Marianne andJessica.

10 Jun


It was early in the morning at Broadcasting House – or BH as they like to call it. Marianne Lacy, junior of all junior producers was drinking her breakfast coffee in the canteen. It was only her third production. She had been a studio manager since she left University at the age of 22. One of the chosen few – one out of the many students with a reasonable degree who had applied for the radio job. She had been picked from one institution and plonked into another.
Broadcasting House (or BH) to her was merely an extension of her Red Brick University, the same kind of people in the Stage Managers department all much of an age and with a similar background.

Now she was one of the big girls – A Junior producer.
She had spent the last six years making noises. She opened and shut doors, clicked pennies together to sound like a light switch. Made footsteps on gravel, wood, cement, running, walking and marching. She rustled pages, wrestled with yards and yards of magnetic tape to simulate the sound of people crawling through the undergrowth. She clicked lighters, chinked teacups, hooted like an owl, chirruped like a sparrow, cried like ababy. There was no end to her talents.
She had fully expected to become a producer withn about six months. This happened to people who had been at Oxford or Cambridge. It seemed to her that either you became a producer immediately or about three days before your retirement. But it had happened to her at last and her first couple of productions, although they hadn’t set the world on fire, had passed muster.

The current play was a thriller. She realised she was still being tried out with different kinds of productions and had had this slightly overwritten piece thrust upon her.

Her budget for actors had mostly been taken up by an actress called Jessica Sherwood. A famous actress, she had personally never heard of but the author had been so keen, and she had not yet learnt the art of gently persuading writers to accept with her decisions.

This meant she had to chose the rest of her cast from the BBC Rep a company of actors who were employed on an exclusive contract to work for BBC Radio.

This didn’t worry her atall, she was happy to cast her play from the Rep. Afer all most of them had become firm friends during the past six years, and she knew they were all super efficient with the ability to play in an accent, any age. Most of them had had some measure of success in the theatre,but had reached a lull in their career. This lull was taken care of by accepting the two year contract with the rep.

One of the newest recruits to this department was the actor Jeremy Fox. An ex Rank star with plenty of films and stage experience under his belt. He’d been having a bad time, having left the Old Vic a couple of years before, and finding that his style and his exceptional talent for elegant light comedy was no longer in vogue.

Marianne remembered him as a film star and had been hopelessly in love with him when she was a child. She was a little nervous about meeting him in the flesh – as she was about to do, having cast him for the lead in her curent production.

Marianne looked at her watch. She had time for another coffee, before she had to start the read through. She went up to the counter and stood in line. At this time in the morning, the canteen was fairly empty. It wasn’t everyone who came late into BH that early, there were a few breakfast time presenters and DJs around the place, but very few actors. It was surprising then, when she found a slender man with soft brown hair standing, waiting in line.

As she approached, he turned and suddenly her mind flipped back to her schooldays
‘Golly!’ she said.
Jeremy laughed delightedly, the familiar kind brown eyes looked into hers, the well known dimples in the cheeks making her heart flip just the way they had always done in the movies.
‘I haven’t had a reaction like that for many a year’. He said.

Marianne quickly regained her equilibrium.
‘Sorry about that,’ she said, ‘It’s just that I know you so well from the pictures. It gave me quite a shock to see you suddenly come to life.’

‘Nice to know I have a fan or two left.’

Marianne gave a slightly derisive laugh at this sally and Jeremy was amused to see that she had no idea of the truth behind the statement. To her he was still the big movie star. After two years out of work he didn’t feel like anything of the sort.

'Now I've a surprise for you.' said Marianne as they collected their coffee and set themselves up in a table by the window.'
'You are going to give me a surprise?'
'Oh, I think so. I am your producer Marianne Lacy.'
'Good grief,'he gasped, 'They'll all think I'm sycophantic, chatting up the governor.'
'I'm a very new governor,' she said,'This is only my third production. I was a studio manager before that. A P O A.'

She sat and thought about this for a w hile. She’d never really thought about it before. After all it was her only work experience, she had taken things as they were shown to her and never questioned them.

'What is a POA?'
'Ah yes. Programmes Operation Assistants. They used to be called Studio Managers. For some extraordinary reason, best known to the powers that be, they changed the title. They are people who work the grams. make the noises, deal with spot effects.  They have all been to University and are expecting one day to become producers.'

'Like you?'
'Like Moi.'
'And  you sit there all alone in your litle box?'
'Good heavens no. There's quite a crowd of us. I have a grams operator, a P.A (that's a secretary,) the editor and very often, the author too.'
'The most important person.'

Marianne made a face.

'Mm I suppose you're right really. Between you and me, sometimes having an author breathing down our neck is a pain in the butt. Especially the new ones, who think they know it all.'
'But without them?'
'There'd be no  programme.' they said together.
'No, how do they interfere?'
'Moastly, they object to cuts. We have to make cuts to ensure the programme is the right length. The bits you have to cut are always their favourite lines, without which the whole play is meaningless.'

'Do we have an author today?'
'Not till this afrernoon, thank goodness. In fact this particular one has got my goat already.'
'Why is that?'
'Well he pracially insisted on some of the casting.'
'Meaning me?'
'No. I cast you from the Rep – in fact all the rest of the cast – except the leading lady. Someone I've never heard of, and she is taking thewhole of the budget.'
'I see.'

Marianne was suddenly embarrassed. It was quite out of order to discuss the cast or the author with one of the actors, but somehow she foound this man a kindred spirit. She looked at her watch.
‘It’s time I wasn’t here.’ she said.
‘See you on the Green’
‘Now it’s my turn to instruct you, he laghed’, ‘a theatrical expression. The Green is the Greengage – the stage. Ryming slang.’
Marianne loved it.
She rose’
‘See you on the Green.’ she laughed.

Marianne and Jessica

The Green linen covered chairs had been arranged around four low coffee tables. The actors wandered in in their ones and twos and took possession of their chairs, putting their scripts on the tables, taking out their pens and pencils fromtheir pockets and handbags and laying them beside the scripts.
They talked quietly to each other, an occasional laugh ringing out above the general hub bub. They carefully avoided the two chairs at the top end of the ovoid, preserving themn for Marianne and her P.A Jenny.
Marianne came in at 10.25 with Jenny and took her place. Jeremy rose as she ame in and the others gave a slight jerk out of their seats to acklnowledge that the producer was present. The conversation stopped, she wished them all good morning, reserving a special smile for Jeremy. There was one empty chair, she took in the fact at a glance and ignored it.

The cast looked at their scripts, occasionally glancing at the empty chair. They flicked through the scripts, pencils in hand and waited for something to happen.
‘Does everybody know each other? Perhaps you haven’t met Jeremy Fox, a new member of the Rep.’
They all looked at Jweremy and murmured their names to him in turn. He gave each one of them a warm smile, acknoledging those he had met before.
It was now 10.28
‘I have a fw cuts.’ said Marianne, ‘but I’d rather wait until Miss Sherwood arrives.’
‘It isn’t half past yet.’ said Jeremy.
‘Obviously she didn’t read her contract.’ said Marianne sharply.
Marianne looked down at her script and the actors cast sly glances at each other.
‘We are infor a bumpy ride’ was the unspoken comment.
At ten thirty Marianne started giving cuts.
‘Jenny, will you take down Miss Sherwood’s cuts for her?’ she said with a tight smile.
She worked through the play. It was hardly worth reading yet. Jessica Sherwood appeared on page 16 and was about constantly until the end. Jenny was despatched to the control room to give Jessica Sherwood a call, and she came back with the news that Jessica had left home and would be with them soon.
At eleven o’clock precisely the door of the stujdio was pulled opn, and a tiny figure ina long mink coat and fur hat perched on top of righ auburn hair, made an entrance.
The actors looked up briefly and returned tomarking their scripts, The mink coated figure stood in the doorway, waiting for some action.
Marianne continued scrippling notes on her page for a moment, and then rose to her feet.
‘Miss Sherwood?’ she asked.
Her voice was smooth and controlled , not showing the inner funy she was feeling.
Jessica stood her ground – a little unnerved by the calm acceptance of her presence.
New to radio, she didn’t understand that the actors sitting there in the circle had most of them been on the Repo for some time. They had seen Stars come and go in dozens of radio productions. Jessicas was just another actor – and a pretty boring one at that. Coming so late, they would priobably have to cut their lunch break short to make up the time.
Marianne waited for a while, enjoyhing Jessica’s discomforture.
‘Miss Jessica Sherwood?’ she said again

'Of course I'm Jessica Sherwood.' she snapped
'Then why don;t you come in and sit down?' said Marianne,'You must have had trouble getting here – the traffic can be really tiresome at this time in the morning.'

Marianne was doing her a favour, giving her an excuse for being late. Jessica refused to accept it.
‘I’m not on until page 16,’ she said,’I didn’t thiknk you’d have got up to me yet..’
Marianne didn’t argue. She realised that Jessica was no thoroughtly embarrassed and wojld take her discomforture out on anyone she could find.
‘We are about to read it rhoughfor timing.’ she said ‘Why don;t you take off your coat and sit down?’ she indicated her chair.
‘Jenny, give Miss Sherwood your script so that she cantake down the cuts.’
Jessica sat, wrapping her mink coat about her as if afraid somebody might steal it.
Where is the A>S>M? ‘ she asked.
Marianne looked puzzled.
‘Can I help you?’
‘Yes, dear, get me some coffee. I’m dying of thirst.’.
Marianne turned to Jenny.
‘Maybe we shold arrange coffee for all of us,’ she said,’Obviously we shall have to work through the coffee break.’
The actors graoned, deprived of their playtime, and looked daggers at Jessica. Jenny went into the control box tomake a call through to the canteen.
Jessica opened her capacious bag and r emoved her script. She put on a pair of large horn rimed glasses and began to flick through the pages.
Marianne took her seat at the head of th3e group.
‘All right eerybody..’
‘Don;t we have a director on this show?’ asked JESSICA.
Marianne smiled sweetly ‘I am the director – Marianne Lacy.’
Jessica looked her up and down.
‘You are sawfully young.’ she said.’Straight fromUniversity I suppose?’
Marianne caught the sneer in the voice. She was used to this kindof scorn from the older actors. They all believed that unless you had done your bit – been to drama school, done the weekly rep, the small parts in films and TV, starved a bit, labour exchange, or possibly spent time doing high kicks in a chorus line, you had absoltuely no right to tell actors what to do.

Marianne in a way agreeed with them, and had made up her mind at the beginning to restrict her directions to those of a technical nature. “The actor knows best” she told her self firmlh. They certainly know more about acting than she did. She smiled oncer more at the Titian hair, mink coated shrew and said gently
”ve been at the BBC for some time,’ and she turned to the rest of the cast, I suppose you all know Jessica Sherwood.’
The actors mumbled their assent. Marianne turned back to jessica.
‘We are honoured to have you with us Miss Sherwood.’ she said, the irony hardly showing in her voice.
Jessica gave a faint smile and looked down at her script. She gave a little scream.
‘It says here that Jeremy Fox is in the cast.’
Jeremy spoke up at last.
@ Jessica darling,’he said,’ I’mover here. If you take off those idiotic glasses you’ll see me.
Jessica jumped to her feet, spilling the mink coat on the floor and cla;pped her hands.
‘Jeremy darling, I had no idea you’d be here.’
‘What hou are telling me, is that you haven’t glanced at your script until this very minute,’ laughed Jeremy.
‘Darling, you know me and scripts,’ she said. ‘I never really learned to read.’
Jessica picked up thje coat and folded it undeer her chair, she nodded to Marianne that she was read to start.
Janny arrived with the coffee disributed it round the stujdio and at last everyone settled down to work.

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