The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Shattered Dreams

More blog! I’ll get back to talking about my other article in Doctor Who Magazine and The Entropy Plague and stuff I’ve script-edited – I’ve made a list – but now, because I like to confound expectation, some more deleted scenes! This time from the spin-off series, Jago & Litefoot.

To begin with, there aren’t really any deleted scenes from my first Jago & Litefoot adventure, The Spirit Trap (or The Table Tappers as it was on all my early drafts); some material got added during rewrites but nothing got deducted, which is why the end result is a bit too long. To be honest, it’s far too long. It was written before I developed an obsessive fixation with editing down my own work, so it’s 11,500 words when it really should be 9,500. Add into that the fact that séance scenes should be played slowly in order to create atmosphere and you end up with a 45-minute plot lasting well over an hour (director Lisa Bowerman, the cast – in particular the legendary Janet Henfrey - and the sound designer do a great job, you should buy it!)


The Spirit Trap was quickly followed by The Theatre Of Dreams, an attempt to tell a mind-bending Philip K Dick virtual-reality type story in a Victorian idiom. It’s a bit like the Doctor Who story Last Christmas but not copying because I did it first. You should buy it and – of course - listen to it before reading any of the following deleted scenes, as they may contain ‘spoilers’.

And now, I shall shift to italics for my ‘writer’s commentary’.

First up, the story opens in a Victorian funfair. Now, one of the fun things about Jago & Litefoot is doing all the research. In this case, I found that Charles Dickens had written a very, very detailed description of a Victorian funfair in Sketches By Boz which meant I could use bits of it. The following is just ‘background dialogue’ – stuff you wouldn’t necessarily hear, but which is scripted as you can’t expect actors to improvise authentic Victoriana.

A HAMMER MACHINE:
Test yer strength, sir, hit the peg, win a shilling if the bell rings! Impress your ladyfriends!

VENDOR TWO:
Tate’ers, baked tate’ers and beans, take away the chill!

STALL TWO:
Bearded ladies! Two-headed freaks! Mermaids in the flesh! Nature’s curiosities, all for only sixpence!

PROFILE CUTTER:
Your very own profile, cut while you wait! Five minutes, guaranteed! Silhouette portraits, very elegant, give him something to remember you by!

FIND THE THIMBLE:
Ere’s the sort o’game turn every ‘air on your ‘ead grey with delight! Three thimbles and vun little pea, with a vun, two, three and a two, three, vun! Catch ‘im if you can!

VENDOR THREE:
Saloop-a-loop! Saloop-a-loop and a max and water! Pickled salmon and oysters!

STALL THREE:
You ain’t never seen anything like it! Sensation of the decade! Death-defying acts that’ll make your hair stand on end! And all perfomed by nature’s very own acrobat - the humble fieldmouse! A veritable Blondin in miniature!

VENDOR FOUR:
Frost fair wax-works! Meet the crowned heads of Europe! Cower in fear at the infamous murderers of the age! See the ‘eadless cadaver of Anne Boleyn - accurate in every detail!

STALL FOUR:
Here, here! The lion - exactly as is represented on the canvas outside, no waiting, no deception! The ferocious lion, who bit off a gentlemen’s head in Camberwell last twelve-month, and has killed on average three keepers a year ever since! Price of admission only sixpence!

Anyway, even though The Theatre Of Dreams script is still too long, I did edit it down, which is why this next bit got cut down:

LITEFOOT:
The New Regency is an extremely prestigious venue. I’ve been there once or twice myself - I saw Henry Irving give his Macbeth there!

JAGO:
Did you? Well, I thought it was about time I had a change of luck - and how, eh? And how!

LITEFOOT:
More than luck, surely?

JAGO:
I must admit, it is gratifying to have one’s capabilities finally achieve the recognition they deserve...

LITEFOOT:
What I meant was, Sir Roderick must think very highly of you. Are you old friends? You’ve never mentioned him.

JAGO:
Oh, yes. Old friends. Go back a long way, me and old Rod Bolly. Theatrical associates... (BEAT) Actually, between you and me, until I received this letter I’d never heard of the blessed fellow!

LITEFOOT:
No?

JAGO:
But you know how it is, you get introduced to so many people, I must have met him at some soiree and made a good impression.

LITEFOOT:
A very good impression, it would appear.

JAGO:
Indeed. I checked though, it’s all bona fide and above board - the theatre staff were all expecting me when I popped round earlier this afternoon.

I cut the next bit, just me showing off my research into Victorian melodramas.

LITEFOOT:
Quite possibly. But with commedia del’arte influences... that chap there seems to be a harlequin figure. Normally these melodramas are all pretty much the same – you know the sort of thing, an heir deprived of their inheritance, incompetent assassins, a tragic romance, a ghost turning up to explain the plot... and a swordfight which rapidly turns into a bloodbath as everyone murders everyone else.

JAGO:
Ah yes. ‘Hamlet’. The work of the great Bard.

LITEFOOT:
As told by an idiot – signifying nothing.

I must’ve been on a real Shakespeare kick back then, because here’s the next chunk I cut.

LITEFOOT:
But why? I mean, how? How do you know these things?

DEUTERONOMY:
All the world’s a stage, Professor. Every man must play a part...

FOSCO:
We are all but walking shadows, poor players, that strut and fret their hour on the stage, then are heard no more.

LITEFOOT:
I don’t see how quoting Shakespeare constitutes an explanation!

As well as big bits, lots of individual lines got cut or rewritten to be shorter and more to the point. I think the next bit got cut because it’s a problem when the characters work out the story too soon!

LITEFOOT:
A few minutes ago, I was making my way backstage... and I saw them performing a scene on stage, based on events from my own life! Damn near frightened the life out of me!

JAGO:
You must be mistaken.

LITEFOOT:
They were acting out an exchange between myself and young Ellie. An exchange to which they cannot have been party! There is something... unearthly about them. Some sort of supernatural power!

Another bit cut, over-explaining stuff:

LITEFOOT:
Well, maybe. But maybe the other victims, maybe they also came to see the Theatre De Fantasie here?

JAGO:
Quite likely they did. We have a thousand people coming through our doors for each performance. I would be more surprised if it turned out they hadn’t seen the show!

Later, as our heroes investigate, I cut this bit, a very good example of exactly the sort of thing that you should cut.

JAGO:
If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it! But where are all the bodies coming from?

LITEFOOT:
Hold hard, Henry. I think we might be about to get our answer!

JAGO:
What?

LITEFOOT:
Look – Madame Deuteronomy –

Another cut, not sure why – probably because having villains chat about their plans makes them seem less mysterious and threatening – so I just had the distant door opening a bit earlier on.

FOSCO:
Madame... if these men have informed the authorities... perhaps it is time we moved on?

DEUTERONOMY:
You are right, Fosco. We should take our... entertainment elsewhere. Mister Jago. Consider our contract terminated!

JAGO:
Never mind that! What are you up to? What is this foul scheme of yours?

FX: DISTANT DOOR OPENS.

Another bit cut because I was probably get carried away with showing off my research and making up silly music hall acts. There really was a ‘giant midget’ though, I didn’t make that up! I realise it’s an offensive term and I can’t remember whether it was included in the finished play; I recall there being some discussion about this.

JAGO:
Baverstock Daniels and his dancing Spaniels, yes! Not to mention The Great McTeeny, the world’s only giant midget. Also Matilda Turvey, acrobat and tight-rope-walker; and, direct from the tulip-fields of Holland, the Van Clogge family clog-dancing spectacular!

LITEFOOT:
A most auspicious line-up!

JAGO:
Plus sundry trick-cyclists, sword-swallowers, jugglers, and Ethiopian Serenades. And, if I can take you into my confidence, I’ve also secured the services of a certain Lottie Collins who will be presenting her famous ‘Ta-Ra-De-Boom-De-Ay’!

I probably cut the next bit because it’s a bit too say-what-you-see (even by my standards). I’m not sure. It was a long time ago, this is all guesswork.

LITEFOOT:
Yes. I heard it too. But I... I can’t see an audience.

FX: AUDIENCE LAUGHS.

JAGO:
No, wait. The sound... it’s coming from over there. Look! It’s just... pure darkness. A wall of absolute blackness!

More say-what-you-see stuff that was cut, though it’s kind of nice:

JAGO:
But look at the stalls. They’re empty. Just row upon row of empty seats. Where was the audience we heard?

LITEFOOT:
Never mind that, Henry. What matters is that if we’re on a stage, we can step off it!

FX: THEY STEP OFF THE STAGE.

DEUTERONOMY:
As you desire. You may depart whenever you wish!

FOSCO:
Though you may find it harder to leave than you imagine! (LAUGHS)


Here, the villains explain the nature of the sinister Theatre De Fantasie. I noticed they were kind of repeating information, so I cut the first Fosco line and the second Deuteronomy line. Always best to keep explanations to a minimum, I find; you want the threat to remain mysterious and the more you try to nail down the logic the more likely it is that something won’t make sense!

DEUTERONOMY:
The theatre feeds on dreams, on fantasies and wishes. On the very imagination itself!

FOSCO:
A man might spend a whole lifetime within the realm of the theatre... giving of himself until only a shell is left!

LITEFOOT:
So that’s what you do? You roam from country to country, finding new victims for this... fiendish device?

DEUTERONOMY:
But with each soul the theatre devours, its appetite grows. The more it consumes, the hungrier it becomes!

Another cut. Not sure why; I suspect it was because I knew the action wouldn’t be clear on audio, and I couldn’t picture Litefoot ‘leaping’. So I just cut out of the scene earlier – always a good solution!

SACKER:
I thought... if I got down here in time, I could take some arsenic, end it. But now... now I have the taste!

LITEFOOT:
Sacker, my old friend –

SACKER:
I wouldn’t try escaping through the hospital, Professor. It’s not a pretty sight right now –

FX: TABLE SHOVED OUT OF THE WAY.

LITEFOOT:
No, but after what occurred with Ellie, I have taken some precautions -

SACKER:
Precautions?

LITEFOOT:
This. (LEAPS, THROWS STAKE)

FX: STAKE BEING RAMMED INTO A CHEST.

SACKER:
(GURGLES BUT DOESN’T DIE)

LITEFOOT:
Sorry, old friend. But it’s all for the best –

A couple of sizeable cuts. I tightened most of this by losing the change of location – which wouldn’t be clear - and having Jago hear the first ‘Audience laughs’ rather than the second one.

JAGO:
What else is there to do? It’s not safe to go out after dark. You know she’s running all the theatres in London now? Palaces of death, they call them.

LITEFOOT:
On the way here... some of the monstrous acts I have seen, Henry. It’s like a vision of hell.

JAGO:
And all because of Henry Gordon Jago! Ha!

FX: AUDIENCE LAUGHS.

LITEFOOT:
No. I rather think the responsibility lies with me...

CUT TO:

23. MORTUARY

FX: DOOR KNOCK.

LITEFOOT:
Not now, I’m busy.

FX: DOOR OPENS.

JAGO:
Professor –

LITEFOOT:
Henry, please, go.

JAGO:
What are you doing with all those pipes and whatnot? That’s not laudanum, is it?

LITEFOOT:
None of your business if it is.

FX: AUDIENCE LAUGHS.

JAGO:
But Professor, I... did you hear that?

And following on from that, another bit that I cut, though I quite like the ‘Pub hubbub’ bit. Pub hubbub’s quite a fun phrase. Pub hubbub. Pub hubbub. Pub hubbub.

JAGO:
Laughter. Audience laughter.

LITEFOOT:
You don’t think –

JAGO:
Wait a moment.

FX: DOOR OPENS. PUB HUBBUB BRIEFLY HEARD. DOOR SHUTS.

LITEFOOT:
That door... should lead to a hospital corridor, not the public room of the Red Tavern!

JAGO:
Thought something was fishy. After all, how did you get back here if it’s not safe to go outside after dark?

LITEFOOT:
Yes, that was a trifle odd... but if you can hear laughter, then that means –

Another cut, more pub hubbub:

LITEFOOT:
Try the door, the door you entered by.

QUICK:
If you say so –

FX: DOOR OPENS. BRIEF BURST OF PUB HUBBUB. DOOR SHUTS.

QUICK:
But that’s... I’d swear... that’s the Red Tavern, isn’t it?

SACKER:
Since when has there been a hostelry in the corridor outside?

LITEFOOT:
Don’t you see? This isn’t my mortuary.

And, getting to the end, another cut. Poor Baverstock Daniels!

JAGO:
Couldn’t really have hoped for a better outcome! And to cap it all off - bookings at the theatre haven’t been affected in the slightest!

LITEFOOT:
Not even without your star attraction?

JAGO:
No. Turns out the rest of the bill were the real crowd-pleasers. Baverstock Daniels has proved something of an overnight sensation!

So, that’s what I cut out of the first draft, before I even handed it in. Of course my lovely script editor Justin Richards had notes, and even if he didn’t, seeing a script again with a fresh pair of eyes meant I would want to rewrite bits of it. Or cut bits, like this:

JAGO:
Ha! You and your suspicious mind, George! Knew there had to be a rational explanation!

FOSCO:
You’re still interested in taking us on, sir?

JAGO:
Certainly am, young man! Eight o’clock, on the dot!

LITEFOOT:
Henry, I thought you were looking for acts to appeal to the ‘discriminating patron of arts’?

JAGO:
Oh, I don’t know... I think I might have a hit on my hands!

This next bit is another great example of stuff that should be cut:

FX: GASLIGHT LIT. UP CREAKING STAIRS.

LITEFOOT: (TALKING QUIETLY TO HIMSELF)
Now, let me see, if these stairs lead to the stage, and those to the cellars, then these must lead to the dressing room...

FX: CREAK. LITEFOOT PAUSES.

LITEFOOT:
This place is a veritable maze, one could spend a whole lifetime wandering these passages –

I suspect the next bit was cut because... well, it’s obvious why it was cut, isn’t it?

ELLIE:
It would be so easy, just to give in... to the endless hunger.

LITEFOOT:
The black pudding isn’t helping, I take it?

ELLIE:
Needs to be warm. Dripping straight from the vein. (BEAT) It’s the children that are the worst temptation. Because they’re so fresh...

Another cut, villains discussing the logic of their plans, always a good thing to chop!

FX: BACK TO DEUTERONOMY AND FOSCO

DEUTERONOMY:
They all appear suitable. But we will soon be needing a great many more!

FOSCO:
There is a limit to how many we can take without the authorities becoming suspicious.

Not sure why I cut the next bit, but when a character has the same line four lines apart it’s always worth thinking whether you can cut the bit in the middle.

JAGO:
It’s a dream come true. And how about Ellie? Any progress?

LITEFOOT:
Yes. I’ve just come from finishing her final treatment... she’s completely cured, aren’t you Ellie?

ELLIE:
That’s right, Professor. Right as rain!

JAGO:
Back to your old self, eh? Another dream come true!

Here’s a bit that I’m very glad I cut (thanks Justin) – Jago & Litefoot coming up with explanations for the story. As I’ve said early, I wanted the threat to be enigmatic, and this would’ve just ruined it.

LITEFOOT:
Still, have to wonder about this Theatre De Fantasie. Who do you think built it? And what’s it for?

JAGO:
Does it matter?

LITEFOOT:
It may matter a great deal. A prison, perhaps?

JAGO:
Or a torture chamber.

LITEFOOT:
Then again, we’re presuming this is its intended purpose. It may have been an asylum, or a way to take comfort in a fantasy life.

JAGO:
That Deuteronomy woman said the thing was alive.

LITEFOOT:
Maybe it is. Maybe all the dreams and wishes it absorbed somehow brought it to life. (BEAT) Well, it’s a theory.

Much better to leave it mysterious, I think. And that’s pretty much it, deleted-scene-wise. But I have more deleted scenes from our intrepid twosome – and even a lost story – to share with you at a future date.

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