Play #89: The Carcass of Beef

The play takes place in the threadbare Paris studio of Russian immigrant painter, Chaim Soutine, at 14 Cite Falguiere, near the Boulevard Montparnasse.  It is the summer of 1922, and Soutine, desperately poor, spectacularly unkempt, grievously undernourished and aesthetically obsessed, is making a painting of an entire side of beef which, bloody and dripping, he has strung up in his studio before his waiting easel.  On the morning of the play, Soutine has received a visit from his best friend, painter Amedeo Modigliani—who is every bit as hungry and as needful as Soutine is.

Modigliani (watching Soutine paint):  A side of beef is pretty expensive, isn’t it?

Soutine (wearily):  Fantastically.  I took me months to save up enough money to pay the butcher.

Modi (gently): You could have bought food for yourself.

Soutine (pointing proudly to his almost finished canvas):  This is more nourishing for me! 

Modi:  The carcass stinks something awful!

Soutine (calmly):  Well, I work very slowly.  The thing started to decay about a week after I hung it up.  It’s been there a month.  But isn’t it glorious?!

Modi: Chaim, the whole neighbourhood reeks of it.

Soutine (more calmly still):  Well, I’m almost finished.

Modi: When will it be done?

Soutine: Today. Tomorrow.  Next week.  Will you help me get rid of the carcass when I’m through? It’s too big to just throw in a dustbin.

Modi: (laughing): I suppose I’ll have to, just to freshen the air.  Where will we take it?

Soutine:  I don’t know.  Out.   Away.

Modi:  Away?

Soutine:  Away from here.

Modi:  A long way from here!!!