Talking about the evolution of The Parliamentarians as a I have been, I thought it might be interesting to look at the evolution of a monologue that appears in the play.
Vera, the Prime Minister’s wife, is a very strong personality. With the second iteration of the play, where I first separated the acts by three months (covered in this post), Vera was introduced as a character. This is the first run at the monologue she has in the second act. At this point in the play, after watching Vera bring to bear her malice and insults on Ruben, Lola can’t take it anymore and forcefully questions Vera. “How dare you speak to your husband this way”, Lola says. Â And Vera replies.
“You want to know the truth. You want to know why I so enjoy emasculating this man? If you had spent any time married to him, you might have some idea. But since you never spent any more than an hour or two, then let me give you an idea. You have plans with your husband, but he’s late. That’s fine, he’s in politics and sometimes they require extra time. But of course, if he’s going to be late, he’ll call won’t he? Certainly he will. And so you wait. And you wait. But he doesn’t call. And so you call him. And you call him. And you call him. And this goes on. Night after night, month after month. Until you grow resigned to the fact that he’s avoiding you. That he wants you around only when his job requires it. That you are a prop for his latest photo opportunity. Its true that the spark went out of your marriage years ago, but you would have thought that as he ascended to the top of his party and went on to become Prime Minister that he might at some point remember that at one time he loved you and that he might chose to share his success with you. But no, he doesn’t. Instead he continues to avoid you. And when he does come home, you think that you might be able to try and reach out, but as soon as he walks in the door, and he looks past you, never at you, then all thoughts of reconciliation fly out the window, and all you want to do is hurt him. And so you yell, and throw dishes, and drive him further away.
“But at least shame is private. Your husband is in politics and politics is a demanding mistress. So that is what you tell your friends. You tell them that your husband is busy, and that’s why he can’t be with you tonight. Or the time before that. Or the time before that.
“And then, one day you wake and find his infidelity is front page news. And everyone knows the truth. You’re humiliated. And everyone knows it.”
After hearing the speech the first time it was read, I knew immediately that this was wrong for the character. In this speech, Vera seems to be making herself the victim in her relationship with her husband, and if there is anything that Vera is not, it is a victim. This is a moment of pity for a character that does not ask for it, or want it. And it softens her. The actors at that first informal read through all agreed. Vera did not need our pity. She needed Lola to understand.
And so I set about working on the monologue again, to try and what Vera really wanted to say.