At the beginning of the season, it's starting to snow, and Anna is already out of migraine pills.
"No, you see" – Geoffrey is pacing up and down the stage like one demented - "Darren, his problem. His problem is that he is a fucking lunatic. That is Darren's problem."
Anna says, "Geoffrey, so are you, a lot of the time, and that's never a problem." Confidence, and a deep and lasting love for him that is none the less deep and lasting for all it is crazy, exasperated and platonic, have made it very easy for her to say what she really thinks since they've been in Montreal.
"No, Anna." Geoffrey stops pacing and looks at her, spreads his hands, clasps them. Very like his Prospero. "Darren is especially fucking lunatic when it comes to this play. Especially."
"I like The Taming of the Shrew," Anna says, mildly. "It's even a draw. Schools teach it, so they bring large groups to see it. We could make money on it. And you can't direct it, you have the Dream to do, and Darren has offered, and he rarely remembers to cash his paycheques, so."
"Anna." Geoffrey sits down on the edge of the stage and looks vulnerable. "I am all for us making money and being able to eat. I am even all for school groups, God help us all. But I hate that man. I hate him. You know that, right? I hate Darren Nichols."
"I know that," Anna says. "I know you hate Darren Nichols. You've always hated him. Why more now, especially?"
"The Shrew. The fucking one-man Shrew. One-man, Anna."
"How can you…" Anna begins, and Geoffrey takes a breath.
"I was twenty-four years old. I was young, I wanted to act, Darren wanted to direct, oh, good God, I should've gone to university in British Columbia. In England. Anywhere else. Anyway, a while after our thesis production, he got it into his head that he wanted to do something different."
He's still sitting on the edge of the stage, sounding less rancorous, more despairing. Storyteller-mode, Anna thinks, and sits herself down to listen, happy.
"And Oliver had seen Darren direct some hideous monkey-masked production out at UNB and called him, actually called him on his fucking telephone to congratulate him on his" – Geoffrey falters – "dramaturgical daring. His bold strokes of genius. And that… " – a pause for a dramatic wave of the arms – "was the beginning of the end. I say again: I was twenty-four years old."
Anna remembers Geoffrey at twenty-four years old. She came to the theatre every week, sat in the cheap seats: she was sixteen. She stays quiet and listens.
"And when Oliver called, Darren said he would come to New Burbage. And then he said, he actually said, the only actor he wanted to play the part – well, the entire cast – was-"
"-me." Geoffrey looks tired, and soft around the edges, and he ought to, Ellen thinks delicately to herself. They've been lying quiet a while now, but there is still the faint sheen of sweat standing out on his shoulders in the faint glow of light from the window, and the slightest hint of stickiness in the sheets between them. "Me."
"You, as Katherina?" Ellen says, lazily. "How appropriate."
"Appropriate?" He's petulant. "In what way is it appropriate?"
"Oh, for God's sake, Geoffrey. You'd have loved that role. And you would certainly never have got to play her otherwise."
"Outside, I don't know, the Globe," Geoffrey agrees. "I loved Kate. I had that, I will admit. But the rest of it was the most unmitigated shit."
"It can't have been that bad," Ellen says, not meaning it; she likes to provoke him, sometimes, to make him snap and fizzle in a way that makes light sparkle around both of them.
He rises to it, but only a little; the covers come away from him in great swathes as he rolls on to his back and says, "Literally, Ellen. He brought exactly one member of his previous company with him to New Burbage. Hermione. The mule."
Ellen can't help it; she stifles the laugh as best as she can, and feels glad for the softness of his body next to hers.
"And" – Geoffrey is getting righteously indignant – "it was standing right there in the middle of the stage, literally filling the theatre with shit while I pranced about all feathers and smarm, and it was – it was not funny, Ellen! It was like the worst kind of-"
"-psuedo-provocative, high-coloured faux-artistic buggery."
"And we'd know all about that, of course," Frank says, half to Geoffrey and half to Cyril, who is making his steady old-man way down the rows of seats to the stage.
"Pseudo-provocative…" Geoffrey begins.
"No, just the buggery." Frank sighs; Geoffrey is very obviously in one of his moods. It's not that this is even a proper rehearsal; the young company are only arriving in dribs and drabs, and to his credit Geoffrey isn't shrieking about it. The snow is building up in the theatre foyer, tracked in on hundreds of boots.
"The buggery," Geoffrey repeats, as though he's never heard the word. "No, Frank, listen. The worst part. Do you know what the worst part was?"
"What was that, duck?" Frank gives Cyril a look; he doesn't catch it, now fully engrossed in the task of getting up the stairs. It's a tragic thing, but they aren't as sprightly as they used to be.
"It wasn't that bad." Geoffrey sits down on the front row and folds his arms. "It wasn't that bad. Can you imagine? Me, in petticoats and fire and a peacock-tail cape, under a veritable rainbow of gels. Gold-piped trousers and satin on a frame above my head. And it wasn't that bad."
Frank remembers it, vaguely; he was in the other show at the time, Hamlet or Richard III or the Scottish play or something, gravediggers and soldiers and clowns all blur into one these days, and Cyril was off in the States doing commercial auditions for a season, and there certainly had been a lot of feathers underfoot in the green room.
Geoffrey says, suddenly, "Myself am moved to woo thee for my wife!"
And Frank remembers. Petrucio – and then Kate, Geoffrey leaping across the stage, all of her sharp, beautiful wit across his face, shouting back, "Moved? In good time let him that moved you thither remove thee hence! I knew at the first you were a moveable."
And it was the most ridiculous production ever seen, Oliver had said, and the dratted feathers got in the most inconvenient places, but –
"It was… not that bad," Frank allows. And then, awkwardly, "Geoffrey, before you... I mean, before you…"
"Went crazy and had to be committed," Geoffrey provides obligingly.
"You were a good actor." Frank breathes out.
"Thank you, Frank." He's immediately up and moving, a sudden burst of nervous energy fizzing through him. "Where the hell are all my actors? Cyril, where were you? Inopportune blowjobs again?"
"I'm an old man, Geoffrey! I don't move as fast as I used to!" Cyril says, mildly exasperated, and Frank gets up and follows them both, noticing as he walks the beginnings of silver threads in Geoffrey's hair.
"Lois!" he yells at a passing apprentice. "Mustardseed, not Marlene Dietrich! No lipstick! But it's not as though he didn't make me wear it…"
"I did not," Darren says, hands in his pockets. "You looked that bastardly pink naturally, damn you."
Geoffrey says nothing.
Darren says, "Oliver came by, that day I had you in for costume fittings. Do you remember?"
"'The theatre is an empty box,'" Geoffrey says. "'And it is our task to fill it with fury, and ecstasy. And with revolution.' My God, he was a pretentious fucker."
"I wish I'd asked him what he meant by that."
"Oh, by all means come into my office and ask him," Geoffrey says. "He's a little desiccated, but I'm sure he'll listen to you just as much as he would have done when he was alive."
"You're such a callous romantic, Geoffrey," Darren says, cuttingly. "Dragging your mentor's dried-up skull halfway across the country, as though all flesh were not dust."
"It wasn't me, it was Anna," Geoffrey says, easily. "Turns out she got used to having his staring empty eye sockets around the place. Are you all right, Darren? You're sounding peculiarly human."
Darren takes a breath and says through pursed lips, " You were Oliver's boy, you scrolled out your litany of Romeos and Stanley Kowalskis and Willie Lomans. But I discovered you on that stage with the feathers and the satin, Geoffrey. Not that mouldering old poofter. Me."
"Because you were so very heterosexual," Geoffrey says, with unusual venom. "Because you did not call me and cast me and you did not pick me up and press me against the back of the stage with your mouth on-"
"Shut up," Darren says.
Geoffrey says nothing. They stand four feet apart, bowed by the invisible weight of the theatre, its expectations and echoes.
After a while, he sighs. "As if I were some gushing oil well, waiting to be discovered."
"My, my, how very Freudian," Darren snipes. "You were glorious. Of course you were. Oliver said you had the beginnings of greatness. He was fucking reverential. Of course that was before they electroshocked it out of you."
Geoffrey shrugs. "Yeah, well."
"I'm directing the play again," Darren tells him. "Deal with that, please."
"Darren," Geoffrey says, "if you still feel anything for me at all, anything, including withering contempt, I ask you, please, please do not do this production of the Shrew with anything less than a full cast. I ask you not as your former friend or your former lover or as someone who hates you very profoundly, but as the artistic director of this theatre and thus the person who indirectly pays your salary. I trust you understand me."
Darren says, snippily, "I discarded such pseudo-nihilism in my tenderest years, thank you."
"Thank the good Lord for that. Arrange a rehearsal schedule with Anna, please." He goes to retrieve his hat and scarf from the back of the stage and swings lightly into the rows of the seats. "I wonder, Darren. Which of us is Petrucio, and which Kate?"
Darren laughs, derisively. "Oh, Geoffrey, Geoffrey, your childlike lack of insight is almost endearing. Do you think I, and least of all you, could be tamed by this?"
He sweeps a hand across at the stage, finishes the climb to the exit and disappears, fragrantly, into the night. Before he goes home to Ellen, Geoffrey turns a cartwheel on the stage, and fills the theatre's empty space with fury, ecstasy and one revolution.