ACT 1, SCENE 1

MICHAEL GOOD'S FLAT

The living room of Michael's flat is comfortable, with many books, though there are few signs of wealth. Photos of Michael in various stage productions sit on the mantelpiece. A large theatre poster of him, with 'Michael Good - Rising Star' in large letters, is framed on one wall. On one side is the front door of the flat, with an entry phone system. On the other are doors, presumably to the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. A telephone sits on a console table near the front door. There's a window (onto the street) but the curtains are drawn. A clock shows it's 6.30 (in the evening).

Antonia Mason, wife of wealthy industrialist Lionel Mason, is sitting on a sofa, wearing an expensive dress. Tall, slim and attractive, she is in her late thirties. Her voice reveals that she has been expensively educated. Her slim figure has been maintained by vigorous exercise and dieting.

Michael Good is in his late twenties or early thirties. A rising stage actor, he's worried that his boyish good looks are perhaps beginning to desert him. As the curtain rises he's standing at the open door of the flat calling to someone who has just left (and is making their way down the stairs).

MICHAEL: Sorry you've got to dash off, Lionel. Don't worry, I'll see that Antonia gets home safely. I'm glad you enjoyed the play yesterday evening anyway. 'Bye.

He closes the door and turns to Antonia.

Did Lionel really have to rush off like that? Is something wrong with his business? That phone call he just had sounded serious.

ANTONIA: Lately he does seem to be a bit more distracted than usual, but he's always cared more for his electronic widget company than he has for me. It's a relief actually.

MICHAEL: Well yes, but he didn't even have time for a drink. Would you like one?

ANTONIA: Not right now, Mickey. I'd much rather you made love to me.

MICHAEL: I've been thinking, Antonia.

ANTONIA: That's always a mistake, Mickey. Thinking's not your strong point, is it? And it is your strong point I need right now.

She leans back seductively on the sofa, looks up at him with a provocative glint in her eye and beckons him with her finger.

It's not your brain I want you to exercise, it's another organ altogether.

MICHAEL: Yes darling, of course ... but ...

He drops to his knees in front of her and puts one hand on her thigh.

... I want you to leave Lionel and marry me.

ANTONIA: Leave Lionel, Mickey? Are you mad? And then marry you - why on earth should I do that?

MICHAEL: Because you love me as much as I love you! We should be together all the time, not just snatched moments like this.

ANTONIA: But we'd get bored with each other so quickly, Mickey.

MICHAEL: I'd never get bored with you, Antonia.

ANTONIA: Perhaps. But I tire of things very easily. Lionel didn't last a year.

MICHAEL: So why did you marry him? You must have known what he was like.

ANTONIA: He swept me off my feet. He was always buying me things. Taking me off on exotic holidays.

MICHAEL: I see.

ANTONIA: So for a while it was quite exciting, even thrilling.

MICHAEL: But only for a while?

ANTONIA: Yes, once I realized what a bore he was, Lionel palled pretty quickly. And all the fun evaporated.

MICHAEL: But you've known me for more than a year and we still have fun together.

ANTONIA: But that's because we're not married. Don't you see?

MICHAEL: No, I'm afraid I don't.

ANTONIA: Believe me, marriage isn't any fun at all, you don't know how lucky you are being free. And anyway, what would we live on?

MICHAEL: Well, I could support you.

ANTONIA: Don't be silly, Mickey. You have no money, at least not the sort that Lionel has. And I have very expensive tastes.

MICHAEL: Yes, but Lionel's bound to give you a handsome settlement, isn't he?

ANTONIA: Lionel wouldn't give me a penny if he could avoid it. He can be terribly vindictive.

MICHAEL: But surely, if you divorced, he'd have to give you a share?

ANTONIA: A share of what? He's set things up so that the business owns nearly everything. He hardly pays any tax.

MICHAEL: I see. How clever.

ANTONIA: You mean how mean.

MICHAEL: Still, he'd have to give you something?

ANTONIA: Yes, but you surely wouldn't want to live on my money?

MICHAEL: I would if it was the only way we could be together.

ANTONIA: Mickey, now you're just being tiresome. Why should I pay for us to live together?

MICHAEL: Well, I can pay my way.

ANTONIA: Yes, but not my way. My way requires a lot more money than your way.

MICHAEL: We could live more cheaply, couldn't we?

ANTONIA: Perhaps you could, but I'm not sure I could. Or should, for that matter. I'm not sure you're worth it.

MICHAEL: Not worth it?

ANTONIA: Making love is one thing, I admit you're good at that, but live together?

MICHAEL: I'd love to live with you. We could spend all our time together.

ANTONIA: You mean sit together at breakfast, reading the paper, that sort of thing?

MICHAEL: Yes. Exactly.

ANTONIA: It's bad enough having to do that with Lionel, but at least he's pompous and opinionated, so I have something to laugh at.

MICHAEL: I make you laugh sometimes, don't I? And anyway, we could have breakfast in bed.

ANTONIA: But you'd just sit there looking at me with that devoted, puppy dog expression. (She points at his face). Look, just like you are now! Stop it at once and do something useful! Undress me!

The telephone rings.

BOTH: (more or less simultaneously) Damn!

Michael gets up, walks over to the phone and picks it up.

MICHAEL: Yes

... Yes, this is Michael Good.

... I see. And what do you want me for?

... No, I couldn't possibly.

... I'm afraid I don't do that sort of thing anyway.

... (interrupting forcefully) Well I'm sorry, but I don't. Goodbye.

He puts the phone down and turns back to Antonia

Some idiot wanting me to open a Charity Fête or something. Where were we?

ANTONIA: You were about to ravish me.

MICHAEL: No I wasn't, at least not yet. We were talking about getting married.

ANTONIA: You were talking about marriage. I was waiting for you to attend to my erogenous zones. They're feeling neglected.

MICHAEL: But ...

ANTONIA: Mickey, I've had a hard day. Don't be so tiresome - come over here at once!

MICHAEL: Look here, Antonia. I really do want to marry you.

ANTONIA: That's quite impossible, Mickey. What would I tell all the others?

MICHAEL: All the other what?

ANTONIA: All my other lovers, of course. What if they all wanted to marry me!

MICHAEL: Other lovers? You mean there's someone else? That there's more than one?

ANTONIA: Of course there are, darling. I couldn't possibly manage with just one lover, could I? That would be like having just one car or one house.

Michael looks as if he's about to burst into tears.

ANTONIA: Well, what am I supposed to do when you're in a play and I suddenly need someone to make love to me? I mean, sometimes you're on stage for hours, in Hamlet or something. You expect me to wait in your dressing room until the end of the play?

MICHAEL: But who are all these others? Do I know them?

ANTONIA: Well, you know some of them I suppose. They come and go. You know how quickly I get bored.

MICHAEL: Are you bored with me then?

ANTONIA: Not yet. I've kept you longer than anyone else because you're so sweet and you really know how to please me.

MICHAEL: I suppose that's supposed to make me feel better.

ANTONIA: Now come on Mickey, either you take me this instant or I'll go off to one of the others. I'm sure I can find someone who wants to make love to me.

MICHAEL: (reluctantly taking off his jacket) All right Antonia. You win for now. But I'm not going to go on sharing you much longer. I really mean it.

He bends over to kiss her. She pulls him down on top of her, laughing.

ANTONIA: Yes, Yes, Mickey. Now you know what I like, get on with it. And if that damn phone rings again, ignore it. You know how I hate coitus interruptus.

CURTAIN (very briefly)

The clock shows about 30 minutes have elapsed. Michael, breathing heavily, is zipping his fly, then buttoning up his shirt. Antonia, looking flushed, is standing with her back to him. She's in bare feet and the back of her dress is unzipped.

ANTONIA: (slipping on her shoes) Zip me up, would you darling? I really must be going home.

MICHAEL: (zipping up Antonia's dress) I wish you weren't quite so noisy when we make love, the neighbours must think I'm strangling you.

ANTONIA: I was just showing my appreciation. That was just what I needed.

MICHAEL: Sometimes I feel I'm here just to perk you up when you get tense or depressed.

ANTONIA: I do feel perked. Thoroughly perked.

MICHAEL: You make it sound as though I were a stiff drink.

ANTONIA: Well, you were stiff. If you were a drink I wonder what I'd ask the barman for? A 'Screwdriver' perhaps? No, too obvious. (She muses for a few seconds) No, what's that brandy, rum and cointreau cocktail called? You know the one - 'Between the Sheets' isn't it? Yes, I'd call you 'Good between the Sheets'! (She giggles)

MICHAEL: Don't be so cruel, Antonia.

ANTONIA: Oh, don't be so silly, Mickey. I'm only joking. Your name is Good and you certainly live up to it, in bed anyway.

MICHAEL: Is that supposed to make me feel better?

ANTONIA: You enjoyed our little romp just as much as I did. Go on, admit it.

MICHAEL: Well of course I did, darling. I love to give you pleasure. But I can't bear the thought of sharing you.

ANTONIA: You weren't sharing me just now. You had me all to yourself.

MICHAEL: Yes, but it was bad enough when there was just Lionel. Now there are all these 'others'. Can't you give them all up and just have me?

ANTONIA: Well, if I did then you'd have to give up your other lovers too.

MICHAEL: But I don't have any other lovers, darling. Just you.

ANTONIA: Now I know that's not true Mickey, not true at all. What about Lucy Templeton?

MICHAEL: I used to see her, but it's been ages since we, well, you know...

ANTONIA: Mickey, stop telling fibs. I know for a fact that you spent the weekend with Lucy in Harrogate a few weeks ago.

MICHAEL: Harrogate?

ANTONIA: Yes. Peter Philbin saw you together at that hotel.

MICHAEL: Philbin? Why would he tell you that?

ANTONIA: You'd be surprised what men will tell me to get me into bed.

MICHAEL: So Philbin's one of these 'others', is he?

ANTONIA: Just lately, yes. Peter's very sweet. He may be having trouble with his writing at the moment, but he can be very amusing.

MICHAEL: Amusing? About me?

ANTONIA: Yes. He told me about your other girlfriends too.

MICHAEL: What other girlfriends?

ANTONIA: Well, he's seen you with Julia Reeves for instance.

MICHAEL: Julia?

ANTONIA: Yes. You should watch out, her husband has been known to have her boyfriends beaten up. Apparently he's got underworld connections.

MICHAEL: Has he? Anyway Julia and I are just good friends. Have been ever since we were in a play together about five years ago.

ANTONIA: Just good friends?

MICHAEL: Yes. I see her occasionally, but only for lunch. I admit I'm attracted to her, but she's made it clear our relationship is going to remain platonic.

ANTONIA: Well, there's Lucy anyway. And I'm sure there are others.

MICHAEL: All right, I admit I do have a few other girlfriends. But it's only because I get to be alone with you so rarely. I'd give them all up in an instant if I could spend more time with you.

ANTONIA: Mickey, why don't we leave things as they are? I mean, it's very flattering to be told I'm the one you want, but you've never been a one-woman man. Why now?

MICHAEL: I guess I must be getting old, Antonia.

ANTONIA: Old?

MICHAEL: Yes. I mean I enjoy women and I like variety, but something tells me I should settle down. Stop pursuing.

ANTONIA: Well, that hardly makes marriage to you inviting, does it? You're getting old and you want to 'settle down'? That all sounds terribly dull. I need excitement.

MICHAEL: Well, I got you excited just now, didn't I?

ANTONIA: You did, but part of the excitement is the thrill of a secret assignation. If we were living together it wouldn't be the same.

MICHAEL: It would for me.

ANTONIA: Look Mickey, you keep your other girlfriends, I'll keep my other boyfriends and we'll have fun together whenever we can.

MICHAEL: But ...

ANTONIA: No, I really do have to go. Lionel will be getting suspicious. No need to see me out.

Antonia puts on her coat, kisses Michael briefly on the cheek and leaves the flat. He sits down by the phone looking thoughtful. Suddenly he picks up the phone and dials a number.

MICHAEL: Philbin? ... You bastard! Next time I see you I'm going to punch you on the nose! And stay away from Antonia!

He slams the phone down. A few moments later the phone rings.

MICHAEL: (without waiting) Now look here Philbin, I mean it, just ... Oh, Lionel, I'm sorry, I thought you were somebody else. I'm afraid you've missed Antonia. She went some time ago

... You left something here? What was it - I'll send it ...

... An electronic gizmo? What ... (A puzzled look comes over his face)

... Under the phone?

He picks it up the telephone base and turns it over. As he does so, a small box with a wire sticking out drops down underneath. He stares at it while he listens, a look of dawning comprehension coming over his face.

... Good heavens. So you've been listening to what's been going here?

... Since when?

... Activated by the phone call?

... Oh, so that was you who phoned up about the Charity Fete? I thought there was something familiar about that voice.

... You're where?

He goes over to the window and pulls back the curtain. It's dark outside as Michael looks down at the street.

Oh yes, I can see you.

... Now? Yes, I suppose so.

He puts the phone down, goes over to the drinks cabinet and pours himself a whisky which he drinks as he paces round the room. There's a buzz from the entry phone by the door. He walks over, presses a button and speaks into the intercom.

MICHAEL: Come on up, Lionel.

He gulps the rest of the whisky. After a minute or so there's a knock at the door. Michael opens it, looking very apprehensive and prepared for the worst. Lionel Mason, a well-built man in his early fifties, walks into the room. He's smiling and looks pleased with himself. His accent reveals his humble origins - he's clearly a self-made man who's worked his way up in life.

MICHAEL: Lionel, I don't quite know what to say.

LIONEL:     Don't worry, Michael. I'm not going to hit you. I've known you and Antonia were having an affair for some time.

MICHAEL: Really?

LIONEL:     Yes. That telephone bug was just to try to find out what your intentions were. It turns out you are going to do me a big favour.

MICHAEL: Do you a favour? What sort of favour?

LIONEL:     Well, you're going to take Antonia off my hands.

MICHAEL: I am? But Lionel, if you were really listening to what went on you'll know that she turned me down. She doesn't want to marry me, she wants to stay married to you.

LIONEL:     Well she would, wouldn't she? I mean, don't get me wrong, but I'm the one with the money and Antonia has very expensive tastes. But between us I'm sure we can make her see sense.

MICHAEL: I don't understand. Are you saying you want her to leave you?

LIONEL:     Yes, I'm replacing her with a newer model. Well, not exactly a model, Samantha's a pole-dancer at the moment, but anyway Antonia's got to go.

MICHAEL: I see. But I thought you were devoted to her.

LIONEL:     Well I was. She used to be fun when we first got married, but now she pretty much ignores me. Any feelings she had for me seem to have worn off. My devotion has gone the same way.

MICHAEL: Oh dear.

LIONEL:     As you said yourself just a few minutes ago, she can be cruel. You think it's bad to be called "Good between the Sheets" - yes, I did hear that - well when she's with her bitchy girlfriends I'm referred to as "The Chequebook". Even to my face!

Michael laughs.

LIONEL:     And she hardly lifts a finger around the house. I do more of the cooking than she does. It was just the same in bed, when she used to let me get near her - I was expected to do all the work. And she's the same with you, it seems.

MICHAEL: (looking embarrassed) Well, I, ...

LIONEL:     I've just been listening to you two at it, remember. "Do this", "Faster", "Stop that", "No, not there, here". She was telling you what to do all the time. A command performance.

MICHAEL: (looking even more embarrassed) Well, I ...

LIONEL:     Exactly. Whereas Samantha, well, she really knows how to show her appreciation for the presents I give her. Very energetic girl. Makes me feel wanted. Makes me feel young.

MICHAEL: I see. So you've really fallen for this Samantha then?

LIONEL:     Well, it's a bit more complicated than that, actually, but yes, I guess I have.

MICHAEL: And you want me to marry Antonia?

LIONEL:     Yes.

MICHAEL: But why me? You must know now that I'm not the only one.

LIONEL:     Yes, but the thing is Michael, you want to marry her. All the others just want to go to bed with her. And you'd marry her even if I don't give her any money, wouldn't you?

MICHAEL: Well, yes, I suppose I would. You mean you want to divorce her and leave her penniless?

LIONEL:     Got to, I'm afraid. Business is bad and things are getting really tough. We're losing market share to the Pacific Rim all the time. I'm thinking of jacking it all in and going off to live on the yacht in the Med.

MICHAEL: Good heavens.

LIONEL:     I may be able to give her the odd bob or two, but not enough for her to live the way she does now.

MICHAEL: But why do you need me to marry her? Why don't you just divorce her?

LIONEL:     So I don't have to pay alimony for years and years, of course. Luckily she never wanted to have kids, so as soon as she gets married again, I won't have to pay a penny.

MICHAEL: Ah.

LIONEL:     I haven't minded supporting Roxanne, she's my daughter, but thank goodness I don't have to support her mother any more, not since she remarried.

MICHAEL: I see, so it's third time lucky is it?

LIONEL:     I really think it is.

MICHAEL: And how do you plan to make all this happen? When are you going to tell Antonia? I don't think she'll believe me.

LIONEL:     Well, I thought we'd both tell her.

MICHAEL: Together, you mean?

LIONEL:     Yes. She may get violent and start throwing things, but if there are two of us we should be able to prevent her doing too much damage.

MICHAEL: Really?

LIONEL:     Yes. And when I tell her she's got to go, you'll be there to pick up the pieces.

MICHAEL: You think that will work?

LIONEL:     It's worth a try. Look, why don't you come round at the weekend? In fact come to lunch on Saturday. We can try to sort it all out then. OK?

MICHAEL: I suppose so.

Lionel turns to go, then goes to the phone, detaches the 'gizmo' and puts it in his pocket.

LIONEL:     Better take this. Don't want it falling into the wrong hands. I dread to think what Antonia would get up to with something like this. See you on Saturday, around twelve.

Lionel leaves. Michael stands looking thoughtful, picks up his glass, goes over to the drinks cabinet and pours himself another whisky.

MICHAEL: Bloody hell!

He picks up the phone again and dials a number.

MICHAEL: Lucy? It's Michael. I know we were supposed to be having lunch on Saturday, but can we put it off? Something's come up.

CURTAIN

ACT 1, SCENE 2

MICHAEL GOOD'S FLAT

Michael's flat the following morning. Michael, casually dressed, is sitting in an armchair reading a newspaper. The clock shows it's 11.00.

There's a quiet knock at the door which Michael either doesn't hear or ignores. A few seconds later the knock is repeated, louder and more insistently. Michael sighs heavily, gets up and goes to the door, newspaper in hand. He opens it.

Julia Reeves, a smartly-dressed woman in her early thirties, quickly pushes past him and closes the door. An actress until a few years ago, Julia gave up the stage when she married her husband, city banker Robert.

After a brief (cheek to cheek) kiss, Julia takes off her coat (revealing her voluptuous figure), which Michael hangs up for her.

JULIA:         (clearly very nervous and on the brink of tears) Thank goodness you're in, Mickey! Something terrible has happened! I don't know what to do!

MICHAEL: Calm down, Julia. How did you get in the building?

JULIA:         I slipped in as someone was leaving.

MICHAEL: Would you like a drink?

He leads her to the sofa - they both sit down on it.

JULIA:         No, nothing to drink. I need a clear head. It's Robert! He's found out I been having an affair! He says he's going to have my lover's balls for breakfast! On toast!

MICHAEL: He doesn't think it's me, does he? I'm very attached to my testicles and I'd like to stay that way.

JULIA:         No, don't worry, he doesn't think it's you.

MICHAEL: But why on earth did you come round here? What if he's having you followed? He'll think you're having an affair with me too.

JULIA:         I need help. I'm terrified Robert's going to get some horrible East End gangster to attack my lover. He's done things like that before. Before we were married he had one of my old boyfriends beaten up just for sending me a valentine.

MICHAEL: So I've heard. You really ought to warn your men friends that your husband's a homicidal maniac.

JULIA:         If I did, I don't suppose I'd have any men friends, would I?

MICHAEL: So who does he think this lover is then?

JULIA:         Peter Philbin.

MICHAEL: Philbin? Why does he think it's Philbin?

JULIA:         Because I spent the other evening with Peter at his flat.

MICHAEL: You've been seeing Philbin? But he's such a creep.

JULIA:         Mickey, how can you say that? I'm very fond of Peter.

MICHAEL: So you're having an affair with him?

JULIA:         Well, it's not exactly an affair, but we did .... you know. Anyway somehow Robert's got to be persuaded that I'm not having an affair with anyone.

MICHAEL: Look Julia, you know I'd do anything for you. What does Robert actually know? What's made him suspicious?

JULIA:         Well, he's been in New York for the last few days, and while he was there I went round to Peter's flat one night. It seems that a friend of Robert's was dining in the French restaurant just across the street. Apparently he saw me going in and then coming out two hours later.

MICHAEL: But you might have been seeing someone else who lives there, surely?

JULIA:         But I don't know anyone else in that block, and even if I did that would be just as bad.

MICHAEL: I suppose so.

JULIA:         In any case Robert knows that Peter lives there. But if we could get Robert to think someone else was there too, that I wasn't alone with Peter ....

MICHAEL: And you want me to pretend to be the 'someone'? What would I have been doing there?

JULIA:         Well I don't know. What if you were there with another woman? We could say that the four of us were playing cards.

MICHAEL: (laughing) Playing cards, Julia? Even I wouldn't believe that.

JULIA:         Well, something else then.

MICHAEL: No, the more people we involve, the more likely it is it will fall apart. We'd get caught out on the details.

JULIA:         I suppose so.

MICHAEL: Philbin and I aren't exactly on friendly terms right now. Antonia and I had a big row yesterday because of something he told her. Isn't there someone else you could ask?

JULIA:         Nobody I trust as much as I trust you.

MICHAEL: When did Robert find out? And does Philbin know all about this?

JULIA:         Well, Robert flew back last night. When he went to the office this morning this friend told him about seeing me. He phoned me up an hour ago and accused me of having an affair. We had a blazing row.

MICHAEL: I see.

JULIA:         I managed to phone Peter just before I came here. He's terrified of what Robert might do. I told him I'd try to get him some sort of alibi.

MICHAEL: Look, Julia. We need to think up a good reason for the three of us to be spending the evening together.

JULIA:         Exactly.

MICHAEL: I mean, if we're not careful Robert might suspect we were a ménage à trois. (He leers at Julia) You're not interested in that sort of thing, are you?

JULIA:         Stop it, Mickey, this is serious!

MICHAEL: (grinning) Sorry, I was just curious. Anyway, if Philbin and I were in his flat together, why would we ask you to come over?

JULIA:         Well, you must have needed a woman's help, or my expert advice.

MICHAEL: That's never going to work, Julia, You're not an expert at anything. (Julia looks a bit crestfallen) Well, you were a wonderful actress of course. But that was three years ago, before you married Robert.

Both of them appear to be thinking.

No, wait a minute, of course! It's not that long since you were on the stage. We could make out that you're thinking about going back on the stage - and that Philbin's written a new play with a part just for you!

JULIA:         It's true he has been working on a new play. He was telling me about it when we were ... well, that evening.

MICHAEL: I heard he was having trouble with it.

JULIA:         He is. One of the characters in it is refusing to do his bidding. Keeps wanting a bigger part.

MICHAEL: Good for them. Writers need to be put in their place. Especially playwrights.

JULIA:         Anyway, there is a play. Most of one, anyway.

MICHAEL: There you are then.

JULIA:         Do you know, I really think this might work. Robert keeps telling me to stop complaining about being bored. He wants me to find something better to do than spend all my time shopping.

MICHAEL: Yes, (thinking aloud) so Peter and I were talking about the play, because he wants me to be in it, of course, and we were discussing who might be the leading lady ...

JULIA:         (interrupting) ... and you thought of me, phoned me up and I came round. Yes!

MICHAEL: We need to tell Peter about the alibi before Robert talks to him - you should do that.

JULIA:         Agreed. And could you find some reason to speak to Robert? Then somehow tell him why you and I were there and what we were up to.

MICHAEL: Perhaps I can ask him if he'd like to invest in the play. What's this play about anyway?

JULIA:         According to Peter it's a light-hearted comedy of manners. Cuckolded husbands, mistresses, lascivious wives. Full of innuendo. You know the sort of thing he writes.

MICHAEL: Only too well. That last play of his I was in, "Secrets", was a nightmare.

JULIA:         I thought it got terrific reviews.

MICHAEL: It did. But I had to spend part of the second act sitting on a sofa next to Susannah Roberts. She found it very amusing to surreptitiously massage my cock.

JULIA:         I would have thought you'd enjoy that.

MICHAEL: Not just before I had to stand up and deliver some lines.

JULIA:         (giggling) Oh dear.

MICHAEL: Exactly. The first time she did it I managed to hide my erection behind a newspaper. Of course, the next night Susannah hid the damned newspaper.

JULIA:         I saw you in that play. I never noticed a thing. (Giggling again) Did it stick out like a sore thumb?

MICHAEL: (sarcastically) Yes, yes, very funny. Anyway, after a couple of embarrassing evenings I resorted wearing one of those athletic supports with a plastic box. You know, the things cricketers wear. Kept my cock safe from Susannah's prying fingers.

JULIA:         (still giggling) I wish I'd known about this when I saw the play. It would have added a real frisson.

MICHAEL: Real frisson? For me it was more like real friction. The play had a long run and wearing that thing got to be very uncomfortable.

JULIA:         Keeping your pecker down is not your strong point, is it Mickey? You really should learn to keep it under control.

MICHAEL: That's easier said than done. It's trying to stick up for itself right now. Must have heard you comparing it to a sore thumb. (He leers again) You haven't got time to be introduced, have you?

JULIA:         (laughing) You see what I mean? No control at all! Anyway, I'd like to keep our friendship as it is, without any sexual complications. So please concentrate. You need to speak to Robert.

MICHAEL: Where is he now?

JULIA:         He'll be in the office. Why don't you find some excuse to ask him out to lunch and explain it all then?

MICHAEL: I suppose so. Give me his number then.

Julia rummages in her handbag and gives Michael a card.

And you'd better go back home and talk to Peter.

JULIA:         Yes, I'd better run. 'Bye.

Michael escorts her to the door and helps Julia on with her coat. They embrace and kiss (on the cheek), then Julia leaves. After a few moments Michael goes to the phone and dials the number on the card Julia gave him.

MICHAEL: Robert, it's Michael - Michael Good.

... Listen, I've got a scheme I'd like to talk to you about. Are you free for lunch?

... Excellent. Where can we meet?

... Yes, I know where that is.

... One o'clock? See you then.

He puts the phone down.

MICHAEL: Bloody hell!

CURTAIN

ACT 1, SCENE 3

THE MASONS' HOUSE

Saturday morning at the Mason's house. The stage is divided into two rooms, a breakfast room, with a large table used for breakfasts and informal meals, and part of the kitchen, all stainless steel and black granite. A door, currently closed, connects the two. The breakfast room has another door (which leads to the hall and front door of the house).

Through a large window in the kitchen we can see a garden, full of expensive shrubs, as well as the corner of a conservatory. A gardener, whose skimpy t-shirt and shorts reveal a tanned muscular physique, is glimpsed every so often as he tends to the plants.

Through the kitchen window we see Antonia Mason appear in the conservatory. She opens the conservatory door and walks over to the gardener. He's bending down and she cups a hand on his bottom. Startled, he stands up quickly and turns round to face her. She smiles and says a few words. He replies, pointing at various plants. She smiles again and walks back to the conservatory.

Lionel Mason, casually dressed, is sitting at one end of the table in the breakfast room. Blissfully unaware of what has gone on outside, he's reading the Weekend FT and drinking coffee. A clock on the wall shows it's nearly noon. Antonia enters the kitchen and walks through it into the breakfast room.

ANTONIA: I'm really cross you invited Michael to lunch today without asking me first, Lionel. What if I had other plans? And why on earth is he coming to lunch anyway?

LIONEL:     It was his idea, not mine. He wants to talk to us both apparently. Some scheme he's hatched. (He laughs) Perhaps he wants us to put some money into a play.

ANTONIA: I can't believe that. When is he getting here?

At that very moment the doorbell rings. Lionel leaves the breakfast room, goes to the (offstage) front door and opens it. We hear Michael Good's voice as he comes into the house. A few moments later both men come into the breakfast room.

LIONEL:     It's good to see you Michael. Like a drink?

MICHAEL: Yes please, Lionel, I'll have a scotch. (He walks over to Antonia and pecks her on the cheek) Hallo Antonia, nice to see you again.

ANTONIA: (glaring at Michael as Lionel pours a scotch for him) Lionel says you might want him to put money into a play, Mickey. Is this true?

MICHAEL: (turning to Lionel and clearly astonished) How on earth did you know that, Lionel? I only found about the play myself just yesterday. And it's true, we will need backers. The play should be a real winner.

LIONEL:     (also looking astonished and confused) I ... well ... I don't, I wasn't sure ... but who's this play by anyway?

MICHAEL: Peter Philbin.

ANTONIA: (now it's Antonia's turn to look astonished) Peter Philbin?

MICHAEL: Yes. It's not finished yet, but he's got it all planned out. We're hoping that Julia Reeves will be in it - we've been trying to talk her into going back on the stage.

ANTONIA: Julia Reeves? Are you serious?

MICHAEL: Absolutely. Julia was a cracking actress you know, and Peter's written a part that's perfect for her. And one for me too.

ANTONIA: Let me get this straight. You and Julia are planning to be in a play by Peter Philbin and you want Lionel to put some money into it?

MICHAEL: Well, yes. I persuaded Robert Reeves to put some up yesterday. He's keen to see Julia go back on the stage.

ANTONIA: (quietly) I bet he is. Keeps her out of trouble.

LIONEL:     But this wasn't why you asked to come round for lunch, was it Michael? I thought you had some other scheme in mind.

MICHAEL: (prevaricating) Do you think I could have a bit of ice in my scotch?

LIONEL:     Yes, of course. Come through to the kitchen, there's ice in the fridge.

He leads Michael through to the kitchen and closes the door. The gardener can be seen outside the window. Lionel takes Michael's glass, goes to the fridge and puts an ice cube in the glass. He hands the scotch back to Michael.

LIONEL:     (in a stage whisper) What are you playing at, Michael? We're meant to be getting Antonia off my hands and into your bed, aren't we? What's all this about a play?

MICHAEL: (distracted by the sight of the gardener through the kitchen window) Yes, well, ... Lionel, isn't that Paul Groves in your garden? What on earth is he doing there?

LIONEL:     Yes, that's Paul. He's our new gardener, so where else would you expect him to be?

MICHAEL: But he's an actor, not a gardener. He and I were in play a year or so ago. ... Ah, he must be 'resting', like me. You know this is very fortuitous, I think I've got just the part for him. Excuse me for a moment.

Michael walks through the kitchen and off stage. Then we see him walking through the conservatory and into the garden a few moments later. In the garden he talks excitedly to Paul. Lionel meanwhile looks extremely put out. While Michael is still talking to Paul, Antonia comes into the kitchen.

ANTONIA: What are you two up to behind my back? And why is Michael out there talking to Paul?

LIONEL:     We weren't up to anything, Antonia. And apparently Michael and Paul know each other. They've acted together.

Michael re-enters the kitchen.

MICHAEL: Sorry Antonia, but this is too good an opportunity to pass up. I'm afraid you're going to lose your gardener.

ANTONIA: Lose Paul, why?

MICHAEL: Stroke of luck, Antonia. I had no idea Paul was working as a gardener these days. He's perfect for a part in this new play of Peter's.

ANTONIA: But if I lose him, who's going to look after my clematis? It needs regular attention.

MICHAEL: Well, I'm sure Paul will be able to keep coming round for a while at least. Nothing's settled yet.

ANTONIA: Yes, well, I'd hate to lose Paul. I've only just found him. He's strong and very skilful with his hands.

LIONEL:     Yes, Yes. (Giving Michael a knowing look) Now Michael, what was it you really wanted to talk to us about? It wasn't just about the play, was it?

MICHAEL: Well, I ...

LIONEL:     On the phone you said something about making an honest woman out of Antonia.

ANTONIA: An honest woman, what do you mean?

LIONEL:     Yes Michael, what did you mean?

MICHAEL: Well, Lionel, (he hesitates, then blurts it out) I want Antonia to leave you and marry me!

ANTONIA: That's quite impossible, Mickey.

LIONEL:     Now wait a moment, Antonia. This seems like a good idea to me.

ANTONIA: Not to me.

LIONEL:     Look, Antonia. You and I haven't been getting on very well lately. Our marriage is pretty much over, isn't it? And I know you've been having an affair with Michael. He seems to want to marry you, so why not?

ANTONIA: Lionel, you seem terribly anxious to get rid of me. What are you up to? (A thoughtful look comes over her face) Ah. You've been having an affair too, haven't you?

Lionel looks guilty.

And you've got her pregnant, no doubt. So I'm to be tossed aside, am I?

LIONEL:     Look Antonia, we can do this the civilized, easy way, or we can do it the nasty, hard way, but we are going to get divorced.

ANTONIA: I don't think so, Lionel.

LIONEL:     When we do divorce, you're not going to get much alimony. My financial consultants have seen to that. And you're right, Samantha is pregnant.

ANTONIA: Samantha. Typical. I knew it. Some Essex tart, eh. Just like that first wife of yours.

LIONEL:     I'll ignore that. But anyway, there will be two more getting a share even if we stay married. On the other hand, if you agree to divorce me and marry Michael, or anyone else for that matter, I'll give you a handsome one-time settlement.

ANTONIA: We'll see about that. It's going to cost you far more to divorce me than it does to keep me as your wife!

LIONEL:     But look Antonia, Michael here, he wants to marry you. You'll be much happier with him that you are with me! Won't she Michael? Tell her!

MICHAEL: He's right Antonia, you would be happier with me.

ANTONIA: (turning on Michael and giving him a withering stare) Shut up, Michael! This is none of your business.

She turns back to Lionel.

ANTONIA: I'm perfectly happy with things just as they are, Lionel. I love this house. And the villa on the Côte d'Azur. I buy all the clothes I like. I have expensive holidays whenever I want. I have fun with anyone who takes my fancy. I'm damned if I'm giving all that up just so that you can shack up with this, this Samantha.

Lionel and Antonia glare at each other. At that moment a young woman wearing ripped jeans and a baggy sweater walks into the breakfast room from the hall. This is Roxanne Mason, known as Roxy, Lionel's daughter by his first marriage. Perhaps twenty or so, she looks what she is, a serious-minded university undergraduate. There's no hint here of the sexiness she will display later.

ROXY:         What's all this shouting?

LIONEL:     I'm afraid it looks as though your step-mother and I are going to get divorced, Roxy.

ANTONIA: We're not getting divorced, Roxanne. Your father is trying to dump me, but I refuse to let him.

ROXY:         And what's your part in all this, Michael? Are you the 'other man'?

MICHAEL: Well, I want to marry Antonia, if that's what you mean.

ANTONIA: But I don't want to marry you, Michael. Please get that into your thick skull! And this is none of your business, Roxanne.

ROXY:         I guess not. I can't stay anyway. I'm off to see a friend. I'll be back around five. I hope you lot sort things out before I get back.

LIONEL:     OK, Roxy.

She kisses her father on the cheek, ignores Antonia, waves to Michael and leaves. As few moments later we hear the front door shut. All three look at each other expectantly.

MICHAEL: So you really don't want to marry me?

ANTONIA: (turning to Michael with an angry look on her face) I told you that the other day. Why don't you believe me? (She turns back to Lionel) And as for you, Lionel Mason, you're stuck with me. I'm damned if I'll agree to a divorce.

LIONEL:     You're going to regret this, Antonia. This is going to get very unpleasant.

ANTONIA: For you, yes, it's going to get very unpleasant.

MICHAEL: Look, why don't we ...

LIONEL AND ANTONIA: (more or less simultaneously) Shut up, Michael!

MICHAEL: You two really don't seem to need me, do you? I think I'd better go.

Lionel and Antonia stand glaring at each other.

LIONEL AND ANTONIA: (more or less simultaneously) Just go, Michael!

As Michael leaves, Lionel and Antonia look as though they are about to tear into each other and wrestle violently.

CURTAIN

on to ACT 2

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