Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Blue Room

by David Hare

“[Hare’s] play slides up on one insidiously–always suggesting more than they first suggest, planting depth charges in the mind, subtly laying a minefield in the self-confidence of one’s first impressions.” –New York Post

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 96
  • Publication Date January 13, 1999
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3596-4
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9643-9
  • US List Price $13.00

About The Book

Arthur Schnitzler described Reigen, his loose series of sexual sketches, as “completely unprintable,” and indeed its premiere in 1921 spurred an obscenity suit. It was only when Max Oph”ls made his famous film in 1950 that the work became better known as La Ronde. Now David Hare has reset these circular scenes of love and betrayal in the present day, with a cast of two actors playing a succession of characters whose sexual lives enmesh like a daisy chain. The Blue Room is a brilliant meditation on men and women, sex and social class, actors and the theater. With deft insight about the gap between the sexes, The Blue Room takes the treacherous Freudian subject of projection and desire and reinvents it in a bittersweet landscape that is both eternal and completely up-to-date.

Praise

“[Hare’s] play slides up on one insidiously–always suggesting more than they first suggest, planting depth charges in the mind, subtly laying a minefield in the self-confidence of one’s first impressions.” –New York Post

“A witty, contemporary reworking of Arthur Schnitzler’s nineteenth-century shocker La Ronde.” –The Mail on Sunday (four stars)

“In the jungle of this city, sex is a driving force, a commodity and a need. . . . This play could almost be a vividly illustrated Freudian textbook: the erotic drive in action, amoral and ruthless. Hare’s version is, in the deepest and most essential sense, completely faithful to Schnitzler.” –John Peter, The Sunday Times (London)

“Hare–buttressed by Freud and Proust–has turned sexual disappointment into something more interesting, the idea that what we are in love with is part illusion.” –Kate Kellaway, The Observer

Excerpt

1. The Girl and the Cab Driver
Darkness. Music. You have the impression of the stage opening up, as if it were expanding. You begin to see a GIRL, sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette. As the stage grows around her, it becomes clear she is under a scrubby tree by the side of a street. She looks 18, like an amateur, in a short black leather skirt and shoes, but she also has an odd self-confidence. A CAB DRIVER walks past, taking no notice. She makes no reaction. Then ten seconds later, he passes again, going back in the other direction. This time, the music stops and she speaks as he passes her.
Girl What? What did you say?
Cab Driver I didn’t say anything.
Girl I thought you said something.
Cab Driver No.
Girl What made me think you just spoke?
She puts out her cigarette.

Girl Do you want to come home with me?
Cab Driver Do I want to go home with you? Go home? Why would I go home with you?
She is impassive, not responding.
Cab Driver Where is your home?
Girl Quite near.
Cab Driver Where?
Girl South.
Cab Driver I’m not going south.
Girl We can take a taxi.
Cab Driver Take a taxi? I drive a fucking taxi.
Girl Is it yours?
Cab Driver It’s mine.
Girl I mean, does it belong to you?
He turns to go.
Girl So?
Cab Driver I haven’t got any money. I just spent the lot on sushi.
Girl So?
The CAB DRIVER looks at her a moment.
Cab Driver Right, I’ve heard about you. You’re new. Aren’t you?
Girl New-ish.
Cab Driver How long?
Girl A week.
Cab Driver You enjoying it?
Girl Once or twice.
He looks at her, tempted.
Cab Driver How far is this place of yours?
Girl It’s ten minutes by cab.
Cab Driver Oh look, forget it. Ten minutes? No. Forget it. I have to work. I’ve made nothing tonight. And I’m not doing it in the car. It’s the first rule of driving. I never do it in the car.
Girl Give me a kiss.
Cab Driver Here?
She takes his hand and leads him quickly to a darker place across the street.
Girl Now give me a kiss.
She kisses him. It’s magical, suspended for a moment. They stay in each other’s arms. It is dark in the street and deserted.
Girl The kiss is the best bit. I like the kiss best.
Cab Driver It’s still too far.
He looks at her. They start to walk towards the river. As they go down by the riverside, it is very beautiful, the reflection of the water thrown high against the wall.
Girl What do you think? Do you think you’ll always want to drive a cab?
Cab Driver Shall we just stick to what we’re doing?
She throws a glance at him.
Girl What I want ” what I really need is someone long-term. I need someone ambitious.
Cab Driver Long-term I’d make you jealous.
Girl Oh yeah?
Cab Driver Sure.
Girl Why?
Cab Driver I’m irresistible. Women can’t resist me.
Girl Watch out. It’s dark down here. One foot wrong and you’re in the river.
Cab Driver I’d love to be in the river.
She smiles. He tries to push her up against the wall.
Girl Let’s do it on the bench. There’s one over there.
Cab Driver Let’s do it here.
Girl Watch out, or we’ll both be in the water “
Cab Driver Great “
Girl We’ll both be in the water.
Music engulfs them. The lights go out. A projected slide reads: THREE MINUTES.
****Light returns. The GIRL is lying on the ground. The CAB DRIVER is kneeling beside her, his hands on his knees.
Girl It would have been better on the bench.
Cab Driver On the bench. Off the bench. Up the fucking wall. What’s the difference? Up you get.
Girl Hey, where you going?
Cab Driver Back to work.
Suddenly he reaches down with unexpected tenderness and pulls her up. He smiles.
Cab Driver I told you. I’ve done no business tonight.
He begins to leave.
Girl What’s your name?
Cab Driver Oh no, I’m not telling you my name.
Girl My name’s Irene.
Cab Driver Irene, well!
Girl What’s yours?
They both smile. He turns to go.
Girl Hey listen “
Cab Driver What?
Girl Come on.
Cab Driver What? What are you asking?
Girl Come on. I didn’t want any money. Really. I didn’t. But, please: give me some money.
He looks at her a moment.
Cab Driver It went on the sushi. I’m not an idiot. Irene.
He goes.
Girl I’ll be here tomorrow.


2. The Cab Driver and the Au Pair

At once the sound of Elvis Presley. A slow ballad is being amplified very loudly and resonantly inside a neon-lit dance hall. Suddenly a door opens. Warm colored light falls across a darkened space, and onto the CAB DRIVER and the AU PAIR as they come in on a wave of good humor into a darkened storeroom, next to a dance hall. She is young, with a foreign accent and wearing a dress which is subtly too small for her.
Cab Driver Show me. Go on. Show me again.
Au Pair You won’t get it.
Cab Driver I will get it. You wait. I will get it.
Move by move, she demonstrates an intricate jive maneuver. She does it beautifully. He copies, learning.
Au Pair I do that.
Cab Driver Uh-huh.
Au Pair I do that. Then I do that.
He gets it. They laugh together at the neatness of it.
Cab Driver It’s great.
Au Pair By the way, what are we doing in here?
Cab Driver Escaping the dance.
He laughs and goes to the door.
Au Pair Do you know my name? Can you even my name remember?
Cab Driver Can I your name what? Tell me, then. If it’s so important.
Au Pair Marie. And you?
Cab Driver Fred.
Au Pair I can’t call you Fred.
Cab Driver Why not?
He closes the door. Pitch dark. She is wary.
Au Pair It’s so dark. My God, look how dark it is.
Cab Driver Girls say they’re scared, but what are they scared of?
Au Pair The dark. They’re scared of the dark.
He lights a match and makes a big arc with it.
Cab Driver This way, my dear.
She smiles, slightly charmed. He lights a cigarette with the match, then pulls at a string above his head. A bare light bulb comes on. We are in a dusty storeroom. Cardboard boxes, not much else.
Cab Driver Why not tonight? Just tell me, why not?
Au Pair Because.
Cab Driver Girls all say “because”. I don’t know what “because” means.
Au Pair It means because.
Cab Driver Because it’s Tuesday? Because we’ve only just met?
Au Pair Just because.
Cab Driver Because you don’t fancy me? It’s hardly likely, is it?
Au Pair Why not?
Cab Driver Well, just look at me.
Au Pair It’s so dark I can’t see you.
Cab Driver So it can’t be that, then, can it?
She looks away, not responding.
Cab Driver What’s the problem? I promise you, I won’t tell anyone.
Au Pair Oh that’s great. That’s a real come-on “
Cab Driver What’s wrong with that?
Au Pair That makes me feel really sexy. What a great line! “I won’t tell anyone”!
Cab Driver Well, no one’ll know.
She throws a sideways glance at him.
Cab Driver So do you want to go back?
Au Pair Not yet.
It’s a concession. He cheers up.
Cab Driver Girls all say no.
Au Pair Girls do?
Cab Driver I mean I’m not saying “
Au Pair All girls say that?
Cab Driver I’m not saying ” I’m not saying you’re just any old girl. But the way I can tell you’re a girl is because you say no.
Au Pair What do you think the reason is?
Cab Driver I don’t know.
Au Pair Why do you think I say no?
Cab Driver Tell.
She looks at him a moment.
Au Pair Because of the risk. That’s why. Why should I risk? That’s the reason. It’s not safe nowadays. I’ll only risk if “
Cab Driver If what?
Au Pair If it means something. If I’m to risk, it has to mean something.
He takes her in his arms and they kiss. But she pulls away.
Au Pair So?
The CAB DRIVER doesn’t reply for a moment or two.
Cab Driver It means something. I promise.
Au Pair Does it? Does it really mean something?
They go down together on a bed of cardboard boxes, which crush beneath them. He pulls again at the light string.
Au Pair I can’t see your face.
Cab Driver What’s my face got to do with it?
Au Pair Let me see your face.
She takes his face between her hands. Music engulfs them. Darkness. The projected slide reads: NINE MINUTES.
****
Near-dark. A streak of ambient light hits only the CAB DRIVER. The two of them are still where they were.
Cab Driver Well there we are.
He seems content.
Cab Driver We can’t lie on boxes all night.
He lights a match for a cigarette, which they share. We can’t see her face. The cigarette glows in the dark.
Cab Driver It’s worth doing, don’t you think? For the cigarette. It’s worth doing for the cigarette alone.
The AU PAIR stretches.
Au Pair Oh God.
Cab Driver Oh God, what?
Au Pair Tu es un animal.
Cab Driver That’s right.
She turns and looks at him.
Au Pair Fred “
Cab Driver What? What, Fred?
Au Pair Tell me ” tell me what you feel.
Cab Driver What I feel?
Au Pair Yes.
Cab Driver I’ve just shown you what I feel.
There is a pause.
Au Pair Frederick, tell me. Put into words.
Cab Driver You know what I feel.
Au Pair Then kiss me.
He stops and kisses her. The sound of Elvis grows again in the distance. It’s romantic. Then he breaks.
Cab Driver I mean, I don’t know. Feel’s a big word.
He gets up and pulls at the light string. She is looking at him from the floor. He pulls her up to her feet. She stands, adjusting her clothing.
Cab Driver What are we going to do? Are we going back to the dance?
Au Pair If you like.
Cab Driver I don’t know. I’d like to go back, but I’m sort of confused. To be honest, you’ve sort of confused me.
Au Pair Have I? How did I do that?
Cab Driver I don’t know. If I knew, then I wouldn’t be confused. I knew where I was, now I don’t. I don’t like that. I don’t like the feeling.
Au Pair No?
He takes a step away.
Au Pair Well, I have to go.
Cab Driver What?
Au Pair Yes. I have to get back. I’m treated like a servant. By the whole family. I have the cats to feed, the dogs, the humans. I’m a slave.
The CAB DRIVER frowns, lost.
Cab Driver How are you going to get home?
Au Pair I’ll walk.
Cab Driver You can’t walk. It’s dangerous. At this time of night. Don’t you want a lift?
She doesn’t answer. He raises his voice.
Cab Driver I don’t get it. What am I meant to say? What do you want me to say? I’m offering you a fucking lift.
She smiles and makes to go. He follows her, better humored.
Cab Driver And what does that mean? What does the smile mean?
She smiles at him again.
Cab Driver I’d like a dance. Can we have one more dance, please? I mean, if we don’t, isn’t it just a bit brutal?
She looks at him.
Au Pair Yes, Fred.
The sound of the music grows. The CAB DRIVER closes his eyes and starts moving his hips.
Cab Driver Don’t you just love that bit? Don’t you just love it?
He points towards the lone chair in the room.
Cab Driver Look, sit down. I’ll get us a beer. We can dance in here.
Au Pair I don’t have long.
Cab Driver I won’t be long.
He opens the door. The crowded room glows with color and warmth.
Cab Driver Don’t you go now.
Au Pair I won’t.
Cab Driver Well, don’t.
He turns uncertainly and goes into the dance hall. The AU PAIR sits alone.


3. The Au Pair and the Student

The kitchen of a modern house in a well-off area of town. It is modishly decorated with stainless steel hooks from which hangs a faultless batterie de cuisine. There are grey venetian blinds on the gleaming windows. At a big butcher’s block table in the center of the room The AU PAIR is sitting in a blue blouse and slacks and stunning blue slippers writing a letter. It is plainly very hot. After a few moments The STUDENT appears at the kitchen door. He has a book in his hand. He is in fashionable jeans and a T-shirt. He is extremely nervous.
Student What are you doing?
Au Pair Writing a letter.
Student I see. Who to?
Au Pair A man I met at a dance.
The STUDENT does not move.
Student It’s so hot. It’s so unbelievably hot. It’s never this hot at this time of year. There’s nobody left in town. Am I the only person still working? They didn’t take you to the country?
Au Pair No.
She has stopped writing but has not moved from the table.
Student What’s coolest? Vodka? Do we have vodka?
Au Pair We ran out. Your father drank the lot.
Student It’s him insisted I read law. It’s a family tradition.
Au Pair The drinking?
Student The law.
He does not acknowledge the joke.
Student It’s all right, I’ll just have some water.
Au Pair There’s the tap.
Student Can you get me a glass?
It is clear he expects her to do it for him. She gets up, gets a glass from the cupboard, then goes to the tap, and turns it on. They are both running with sweat.
Student Let the water run, so it’s really cool.
The water overflows from the glass into the sink. She keeps it running.
Student Who called?
Au Pair I’m sorry?
Student I heard the bell ring.
Au Pair Did you? When?
Student Earlier.
Au Pair When?
Student This morning. I’ve been up there so long I lose all track of time. I was expecting a friend.
Au Pair No friend. Here.
She has taken the glass across to him and puts it in his hand. Their hands touch.
Student Thank you. I’ll take it upstairs.
He goes out. She goes to the mirror and adjusts her clothing, improving the line of her breasts against the shirt. She
pours herself a glass of water. Before she can turn, the phone rings. She answers it.
Au Pair Yes? You want another one?
There is a slight pause.
Au Pair No. You come down.
She drinks her own glass of water. Then gets a third glass from the cupboard and pours a fresh glass. As she finishes, he appears at the door, without the book.
Student Thank you. So, excellent. You’re enjoying it here? You get on with my father?
Au Pair Very well.
Student My mother likes you. You relate to my mother. Which is always important. I’ve found.
Au Pair Here.
Student She’s an interesting woman, don’t you think?
Au Pair Who?
Student My mother.
She hands him the fresh glass, and their hands touch once more.
Student Thank you.
He takes it, and she moves away.
Student Do we do things differently here?
She doesn’t answer.
Student Come here, Marie.
Au Pair Sir.
Student Not sir. Nobody’s called sir anymore. God, I hate that idea. Those days are gone.
Au Pair Sir?
She has moved closer to him.
Student Please. I just wanted ” I was looking at the shirt. Considering you ” I know you have no money. Or we pay you so little, rather. And you have such nice things. Can I see it? Please?
He takes the lining between finger and thumb.
Au Pair What’s wrong with it?
Student Nothing. It’s the most beautiful blue.
Au Pair Sir?
Student I mean it. I’m telling the truth.
He puts his arm around her waist and draws her to him. She leans back as he unbuttons her blouse a little and kisses her chest.
Student Your skin is beautiful. It’s white.
Au Pair Now that’s just flattery.
Student Nothing wrong with flattery, is there?
Au Pair No. Flattery is no harm.
She sighs under his kisses.
Student What a beautiful sound “
Au Pair Sir “
He has suddenly dropped to her feet, still nervous.
Student And what beautiful shoes. Blue as well. What do you call them? Indigo?
Au Pair Cobalt.
Student Are they ” I mean, what I’m asking, do you get them from the same shop?
He wraps himself around her knees.
Au Pair Sir, if the doorbell rings.
Student The bell won’t ring.
Au Pair At least close the shutters.
He goes across and pulls the blinds. The hot afternoon light slats through from outside, their faces in darkness. He looks at her from across the room.
Student Why are you shy?
Au Pair You think I’m shy?
Student Anyone who looks like you has no reason to be embarrassed. If I looked like you, I wouldn’t be shy. If I smelt like you.
There is a pause. Neither of them move.
Student The other evening, the bathroom door wasn’t closed. You’d fallen asleep in the bath.
They look at each other, not moving.
Au Pair I’m ashamed.
Student I’ve seen you already. I’m halfway there, I’m already halfway there “
He moves quickly across and pushes her decisively onto the butcher’s block. Then he climbs on top of her. He starts to pull her skirt up, clambering over her.
Au Pair What if the bell rings, what if your friend comes “
Student My friend won’t come “
Au Pair What if he does?
Student Let him ring. Don’t go to the door. Just leave him. Don’t go to the door.
Au Pair What if he comes? What if your friend comes?
Student He won’t come “
Music engulfs them. Darkness. The projected slide reads: FORTY-FIVE SECONDS.
****
The music stops. The doorbell rings insistently.
Student Oh Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!
Au Pair What?
Student How long has it been ringing?
Au Pair It’s only just started.
Student How do you know?
Au Pair I was listening.
It rings again.
Student Can you go?
Au Pair What?
Student Go and look through the letterbox. It may just be a beggar.
Au Pair You’re joking.
Student I’m telling you: go and take a look.
The AU PAIR pulls down her skirt and goes out. The STUDENT pulls up his trousers and opens the blinds. The light is liquid now, yellow. The AU PAIR returns.
Au Pair Whoever it was, they’ve gone.
Student Are you sure?
Au Pair Of course I’m sure.
Student Do you think it was my friend?
He seems restless. The AU PAIR doesn’t notice and moves towards him again.
Au Pair Well, we’ll just never know.
He looks down.
Student I’m going to get a coffee.
Au Pair What?
Student I think I’d better go. I think I’d better be going. I’m going to the cafe.
The AU PAIR just looks at him.
Student I mean it. If my friend calls “
Au Pair He won’t call “
Student If my friend does call “
Au Pair He won’t.
There is a pause. The STUDENT is quite angry.
Student If he does. I am saying, Marie, if he does ” if he does, please tell him where I am. Which will be in the cafe.
He pauses a moment.
Student I mean, if you could do your job.
Au Pair Sir.
They stare at each other.