The Columnist
   
MORE MILES
 
 
  ALIEN STORY
WAITING FOR STOPPARD
KINGTON INTERVIEWS
  1. OSCAR WILDE
  2. MONA LISA
  3. ROBINSON CRUSOE
  4. CONAN DOYLE
  4. NOSTRADAMUS
  6. F.NIGHTINGALE
   

 

 

 

 

 

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WAITING FOR STOPPARD

ACT ONE
IT WAS A LIBRARY TO BEGIN WITH, OWING TO THE COMPLETE ABSENCE OF BOOKS. TO MAKE UP FOR THIS, THERE ARE SEVERAL EMPTY TINS OF COKE AND SANDWICH WRAPPINGS ON THE FLOOR, MAYBE EVEN A GLASS AND A TAKE-AWAY CARRIER OR TWO. THE ROOM COULD BE LIKENED TO AN ELEGANT RAILWAY STATION WAITING ROOM.
DOOR OPENS. THE BUTLER USHERS IN JO.

 

BUTLER          This is the library, madam.. You may wait in here.

                AS HE SPEAKS, HE NOTICES THE LITTER ON THE FLOOR, AND HIS BUTLERISH FACADE WAVERS SLIGHTLY. HE BENDS AND PICKS UP THE WORST OF THE LITTER. JO DOES NOT NOTICE, AS SHE IS LOOKING ROUND THE ROOM.

JO              In what sense is it a library ?

BUTLER          CLANDESTINELY BUNDLING THE LITTER AWAY ......In all the usual senses, madam. The quietness. The air of scholarly retreat. The high ceiling which libraries always enjoy, because one always has to put in more bookshelves later to accomodate those books HE STARTS WAVING A LORDLY HAND AT THE TOP OF THE VISIBLE SHELVES which one has to keep in a library even if one never consults them -  the outmoded dictionaries, the bound volumes of Illustrated London News, the Walter Scott, the copies donated by authors who one is unfortunate enough to have as one's friends and which one has to keep on show in case one's friends ever drop in ............

JO               I wasn't thinking of the ceiling so much or the shelves, or even the scholarly tranquillity. The thought that crossed my mind when you said it was the library was, Where are the books ?

BUTLER           The books, madam ?

JO               Yes. Where are the sodding books ?

BUTLER           The sodding books ?

JO               Normally there are books in a library. That's what libraries are for. Aren't there always books in a library ?

BUTLER           Not always, madam. I remember once being present at the opening of a new library, at one of these modern universities. I happened to be standing next to the architect who had designed the library building, and thinking to make polite conversation I asked him if there had been any particular problems. He said there had been no really unusual ones, and I put it to him that it must have been a headache allowing for the stress on the building fabric caused by the weight of all those books He went very white  "The books" he said.  " God almighty, I forgot the books ! "

JO                Is that true ?

BUTLER            I am not in the habit of making up false stories to deceive  strangers. I prefer  to reserve that sort of thing for my family and near ones.

JO                GLANCING AT HIM CURIOUSLY. I meant, had you really gone to the opening of a university library ?

BUTLER             It isn't often one gets invited to the closing down of a university library.......Besides, Mr Stoppard often takes me along on his more formal functions.

JO                 Does he, indeed........ ? So - where are the sodding books ? Don't people keep books in a library ?

BUTLER             Not invariably. They very often lend books in a library.

JO                 So that's it ! The books are out on loan ! Tom Stoppard has opened a lending library ! But are all his books out on loan ? And does he lend them to individual friends or to third world countries ? Is there a British Council tour of Tom Stoppard's library somewhere ? Are people in Paraguay at this very moment saying, Let's go out this evening and look at Tom Stoppard's first editions ? Or does Mr Stoppard happen to have the kinds of friend that never never return books ?

BUTLER             Nothing like that, madam. The fact of the matter is that Mr Stoppard believes that rooms, like people, are too easily stereotyped. Give a room a label, and it becomes predictable. Call a room a kitchen, and people will think it's for cooking and cooking only, whereas a kitchen is often the place where people sit, and talk, and eat, and drink .... You have probably noticed that in Mr Stoppard's plays people are not always what they seem. In his house, rooms are not always what they seem.

JO                  But you've got to put books somewhere ! And if you don't put them in the library, where would you put them ?

BUTLER              In the reading room, madam ?

JO                   I see. You have a reading room here ?

BUTLER               No, madam. Will that be all, madam ?

JO                   As I have got an appointment to see Mr Tom Stoppard, I would quite like to see him. Unless he is out on loan as well ?

BUTLER               In what sense, madam ?

JO                   Oh, for God's sake, is he here or isn't he ?

 

Isabel Brooke in Waiting for Stoppard

Isabel Brook as Jo and Jonathen Rigby as the Butler
in 'Waiting for Stoppard'

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