Friday, 9 March 2012

Chapter Thirteen

Chris and I were thrilled to think that Constance was in a huge country house re-starting her film career as a costume drama heroine. Even a fake costume drama heroine. As long as she got to wear those clothes - we didn't care.

Chris looked up from reading and gasped.

'Do you think she's going to fall in love?'
'I have no idea. Keep reading.'
'I'll bet she is. What do you bet? Everyone in costume drama falls in love.'
'Everyone not in costume drama falls in love.'
'Not everyone in DieHard 7.'
'All right. No. I don't think she's going to fall in love.'
'I do!'
'I know. I've said I don't so you can be right. Keep reading.'

She did. Smirking. (I think she'd read ahead.)

Constance was still in what we think was Wiltshire, waiting for Agent John Wood to show up.

27 June 2010

We’ve finished our first bout of filming. Jennifer has gone crazy and costumed everyone in the household. Sheer lunacy. It was that attic of clothes. Fiona is deliriously happy to be on set again, even if it is just her own front garden. She has enough breeches and stomachers and fichus to put her three children and herself as well as Jennifer and me in full 18th century regalia.

I don’t know what we're doing or if it looks good. We’ve shoved pins in our hair and slapped foundation on our cleavage as Jennifer runs around with her little video camera filming everything. I had to force her into a chair in the library to ask exactly what the point of it all was. She frowned.
'You know the point, it’s your career. Your comeback.'

‘Yes, but what exactly am I coming back as? Someone in fancy-dress at a badly-attended house party?'

‘You’re in a costume drama. This is a film set, it’s perfect, the house is perfect.’

She looked gleefully around at the unrestored library, corners of which, it is true, are completely accurate to the late 18thcentury. And look just as grimy, cobwebby and decayed as you’d expect.

‘I still don’t understand,’ I said, persevering. ‘What will people see? what am I supposed to be doing?’

She sighed and put her camera down. She spoke quietly as though we might be overheard. And as though anyone cared.

‘We are pretending that this is the set of a film. A new but fictitious costume drama starring Constance Hill. I am getting footage for ‘the making of’ and we will see you in the corners of the house, in the gardens, in this glorious costume and agents and producers will think “Oo, she’s still got it!” and hire you.’

I was becoming less and less convinced. Maybe there is something about Jennifer McIntyre’s enthusiasm that I mistrust on principal. Which is pretty ungenerous when you think about it – but maybe she just has some really bad ideas.

‘Aren’t they going to be suspicious when there is no actual film?’ I continued.

She shrugged.

‘It’s been delayed. Films are delayed all the time.’

‘Shouldn’t we have something that looks a bit like a film going on?’

‘What? Why?’

‘When you have a ‘making of’ it is usually attached to an‘of’. It can’t just be me smoking in the garden between imaginary takes, it’s naff.’

She took in a long breath and gazed down at her lap. She was, it has to be said, glorious-looking in the corseted red riding dress, cinched at her waist and extending, with the panniers, beyond her knees to the floor. She fingered the petticoat.

‘Is it? Is it naff?’

‘I think so, yes. I’ve been on film sets, I have to say usually some sort of film is going on. And I think, if this little project is going to have any credibility, we’re going to have to have at least the semblance of a script.’

She looked up, a new light of hope in her eyes.

‘Do you know anyone who writes scripts?’

I thought of John Wood, barrelling down the M3 even as we spoke.

I obviously did.

28 June 2010

Hilarious! Hilarious! John Wood arrived and was thrust into the costume of a naval hero (had to admit he looked very fetching) but only after he spent the afternoon making up cod-period-speeches for me to deliver to him, his back to the camera, as Jennifer films.

It is too, too divine. And ridiculous. But we are all loving it.


Very impressed that John is game for this. He’s even offered to put the footage on his web site. I think it’s tantamount to perjury but he says ‘I’ve just written scenes for a costume drama, we are filming those scenes, you’re in a costume drama’.

Desperation makes us all very willing.

Here is a bit of the scene between my character and John’s. I am playing Philadelphia Deane, isn’t that splendid? I am about to fall in love with Lancelot East. No one could accuse John of timidity.

We emptied the library, used candles in the sconces, all very Dogma-filmic. I was in that perfect pink confection of a dress, the character ‘glowing a bit’ from a dance. John pivoted, keeping his back to the camera as Jennifer moved around us, doing a serviceable job. I memorised the lines, they were that good. 
You must imagine that Philadelphia and Lancelot have escaped from the ball room to the library. She looks up at him, coyly but - confident - and says

PHIL:You are an enthusiastic dancer, Mr East.  

LANCE:I am an enthusiastic man.What I do, I do with my whole heart.

John Wood had learned his lines too and shrugged. As Lancelot.  Philadephia smiled. 

PHIL:  Do you never fear excess might lead to ruin?

LANCE: (smiling back) Excess of what? Happiness? 

PHIL:  Unbridled feeling does not lead to happiness.

LANCE: I cannot think myself into behaving. I behave and grope my way through consequence.

Lancelot sat himself, easily, into a chair and stared up at Philadelphia. In her pink gown. 

PHIL: And spend many hours confessing your apologies to offended sensibilities.

LANCE: I had not looked for censure from you.  Even risking your good regard, I say it is better to attempt and fail then never attempt at all.

PHIL: (laughing) I have never met anyone like you.

LANCE: And I have never seen anyone like you.

At which point he stared at me with a gaze that I’m sure burnt holes through the wall behind my head.

He wrote this in the kitchen with a scabbard on his knee, inhaling two packs of Jammy Dodgers and half-a-cup of Fiona’s bad instant coffee.

Philadelphia is falling in love with John Wood. I mean Lancelot.  Lancelot. Did I say John Wood? Good God.


Malcolm is here.

1 comment:

  1. Falling in love with John Wood! Now its getting really interesting! But Malcolm?? How did he find her? And who is covering his shift at the corner shop?? I'll be on edge till the next installment!