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INT. KITCHEN/DINING ROOM
The kitchen of Martin and Sarah. Martin is sat at the
kitchen table proofreading a script. Sarah comes in from
(friendly, but still
with his head in his
How was work?
I said, "shit".
(still not listening)
In fact I think I will just go in
the bedroom now and slit my
(walks over to his
Shall I do that then?
(looking at her)
What I just said?
Sorry, I wasn't really listening.
I know, you bastard. Pay me some
attention when I come in, will
It takes me some time to come
down, from the writing. My head's
You should try working in my
office: that would bring your
head down quick enough.
What's happened now?
That cow Pauline has been made
Regional Manager, which means
that I now work for her - isn't
Isn't she the one you called an
"inbred dysfunctional Uber
The very same: paranoid Pauline
(does an impression)
"The thing I really like about
this company is the family
atmosphere". Yeah we know what
they got up to in your family.
And - get this - her first
official assignment was to
deliver the company morale
boosting pep talk:
"Despite all your fantastic
efforts, the first quarter Sales
figures are well below target and
consequently we all have to make
a super-human effort." We know
what she means by that.
Don't tell me - they want you all
to work longer hours for less
How did you know?
Just tell them you won't do it.
Threaten to leave.
They'd let me. They know they can
replace me with someone more
Well, just walk out then.
How can I "just walk out"? Where
would I go? You know what the job
market is like - there's nothing
out there at all.
Well, I'll go back to work then.
You don't have to put up with
that kind of crap.
No. You gave up work so that you
could write. I don't want you to
I'll just have to put up with it
until you're famous.
Let's hope they have a good
pension scheme then.
(leaning over his
shoulder and looking at
Ah... Isn't it going well?
No, it's going great. I finished
the last two scenes before lunch.
(obviously reading over
"So what I thought was fate was
When first I bent to your
But chance showed your Achilles
When your devotion made you
(taking the piss)
Ooh, very hifalutin'.
(covering the page)
Hey, don't spoil the ending. I
want you to read it through with
me, to make sure it all hangs
Okay, but first I need something
(walking to the cooker)
Did you make anything?
Well, did you buy anything?
No. I had no money.
Martin - I left you twenty quid.
I gave it to Silvia's son.
Silvia's son the drug addict?
He came round for the money for
the CD player.
That was Sylvia's money - she'll
never get it now. Are you mad?
He looked desperate.
I'm desperate. I need to eat.
There's some bread.
I can't live on toast.
I'll take you out for a meal.
Max is coming later to collect
the script. He'll give me a
cheque and I can put it in the
Max? Coming here? Martin, the
place is a tip - I don't want him
coming in here.
Why? Are you ashamed?
No, of course I'm not ashamed,
but you said he was really rich
and owned a chateau in France.
He does, but his parents were
poor so he won't be judgmental.
Why couldn't you have met him
I would have but he's leaving the
country tonight and wanted to
pick up the script on his way to
the airport. It's not a problem.
It'll be good for you to meet
him. He's a really nice guy.
What does he do?
He's a financier, but he's also a
big sponsor of the arts with lots
of contacts, so if he likes the
script, I could get a lot more
work from it.
He's a money-grubber.
So? Everyone has to make money.
I thought patrons died out in the
Rich people still buy art - why
shouldn't they buy plays?
Sarah ignores the question and picks up the script, reading
"The Middle Man". What's it
It's a weird twisted tale of love
and revenge set in seventeenth
century France. A helpless orphan
girl throws herself at the mercy
of a rich money-lender whose kind
exterior conceals sadistic
He sounds like my boss.
Once beneath his roof, she
discovers foul lusts and dark
It is my boss! Except Pauline is
not an orphan, although she did
throw herself at him.
(ignoring her, carrying
Once beneath his roof, she
discovers foul lusts and dark
secrets that lead her to believe
that this seeming kind, rich
miser was in fact the same man
that pursued her father for his
debts, causing his untimely death
and the ruin of his family. And
therein lies a neat symmetry, for
she plots to revenge herself on
him using the same sadistic means
with which he gets his pleasure,
for all such tales conceal a
sting but in this one there is
(pauses, pretends to
whip her arse)
Oh, art for arse-ache.
No, art for our sake.
What's he paying you?
Enough to take you out for many
meals and not to worry about the
rent for several months.
Isn't it a bit... grubby? I mean,
writing for a financier.
Didn't the good Dr Johnson say
that any man who writes for
reasons other than money is a
But did Max tell you what to
He suggested certain themes.
Oh, the French setting, the
peasant girl, the money-lender. I
was free to do what I wanted with
What's he going to do with it?
It's going to be enacted in an
authentic setting, in the Louis
Leopold Boilly room at his
chateau on the Loire.
Who's the audience?
Oh, some financiers he's
entertaining. Wants to butter
them up with something French and
So you write a play to do a deal.
It's not what I had in mind when
you said you wanted to earn your
living as a writer, but...
You have to start somewhere don't
you, and besides, he may offer us
his chateau on the Loire in which
to spend our holidays.
You wouldn't say no to that would
you, however it came your way?
God, I'd love a holiday. Dyou
think we could afford it now?
Maybe. Let's wait till he's paid
me and then see how much we have
left after we've paid all our
He gives Sarah a script and she looks through it while he
arranges the table and chairs to form a stage set.
Right, it's mostly a two-hander.
I'll read the part of Monsieur
Latouche, the money-lender, and
you read the part of Minou, the
orphaned servant girl. Bottom of
page three, Minou says, "Oh, sir,
do not push me away".
Do I have to do it in a French
accent? It will make me laugh.
Noooo! But try and put some
feeling into it - don't use your
normal Helpdesk voice.
[Martin's acting is over the top. He can get into the part
more because he knows the script. Sarah's performance
wavers between trying to follow the script, reading it
straight, and occasionally dramatising certain moments, as
seems suitable. The actors' dialogue is shown in italic and
when they break out of acting, it's shown in normal font.]
(as Minou, pleading)
Oh, sir, do not push me away, for
I have no-one left to turn to in
(as M. Latouche,
theatrical deep voice)
But, I do not need a maid. For
many years I have lived here by
myself, visited only by a widow
from the town who cooks my meals.
Every man needs a maid. I could
cook for you, I could clean for
you, I could keep you company
when the night is long and, in
the morning before the cock
crows, I could wake you with a
This maid seems somewhat
desperate. It's true that I lack
company. The streams of my
(he looks down at his
have known a drought. Maybe I
should quiz her to discover
whether her intentions are pure
or whether she has some ruffian
brothers in the town with designs
upon my wealth.
So, my maid...
Call me Minou, sir. My father
named me Minuette, because he
came from Poitou and loved to
So, Minou, why are you here,
begging from a stranger, instead
of at your father's house,
brightening his eye with your...
(Martin pinches her
Ouch! Get off! I've lost my place
My father is dead, sir.
Dead, eh? I've heard that dancing
agitates the blood. Maybe he was
killed by a quadrille.
How tragic. And you, the apple of
your father's eye, fallen to the
floor. How did he die?
He was murdered.
Murder by another name: he was
hounded by his creditors. They
dispossessed us of our home,
sequestered all our chattels, and
destroyed his reputation in the
town. It broke his heart to see
his loved ones cast adrift and he
drank himself to oblivion in
order to forget. He died, drunken
in a ditch, near a house of ill
repute, rolled over by a tinker's
Ah, what a touching tale. And the
moral is, stay indoors when you
But what about your mother, your
brothers and sisters?
At first, to feed us, my mother
sold the wax from candle drips
and knitted fishermen's socks...
Hang on, hang on - you can't have
"Knitted fishermen's socks".
Well, for a start, they wore
sandals and, secondly, knitted
socks would get wet and heavy. It
just doesn't seem realistic.
It's an entertainment. It doesn't
have to be right in every detail.
Well, why don't you just say she
"serviced their videos" then?
So's fishermen's socks. Why don't
you change it to "embroidered
(amending the script)
Okay. Go on then.
At first, to feed us, my mother
sold the wax from candle drips
and embroidered fishermen's
smocks, but when my father passed
away, she lost her reason and
died of a broken heart. My
brothers went to war as
mercenaries and my sisters as
camp followers. Only one returned
- tiny Pierre, missing a leg and
an eye, and coughing like a
Sarah looks at Martin sceptically, doubting that Dutchmen
It's because of the damp.
Now he is a beggar in the town
with only me to save him from
starvation. He spends his day
watching through a spy-glass.
Look, you can see it glinting -
he's watching us now.
So you two have been spying on
We saw your house upon the hill,
and when first I saw your face,
full of kindness, age, and
wisdom, I knew that you would
This maid has read me wrong, I
fear. A Dutchman's spy-glass has
magnified my goodness and raised
a flame from barely a spark.
It's true that I've been
I can sit with you and entertain
you with little tales.
...and cannot keep my house
I will walk before you and sweep
wherever you go.
I have trouble climbing the
My young body can bear your
...my muscles ache and my limbs
I can rub them down with oil and
I sleep fitfully, have
nightmares, fevers, and agues...
I can lay beside you and bathe
your brow, like a nocturnal
spirit watching you till dawn.
(reading the stage
"Minou falls onto her knees and
lowers her head. Then she gazes
up into the eyes of Latouche and
Sarah doesn't take her cue, so Martin motions to her and
"Then she gazes up into the eyes
of Latouche and says..."
Martin, isn't this a bit over the
No, it'll all make sense in a
minute - just read it.
Oh, monsieur, I will be your
maid, your cook, and even your
slave, if only you save me from
this wicked world.
Okay. Right here comes the crunch
where we find out what they're
really thinking, you see.
(reads from stage
"Minou grabs hold of Latouche's
legs and buries her head in his
groin. He stifles her sobs with a
reassuring pat of the hand, and
says, "You can trust me, like
your own father". Latouche moves
to front stage right. Minou to
front stage left. They each
address the audience."
(aside, as Latouche)
This maid would be my slave, from
her own lips I heard it. Her body
is untouched and her skin is
smooth but soon I will make her
obedient to my will and punish
her for every indiscretion. Like
an Abyssinian tiger, I will whip
her from morn through night, till
she is subdued and her body
This rich fool thinks I know not
it was he that took my father's
life but I will have my
vengeance, entice him into
marriage, and steal his gold. He
likes to torture men and women
for his pleasure, so I will play
the slave and enslave him at my
Martin stops and looks really pleased with himself.
Okay, that's the end of Act One.
It's a bit...
Well, it's different, I mean, it
sounds authentic, but the theme
is a bit... incorrect ... isn't
it. I mean all that stuff about
slavery and whipping. It's a bit
Well, yeah, that's one of the
themes, but the girl comes out on
top in the end. She gets her
So he does whip her then?
Yeah, but she finds out that she
She likes being whipped?
Yeah, but she uses that as a way
to entrap him.
So you see her getting whipped,
Well, that's up to the director,
I guess. How far he wants to go
Who's the director?
Well, Max, I suppose. It was his
idea, so he can take it where he
Oh, so this little S&M fantasy
was Max's idea was it? I didn't
think you would come up with it
by yourself. The last play you
wrote was about a butterfly
He had a cruel streak.
He didn't whip young girls.
Come on, she's hardly a girl. The
dialogue makes it clear, she was
sixteen when her father died.
That doesn't make it any better.
I don't think that whipping young
girls has anything to do with
art, do you?
Art should be about anything -
nothing should be taboo.
Surely not anything, Martin. Why
write a play about whipping?
Max chose it - that's what he
wanted, but I do something
totally different with it, you'll
see. Read on and ye shall
discover the truth.
Sarah starts turning the pages, reading forwards. Martin
finds the next scene he wants to read.
Okay, okay. I've got it. This is
where she starts to take control
of him. Act Two, scene one, page
14. Latouche says: "When you came
into my service..." Got it?
"When you came into my service,
you promised me..." Yup, okay.
Off you go.
Martin makes himself look stern.
When you came into my service,
you promised me you would be
obedient in everything. Do you
(NOT with a subservient
tone - almost
I fell on my knees and swore
devotion to you, and every day
since I have slaved to bring you
contentment and happiness.
Sarah - try and sound more
subservient - she's prostrating
herself before him.
Why is she?
That's the story. And that's how
it was in those days.
Big it up for the class warrior!
I know it's not in your nature,
but try and sound subservient,
Okay. Like this?
I fell on my knees and swore
devotion to you, and every day
since I have slaved to bring you
contentment and happiness.
Yes, I cannot doubt your
commitment but your execution
leaves much to be desired. How
many occasions have you fallen
short and I have been forced to
administer punishment, as agreed,
in order to bring your young and
volatile nature under control?
Too many now to mention, sir,
although I still bear the scars
of my devotion on my skin.
Yes, oh yes. Sometimes I think I
go to far.
Oh no, sir. I am sure my nature
is much too volatile and
rebellious and needs taming even
(reading the stage
"Latouche pauses, suddenly
realising that his young charge
enjoys the punishment he metes
Are you telling me that you enjoy
being beaten by me?
(reading the directions)
"Minou looks coyly at Latouche
and flutters her eyelids."
(losing her patience)
Oh, Martin, for fuck's sake - I
can't believe you wrote that
line: flutters her eyelids. This
guy is a monster, he beats her,
and keeps her locked up, and
you're saying she just flutters
her eyelids. What century are you
It's just the setup, Sarah. It's
not something that I necessarily
agree with. It's a common
dramatic trope - how else can you
represent evil without presenting
it to the audience?
But you're showing it as a good
thing. This poor deluded girl
claims to enjoy it!
Well, some people do, you know?
Maybe she's one of them. Anyway,
you seem to have forgotten that
she is plotting her revenge for
her father's death. She's going
to torture Latouche, so it all
Oh, he tortures her, she enjoys
it, then she tortures him, and he
enjoys it, which makes it all
okay. Well, I don't think it's
right to show that stuff on
Why am I wrong?
He doesn't enjoy it. That's the
whole point - he's a sadist and
coward. He can't stand pain so
when she gets him in his vault
amongst the gold and ties him up,
he's terrified, to death,
literally. She tortures him to
Oh, so it's a little snuff movie
Sarah is reading at random from the script.
Okay, okay, what does this mean?
(she reads, with heavy
Oh, sir, nobody has penetrated me
as far as you have done before.
What does that mean? It's sexual,
No. Not explicitly. What she
means is that no-one had
understood her desires as much as
he has - no-one as penetrated her
nature in the way he has. It's a
metaphor, if you know what that
I know what a fucking metaphor
is. Don't you give me a lecture
in rhetoric, you prick. I did
English A Level, you know.
Right let's see, let's see. What
(she reads stage
"Minou leans across the table and
lifts up her dress to reveal her
pale buttocks decorated with
fresh and healing scars."
I mean, come on, this is nothing
but up-market pornography. In
fact, I'm not even sure that it's
up-market. It doesn't take much
skill to write "she lifts up her
Sarah, you can't judge things in
isolation. You have to read the
complete script to see how
everything gets resolved. You
can't just pick isolated
incidents and expect to get the
whole moral meaning.
Oooh, it's a morality tale now,
is it? All of this grovelling
around in filth is a necessary
means to an elevated end. That's
I think you're being very small
minded about it. It's supposed to
be a piece of light
What sort of people are
entertained by sadism and murder?
Just about everybody if you look
at the films that come out. I
mean, what about that Japanese
film we saw about those
businessmen locked up in the
office block, tortured by teenage
girls on motor-cycles?
That was a cartoon. Anyway, I
fell asleep in it.
And the one about the female
wrestlers who kidnap TV
evangelists and keep them in a
"The Four Whores of the
Apocalypse"? That was a porn
movie that your brother-in-law
lent you, remember? The one I
threw in the bin.
Sarah ignores him.
"The Secretary"? "The Piano
Sarah still ignores him?
"The English Patient"? That was
It doesn't matter what you say: I
still think it's wrong. When I
said that I would support you
becoming a writer, I didn't think
you would be turning out S&M
fantasies so that corrupt
financiers can get their rocks
I thought you would be pleased
that I'm earning money at last.
But you can write much better
stuff than this. Meaningful
stuff. What about that film you
wrote about the immigrant who
worked in the scrapyard and made
sculpture out of scrap?
My agent said that no-one wanted
a Croatian film with Spanish sub
That play about the young boy and
his dog who walk across Sweden to
find the grave of Ingmar Bergman?
Big problem. I didn't realise
that Ingmar Bergman was still
Okay then. That existentialist
play you wrote. The one in which
the deaf-mute girl meets the
blind man and leads him across
the desert. That was brilliant -
he couldn't see her and she
couldn't hear him but they
managed to understand each other.
(Sarah does a little act
to accompany this)
And she pulled him by the hand,
going, "Hmmmmmm, hmmmmm, hmmmmm",
and he said, "Tell me where we're
going, tell me where we're
going?" And they walked round and
round and round on the stage, and
it got hotter and hotter and
Yes, but none of that stuff is
commercial. At least with this
one I've done my market research
and I'm actually getting paid for
it. That's a start isn't it? You
have to make your name writing
crap, that you might not want to
write, in order to be free to do
what you really want.
But I don't want you to write
crap. When people ask me what you
do, I don't want to have to say,
"Oh, not much, he just writes
crap to entertain people."
I know what you mean. I know what
you mean, but just let me sell
this one. Let's get the money in
and then we can go on holiday
somewhere nice and I can think
about my next project.
Okay, but will you promise me
Promise me that in future you
will only write stuff that means
something to you? That you'll
pick the subject and storyline -
you won't let anyone else
persuade you to write things that
don't concern you.
Some of this stuff is good.
Yes, I know it is - the writing
might be good, but it's not you.
I mean, money and S&M. It's not
the Martin I know.
Okay, but let's see what comes
out of it. Max is so important in
the arts, I could get loads of
work out of it, and the better
connected I am, the freer I will
be to determine what I write
about. Everyone has to do a bit
of hack work at the beginning.
But you do promise me?
(reverting to M.
Mademoiselle, I promise you with
all my 'art that I will never
betray your confidence in me and
that I will carry you away from
these sordid walls to a place
where the sun always shines,
where poverty, hunger, and the
viciousness of cruel men are
things unknown. A place where
love is unabated and joy is
(twirling an invisible
moustache, like a
But in the meantime, we must take
our pleasures where we can, so
come here and lay across my knee,
and let me chastise you.
Get off me, you nutter. What time
is Max coming?
What time is it now?
That's okay, he'll be here in two
hours. I'll go out and get some
wine. Can I have some money
please? Please, please, please,
Miss - can I have some money?
Sarah gets some money from her handbag and gives it to him.
Don't give it to any drug
I won't. Now I want you to
promise me something.
That you will be nice to Max,
when he comes.
I don't even want to talk to him.
He must be a pervert.
No, he's not. He's a really nice
guy, so please be nice to him.
It's in our interests. And it's
not his fault. I accepted this
commission knowing full well what
it was all about.
Okay, if you like. I will just
sit quietly in the corner like
the famous writer's compliant
My compliant muse - I like that.
Martin leaves and Sarah starts tidying the flat. While she
is tidying there is a knock at the door. She 'tuts' and
walks over to it.
(opening the door)
What have you forgotten now?
Max, an expensively-dressed man in his mid-forties is
Oh, it's not you. I mean, it's
not who I thought.
Sorry, I was looking for Martin.
Yes... You're not him... I mean,
he's not here.
When will he be back?
Not long now. He's only just
He's only just left?
A minute a go. That's why I
thought you were him. But you're
not, are you.
No. I'm Max.
Nothing. You're early.
[After her initial surprise, Sarah's tone towards Max is
one of barely suppressed animosity and sarcasm. He remains
urbane, kindly and civilised throughout.]
Sorry. I walked across the park.
That must have been nice for you.
Very. Can I come in?
Not yet. I was just tidying.
Don't bother for my sake.
I wouldn't. I don't just tidy
when we have visitors you know.
Of course not. That would be
Very. You'd better come in.
Max walks in and looks around. Not in a superior way, just
(holding out his hand)
You must be...
(refuses his hand-shake
and carries on tidying)
(not wanting to describe
herself at all, she
Max stands examines a print on the wall.
Ah, Kandinsky's "The Forest of
Symbols"; the yoking together of
Platonic idealism with Slavic
shamanism. It's a shame that
cheap reproductions always
accentuate the green tints.
I'm sorry it's not an original -
the last one we had was burgled.
(pointing to the table)
You can sit down if you want.
Thank you. You said, you're
Martin's financier. That's a
strange expression to use.
Why, what's your definition of a
Someone who finances things.
And whose relationship is
purely... mercantile. That
doesn't describe you, I hope.
We don't live like kings, if
that's what you mean.
No, it wasn't but...
Money isn't everything.
It can't buy you love.
So I've heard.
And it doesn't grow on trees.
You've exhausted all the cliches.
What's your point?
Sarah goes and sits opposite him at the table and looks him
in the eye with serious intent before speaking.
My point is, that money defiles
Do you mean me personally?
I think you know what I mean.
No - I'm not sure that I do.
It makes you think that you can
buy people and use them as your
Your employees, for a start.
I don't have any.
You don't even have a secretary?
Well, I have a personal
assistant, but I doubt very much
that she considers herself a
slave. If she did, she would have
left by now.
I suppose you whip her, do you?
Keep a bull-whip on your office
wall in case she does something
wrong and you can deliver a
little punishment beating. Is
that the kind of boss you are?
I honestly don't know what you're
Oh, maybe she likes it. Is that
it? She likes being whipped?
Getting down across the desk and
lifting up her skirt so that you
can pick a nice virgin patch of
flesh and stripe it for your
Look, I don't know what Martin
has told you about me but I've
never whipped anyone in my life
and I don't keep slaves.
Well, why did you ask Martin to
write that play?
A play is just a dream. Why do we
Don't you try to... to dominate
me! Answer my question! Why did
you suggest that?
Martin is a writer. He has great
talent. But talent needs luck and
luck needs means, and,
unfortunately, means means
You, are, full, of, bullshit!
Tell me why you asked him to do
I need a play. He wants to write.
We're the perfect fit. Besides,
I'm a failed artist myself. When
I was poor I dreamed of thriving -
of being a writer. I lived on
dreams and imaginations - they
assuaged my hunger. But my life
took another course. Now I can
only offer money, encouragement,
opportunity - the means for
others to live their dreams.
Oh, how sweet. Now tell me why
you chose that subject?
You know. And don't give me all
that pious clap-trap about
thwarted dreams and ambitions.
I don't know what you mean?
What you suggested to Martin.
What he should write. Is that
moral? Is that entertainment?
I suggested nothing to Martin. I
told him the location but he was
free to choose the subject.
(still suspicious, but
You didn't tell him to write
The man and the girl?
I said that we would probably
only have one male and one female
actor, but that was not a
constraint. We could get more if
necessary. Why? What has he
Nothing. It doesn't matter.
So you didn't suggest anything to
him in terms of... pain?
Pain? What sort of pain?
(makes a little whipping
gesture and sound)
You know, sphhhtttt...
Sphhhhttt? You mean whipping?
Not at all. He was given a blank
canvass to do exactly what he
wanted. I mean, if he's chosen to
write a play about a man and girl
whipping each other, that's
interesting but I'm not sure...
No he hasn't.
So why did you ask me about the,
Oh, I was just jumping to
conclusions. I thought it was a
I thought it was an English one.
And, anyway, I'm not French.
Oh, that's okay then. Just a
Good - so can I see the script?
It's not finished.
But he rang me this afternoon and
told me it was finished and I
could pick it up.
(obviously making it up)
Oh, he's written it, but it's not
bound. Martin is a perfectionist -
he wouldn't give you a script
that wasn't bound.
That doesn't matter to me. I can
get it bound myself. Anyway, I
will need to get it copied so
it's better if it isn't bound.
Can I have it?
(changing the subject)
Sorry, I forgot to offer you a
drink. Would you like one?
No, thank you. I have to get to
the airport. If you let me have
the script, I'll leave you alone.
Are you hungry? I could get you
something to eat.
No, I'm not hungry or thirsty. I
just need that script. I have
Martin's cheque here.
Max takes out the cheque and puts it in front of her. Sarah
picks it up and examines it.
(almost to herself)
Six thousand pounds. It's the
most he's ever earned. But it
seems so wrong.
You said a play is just a dream:
what if it's a bad dream? What if
it betrays you?
I'm sure Martin hasn't written a
bad play. Can I see the script?
Martin wants to give it to you
I can't wait. I have to go.
Okay, okay, okay. Let me think.
Let me think what Martin would
I'm sure that Martin would want
you to give me the script and
take the money.
Yes, of course. That is exactly
what he would want. So, that's
exactly what I will do.
Sarah gets up and walks to the sideboard where the scripts
are. She hides "The Middle Man" script under the pile and
picks up a different one. She returns to the table and
gives it to Max.
Max looks at the script.
(reading the title)
"Touch My Lips". What is this
"Touch My Lips"... it's an
allegory, I think. No, it's an
existential tale. A blind man is
wandering across the desert,
lost, when he meets, or she meets
him, a deaf-mute girl. She helps
the blind man to cross the desert
and as she leads him by the hand,
he tells her his life story. She
can't hear him, obviously...
Obviously. She's deaf.
Yes. And mute.
That goes without saying.
Ha ha. But she has been taught to
understand speech by reading lips
with her fingers. So every time
she detects that the man is
speaking, they stop and she reads
his lips with her fingers.
A strange story.
Yes, but here's the interesting
bit, you see: the man's life
story is long and detailed. He
has so many incidents to recount
that they aren't making any
progress across the desert. They
walk round and round and round
the stage. And it gets hotter and
hotter and hotter. But they make
such little progress. So what do
Think. The man is compelled to
tell his story but the girl knows
they have to leave the desert.
He writes it down?
No - he's blind! The man puts the
girl on his shoulders. She steers
him with one hand, by moving his
head, and reads his lips with the
Sarah jumps up and motions to Max.
Come on, come on - I'll show you.
Max stands up. Sarah stands behind him and puts one hand on
his brow and the other touches his lips. She propels him
round and round the stage.
Right shut you eyes and pretend
you're blind. You say, "Where are
we going, where are we going?",
And I go, "Mmmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm",
cos I'm mute you see. And we walk
round and round and round the
stage, and you groan, "Arghhhh,
it's getting hotter, it's hot,
it's getting hotter". And then I
steer you - OUT OF THE SUN - by
turning your head - LIKE THIS!
And you start to tell your life
story while I read your lips.
Max tries to say something but can't because her hand is
covering his mouth.
Go on! Go on then! Tell your life
(pulling her hand away
from his mouth)
I suffer from asthma!
Well that's a start. And then
You're suffocating me.
Sarah stops, suddenly coming too.
Oh, I am so sorry, Max. I got
carried away. I was trying to
show you what it would be like on
stage, because it's a very visual
piece you see, it depends largely
on atmosphere and lighting, and
maybe I didn't describe it very
well and I wouldn't want you to
get the wrong impression about it
because it is actually really
(she looks at him
concerned, he seems to
be in distress)
Are you okay?
Max motions for a drink of water. She runs and gets him
Here, drink this. Sit down over
here. I'm so sorry - I didn't
realise you had asthma.
Sarah watches him drink the water. She sits down in front
of him and puts her hand on his arm while he recovers his
You look hot. I thought you were
going to collapse.
But you like it though?
The play. It's symbolic.
I don't know. People trying to
help each other and communicate,
maybe. You'd have to ask Martin.
Where is he?
He should have been back by now.
Well, it's too bad. I'll have to
go without seeing him.
(picking up the script
and putting it in his
I'll read this through properly.
I'm sure we can do something with
Sarah stands up and moves towards him as if to kiss him but
stops and just holds his hand.
Oh, thankyou, so much, Max. You
don't know how hard it's been for
Martin, struggling on his own,
month after month, year after
year, pouring his heart and soul
into his work only to be met with
rejection and blind indifference.
And now, you come along, and I
know that things will get better.
He will finally get the
recognition and rewards he
Well, I will do what I can. It
seems that everyone wants to be a
writer these days. Everyone wants
to be commercial, but Martin
seems to have that something
different, a unique imaginative
Yes. At school they said he was
twisted, but that's just because
they didn't understand him.
Look, I really have to go. Tell
Martin I will be in touch with
Sarah grabs hold of Max and smothers him with a big hug.
Oh, thankyou, thankyou, Max. You
are such a kind man.
As Sarah hugs Max the door opens and Martin walks in,
carrying a bottle of wine wrapped in a green tissue.
Martin WATCHES them hugging for a moment. He bangs the
bottle down onto the sideboard.
Sarah separates from Max and looks embarrassed.
Oh, Martin, there you are. Max
was just leaving.
Oh, really. I thought you were
No, I was saying thankyou to him.
He really liked the play.
Well, I've changed my mind. It's
a piece of shit and I never want
to see it performed.
What do you mean? What's
I'll tell you what's happened: I
realised that you are right. It's
a piece of commercial shit and I
should never have written it. And
you know what happened while I
I was walking past the newsagent
and there were all those signs in
the window, you know, girls
advertising their services - Miss
Whiplash does this and Wicked
Wanda needs correction - and I
realised how tawdry and seedy it
all is. And for me to create
entertainment out of it makes me
worse than some pimp living off
But I like your play, Martin. I
think it has great promise.
You like it? You like it? Well
that makes you as bad as me, you
PERVERT. In fact, you're even
worse, because you offered me
money for it.
(discreetly waving the
cheque at Martin)
Martin, Max has already paid me.
(lunging towards Sarah)
Well, you can bloody well rip
that cheque up because no-one is
going to spend it. I refuse
anyone to make a profit from my
crassness and stupidity.
Sarah runs away from Martin and stuffs the cheque into her
bra. She backs up into the corner as Martin approaches her.
Martin - I think you are over
reacting. You've been drinking,
No, I haven't been drinking. I've
been walking and thinking and
I've realised that you were
right. I should never have
accepted this infernal
commission, this pact with Satan.
I've sold my soul for twenty
pieces of silver.
(he advances towards
Now give me that cheque.
No, Martin. You're being stupid.
I was the one who was wrong about
your play because I didn't
understand it. I judged it too
superficially. I think we should
let Max decide.
Tell him, Max - tell him you like
Yes, Martin. It is good. You're
an artist. All artists suffer
from self-doubt. They rip their
canvasses and burn their
(he taps his briefcase)
But fortunately, this one will
not be lost to posterity.
Martin turns towards Max, realising he has the script. He
advances menacingly, a crazy look in his eyes.
Give it here.
Max backs off.
Martin, be sensible. You're not
Give me that script back. It's
Martin, you're exhausted, from
writing. It's a kind of fever
that's possessed you.
Martin, what are you doing!
Sarah grabs his arm to hold him back.
Get off of me! That script is not
leaving this room so you might as
well give it to me now, without a
I'm trying to help you.
How will it help me, having a
reputation for writing about
lurid sex and money.
Is that what it symbolizes?
Symbolizes? It's not that subtle,
I thought so.
Did you really? "She lifts up her
dress and reveals fresh and
Is that too subtle for you?
We didn't read that bit, Martin.
Well, what about, "She stuffs the
gold into his mouth until he
cannot breathe." Is that subtle
enough for you?
I thought she was reading his
Are you taking the piss out of
No, I must have missed something.
She was riding on his
She was sitting on his back -
beating him, with a whip!
We can get rid of the whip, Max.
It's not essential.
(turning back to Sarah)
What do you mean, "it's not
essential". The whole play is
about lust, greed, and the
enjoyment of pain. It revels in
the satisfaction of carnal
appetites and celebrates revenge.
The whip is a symbol for the
(trying to be helpful)
Maybe if the girl just broke off
a switch from a shrub and used
that, just to chivvy him along -
you could get rid of the whip.
Oh my god, what's wrong with you -
it's not about horse-racing, it's
Martin walks up close to Max, puts his face close to his:
(slow and murderously)
Max, it ends with the girl
killing him. She flays his skin
and suffocates him with gold.
Now give me back that script!
Why don't you at least let me
take it away and read it
Give it to me - now!
(starting to unlatch his
Sarah runs across to Martin. She grabs his hand and puts it
on her mouth.
Read my lips, Martin: You're
making a big mistake.
No - I'm correcting a big
No. I already corrected it. Touch
Touch My Lips. Max really likes
it. He likes existentialist
tales, don't you Max?
Well, as long as they are short,
And they don't end in death by
torture, like this one doesn't.
Doesn't it, Martin.
No it doesn't - not Touch my Lips
doesn't. It ends when they find
the flower, the first flower,
growing at the border of the
desert and the town.
Isn't that nice, Max - they
finally find a flower and the
girl holds it up to the blind
man's nose and says, "Smell.
Sniff the scent of freedom and
rescue." And he says, "All my
life I have been in the desert
and now you taunt me with freedom
and rescue." Isn't that...
You see, Martin, I explained to
Max that "Touch My Lips" is not
an entertainment but he said that
he might be able to do something
with it somewhere else.
"Touch My Lips"? Max has got
"Touch My Lips", not "The Middle
Who's the middle man?
You are, Max.
(looking to Martin)
Isn't he, Martin? He's a kind of
Hang on a moment. "Touch My Lips"
is not commercial - how can I
sell that. It's about an old man
and a young girl walking around
in a desert talking about the
bleakness of life and the
futility of hope. Who would pay
to watch that?
Martin, you shouldn't worry about
that. All you should do is write
and experiment, experiment and
write. You should carelessly toss
off your productions and ignore
where they land. Why, if they
find an audience, then well and
good, but if not, it is nothing
to be a starving artist. Is it
Sarah? Tell him - tell him that
you would stand by him even if he
Which he is...
Even if you have to live in a
stinking garret, eating only one
meal a day, your creditors
beating at your doors, as long as
you are writing what you want
without pandering to your
audience, that's what matters.
And with the right woman beside
you, you can bear any amount of
But I have to live - I have to
pay the bills. I have to be
No, that's why you need Sarah, to
Hang on, hang on. A bit of
lateral thinking here.
A long pause. Sarah appears to be thinking deeply.
Max, Martin does not have to live
in a garret, starving and poor,
Well, I was just stating the most
extreme case, obviously, but...
I mean there are other options.
If you use your imagination. If
you become CREATIVE!
Of course, there's always Soap
No, I would rather starve.
(ignoring Martin and
No, I was thinking more about
your chateau on the Loire. I
think that would be an ideal
place for Martin to write his
next play. Is it peaceful?
Completely. Only a devil could
feel restless in such a location.
(looking doubtfully at
Mmmmm... But, nevertheless, the
tranquillity, the peace, the
freedom from distraction. Who
knows what that could produce?
Sarah takes Max by the arm and leads him to the back of the
stage. They walk around arm in arm, silently, like the King
and Queen in a mummers play walking through a formal
garden. She whispers in his ear - they silently laugh and
smile. At one point they stop, Max bends over and she
pretends to smack his arse; they both laugh and carry on.
While this mime is going on behind him, Martin finds "The
Middle Man" script and sits down at the table, facing the
audience. He turns over the pages, stops, looks out at the
audience then back at the script. He reads (in his own
voice) with full emotion, the climax of "The Middle Man":
"I threw myself at your mercy and
you took pleasure in my pain;
twisted by your riches, you
revelled in the poverty that held
me in your thrall. Listen to
this, old man: you die, as you
lived, your mouth stuffed up with
gold, unable to speak, your
withered limbs scourged and
shaking. Look now, for one last
time, on my young flesh that you
will never taste again, and
consider all the men you murdered
by your greed. Touch the hand
that came to tame you and think! -
this fast-fading world, the love
you've never known, in a second,
all will be abolished."
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