The scene is the country kitchen of the Thames side house known as Weir Pool, in Pangbourne. Berkshire. October 1948.
Four characters are seated round the table finishing lunch. Eddy (54) the head of the house. Simone (44) his wife. Pierre (25) her lover. Drew (18) her illegitimate son.
Eddy knows that Drew is not his son but does not know that Drew knows, nor that Pierre also knows and is his wife’s lover.
Simone, of course, knows that Drew is not Eddy’s son and that Pierre is her lover.
Pierre knows everything about everybody.
Drew also knows everything about everybody and has the awesome responsibility of making sure that Eddy does not realize this.
The four are discussing ‘Huis Clos’ ( No Exit ) the play by Jean Paul Sartre which has been in the news because of a recent stage production.
The plot revolves around three deceased people punished by being locked in a room together for eternity. It is dangerous to bring up such a subject for it concern deception, secrets and lies, actions perpetrated daily, by Simone, Pierre and Drew, Eddy being the innocent victim of such duplicity.
‘It’s true. Hell is other people ‘ Simone says referring to a famous line from the play and looking pointedly at Eddy.
'You’re telling me!' Eddy replies, pointedly looking back at her.
He gets up and leaves the room...
Pierre makes a face at Simone suggesting she has gone too far. Drew sighs deeply and closes his eyes. There is hate in the house and the atmosphere is becoming poisonous.
Shortly after Drew was born and Eddy learned of what can only be called ‘the tragedy’, it was agreed between husband and wife that the boy would be brought up as their son and that the truth would never ever be mentioned again but, from that day on, the couple have seldom let the matter rest. Fortunately Pierre, a permanent guest in the house, acts as a buffer between the inharmonious pair and, more often than not, pretends to take Eddy’s side to calm things down. 'When you’re not here', he tells Drew, 'they manage to forget the past and are reasonably content.'
So Drew is a constant reminder of his mother’s misconduct and realizes that, since leaving school, he has been a pariah at a loose end in the house. Soon, however, he will be called up to do his 18 months National Service which he is looking forward to.
The army cannot be worse than the oppressive family atmosphere.
Simone and Eddy on a rare occasion when they seem reasonably contented
Pierre on the film set of 'A Matter of Life and Death''