by Susan Hodgetts
Setting: Le Chabanais, a notorious house of ill repute in Paris.
Character: Adelaide Snape (working name VIVIANA), of English origin, now the Madame of Le Chabanais.
The dying strains of a faded French song. VIVIANA, a woman of around 45 years of age, appears to be waltzing with someone, but is alone. She has not been treated gallantly by time. The music stops.
She speaks in an English accent, a jumbled mixture of East End and affected.
(burps) Oh, excuse me. I’ve just had a very big dinner at a charming little restaurant along the Champs Elysees with a wealthy Member of State and his very rich foreign guest. True, it’s a far cry from jellied eels. But I’ve lived here in Paris for decades and now oysters are more my type of cuisine. You see, I’ve dined with Kings.
(She removes what looks like a real pearl necklace, irritated by it clamouring at her neck. Distracted, she drapes it on a stool.)
But my Alain is buried here. Somewhere.
And this sumptuous abode, well I’ve risen to a Madame of my very own…I came here to escape the workhouse, fled like a canary bird from a coal mine. I knew that looks were my fortune. And my talents. I have many of those.
(She removes a bracelet, clamouring at her wrist. Drapes it on a mirror.)
All this jewelry, so heavy. It quite wears one down. I used to do the can-can for the King of England and I still wore all of this ammunition. Bertie, I mean. Although you’ve probably heard of him as Edward the Caresser. Lord knows, he spent enough time here. When he came to pave the way for the Entente Cordiale, I begged him. We were in the Japanese room, the most celebrated of all the rooms here at Le Chabanais (it’s the most luxurious with the right mixture of decadence and intimacy to put our guests a tease.) I said, Your Majesty, I fear for the future of England, and I got down on one knee, and he said, that’s a new position, I haven’t tried that one before. Continue reading