Sunday, 29 March 2009
243: Gay Actors 6: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
starts at 5:15
“Soap Opera” from “Behind the Fridge”, 1973
written by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
I’ve also included a script for this sketch from “Goodbye Again”. Cook and Moore enjoyed improvising, and there are a lot of differences in lines and readings in the two versions.
This sketch was inspired by Peter Cook’s experience of hiring resting actors as his cleaners, and finding that they far preferred talking about acting to actually doing any cleaning.
Moore has the mincing walk, with his elbows held lightly to torso so that his hands are held limply forward, but I’d say that there’s some unabashed quality to his performance that is somehow a bit more contemporary. Maybe, it’s just that I like Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and so I’m willing to give them a bit more leeway. Or maybe, it’s just that a pair of jeans and a slightly revealing shirt make Moore’s character seem a bit more naturalistic when compared to the extravagant costumes of Dick Emery or John Inman. I’d say Moore’s is a more individual take on the stereotypical extravagant, almost ogling eye, in the conviction of his own coy charms. Otherwise, what you have is a demonstration of all the reasons that theatre is assumed to be a gay preserve. Acting is just another way of being camp for self-dramatising types.
If you like, why not compare the gay lawyer jokes here to those of the two camp judges in “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.
SOAP OPERA (Plymouth Theatre, New York, 1973)
A doorbell rings. Peter opens the door. Enter Dudley)
DUDLEY: Hello, blue eyes. (Sings) There's no business like show business. . .
PETER: Excuse me. What can I do for you? DUDLEY: It's more of a question of what I can do for you, isn't it love? I'm your new daily, your new Mrs Mop.
PETER: You're the temporary domestic?
PETER: I'm sorry, I was expecting the agency to send me a woman.
DUDLEY (Laughs): Well, you'll have to make do with me then, won't you? Oh, I love your place. I think it's absolutely super.
PETER: Oh, thank you very much.
DUDLEY: You a bachelor?
PETER: Yes, bachelor gay - that's me.
DUDLEY: Me too. You may have guessed, this isn’t my normal sort of work.
PETER: Well, I did get an inkling when you came in through the door.
DUDLEY: No, I'm an actor, actually.
PETER: Oh, an actor.
DUDLEY: Yes, I'm resting between engagements, you know. Mind you, not that I don't like this sort of work. I absolutely adore it, because one gets to meet all sorts of interesting people. And I was terribly excited when I was assigned to you, because, do you know, I've never met a barrister before.
(Dudley sits down on the sofa)
PETER: Would you mind not sitting on my briefs?
DUDLEY (Picks up ribbon): What's this, dear?
PETER: It's the little pink ribbon I tie round my briefs.
DUDLEY: Oh well, that's our little secret. I suppose being a barrister is rather like being an actor, isn't it?
PETER: I don't really see the connection, no.
DUDLEY: Well, you call it 'acting for your client,' don't you?
PETER: In rather a different way.
DUDLEY: Of course you do - dragging up in all those lovely cosies and wigs, swishing round the courtroom, appealing to the jury. Ooh, gentlemen of the jury, I put it to you, my client has a foolproof alibi, on the night of the twentieth. . .
PETER: I can assure you it's nothing like that in court.
DUDLEY: I bet it is. I once played a QC in an Agatha Christie play in Croydon. They used to call me AC QC backstage. You get a lot of giggles in the profession.
PETER: Yes. The washing up is just through there.
(Peter points to the kitchen)
DUDLEY: Oh, bonky bonk, down to earth again. Wretch. Have you got any rubber gloves, dear?
PETER: Yes, Mrs Higgins keeps them by the sink.
DUDLEY: It's because I have a very sensitive skin, you know. I've only got to touch a flake of detergent and woosh - I get a terrible rash all over my body. And as an actor, you know, one can't afford that sort of thing in these days of full frontal. Gesture, expression, projection - one can't do all that with a spotty botty! (Laughs)
(Dudley picks up some records)
DUDLEY: Ooh, I see you like opera.
PETER: Yes, I do enjoy opera.
DUDLEY: (Looking through Peters records) Oh, Bona. . . Bona. . .
PETER: I don't know that one. Is that a new one?
(Dudley picks out a record)
DUDLEY: Ooh, Lucia di Lammermoor - one of my favourites. I love that bit where she comes out singing in her nightdress, and she sings that beautiful bit. Remember?
(Dudley sings from Lucia)
DUDLEY: I bet your Mrs Higgins doesn't do that for you.
PETER: No, but she does do quite a lot of washing up.
DUDLEY: Oh, touche. Well, sleeves up, gloves on. I'm the boy for liquid Joy.
(Exit Dudley. The telephone rings. Peter answers it)
PETER: Hello? What? Oh, I see. Hold on. (Shouts to the kitchen) It’s for you.
DUDLEY: Who is it, love?
PETER: It's some woman.
DUDLEY: Oh, wrong number, dear.
PETER: (Into I the telephone) Hello. . . It sounds very much like him.
(Shouts into the kitchen) She insists it's for you.
DUDLEY: Ooh . . .
PETER (Into the telephone): He's just coming.
DUDLEY (to Peter): Mmm . . . Thank you so much.
(Dudley picks up the telephone cautiously)
DUDLEY (Into the telephone): Hello, who is this? Oh, Gloria. I thought I was getting kinky phone calls. (TO Peter) It's my agent, the only woman in my life.
PETER: Well, she shouldn't be ringing you here.
DUDLEY (TO Peter): I quite agree. (Into the telephone) Gloria, we must be brief, otherwise I'll have the law on me. (TO Peter) Hope springs eternal. (Into the telephone) You're joking. . . Fantasticoissimay . . . Do I know the scene, dear? I've been rehearsing it for the last six weeks. When's the audition? Tomorrow morning, love? Oh, I can't possibly. . . Alright, alright love. I'll be there on the dot. Thank you so much. God bless you. Goodbye, sweetheart. . . Mmm . . .
(Dudley hands up)
PETER: What on earth was that all about?
DUDLEY: Oh, must sit down. I'm up for Othello. Oh, I say, you wouldn't do me a special favour, would you?
PETER: I very much doubt it.
DUDLEY: No, I mean you wouldn't just give me five minutes of your time and go through my lines with me, would you? Because I've got my audition tomorrow morning.
PETER: What about the washing up? You've hardly started on that.
DUDLEY: I'll work my fingers to the bone if you'll just give me five minutes of your time.
PETER: Just read through a few lines, that's all, then you promise to do some work?
DUDLEY: Cross my legs and hope to die. Have you got a copy of Othello?
PETER: Yes, I've got one somewhere.
DUDLEY: Oh, you are a brick.
PETER: Just a few lines.
(Peter fetches the book from the shelf)
DUDLEY: Could we do Act Five, Scene Two?
(Dudley looks at Peters book)
DUDLEY: Oh, you've got the same edition.
PETER: Yes, I rather go for Penguins.
DUDLEY: Mmm, each to his own, dear. Act Five, Scene Two is where Desdemona has dropped her hanky and Iago has been whispering all those awful things in Othello's ear.
PETER: Yes, I know the scene.
DUDLEY: A scene of tremendous jealousy. (To the audience) Oh, I know in my bones that I'm going to become Othello. (To Peter) When I play a part, love, I really am that part.
PETER: I can't promise to do the same for Desdemona.
DUDLEY: You'll be lovely. Here, why don't you wear your wig? It'll make you feel the part.
(Peter puts on his barristers wig)
DUDLEY: Ooh, you drag up beautifully. Line sixty three. Good Luck. Merde. (Recites, with brio)
By heavens I saw my handkerchief in's hand
O perjur'd woman! Thou dost stone my heart,
And mak'st me call what I intend to do
A murder, which I thought a sacrifice.
I saw the handkerchief.
PETER: (Recites, deadpan)
He found it then
I never gave it him. Send for him hither
Let him confess a truth.
DUDLEY: Oh, a bit more life, dear - a bit more vigour.
PETER: Oh, I see. You want something to bounce off, do you?
DUDLEY (Recites): He hath confess'd
PETER (Recites, passionately): What, my lord?
DUDLEY: Ooh! That he hath us'd thee.
PETER: How? Unlawfully?
(Dudley bangs his hand against the door)
DUDLEY: Ooh, bugger!
PETER: I don't have that in my text.
DUDLEY: What, dear?
PETER: I don't have a 'bugger' in my Penguin.
DUDLEY (Annoyed): I'll give you a bugger in your penguin, mate.
PETER: Could we get on? I'm just feeling the part of Desdemona.
DUDLEY: Where were we, love?
PETER: Line seventy one.
DUDLEY (Sing song): Oh, seventy one, never been done, queen of all the fairies.
PETER (Recites): He will not say so.
DUDLEY: No. His mouth is stopp'd.
Honest Iago hath ta' en order for't.
PETER: O! My fear interprets. What! Is he dead?
DUDLEY: Had all his hairs been lives, my great revenge
Had stomach for them all.
PETER: Alas! He is betray'd and I undone.
DUDLEY: Out, strumpet! Weep'st thou for him to my face?
PETER: O! Banish me, my lord, but kill me not!
(Peter grabs Dudley)
DUDLEY: Blimey! You didn't half give my left nipple a going over. It's gone all perky!
(Recites) Down, strumpet!
PETER: Kill me tomorrow! Let me live tonight!
(Peter grabs Dudley again)
DUDLEY: Not the other one! Ooh, I'm all aglow! (Recites) Nay, if you stay . . .
PETER: But half an hour!
Peter grabs Dudley again)
DUDLEY: Here! (Recites) Being done, there is no pause.
PETER: But while I say one prayer!
DUDLEY: It is too late.
Dudley grabs Peter by the throat and chokes him)
PETER: Oh, Lord!
Dudley wrestles Peter to the couch and chokes him)
DUDLEY: Bloody fabulous! You've acted before, haven't you? (Peter is dead)
DUDLEY: Oh, my God. I went over the top again. Ooh, now I can have my first go at mouth to mouth resuscitation.
(As Dudley bends over Peter, he observes the audience, watching him)
DUDLEY (Into the wings): Here! Curtain! Curtain!
(Dudley bends over Peter again, as the curtain falls)