Stage Beauty (2004) Movie Script

Stand by, flies.
Stand by, flies.
Stand by, flies.
And cue.
It is the cause,
it is the cause, my soul,
Let me not name it to you,
you chaste stars!
It is the cause.
Yet I'll not shed her blood;
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,
And smooth as monumental alabaster.
Yet she must die,
- else she'll betray more men.
- Sh!
Put out the light,
and then put out the light:
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me:
But once put out thy light,
thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume.
She wakes.
Who's there?
- Ay, Desdemona.
- Will you come to bed, my lord?
- Have you pray'd tonight, Desdemona?
- Ay, my lord.
If you bethink yourself of any crime
Unreconcil'd as yet to heaven and grace,
Solicit for it straight.
Alas, my lord!
What do you mean by that?
Well, do it, and be brief; I will walk by:
I would not kill thy unprepared spirit;
No, heavens forfend!
I would not kill thy soul.
Talk you of killing?
Ay, I do.
What's the matter?
That handkerchief
that I so lov'd and gave thee.
Thou gav'st to Cassio.
No, by my life and soul!
Send for the man and ask him.
Down, strumpet!
Kill me tomorrow; let me live tonight!
Nay, if you strive...
- But half an hour!
- Being done, there is no pause.
But while I say one prayer!
It is too late!
- Oh, my good lord...
Bravo! Bravo!
Oh, my good lord, yonder's...
Bravo, Mr Kynaston!
...foul murders done!
- Bravo!
- Well done, Mr Kynaston!
Kynaston! Kynaston!
Oh, my good lord,
yonder's foul murders done.
It's the same every bloody show!
- It's not working.
- What do you mean?
I'm trying to get to the end.
They're shouting, "Kynaston!"
We haven't finished the show
for three weeks.
- Fucking Ned Kynaston!
- Not again, Dickie!
It's my scene his fans ruin.
My entrance! My lines!
Emilia dies too, you know.
- Dear boy, I had no idea.
- That does it.
- I serve my notice, Mr Betterton. I quit!
Mr Kynaston!
Mr K! Mr K, you were brilliant!
Such eyes, such hair,
such lips and voice to thrill.
Surely you were the most beautiful
woman in the house.
- See, Pepys likes it.
- I'm talking about my death scene.
Something eludes me.
A gesture, a tone.
You know what, Tommy?
I'm dying too soon.
There's an actor for you.
My death scene doesn't go on long enough.
Grasp the fact, Mr Kynaston.
The performance is a grand success.
What I don't grasp is this.
The King comes to the show last week...
- This is Othello?
- This is Othello.
And he says, the King says,
"Bravo, Betterton.
Wonderful show.
Lots of thrills and chills.
We're coming again, Saturday next.
One question, though.
Could you make it cheerier?"
"Cheerier?" says I. "Yes," he said.
"Just make it a little bit more jolly. "
So I say,
"Your Majesty, Shakespeare ends his play
with Desdemona strangled,
Emilia stabbed,
and Othello disembowelling himself.
Do you suggest we do away with all that?"
"Oh, no," he says, "kill 'em all.
Just make it jollier. "
What none of you glean
is that the King is expressing
a particularly salient view of the stage.
Ah, Your Grace, what salient view
of the stage would that be?
He wants surprises.
The King's been away.
The theatre's been closed for 18 years.
Now he's back, the theatres are open,
what does he find?
The same old things.
Poetry, he approves.
- Ideas, he approves.
- Two ladies to see Mr Kynaston.
- Death, tragedy, yes. But surprise him.
Are they of quality?
What about sex, vis--vis the stage?
The King approves of love, the idea.
What about sex, the expression?
Poetry can express sex.
So can sex.
Mr Kynaston,
if you insist on something more graphic,
show a tit.
- The King won't complain.
- How would you suggest I do that?
Surprise me.
Excuse me, two gentleladies
want to come backstage.
Two of them? Excellent.
They wish to be received
by Mr Kynaston.
Five minutes. Then bring them back.
Why five minutes?
Got to put my visage back on.
They want the illusion,
not some green room hermaphrodite.
- This, Tommy, is why I deserve a share.
- Oh, no.
What are you two talking about?
Mr Kynaston's contract is up.
He's putting the screws on me.
I want a share of the company.
I'm as much a draw as you are. More so.
Prove it!
Well, where are your fans?
Where are your ladies?
Oh, all right.
But a share of the company
is out of the question.
as a gesture of faith to prove
that I am trying to find a way,
in the interim, from this time forth,
you can have approval of any actor
who shares the stage with you.
- Gentlemen, you are my witnesses.
And I'm off to another show.
What show?
- Something new.
- I'll join you.
Good show, Betterton.
Lovely as always, Mr K.
- Your Grace.
- Gentlemen.
Go away.
Ah! Mr Betterton!
Could I have a word with you
a moment, please?
Oh, look, there's Mr Betterton!
Evening, ladies.
I wasn't good tonight.
You were splendid.
But I wasn't good.
"Same old things. "
Fortunately, they keep
giving us new audiences.
Why does one act?
When you act, you can be seen.
Greet your public.
It always cheers you up.
Lady Meresvale and Miss Frayne.
- You start.
- You do it.
Oh, you do it. I'll die!
Mr Kynaston, we saw
the performance this evening.
We're such fans, I can't tell you.
She's seen you six times. She has.
Juliet and Ophelia.
And the one with no hands.
Mr Kynaston, I am a great fan.
And I was wondering...
Well... Would you be willing to ride with us
through St James's tonight?
It would be such an honour to have you.
- Please, please, please!
- Please!
If you give me half an hour
to remove my face and clothes.
Oh, no, don't, please!
Mr Kynaston, weod ke you
to eave you r appearance
as is.
He said yes!
This is so good!
Mr Kynaston, if I may,
would you be able to make me
an advance on salary?
- Advance? That's unlike you.
- Till the end of the week.
- How much?
- Six.
Thank you.
Will you be needing me later?
Oh, yes. Hopeless without.
How long do you think
you'll be with them?
- Three hours, say?
- Yes, I'll be here.
Mr Kynaston!
Mr Kynaston!
- Is he coming?
Do hurry up, Mr Kynaston, please!
All these people!
Mr Kynaston!
MAN Are you an actor, too?
I played the Moor.
You look different.
Yes, I'm not really black.
Where were you?
- Thought you'd abandoned us.
- I couldn't get away.
- Did you bring it?
- She'd better had.
Mr Cockerell.
If you expect to perform,
I expect my guarantee.
It's my risk, you know.
It's illegal to have these on stage.
Both of us
were rather wondering
if you were... really...
...well, a gentleman.
For, you see, my father's a wigmaker.
He says you're much too beautiful
to be a gentleman.
He says you must be a woman.
My mother's friend,
the Earl of Lauderdale, says,
if you're a man,
you don't have a gentleman's thingy.
He says you're like those Italian singers,
the whatsits?
- Castrati.
- The Earl says
they cut off your castrati at birth.
Then you become a woman.
So the Earl of Lauderdale is not a surgeon?
No, he's an earl.
How then may we prove to both your
father and your mother's special friend...
...that I do indeed
have a thingy?
A big, bulging,
orb and sceptre of a thingy.
Well, I...
I... I think we'd...
We'd have to...
We'd have to...
We'd have to touch it.
Touch what?
- What...
- Whatever it is.
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me:
But once put out thy light,
thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume.
She wakes.
Who's there? Othello?
Oh, my!
I think my wrist's broken.
Oh, erm...
- What's this?
- A shilling.
For services rendered.
Women, beware!
I see three fish eager and awaiting.
Come, skewer on my pole!
I know a playful bunch when I see 'em.
Oh, painted ladies in the night!
Universal sign for whores to let.
How much for the each of you?
For honour's sake, sir, assert yourself.
Well, dear, how can I?
I'm but a wilting girl.
Oh, come on, how much for a fuck?
Do something!
Very well. That one's a shilling,
that one's a penny. I'm five pounds a week.
Sir, do you know who I am?
I am Lady Aurelia Meresvale.
- She's the shilling.
- Oh, you...!
Driver, get us out of here!
Wait a minute! I've got a shilling.
Wait ho!
I'm not done haggling yet.
I warn you, sir, I doubt you'll find in me
what you're looking for.
Oh, ho, ho! I'll be the judge of that.
Now, come on
Open up!
Found a guardian at the gate, did you?
Five pounds indeed.
'Twas the weight, not the price.
Wait a minute.
Didn't say no, did I?
I'm in the market for a mistress.
A male one might be just the thing.
- Sir, I am spoken for.
- Oh, come along!
I shall never wear this glove again.
- Ha, ha, ha!
- Mark me, bum boy!
I shall see to you
and we shall settle this account.
Two, three...
four, five, six!
Even if it was only a one-off,
at least we did it once, eh?
- And in under three hours!
- Oh, no, I have to go!
- Maria!
- Maria, where are you going?
- My dear!
- Mr Pepys!
- Maria, that was quite a performance.
- Thank you, sir.
- Hidden talents.
- Thank you.
- Yes, well...
- Who'd have thought it?
- Our secret, eh?
- Yes, quite.
I say, do you know,
I was wondering, Maria,
I know it is rather last-minute,
but still, if I may,
tomorrow evening...
- Really?
- Oh, yeah.
If you're free, that is?
What happened to my pillow?
Oh, God, a tear.
Did I do that?
Ah, must have.
Oh, we do not know our passions.
Oh, Maria, I am exhausted.
Those two gentleladies wanted
to feel my cock for the sake of a wager.
Are you in a hurry to get home?
Help me.
I want to do the death scene again.
- Now?
- Mm.
All the elements are there.
It just feels off.
The audience doesn't notice.
I'm not satisfied.
You be Othello. I'll be me.
- Where do I start?
- I'll start.
Alas, he is betray'd,
and I... undone!
Grab the pillow.
Out, strumpet!
Weep'st thou for him to my face?
O, banish me, my lord, but kill me not!
Down, strumpet!
Kill me tomorrow; let me live tonight!
- Now come at me.
- Nay, if you strive...
- But half an hour!
- Being done, there is no pause.
- But while I say one prayer!
- It is too late.
Smother, smother, smother.
She doesn't kiss him.
What is it?
Did they succeed?
Did who succeed?
The ladies.
In feeling you.
What kind of girl do you take me for?
Help me with this.
Do you want me to mend your pillow?
Oh, do it tomorrow.
Day off. Plenty of time.
You could use a new one.
...this pillow was given to me
by my old tutor who found me in the gutter.
He gave me a home.
He gave us all a home, pretty boys like me.
He taught us to read.
He taught us Shakespeare,
all the tricks and turns and...
He gave this to me
the first time I played Desdemona.
"And remember," he'd say,
"the part doesn't belong to an actor.
An actor belongs to a part.
Never forget.
You're a man in woman's form. "
Or was it the other way round?
Well, he's dead now.
Hard to prove either way.
I think you'd be as fine a man as any woman.
We are souls entwined.
Off you go.
I can shed my skin without you.
Oh! Damn!
Don't ever do that again!
Oh, my God!
What are you doing here?
Thought I'd surprise you.
- Where've you been?
- I was stranded in St James's Park.
A frilly fop with a hard-on
thought I was a whore on the make.
This is why I prefer Hyde Park.
There's so much less of that sort of thing.
So, what happened?
Once he found my cock,
off he went.
It wasn't the case with me.
Let me show you something.
"I come unknown to any of the rest
to tell you news:
I saw the lady drest.
The woman plays today...
The woman plays... " The woman?
What? Hm?
An actress.
A what?
An actress.
At Cockerell's Tavern.
The Cockpit put up a little stage.
Very tatty, but still.
My, my, it's a joke.
- It's a fake. Jimmy Noakes...
- I know Jimmy Noakes.
And it was not Jimmy Noakes.
It was not any man.
It was a girl.
But it's illegal.
One did think as much.
A woman playing a woman.
What's the trick in that?
What was the play?
If you're wondering,
she did not play the Moor.
- How was she?
- What?
Oh, you mean the acting?
I never noticed the acting.
Did you go round after?
Oh, too crowded. Pepys went.
If two mice were fucking in a nutshell,
he'd find room to squeeze in
and write it down.
What was her name? The "actress"?
- Er, Mrs Margaret Hughes.
... Margaret Hughes.
The word is, she's going to be
at the Palace tomorrow night.
The Palace?
Are you invited?
I'm the Duke of Buckingham.
I always am.
Are you going?
- I might drop by.
- Take me there.
- You want to go to the Palace?
- Yes.
- With me?
- Yes.
You'll go as an acquaintance
who behaves himself.
If you try to grow your part,
you'll find the role's been cut.
Right, then. Oh, Ned...
Put this on, will you?
I like to see a golden flow as I die in you.
Would you ask your lady whores
to wear a wig to bed?
If it made them more a woman.
# Who can resist
such mighty, mighty charms?
# Who can resist
# Such mighty, mighty charms?
# Victorious, victorious, victorious love
# Who can resist
# Who can resist
# Who can resist
# Who can resist
# Who can resist
# Such mighty charms?
# Such mighty, mighty
# Mighty, mighty charms
Bravo! Bravo!
Well done!
Ha, ha!
His Grace, the Duke of Buckingham,
and Mr Edward Kynaston!
George, you're late!
Your Majesty.
I thought you'd skipped us.
And Kynaston?
- I know you. You're...
- The actor.
- Oh, yes, you were in...
- Othello, sir.
This Thursday last at Mr Betterton's.
Were you? Not lago, I hope.
I didn't like him.
I played Desdemona.
Ah! That Kynaston.
Late wife of the murderous Moor.
Went to see the show last week
The curtain was late.
I said, "What's the matter?"
They said, "Your Majesty,
Desdemona is still shaving. "
You paint a blush upon me, sir.
Do you know Miss Gwynn,
my pretty, witty Nell?
Mr Kynaston, I am a great admirer.
Nell is the most ardent theatregoer in London.
I used to be an orange girl.
I worked the stalls before,
during and after every performance.
Oranges! Oranges!
Two pence a pair!
Yes, exactly
Kynaston, about the Othello.
Saw it last week. Good show.
But it needed changes.
You see, it could be a bit...
- Jollier?
- That's what I said.
Yes, what we want are...
- Surprises?
- Exactly.
But we don't want to know they're coming.
Mr Samuel Pepys!
And Mrs Margaret Hughes!
- Your Majesty.
- Pepys, you brought a guest.
Mrs Hughes,
- Miss Gwynn.
- I'd take your hand but my tit'd fall out.
And Mr Kynaston.
K N Gg Hon, are you overcome?
- Oh, dear.
- Are you all right, Mrs Hughes?
- Yes...
Sir Charles Sedley.
Sedley, I think you know everyone here.
Except for Mrs Hughes and Mr Kynaston.
It feels I've had the honour already.
Or you've already had the honour of feeling it.
Obviously, I'm behind in my drinking.
- Shall we go in for dinner?
- Oh, we're deeply privileged.
Lady Jane Bellamy, follow me.
Allow me, Mrs Hughes.
- I can explain everything.
- Are you a philosopher?
You, Pepys, the Duke, this is all some
great joke the three of you are playing.
Mr Kynaston, I had no idea...
Mrs Hughes, will you sit next to me?
Don't make a scene.
George, do you know Lady Jane Bellamy?
No, but I certainly hope to.
Tell me about your parentage, Miss Gwynn.
My mum was a whore,
my father in the navy.
- I see.
- That's why I don't never do sailors.
I'm sorry I missed your performance tonight,
Miss Gwynn.
- Will you do it again?
- No.
And all that for a one-off.
Work, work, work, and it's over in a pop.
- Like Charlie.
- What, my dear?
Miss Gwynn, I remind you,
you are speaking of the Father of his People.
Well... a lot of 'em.
Mrs Hughes, have you seen
Mr Kynaston perform?
He's doing Desdemona in Othello now.
- You've seen it, George?
- Yes. I never tire of Othello.
Truth be told, sir,
he never tires of Desdemona.
Kynaston, isn't there someone else
who does Desdemona?
- Can't think of his name now.
James Noakes.
Yes, good actor Noakes
Not quite his part, though.
Doesn't have your beauty.
No, Kynaston,
Desdemona is yours alone. Ha, ha!
Well, but if I may, sir...
A part doesn't belong to an actor,
an actor belongs to a part.
Don't you agree, sir?
Don't know.
Do you agree, Mr Kynaston?
Oh, well, there have been
other Desdemonas before me, sir.
There will be more after. In fact, the Duke of
Buckingham saw another one just last night.
Did you, Your Grace?
George, what performance
does Mr Kynaston refer to?
You showed me the fly bill.
I think I have it. Yes, here it is.
The Cockpit Tavern.
Yes, that was name of the theatre, wasn't it?
Well, it wasn't strictly a theatre.
"The woman...
plays today
Mrs Margaret... "
Mrs Hughes.
Is this you?
A woman?
Performed in a play?
In a public theatre
against the order of the Crown?
As His Grace said, it's not a real theatre.
It's more a sort of tavern,
and hence, outside...
I am the First Minister, Mrs Hughes.
I know what the law...
Mrs Hughes.
This performance of yours,
was it too a one-off?
Well, sir, it certainly was novel.
But we had hoped to have more chances.
That's the tricky thing about novelty.
Do it more than once, it's not novel any more.
That may be true, Mr Kynaston.
But in the theatre, I am told,
there are no old shows, just new audiences.
- Are you going to do it again?
- She most certainly is not.
Sir, I insist you issue a proclamation
- closing this Cockpit...
- But, Charlie!
- Sir...
- Silence!
When my father was alive,
it had long been illegal
for a woman to perform in public.
In the Palace, of course,
it was women galore.
Private musicales, masques...
No-one gave a damn.
Except... the clerics.
One minister,
a Mr Prynne,
wrote a pamphlet against all actresses
as lewd women...
and whores.
my mother
acted in some of those court masques.
And she felt Mr Prynne's diatribe
was directed at her.
So, Mr Prynne was tried,
and sentenced to the stocks.
Where his feet were burned,
his ears lopped off,
and his tongue cut out.
in spite of all this,
Mr Prynne never recanted.
Some say his stoicism
in the face of such excess... what fanned the flames
of the Puritan revolt.
And so, off with my father's head.
And I to Holland for 20 years.
I think it might be fun
to see women on the stage.
They have had them in France
for a long time now.
Whenever we're about
to do something truly horrible,
we always say
the French have been doing it for years.
Hyde, issue a proclamation.
Permission to perform is hereby granted.
For Mrs Hughes?
To all women.
We wish to see this new Othello
at the earliest possible convenience.
Say, Saturday.
Make note, Hyde.
Saturday, Othello.
The other one.
So, Kynaston,
will you see Mrs Hughes perform?
I'd love to know
what you think of the death scene.
Oh, I'm always interested
in how my rivals die.
Your Grace?
Well, no. I've had my fill of Desdemonas.
Shall I escort you home, Mrs Hughes?
- Yes.
I'll see Mrs Hughes home.
I suddenly find myself a devotee of the stage.
Not in an artistic sense, of course.
But as a sort of patron
I'm off as well. Kynaston... shall I drop you?
Yes, I need my sleep.
We're auditioning new Emilias tomorrow,
then two shows of you know what.
Mrs Hughes, perhaps I'll see you there?
Sir Charles.
"I shall never wear this glove again. "
Mrs Hughes.
The Cockpit Tavern is no place
for someone of your particular attractions.
I think you should audition
for Mr Betterton's theatre tomorrow.
I couldn't. What about Mr Kynaston?
Surprise him.
Morning, Mr Kynaston.
Your picture's selling well.
Anyone want to buy a rabbit?
Mr Kynaston.
Mr Betterton.
I wish to discuss with you
the role of Emilia.
Bit over the top for that, aren't we, sunshine?
Not me, sir. Not me.
I come to speak
on behalf of Mrs Margaret Hughes.
- Mr Kynaston.
- Aha! Mrs Hughes. Settling in, I see.
That dress one of mine?
I made it for myself.
Oh, of course you did.
You're so good at the needle and pin.
- Mr Kynaston, I must apologise...
- Oh, no, no.
Please. Just a question, as you are
quite obviously going to audition today.
Do you know the Five Positions
of Feminine Subjugation?
The Five Positions
of Feminine Subjugation. No?
Or perhaps you're more acquainted
with the Pose of Tragic Acceptance?
Or the Demeanour of Awe and Terror?
- Mr Kynaston...
- The Supplicant's Clasp?
Or the Attitude of Prostrate...
Funny, you've seen me perform them
a thousand times.
- Mr Kynaston!
- Now, there's a feminine gesture.
You seem to have managed
the Stamp of Girlish Petulance.
I just wanted to act.
- I just wanted to do what you do.
- But, madam,
I have worked half my life to do what I do.
14 boys crammed in a cellar.
When I trained, I was not permitted to
wear a woman's dress for three years.
I was not permitted to wear a wig for four,
not until I had proved
that I had eliminated every masculine gesture,
every masculine intonation, from my very being.
What teacher did you have?
What cellar was your home?
I had no teacher, nor such a classroom.
But then, I had less need of training.
At any rate, Mr Kynaston,
I thank you for the professional advice.
But I did not come here today to audition.
Oh, come, I saw Sedley downstairs
singing your praises...
What he does is his business.
Sir Charles has taken an interest in me.
Oh, Sir Charles! Sir Charles?
Other actors have aristocratic patrons.
Whom would you rather take me in hand?
I did not come here to audition.
I only came to the theatre today
- to collect my belongings...
- Well...
But now, sir!
Oh, now...
Oh, lest I forget.
Your advance, sir.
You'll be pleased to know it was your generosity
that bought last night's performance.
Put paid.
With interest.
You want to pay me
to watch an audition?
This could start a trend.
Who is your protg?
Mr Betterton, this is Mrs Margaret Hughes.
- Maria?
- It's an off-stage name.
Oh, wait a minute.
So the Hughes that played
at Cockerell's place last night
was... was... our Maria?
All of London is talking about
Mrs Hughes' performance.
And, as you know, the King has,
just this past evening, relaxed the laws
- against women playing women.
- Yes, I heard.
And, as this is your day, Mr Betterton,
- to seek out new Emilias...
- Yes, yes, I see.
Ned, just in time! Such drama.
Our very own Maria is going to take the stage.
Do you have a scene for us, Maria... Er, Mrs...
- I do, actually.
- Well, er...
- What will you be doing for us today?
- A soliloquy.
- From?
- Othello.
And the role?
This should be fun.
Sir Charles.
Thank you, Mrs Hughes.
What shall I do to win my lord again?
Good friends, go to him;
for, by this light of heaven,
I know not how...
May I start again?
Oh, please.
Thank you.
What shall I do to win my lord again?
Good friends, go to him;
for, by this light of heaven...
I know not how...
I know not how...
I know not how...
- I know not how...
- I know not how I lost him.
Yes, of course. Thank you.
Not at all. I say it every night.
May I begin again?
Oh, heavens.
I was going to suggest it myself.
- I know not how...
- I know not how I lost him.
What shall I do to win my lord again?
Good friends, go to him;
for, by this light of heaven,
I know not how I lost him.
If e'er my will did trespass
'gainst his love,
Either in discourse of thought
or actual deed;
Or that mine eyes, mine ears,
or any sense,
Delighted them in any other form;
Or that I do not yet,
and ever did,
And ever will,
- though he do shake me off
To beggarly divorcement, -
love him dearly,
Comfort forswear me!
Unkindness may do much;
And his unkindness may defeat my life,
But never taint...
my love
That was it.
Was it? Oh, yes!
Yes, yes, of course it was.
I was caught up with the...
by the gestures and such.
Well, well, I, I... I've er...
I've never seen the role performed
quite... quite like that before.
Do you think
there might be something for me?
Er, I don't know. It... depends.
On thousands of actors ahead of you
dying of the plague.
- Intolerable!
- Ned's being funny.
It depends on the audiences of London
losing their eyes, their ears...
And truth be told, their sense of smell.
I confess, Mrs Hughes, when I heard
about your performance, I was worried.
Women on stage.
What would become of me?
And then, you auditioned for us.
You have taken a great load off my mind.
Mr Betterton, thank you for your time.
Maria, my dear...
No, sir, I'm late for Mr Cockerell's.
Dear, dear. Well, good luck with the show.
I'd love to pop in and see it...
Yes, I'd arrange tickets, but we're sold out.
Sold out?
Maria, Maria.
Er, Mrs Hughes.
Come, come, come.
Ned, Ned.
What say we give Mrs Hughes
one of the roles to play?
No, no, not you know whno,
that's you, of course
But we are looking for an Emilia.
She might just...
splash things up a bit.
What do you say?
I- I-I refuse.
What do you mean, you refuse?
I shall not act with her.
- On what right?
- My right, Mr Betterton.
You gave me approval over casting
and I hereby exercise said right.
But she's sold out Cockerell's.
Indeed! The place was packed
and the crowd clapped and clapped.
I recall a puppet show once
where a recently-departed dog was stuffed
and danced with Punch and Judy
and that crowd clapped, too.
Oh, Ned...
If you argue the case
for Mrs Hughes further, indeed...
If you attempt to audition her
or any other woman ever again,
I will consider it a breach of contract
and leave the stage forthwith!
I had myself intended to audition today.
But if this is how you treat women,
well, mark me, sir,
women shall lay blame.
Who the hell was that?
That... the King's mistress.
This shall be remembered, Betterton.
Oh, my God. Er, Sir Charles.
Sir Charles...
Mr Kynaston.
I am a man of my contract and my word.
You exercise your right today.
I, mine, tomorrow!
This vile thespian is in need of a come-down
and on his own turf!
- Nell, is that you?
- Yes.
What is it, sweet?
- Charlie?
- Mm?
You love me, don't you?
Well, I've always said.
And you'd never deny me?
Now, what do you want?
No, I can't.
- Please!
- It's out of the question.
I'll never ask another favour.
- Charlie...
- Nell, I've work to do.
- Please...
- Charlie boy.
Where's his toy?
No, this is very important business.
We are at war with the... Dutch.
Oh, Your Majesty!
Let me see the crown!
Hyde, erm...
I want to dictate something.
Are you all right, sir?
Now, St James's Park, the gazebo.
- Your Majesty.
- Your Majesty.
- Your Majesty.
- Your Majesty.
We're going to really hurt him because...
But we can't do too much. We can't do...
Kynaston! Kynaston!
Bravo, Mr Kynaston! Bravo!
Kynaston! Kynaston!
Not like that.
Mr Ned, sir? We need to see you
Mr Kynaston.
Mr Kynaston, we wish to apologise
for our rudeness the other day.
We wish to make things up with you.
May we take you for a drive?
May we?
Why have we stopped?
Come with us, Mr Kynaston.
What are you up to?
It's more a question
of what you're up to.
Have you ever had occasion
to perform out-of-doors?
Er, not that I can recall.
Then I beg you, sir,
flatter us,
who do not deserve your good graces.
You mocked us, sir!
You, an actor, mocked your betters.
You shall know
the other end of it now, bum-boy!
Here is the whore of the Moor of Venice.
- Where's your frock, my girl?
You mistake me, gentlemen!
- No mistake!
- 'Tis he. The slut himself.
- Just as we have been foretold!
Hit him again!
I have in hand an edict.
I wish it passed, put down in law,
and circulated throughout
the affected areas posthaste.
A Royal licensing law,
which states, in binding language,
as does follow:
Whereas the women's parts in plays
have hitherto been acted by men
in the habits of women,
at which some have taken offence,
we do permit and give leave,
for the time to come,
that all women's parts
be acted by women.
No He shall e'er again...
...upon an English stage
play she
Mrs Hughes, though it be true
that talent is as talent does,
whilst beauty fades
like starlight at the break of day,
surely you recognise the fact
that you are, without doubt,
the most beautiful woman
on the English stage.
I am an actress, not a beauty.
Be that as it may,
if I am to paint your beauty, Mrs Hughes,
I must paint it with tit exposed.
How else prove to the theatregoers
of London that you are a real woman?
Want to be taken as a serious actress
My dear, before you can be taken seriously,
you must put bums on seats.
All right, paint!
And thus is flesh made art.
I see your wounds are on the mend.
Yes, I was fallen upon
by a gang of critics.
When will you be
back on stage, Mr K? Soon, I hope.
- As soon as they'll let me.
- Physicians, eh?
- What role will mark your return?
- What else but Desdemona?
What do you want here, Kynaston?
I want my pillow.
It seems to be lost. I was wondering
if Mrs Hughes might know where it is.
This is intolerable!
Sir Charles, gentlemen, could you leave
Mr Kynaston and me for a moment?
You know, Mr K, the performance
of yours I always liked best?
As much as I adored
your Desdemona and your Juliet,
I always loved best the "britches" parts.
Rosalind, for instance.
And not just because of the woman stuff,
but also because of the man sections.
Your performance of the man stuff
seemed so right, so... true.
I suppose I felt
it was the most real in the play.
You know why the man stuff seemed so real?
Because I'm pretending.
You see a man through the mirror
of a woman through the mirror of a man.
You take one reflecting glass away,
it doesn't work.
The man only works because you see
him in contrast to the woman he is.
If you saw him
without the her he lives inside,
he wouldn't seem a man at all.
Yes, you've obviously thought
longer on this question than I.
I heard about your...
Yes, yes, I imagined you heard.
I imagined you might have
more than heard.
Perhaps you even heard
before it happened.
I do not have your pillow.
Well, you could have said that
in front of them.
I have taken nothing
that belonged to you!
You wear my clothes, play my parts,
live my life and you've taken nothing?
Woman's perspective.
But at least a recognisable one.
That pillow was my own.
It was given to me some time back, as you know.
Yes, a dresser always knows
a gentleman's secrets.
Of course, I have my own dresser now.
He's a man. He used to be an actor.
I don't suppose you'd guess wnat type?
You know, madam, I am amazed
you have need of an audience!
With such self-regard as you display,
what room is left for the public's love?
What do you know of love, sir?
Or loyalty?
Or adoration suffered
in deepest silence?
The only love you know, sir,
is what you act on stage.
The difference between man and man...
Wilt thou be gone...
It was the nightingale and not the lark,
That pierc'd the fearful hollow of thine ear...
Oh, look, it's Kynaston!
O, you are men of stone.
O, you are men of stone.
How did you guess?
Cordelia. You're practising the carry.
Lighter than you.
That work in performance?
In performance, I carry a real woman.
A former seamstress from Sheffield
twice my size.
So, what do you want?
Er, I want another go at the death scene.
Can't. The Crown
would close me down if I did.
- Tommy...
- You cost me the Palace's support.
You refused to act with women
on the day the King's mistress,
a mistress desirous of a career on stage,
was watching.
Besides, the company's full up.
You weren't the only actor
cut loose by the law.
The town's full of your sort now.
Mr Betterton.
Time to see the Gonerils.
Happy days
Tommy, is she...?
Is she good?
The Hughes?
As an actress?
She's a star.
She did what she did first.
You did what you did last.
Good God.
- You'll poach in that.
- Would Your Grace like me to disrobe?
Quiet. This isn't the place.
I thought you hated heat and steam.
I'm purifying myself.
Why didn't you come to my rooms
when you heard I'd been attacked?
I knew you wouldn't want me
to see what they'd done to you.
Why didn't you write?
Ned, I've never been a word type
Letters are dangerous.
They live on
long after their passions have died.
They're dangerous only if they're secret.
I'd call us a secret, wouldn't you?
There were beginning to be whispers.
Those things you said at the Palace.
I warned you, Ned.
What shall I do to win my lord again?
I'm getting married.
Jane Bellamy. You met her, I believe?
It's this Saturday. The King's coming.
Dryden's composed a sonnet.
Jane's quite a charming thing, really.
Pretty, rich.
Surprisingly literate.
And a woman.
What's she like in bed?
What's she like...
to kiss?
Does she wear a golden flow
as you die in her? Or don't you know?
I don't want you!
Not as you are now
When I did spend time with you,
I... always thought of you as a woman.
When we were in bed,
it was always in a bed on stage.
I'd think, "Here I am, in a play...
...inside Desdemona. "
Cleopatra, poor Ophelia...
You're none of them now.
I don't know who you are.
I doubt you do.
Kind sir, would point thy dagger
at this comely thicket, my lady...
Kind sir, would point thy dagger
at this comely thicket, my lady...
Madam, beg your pardon,
I'm looking for Miss Nell Gwynn.
You won't find her here.
She's in the wings about to make her entrance.
- Kind sir, would point thy dagger...
- Sir?
Do forgive. We're about to perform
one of our Palace musicales.
Sir, the guests?
- You look familiar.
- Sir, I am Edward Kynaston.
Kynaston! How in hell did you get in here?
A former fellow actor is your undercook
and has long been dear a friend to me.
Then we'll have to execute him.
Joke, joke.
Calm down, Kynaston.
What do you want with Nell, anyway?
Nell doesn't like you very much.
When she came to Mr Betterton's theatre,
my bile was aimed at another.
- I did not even see Miss Gwynn.
- I'm sure you can straighten it out.
But it's just not important to me.
It is to me!
Charlie, what's holding things up?
Say what you want.
I want to act.
Then act.
I want to act as I did before.
- The girls' parts?
- If you will.
I won't. Balance the scales, Kynaston,
give the girls a chance.
it's a sop to the Church.
Priests always preach
about boys playing women.
They say it leads
to effeminacy and sodomy.
Well, they'd know, they're priests.
Act a man, Kynaston.
How hard could it be?
It is not a question of acting a man.
I can act a man.
There's no artistry in that.
There are things that I can be
as a woman that I cannot be as a man.
- Such as?
A star.
No, I think Mr Kynaston could be
a star in any guise.
If indeed there is no artistry
in acting a man,
then show us.
Be a man for us and perhaps
His Majesty will change his mind
as to whether you can play a woman.
Yes, perform a soliloquy
that displays all that is bold and strong
and masculine in a man.
Let's see you as...
It is the cause...
It is the cause, my soul,
Let me not name it to you,
you chaste st...
May I start again?
- Oh, yes, yes, by all means.
Thank you.
It is the cause.
It is the cause, my soul,
Let me not name it to you
you chaste stars!
It is the cause.
Yet I'll not shed her blood;
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers
than snow...
Sorry, may I... once more?
Yet she must die,
else she'll betray more men.
Put out the light, then put out the light!
...I could... could give it...
one more go.
Well, well, show to do. Come on.
My astronomers tell me
the star's light shines on
long after it has died.
Even though it doesn't know it.
Exile is a dreadful thing
for one who knows his rightful place.
Shall we, sir?
We shall, madam.
I'm not staying.
- It's by Royal command.
- Stay without me!
Mr Kynaston!
Mr Kynaston!
Mr Kynaston!
- There's an handsome lad!
- Bet you like a lady, don't you?
The difficulty as I see it is that...
Well, a theatregoer these days
has so many choices.
There's Mrs Corbett doing Romeo And Juliet,
Mrs Bracegirdle in Twelfth Night,
Mrs Barry in Hamlet.
And you...
you, of course, in Lear.
The house was half-full today at best.
Summer, you know.
Will you be here for the second performance?
I fear not, Mrs Hughes.
Going off to see one of my rivals?
You have no rivals, Mrs Hughes.
Mr Pepys.
Who do you write all those little notes for?
For myself alone.
Do you enjoy it?
I love it.
Don't you love acting?
But unfortunately,
I cannot do it for myself alone.
For I fear... truth, I'm terrible at it.
Oh, now!
Now, my dear Mrs Hughes!
You are too harsh on yourself.
You made your debut
as the first actress on the English stage.
Mr Pepys...
...when I made my debut,
was I a good actress?
Mrs Hughes...
...there was no comparison.
- Mr Cockerell.
- Mrs Hughes.
Thought I'd pop in and see the show.
Light house today. Oh, Mrs Hughes?
Do you know Mrs Barry?
I have heard so much
about you, Mrs Hughes.
I would so like some day
to see your Ophelia.
Well, let's have a cordial
after the show, eh?
I want to talk about some changes.
Mr Pepys
Do you know the whereabouts of Mr Kynaston?
# Oh, mother, oh, mother
# Oh, what shall I do?
# I've married a man
# Who's unable to screw
# My troubles are many
# My pleasures are small
# For I've married a man
# Who has no balls at all
# No balls
# No balls at all
# Married a man who has no balls at...
# No balls at...
# No balls at all!
That was top-hole!
And speaking of hole... is my understanding,
- having circled the room as t'were...
...that there are some of you gents...
Who, us?
...and maybe even some ladies out there...
- You can rub my pole any time!
... what think our little pretty one here
is not actually what we call
"a complete female stage beauty"
or even a real, live...
we got the proof.
Show us the proof!
Right here!
Ha, ha, ha!
- Come on!
- Up further!
Missy, dear...
raise the curtain, will you, please?
Up, up, up...
Stop it!
Stop it!
What do you want, trout?
- I want the lady!
- After we've finished.
I'll give you five pounds!
Take the money!
Now get the fuck off my stage!
She's still got your merkin!
And give me back my merkin!
You've slept.
You can stay here the week.
I paid the inkeeper that far.
Have you eaten?
We'll get food and drink in you.
And no spirits.
Why are you doing this?
Why won't you play men?
Men aren't beautiful.
What they do isn't beautiful, either.
Women do everything beautifully,
especially when they die.
Men feel far too much.
Feeling ruins the effect.
Feeling makes it ugly.
Perhaps that's why I could never pull off
the death scene.
...could never feel it...
in a way that...
...wouldn't mar the...
I couldn't let the beauty die.
Without beauty, there's nothing.
Who could love that?
I'll stay with you while you sleep.
Want to make sure I don't run off?
I've never slept with a man before.
And I've never slept with a woman...
except myself.
Never slept.
What do men do?
With women?
With men.
Well, it depends.
On who's the man
and who's the woman.
- But I said men with men.
- Yes, yes, I know, but with, er... and women,
there's a man and there's a woman,
and my experience has been
that it's the same with men and men.
- Were you the man or the woman?
- I was the woman.
That means?
Er, it..., in the saddle.
- So, am I the man now or the woman?
- You're the man.
- And you're the woman?
- Yes.
- There isn't much to do.
- Not with what we're given.
So, who am I now?
Er, you're the man...
Er, you're the woman!
And you're...?
I'm the man. Or so I assume.
Seldom get up here. Quite a view.
But I'm... I'm the man-woman?
Yes... you're the man-woman.
And what am I now?
You're the woman.
- Still?
- Yes.
And now what am I?
The woman.
- And now?
- The woman.
And you are?
The man.
- Tell me something.
- Anything!
How do you die?
- What?
- As Desdemona.
How do you die?
Oh, no, I'm sorry...
I wanted...
Your old tutor did you a great disservice,
Mr Kynaston.
He taught you how to speak and swoon
and toss your head,
but he never taught you
to suffer like a woman
or love like a woman.
He trapped a man in woman's form
and left you there to die!
I always hated you as Desdemona.
You never fought!
You just died beautifully!
No... no woman would die like that,
no matter how much she loved him!
A woman would fight!
I need a Desdemona!
"Sheffield's Gift to the Theatre" has
returned to her mother's to have a baby!
A baby?
Well, that didn't happen in the old days, did it?
It's a catastrophe!
The Palace is reconsidering its patronage,
the King is coming to see the show tonight
and I need a Desdemona by eight o'clock.
Right, who's available?
There is only one actress in London
I'm aware of who knows the part,
and is currently between bookings.
I won't do it!
But didn't you hear him? It's for the King!
- But I'm no good.
- Well, that never stopped you before.
My dear, the King comes tonight
to decide whether to patronise my theatre again.
If we put him off, he'll know something's up!
You must play, Mrs Hughes!
What do you intend to do about this?
I can't play Desdemona.
I never could.
I don't know how to act.
Where is he?
If you could just take her in hand.
Teach her some tricks and turns.
Most of the play she'll get by,
it's the end that's bad.
When she dies.
She... she's no good!
I say this as a friend.
Mr Kynaston, have you ever seen
Mrs Hughes on the stage?
I saw her audition, that was enough.
Why? What's she like?
She does you.
Every inflection, every bat of the eye,
bits of business, vocal tricks...
- Then she shouldn't be half-bad.
- But it doesn't work!
Forgive me.
I have spoken loudly.
Did she send you here?
No one knows we've come
What do you offer me...
...pretty, witty Nell?
A friend.
Friends I've had. Give me an audience.
If that's what you want,
you must take it with your own hands.
A man isn't how he walks or how he speaks.
It's what he does.
What's your answer?
- Gentlemen!
- We have procured a tutor!
- Ned.
- Tommy.
- Some rules of engagement...
- First rule, you're out.
No, no, no, no.
Best work in private, Sir Charles.
We shall exeunt, Kynaston,
but mark our history and my property.
You are assisting my Desdemona.
Don't try anything funny.
If you give her a funny voice
or a funny walk,
a squint,
I'll notice.
And I won't like it.
A critic is born.
And all because I thought you were
a whore and grabbed your cock!
Now, is there anything you want?
Some wine, some cheese?
- A share.
- Oh, ho, ho!
Now, I would say, "What?"
And you will say?
- "A share. "
- How much?
- Five.
- Thief.
- Shall I fetch her, Mr Kynaston?
- Would you be a dear?
Mr Kynaston.
Mrs Hughes.
Let's get to work, shall we?
Er, yes.
Are you wearing that tonight?
No, youre not
- Sir Charles designed this costume.
- It looks it.
- You'll strip down to your shift.
- Strip?
You can't teach me how to be a woman!
I'm not teaching you how to be a woman,
but how to be Desdemona.
I don't want to be Desdemona.
I don't want to act ever again.
No! You claimed the role. Hold onto it
till they pry your fingers from its neck.
And you hold this theatre in your hands.
So stand still, dry your eyes and strip!
Muss your hair before the scene.
Not like that, that's puffing it
to make it look attractive.
No, no, no, no lip paint. White cheeks.
Pale lips. Blood drains down with sleep,
not up to the face.
Now, the way Betterton does the last scene,
there are 32 lines, cutting 17.
You're the woman, I'm the man.
Start on the bed.
Not like that! That's like me.
Is that how you sleep?
How am I supposed to know how I sleep?
I'm sleeping while I sleep!
Don't act with what isn't there!
The man's been a festering boil
- for three fucking hours, hasn't he?
- Yes.
He's come to your room, woke you
and told you to pray before you die.
- So, what's the line?
- Talk you of killing?
Ay, I do.
- Then heaven have mercy on me!
- Good girl. Keep going.
They are loves I bear to you.
Peace, and be still!
And I mean that.
But Othello is advancing on her.
Am I?
You see me moving?
You take two steps back on the first line,
then stumble on the last line.
I can't remember the stumble.
Peace, and be still!
By my life and soul,
send for the man and ask him.
"Send for the man and ask him. "
Easy to say, isn't it?
"Send for the man and ask him. "
Cassio's name gives her the willies.
- But she doesn't say the name "Cassio".
- Aha!
I'm lost.
If lago wanted to poison the Moor's mind
with a lover for Desdemona,
he had to pick someone who made sense.
It couldn't be... Jo-Jo the Mute Boy.
lago picked Cassio because, in truth,
Desdemona does fancy him.
So, when Othello mentions him,
she must say, "Yes, call for Cassio. "
But his name doesn't come easily.
But she doesn't say his name!
- This next exchange of lines comes fast.
- Why?
We want to get to the murder
faster than they expect.
How can I say things like,
"While I say one prayer," fast?
No, you're not in charge
of this part of the scene, the Moor is.
The Moor says his lines fast. You have
to slap your words in as fast as you can.
- Go.
- Alas, he is betray'd, and I undone!
Out, strumpet!
Weep'st thou for him to my face?
O, banish me, my lord, but kill me not!
- Down, strumpet!
- Kill me tomorrow!
- Nay, if you strive...
- But half an hour!
- Being done, there is no pause.
- But while I say one prayer!
It is too late.
See what comes out of rehearsal?
- I had planned to scream anyway.
- Good for you.
Throw me on the bed, kill me.
- No.
- We have to finish this off.
Save something for the moment.
Always do something different than you
planned. Good to throw yourself a bit.
Recall what we've done to this point.
Then when you die...
...surprise me.
But how do I know
Mr Betterton will do as you have done?
You don't. Because he won't.
- Right, ready to go?
- Yes. I'm playing the Moor.
- I beg your pardon?
- Mrs Hughes insists.
- Mrs Hughes?
- I do.
But does he even know the part?
- Yes, he knows it.
- Right, now I'll need bootblack.
- I have bootblack.
- With you?
A scuff, sir, is a dreadful thing.
Now, out, all of you.
Mr Kynaston.
My thanks.
It's not a good part, Desdemona.
Go for Cleopatra.
She kills herself with the sting of an asp.
"Those who do die, do never recover. "
"I blame you for my death. "
What's that from?
See you on stage.
It is the cause.
It is the cause, my soul,
Let me not name it to you,
you chaste stars!
It is the cause.
Who's there? Othello?
Ay, Desdemona.
Will you come to bed, my lord?
Have you pray'd tonight, Desdemona?
Ay, my lord.
If you bethink yourself of any crime
Unreconcil'd as yet to heaven and grace,
Solicit for it straight.
Alas, my lord,
what may you mean by that?
Well, do it, and be brief; I will walk by:
I would not kill thy unprepared spirit;
No, heaven forfend!
I would not kill thy soul.
Talk you of killing?
Ay, I do.
- Then heaven have mercy on me!
- Think on thy sins.
- They are loves I bear to you.
- Ay, and for that thou diest.
That death's unnatural that kills for loving.
Alas, why gnaw you so your nether lip?
Some bloody passion
shakes your very frame:
These are portents; but yet I hope,
I... I hope they do not point on...
Peace, and be still!
I will... I will so.
What's the matter?
That handkerchief...
...which I so lov'd and gave thee.
Thou gav'st to Cassio.
No, by my life and soul!
Send for Ca... the man and ask him.
His mouth is stopp'd;
Honest lago hath ta'en order for't.
Alas, he is betray'd,
and I undone!
Out, strumpet!
Weep'st thou for him to my face?
O, banish me, my lord, but kill me not!
Down, strumpet!
Kill me tomorrow;
let me live tonight!
Nay, if you strive...
- But half an hour!
- Being done, there is no pause.
But while I say one prayer!
It is too... late.
Put out the light!
He's killing...
He's killing me!
What noise is this?
Not dead?
Not quite yet dead?
I that am cruel am yet merciful;
I will not let thee linger in thy pain:
O, my good lord, yonder's foul murder...
...falsely murder'd!
Alas! Alas!
...what cry is that?
Sweet mistress, speak!
Who hath done this deed?
I myself.
Commend me to my kind lord:
O, farewell!
how should she be murder'd?
Brava! Brava!
- Brava, Mrs Hughes!
- Brava!
Who knows?
Bravo, Mrs Hughes!
Brava, Mrs Hughes!
Brava! Brava!
Mrs Hughes!
Brava, Mrs Hughes!
- Brava!
- Mrs Hughes!
Hughes! Hughes!
Very, very good.
Please, we still have one more scene.
Mrs Hughes!
Mr Betterton!
Surely that was the finest night
I've ever had in the theatre.
What performances!
- Mrs Hughes!
- Producer coming through, thank you.
I do think I did the most extraordinary
performance of my life.
Isn't it truly wonderful?
Marvellous, thank you.
- Good show, Betterton! Ho, ho!
- Thank you.
Thrills and chills.
That new ending - very, very real.
Almost too much so.
But restorative somehow.
Well, that's tragedy for you.
Awe and terror, and yet we still go to dinner.
Where are Mrs Hughes and Mr Kynaston?
You almost killed me!
I did kill you.
You just didn't die.
Why didn't you finish me off?
I finally got the death scene right.
...who are you now?
I don't know.
I don't know.