Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Charles Dickens Museum
CAST: Robert Seymour, Charles Dickens
FX: The birds tweet, the breeze blows the leaves of ivy of the back garden, Charles, sitting at a metal table, pours himself a cup of tea.
Robert, lying on the ground, groans as he wakes up.
CHARLES Slept well?
FX: Charles pours some milk in his cuppa.
Robert continues to groan.
CHARLES Stop groaning and stand up, this part’s starting to get on my nerves.
ROBERT Got such a hangover.
FX: Charles seizes a spoon and stirs his cuppa while Robert struggles to get up.
CHARLES, bored: Very surprising.
ROBERT The light’s burning my eyes.
ROBERT My chest hurts.
CHARLES, yawning: Really? A cup of tea?
ROBERT Er … How many drinks did I have?
CHARLES Quite a few.
FX: Charles pours Robert a cup of tea, adding some milk and sugar.
ROBERT Why am I standing in a pool of gore? Did I get sick? No sugar plea/se -
CHARLES You always have sugar.
ROBERT Do we know each other?
CHARLES Will you ever change your lines?
FX: Charles gives the cup to Robert.
CHARLES Here. No, that would require some imagination. Let’s go back to the template. Yawning: The light this morning is extraordinary.
FX: Charles seizes again his spoon and stirs his cup.
ROBERT True. Perfect light … I’m not going to stay here for too long, I have some drawings to complete and actually this light is just what I need.
CHARLES That won’t help.
ROBERT Beg your pardon?
CHARLES You will never be able to finish these pictures.
ROBERT Who are you?
CHARLES You don’t understand the essence of The Pickwick Papers.
ROBERT Are you working for Chapman and Hall Publishing?
FX: Charles makes more and more noise stirring his cup, bumping the china with the spoon.
CHARLES You're struggling to design illustrations in line with the sketches.
ROBERT I’m not! I’m Robert Seymour for fuck’s sake, the Shakespeare of caricature, I’m being compared to Hogarth, I’m the most famous artist of -
CHARLES Not for much longer. Your work is unsatisfactory.
ROBERT Unsatisfactory? Unsatisfactory!
CHARLES Yes, unsatisfactory. Your illustrations have to fit better with the narrative. Your last drawing, The Dying Clown, well, every figure is wrong. Apart from the furniture of the room, maybe.
FX: Charles stirs very fast and irritably the cup.
ROBERT I don’t allow you to talk to me like that. Shouting: Can you please stop stirring your tea!
CHARLES At last! I thought the line will never come. I was starting to have a cramp!
ROBERT What? Beat. Where are we? Did I pass out at Dickens’? I had a few drinks and a heated talk with this scribbler last night -
ROBERT Scribbler. Could I have a sugar, actually?
CHARLES I’m not a scribbler!
ROBERT I have no clue who you are, sir. I was referencing this hack, this piece of trash, this Dickens of ill omen -
CHARLES, roaring: I am Charles Dickens!
ROBERT You can’t be. Charles Dickens is a whippersnapper who thinks he can doodle. How old are you?
ROBERT See. Dickens is 24.
CHARLES Was. When you died.
ROBERT I don’t believe y/ou -
CHARLES, annoyed with boredom: Will you ever say something else? Look for yourself, the gravestone. Behind you.
ROBERT The grave what?
FX: Robert walks through the puddle and on the paving stone before stopping to read the gravestone.
ROBERT, reading: ‘To the memory of Robert Seymour, who died 20th April 1836 aged 38 years’. My god! I’m dead. I’m … Are you dead too?
CHARLES, sarcastic: Well perceived, Mr Brainy.
ROBERT And you’re the little do-doodler now aged 58 …
CHARLES The little do - Grrrrr!
ROBERT Why on earth am I spending my afterlife with … you? Am I in Hell?
CHARLES More tea?
FX: Charles pours more tea into Robert’s cup.
ROBERT Wait. Why is the inscription almost erased? Why is the stone in such a derelict state? Where’s my tomb?
CHARLES Nobody cares about your remains, Robert. History forgot you.
ROBERT, choking: History for/got -
CHARLES Unfortunately you didn’t choke to death. As my fame grew, your name got reduced to … well, a footnote in my story!
ROBERT How dare you? I am a star. Look, it’s written on the label over here.
Reading: ‘Robert Seymour, the most prolific illustrator and cartoonist of his era.’ See! How can History have - Hold on! Why is this inscription talking constantly about you, the shitty hack? Where are we?
CHARLES The Charles Dickens Museum.
ROBERT The what?
CHARLES, sadistic: I became famous with The Pickwick Papers. Very famous.
ROBERT The Pickwick Pa/pers - That was my idea! You little piece of shit! I dreamed up the idea of the club, it was mine all the way along.
CHARLES No. Your idea was the Nimrod Club - crap name by the way - a series of cartoons with texts linking loosely the pictures together. My vision is far greater: the Pickwick Club, a series of clever sketches with one or two illustrations … which you cannot even perform. By the way, you’re being dropped.
ROBERT I’m what?
CHARLES You’re not able to perform the simple task to complete four drawings inspired by my great text. And you call yourself the Shakespeare of caricature. Pffff! I’ve already put an ad.
ROBERT You did what? Arsehole!
FX: Robert throws the cup of tea against the gravestone.
ROBERT You’re stealing my genius! You’re dispossessing me from my idea. It’s me who approached Chapman and Hall with the concept of a gentlemen’s club -
CHARLES Plain. Dull. Insipid.
ROBERT Not at all -
CHARLES Want more synonyms? Superficial. Basic. My project is much deeper, nothing with silly sporting sketches but an acute dive into the cryptic human conditions.
ROBERT My idea was fantastic!
CHARLES No, it wasn’t.
ROBERT Why was my name absent from the front cover?
CHARLES Cos’ I’m the unique creator of The Pickwick Papers, a popular masterpiece which will make me rich and famous.
ROBERT I am the creator! You have to rectify this error and pay me royalties.
CHARLES Certainly not. The Papers are a success thanks to my talent. They launched my career … and killed yours.
Charles laughs, very satisfied with himself.
CHARLES And now the hysteria.
Charles sighs with annoyance.
CHARLES Please, grow up!
ROBERT I’m gonna complain to Chapman and Hall.
CHARLES, cruel: Cos’ you think they‘re not backing me?
ROBERT Wh/at - I’m their biggest star -
CHARLES Was. Beat. They saw my talent and chose their side.
ROBERT They did what? I’m heartbroken.
CHARLES Why not break it properly? There’s a gun lying in the mud.
ROBERT A gun?
FX: Robert grabs the gun.
CHARLES You’re finished. You’re a failed illustrator with -
ROBERT Shut up!
CHARLES I asked you to draw characters facing depression and death and you only came with jumping idiots smiling and bouncing everywhere.
ROBERT Shut up, cos’ I’m gonna shoot myself, I promise.
CHARLES, bored: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
ROBERT You don’t believe me? I swear it, I’m gonna press the -
CHARLES Can you do it fast? The track keeps skipping and I’m falling asleep.
FX: Robert shoots himself and falls on the ground. The coat and waistcoat catch fire.
CHARLES Shit! Why does his waistcoat always catch fire?
FX: Charles extinguishes the fire with his feet.
CHARLES Literally heartbroken. That should increase the legend.
Charles bursts out laughing.
FX: The birds tweet, the breeze blows the leaves of ivy of the back garden, Charles pours himself a cup of tea.
CHARLES, shouting: Could I get some coffee for a change?
CHARLES: And here it goes again. Argggg!
Robert groans more.
CHARLES Slept well?
Karen Eeckman for Cradles & Labels
The GraveStone is based on the relationship between Robert Seymour (died 1836), originator and first illustrator of The Pickwick Papers, and the novelist, Charles Dickens (died 1870).