The stage is in darkness. Only GEORGE’s voice can be heard.
GEORGE. First and foremost, a communicator. (Beat.) Unafraid to tackle the real issues. (Beat.) No. No. Always ready to plumb the depths of social and political change, he has – he has – convincingly merged an intellectual prowess with literary – no with a literary, no – with a distinctive literary style. No. No. (Beat.) An adventurer into the heartland of a nation’s cultural – An adventurer into the cultural heartland of a nation’s – It’s all a little too pith helmet – Wait a minute – (Beat.) Award-winning – is that awful? It’s probably unprofessional not to mention the awards – Bestowed with the odd literary gong – pretentiously casual – Why not just say it? Recipient of awards too numerous to – No – No – (Beat.) – All right. Okay. (Confidently.) George Spencer has been the authoritative – the single most res(pected) – George Spencer has been the incisive voice of a – the British intellectual establishment has long acknowledged – For twenty – no – for – Love him or hate him – George Spencer, the fearlessly articulate – Fuck! (Beat.) Look, this is awful – so, so – I loathe people who talk about themselves in the third person –
CLAUDIA. I asked you –
GEORGE. Yes –
CLAUDIA. I need your help. The introduction’s –
GEORGE. Very tricky –
CLAUDIA. I need ideas –
GEORGE. Yes –
CLAUDIA. It’s so hard to fit everything – to summarise a life
in a couple of paragraphs!
GEORGE. It is an art.
CLAUDIA. I hope you don’t mind –
GEORGE. Not at all – not at all –
CLAUDIA. It’s very interesting –
GEORGE. Is it?
CLAUDIA. Oh, yes!
GEORGE. Because, you know – you know – a lifetime of interviewing can make one an intolerably longwinded interviewee – as if one finally allays one’s sense of outrage at how much more interesting oneself is.
CLAUDIA. Not at all.
GEORGE. As an interviewer, one waits interminably for the question that never comes: What About You, Then? So you see, now I’m on the other side – I have a vast impulse to bore.
CLAUDIA. Well, your impulse is failing you –
GEORGE. I’m like some ancient explorer reminiscing – Tracing over rivulets of technique, remembering philosophical oceans –
CLAUDIA. But you’re so inspiring! Some of the others were really, well, lethargic.
GEORGE. They were?
CLAUDIA. Yes. Yes. They were just these old men. These irrelevant old men.
GEORGE. And I’m not?
CLAUDIA. Last time we talked, I came away . . . dazzled.
GEORGE. I know what you’re doing, young lady –
GEORGE. Melting my defences –
CLAUDIA. Honestly –
GEORGE. So I ‘open up’.
CLAUDIA. Well . . .
GEORGE. It’s not a criticism . . .
CLAUDIA. Isn’t it?
GEORGE. Not at all. I’m impressed. You have strategy.
CLAUDIA. I do?
GEORGE. And strategy is important. It’s always important.
CLAUDIA. And is it working?
GEORGE (laughing). I think it might be . . .
CLAUDIA. The truth is, I found that interview stuff very interesting. Especially since I’m interviewing you.
GEORGE. You know, a kind of vulgarity has insinuated itself into journalism via the television set. I always say an interview comes down to secrets . . .
GEORGE. One’s life revolves around secrets. A good interview does not need to expose a secret. It simply reveals to us why a secret is fundamental to someone’s life.
GEORGE. Not really –
CLAUDIA. Yes – Yes!
GEORGE. What about you then?
CLAUDIA. I’m nothing. I’m no-one.
GEORGE. How can you say that?
CLAUDIA. I’ve got no illusions.
GEORGE. If they chose you –
CLAUDIA. They saw in me a bright graduate with – with tenacity – and they knew I’d be flattered to do it so they needn’t pay me much.
GEORGE. I’m sure you’re too modest.
CLAUDIA. That’s fine. That’s really fine. Because it’s true. I am flattered. And it will look good on my C.V.
GEORGE. The dreaded C.V.!
CLAUDIA. Middle-class girls are all the same. That’s why we have to spend our whole lives singling ourselves out. The publishers are using me, but then – I’m using them.
GEORGE. Isn’t that a little cynical?
CLAUDIA. Actually, an exploitative relationship is in many ways the most dependable relationship. I need them and they need me. No one’s going to fuck anyone over.
GEORGE. Do you have a title yet?
CLAUDIA. ‘Movers and Shakers: Power and Influence in Modern Britain.’ Pretty dry –
GEORGE. I like it!
CLAUDIA. Thank you.
GEORGE. You want to write?
CLAUDIA. Everyone wants to write!
CLAUDIA. The truth is, I do write. Fiction. And I intend to become a very good writer. But I find it so pathetic – so indulgent to express that wish –
GEORGE. Well –
CLAUDIA. It’s what one does, in the end.
GEORGE. Well, yes. But when you’re young it’s all ahead – it’s all wishing. Wishing has the same currency that doing does in middle age.
CLAUDIA. We all intend. Only some of us achieve. I’ve always – oh no – this is your interview!
GEORGE. Go on . . .
CLAUDIA. I feel so comfortable talking to you. You really – You seem to –
GEORGE. I’m interested.
CLAUDIA. I’ve always been able to imagine things ...