Simon Brett

So Much Blood


My brain is dull my sight is foul,

I cannot write a verse, or read Then, Pallas, take away thine Owl,

And let us have a Lark instead.


‘ Maurice Skellern Artistes,’ said the voice that answered the telephone.


‘Who wants him?’

‘Maurice, for God’s sake. I know it’s you. Why you always have to go through this rigmarole of pretending you’ve got a staff of thousands, I don’t know. It’s me-Charles.’

‘Ah, hello. Pity about the telly series.’

‘Yes, it would have been nice.’

‘And good money, Charles.’

‘Yes. Still, in theory it’s only been postponed. Till this P.A. s’ strike is over.’

‘When will that be, though?’

‘Don’t know.’

‘What is a P.A. anyway? I can never understand all that B.B.C. hierarchy. Do you know what a P.A. is?’

‘Vaguely.’ Charles Paris had a feeling that a P.A. was either a Production Assistant or a Producer’s Assistant, but his knowledge of the breed was limited to an erotic night in Fulham with a girl called Angela after recording an episode of Dr Who. And they had not discussed the anomalies of the P.A. s’ conditions of service that led to the strike which in August 1974 was crippling B.B.C. Television’s Drama and Light Entertainment Departments. ‘Anything else on the horizon, Maurice?’

‘Had an enquiry from the Haymarket, Leicester. Might want you to direct a production of…’ he paused, ‘… the Head Gabbler?’

‘Hedda Gabler?’

‘That’s it.’

‘Could be fun. When?’

‘Not till the spring.’

‘Great.’ Heavy sarcasm.

‘Might be a small part in a film. Playing a German football manager.’

‘Oh yes?’

‘But that’s very vague.’

‘Terrific. Listen, Maurice, I’ve got something.’

‘Getting your own work, eh?’

‘Somebody’s got to.’

‘Ooh, that hurt, Charles. I try, you know, I try.’

‘Yes. My heart bleeds, an agent’s lot is not a happy one, mournful violin plays Hearts and Flowers. No, it’s for So Much Comic, So Much Blood.’


‘You know, my one-man show on Thomas Hood. Thing I did for the York Festival and the British Council recitals.’

‘Oh yes.’ The tone of Maurice’s voice recalled the tiny fees of which he had got ten per cent.

‘A friend of mine, guy I knew in Oxford who now lectures in the Drama Department at Derby University, has offered me a week at the Edinburgh Festival. Some show’s fallen through, one the students were doing, and they’re desperate for something cheap to fill the lunch time slot. Just for a week.’

‘Charles, how many times do I have to tell you, you mustn’t ever take something cheap? It’s not official Festival, is it?’

‘No, on the Fringe. I get fifty per cent of box office.’

‘Fifty per cent of box office on a lunch time show on the Fringe of the Edinburgh Festival won’t buy you a pair of socks. There’s no point in doing it, Charles. You’re better off down here. A voice-over for a commercial might come up, or a radio. Edinburgh’ll cost you, anyway. Fares, accommodation.’

‘I get accommodation.’

‘But, Charles, you’ve got to ask yourself, is it the right thing for you to be doing, artistically?’ Maurice made this moving appeal every time Charles suggested something unprofitable.

‘I don’t know. It’s a long time since I’ve been to Edinburgh.’

‘Charles, take my advice. Don’t do it.’

As he emerged from Waverley Station, Charles Paris sniffed the caramel hint of breweries in the air and felt the elation which Edinburgh always inspired in him. It is, he thought, a theatrical city. The great giant’s castle looms stark against the cyclorama, and from it the roofs of the Royal Mile tumble down a long diagonal. There are so many levels, like a brilliant designer’s stage set. Plenty of opportunities for the inventive director. The valley of Princes Street, with a railway instead of a river and the Victorian kitsch of the Scott Memorial instead of an imposing centrepiece, is ideal for ceremonial entrances. From there, according to the play, the director can turn to the New Town or the Old. The New Town is designed for comedy of manners. Sedate, right-angled, formal, George Street and Queen Street, regularly intersected and supported by the tasteful bookends of Charlotte and Saint Andrew Squares, stand as Augustan witnesses to the Age of Reason.

The director should use the Old Town for earthier drama, scenes of low life. It is a tangle of interweaving streets, wynds and steps, ideal settings for murder and mystery, with a thousand dark corners to hide stage thugs. This is the city of Burke and Hare, of crime and passion.

The Old Town made Charles think of Melissa, an actress who had been in a show with him at the Lyceum fifteen years before. After a disastrous three months he had returned to London and his wife Frances, but Melissa had made Edinburgh seem sexy, like a prim nanny shedding her grey uniform behind the bushes in the park.

On Sunday 11th August 1974 the city still felt sexy. And this time Charles Paris was free. He had left Frances in 1962.

Everything smelt fresh after recent rain. Charles felt vigorous, younger than his forty-seven years. He decided to walk. Frances would have caught a bus; she had an uncanny ability for comprehending any bus system within seconds of arrival in a town. Charles would walk. He set off, swinging his holdall like a schoolboy. The only shadow on his sunny mood was the fact that Scottish pubs are closed on Sundays.

He couldn’t miss the house in Coates Gardens. Among the self-effacing homes and hotels of the Edinbourgeois there was one whose pillars and front door were plastered with posters.


Derby University Dramatic Society presents



A Midsummer Night’s Dream-Shakespeare’s Immortal Comedy Revisualised by Stella Galpin-Lord.

Mary, Queen of Sots-a Mixed-Media Satire of Disintegration by Sam Wasserman.

Isadora’s Lovers-Lesley Petter’s Examination of a Myth in Dance and Song.

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