Amelia’s Nocturne by Chris Wind

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This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author’s prior consent

Set - a small table and chair in a garret; sputtering candle, 19th century paper, quill pen and inkpot


      Amelia lights the candle, gains control over herself, collects her
      thoughts, dips her pen into the inkpot, begins writing, stops,
      crumples paper and tosses it away angrily; music begins at bar 1.

      At around bar 13, Amelia begins writing again, speaking as she does
      so; piano fades out at end of bar 14.

      AMELIA:  Dearest Anne, I am writing to you in such misery tonight.
      Whether the clock has struck two or three I do not know, but there is
      not a half hour’s light left in this poor candle stub.  Becky, the
      little servant girl (God bless her), smuggled it up to me and I dare
      not go in search of another lest I be discovered—for I fear then they
      will take away my piano forever.  Oh Anne, what a state has befallen
      me—I am locked in a garret with strict orders not to be disturbed.
      Disturbed! —as if external stillness could calm this raging
      fury—but then the good doctors don’t account for that—I believe they
      don’t think it can exist, they don’t think anything can exist inside
      of a woman, they think we are all beautiful empty shells waiting to be
      filled with their dreams and desires—but I do run on.  Surely you
      will soon agree that I am quite mad—and you mustn’t!  Anne you must
      believe me when I tell you I am of clear, lucid mind as I write to you
      this blackest of nights.

      But let me go back, in an orderly fashion.  You recall the last time
      we had the pleasure of a visit.  I had come to see Mr. Liszt to
      request a copy of the Field nocturnes.  Well of course he wouldn’t see
      me, so I left the request with his man.  It was never answered.  Then
      quite a while later, Lord Ashbury—what a name, have you ever
      considered it? ash and bury—Lord Ashbury gallantly presented me with
      the complete edition.  He thought he was doing me such a pretty
      favour—which he was—and expected my gratitude and rapt attention in
      return—but it irked me that he, who knows nothing about music, should
      have his request attended to, while I had been virtually ignored.  And
      besides the man is such an irritation.

      Indeed, one day he laughed so heartily—I didn’t realize he had come
      into the parlour, I was concentrating on my finger crossings—he
      laughed when he saw me stumbling over and over crossing finger three
      over four and two.  With much condescension he announced that finger
      two crosses over finger one, as if I had got it all confused and
      backward.  Well—I stood up, slammed the piano shut, and said maybe
      his fingers couldn’t cross three over, but mine, well prepared by
      hours of petit-pointe could and would!  And they shall—

      (music resumes from bar 15 overlapping with her words)

      They must, if I am to play this new nocturne of mine as it must be

      (Amelia resumes, overlapping at around bar 20; music stops at end of
      bar 24)

      But I am so tired—not because of these late nights spent writing, nor
      because of the hours of concentrated practice, but because of the
      bickering and fighting just to be excused from garden parties, and
      afternoon strolls, and yes, petit-pointe, so I can work on my
      art—that is what is so exhausting.  Oh how I wish I could spend more
      time—I need more time—but, well, you know mother.  She is so upset
      with the time already spent practising, she tells me over and over I
      can play well enough, and certainly Lord Ashbury is delighted—-well
      enough for whom, I demand, I do not want to delight Lord Ashbury or
      any other Lord—but they cannot understand.  When I do play for
      guests, she criticizes me for not being a gracious host because I
      refuse to play their requests (but do you know what they ask for?),
      and she thinks it’s perfectly insulting when I play on and on
      oblivious of their presence, their polite applause, or when I suddenly
      stop in the middle of a piece to make a note of something I hadn’t
      realized before— In short, my intensity is embarrassing

[end of extract]

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