Updated: Jun 17, 2020
What's the connection between a ménage à trois and the theft of a Rembrandt painting?
By Karen Eeckman
Warning: this play contains language and content of a sexual nature.
Dulwich Picture Gallery, 2019
CAST: Margaret Desenfans, Noel Desenfans, Sir Francis Bourgeois
FX: MARGARET and FRANCIS are having sex. Moans and kisses.
NOEL I’d like to sleep!
MARGARET Oh sorry darling, I didn’t realise we were so loud ...
NOEL You’re always loud! I wish we hadn’t been buried together in the same mausoleum.
MARGARET Better than enshrined in a telephone box.
FRANCIS I’ll never understand why Gilbert Scott took our mausoleum as a model for his red phone box.
NOEL Must have been the sound of lust which brainwashed him!
MARGARET We’re not that loud!
NOEL You used to f*** everywhere in the house like rabbits and you continue in the Kingdom of Death. In Hell. I’m in Hell.
MARGARET Heaven darling. Our little ménage à trois carries on in the afterlife. I couldn’t have dreamt better. Come and join us, Noel.
FRANCIS Yeah, come on mate.
NOEL And I’m supposed to be the Frenchie here. I wanna sleep!
FRANCIS Sure, mate. We’re gonna be quiet ...
FX: Margaret kisses him. More moans and kisses.
FRANCIS (whispering) Bend over the sarcophagus.
FX: Staccato beating of the skeletons on the sarcophagus as MARGARET and FRANCIS continue to f***. The voices overlap.
MARGARET Oh yes, oh yes ...
FRANCIS Spread your femurs. Yeah, good girl.
MARGARET More, more ...
FRANCIS Your raven hair hasn’t rotten yet. Such a turn on.
MARGARET Rrrrrrr! Now your flesh has decayed, I can get a good, long look at your coc - cyx.
FRANCIS (panting) Your bones are so white, so ripe.
MARGARET And yours so hard. Take me Francis!
NOEL Could you please shut up!
FRANCIS Sorry mate.
(Whispering. Overlapping) I’m nearly done, nearly done, nearly -
MARGARET Oh! Oh! Oh -
FX: A glass smashes in the distance. FRANCIS stops dead.
FRANCIS What the -
MARGARET Don’t stop!
NOEL What have you broken again? A bust?
FRANCIS Er, that’s not us, mate.
MARGARET Am I supposed to keep my femurs spread while both of you are having a little chat?
FRANCIS One minute, Margaret.
MARGARET Go to Hell!
FX: MARGARET closes her bony legs with a slam and walks off.
FRANCIS Come on, Mag.
FX: The raider sneaks in, jumping from the skylight onto the wooden floor scattered with shards. MARGARET freezes.
FRANCIS (Whispering) There’s somebody in the gallery.
FX: Footsteps on the wooden floor and the shards scattered everywhere.
FRANCIS (low) Somebody’s in.
NOEL Bloody hell! And I thought I could sleep all I wanted once I was dead. I hope it’s not one of those Royal Academy dinners.
FRANCIS (low) Shhh! That stopped decades ago.
MARGARET (tensed) It could be a wild animal.
FRANCIS (low) Will any of you whisper!
NOEL What for?
FRANCIS (low) Er … So they … don’t know we’re here … and ...
NOEL And we don’t scare them?
FRANCIS (low) Yeah.
FX: Footsteps continue.
FRANCIS (normal) Okay, forget it.
MARGARET Do you think it’s a wild animal? I hope it’s not a wild animal.
NOEL Like what? A flying squirrel?
MARGARET They can fly?
NOEL You want my death, Margaret. I would like to sleep!
FRANCIS But there’s somebody in.
NOEL It’s a security guard!
FRANCIS Sneaking in through the roof?
NOEL Well now you say it -
MARGARET A security guard? The one with the large … shoulders? Mmm … Let’s ask him to join our party ...
NOEL You’re hornier dead than alive.
MARGARET Like the menopause, decomposition boosts the appetite.
FX: One painting is taken off a wall, the security alarm goes off. It’s very loud at the beginning, then it’s a background noise.
MARGARET (annoyed) Not the alarm again.
NOEL No. No. No. (screaming) Nooooooooooooo!
FRANCIS I may not be able to keep hard.
FX: The alarm gets mingled with a WW2 siren, a bomb falls onto the gallery, explosion.
NOEL screams hysterically.
NOEL The sarcophagus is smashed open. My tibias, my phalanges, everything’s falling apart ...
MARGARET It’s fine, darling, it’s all fine ...
NOEL My right foot has disintegrated, my bones are scattered everywhere, they’ll never be able to reassemble my skeleton -
FRANCIS Definitely not hard.
MARGARET It’s only the security alarm. Noel, do you hear me?
FRANCIS Have you considered enrolling him in therapy? He clearly hasn’t recovered from the bombing of the gallery.
NOEL There’s a crack in my left hip -
MARGARET There’s an eight month waiting list. Budget cuts in the NHS. Noel, wake up!
FRANCIS Slap him.
NOEL continues to scream.
FRANCIS Slap him.
MARGARET But ...
FRANCIS I’ll do it.
FX: FRANCIS slaps NOEL very hard.
FRANCIS Ah, you’re back.
NOEL What the ...
MARGARET Um … You were having an episode.
NOEL The alarm is on?
FRANCIS Hence the episode.
NOEL Don’t tell me the Rembrandt is being stolen again.
MARGARET (uninterested) Probably.
NOEL Francis, we must stop the thief.
NOEL Help me get out of the sarcophagus, two centuries lying in a cold place hasn’t benefited my arthritis.
MARGARET Francis and I were in the middle of something, Noel.
FRANCIS We were. But you walked off -
NOEL What an annoying wife you are. I had imagined a spinster would have kept quiet, knowing her luck.
FRANCIS And my … er … erection hasn’t lasted either.
MARGARET I’m sure my fortune glossed over the flaws of our marriage.
NOEL Not totally. I won’t accept our collection being dilapidated by vandals. How many times has the Rembrandt been stolen?
FRANCIS The Portrait of Jacob de Gheyn III? Four times so far. I believe the gallery figures in the Guinness Book of Records.
MARGARET What do they want with that beer drinker? The gallery’s full of wine and milk drinkers too.
FRANCIS It must have become a bet.
MARGARET That's going to attract an awful lot of publicity.
FX: The raider runs towards the mausoleum.
NOEL Shhh! Don’t move.
FX: The raider runs past the mausoleum before vanishing. Their footsteps fade away.
FRANCIS He’s got two artworks.
NOEL But not our Rembrandt. That was only the loans from Le Louvre and the USA. We’re safe.
FRANCIS And that’s it?
NOEL What’s this guy going to do, go up to a dealer and say, ‘Hey, I’m looking to sell my Rembrandt’?
MARGARET Don’t you think we should steal the Rembrandt ourselves? It’s starting to be dull being disturbed every two days by another robbery attempt.
NOEL Good idea darling. We should empty the gallery of all its artworks so we can shag in peace.
MARGARET (vexed) You’re the one who complained.
NOEL Where were we?
FRANCIS In the middle of a theesome. If you’d like to join.
NOEL Why not? I’m totally awake now.
FX: Kisses and moans, with the security alarm still in the background.
Karen Eeckman for Cradles and Labels
Voices from the Vault is a series of plays inspired by objects in London museums, and intended to be performed as a podcast.
The Mausoleum is based on the tomb of Margaret Desenfans, her husband, Noel Desenfans, and her lover, Sir Francis Bourgeois, which can be seen at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.