A Stately Affair
Cast Doreen, Maralyn & Sonia – all early retired and volunteers. Sonia is a spinster, Maralyn and Doreen are widowed. Cliff Edge (40 ‘ish) manager of the stately home.
Setting An ante-room in a stately home, in the West Country.
It is mid-morning in the ante-room of a stately home. A small group of unpaid volunteer guides have assembled for a meeting with their Manager. Doreen, Maralyn and Sonia are all senior citizens who have worked together for over 20 years. They come from quite different backgrounds, with Doreen being a former CEO of major companies. Their Manager, Cliff Edge has just returned from a meeting with other stately home managers and senior managers.
ACT ONE, SCENE ONE (Door opens and Cliff comes rushing in).
DOREEN Oh at last.
CLIFF Apologies girls, sorry I’m late.
MARALYN Girls? I wish.
CLIFF Sorry. Ladies. Had a hell of a meeting.
SONIA What’s wrong?
DOREEN What about them?
CLIFF Does the word “Footfall” mean anything? (Pauses) Anyone?
MARALYN Don’t you know?
CLIFF Course I do. Just wondered if you three did. Cos it’s important. Head Office is getting worried. Our footfall is a lot less than others in the group.
DOREEN The number of people coming round the estate. It’s a trendy word. Came from the States, like most annoying things do.
MARALYN So what’s the problem, Cliff?
CLIFF Well, our operation is costing more than others. Fewer people visiting, less car parking, fewer meals served, less income from the portable loos, less direct debits. It’s all less.
SONIA Well we don’t get paid a penny. So, we ain’t less. Perhaps we should start using the portable loos rather than the staff ones. Stop bringing a flask in and buy a coffee from the cafe. Would that help?
CLIFF Hardly Sonia, but thanks for the idea.
MARALYN Glad about that. Those Portaloos are awful. Fancy paying 20p a pee.
DOREEN So what are you saying, Cliff? We cost more than others to run? (Cliff nods) So what?
CLIFF If we can’t increase our footfall…/
CLIFF Visitors. We must increase our visitors……… (Pause) or else.
MARALYN Or else what?
CLIFF We could close. Either permanently, or only open a few months of the year. My job would go, so would other paid staff. (Pauses) As for yourselves, if we weren’t open, there wouldn’t be any need for you. Sorry to be brutal.
DOREEN Oh that would be bloody awful. Since my husband died, this has been my lifeline. Sonia and Maralyn are my best friends. Every day we open I look forward to coming here, seeing my friends, (ironically) “us girls”, meeting the public, telling them about their heritage/
MARALYN Don’t forget, looking for a new husband. Since my old man died. It gets very lonely. Still hopeful…./
DOREEN Maralyn, can I assure you that I am not here “looking for a new husband”.
MARALYN No that’s me. (sniffs) Still, ain’t found one. Fancied one or two, but someone already took them……or they fancied Sonia instead.
SONIA (Flustered) Don’t bring me into this. I’ve never married and never want to…ever!
CLIFF Ladies, girls,……please. This is serious. Now, I may have never said this before, and if I haven’t, I do apologise but I wanted to place on the record my appreciation for all your hard work and efforts over many, many years.
DOREEN That’s the closest we’re ever going to get to a P45. Sounds like cheerio Cliff? Have you given up already? Cos, we haven’t. This place is important to us (Other two nod), so get used to it. We’ll find a way, a solution, we’ll sort it. Footfall, Football, Freefall, even FA – don’t matter to us. We’re the 3 Musketeers and if you want to be D’Artagnan, all well and good.
MARALYN Well said, Doreen! Love it!
SONIA So do I. It’s really exciting. What about you Cliff? Up for it? (Waves an imaginary sword in the air) All for one and one for all!
CLIFF You missed a bit…Dumas. “All for one and one for all. United we stand divided we fall!” Yes indeed. I’m in! (Pauses) Although, not sure what I’ve just signed up for. Got carried away by all the emotion and camaraderie. Not used to it.
DOREEN Wait and see. First the 3 Musketeers need to meet in private. Then D’Artagnan can join us. (Pauses) We’re having a “pre-strategy planning meeting”. (Points at Maralyn & Sonia) They, haven’t got a clue what it means, but it was in a magazine in my Dentists. Anyway, sounds good. So off you go Cliff. We’ll see you in the morning.
(Cliff sheepishly leaves the ante-room looking pensive)
MARALYN What now Doreen? You seem to know what’s going on. I’m completely lost.
DOREEN If this place is to survive, we need to do some serious thinking and take some real actions. Didn’t want to say much in front of Cliff, but he’s not exactly a Winston Churchill figure./
SONIA What? We going to “fight them on the beaches” and all that
DOREEN Sort of. Right, now listen…………
END OF ACT 1, SCENE 1.
ACT 1, SCENE 2 (The volunteers are sitting in the ante-room. There are large sheets of paper all over a table, and Maralyn is writing furiously.)
DOREEN Done? (Maralyn nods) Right. That was a good couple of hours’ work. When I was in business, we used to call it brainstorming. Can I say, Sonia, how impressed I was with your contribution. Some stuff that came out of your head was amazing – even worrying.
SONIA (Enthusiastically) Couldn’t help it. Once you said what you wanted, my mind took over. Thoughts kept rushing in. Needed to shout them out before I forgot them. Felt a bit like “Snap”, used to love that game.
DOREEN That’s brainstorming for you. Now we need to go back over all the ideas, have a look at them, see what are workable and put them to one side, but don’t forget the others, because we might need them later.
MARALYN There are dozens here. How are we going to sort them out?
DOREEN Right before we start, let me summarise. Our stately home is under threat. I said “ours” because we’ve been working together for over 20 years and long before all of us ended up being on our own. This place means a lot to me and I’m damned sure I’m not giving up without a fight.
SONIA (Claps) Well said, Doreen. Brilliant. Now I can see the Churchill connection!
MARALYN Me too. I love this place. The atmosphere, the history, heritage, the chance to meet my friends and do something useful. We cannot let them close it. (Defiantly) No matter what we have to do.
SONIA (Nervously) But what do we have to do Doreen? I just had a little panic then. What is it? What can we do?
DOREEN It’s simple. (Points) Get more people through those doors, visiting, spending money. We’re in the game of selling – like anyone else. And do you know what the best salespeople rely on? Throughout history. What sells? What makes people dish the cash to buy things or visit places like this?
MARALYN History? Heritage? Lovely gardens? The Tea Room? (Pauses) Well, it can’t be us!
DOREEN Nearly Maralyn. Nearly. (Long pause then triumphantly) “Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll”
SONIA What?! “Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll” Help!
DOREEN Look at all the adverts. The successful ones I mean. Cars, clothes, perfumes, holidays even a bar of chocolate for goodness’ sake. They all had an element in them. Sexy, desirable, enticing, inviting, a memorable piece of music. Remember that Hamlet cigar theme. Massive. Then there was the chocolate flake. Wow!
MARALYN I’m OK with the idea till I get to drugs? How?
SONIA I’m a little nervous about the other thing…..you know……not the drugs or the music…(softly) the other thing (looks guilty and whispers) “Sex?”
DOREEN I’d never have guessed Sonia. As for drugs, not so obvious, but drugs are about people wanting more. Get them hooked, then make sure they can get more and more when they want it. Look at those kid’s games, the rush for Xmas toys. (Mimics) “Must have this Mummy. Must have that Mummy” How many mobile phones can any one person want or need? Yet every week they seem to have a new model.
SONIA Don’t want to be a wet blanket, but this is a 500-year-old stately home. How are we going to make it more attractive to visitors? A couple of years ago, they had Queen with Brian May playing on the roof of Buckingham Palace with thousands watching down the Mall. We can’t compete with that/
DOREEN Brilliant Sonia. Maralyn, write that down. Live music festivals. Top name acts.
SONIA What about Sex?
MARALYN I thought you weren’t keen on it. (Laughs) When we were talking about men earlier on, you got all humpety. (Pauses) I’ve got it. (Excitedly) Last year that woman was found to be running one of those bondage clubs in an industrial unit in Plympton. Making a bomb. We’ve got the original cellars, sorry dungeons here where they used to put difficult serfs in. Perfect. Yes?
DOREEN You’re a natural for this Maralyn. What a smashing idea.
SONIA I was wondering about costumes. (Pauses) You know. At the moment we show visitors around the House wearing our day-to-day clothes. What if we dressed up?
MARALYN What as Bunny Girls? Don’t think that would fit. Mind you, some weirdos we take round would enjoy it. Remember that retired Vicar? And that German last year. “Hans On” or whatever his name was. Even wore one of those funny leather coats.
SONIA (Excitedly) I’m getting the hang of this. Now I know what we need to do. (Pauses) I wasn’t exactly suggesting Bunny Girl costumes, but what about a bit of Nell Gwyn? Bit of oomph, show off some cleavage.
DOREEN There’s a darkness in you, Sonia. Some ideas you’ve come up with show a side we’ve never seen before. Definitely keep an eye on you, madam.
MARALYN What about enhancing the information we provide to visitors? You know. Enhance it a little…../
SONIA Do you mean lie? Oh, how exciting.
DOROTHY Maralyn used the word “enhancing “but I think you’ve got it in one. Maralyn, can I ask you to take that option away with you? Work on it a bit. Look at what we say now, and think of better ways of describing the heritage, facilities and history. Perhaps add on a couple of extras. Things that might entice the stately home punter and put us more firmly on the map.
MARALYN Of course. However, there was one option that I was thinking of, but it might be a little dubious.
SONIA Depends on how desperate we are.
MARALYN You’d definitely be desperate for this one.
DOREEN Stop teasing us.
MARALYN My nephew’s been away for a couple of years. Guest of Her Majesty. He’s looking for new facilities for his next venture. He’s a keen gardener. Learnt a lot of new skills these past few years. At the back of the house, there is a heap of empty Victorian glass houses. Haven’t been used for ages.
SONIA What a good idea. Grow lots of delicious fruit and veg. Sell them direct to the visitors. Should make oodles. Healthy living and all that.
DOREEN Don’t think fruit and veg are on the menu. Eh, Maralyn? (She nods) But, it’s a very lucrative option, and would increase the number of visitors.
SONIA What are you talking about Doreen?
MARALYN Hash, grass, cannabis, call it what you like. It’s green money.
SONIA Oh my God. (Pauses) Wahoo! (Jumps up and down)
DOREEN I take it you’re in favour. It needs to be carefully thought through, but desperate times need desperate measures. Now, Maralyn. Read something off your list of ideas. Pick something at random.
MARALYN Yanks. Someone shouted out Yanks. Next year the whole city will be going mad. It’s the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailings. There’ll be thousands of visitors, masses of Yanks. Lots of money, all obsessed with our history and culture. They’ll be dying to see the rooms George Washington used when he stayed at our stately home and especially the tree where he carved his initials.
SONIA (Puzzled) Don’t think he ever left the USA, let alone visited here?
MARALYN It was a discreet visit, but I’ve found a recent document that suggests otherwise, so we’ll go strong on a suggestion rather than absolute fact. And the initials on the tree will be absolute proof.
DOREEN Which tree?
MARALYN The ones by the meadow.
SONIA George Washington had been dead over a 100 years before someone planted them.
DOREEN Minor detail, which we can deal with. However, I think Maralyn has identified a major source of future visitors. All drawn to our stately estate by established world events and several coincidences. This could be it, ladies. Mayflower 2020. Let’s get down to some authentic events. It always helps although sometimes the truth is even more bizarre.
SONIA I guess you’ll give us an example.
DOREEN How about when the whole crew and passengers of the Mayflower stayed in the house prior to their embarkation? Mayflower needed urgent repairs. I’m sure some artefacts and other items littered around the house have Mayflower connections from their short stay here.
SONIA So this was a stately hotel for the Mayflower team prior to them sailing?
MARALYN More of a village inn for some, and a place of custody for others. Hence the dungeons. Don’t forget they had a contingent of slaves with them. They would have needed to be looked after, apart from the Hoi Polloi – the common people. Then there was the elite who slept in the same beds as our previous historic visitors.
SONIA Such as?
DOREEN I’m sure Maralyn’s list includes Charles I & II, even Oliver Cromwell.
SONIA Elizabeth I? What about her?
MARALYN Just seen the film. Don’t enhance the truth too much Sonia. She died before someone built the House. (Pause) Now. (Pause) Michael Jackson. (Pause) Was definitely in the UK lots of times. I know for a fact he visited Exeter cos he was friends with that Uri Geller who lives there. Only 40 minutes down the road. Used to bend things.
SONIA Uri Geller was bent?
MARALYN No he bent things, spoons, forks and the like. Anyway, Michael Jackson visited, slept over and even tried to buy the place. Wanted to start one of those Zoos like he had back in the States, in the grounds near the river. Yeah. What about a small safari park? There’s a nice hook. That’ll bring them in.
SONIA Who the Fraud Squad, or Trading Standards? You’ll never get away with it.
DOREEN Desperate times, desperate measures Sonia. (Pauses) Remember. (Pauses) Right now let’s brief our Manager on what’s happening.
END OF ACT 1, SCENE 2.
ACT 1, SCENE 3. (3 months have elapsed and there is a meeting in ante-room with Cliff, and the three volunteers present. Cliff has opened a bottle of wine and poured four glasses. Each takes one as Cliff proposes a toast).
CLIFF I choose my words carefully here, but Ladies can I say how delighted I am. The results for the past quarter have been stunning, and it’s entirely down to you. D’Artagnan once said, “No difficulties can ever daunt me.” You’ve taken the challenge and thrashed it. I propose a toast to my special 3 Musketeers. Well done all. (All lift glasses and toast one another). More visitors than ever before, new facilities, masses of interest from the USA about next year’s Mayflower celebrations celebrations. Bookings flooding in. Amazing. How did you do it?
DOREEN Well it was a mixture of teamwork, innovation, and a nice dollop of good luck.
SONIA I loved the innovation, the freedom, the opportunities that developed.
CLIFF Was it your idea to introduce an evening of history and briefings in the Cellars. Seems to have caught on. (Laughs) Someone, told me it was better than going to a special place in Plympton, whatever that means?
SONIA (Giggles) Well, some of our regular customers get a little too hung up on the history. Soon sort them out. Give them a good old thrashing if they don’t behave. (Doreen and Maralyn smile)
DOREEN Those nights are very much Sonia’s pride and joy. She’s developed a regular little group, all with a common interest. Maralyn, was the lucky one. (Pauses) Why don’t you explain?
MARALYN Well it was odd, really. This rather shabby old man became a regular visitor to the House, always had a small notebook with him, and kept writing things down. I’ve been watching too much Crime-Watch, because at first, I thought he was one of those Gypsy people who’ve been breaking into stately homes throughout the country and stealing valuable artwork and whatever else they can lay their hands on. (Puts on an American accent) “Thought he was casing the joint”
CLIFF What happened?
MARALYN Had a chat to him during a quiet moment and realised he had been doing research on our House for over 50 years. He had masses of notebooks, tons of information, and some of it was quite mind-blowing. Especially about previous historical figures who had visited.
CLIFF Is that where the George Washington thing came from?
MARALYN Definitely. Like you, I was a little sceptical at first, but when he showed me his notes about old records, it became clear it was true. And there were others which I’ve now included in our “Enhanced Visitors Guide.” It’s like an upmarket Watchtower magazine, without the Jehovah’s.
CLIFF It would be nice to meet him. Seems like an interesting character.
DOREEN Well he’s a bit of a recluse. Hates publicity, shy, and disappears for months on end, apparently. However, we’re sure that if we need his expertise and knowledge, someone will make it available.
CLIFF Anything else?
MARALYN We haven’t discussed the garden project, and in terms of openness and honesty between us, I wanted to be clear on how it’s developing. As you know my nephew is running it; as a volunteer. He had a difficult start in life, but has turned his life around and is now attempting to develop the project.
CLIFF I’ve seen quite a lot of activity there. Lots of visitors and it’s very encouraging to see he attracts the younger person. About time too. What’s he growing?
MARALYN Initially he’s concentrating on green plants. The stuff that a person can take home and grow on, in their own environment. Low cost, low maintenance and should prove profitable in the longer term. Most importantly, he’s increasing our visitor numbers and raising awareness of what we do.
CLIFF That’s brilliant. I’m really impressed with you all. Now, what do you want me to take the lead on?
DOREEN We thought a Musical Concert in the grounds.
SONIA Queen inspired us playing at Buckingham Palace a couple of years ago. On the roof and all that.
CLIFF I’m game for anything. So, will this be part of the Mayflower 2020 tribute and reconstruction?
MARALYN I’m told the devil is in the detail. Go on. Be a Devil! You have a blank canvas. Think outside of the box. (Pauses) I’m really loving those American business expressions you know.
DOREEN So can we put it down as a matter of record? Cliff responsible for organising a concert in the grounds. That’ll draw them in if nothing does. Try to get some big-name artists.
SONIA I might help you there. One of my neighbours has a son Eugene who plays in a band and has lots of other band contacts. Says a few of them owe him a favour.
CLIFF Can I ask what group he’s in?
SONIA Not sure of his group, but his Grandad is one of the Rolling Stones. I think they’re still playing? Would they do?
CLIFF (Gibbering) Do? Do? Sonia, if you can pull this one off, I’ll run naked around the grounds of this stately home.
SONIA Well you might have company. Eugene says his Grandad’s band are still lively.
DOREEN Wonderful. A geriatric Rock n Roll night. That’ll put us on the map.
MARALYN Do they still need groupies? Been looking for a husband for so long, might have to lower my sights though.
DOREEN You keep your tights high. Don’t embarrass us all.
SONIA Lower her sights, Doreen. Sights. Your batteries need changing.
CLIFF Well ladies, I must be off. (Rubs hands together then clenches fists) I’m getting a real buzz about this. Feel quite euphoric. Just like the other day when I saw your nephew, Maralyn. Those greenhouses really make one feel revitalised, energised ready for anything. There’s an atmosphere about the place. It’s unique. The place was heaving. (Pauses) Right, see you all tomorrow. Important meeting.
END OF ACT 1, SCENE 3
ACT 1 SCENE 4
(Interior of ante-room, mid-morning, Doreen and Maralyn are comparing notes at the table. There is a knock at the door. They ignore it at first, but after further knocking, Doreen gets up and opens it. Sonia is in full Nell Gwyn costume.
SONIA Well? What do you think? (Pauses and twirls again, going slightly off-balance, stops, steadies herself and pushes her breasts back up and into place in the low-cut costume.)
MARALYN Amazing. Thought just then, we were going to have the first topless moment in this stately home for a few centuries.
SONIA (Pulling at costume) Still needs a change, a few alterations. However, it wouldn’t have been a few centuries since the last time. They billeted Yanks in the grounds during WW2. My mother said there were plenty of topless shenanigans. (Pauses/flustered) Sorry, I wasn’t suggesting she was……/
DOREEN I can guess Sonia. Yes, they were here, with their cheap stockings, chocolate, perfume and cigarettes.
MARALYN Sounds like Lidl’s or Aldi.
DOREEN That’s another German invasion. No Yanks this time, to win the war for us. Huh!
MARALYN Sonia, are you expecting us, (Pauses) Let me re-phrase that, are you expecting ‘me’ to get into the costume you’re wearing? Is this to be the official garb of the volunteer guides?
SONIA (Laughs) Well, you wouldn’t need as much padding as some (looks at Doreen) but yes. I was hoping you might like my idea. Borrowed this costume from the Theatre Royal. They hire them out but gave me a 48-hour free trial. Said I might be able to help them out with a big problem they’ve got. What do you think Doreen?
DOREEN I think they’re perfect Sonia. Well done. This new image together with the work Maralyn has been doing on the visitor’s guide will really make an impression and draw in the crowds.
SONIA Glad, you said that Doreen, ‘cos last night I tried wearing one for my Tuesday night meetings in the cellars……I mean dungeons. Went down a bomb. Even the rubber brigade found the image attractive, and they are usually into sniffing car tyres.
MARALYN And wearing those awful masks with the cutouts.
SONIA Well not all of them wear masks. The ones with psoriasis find them uncomfortable.
DOREEN OK. Stop! The mind boggles. (Pauses) Right, Maralyn, let’s have a run through of the new scripts for the house guides. You’ve done masses of work……….(Pauses)…Ladies and Gentlemen. May I present Maralyn’s monologues? (Claps then sits down at the table with Sonia and Maralyn).
END SCENE 4. END OF ACT 1.
ACT 2, SCENE 1
(One month later. Interior of ante-room. A door at the end opens and Maralyn dressed as Nell Gwyn character enters followed by a small group of visitors (male, female, young, old etc, different ethnicities, including one person wearing a burka* Visitors borrowed from audience except *)
MARALYN Ladies and gentlemen, please follow me and if you could gather round I’ll continue the tour briefing. (Visitors move closer and wait expectantly) (Pause) I do hope you have all enjoyed your tour so far. We have one other major room in the home that we will be going into next which is our “piece de resistance” This room has had more historical figures tread its hallowed boards, than the Old Vic. It is drenched in history. There is an aura about it. Something magical, memorable, historical is waiting for your presence. Your grand entrance is close. (Pauses)
However, a bit of Admin first. I explained earlier that because of the unique nature of the experience there would be a small surcharge/
VISITOR A. How much? The bloody cafe was expensive. Two quid for a cuppa. Rip off. How much (mimics) “for this unique experience.”
MARALYN (Nervously) Would a pound be alright?
VISITOR A Each? Or for a couple?
MARALYN (Flustered) Well, it should be a pound each really….(pauses) but you’ve been such wonderful and interesting visitors, I will only ask for a pound per couple. (Forcefully) Mind you it’s still a pound for a single. Is there anyone single here? (Flushes) I don’t mean single in a marital or relationship sense………..although……no what I meant was/
VISITOR We know what you meant Nell Gwyn. Right, can we get on with it?
MARALYN Right this way Ladies and Gentlemen. (Person in the Burka hesitates then follows group out-of-door following Maralyn.)
END OF ACT 2, SCENE 1
ACT 2, SCENE 2
(Later that week. The 3 volunteers are sitting in the ante-room drinking coffee.)
DOREEN I must say how impressed I was with the new Visitors Guide. Went down an absolute bomb. Couldn’t believe some tosh I was coming out with/
SONIA Me neither, but the visitors all seemed to like it especially when I gave them a chance to meditate.
MARALYN What? Meditate?
SONIA Just a little experiment. Got them all together in the Blue Rooms, and had them hold hands, close their eyes, deep breathing and use their imagination. Went down extremely well.
DOREEN Were the windows open?
SONIA Yes why?
DOREEN That explains it. The Blue Room windows are right above the extractor fan in the greenhouses. They were stoned! Mind you, what a bloody good idea. I’ll try it this afternoon with my group. Do they have to chant?
SONIA No Doreen. A few moments of deep breathing does the trick. (Pauses) And here’s me thinking I had some mystic influence.
MARALYN Had some awkward customers yesterday. One chap objected to everything. Apparently, when he’s normally on holiday, he pays one price for his break. All-inclusive, he called it. Food, drinks, entertainment all paid for in the price. He objected to the surcharge for the Yellow Room, objected to the price of a cup of tea, and paying for the loo. (Pauses) Had another strange one. Dressed in the full-face Burka.
SONIA She was on one of my groups a couple of days ago. Tall with big feet and had a funny smell about her.
DOREEN What do you mean funny smell?
SONIA I’m not being horrible. It wasn’t B.O. or something like that. It was more like the smell of aftershave. Men’s aftershave. Strange.
DOREEN I’d better let Cliff know. He’s ex-Army. Knows about these things. What if it were one of those terrorists? Perhaps thinking about blowing the place up. Look at all those damaged temples in Syria and Iraq.
MARALYN But us? No. More likely to do with our potential visitor for the Mayflower celebrations. Saw Cliff just now, he was running around like a headless chicken with a letter in his hand. Excited. I won’t spoil his news.
DOREEN (Sniffily) Well, I would hope that someone would share such news – whatever it is with us all. Equally. At the same time. And without exception…../ (Door of the ante-room bursts open and Cliff comes rushing in). Speak of the devil. I understand you have something important to tell us.
CLIFF Too blooming right I have. He’s said Yes! Yes! Yes!
SONIA Who for goodness’ sake? Jeremy Corbyn? Is he coming to our pop concert? Made a complete fool of himself at Glastonbury. Is he coming, or is it the Messiah?
CLIFF President Trump! President bloody Trump! He’s accepted our, I mean my, invitation to visit when he’s in Plymouth for the 2020 celebrations. Passed on the information that Maralyn found, about his great, great, great grandfather who used to work on the estate and married one of the aristocracy. That was it. Hook, line and sinker. The world press will crawl all over the place. Need to get myself some new clothes. Bound to be doing masses of interviews. Wow! Wow!
DOREEN Don’t get too excited. He’s prone to changing his mind like his underpants. Besides…/
CLIFF Besides what?
MARALYN We’ve had a strange visitor. Might be suspicious.
SONIA Tall, with big feet and dark. And I mean dark. (Pauses) Wearing a full face Burka. Visited twice.
CLIFF Well what’s wrong with that? We have a growing population of Muslims in Plymouth, we’re bound to attract visitors from different backgrounds. What’s wrong with that. Because someone dresses that way doesn’t make them a terr………(Pauses) Oh my. President Trump the target of a (stutters) terr, terr, a terrorist plot?
DOREEN The person was wearing aftershave.
CLIFF What sort. What did it smell of?
MARALYN (Indignantly) I don’t know. It’s been years since I worked in the perfumery of Dingles. But I think someone called it Al Qaeda or something like that.
CLIFF I must go. Need to ring the US Embassy and take advice. This could bugger everything up. Let me know if you see the person again. (Cliff exits ante-room rapidly)
DOREEN Sonia, a little while ago you said you’d been talking to the Theatre Royal, about their costumes and something else. You said they had a problem we might help with.
SONIA Yes. Big time problem. And I mean big time.
DOREEN Go on…..
SONIA Well if you remember they put that statue 30ft bronze statue outside the Theatre. Thought it would be arty like. Meant to be a character from one of Shakespeare’s plays?
MARALYN Bleeding Bianca! Courtesan! My backside. She was a prossy and the statue cost £500,000. Everyone told them to forget the idea, but no, the arty-farties had their way, and there she is. Bigger than a double-decker bus and thirty feet wide, only now they try to call her Messenger. Theatre said they expected people entering the theatre would go through and under her legs. Dirty buggers.
DOREEN Trust Plymouth to have its own version of up-skirting! Anyway, Sonia, what’s the problem?
SONIA Well ever since it arrived people have been complaining. It’s regularly vandalised, had graffiti, eggs thrown at it, the students climb it for a rag-week dare, and now someone has fixed a blow-up doll just above its right ear. They’ve had enough.
MARALYN So they want someone to kidnap it and take it away. Surreptitiously, steal it away and drop it in Plymouth Sound. Yes?
SONIA (Puzzled) How did you know? Well, not like that. They want it out of sight as soon as possible, and before the 2020 celebrations start when the US Mickey Mouse appreciation society arrive and adopt it. That would be the ultimate embarrassment. They’ll make a fuss about vandalism in the local media for a day or two, then get the pavement repaired, put some new trees back and hopefully it would soon be forgotten.
DOREEN And we, I mean the stately home funds would inherit half a million quid’s worth of bronze.
SONIA Melted down and sold to visitors as genuine early medieval coins, found in a secret cache.
DOREEN In business Sonia that’s what we called a win-win situation. Now I’ve got a friend in the Gypsy camp. He’s got one of those big cranes. Owes me a favour as I’m suing him at the moment for botching up several tarmac drives in our road. We put in a collective order and his team buggered every one up. He’d want a cut.
SONIA Well give him an arm.
MARALYN Or a leg. There’s two of them.
DOREEN I didn’t mean literally, but your suggestion will appeal to him. Leave it with me. So, an early morning kidnap, relocate to our grounds, hide it away for a while, then smelt? (Pause) Agreed. (All three nod, then clench fists and 3 Musketeers style shake their hands together).
END OF ACT 2, SCENE 2
ACT 2, SCENE 3
(One week later the three volunteers are in the ante-room and looking out of the window)
SONIA That statue is huge, even on its side with one leg and one arm missing.
DOREEN My Gypsy friend insisted on “an arm and a leg”, said it was standard haggling, but in this case, it was for real. Anyway, it’s here, tucked away and is a nice little earner for the future. Local headlines are full of outrage, but comments from the Theatre Royal and the Council are muted. Lots of regrets, but one Councillor who’s retiring, nearly gave it away when he said it was a relief, really. Think they want the memories to fade as fast as possible.
MARALYN (Looks out of window) What’s going on over there, near the Orangery. Isn’t that our manager Cliff? Looks like he’s having an argument with a customer. (Pause) Oh, No. (Pause) He’s not. (Pause) He is.
SONIA He’s what Maralyn? Got me all excited. And that doesn’t happen very often. What’s he doing?
DOREEN Our illustrious leader appears to have argued with a member of the public. That member of the public is now lying on the ground and our Manager is removing the person’s clothing.
SONIA What! That’s incredible.
MARALYN Not so incredible when you realise the customer is…… (Pauses) rather was wearing a Burka. Our mysterious visitor has returned and Cliff is doing his ex-military bit.
DOREEN Well something’s up because the visitor is clearly a man, not a woman, and an obviously angry man.
SONIA How can you tell that from here?
MARALYN Well a punch is a punch in any language.
DOREEN Cliff has been punched and is lying prone on the ground.
SONIA Where’s the visitor?
MARALYN On his mobile phone.
DOROTHY Don’t think so. Cliff tried to get up, and the person hit him again. Furious. We’d better help. (All three leave ante-room)
END OF ACT 2, SCENE 3
ACT 2, SCENE 4
(Shortly afterwards. Interior of ante-room, the door opens and three volunteers enter supporting their manager Cliff. His head and right hand are bandaged. They sit him down and Sonia opens her flask and offers him a drink).
SONIA Get this down, you Cliff. (Cliff tries to pick up the drink with normal right hand but cannot manage it). Oh, how silly of me. You’re immobilised. Let me help you (Holds cup to his lips and spills it down his trousers) Oh I am sorry. (Pulls a hanky out of handbag and attempts to dab at Cliff’s crotch before realising what she is doing) (Flustered) Oh good heavens. (Lifts hands up). Aaagh. Sorry. Sorry
CLIFF Leave it Sonia. Don’t worry. I’m not upset. In other circumstances, I might have enjoyed it. Still haven’t managed one of your dungeon experiences.
DOREEN What on earth was that all about? I mean two grown men fighting.
CLIFF No! One grown man fighting. The other one trying to protect himself. That maniac.
MARALYN Who was he? Thought you were tackling a terrorist for a moment.
CLIFF So did I. Spotted him lurking around the Orangery. Way off the visitor routes so challenged him. He replied in some gibberish, so I thought that’s it, and brought him down. My army training kicked in, immediately.
SONIA But he was beating you up. What happened?
CLIFF Well he was talking gibberish because he’d just been to the dentists. They froze his face. Soon as he got up and before he hit me, I knew him. Regional Manager. Couldn’t believe our results. Didn’t trust me apparently and wanted to check up personally and ‘have the full visitor experience’. Well, he got that alright. Even if it nearly cost me my job.
DOREEN Nearly? Surely, you’ve had it, Cliff. Fighting with your Regional Manager.
CLIFF No. I’ve got him bang to rights. It was the Burka that did it for him. Head Office would go bonkers at him denigrating those of the Muslim faith by wearing their dress and apparel. So, we’ve called it a draw. I stay stuumm if he stays stuumm. And……….(smiles broadly) they have promoted me. Going up to Windsor Castle to try to help increase their footfall. Apparently, since the latest Royal wedding, there’s been an absolute slump. Want my expertise. Any of you fancy joining me.
ALL THREE (Shout) Remember our motto. “All For One And One For All” (Pause then in unison) But not this time Cliff. (Pause) This time D’Artagnan is on his own. We’re home birds at heart! (Sonia looks ruefully at Cliff then holds her hanky to her nose).
End of Act 2, Scene 4 and play.
END OF ACT 2, SCENE 4 AND END OF PLAY.
A short play for 3 characters by Alan Grant.
THE SETTING IS THE LOUNGE BAR OF A QUIET, HISTORIC PUB NEAR THE WATERFRONT. SIMON AND HIS SECRETARY JANE, ARE MEETING FOR A DISCRETE SUPPER. BOTH ARE MARRIED. THEY HAVE WORKED TOGETHER FOR 2 YEARS, HOWEVER THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THEY HAVE MET OUTSIDE OF THE OFFICE.
THERE IS A JUKE BOX PLAYING QUIETLY IN THE CORNER, ELVIS PRESLEY IS SINGING “ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT” AS JANE ENTERS THE BAR TO MEET SIMON WHO IS ALREADY SEATED IN THE CORNER. A WAITER IS NEARBY BEHIND THE BAR.
Simon, 40’ish, handsome, well dressed , successful businessman.
Jane Mid 30’s, very attractive, slim and self assured.
Waiter/Barman Youngish. Smartly dressed in white shirt, bow tie, and waistcoat with black trousers.
(LOUNGE DOOR OPENS, AND JANE ENTERS HURRIEDLY, THERE IS THE SOUND OF SEAGULLS IN THE LOCALITY, AND WIND AND RAIN BEATING ON THE PORCH OF THE DOORWAY. SHE CLOSES THE DOOR BEHIND HER. JANE HAS RAIN ON HER RAINCOAT AND UMBRELLA, WHICH SHE TRIES TO SHAKE OFF. SHE LOOKS NERVOUSLY AROUND THE LOUNGE, WHICH HAS SUBDUED LIGHTING. SIMON NOTICES HER ENTRY, SMILES AND GIVES A LITTLE WAVE, BEFORE STANDING UP AND MOVING TOWARDS HER. TAKES UMBRELLA AND SHAKES IT).
SIMON Hi Jane. Glad you could make it. Miserable isn’t it?
JANE (Laughs) Miserable? Us or the weather? Can’t remember the last time someone stood up for me. Been waiting long?
SIMON No not really. Understand this pub can sometimes get busy. Difficult to predict. Told it does nice food though.
JANE Uhm, a discrete table in a discrete pub. Must’ve done this before. (Pauses and stands looking at Simon who is still fiddling with the Umbrella, trying to close it) Shall I sit here?
SIMON Sorry? (Flustered) Oh how silly of me. Of course, let me move my coat and newspaper (Pauses) Jane I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve already ordered….crab salads, and white wine.
JANE Oh……OK. Thank you. (Picks up glass). Cheers. Anyway how did you know what I’d like?
SIMON Uhm…..I guessed.
JANE Really? (Pauses) Do I look a “crabby” sort of person? You’ve spoilt my self image now. Always thought of myself as more of a romantic Italiana.
SIMON I cheated. Knew you brought a packed lunch into the office. So I checked the fridge.
JANE (Mock indignity) Anything else you’ve been checking up on……….
SIMON (Pauses) Some. I’ve spent quite a time wondering about your likes, dislikes, even what you might be doing at any particular moment.
JANE Is that why you’ve asked me here tonight? Or as my boss, are you going to give me an off duty performance appraisal and pep talk (Pause) or is this is going to be something different? Simon? (Pauses) Simon are you blushing?
SIMON If I am it’s because I’m really pleased to see you. Even if you might be teasing me. (Pauses and looks at her breasts for a moment) I do like your blouse.
JANE Thank you kind sir. Now is it my turn to say something nice.(Laughs) do you want to borrow it? (Teasingly) Closet cross dresser? Cos I’ve got quite a nice wardrobe.
SIMON Why not? Let’s go for it (Pauses) Jane your face is a picture. No thanks, the blouse looks great, on you! (Pauses) .Anyway what about saying something nice, to me?
JANE (Picking up menu from table) Well I’ve just noticed the description of this pub at the bottom of their menu. “A place for family, friends and lovers to enjoy sea views, fine food and good company.”
(JUKE BOX MUSIC CHANGES FROM ELVIS PRESLEY TO ROY ORBISON SINGING “PRETTY WOMAN“)
SIMON Which are we?
JANE Well we’re clearly not family and it does say friends and lovers. OK on the first part?
SIMON That depends on why you’re here.
JANE Excitement? Talking to you about things that really matter (Pause) or maybe because you’re my boss, and I felt I had to.
SIMON (Indignantly) Jane. If I thought you felt obliged to be here, then I’d be/
JANE I’m pulling your leg. I’m here because I want to be. Simple as that really.
SIMON Did you have any difficulty in getting away?
JANE No. Monday night is evening class. What excuse did you make?
SIMON Told Sonia I had an evening meeting.
JANE Well at least that bit’s true and I am your PA after all. So lets draw up an agenda. Come on boss. First item (Pauses) Come on boss. Play the game.
SIMON (Pauses) First item. Manager’s declaration of interest and opening statement. (Long pause) I think I’m falling in love with you.
(JUKE BOX MUSIC CHANGES FROM ROY ORBISON TO TEDDY BEARS SINGING “TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM” WAITER MOVES FROM BEHIND BAR, AND APPROACHES THEIR TABLE. WAITER PUTS MEALS ON TABLE, SETS OUT CROCKERY, NAPKIN ETC)
WAITER There you go Sir, madam. Enjoy your meal. Crab’s fresh this afternoon. Anything else?
JANE (Holding wine glass up) Yes can you bring the bottle?
WAITER Certainly madam.
JANE (Pause) How long have you felt like that, or was it simply an impulsive statement?
SIMON No impulse. How long? Long enough to want to do something about it. And you?
SIMON Yes you Jane?
JANE I think you’ve sensed something already Simon. If not you’ll just have to work it out.
SIMON (Gently) Can I share something with you?
JANE Of course (Teasingly) you do want to wear my blouse/
SIMON Be serious Jane.
JANE I’m nervous Simon (Pauses) but I do want to know (Pause) really.
SIMON Jane, I’m so attracted to you. I’ve been on edge ever since I asked you out. This is the first time I’ve really felt able to do something/
JANE So that’s what tonight is really about. Simon I’m here, cos I feel something similar, but we also have to be honest with one another. (Pauses) I mean I do find you quite/
JANE Given time/
JANE That’s usually the first question/
SIMON From whom? (Jane smiles but does not respond) Jane answer it, please.
JANE That’s one I’d like to find out more slowly.
SIMON Well I’m glad I ordered a salad for you. If it had been steak and chips I probably wouldn’t have got a word out of you.
JANE (Laughing) What are you on Simon?
SIMON Confession time, I checked your original job application this afternoon. Hobbies, favourite meals – steak and chips, etc. Pastimes (Pauses) Do you still Salsa? Wow.
JANE (Nods) Yes. Only nowadays, only in a bowl, with crisps and watching a film on telly.
SIMON With John?
JANE Why ask?
SIMON Don’t you think I should?
JANE Not sure Simon. Unlike you, this is not my first time/
SIMON For what? First time for what?
JANE Simon I’ve been in this situation before, only..
SIMON (Pauses) Only what Jane?
JANE Look my husband just upped and went after 2 years of what I thought was a reasonably successful and happy marriage. Felt betrayed Hated his new partner, and yet we’d never even met (Pauses) unlike Sonia, whom I like and respect.
SIMON Where’s John in all this?
JANE John and I have been together nearly 5 years. I’m talking about my first husband. I was married at 20 and divorced by the time I was 23. Spent a year in shock, drifting, till I met John.
SIMON Well OK. Uhm. (Pauses) Hadn’t realised, but it doesn’t change anything for me/
JANE It’s just that I often remember how I felt (Sighs) Simon moving from where we are, into to a full blown relationship, it’s huge. Don’t forget it’s company policy that personal relationships between staff aren’t allowed.
SIMON Now you’re really are making me nervous……………
JANE Well as the Chief Exec you should be. Anyway, forget us – there are other people who might be harmed
SIMON Only might be harmed?
JANE I’m excluding John from this equation. He’s already had enough. You and I spend more time together. He’s either drinking, down the rugby club, or sleeping. Plus his long trips to Scotland to see his “mother” if she exists.
SIMON So you’re primarily concerned about Sonia?
JANE Not just Sonia, all of us. I can assure you this will hurt. I mean look at you, what are you, 40, 42? You’ve been married for what? 12, 15 years?
SIMON And? (Pauses) Listen. Please. My decision to ask you out tonight was not made on the spur of the moment. I’ve spent weeks thinking about us, and that included doing nothing.
JANE Simon this is not a business negotiation. (Points to herself) With this lot you will get huge emotional baggage, and even a few regrets (Laughs) And that’s just me! Then you’ll have your own issues to deal with, if we decide/
SIMON You said “if” I we decide to do something. Are you still on “if” rather than “when”? (Pauses) Jane?
JANE (Pauses) What do you think? You’ve got the most to lose.
SIMON I’m not in love with Sonia. We share the same house, bed, friends, children, even occasionally the same interests, and I’ll put sex in that category/
JANE Sounds like love to me. (Pauses) Or at least a good enough version of it.
SIMON (Emphatically) Stop it, please. I know I’ve been with Sonia for a long time, but I’ve never, (Pauses) never experienced the feelings and attraction that I feel for you. I’m frazzled. I think about you, day and night. When you leave on a Friday, all I do is wish the weekend away. I’ve even been tempted to phone you at home and pretend there’s a crisis in the office, just so we could talk.
JANE Why didn’t you? Then you’d have understood my home situation a long ago.
SIMON (Pauses) Jane. Listen, these past few moments, (Pauses) tonight have been really quite difficult. I’m being honest here. Put me a bit on edge.
JANE (Assertively) Well what were you expecting? (Pauses) Simon whatever we decide now, someone is likely to get hurt. Neither of us want that, and at the end of the day, it could be one of us.
SIMON What’d you mean?
JANE Look Boss. My position is clear. John and I will inevitably part the waves and move on. Your situation is quite different.
SIMON Is it really? Aren’t we both in relationships that aren’t working?
JANE Sonia might not agree with your statement, besides you’ve got kids/
SIMON Ouch. (Pauses) Well you certainly know my Achilles heel. Anyway my boys are older, plus Sonia is tremendous at dealing with family issues, and if she and I can remain civil then, given time, who knows?.
JANE That doesn’t make it any easier Simon. (Pauses) Anyway I also think it’s time we resolved a certain subject matter before we go any further..
SIMON Children? (Jane nods) (Pauses) Well?
JANE Your sons will always be welcome.
SIMON That wasn’t what I was asking.
JANE I know.
JANE (Pauses) Simon I’ve got used to the idea that nappies will never be a part of my life. (Pauses and then wistfully) although once found myself walking round the maternity department of my local store. Just touching things. Holding them. Really weird.
SIMON (Looks disappointed) Right issue? Wrong time?/
JANE No. (Pauses) In fact it helps me. Shows that you have thought some things through, even if you didn’t get the answer you perhaps wanted. (Pauses) Wow. I feel quite exhausted. Where’s the waiter gone with that bottle. (SIMON STANDS UP AND BECKONS WAITER USING EMPTY GLASS TO ATTRACT HIS ATTENTION. WAITER HURRIEDLY APPROACHES TABLE WITH FRESH BOTTLE).
WAITER Sincere apologies sir, madam. Sorry for the delay.
JANE No problem (Pauses) Just leave the bottle, we’ll sort ourselves out, thank you. (WAITER PUTS WINE BOTTLE DOWN ON TABLE AND LEAVES. SIMON PICKS UP BOTTLE AND FILLS BOTH GLASSES).
SIMON Well? Are we drinking to our future? (Pauses) Or shall we both get sloshed and drown our sorrows? (Pauses, then a deep sigh.) I’m pushing it, aren’t I, Jane? (Long pause, then Jane picks up her glass, takes a sip from it, smiles ruefully, then nods)
JANE (Gently) Simon I think for now, we’re going to need some more wine. (Pauses) lots of it. (Smiles) Meanwhile, tomorrow you’ll still be the Boss and I’m still the PA.
(JUKEBOX CHANGES SONG TO ROY ORBISON SINGING “ONLY THE LONELY”)