The Dissolution of Percy
A play first staged in 2015 by Dangerous To Know at the Kings Arms Theatre, Salford, and Parkside Social Club, Haworth, with support from Arts Council England. The Dissolution of Percy explores the final years in the life of Branwell Brontë as a means of discussing male mental health and society’s endless perpetuation of gender disparity.
EMILY slowly and carefully sets about her work. Suddenly, the outside door lock clicks, and she almost leaps out of her skin, quickly stuffing her papers into her writing box.
BRANWELL enters, so drunk he is barely staying upright. His face is bloody.
BRAN: (Too loudly.) I have got back safe.
EMILY: Safe? Did you do that to yourself?
BRAN: Aye, aye, aye. Well, there were enough people wanting to do it that I did it for ‘em. (He virtually crawls into the room.)
EMILY: You’re not coming in here; you smell like you’re about to combust. Bed.
BRAN: I should better sleep in here. (He climbs onto the sofa. EMILY pushes the writing box away from her.)
EMILY: No, you should better not sleep in here. I won’t have Papa finding you in the morning.
BRAN: I can’t go up the stairs.
EMILY: You can.
BRAN: I’ll wake Charlotte!
EMILY: That’s your own fault.
BRAN: But –
EMILY: Go upstairs.
BRAN: But –
EMILY: I don’t want to look after you. How did you come by that? (Indicates the cut on his head.)
BRAN: Ah… Joe came visiting. And John.
EMILY: John Brown?
BRAN: (Hurt.) They will not listen to me now. Not how they once did.
EMILY: Perhaps it was your subject.
BRAN: Emily – I am Orpheus and my subject was Eurydice. It’s the stuff of the classics and mythology!
EMILY: (Dryly.) I’m sure.
BRAN: …and Lord Nelson! Lord Nelson-
EMILY: Lord Nelson! Naturally! Christ, you’re full of utter fudge tonight, though I doubt they’d strike you just for that.
BRAN: I was not struck; I took a fall in her defence.
EMILY: Her defence?
BRAN: In defence of my right to speak of her.
EMILY: What right? She is another man’s wife!
BRAN: Christ, I wish I could string you up! You think that he is capable of the depth and strength of love that… in all his milk-fed life, there has been not a single tribulation. So he sees her as his due. But I, who have been spat out of every channel I seek to navigate… when I think of heaven, it is –
EMILY: Heaven seems too high an ambition for you at the moment.
BRAN: I am not suited to this kind of life! I make mistakes!
EMILY: All the world makes mistakes, Banny, but you have that misfortune that yours have consequences.
BRAN: (Quietly.) Would you all pull your claws out of me?
(Suddenly he is silent, staring at his shoes.)
© Caroline Lamb 2015
The Dissolution of Percy was first performed at The Kings Arms in Salford from 4th – 7th November 2015, then at the Parkside Social Club in Haworth on 14th November 2015.