Inadmissible Evidence

by John Osborne

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Act 1Inadmissible Evidence opens with a dream sequence in a solicitor’s office, involving the main character, Bill Maitland, and his trial for “having unlawfully and wickedly published . . . a wicked, bawdy and scandalous object. . . . Intending to vitiate and corrupt the morals of the liege subjects of our Lady the Queen.” The object is Bill Maitland himself. Bill pleads not guilty and insists that since he is a lawyer, he will defend himself. He tries to begin his defense, but random thoughts keep breaking in, and he ultimately admits, “I’m incapable of making decisions.” The session is interrupted by Bill searching for his tranquilizers, noting that he has a headache brought on by too much drinking the night before.

Bill then begins a brief summary of his personal history, ending with his admission that he is “irredeemably mediocre.” After losing his train of thought, he thinks he sees his ex-wife, his father, and daughter, all there in the room. He then offers a character analysis of himself, ending with his assertion that he has never wanted anything more than good friendship and the love of women but has failed at both. The light then fades, and the judge becomes Hudson, Bill’s managing clerk, and the court clerk becomes Jones, Bill’s clerk as Bill emerges from the dream into reality.

In the next scene in Bill’s law office, Hudson and Jones chat about the latter’s upcoming marriage as Bill arrives. Bill criticizes Shirley, his secretary, for not wearing any makeup and makes lewd comments to her about her fiancé, which she throws right back at him. Jones announces that Shirley is going to quit her job because “she’s fed up with the place” and especially with Bill, who insists, “I haven’t touched that girl for months.”

Bill then begins another series of lewd comments directed toward Jones, concerning his fiancée and Shirley, which embarrasses the clerk. Later, he criticizes Shirley’s fiancé and Jones, insisting that they are too cautious and boring. Another secretary, Joy, brings Bill a glass of water after Shirley ignores his request, and he flirts with her as Hudson tries to focus Bill’s attention on a client’s divorce case. Bill admits that something seems a bit odd this morning: he was not able to get a taxi and now he cannot concentrate on his cases.

Bill complains of his headache, brought on by too much drinking the previous night, and searches for his pills. He tells Hudson that he needs to get out of a weekend planned by his wife, Anna, to celebrate their daughter’s birthday so that he can spend the time instead with Liz, his current mistress. Bill believes that Anna planned the weekend because she discovered his arrangement with Liz.

As he discusses with Hudson the juggling he must accomplish with his wife and mistress, he wonders whether his sexual escapades are worth the trouble and admits that he has never found anything that gives him a sense of meaning. Hudson tells him that the key is to not expect too much out of life. The two talk about Mrs. Garnsey’s divorce case, Bill’s recent inability to remember anything, and his marital situation until they are interrupted by a phone call from Anna. Bill tries to get out of the weekend, but the situation is left unresolved.

Later, Shirley tells Bill that she is leaving because she is pregnant and is getting married soon. When Bill tries to show concern for her situation, assuming that the baby is his, and asks her to stay, noting their past relationship, Shirley gets...

(This entire section contains 1788 words.)

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angry and declares that she is leaving immediately. Bill, visibly shaken, asks Joy to ask Mrs. Garnsey, who has just arrived, to wait. He then calls in Hudson and asks him to become a partner in the firm. Hudson does not give him an answer, admitting that he has received several other offers, but he agrees to think about it. Bill phones Liz about Anna’s plans for the weekend and complains about his lack of connection with his family. He ends the call by exacting a promise from her that she will see him that evening.

As Bill interviews Mrs. Garnsey about her husband’s infidelities, she begins to feel sorry for her husband who has been rejected by her and their children. When Bill tries to comfort her, he cannot move and so calls Joy to bring her a drink. After Mrs. Garnsey leaves, Joy tells Bill that he does not look well. Bill asks her to stay late that evening and to call Liz and tell her “to expect [him] when she sees [him].”

Act 2 The next morning, as Bill is lying on the sofa in his office having slept there through the night, Liz calls, angry about his not coming over. After excusing himself to throw up, he returns to the phone and tells her that he loves her and that yesterday was a bad day for him. He begins to ramble, which he does during every conversation that he has during the day, to the point that the audience does not know whether he is really speaking to someone or is only dreaming.

Bill continues his ramblings about his wife and her boring friends and about his daughter, Jane, whom he criticizes as well. He pauses periodically to ask if Liz is still there. At the end of the conversation, he gets her to promise that she will wait at home for his call. He then speaks with Anna on the phone, telling her that he will be spending the weekend with Liz and that Jane would not care whether he attended her birthday. When Jane gets on the phone, he asks her to come see him that afternoon so he can explain about the weekend. After speaking briefly again with Anna, he tells her that he loves her and ends the conversation.

Hudson arrives and tells Bill that he still has not made up his mind about the partnership offer. Joy calls Mrs. Garnsey to set up another appointment and learns that Mrs. Garnsey has decided to call off the divorce. Joy and Bill discuss the previous evening, which apparently included sexual activity between the two in the office. He gets her to promise that she will not leave as Shirley has done.

Bill asks Jones whether he would take Hudson’s place as managing clerk if Hudson leaves, but Jones will not commit. Bill accuses Jones of thinking that Bill will soon have to defend himself against charges of unprofessional conduct brought on by the Law Society. He then admits that he lost Mrs. Garnsey as a client and that he is “the wrong man for these things.” Bill reads the divorce papers for Maureen Sheila Tonks, whom he claims he used to date.

Mrs. Tonks, who is played by the same actress as Mrs. Garnsey, arrives and begins to discuss her petition against her husband, who, she insists, made inordinate sexual demands upon her. As she presents the details of her case, Bill counters with her husband’s written claims, but eventually, he begins responding to her charges with accounts of his own marital behavior. He has trouble defending that behavior and often admits to his shortcomings. When Joy interrupts, announcing the arrival of Mrs. Anderson, Bill passes Mrs. Tonks off to Jones.

As he waits for Mrs. Anderson, Bill remembers having an affair with her as well, and when she enters, the audience sees that she is played by the same actress as Mrs. Tonks and Mrs. Garnsey. As Mrs. Anderson begins to describe the details of her divorce case, Bill struggles to keep focused but again adopts the role of the client’s husband, providing details of his own personal life. Since Mrs. Anderson does not directly respond to Bill’s comments, he may be voicing them only in his head, or Mrs. Anderson could be a part of a dream. Bill rambles about the details of his funeral and speculates about what it would be like if Anna died. Mrs. Anderson ends her statement with painful account of her husband’s lack of feeling for her, but Bill shows no compassion, not having paid any attention to what she has said.

When Bill sends Mrs. Anderson out, Joy tells him that Mr. Hudson has left. He tries to get his colleagues on the phone, but they refuse to talk to him. He then phones Liz and admits that no one will speak to him and that he fears that they are all laughing at him. He pleads with her not to go out so he can call her later and insists that they will spend the weekend together.

The next client, Mr. Maples, who is played by the same actor as Jones, arrives to give his statement to Bill concerning his arrest for indecency but also includes personal information about his homosexuality and the effect that had on his marriage. Bill actually appears to be listening to this client as he asks Maple questions about his relationships with his wife and his lovers, but he does not take any notes. When Maple realizes this, he leaves.

When his daughter comes into his office, Bill begins a long rambling monologue outlining all of his troubles: “there isn’t any place for me . . . in the law, in the country, or indeed, in any place in this city.” He grows increasingly agitated until he demands, “Do you want to get rid of me? . . . Because I want to get rid of you.” Bill tells Jane that he feels only “distaste” for her as he does for all of her generation whom he considers unfeeling and apathetic. During the monologue, Jane does not respond but gets increasingly distressed. Finally, Bill tells her to leave, and she does without a word.

Joy tells Bill that the Law Society is investigating him and admits that she does not like him either. After Bill insists that he is “packed with spite and twitching with revenge” and that he would like “to see people die for their errors,” Liz arrives, and Joy leaves. Angry that Bill never came to see her, Liz tells him that he is “a dishonest little creep” but that she still loves him. Liz shows real concern for Bill’s deteriorating condition, but he refuses to allow her to comfort him and so she leaves him. At the end of the play, Bill calls Anna, noting that his vision is fading and telling her that he has decided to stay in his office. Bill hangs up and waits for something that is not identified.