ComedyCollective Writers Project
Kim Morrissey

BBC Radio cast: Imogen Stubbs, Paul Rhys, Jonathan Cake, Alison Pettitt
London Stage cast : Sharon Broady, William Key, Steven Dykes
original director: Barry Shannon

ISBN 0-88754-552-1 Clever As Paint  ISBN 0-88754-552-1

Seance scene from Clever As Paint:
wherein Gabriel Rossetti
tries to edit the love poem
written to his mistress
he placed in his wife's coffin
seven years before ....


"Love among the artists - specifically, the Pre-Raphaelites - mercilessly dissected by Kim Morrissey, who debunked Freud very efficiently and wittily in her play Dora a few years back." -- Robert Hanks, The Independent


cast details

Please note: the BBC Radio 4 production of this play is available through BBC World Service. The book is available, world-wide. ISBN 0-88754-552-1

Act Two, Scene Two:


Clever As Paint: the Rossettis in Love (Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 1998) .

JULY 25, 1869. ROSSETTI'S STUDIO.

(SEVEN YEARS AFTER LIZZIE SIDDAL'S DEATH. SKETCHES AND PAINTINGS OF "BEATA BEATRIX" ARE EVERYWHERE).

(ROSSETTI SEATED AT TABLE)

MORRIS: Sorry I'm late. I've been showing Janey how to dye.

ROSSETTI: Is she all right?

MORRIS: Yes, of course. The floor's a bit of a mess, but the silk looks lovely. Nice bit of work, when it works. Janey wanted it fawn-coloured, to make it look medieval, but I said no: It would have been blood red in Malory's day. That's the thing about medieval dyes ...

ROSSETTI: Yes, yes. Come on. You're late. Howell says we have to do it tonight. On her birth-day. In her birth hour. Now. (STARTS SEANCE) Hand on hand. Breathe In. Breathe Out. Breathe In. Breathe Out.... Do you see anything?

MORRIS: Nice table! Elm, isn't it? Oh, Woodworm. Too bad. Too bad.

ROSSETTI: Topsy! You're breaking the mood! Hand on Hand ! Hand on Hand! If there's a spirit here who knows us: One for 'yes,' two for 'no.'

MORRIS: (CORRECTING ROSSETTI) Two for 'yes,' one for 'no.'

SIDDAL (GHOST): (SITTING ON TABLE. KNOCKS ONCE)

ROSSETTI: Yes!

MORRIS: Or no! Try again.

ROSSETTI: Is it one knock for 'Yes?'

SIDDAL: (KNOCKS TWICE)

MORRIS: (TO ROSSETTI) Does that mean 'No' or 'Yes' or is the spirit telling us the correct number of knocks for the answer if the answer is 'Yes?'

ROSSETTI: Topsy, please.

MORRIS: Let's begin again. Is the year 1869?

SIDDAL: (KNOCKS TWICE)

MORRIS: Good. Two knocks for 'Yes.' Now, is there a spirit in the room friendly to either one of us?

SIDDAL: (KNOCKS TWICE)

MORRIS: And are your initials E.R?

SIDDAL: (KNOCKS ONCE)

ROSSETTI: E.S?

SIDDAL: (SILENT)

MORRIS: Who are you?

SIDDAL: (KNOCKS FIVE TIMES. AND THEN TWO TIMES MORE)

ROSSETTI: F!

MORRIS: G!

ROSSETTI: G -- is it you Papa?

MORRIS: G ...

ROSSETTI: Guggum! Is it my little Guggum?

SIDDAL: (KNOCKS TWICE)

ROSSETTI: It is! I knew it! Sweetness. Dearest Dove Divine. Hulloa! Happy Birthday! Do you remember the very last thing I gave you? The little book. The little grey-green book with all my poems?

SIDDAL: (KNOCKS TWICE)

ROSSETTI: Do you have it there with you?

SIDDAL: (KNOCKS TWICE)

ROSSETTI: Excellent. Now. The poem 'Jenny.' You remember 'Jenny' don't you? -- (SAID QUICKLY, JUST TO REFRESH SIDDAL'S MEMORY) Lazy laughing languid Jenny, fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea, whose head upon my knee tonight, rests for a while as if grown light ...?

SIDDAL: (FURIOUS. TWO KNOCKS)

ROSSETTI: Good. Now, Lizzie. The seventh stanza:

'Well, handsome Fanny mine, sit up
I've filled our glasses, let us sup,
And do not ...'

Now is it 'let ME think of you'?

SIDDAL: (TWO KNOCKS)

ROSSETTI: Good.

And do not let me think of you, ... lest ...

Lest what? Lizzie. Can you tell me? Can you tell me lest what?

SIDDAL: (THREE KNOCKS)

ROSSETTI: Three! What does that mean?

MORRIS: I think it might mean 'perhaps.'

ROSSETTI: If I were to hold a paper and pen, would you write out 'Jenny' for me? Would you do that dearest little dove?

SIDDAL: (SHAKES TABLE FURIOUSLY)

ROSSETTI: Good! Good girl. (ROSSETTI WAITS FOR AUTOMATIC WRITING TO BEGIN)

SIDDAL: (SAID WITH GREAT QUIET PASSION)

'Lazy, Filthy, Stinking Fanny,
Greasy, Poxied Slut from Hell.'

ROSSETTI: Nothing! Damn me. What now?

MORRIS: What will you do?

ROSSETTI: What can I do? I need 'Jenny.'

MORRIS: I thought your friends had copies.

ROSSETTI: (BITTERLY, POINTEDLY) I thought so too. I need the poem. I need it. I need the poem.

MORRIS: Try writing it again. It might come back to you. The way the sonnet came back in Italy.

ROSSETTI: It didn't. Not all of it.

MORRIS: Perhaps it will, though, this time. What else can you do? Begin again. Try to dream it back.

ROSSETTI: Do you think so?

SIDDAL: (KNOCKS THREE TIMES : 'No. No. No.')

(SIDDAL REMAINS CONSTANTLY ON SET UNTIL SHE MAKES THE CHOICE TO LEAVE ROSSETTI IN PENULTIMATE SCENE OF PLAY)


ACT 2, Scene 3

November. 1869. ROSSETTI'S STUDIO


ROSSETTI: (TO MORRIS) Ah. You've heard.

MORRIS: Everyone's heard.

ROSSETTI: I suppose Janey told you?

MORRIS: Howell.

ROSSETTI: And I suppose you blame me.

MORRIS: No one who knows you blames you. Art isn't meant to be left in a hole.

ROSSETTI: --- it was horrible --- horrible --- the smell ---

MORRIS: Lizzie?

ROSSETTI: Oh not her - No. The disinfectant for the book. She looked beautiful as always, completely unchanged. Her lovely hair had grown, grown to fill the coffin with its gold.

MORRIS: Surely not. Not after seven years.

ROSSETTI: Can't you even leave me with that?

MORRIS: Very well. If you say she was unchanged --

ROSSETTI: She was as perfect as when we laid her in her grave, Howell said.

MORRIS: Ah. Howell.... Howell. So you didn't go?

ROSSETTI: No. We thought it best. My nerves. It wasn't just Lizzie. Aunt Margaret was on top ...

.

[SCENE CONTINUES]

Caution: this play is fully protected under the copyright laws of Canada and all other countries of The Copyright Union, and is subject to royalty. Those interested in production rights are requested to apply to Playwrights Guild of Canada, 54 Wolseley Street, 2nd Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. telephone (416) 703-0201; fax (416) 703-0059. email: info@pgc.ca

Scene from Dora

political sketches from BBC Radio 4's WeekEnding

Kim's Guest Writer
March 2000  -  Robert Priest

The Unfortunate Genius
and his ‘Winkle’


ComedyCollective Writers Project
Kim Morrissey