Keeping Up Appearances – Part Three

Missed Part Two? Keeping Up Appearances – Part Two

Belgravia

Sam was glad for the opportunity to hide away at the Olympia the next day. He had forced himself to go and congratulate Maria the day before, and had been surprisingly cheered by her contagious excitement. It was better than David’s continued sulking but the theatre accounts held a strange attraction today that he had never felt before. Figures on the page – they made sense when nothing else seemed to.

‘Sam!’ Daniel came charging in, startling Sam so that he blotted ink on his page.

‘Daniel, can I help you?’ Sam sighed heavily.

‘I hope so.’ Daniel sat down. ‘Ned Bennett. He has told everyone that he’ll be the lead in the next play.’

‘Well I have told him no such thing. And when could I have? I have been in your company for the past few weeks, with barely a moment to myself.’ Sam slammed his pen down.

Daniel watched his friend warily. ‘I see your point. He’s just a… I mean to say that he has a face that aches to be punched! And he enjoys poking fun at me, I swear.’

‘Have you tried ignoring him?’

‘Yes! But he won’t leave me alone and I am convinced that he’s having an affair with one of the ballet girls.’

‘Well, as long as she is a consenting adult there is no harm done.’ Sam gave up on salvaging the paper and ripped it neatly in two, pressing the two sides together to absorb the ink. ‘From what I’ve seen, the man can act but he is too temperamental. He has been late to rehearsals on occasion, and I’ve smelt the gin on him myself. He will have his uses but you will always be first choice, as long as I’m the manager here.’

‘Oh. Thank you.’ Daniel was mollified. ‘Of course, I’ll say nothing to Bennett. I’ll allow him his fun. But what goes on with you? You seem all out of sorts. The idea of being a father does not appeal?’

Sam leaned back. ‘It has come as rather a shock, I admit. Relations between Maria and I have been rather…strained of late. I had not expected it.’

‘No.’ Daniel was not surprised. Maria had taken Celine into her confidence, and occasionally his wife let small grains of information slip, knowing that Daniel would never say anything to Sam. ‘At least Maria seems happy, though of course now all Celine can talk of is when we shall start our own family… But I shall leave you to your sums.’

No sooner had Daniel left than his nemesis, Ned Bennett was disturbing Sam’s peace.

‘I want to talk to you about my future here.’ Ned leaned forward over the desk, provoking Sam to move back in response. ‘I know that Danny is back, and I appreciate that he’s done well for you, but I have something more to offer.’

‘And what would that be?’ Sam’s face clearly betrayed his distaste at this over-zealous approach, but Ned did not seem to notice.

‘I don’t want to cause offence, only I have worked at the Theatre Royal in the past. Drury Lane.’

‘You have mentioned that to me once or twice.’

‘Yes,’ Ned missed the sarcasm. ‘Anyway, you must realise that there’s a reason why you struggle with reviews. At the Royal, all the critics come out in force on opening night, whereas here you are having to bribe third rate journalists like Langston just to turn up.’

‘There is not much I can do about our location, Mr Bennett. We are not at a fashionable West End address, and for some of these so-called professional critics, that is all that matters to them.’

‘Ah, but they could be enticed, I know that they could. See, I know how these men think and they don’t hold with a negro in the plum parts. As an occasional novelty perhaps, and they’d even stomach him in the comic roles. Your Falstaff or Bottom, still good roles.’

‘And you would be my saviour?’ Sam stood and retrieved his jacket from the stand in the corner. ‘I do not think so, Mr Bennett. From what I’ve seen you are a competent actor but Daniel Johnson is a step above. The men you speak of are not worthy of pandering. If they cannot recognise talent then they have no business earning a living as critics.’

Perhaps by confronting his fears he would find peace, he thought. Time to go home and speak with his wife.

 

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