A Music Hall Turn

A Sense of Detachment
John Osborne
Faber and Faber

A music hall invented to satisfy the requirement, in the theater, of theater. The scandal is famous, it ran well. Time saw “the audience as victim”. The Guardian defended it, Punch rather liked it (though its central premise gets confusedly described as “daffy”).

Nothing on stage, the actors bring in chairs. There is a barrel-organ and a piano, also a projection screen. The first act is a throwaway to give the form, rallying and toying until, just before the interval (and prepared by Mahler’s Adagietto), “Oh God our help in ages past”, then Edward Heath and the “Ode to Joy”, “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” and a parody of ”Widdicombe Fair”,

Harold Pinter, Harold Pinter,

Lend me your grey mare...

with “Roll out the Barrel” to finish off.

Act Two is considerably more complicated, with the same idea of introducing music in a sort of stretto. Tunes and verses and commercial advertisements for raunchy sex films are plied with pictures on the screen until the great duet takes place as follows.

GIRL:  People don’t fall in love.

(to audience)

That idea is no longer effective in the context of modern techniques. We are not nations or nation states. All that must go. We are part of an efficient, maximum productive ECONOMIC UNION. And Economic Unions do not fall in love. They amalgamate. They cut down. They are NOW in the Land’s future. We are that Land and we are on the brink of Progress. Even Progress has its cliché programmer. But there. We have nothing but gain to contemplate. Loss, such as it may have been, is, has been, ground into the shining, kindly present even that is ours already! Even at this moment. We are tearing down. We build! We build now. And NOW.

   We are not language. We are lingua. We do not love, eat or cherish. We exchange. Oh yes: we talk. We have words, rather: environment; pollution; problems; issues; oh, and——. So century, century as is and will be—APPROCHE MOI! Approche moi. To me...

(The GIRL turns from the audience and kisses the CHAP.)

CHAP: Oh, heart, dearest heart. What does that mean! Rhetoric. I do, I have, I’ve wanted you, want you, will, may not and so on. I love you, yes. I shall. Shan’t. Heart... And I want, yes—here we go—want to fuck you... Not cum-uppance or any of that... Heart: I want you. Legs high. High. Open. Prone: if you like. We can both laugh. And enjoy. Enjoy me if you can. I do enjoy you. I do. I want you, thighs enveloping my head. Mist. I shall want to breathe... Give me you. I’ll do what I can with me. I hate to use the words between us—but—I want what I know, have known, we know has taken, done, enjoyed, laughed over; cherished. Between us. Girl. Chap. We are lost without... You know. Don’t you?

GIRL: Yes, I really think—perhaps—I do.

CHAP: Do. Don’t. Will. Won’t. Can. Can’t. I wish I were inside you. Now. At this moment... However.

GIRL: So do I. However...