ComedyCollective Writers Project
Ivan Shakespeare

A Square of One’s Own

Written by Ivan Shakespeare

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4
15 May 1996
Episode One

Caution: this play is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United Kingdom and all other countries of The Copyright Union, and is subject to royalty. Those interested in production rights are requested to apply to The Ivan Shakespeare Estate by contacting his widow, Elspeth MacLean,  through the Writers' Guild


CHARACTERS

The Budsburies: Lytton Strychnine A Historian and Biographer
John "Johnny"
Maynard Coins
An Economist
Clive Pill An Art Critic
Vanessa Pill his Wife, A Painter
Virginia Woof A Novelist
Vita Sockville-Pest

A Landscapist
Others of Equivalent Artistic or Intellectual Stature: Hans Schwarzmeister A Post-Depressionist

The Great Untalented:

A College Scout

A Picture Gallery Factotum
A Postman
Nash Mrs. Woof's Butler
A Newsboy
Roger Delamour an Army Lieutenant


A Square of One’s Own

Written by Ivan Shakespeare

Pilot Episode/ EPISODE ONE: ‘The Great War’

Page 1

LYTTON: (INTRO) A Square of One’s Own – Memoirs of the Budsbury Circle, by Lytton Strychnine. Chapter One: The Great War.

Page 2

SCENE 1

LYTTON: (D) The biographer is kinsman to the picture –restorer. With the acid of conjecture he strips off the varnish of dissemblance to expose much exquisite detail. As exemplified in THIS portrait: Coins at Cambridge, Summer 1914. The greatest economic mind of his era is rehearsing a valedictory speech …

COINS: So to sum up gentlemen, buy cheap, sell dear, do it often, do it quick. That’s economics. Right, off you go and rule the country.

FX: KNOCK ON DOOR

SCOUT: (DODDERY) Telegram, Doctor Coins. From the Foreign Office.

FX: DOOR OPENED

COINS: I suppose it’s about the forthcoming war that will drag on for four years and wipe out the cream of a generation. Let me give you a tip.

SCOUT: Well, only if you’re sure, Doctor Coins sir …

Page 3

COINS: Put at least fifty per cent of your portfolio into gold.

FX: RIPPING OF PAPER

COINS : (READING) Seek views war effort stop. Whitehall Tuesday stop. (NORMAL) Ah, here we are. (READING) Third class rail fare plus subsistence ...(NORMAL) It's the Foreign Office all right.

SCOUT: Any reply, Doctor Coins?

COINS: Thirty words for threepence, right? Say, (READING) Sixpence mile Silver Ghost, plus ten shills nightly lowest acceptable, stop. Arranging own accommodation, stop. Like or Lump, stop. Would not expect Archbish. Cant. take drumhead service same rate local rector, stop. Regards, Coins.

SCOUT: Is 'Archbish. Cant.' one word, Doctor Coins?

COINS: Yes. Any argument, change it to 'Pope'.

FX: CLOSING DOOR. JINGLE OF BELL OF OLD-FASHIONED TELEPHONE

OPERATOR: Hello?

Page 4

COINS: Budsbury 1212, please, Mrs. Woof. Come on Ginny ….

FX: FADE DOWN

END OF SCENE ONE

Page5

SCENE TWO

FX: FADE UP

LYTTON: Supposition, perhaps. But if with the Ancients we hold that Character is Destiny, then by no means unfounded supposition. Mutatis mutandis, the events of that same day at Number 28, Budsbury Square, home to art critic Clive Pill and his wife Vanessa.

FX: SLOSHING OF PAINT

VANESSA: Tum-tee-tum-tee-tum … oh, do sit still Clive darling. NOW look, the way you keep moving your head, I’ve given you an extra nose. People will think I’m trying to copy Picasso.

FX: SCRAPE OF CHAIR

VANESSA:  Oh darling, now where are you going?

CLIVE: Find my notebook. Just had an idea.

VANESSA: Oh dear, I suppose this means you’ll be writing another book and I shan’t see you for six weeks.

FX: BACKGROUND FOOTSTEPS (UNDER)

Page 6

CLIVE: No, no, just a pamphlet. Called ‘Civilisation.’ About how civilisation is both a process and a … something else.

VANESSA: I should have listened to Mother – ‘Never marry an intellectual.’

CLIVE: Can’t help being clever. Anyway, your sister married one.

VANESSA: Virginia’s an intellectual herself, who else would have her? Now Clive darling, DO come and sit down.

FX: HORSE AND CART PULLS UP OUTSIDE

VANESSA: You KNOW how important this is. My first exhibition, and the gallery’s spacing them out as it is.

FX: KNOCK ON DOOR

VANESSA: And now here’s the man to pick up my painting, and it’s still … oh, never mind, I’ll use this.

CLIVE: My blotter – what are you …?

VANESSA: Just drying the paint, darling. Oh, I knew I should have done a still-life.

Page 7

FX: ANOTHER KNOCK ON DOOR

CLIVE: Look, that old Cezanne in the attic, just sign it, give them that.

VANESSA: Don’t be silly darling, I’ve got my reputation to think of (SHOUTING) Yes, I’m coming.

FX: FOOTSTEPS, THEN OPENING DOORS TO STREET ATMOS.

VANESSA: Hello?

MAN: Come to collect the opus, Ma’am.

VANESSA: Oh – oh ….

FX: CLOSED DOORS, THEN FOOTSTEPS.

MAN: Oh yus. Unmistakeable touch of greatness shimmering from every stroke, if I may say so, Ma’am. That’ll be half-a-crown.

VANESSA: Half-a-crown?

MAN: Delivery, Ma’am. And if you would sign this ….

VANESSA: Ah, sweet man. He wants my autograph, Clive.

Page 8

MAN: Indemnification form, Ma’am. Ta. Well, good luck with your exhibitionism tonight. Good-bye.

FX: SLAM OF DOOR

VANESSA: ‘Bye. Charming man, if perhaps just the teensiest bit on the rough-hewn side.

FX: GEE-UP, THEN HORSE AND CART DRIVES OFF.

CLIVE: Oh, I can’t find my … hey! Stop that man! Stop him!

VANESSA: What on Earth is the matter, Clive?

CLIVE: He’s gone off with my blotter.

FX: FADE DOWN

END OF SCENE TWO

Page 9

SCENE 3

LYTTON: Let us now weave a further thread in our intricate tapestry by traversing Budsbury Square to Number 26, where that afternoon I myself called upon the great, and shortly to be published novelist Virginia Woof. To set the stage, this reconstruction of events immediately preceding my visit may be found helpful.

GRAMS: EARLY RECORDING- BOCCHERINI’S MINUET (UNDER)

FX: VIRGINIA WOOF SCREAMS

BUTLER: You called, Ma’am?

VIRGINIA: Oh God,this is completely, utterly unbearable. I’m enveloped in a black cloud of misery, Nash, and nobody loves me.

BUTLER: No Ma’am. Though with respect Ma’am, Mrs Pill must harbour some affection for you or she wouldn’t have invited you to her exhibition tonight.

VIRGINIA: That’s another thing, I’ll have to hold a soiree to invite HER to. Oh God.

GRAMS: STUCK IN GROOVE

Page 10

VIRGINIA: Now that gramophone needle’s stuck, Nash. Is there no end to it?

BUTLER: Indeed Ma’am, it never rains but it pours. Allow me.

GRAMS: MUSIC RESUMES

FX: TELEPHONE TINKLES

BUTLER: Budsbury 1212 … I’ll see, sir (SOTTO) Doctor Coins, Ma’am. Says he rang earlier but there was no reply.

VIRGINIA: I disconnected it. I was in the throes of literary creation, Nash. Torture enough without the clamour of that intolerable bell.

BUTLER: Of course, Ma’am. Doctor Coins says that he would be grateful if he could stay for a few days.

VIRGINIA: Why?

BUTLER: In connection with the forthcoming War, Ma’am, though he requests that this news goes no further.

VIRGINIA: Nonsense. What war? I don’t know about any war.

Page11

NEWSBOY: (IN STREET) War declared! Late night extra, with all the results from Goodwood, read all about it!

VIRGINIA: Do you think that’s the War he means?

NEWSBOY: Colossal social upheaval expected.

VIRGINIA: What?

NEWSBOY: End to centuries of automatic deference.

FX: STAMPEDE OF FEET

VIRGINIA: Where are all the servants going? Nash? Whatever can it all mean?

BUTLER: I suspect it means an end to bowing and scraping to puffed-up nonentities such as yourself, Ma’am, but if not, perhaps you would keep my position open until after the War.

VIRGINIA: Nash, come ….

FX: SLAM OF DOOR. RABBLE OF HAPPY SERVANTS ON STREET.

VIRGINIA: …. back …

Page12

COINS: (D) Hello, Ginny. Are you still there?

FX: FADE DOWN

END OF SCENE 3

Page 13

SCENE 4

LYTTON: As I arrived at this juncture, my account of events is henceforth verbatim. Except where I have summarised for the sake of authenticity.

FX: FADE UP KNOCK ON DOOR

LYTTON: Ah, Virginia. Your butler being less than his customarily attentive self, I let myself in. Mmmmwa-mmmwa.

VIRGINIA: What? Lytton. Hmmm – I suppose you’d better come in.

LYTTON: I am …. You sound somewhat distracted, Virginia.

VIRGINIA: I'm distracted Lytton. I keep hearing things.

COINS: (D) Ginny, hello! Is that Lytton there? Lytton, you’re a naughty boy, avoiding me …. Lytton? Lytton!

FX: FADE DOWN

LYTTON: Coins had summed up the situation with his usual perspicacity. I HAD been avoiding him.

FX: FADE UP

Page14

COINS: (D) Ginny! Lytton! (ETC.)

VIRGINIA: (OVER) Voices, Lytton. I’m hearing voices. Help me!

LYTTON: My pleasure. (FUNNY VOICE) Velly solly, long number.

FX: REPLACES RECEIVER

VIRGINIA: That’s better. They’ve gone.

LYTTON: You should rest, Virginia. Doubtless you have been overtiring yourself with your novel.

VIRGINIA: I must have been overtiring myself with my novel, Lytton. One can endure only so much ecstasy and despair. One reacts by entering the cave.

LYTTON: Symbolically, no doubt? You mean creative block?

VIRGINIA: I mean creative block, Lytton. Do you suffer them?

LYTTON: Destructive blocks, which for the professional biographer are, if anything, worse. Fortunately, I have yoked Science into the service of Art in the shape of …. May I?

GRAMS: OUT

Page15

LYTTON: I abhor Boccherini. He tried to poison his mother, you know.

VIRGINIA: Lytton, what is that device?

LYTTON: A phonograph. Allow me to demonstrate.

FX: CRACKLING OF RECORD

LYTTON: (D) Testing, testing, one-two-three. St. Francis of Assissi – Chapter Five – The Charnel-house Years…

FX: OUT, AS RECORD LIFTED FROM GRAMOPHONE

LYTTON: I pour it all out in a great flood – no, let’s say stream – of consciousness ….

VIRGINIA: Yes!

LYTTON: ....write it up later.

VIRGINIA: Yes!

LYTTON: And edit it.

VIRGINIA: What?

Page 16

LYTTON: I edit it, Virginia. Cut it.

VIRGINIA: Oh! Hideous word! How can you BEAR to say it?

LYTTON: Excising words often yields improvement.

VIRGINIA: What? Then why include them in the first place?

LYTTON: In the elusive quest for perfection, the biographer may so easily be lured into dwelling on his subject in obsessive detail. When so ensnared, I cut.

VIRGINIA: You …. (SOBBING)

LYTTON: There, Virginia. Only the heroic bits.

FX: FADE DOWN

END OF SCENE 4

Page 17

SCENE 5

LYTTON: But as a Derby-winner may lose form when deprived of a beloved stablemate, be it a mere donkey, so did Virginia repine. If such an equine analogy may with justice be applied to Vita Sockville-Pest.

GRAMS: SOUNDTRACK FROM THE DRAGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT

LYTTON: Possibly the greatest, certainly the most ambitious Landscapist of her day, who was at that very moment surveying with God-like satisfaction her magnum opus – the garden at her Sussex home, Charlattan.

FX: BIRDSONG. COUNTRY ATMOS. (UNDER)

VITA: A hillock … a hundred yards West, a second hillock. One furlong due South, a ravine, forming ingress and egress of artificial grotto ….

FX: WHISTLING OF APPROACHING POSTMAN ON BICYCLE. LETTERS THROUGH LETTERBOX.

VITA: Wretched man.

FX: OPENING DOOR. SOUND OF BICYCLE ON GRAVEL.

Page18

VITA: Postman! Must I tell you again? Do not ride that bicycle scattering gravel everywhere.

FX: POSTMAN CRASHING FROM BIKE, CALLING ‘AAAARGH’ (UNDER)

VITA: Philistine. That length of wire was there for a purpose. Now I’ll have to re-align my saplings. And stop bleeding on my drive or I shall tell the Postmaster-General and have you dismissed.

FX: SLAM OF DOOR

VITA: So much anguish for one paltry letter. Why does no-one write to me? Or only …

FX: OPENING LETTER

VITA: Vanessa and her … pah! Exhibition of  daubings … PS, Vee sends love, sorry hasn’t written, suffering from block …. Oh, I must rush to her …

FX: FADE DOWN

END OF SCENE 5

Page 19

SCENE 6

LYTTON: Vanessa’s exhibition at the Budsbury Gallery, Budsbury Square, Budsbury, was a sparkling occasion, invested with poignancy by the courageous resolve of all present to banish thoughts of the folly about to envelope a continent, and instead reaffirm those eternal values for which our group was renowned.

FX: PARTY ATMOS (UNDER), CHAMPAGNE CORKS AND CLINKED GLASSES.

VITA: Vanessa, darling!

VANESSA: Vita, darling!

VITA: Clive, darling!

CLIVE: Vita, darling!

LYTTON: Clive, darling!

CLIVE: Oh, hello Lytton

VITA: John, darling

COINS: Oh … Rita …. Vita ….

Page20

OMNES: VIRGINIA, DARLING!

CLIVE: My pamphlet ….

VIRGINIA: My novel ….

LYTTON: My biography ….

VITA: My landscapism.

LYTTON: Vita, have you seen Clive?

VITA: Clive, have you seen Virginia?

CLIVE: Anybody, have you seen Vanessa?

FX: PARTY ATMOS LOUDER, THEN NORMAL

COINS: Oh, there you are, Lytton. Mark my words ….

FX: FADE DOWN.

LYTTON: Regrettably, I didn’t.

FX: PARTY ATMOS RESUMES

Page21

COINS: Armoured tanks will be BIG. Any spare boodle, stick it in tanks. But not a dicky-bird to ….

LYTTON: Forgive me John …

COINS: (CAJOLINGLY) Johnny.

LYTTON: A tryst with Clive awaits (FADING) Oh Clive ….

CLIVE: Quite magnificent grasp of form, darling.

VANESSA: Thank you darling. What’s ‘Form’?

CLIVE: Shhh, darling.

VANESSA: I’ve always wanted to know. Everybody talks about it but no-one ever explains what it is. You’ll know, won’t you Lytton darling? You’re so clever.

LYTTON: What? Actually, I came to proposition your husband in a joint-venture. A biography of Turner …

CLIVE: Do excuse me Lytton (FADING) Virginia, how are you?

VIRGINIA: (FAINTLY) Wrung to the withers …..

LYTTON: (SHOUTING) Or Constable. Or Sargent … (NORMAL) Damn.

Page 22

VANESSA: If they mean ‘shape’ why not say ‘shape’?

LYTTON: What?

VANESSA: Instead of ‘form’.

FX: BRICK CRASHING THROUGH WINDOW, SCREAMS.

MOB: (SINGING) When Britain first at Heaven's command....

FX: THE SINGERS DESCEND INTO CONFUSION

CLIVE: What on earth …. This is a private viewing.

VANESSA: It’s a brick, darling. With an envelope.

MOB: (FADING INTO DISTANCE, RAGGEDLY.) Rule Brittania, Britiannia rules the waves … (ETC.)

VANESSA: (UNDER) Look everybody, white feathers. And a note.

CLIVE: Let me … it’s the League of Patriots. (READING) Patriotic men of England. Your country needs you. So will you stiffen your sinews and imitate the action of the tiger?

LYTTON: Hmmm. Style somewhat derivative.

Page23

CLIVE: Or like cowardly gentlemen abed … count yourselves base? What … vulgar, mindless nationalism.

OMNES: SOUNDS OF AGREEMENT.

CLIVE: Then – how can such people know of higher values? Fairness, justice …

VANESSA: Love.

CLIVE: Er, yes. As E.M. Fluster puts it, if forced to choose between loyalty to friend or country, let us hope we have the courage to choose ….

FX: BACKGROUND NOISE OF SINGLE MAN SINGING ‘RULE BRITTANIA’ VERY BADLY WITH A GERMAN ACCENT

CLIVE: … er, whatever courage dictates. Who the devil’s that? Not another of them?

FX: DOOR OPENS AND SONG BECOMES LOUDER

VANESSA: Leave him to me, darling. That’s an awfully nice song and you’re singing it beautifully, but if you’ve come to give us any more feathers, we really don’t need them …..

Page 24

HANS: (GERMAN) Feathers? Please, wass am I with feathers wanting? I am an artist, and seeing this gallery, I am wondering if mein dear friend Cli …

CLIVE: Hans! Hans Schwarzmeister!

HANS: Clive! Oh mein Gott in Himmel thanking ….

VITA: Did you say Hans – THE Hans Schwarzmeister?

CLIVE: The great Post-Depressionist, yes. Whose work one has championed to some effect in England.

LYTTON: In London, certainly. Hans, how do you do.

COINS: Yes, pleased to meet you, Hans.

HANS: Guten tag. I too am pleased, though I must tell you I am, what is the phrase, women preferring.

LYTTON/COINS: (TOGETHER) Oh.

VANESSA: (INTERESTED) Oh.

VIRGINIA: I have long admired your work, Herr Schwarzmeister. Depression is indeed the only worthwhile subject of Art. Other than ecstasy and death ….

Page 25

FX: FAINT SINGING  ‘RULE BRITTANIA’

MOB: Hang the Kaiser! Down with the Bosch! Kill the German bastards!

HANS: (OVER)Ach, mein Gott. (SOBS)

VANESSA: The poor man’s crying.

CLIVE: Overcome with emotion at our reunion. Curse this British reserve of ours, Hans let me kiss you … there, don’t weep ….

HANS: Get off, dumkopf, YOU would weep in my position.

CLIVE: What? Artistic powers not waning are they … ?

HANS: No! Nothing so worrying! I just find myself in your country on the very day it declares war on mine.

CLIVE: Hans, ‘countries’! We are of the international brotherhood of artists. Our allegiance – Beauty. Our battle – for Truth. Our sword – Goodness.

HANS: Scheiss. Try telling them that.

FX: SOUND OF MOB

Page 26

HANS: It is Beauty, Truth and Goodness getting me in this mess to start with. ‘Come and lecture to us, Hans, ja, ja.’ ‘We’ll see you catch your boat, ja, ja.’ Now I shall have my head chopped off in your Tower. If one of your bobbies catches me.

COINS: No. Just slip him half-a-quid, you’ll pass as an Englishman.

CLIVE: Besides, can’t ill-treat YOU. Not civilised. You’re a PAINTER. A GREAT painter.

FX: SMASHING GLASS, SOUND OF MOB

VANESSA: Gosh. They’re looting Herr Frankelberger’s bagels.

HANS: Mein Gott, I am doomed.

CLIVE: No Hans, WE’LL protect you. You must stay ….. (PAUSE)

VANESSA: With us. It’s obvious …

CLIVE: With me … us in the public eye Vanessa? Alas, pure madness. No, Hans must hide at … Virginia’s …?

Page 27

VIRGINIA: Hiding. The yearning of the soul to immolate. And those who display most, by some fey paradox disguise most, like actors on a stage ….

HANS: Perhaps I can be London leaving completely.

COINS: Cambridge is out of the question. I’ll tell you why after the war. Don’t embarrass me by asking now.

VANESSA: But where can the poor chap go?

OMNES: (AFTER A PAUSE) Charlattan!

VITA: With me?

CLIVE: It’s ideal, Vita. Pretend he’s one of your gardeners. Virginia, you invent a past for him.

VIRGINIA: Yes. He shall become a Crimean cossack, dancing a mazurka beneath the glittering chandeliers….

COINS: That’s the idea, Ginny. Someone respectable.

VANESSA: There IS one problem. Hans is a creative artist. Will he be stimulated in the COUNTRY?

Page 28

VITA: He won’t find whatever inspires your sophisticated creations, Vanessa dear. But perhaps the more orthodox charms of landscapism, to wit, proportion and perspective, may provide some consolation …

CLIVE: That’s decided then. So, modus operandi – Johnny takes the motor-car with Hans, plus all necessary easels, paint, pencils, papers, dictating-machines etc. We all follow by train.

VITA: All of you?

CLIVE: Yes, Vita. The world is going mad. The eternal values of Art and Civilisation all but dead. But be assured, at such a time, we shall not desert you.

FX: STREET MOB GETS NOISIER, FADE DOWN

END OF SCENE 6

"Virginia Woof" detail. Artist: Clifford Harper

Click on Virginia Woof

Continued on Page 29  Scene 7


ComedyCollective Writers Project
Ivan Shakespeare