rpf. oona chaplin/richard madden. amy manson. r. theatre!au; genderswapped hamlet. written for viennawaits for falseeeyelashes's ficathon. ~1400 words.
how does a stage works? a pair of lovers who look like they were fated to make love on an open grave.
notes: i am ridiculous. this is ridiculous. *shrugs*
stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits of our brains where the common sense should have been.
WISE CHILDREN, angela carter.
part one: break a leg
How does a stage work? You need lights, big yellow and bright ones that flash out of the dark cave of the theatre and blind your actors. You need a name to put on the docket, one to attract crowds and the other to attract lovers (this one has "Dame Judi!" as the ghost and "Bill Shakespeare!")
You don't need a pair of lovers who looks like they were fated to make love on an open grave but it helps, oh, how it helps.
This one starts with two stories and ends with one.
When Richard reads the script, he feels like the words are rearranging history on the page. Hamlet, prince of Denmark, except not, no longer and the Bard's words are there but the play is a mirror reflection to the one he knows, the part is a mirror reflection to the one he knows.
He swallows when he sees Oona's name on the list of possible princes and places a call to his agent.
"I won't," he says, clearly and decidedly, "Have any flowers in my hair."
The first day of rehearsals is like walking into a circus. Amy Manson walks in, holding a fence - she is playing his sister, his slain sister - "but not yet," she amends, testing the blade. "They've flipped around all the fucking genders and still I end up dead," she complains, making a bit of a face.
"But you're good at dying."
She gives him a smile full of teeth, frightening and lovely and says, "I'm hoping not to make it my specialty. And besides - so are you."
"We could practice at being corpses together," he offers and she elbows him and laughs, "A pair of dead ginger siblings." He tugs on a strand of dyed hair and grins when she swats his hand away. Getting into character with female co stars is a bit of a perk of theatre seasons as opposed to filming - more time to slip and in out of the edges.
The circus of chaos that fills the building is explained away by a series of solemn pronouncements, all communicated to him by Amy who seems to be the only person there that isn't already losing hope of this play ever being performed -
First, Dame Judi Dench! the ghost has extracted her support from the play and the position is currently being held by Indira Varma, who Amy explains (almost as if he is a babe, with no knowledge of the industry himself) is a splendid actress but doesn't hold the same draw. Their director has gone off his meds. Oona won't leave her dressing room. The costumes are all too small.
"I can help with that," he says, easily, swinging his legs off the edge of the stage.
He hasn't seen her since they finished the season. She is sitting in the room with an open script spread out on her lap, drinking coffee and biting at the bottom of her lip.
He raps against the open door experimentally.
"They told me you were throwing a fit."
"I said I wouldn't come out till they got me a ghost" she says, sounding bored. "I didn't think it'd work but apparently they take it quite seriously around here."
"Well," he says, sitting in beside her, "You're the star of the show."
"I suppose I am," she says, mouth stretching up brightly. He has missed her smile (no, he isn't allowed to think that - )
She taps his nose.
"Ready to drown, Ophelia?" she teases. Her face is too close to his. All he can see are eyes and lips and chin.
"I can't believe you're my dying lover again - god, Richard, what's a girl to do if you keep dying on her?"
"Well," he clears his throat, "Arguably, in both instances the blame rather points towards you."
"Just like a man," she scoffs, "Blaming all his ills on the woman."
"Tell me, if I were just like a man, would I be here?"
"No, maybe not."
"You're not nervous, are you?"
"No," and then, pressing the tips of her fingers against his face, tracing the bones lightly, she says, "You'll never make as - as lovely an Ophelia as Amy."
"Well, let's hope I won't be required to," he says, dryly and he knows better than to give her stories about stages and acts because she will have heard better fare than anything he can offer so he only links hands with her hands and tumble out of the room.
The building, all stone and wood and stars, seems to sigh with relief.
part two: a tragedy triumphant
The first time that he hears the gravediggers rehearse, he is lying back on the floorboards in the wings and their voices ring around the empty theatre, the cadences coloured with smoky cigarettes and swigs of whiskey and Oona walks in between breaths - his heart jumps against the pause in his lungs as she raises an eyebrow. Actors communicate like lovers, in gestures of hands and mouths and bodies so when he shakes his head and purses his lips, she knows better than to speak and lies down next to him in, in his method grave.
When they finish, she rolls her body on to her side and presses on hand top of his chest, covering the space where his blood runs to the heart.
She kisses him, fingers making gentle shapes in his hair that feel more like flowers than limbs.
He had wanted to play Hamlet, at sixteen or seventeen, learning speeches in advances.
Now, he feels his lips moving in time with her when she speaks, tasting the familiar words on his tongue, tripping his teeth closed when his voice threatens to break through.
Oona stands differently in the role, she stands as if her whole body is wound up, wired tight. She moves like a loaded gun and she falls into the whole of it, so seriously that he never breaks, not once - not even when she bids him "get thee to a nunnery." Oona could send playboys to convents with her voice when she acts, switching off her face a moment later to flip her hair out of the back of her shirt and take a quick drink of water between acts.
He watches her with something like wonder, really and hopes - he hopes she won't notice.
The fight takes weeks to choreography, the two women flying about the stage, legs turning over floorboards like dancer's. Their bodies match and flex and he likes seeing them melt into giggles after each try, jostling each other's shoulders and joking.
"I would have thought you'd be more clumsy," he tells Oona and receives a smack in return.
"Well," she breathes, "You've never seen me dance."
He has to sit down for the rest of the day.
Hamlet and Ophelia, Oona and Richard sleep together after opening night. The details are unimportant but for curious readers, it was in Richard's apartment, Oona was the one who initiated it, barreling her way into the cab with him after the cast parted on the street outside the bar; it was Oona who pressed her body up against his in the backseat and kissed him (again) on the mouth, her fingers under his shirt, making quick, sparking contact with his skin. She chuckles against his open mouth, whispers, "And then it started like a guilty thing/Upon a fearful summons."
They don't make it to the bed when they get it but end up crumpled into the floor, his hands tugging fistfuls of her hair as they fuck, bare skin grazing against the rug.
In the morning, he makes coffee and they speak in lover's tongue again, all silent gestures and crumpled mouths.
When they arrive at set, there is congratulatory cake from the director. Oona leans into him, steals a bit of icing off the top of his slice.
"Think we can do that again tonight?"
"The play or the sex?"
She laughs as if he is foolish for assuming one is separate from the other.
How does a stage work?
There are somethings you need and some that only help. A pair of lovers who can speak in tongues as well as they can speak without, one name ("Bill Shakespeare!"), one script, bright lights and a twist.