Steve Gooch - Playwright Dramatist Author Writer Editor

British Beauty: Script Excerpt

Sophie, a wild country girl grows up in deepest Sussex as the daughter of a gamekeeper, who is head of the household of Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, women's rights campaigner and, with Bessie Parkes, editor of The Englishwoman's Journal. Barbara is a friend of Preraphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti who, along with other Victorian luminaries like George Eliot and Friend, loves to visit her country home in Sussex. It just so happens that on a visit Rossetti one day decides to draw the wild Sophie...

British Beauty by Steve Gooch scene

Sophie: You drawn lots of people?

Rossetti: A few.

Sophie: That why your eyes are playin' up?

Rossetti: My father went blind.

Sophie: My Grandad was blind. Accident on a farm. Made him a right rebel. Captain Swing an' all that ... My Dad says it was his own fault. Shoulda looked what he was doin'.

Rossetti: (Drawing) Ahuh.

Sophie: What do you think?

Rossetti: I can't express a view, Sophie, I don't know the circumstances.

Sophie: That's what I say. We don't know the ... whassnames.

(Pause. ROSSETTI draws.)

Sophie: I shall say that to my Dad next time he tells me off. 'How dare you express a view, you don't know the ... whassnames.

Rossetti: Circumstances.

Sophie: Yeh, them.

(Pause. He draws, she fidgets.)

Sophie: I suppose, in a way, you're expressin' views all the time.

Rossetti: Ah, you mean 'view' as in landscape.

Sophie: Countryside.

Rossetti: We call that landscape.

Sophie: All right. (Mock pompous) If that's your view. (She's starting to enjoy this)

Rossetti: I should introduce you to Ruskin.

Sophie: Who's he?

Rossetti: A critic. He believes we should be true to nature.

Sophie: Oh ar. Go round nood, does he?

Rossetti: (Laughs) I shall tell him that.

Sophie: Tell my dad while you're at it. Nature drives him wild. Anything natural, he's not happy 'less he's pruned it, put a collar on it an' got it to sit up an' beg.

Rossetti: Anything natural like you, you mean.

Sophie: How d'you know that?

Rossetti: I had parents once too.

Sophie: An' kids?

Rossetti: My wife died.

Sophie: Oh sorry.

Rossetti: She came here, you know. I drew her here.

Sophie: Oh really ...

Rossetti: She was just an ordinary girl. Lizzie her name.

Sophie: Really.

Rossetti: She drove her father wild too. Following her nature ...

Sophie: Nature ever get to you, do it?

Rossetti: These days I do mainly portraits.

Sophie: I suppose faces are just a different kind of view, really.

Rossetti: Not really. A 'view' implies a thing out there, in nature, the landscape. But a 'portrait' means something you interpret, portray ... And what you look at and how you see it can be very different indeed.

Sophie: As different as you and me. (ROSSETTI looks up at her) Landscapes don't look back fer a start.

Rossetti: A different kid of inspiration altogether.

Sophie: 'Specially with no clothes on.

(She looks straight at him. ROSSETTI looks uncomfortable)

Sophie: Don't worry, I won't tell my Dad. -- 'Cept of course he ain't my dad cos I'm illy- .. illy-

Rossetti: Illegitimate.

Sophie: That's the one. You shocked?

Rossetti: Why should I be? I can be a bit of a bastard myself.

(Sophie laughs raucously. They get the giggles together.)

Sophie: You do many girls then?

Rossetti: I don't think I heard that quite properly.

Sophie: Drive you wild, do they?

Rossetti: I'm not sure we should be having this conversation ...

Sophie: Don't worry. Down in the village they all think I'm rollin' in the hay with you anyway...

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