21 December, in the year of our Lord 2021
Up, and after breakfast by coach to Mr. Jones house for my staring role in the final scene of the play that is being acted there. I have lost a week’s sleep for the practice of learning my lines, which are:
‘Begad! The beggar hath a plot to hide
The evil stash he hath inside
The house. But no one in there as yet knows
The secret place that he hath chose!’
There being none to greet me upon my arrival, I stationed my coach in a vacant place by the Port-a-lieu. Seeing a bright light on downstairs, and hearing there a speech in progress, I shielded my eyes with a hand, pressed my nose to the window and peered within. From nowhere, however, I felt my shoulders grabbed of a sudden, as some ruffian stage hand manhandled me away with a hissed, ‘They are playing a crucial scene!’ And then says he, ‘Come, our sound reckordist and camerraman here shall document your performance in the woodshed. Five minutes and you may go.’
‘The woodshed?’ say I. ‘I would have thought lines of such importance to require nothing less than the main stage.’
‘Mr. Jones is charging enough for the woodshed,’ says one of the two young men with the strange equipment, so thither we proceed. On route I spy a familiar stout figure in petticoat and gown, coming all a-rush in the opposite direcktion. In the capaciose bag that he carries are a fresh costume and two enormous pink balloons, and upon one cheek there is what appears to be a large smudge.
‘You?’ say I.
‘Oh, Mr. Popes,’ says he, all out of breath. ‘They have given me a role! I must not be late to say my lines! I am so very nervous, I am all a-shake!’
‘My lines from outside the garderobe!’
‘I must dash!’
‘Why is he outside the garderobe whilst I am in — ?’ But by now we are actually in Mr. Jones’ woodshed.
‘Take One!’ says one of the pair who have escorted me thither, and snaps together his clapper in business-like fashion.
‘“Begad! The bugger hath a stash to hide — ” ’
‘Cut! Try again, Mr. Pepys.’
‘Oh, I am so very sorry,’ say I. ‘I shall endeavore to get it right but I must connect with the role.’ For I have been inhabiting this character for several days, allowing him to consume my very existence. Of what consists his private life? Of what his secret life? Whence come the thoughts that stoke his deepest fears? I shut my eyes and pause to take control, breathe deeply and start again.
‘“Butter the plot! The beggar hath to hide — ” ’
‘Cut! It’s, “Begad! The beggar hath a plot to hide…” Let’s go again. Take Three.’
‘“Begad! The beggar hath a bigger plot — ” ’
‘One more time, Mr. Pepys. Take Four.’
‘You may take as many as you wish,’ say I, benevolently, as I feel the full force of my Method Acting research kick in. ‘“Buggered, the evil potter hides the beggar’s stash — ” ’
Two hours later the young men regard me wearily, appearing exhausted.
‘I think we shall call it a day there, Mr. Pepys,’ says the young man with the apparatus of Lenses, removing it from his shoulder and rubbing his tired eyes.
‘I can splice it together syllable by syllable,’ says the young man with the Angora tube on a stick. ‘We thank you for your time.’
‘The pleasure hath been all mine,’ say I, pleasantly, for I have been contented as much by this day as by any day in all my life. ‘If you would like an autograph, I would be more than happy — ’
‘Thank you, Mr. Pepys.’
‘Oh, right! Where shall I sign?’
‘No. Thank you, Mr. Pepys.’ And he holds ajar the woodshed door.