As the chatter dies down a chord is struck on the piano.
The Bishop of Sploshington. Charming. Quite one of my favourites. Do play it again. (Relapses into silence for the rest of the evening.)
The Duchess of Southbridge (to Lord Reggie). Oh, Reggie, what did you say?
Lord Reggie (putting up his eyeglass). Said I’d bally well—top-hole—what?—don’cherknow.
Lady Evangeline (to Lady Violet, as they walk across the stage). Oh, I must tell you what that funny Mr. Danby said. (Doesn’t. Lady Violet, none the less, trills with happy laughter.)
Prince von Ichdien, the well-known Ambassador (loudly, to an unnamed gentleman). What your country ought to do—(He finishes his remarks in the lip-language, which the unnamed gentleman seems to understand. At any rate he nods several times.)
There is more girlish laughter, more buzz and more deaf-and-dumb language. Then
Lord Tuppeny. Well, what about auction?
Amid murmurs of “You’ll play, Field-Marshal?” and “Auction, Archbishop?” the crowd drifts off, leaving the hero and heroine alone in the middle of the stage.
And then you can begin.
But now I must give you a warning. You will never be a dramatist until you have learnt the technique of
In spite of all you can do in the way of avoiding soililoquies and getting your characters on and off the stage in a dramatic manner, a time will come when you realize sadly that your play is not a bit like life after all. Then is the time to introduce a meal on the stage. A stage meal is popular, because it proves to the audience that the actors, even when called Charles Hawtrey or Owen Nares, are real people just like you and me. “Look at Mr. Bourchier eating,” we say excitedly to each other in the pit, having had a vague idea up till then that an actor lived like a god on praise and greasepaint and his photograph in the papers. “Another cup, won’t you?” says Miss Gladys Cooper; “No, thank you,” says Mr. Dennis Eadie—dash it, it’s exactly what we do at home ourselves. And when, to clinch matters, the dramatist makes Mr. Gerald du Maurier light a real cigarette in the Third Act, then he can flatter himself that he has indeed achieved the ambition of every stage writer, and “brought the actual scent of the hay across the footlights.”
But there is a technique to be acquired in this matter as in everything else within the theatre. The great art of the stage-craftsman, as I have already shown, is to seem natural rather than to be natural. Let your actors have tea by all means, but see that it is a properly histrionic tea. This is how it should go:—
Hostess. How do you do? You’ll have some tea, won’t you? [Rings bell].