THE GREEN ROOMCategory: Theatre
While Cheveril was down on the stage, first discussing the proposed cut and then watching them run through the new version of the telephone scene two or three times, something happened in the Green Room, and afterwards Pauline told him all about it. She had stayed behind because she had felt she needed a minute or two to herself before facing the rest of the company. She dabbed at her eyes, repaired her make up, and then, still feeling wobbly, lit a cigarette. This was the first time she had been alone in the Green Room. It was a period room of some charm, fairly large, panelled in dark wood, with many old theatrical portraits on the walls. Two tall glass-fronted cases were filled with costumes, small hand props and odds and ends of historical souvenirs of the theatre. This suggestion of.a museum ought to have made the room seem safe and dull enough. But she had not been angling for a laugh when she had said in her speech that it seemed a bit ghostly. It was windowless, shadowy and hidden away, and now that she was alone in it, its atmosphere seemed oppressive, not exactly sinister and menacing, but as if too richly charged with a secret invisible life. After she had lit her cigarette, Pauline tried to concentrate upon Martin Cheveril and to pretend that she. was not in the Green Room at all. But it wouldn’t have that; and she was about to retreat, quickly too, when there was the sound of voices outside and the door that ,led to the front of the house was flung open.
A girl darted in, with a harassed Otley, still shouting protests, close behind her. She was an untidy girl wearing a short brown tweed coat and dark green slacks. And Pauline knew at once that she was an actress.
“Oh!” cried the girl, looking round, “he’s not here.” She was breathless and sounded disappointed.
“You see,” said Otley, his round red face all disapproval, “all for nothing. And you ought to be ashamed of yourself, pushing yourself in like that. Where would wre be if everybody started hehaving like you?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care, said the girl, not rude but merely young and desperate. “The point is, I’m not everybody. I’m an actress — and I must see Mr Cheveril.”
“Well, you’re not going the right way about it,” Otley told her. Then he turned to Pauline. “I’m sorry, Miss Fraser. I tried to stop her — but —”
“Oh!” cried the girl, staring With huge round eyes. She was not a pretty girl, but now Pauline saw that she had looks of her own, a good stage face, wide across cheek-bones, with line green-darkish eyes, a perky little nose, and mobile sensitive lips. “You’re Pauline Fraser, aren’t you?”
Pauline smiled. “Yes. Who are you?”
“Oh, you’ve never heard of me. I’m Ann Seward —”
“Now listen, Miss Seward,” Otley began.
But Pauline interrupted him. “No, it’s all right, Mr Otley. I’m free for a few minutes, and I’ll talk to Miss Seward.”
Otley gave it up. “All right, Miss Fraser. I was only trying to see that Mr Cheveril wasn’t bothered by anybody.”
The girl now gave him an unexpected charming smile. “Of course you were. Sorry —, but I just had to come in.”
Otley went off grumbling. “I don’t know whether you had to — but you are in —”
Ann Seward turned confidentially to Pauline as soon as Otley had gone. “You see, what happened was this. I’m playing at the Rep. at Wanley, about thirty miles from here, and I heard Mr Cheveril was trying out his new play here, and I felt I simply had to see him. I’m not really like this, though — you know, all pushing and barging in — if I had been, probably I still wouldn’t be in weekly Rep.” Pauline smiled at her. “Perhaps not, but still you’ve plenty of time. You’re very young.”
This was not Ann’s view. “I’m twenty-three,” she announced gravely.
“That’s hot very old.”
Ann stared at her with admiration. “I think you’re great. When I had a week off, last autumn, I stayed in London and on Tuesday I went to see you in Martin Cheveril’s play, The Wandering Light.” “Good. It was a lovely play.”
“Yes. Then I went on Wednesday, and then I went on Thursday. Three times. You were wonderful. But — do you mind if I say this —?” Pauline was amused. “Probably. But I’ll risk it.”
The girl was all eagerness, quite unselfconscious now. “Well, at the end of the Second Act, when you get the news that he’s back and waiting for you, I think you ought to have dropped everything you were holding — as if it wasn’t there any more — and then walked straight out into the garden. Do you mind my saying that?”
“Of course not. As a matter of fact, I wanted to do it like that, only our producer wouldn’t let me. Look here — I think you really are an actress —”
“Do you?” cried the girl eagerly. “I know I am. Of course it’s hopeless in weekly Rep., especially in Wanley. I could be a thousand times better if I only had a chance, particularly in a Cheveril play. Please, Miss Fraser, I don’t want to be a nuisance — I hated forcing my way in — but I simply had to see him. Where is he?”
“He’s down on the stage now, but he’ll be back up here soon. I ought to warn you, though, that he’s feeling rather tired and out of sorts and won’t want to see anybody —
“I won’t fuss him. I’ll just explain quietly who I am and what I’ve done and ask him to give me a chance.”
Pauline nodded. “Well, sit down, and have a cigarette.”
“No, thank you . And if you don’t mind, I won’t sit down. I feel too restless and excited.” She stared about her now, for the first time, drinking in the room with the sudden greedy gaze of youth.
“This is a lovely room, isn’t it? Is this the famous Green Room everybody talks about?”
“Yes,” said Pauline. “And they’ve kept it more or less as it used to be.”
“It is a pity we don’t have Green Rooms now.”
Ann went on staring. “This is a terribly exciting place,” she added, with a childlike confidential air,
“A lot of people find it rather frightening — spooky,” said Pauline. “I’m sure it’s absolutely crammed with ghosts., just longing to show themselves and whisper in your ear —”
“Hoy, stop it!” cried Pauline.
“No,” said Ann, “but the point is — they aren’t the usual kind of ghosts — murderers or mad old women — they’d just be actors and actresses, our sort of people, excited about the Theatre just like us. I don’t think I’d mind them at all. And I’m sure they’re here, dozens of them. Miss Fraser,” she continued, “why don’t you sit up here late at night — and watch —”
What it was to be twenty-three! “My God, no,” cried Pauline. “I’d be terrified.” And suddenly, with a chill bristle of fear, she knew she would be terrified, was in fact rather frightened at that very moment. She sat down, and let the girl prowl round the room, looking at the portraits, by herself.
“I suppose these people must have played here, when it was grander than it is now,” said Ann over her shoulder. “Edmund Kean — he looks a good actor somehow, doesn’t he? Helen Faucit — rather sweet. The Elder Mathews — obviously a terrific comic, in spite of the Elder business.” She moved on. “Mrs Yates — I like it when they call them Missis, don’t you?”
Piauline walked up to the door on the stage side. “Mr. Cheveril will be back any minute.” She opened the door so that anybody coming up the stairs from the stage could be heard. “I know he won’t want to see you. I’ll try and persuade him. You’d better wait outside.”
“But if I was still here, he’d have to talk to me.”
“No, he wouldn’t,” said Pauline, rather crossly.
This was a nice child, probably clever toa, but she could be trying, “Don’t forget people are always wanting to see him, and he hates it, particularly just now. Your only chance is to do what I tell you.” Ann gave in at once. iiYes1 of course. And don’t think I’m not grateful.”
Pauline was still near the open door, with an ear alert for any footfalls below. “I think he may be coming up now. You’d better get behind that door there and wait. I’ll do my best for you.”
“I think,’ said Ann, making for the door, “you’re a darling/1 Cheveril came into the room carrying a number of letters as well as the script of his play. “I went along to the stage door. Two letters for you,” he said , handing them oev, “and all these for me, mostly rubbish. That scene’s all right now. We’ve made a neat little cut. They’ll be wanting you in a minute or two, Pauline.” There was a little writing desk in the alcove on the stage side of the roorn, and now Cheveril took his letters there.
Pauline lingered. “I was just going down. Martin, there’s a girl here. She’s with a local repertory company — and she’s taken the day off and come here just to see you.”
Cheveril moved his shoulders impatiently as he sat down. “Otley shouldn’t have let her in.” He opened a letter and glanced at it. He cared nothing about the girl but knew he was behaving rather badly to Pauline, giving her nothing but his back. But even those few minutes work on the stage had left him exhausted, and he was anxious for Pauline to go and leave him alone.
“Otley tried to stop her, but he couldn’t,” she explained. “She’s a determined young woman — and I shouldn’t be surprised if she’s quite a good little actress. Now she’s here, you’ll see her —.won’t you?”
Without turning, he told her, firmly, No.
“Now don’t be mean, Martin —”
He looked over his shoulder this time. “She’d no right to push herself in. And there’s nothing I can do for her except to tell her that I don’t care for her manners. No, I’m sorry, Pauline. But if she were a young Duse or Bernhardt, I still wouldn’t care. I’m just not interested any more. I haven’t to find any more promising young actresses — thank god! And I don’t see why I should be victimised in this way.”
Pauline was reproachful. “Martin, this is all wrong. I hate it.” Somebody called up the stairs: “Miss Fraser, you’re wanted on the stage.”
From the doorway Pauline cried: “I wish something would happen to you, Martin.” And then she banged the door behind her.
While Cheveril looked through the rest of his letters, he heard the other door open, but did not turn round. Then a young voice, needlessly explaining itself: “I’m the young actress, Mr Cheveril. My name’s Ann Seward.”
He did not even look at her. “You’d no right to come in here. Will you please go?”
“I’ve acted in lots of your plays — and loved them.”
Cheveril hastily tore up two envelopes and a letter from a woman offering him the vast idiotic scenario for a play about reincarnation. “Yes, but I’m busy — and I don’t want to see you.”
The girl was incredulous. “Not even just to look at me?”
“No,” he replied angrily, without turning. “Will you please go at once?”
There was a pause, a strange little pause. “You’ll be sorry soon you said that.” She spoke with an odd certainty. A rum youngster, with rather a good voice, but he did not propose to recognise her existence. He could hear her moving about the room but he did not move until several moments after he had heard the door close behind, her.
(From Jenny Villiers; a Story of the Theatre by J. B. Priestley)