1873. Study. England.
Paine: It is because of the tax collector. That is the bloody reason behind it.
Wat: I’m not so sure.
Paine: Hear now dear fellow, surely one mustn’t play ignorant. It’s an inflammatory example of demagoguery in their eyes because he was murdered. Had I not written that in, it may have licensed. I should have known but it is extremely hard for one to resist making the point.
Wat: I’ve had my doubts all along.
Paine: Yes, quite obvious, one must think.
Wat: Well, I am only being honest.
Paine: Listen now, what is honest my good Watson, is the truth of what I write! How can we live in a country where such freedoms must go before Lord Chamberlain? In what good sense does this make to our conscience?
Wat: We cannot change their ways, I’m afraid.
Paine: Disgrace! It is a disgrace to art! Disgrace to our voice as a people! Disgrace ‘tween right and wrong.
Wat: But who is to say we are the ones in the right?
Paine: Oh, don’t give me that.
Wat: Sir, do you not think they have their own truth?
Paine: Truth? Nothing but truth of corruption! I can just imagine it, Chanley sitting behind his desk, like a wide pompous idiot, routinely administering my life from his drawing room! His wife prancing around, buttoning up the children for God knows what, while he sits on his throne reading allowed my words as if they are mere chattery amongst children playing mould-my-cockle-bread.
Wat: What is a mould—
Paine: Forget it!
Wat: I understand you are upset.
Paine: Watson, please! Don’t stand there petting my flame. (beat) Chanley has no principle of censorship. All is derived by his empty personal values…caring only about the political climate of our time. Keeping the door bolted shut and if you weren’t drinking yourself out of the earth, perhaps we’d have a chance at staging!
Wat: That was quite a mouth full. I’ll have you know, that I have visited Chanley on more than one occasion and although we get along quite well he is not obliged to give me a license.
Paine: Then there is no hope.
Wat: Chanley is a petrified man.
Paine: I am sure there is a long line of disgruntled writers waiting to break down his door.
Wat: Perhaps…I have seen with my own two eyes the pressure he somehow manages. He resides in complete and utter fear.
Paine: Dear Wat, are you trying to make me find empathy with this man who I cannot—
Wat: No, no. It is true that Chanley and I go back to our childhood days but this in no way makes me partial.
Paine: You play both sides.
Wat: I’ll take that as an insult.
Paine: Take it as you will. You play him like a fiddle and stick a fork in my spine while at it. You have staged not one of my plays these last five years and I will have no more of it.
Wat: Be careful.
Paine: If you had any authority, any quest to join me in building a grand theatre—
Wat: I am the theatre! Do you not think I feel as though I am a failure? Staging what I call a series of safe plays. How do you think I remain in good standing with the Lord Chamberlain? I can count less than three plays that have gone up I can truly be proud of and yours just so happens to be one of them. Does that make me a fool to stand before you and have you insult me time and time again simply because you are low? I have been your greatest proponent since you uttered your first word…
Paine: …Yes…yes, you are right. Please, forgive me. I am not thinking clearly and must come back to my—
Wat: I know all about what you desire, what you dream, what you need because I too have those same dreams but we cannot force the hand that feeds us.
Paine: Feeds you, not I. If it weren’t for my criticisms, I’d be destitute.
Wat: You must know that we can stage your play privately. If that is the only way for now, that is what we shall do.
Paine: Yes…yes….the only way I presume.
Wat pours himself a drink. He fills up the glass Pain is holding.
Do you think it would help if we visited him together?
Wat: I do not think so. He does not wish to meet the author of any work.
Paine: What if I rewrote it? I can change it, give it a new name. Perhaps I can hold it intact without losing.
Wat: If we did it once before, I imagine we can do it yet again. Try. We will continue to try and work because we have no other way.
Paine: Five years…
Wat: It will all be worth it in the end.
Paine holds up his glass and drinks.