The theatre which employs my exceptional talents also employs actors doing acting, dumpy wailing strumpets whose papa’s may or may not be someone important in Mushroom records, and converts to a cinema during black weeks, so that I have seen the best and worst of humanity on stage and off. One fine example of theatre-in-the-round occurred yesterday, when a very fine young gent and his awful, boy-thin, bobble-headed, orange-coloured girl chum deposited themselves in Stalls, row AA. We were showing a Greta Garbo double, Grand Hotel (1932) and Ninotschka (1939), while the girl friend practised a particularly charming trick she had, in her boyfriend’s trouser pocket, involving a hooked forefinger and double-jointed thumb. Grand Hotel is the one starring Garbo as a ballerina and Joan Crawford as a loose stenographer and John Barrymore as a gentleman thief and Garbo saying, “I vant to be alo-o-one…” Meanwhile the deco interior of the Grand Hotel is supposed to represent a kind of vortex of madness, tho I cannot see it myself, as half of my life is deco, all spatial interferences and mirrored walls and see-through chairs and horizontal window panes that look like mail slots and porcelain deers and greyhounds entwined and the “Spirit of Freedom” flying woman on the bonnet of my yellow Rolls Royce, but I digress. Ninotschka is about a communist party leader who comes to Paris and falls in love with a man who represents everything she is supposed to hate, which is true of most relationships I think. Anyway it was definitely true in the case of these two, who must have a fine time together, pushing each other out of bed on their bad days and smacking each other over the head on their good days.
From an opportune wallstanding position in the cosy darkness I could hear them talking. It turns out the girl was French. Half of what she said was swearwords and the only English words she knew were swearwords. There was so much dust in the air it smelled like chalk. So ‘Caitlin’ got sentimental in the darkness and the silver light, which reminded her of… Then she began to wax lyrical on the existence of her elderly mother. The more she went on the more the mother sounded like a bit she’d once seen in a film, possibly set in Russia. Anyway it had definitely occurred to her that having a mother was a good thing, as though it made her unique. So she would impress this point upon him.
She was sunk very low in her seat leaning with her cheek against the boy’s arm. There was a distinct hum every time she exhaled through her nose. ‘Mama’ was a lace-maker, half blind and entirely arthritic, a paragon of Catholic virtue, and seemed to be much older than it is usual for mothers of girls Caitlin’s age to be. The object of all of this arthritic lace-making was her daughter’s tuition at a posh school in Paris – and an odd expression, “The good in life…” Caitlin couldn’t define it. When the boyfriend expressed such scepticism as was only natural as to the existence of such a saint in the modern world, mama’s suffering increased threefold. Caitlin kept up the tremulous note in her voice. “Dear mama… what would she think… what if she knew…” as though her lifetime of hard work had been erased by his scepticism.
“So your mother bought you that dress, Caitlin?” (Alex Perry-esque; slut taste, new money.)
“Oui. Good mama!”
“Your mother bought you that bag, Caitlin?” (interlocked C’s – Chanel… or trying to be.)
“Oui. Dear mama! ”
“You have been receiving the tuition?”
“Oui. –Yeah, no…” (without explanation): “Poor mama.”
“What’s happened to the money? You’ve lost your mother’s money, Caitlin?!”
“[A curse]! —It’s in the bank!”
“A bank,” she replied craftily, as though he had intended to steal it.
“Enfant, you’re clearly upset. We should get some air.”
Then they went into the foyer. That is only marginally less stuffy than the theatre and filled with 1960s monster movie posters and some pretty 50-foot ladies. He bought her popcorn, chocolates, but refused to buy her a postcard. She said nothing. But then in the theatre again they took their seats and she made a sudden sound like “Gi-aack!” It was half of a shriek like when a bird is pipped by a schoolboy with a popgun. It filled the whole theatre. All of a sudden the old mother came into the picture like a banshee, “My mama… my dear mama… my poor mama… my dear old poor mama…” interspersed with cursing. She had the quickest and most virulent undertone and sort of snapped like a dog around the end of her words, while her top notes would crack in the middle of “Gi-aack!”
“And where is your mother now, enfant?”
“In Yonville, my lad!”
“Why don’t you go back to Yonville, enfant? To see your mother?”
At this point my duty was to intervene and silence them with a look of poisonous death. Up on screen Garbo was being inscrutable Garbo, I have heard she had size twelve feet and became a hermit in later life, and got seriously cut at Cecil Beaton when he wrote about their relationship in his stinking memoirs, “The Unexpurgated Beaton” – yes, fucking Cecil Beaton, who I hate, will haunt us throughout our lovely life, it seems… Anyway I didn’t hear from them again as she put her hand back in his trousers as soon as the feature got romantic, the dear little slut. I have never understood these lovely gents who will put up with a whiney girlfriend just because they have their tits out everyday, even Sundays. The least I can say for her is she had nice posture and a wonderfully fertile glow.