31 December, in the year of our Lord 2021
Up, and set about the finishing of entrys in my Journalle for this second of the new plague years, having been neglecktful of it; but in a humour less malancholy than a year since, for the new Varyant is not yet the catastrophe feared, restrictions middling, vaxines pursued. But the contrary is not confirmed, that the plague is done and our daily lifes repaired: for still remain the disquiets of a constraint here or a threatened tightness there, that we might dare to breathe mask-free, meet others without unease, or go abroad with no restraint; though I reflect that a fine holyday was had in autumn, when we were able, and the theatres are opened and holding their breaths. And all that I know are well, blessed be God: my father come through his great indisposition, though my mother a little more frayle, and I am thankful for all that I have in the world. In the tally of my year’s value I find I am backwards in my accounts but my purse, I think, worth a satisfacktory sum, and I enter into the new year with no expenses un-payed.
Of publick matters, thus. All have weather’d two storms in recent weeks, and the First Lord of the Treasurey a pair of his own making, his standing thereby notably diminished: first, by accusations of corruption on his own side in Gouvernement, which he doth not meet with frankness, and second by his dissembling efforts to divert [us] from partys held in White hall, which hath come to light, that when all the people were confyned by his Covey rules in what they must do, his minyons hugged and laughed and eat and drunk merrily, clapping themselfs upon their backs with the hand that did not hold champayne, celibrating that they evade their own Rules with impunity, and his lackeys joked upon it. And now the gazette tells of a certain Positioning by the Secretarie for Foreyne Parts, that she preens herself should the Call come, when all esteem for the First Lord is gone, though few in the land have the faintest idea of her. And at the back of all still skulks our Separation from the Continente, which divorce is two years, and none hath seen any good come from it, not fishermen nor wagon men, nor any man of Science nor any that do trade there; nor will they, I think, in my lifetime.
To merrier matters. After supper, which was at Mr. Jones house, stayed up late, and at a half-past eleven a-clock seated ourselfs with great anticipacion before the magick screen to watch upon it the new play that they made, to star both his garderobe and my indispensible Narracion. And Lord! how marvellous to see the proscenium set before us as if we there in person, the velvet curtayns closed and the candles all alight, and to hear with such clearity the hubbub of the audience, unseen in pit and gallery. And then along comes a man all peri-wigged, and stamps a great staff upon the stage to silence the house, and declaims that we shall see…
‘…Episode the Sixth and Last of Our Drama! Performed with Realism Unrivaled, by Players Unparalleled, using Effeckts Unequaled!’
… and so retires.
And so settle we watch open-mouthed, for as the curtaynes part we see no longer the trappings of the theatre, not its slanted stage nor the illusions of its machinery, but rather it is as if we are all concentred upon the very scene itself, where at one moment we see it as from afar, and at another from an intimacy so close as to see the very fleas within the players wigs. There are many scenes, only I find it difficult to follow, for I know naught of the back story.
‘Can we not fast forwerd it?’ whisper I, after a little while.
‘No, we cannot,’ hisses Mr. Jones. ‘You must admire the artistry of the unparalleled players and the arc of the narrative. Look! This is the bit with the explosion!’
We sit upright and watch the great blast occur, which takes place behind the neighbores house — and Lord! there come a tremendous Boom!, a great flame, much smoke, pandemonium, and shrapnel ejected high into the sky! And the unseen audience gasps as we do at the very similitude of it, and all clap and roar approval.
‘What is that?’ say I, pointing with an onion ring at an odd-shaped object pursuing a parabolick trajectory through the air.
Mr. Jones frowns at the screen. ‘Looks like a pig,’ says he, and the audience in the theatre must think so too, for there are loud guffaws as it lands, picks itself up and charges after some Player who has his crooked arm supported by the triangle of a great bandage.
But then shifts the scene to a dark interior: a door, shadows at play upon it. I grasp the forearm of Mr. Jones for it is a door we recognise — indeed, it is just beyond where we sit — and we tense to see what drama hath been made of it.
But then we sit up uncertain, our expecktacions confounded, for we see not the door opened and the tableau revealed, but the stealing in from stage left of a stout figure, of a build unmistakeable to us though now it be topped by a tall periwig all powdered, possessed of a black beauty spot upon one rouged cheek, reddened of lip and all a-pout, with breeches displaying such a fine thigh that it secures whistles from those who watch, and muscular stockinged calves that ankle to crimson velvet shoes; but above all, between neck and waist, is a cleavage of prodigious pink breasts so enormouse and unbalancing as to almost burst the seams of shirt, waistcoat and tunic. This character stations himself beside the ornamental bracket on which flickers a lighted candle. He waits for the house to quiet itself, then beckons the audience hither and, making sure the coast is clear, addresses them from behind the back of a hand.
‘Psst! Here am I in breeches role
(‘Yay!’ choruses the audience, for this is always a favourite moment. There are some whoops.)
A-crouch beside this girandole.
My nerves have come under control
With double-dose Propranolole.
‘So by this key hole here I lurk,
Engaged in some detective-work,
To spy within what kind of jerk
Therein would hide his dirty work.’
He bends flamboyantly at the waist to apply his eyeball to the Apperture, and gasps before turning scandalised to the audience.
‘Oh! could you see what I can see,
You’d faint from the enormity!
A man-sized Tool in hand has he,
That with a sure dexterity
Could be contrived to guarantee
A Climax extra-ordin’ry!
But Restoration comedy,
For all its great vulgarity,
Prohibits outright crudity:
The hinted-at obscenity
Must henceforth and forever be
Obscured, for sensitivity.’
He whips across the portière and admonishes the audience.
‘This door stays shut for mystery
And principles of decency.
Our scene is cloaked in secrecy.
(Stamping of feet and ‘Open the door!’)
‘For here we leave the tale untold,
The metal molten in the mould.
If you’re to see the plot unfold
Tune in to the next Episode!’
(‘Boo! Yay! Show us yer Ding-Dong, Mary Lee!’)
‘My garderobe,’ cries Mr. Jones, ‘that I have allowed them use! They have disclosed it not at all!’
‘And what of my role?’ cry I, jumping to my feet. ‘My perfeckt rendition of crucial narration! The blackguards have cut it!’
While we speechless at our omission, on-screen the theatre reasserts itself before our eyes: the velvet curtayns are back and close upon the stage, and it sounds as if the doors are opened on to the streets for we hear the rumble of people leaving, the snapping of distant fire crackers and the midnight chimes of the clocks of the City. Then roll the credits, where all the Players named, and their roles, ending thus:
Irate man with arm in sling, pursued by sow: Mr. M. Jones
Simpleton peering through window: Mr. S. Pips
…and Introducing, as Woman in Breeches Role…
*** MR. G. SMALL !!! ***
Season the Second will ayre next year
So ends the old year.