believe me. I think the gaudy’s gone to his head. He was all chatting me up properly.
PATRICK: Euww, our David in the spirit of carnival license.
ED: Makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it?
PATRICK: Tell all. A crawl shared is a crawl halved.
SCENE FOUR: THE QUAD, NEXT MORNING
PATRICK is hanging around looking purposeless.
GEOFF enters with a travelling case.
GEOFF: Oh, er, good morning.
PATRICK: Breakfast is being served in Hall, just through the arch over there. Indicates.
GEOFF: Thanks I don’t think I’ll bother. God only knows what the trains will be like this morning.
GEOFF: It was, er, History, wasn’t it?
GEOFF: Well, goodbye. Best of luck.
PATRICK: Oh. Cheers.
ED: (OFF) “Would the jerk with nothing to do by the arch in Bar Quad please proceed to over here where a table needs lifting. Thank you.”
PATRICK exits, and reenters with ED, carrying the table.
PATRICK: What’s this for?
ED: Sins committed in a past life, I expect. David wants this over in the Tarleton Room.
PATRICK: Whoever. Tarleton, David, me in a past life, does it matter?
They leave the other side, and JEANIE appears
ED: (OFF) There are chairs as well. He appears and walks straight past JEANIE, exiting on the other side. PATRICK follows him, and is brought face to face with JEANIE.
PATRICK: Oh, hey.
JEANIE: Hi. I was just off.
PATRICK: Oh, right. There’s breakfast in the Hall, if you wanted.
JEANIE: Yeah, staying for breakfast isn’t really my style.
PATRICK: Right, yeah. Pause. You enjoyed the gaudy and everything?
JEANIE: Yes, everything was lovely. Nice to see the college again.
PATRICK: Sure. See you, then.
JEANIE: I shouldn’t think so. Smiles and gives the same salute she gave GEOFF in the bar. Bewick to the grave, right?
PATRICK: Copying the gesture, he’s unused to it. Right. Bewick to the grave.
JEANIE exits and ED enters with a stack of chairs.
ED: In your own time, dear boy. Stack and shift.
ED: Who was that, anyway?
PATRICK: Old member, up for the gaudy.
ED: Ye gods. Well, at least that’s one of the miserable bastards out the way.
PATRICK: Yeah, fewer to serve coffee to, anyway.
He exits and PATRICK is about to leave the other side when BETH enters. She is clearly hung over.
BETH: Morning child. How are we?
PATRICK: On the brink. And we?
BETH: Doing fine. We found a way to deal with last night. No-one need worry about us.
You, on the other hand can start worrying.
ED: Or lifting chairs. David…
BETH: David can wait. I am addressing my bitches.
BETH: Bitches. Both of you need clear heads tonight. We are going to winkle all the sordid details of Pat’s night with the lovely Chrissy.
PATRICK: Ed pulled David!
ED: I didn’t!
BETH: What? Eduardo, you never….?
ED: It was him pulling me! And he didn’t anyway, I didn’t let him.
BETH: Sound decision. But he tried it on?
ED: Oh yeah. He was gagging for it.
ED: Hell yeah. Moaning for the meat.
BETH: What did you do?
PATRICK: Tell him cash only?
ED: Told him where to go. He thinks he’s getting a piece of this fineness, he’s got some to learn.
BETH: Good story. I felt a slight warmth in my flinty heart. On the other hand, we still have a story to extract. You’re next, Patricia.
ED: You won’t, you know. He’s tight like a fresher with a problem.
BETH: Have faith.
PATRICK: In you?
BETH: In an empty bar, no work tomorrow morning, and a game of “I Have Never” which will go on all night if necessary. We’ll start on wine and work our way through every possible scenario, every positional permutation ‘til we hit the jackpot. You’re going to tell us every sticky nuance, boy.
ED: Clever, but it won’t work.
BETH: You think?
They begin to move off.
ED: Bewick rules of “I’ve Never”, third amendment; “For reasons of decency and respect, no player or players may be forced to reveal details of their first sexual experience”.
ED and BETH laugh and all three leave the stage together,
PATRICK: You bastard!