Fiction Friday – 25 September 2009 To thine own self be true
This Week’s Theme: The house lights dim, the curtain goes up… you’re on.
The last night. The last performance. Indeed, the very final performance. There shall be no curtain calls, not this time. Listen to that young wretch prattle on, mangling the Bard’s poetry. Inelegant. Inarticulate. Some television star who knows nothing of the theatre, nothing of projection and enunciation.
He butchered the soliloquy. Oh, there was a time when they paid to see me deliver those immortal lines. Even Sir Larry, god rest him, congratulated me on my performance.
“Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hunt…”
Ignorant buffoon! Horrid hent, not horrid hunt. Lord, these young so-called stars, their refusal to take direction… My days of playing the Prince are long past. But tonight… tonight they shall remember my Polonius, oh yes. Neither a borrower nor a lender be… Oh irony, thou art a wicked mistress. Sage Polonius, wise words that I deliver to the audience, and yet it is advice I take not myself. Creditors hounding me, bankruptcy, oh the ignominy – and the press! Those damned journalists delighting in the “downfall of the down and out actor”. Bloody vermin the lot of them.
“He’ll take what he can get” – my agent had the audacity to say it to the director. He’ll take what he can get. And now, working on scale – how is that supposed to help me, struggling on nominal fees in some godforsaken repertory?
“Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”
And there is my cue, the beginning of my final scene. They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives…
“He will come straight. Look you lay home to him…” That’s how you deliver lines boy; strong, assured, right to the back of the house. My god, it should be my name up front, not this soap actor.
“…withdraw; I hear him coming…”
Aah, Margaret. Always a pleasure to work with you. The bloom is off the rose, but you are still as radiant playing Gertrude as you were when you were my Ophelia. A true professional to the end.
And here comes the clumsy sod, tripping onto the stage, mugging it up for the crowds.
“Now, mother, what’s the matter?”
It hasn’t been to bad a career, I suppose. For a time I was the one they all looked up to. And they’ll be talking tonight, and for some time to come. They’ll all remember the night they saw Jacob Samuel’s final performance.
“You are the Queen, your husband’s brother’s wife…”
And so it begins. They’ll remember him too, of course. Perhaps his career will recover. Still, too late now, far too late.
“What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me? Help, help, ho!”
Goodbye, Margaret – now my final act begins. What, ho! help, help, help!
“How now? a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead!”
Strike true boy, strike true…
Thank you boy, what finesse you lack in your performance, you make up for with the enthusiasm of your swordplay. It will be swift. But remain professional Jacob. Professional to the end.
Oh… Oh… I am… I am… I… am… slain….
The gasp from the boy, true emotion that he cannot fake. He knows, but the audience? Or Margaret?
“O me, what hast thou done?”
No, Margaret hasn’t… realised… And now the houselights dim… To die… To sleep…
The director… oh poor Hamlet… alone realising what he’s done… To sleep… Perchance to dream…
“Oh god, oh god, OH GOD! Someone, someone call an ambulance, quickly!”
What dreams may come… when I… have shuffled off this mortal coil? My finest scene… the finest death of Polonius ever acted. But no bow… no curtain call… savour the last few… moments… ay, there’s the rub… I go now to that… undiscover’d country… from whose bourn… no… traveller…