Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2145
The Actress The unnamed Actress is in her forties, brash, alluring, and one of the most consistently strong personalities in the play. While the other characters all seem to encounter someone capable of disarming their defenses, this remarkable woman never seems to lose, possibly because, of everyone, she seems best...
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The unnamed Actress is in her forties, brash, alluring, and one of the most consistently strong personalities in the play. While the other characters all seem to encounter someone capable of disarming their defenses, this remarkable woman never seems to lose, possibly because, of everyone, she seems best able to recognize and accept the imperfections inherent in people and relationships. During her rendezvous with The Playwright, she insults his work and his propensity for fancy wordplay. She pretends Catholic piety, then pulls him into bed with her for multiple rounds of sex. One moment naughty, the next nice, even the cultured and sophisticated Playwright is unable to guess her true intentions. Later, with the well-heeled Aristocrat, she is more sincere, because she seems to like him more, but she is no less wise. She acknowledges that he has other women in his life, sees directly through his false diffidence and, in spite of knowing their relationship is doomed to fail, encourages him to stay the course. ‘‘We’re alive!’’ she cries to him, and experiencing life is the only way of learning.
See The Student
Malcolm, The Aristocrat, is in his early thirties. His wealth derives from his family’s farming estate, and his personality seems to be a combination of the best and worst the aristocracy has to offer. He is intelligent, though not very articulate; earnest, but deceptive, even to himself; sophisticated, but base and animalistic as any of the other men in the play. ‘‘My life is a search . . . for a love which stays real,’’ he tells The Actress when he meets her in her dressing room. And it may be that he has good intentions on his search, but he is easily led astray. He suggests to The Actress that they put off their lovemaking until the next day, when they can find a proper room with a bed. However, she very easily seduces him into their first sexual encounter right there in her dressing room. The Aristocrat has glimpses of true insight, and in fact voices one of the most important ideas of the play, that everyone plays different parts with different people, and we’re all constantly changing. Despite his aspirations toward virtue, truth, and propriety, however, The Aristocrat has a darker side he is unable to control. In the final scene of the play he awakens from a night of drunken lovemaking with a prostitute and cannot remember where he is or how he got there. To his credit, he still hopes for the best, that nothing happened between himself and The Girl. When he is told otherwise, however, his wistful, philosophic side returns. ‘‘On we go,’’ he laments.
The Au Pair
Marie, The Au Pair, is foreign, and cares for a family and their children. Her origins (or, indeed, the origins of the family she cares for) are not described. She begins her encounter with Fred, The Cab Driver, by refusing his advances, even though she compromised herself by following him into a darkened storage closet. To help justify her actions to herself, she permits Fred to have sex with her after forcing him to tell her that it will mean something. She pretends to be fooled in order to allow herself a few minutes of guilty pleasure. After the act it is she who tries to leave first, though she is convinced to stay awhile with Fred, drinking beer and listening to the dance outside their tiny room.
Back at home, The Au Pair seems no more in control of her environment than at the dance. Whether to preserve her job, or because she lacks dignity, Marie allows herself to be treated with scorn and derision by The Student, at the same time that she permits him to have sex with her.
The Cab Driver
The Cab Driver (who later introduces himself as Fred) is shrewd, self-centered, and businesslike. Although it is he who sends out the first signals of sexual interest to the prostitute in the park (he walks past The Girl twice, with no particular destination in mind), he waits for her to make the first contact. He deflects any conversation about his personal life or a relationship beyond a brief sexual encounter, warning The Girl she would only get jealous because ‘‘I’m irresistible. Women can’t resist me.’’ He only agrees to sex when he is told he will not have to pay for it, then he finishes the act quickly and rushes back to work.
His next encounter, however, is different. He is kinder and gentler (if not altogether sincere) with the Au Pair. Their act of sex takes longer, and they both seem to have enjoyed it. When they are finished, he does not want to rush away but instead asks her to stay with him awhile. He remains awkward with emotions but more interested in her as a person.
See The Politician
See The Married Woman
See Cab Driver
The Girl, who calls herself Irene, is a teenage prostitute, amateurish and new to her work. She dresses the part, with a short, black leather skirt and heels, and her method of operation seems to be smoking cigarettes on a park bench, waiting to catch the attention of a potential customer. Given the chance, she is bold and aggressive. In order to build her clientele, or perhaps because she is still new, she doesn’t force payment for her services. The Cab Driver is momentarily surprised when The Girl tells him she doesn’t care if he pays her for sex. Then, after the act, she asks for remuneration anyway and is rejected but not discouraged. ‘‘I’ll be here tomorrow,’’ she says, purposefully.
She then disappears until the end of the play. A year has passed, and Irene has been plying her trade in a small room above a sex shop in the city. She spent the previous evening with The Aristocrat and admits to him that Fred (The Cab Driver from Scene One) wants to marry her, but she has so far resisted. Her experience during the last year doesn’t seem to have hardened her. She is sympathetic toward the plight of The Aristocrat, who clearly regrets the night they spent together.
See The Girl
See The Model
See The Aristocrat
See The Au Pair
The Married Woman
Emma is The Married Woman. She is in her thirties and has been married to Charlie, a prominent politician, for over eight years. They met in Venice, where they experienced several weeks of wild, romantic, passionate love. Now, however, their marriage and Charlie’s career have forever changed the course of the fire that once warmed their relationship. They now sleep in separate beds in the same room, coming together only for occasional sexual encounters. Charlie is constantly working, and Emma pines for the love they once had.
In order to recapture some sense of the drama and excitement she once found with Charlie, The Married Woman begins an affair with a younger man, The Student, who is the son of some friends of the family. With him, The Married Woman is no longer pliant and submissive, she gets her way, and she finds it thrilling.
Like all of the other characters in the play, The Model (Kelly) is both more and less than she appears. As a model, someone admired for her beauty, she might be expected to radiate loveliness. Actually, she complains, ‘‘If you’re a model you have to look awful. That’s the job.’’ A mere seventeen- years-old, The Model has traveled abroad with her mother and three sisters. She is apparently not yet successful enough in her career to afford a life of luxury, or even a place of her own, but she manages to find men more than willing to provide these things for her. The Model seems addicted to cocaine and prone to the abuse of a variety of other substances. She seems to be an even match for The Politician in their sexual encounter, trumping him in a conversation about marriage by telling him that his wife no doubt cheats on him as well. Though she seems unwilling to commit to any kind of a relationship, she apparently accepts The Politician’s offer of an apartment and living expenses in exchange for being his mistress. This does not, however, deter her from other amorous affairs. She follows The Playwright home, not even realizing he is a famous, wealthy, eccentric hyper-intellectual. They have absolutely nothing in common, but she enjoys the song he sings her and the sex they share, and she seems genuinely flattered by his kind, if insincere, compliments.
See The Playwright
Robert Phethean is a famous playwright in his early thirties. Judging by his writing studio he is both financially successful and quite eccentric. A large desk is piled with books, scripts, and CDS, and there is a piano in the shadows at the back of the room. He lights his workspace only with candles, a happy discovery, he claims, during a power outage, that now casts a ‘‘magical’’ light on everything. The Playwright may or may not be the voice of David Hare himself, an idea the actual writer of The Blue Room no doubt intended to leave ambiguously open to interpretation.
The Playwright complains about scholars who try to pigeonhole him into categories such as ‘‘postromantic’’ and scoffs at the idea that journalists, too, are actually ‘‘writers.’’ He plays a song for The Model that he calls his own, but artfully dodges the question of the composition’s true authorship. He is skilled with words and seems to enjoy using his wide-ranging vocabulary to impress, to mock, and to play with his female conquests. Because of his eccentric ways, it is difficult to gauge The Playwright’s sincerity when he tells The Model he is enamored of her and wants to take her around the world (or at least see her again sometime.)
For all his cleverness and verbal dexterity, however, The Playwright meets his match in The Actress. At a secluded country hotel where they have escaped for an intimate weekend, he allows the older woman to mock and shame him, seemingly because he is so powerfully attracted to her. She insults his writing, his way with words, and his arrogance, yet he keeps coming back for more. In the end, he finds himself as confused by The Actress as The Model was by him.
Charlie is a prominent politician who is almost always working. He carries three cellular telephones with him everywhere he goes and has to schedule his time with his wife and family. Before marrying Emma, The Politician conducted a string of youthful affairs, at least one of which was with a married woman. Now, however, in the middle part of his life, he claims to love only The Married Woman, and calls his family his stability, his salvation. They met in Venice and experienced a few weeks of romantic, passionate love before wedding and settling into a more mundane existence that The Politician pronounces safer, since the bed is no longer the only thing holding them together. As if to prove his point, the couple each has their own single bed in the bedroom, and they share a bed only for occasional sex.
At the same time, however, The Politician is taking drugs and starting an affair with The Model, a seventeen-year-old cocaine addict. After two hours of intoxicated love-making, Charlie offers to set The Model up with an apartment of her own, where he can provide financial stability for her, and she can be available to him for sexual rendezvous whenever he wants. ‘‘A life of your own,’’ he calls it, ‘‘Isn’t that what women want?’’
The Student, Anton, is the son of wealthy parents. He is studying law like his father, and has discovered aristocratic, imperial ways at an early age. At times he is foolish, young and naive, and at others impassioned, idealistic, and oddly sophisticated. During his first scene, with The Au Pair, his behavior is detestable. He makes unnecessary and demeaning demands on the family’s foreign servant and seems to assume that satisfying him sexually should simply be part of her job. Later, with The Married Woman, he has met his match. With Emma, a friend of his parents, he tries to be mature and seductive but only half-succeeds. She obviously is not interested in him for his worldliness but simply for sex. When he is unable to provide it because of his nervousness with an older, dominant woman, she takes charge and draws excitement from him. He is helpless, in love with her, and at the same time juvenile and proud of his accomplishment for seducing a married woman.