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For centuries, it was the custom for the great and small festivals of the church and the changing seasons to be marked with Mumming plays, burlesques on historical, mythical and local themes.


It was also the custom to do the same for the very small festivals indeed… Like the Filkins Feast, an annual village lunch held on the paddock opposite the Village Hall. The entertainment sometimes included a performance of either of the two parts of the Filkins Feast Play. Here, rescued from well-merited obscurity, is Part One: an appalling test of low doggerel, and lower wit.


The Filkins & Broughton Poggs Feast Play: Part One


Hints to players:


Tell the story big and bold. Ham it up and keep it moving! Watch for all the breaks in rhythm which accent the doggerel. Keep up the momentum, particularly where the couplets are broken by a change of speaker.

Try to end each longer speech “on the up” rather as a music-hall introducer.

Come in quickly where couplets are split between two speeches.

If learning the lines is a problem, it would be better to act flamboyantly with script in hand.


The Characters: (There is plenty of scope for doubling up)


Herald

An Everyman, fits his persona to the lines. Plays all his parts with intense gusto in an Alec Guinness (Kind  hearts) sort of way.

King

Slightly daffy, in awe of everyone while standing on the ceremony of his position. Michael Hordern meets Stephen Fry

St Filica

On top of the situation, knows there’s more than one way to bell a cat. Diana Rigg meets Ann Widdecombe

Lawyer

Pernickety, pedantic Jarndyce type. (Unlike any lawyer we have ever met)

Fool

Goonish in the Spike Milligan mould, with something of the mad Lear

Dragon

Saturnine, menacing. George Sanders meets Jack Nicholson

Lost Cause

Pessimistic, mournful. Half cup is half empty. Malcolm Muggeridge plays the Caterpillar

Dr Butcher

Wild-eyed and slightly mad. Peter Sellers’ Dr Strangelove meets the Mad Hatter

King’s Horse

Slightly lugubrious and quixotic, remembering past glories. Timothy West

Princess Mary

Fotherington-Thomas meets the “I’ll thcream, and thcream” girl from Just William. Best played by large chap in hasty drag.

The Woman on the Clapham Omnibus

Miss Marple: elderly, but prescient..


The Play:


[Enter Herald]

Herald:

[To audience, as if reading a scroll]

My friends, Filkins Feasters, listen up!

Lay down your forks and fill your cups.

For right before your crapulous eyes,

A gallant gallimaufry of every size

Of dastard, bastard, saint and sinner

Has come to interrupt your dinner


[Alternative first lines if performed after the feast, rather than before

My friends, Filkins Feasters, listen up!

Sraighten your chairs, and fill your cups.

For right before your crapulous eyes,

A gallant gallimaufry of every size

Of dastard, bastard, saint and sinner

Will aid digestion of your dinner]


With a tale that’ll make your heart go pitter,

That’ll make every sitting citizen squitter,

But’ll also we hope squeeze a muffled titter

From even the crustiest guillotine-knitter.

For while the deeds we’ll show you right this minute

Are gory and gross and beyond the limit

Of what is normally served with lunch,

There are also heroes, damsels, magic places

Charming manners, warm embraces...

As one by one our troupe will strut a fretful hour

from blood soaked pit to dainty bower.

So, settle down and welcome please:

First, the King himself, a ripe big cheese!


[Enter Lawyer, leafing though big legal book]

Lawyer

Hang on, hang on, before his Majesty draws near

Methinks I’m smelling something mighty queer.

The speech you opened with is fine and dandy, but

It’s as you gave four years ago, tut tut!


Herald

Mr Lawyer, Sir, you do as ever spot the catch.

[To audience]

It’s true, we tell our story once again from scratch.

One reason is the many Filkins feasters new to town

The other is… the doggerel merchant let us down.

[Exit lawyer]

So, again I say… settle down and welcome please:

First, the King himself, a ripe big cheese!


[Enter King]

King:

[To audience]

Good burghers of fair Filkins Town,

Without the piping of this clown

You’d still have known me for a King -

My robes, my crown, my golden ring...

I have a Gormenghastic palace,

A large red queen, a maid called Alice,

And darling daughter, Princess Mary.

And that’s where this tale gets quite hairy.

In fact, I’m feeling rather glum,

for Mary, my sweet Sugar Plum’s

been kidnapped as she worked her sums,

been trussed and hauled off on a wagon,

By, you’ve guessed it, by that bloody dragon!

However, the standard oh-my-goodness-the-dragon’s-nicked-a-princess plan is underway,

The telegram’s been sent, and brave St George should be here late today.

And then, Godly purpose and a razor-tipped lance...

That dragon doesn’t stand a chance!


[Enter St Filica]

St Filica:

Unfortunately, My Liege, there’s been a hitch,

St George has won the lottery, and now is rich.

He no longer has the need like drawing breath,

to joust for gold, or goodness, with dragons to the death.


King:

You mean our sainted swordsman is not coming?


St Filica:

No, My Liege...


King:

... Oh woe, alack, our plans were humming

And now we don’t know what to do.

We’re absolutely in the stew!


St Filica:

Cheer up, Old King, all is not lost at all.

For like the fairy dame at Cinder’s ball

I doff my ashcloth cloak. Behold!

I am St Filica, a Saxon chieftainess as bold

As Good Queen Bess. With heart of lion,

And oaken staff full-shod with iron.

That Dragon holds no thrall o’er me

Your Mary will be home for tea!


King:

Oh blessed saint...


[Enter Lawyer]

Lawyer:

... Now what’s all this

I’m sorry but a saintly miss

Can not be the one who fights.

For even dragons have their rights.

[looking up the statute in large book]

It must be George, it is the law and must be seen...

... to be done correctly as it has always been.

Para three, subsection nine is quite explicit,

and anything else is totally illicit.


Herald:

Mr Lawyer, Sir, that’s really quite unfair.


[Enter Fool]

Fool:

[Ruminatively to himself]

Can a golden madman not ride upon a mare?

Is it absolutely wrong, beyond a zinc-lined pail,

for a dog to shoe a rocking horse? Think what that might entail.


King:

[To audience]

Good God, this fool is worse than I am with his meaningless refrains,

And yet his loony maunderings doth give me just the reins

To hold back Mr Lawyer here from scuppering our plan

To let St Filica go dragon-fight as if she were a man.

[To fool]

Foolish fool, draw breath and spout some specious high-flown twaddle.

[To audience]

We’ll tie that lawyer up in knots, it’ll be a blooming doddle!


Fool:

[To lawyer]

A girl doth vanquish dragons much as a tortoise lacketh speed.


Lawyer:

No, no, you fool, St George alone must do the dreadful deed.

[From book]

The law is quite exacting.... Here is paragraph eleven:

“St George must kill the Dragon, as God is in his heaven”.


King:

[To fool]

Come on old fool, give him a bit more of your beautiful battiness.

This lawyer is beginning to twitch his whiskers with distinct rattiness.


Fool:

Georgey Porgy’s missing, so why

Can’t Filica make the Dragon cry?

[Exit Fool]


Lawyer:

Fools and knaves and charlatans, I’ll not stand here and bandy

Words with simple minded folk, when there’s a public house quite handy.

So I throw in the towel, and I’m off to the bar at the sweetest of sweet Five Alls,

Though I’ll tell you Sir, Saint Filica’s case is a load of complete ...

[Exit Lawyer]


King:

... All’s well that ends well, we’ve doubtless seen the last of him.

Now brave Saint Filica will rend that Dragon limb from bloody limb.

Why, I’m so excited that if that fiery monster appeared this very second...


[Enter Dragon]

Dragon:

[To King now hiding]

... You would attack me? No, you’d hide behind your herald. As I reckoned.

So, who’s first in the ring this merry afternoon?

And remember, no Queensbury nonsense. Fight to the death, and let the Devil play his tune.


St Filica:

It is I, St Filica, with my trusty staff.


Dragon:

What! A woman! An itsy, bitsy, I’ve-snagged-my-tights-and-broken-my-finger-nail woman.

Don’t make me laugh.

Where’s St George, where’s pass-my-sword-and-call-me-chunky, good ol’ George?

Not here? Oh well, Then I’ll whack her, and roast her... and then I can gorge.


[Enter Lost Cause]

The Lost Cause:

Attend close, my gentles, to me, the Lost Cause.

As bloody Armageddon scowls on Filkins, let us pause

And consider that while girl power’s very dear to my heart,

We must accept that even if Saint Filica has a start,

And the Dragon keeps one clawsome paw behind his monstrous back,

His breath will char Saint Filica here to hot toast on a rack.

I might be pessimistic, and I really hope I’m wrong,

But prepare yourselves... For a pile of freshly broiled saint, and one helluva pong.

Quite simply, it’ll be Dragon one

St Filica none!

[Exit Lost Cause]


Herald:

[As if before a boxing match]

And now, ladies and gentlemen, for the main event of the day.

The talking’s over, now brute strength will have its say.

In the red-in-tooth-and-claw-and-slimy-corner, Mr Dragon, the sod,

And in the blue-purity-of-the-Virgin’s-robes,-the azure-summer-sky-corner, St Filica for God!


King:

[To audience]

Actually, St Filica’s colour is imperial purple, but that virgin blue stuff makes better copy

And dragons are generally greenery orangey, rather than red like a poppy.

[Exit King]


Dragon:

OK, Saint Filica, as the King says, let’s tango baby


[The Dragon and St Filica begin to circle each other warily. Herald acts as referee]


St Filica:

Have you ever thought, maybe

Your fiery breath might cause you internal damage?


Dragon:

Well I do get a cough, so I’ll not use the gas, but be savage

With my claws and my tail, and I’ll soon have you licked.


St Filica:

I once knew a warrior whose broad back was ricked

From the bumping and thumping of battle.

I’ve heard, and it might be the slightest of tattle,

That he ended his days prostrate on his bed,

Paralysed, comatose, and then dead.

[Note: stress on last syllable on “paralysed” and “comatose”]


Dragon:

I might not be a butterfly, I certainly am no bee,

But I’ll still have you flat on the canvas, Babe... Just watch me!


St Filica:

You are old Father Dragon, your fire is but ash.

To fight in your state would be thoroughly rash.


Dragon:

Dammit, Saint, you fight low.

Without even a blow,

You have dealt me the hardest of cuts.

For I dare not lash out

With fire or a clout,

Or my body will give up the ghost


St Filica:

[To audience]

So I’ll pick up a my staff and give him the most

Almighty whack right on the nose.

That’ll vanquish this horriblest of foes.

[Pokes at Dragon]

And unless I’m mistaken,

Then life has forsaken

This beast - who is dead as a doornail!

[Herald holds up St Filica’s hand as winner.

Exit St Filica and Herald]


[Enter Dr Butcher]

Dr Butcher:

[To audience]

I’m Doctor Butcher, and there hangs a tale,

I heal up the sick and cut up the dead.

Well, mostly it’s sort of the way that I’ve said.

But I have to admit that I have lost my cred

When sleeping chaps end up as chops on the slab.

But, hey, who’s keeping an eye on the tab!

[Goes over to Dragon]

Now, a dragon is always a pain in the bum,

‘Cos first off there’s likely a helluva hum

As three tonnes of flesh putrefy in the sun.

And second, of course, there’s always the chance

That the damned thing was only just stunned by the lance,

And will jump up and give me a poke in the pants.


[Enter King’s horse]

King’s horse:

My dear Sir, may I be of assistance? Oh, do let me try!

My colleagues, the other King’s horses, and I

Together with upper deck staff, the King’s Horsemen, I mean

Have always worked very well as a team, and have been

Instrumental in many a hush hush affair.

From enticing the minotaur out of his lair,

To ridding the siren of snakes from her hair.


Dr Butcher:

OK, horse. Pull his legs out straight, give them a yank, no time to be polite

This dead dragon’s got to be sausages and naked bones this night.


King’s horse:

The only time when things didn’t work out at all,

Was when that ovoid old chap fell dead off the wall.

Like an eggy jigsaw he was, but quite beyond us.

So we dumped Humpty Dumpty. What a terrible fuss!


Dr Butcher:

Omelettes for a week, no doubt. Excellent tucker!

You can’t beat the fresh laid fruit of a clucker.

[Holding up some red piece of offal]

Or what about this? A huge succulent liver.

With an egg in the pan, you’d need only a sliver!


Dragon:

[Plaintively and a little wavering]

I love liver too, oh dear Dr B!

Especially mine, in its place, inside me!

[Dr Butcher and King’s horse continue cutting up Dragon. Lots of blood and entrails!]


[Enter Lost Cause]

The Lost Cause:

While Doctor Butcher’s splattering the tent with dragon guts,

And slicing up the fleshy parts into the choicest cuts,

I hang my head for questioning the saintly Filica’s

Ability to beat the beast, oh, terrible faux pas!

But there! That bloody heap is proof of what I have to say:

That Broughton Poggs and Filkins folk will always win the day!

[Exit Lost Cause]


Dragon:

May I rise from the dead for a minute to two, for long enough to ask,

That while you fellows concentrate on this Burke and Harish task

Of packaging my body for the Royal kitchen freezer,

Wasn’t the reason for this fracas to liberate poor Lisa,

Or Jane, or Sue or Prudence or what ever is the name

Of the princess in my dungeon, for whom St Filica came?

 

[Enter King]

King:

Good grief, I’d quite forgotten that! My daughter’s still in jail!

Alas! Alack! Alarum! Boo hoo, gnash teeth and wail.

Who’ll search the dragon’s catacomb

And fetch my princess home?


[Enter St Filica]

St Filica:

My Liege, it’s done,

I used my cun...

...ning getting past the guards.

O’er walls, cross yards,

Up towers, until

In cellar chill

I found the chick...


King:

... Good work, stout Saint, thou art a brick.


[Enter Princess]

Princess:

Oh father, dearest father dear, my heart is full of girly stuff,

Of satin bows, and just enough

Icky sicky pretty things.

While floppy fluffy bunny sings

Of magic dust and fairy rings.

I love you, kiss, kiss, everyone.

We’ll skippity skip and have such fun!

[Exit Princess]


Dragon:

Being dead seems now not quite so sad:

That Princess drives me barking mad.


[Enter Lawyer, drunk]

Lawyer:

Hic, haec, hock. Courtroom Latin and plenty of hooch

Lubricate my wish to smooch

With good King Whatnot and his daughter

And hope that balthazars of water

Have flowed beneath their royal bridge.

Since, just before this ghastly carnage

I unfairly put a gag on

St Filica’s aim to slay the Dragon.

Now I shout with all my might

I was wrong, and she was right!


Dragon:

Sausages I might be, but I’ve still got an ear

which has heard something good worth a sixpenny cheer.

For a lawyer admitting to making mistake

Is Billy Bunter hating a chocolate cake!


St Filica:

Repentant Mr Lawyer. Sir, I harbour not a grudge


King:

Nor I, Sir, in fact, Sir, I’ll make you a judge

So whenever I fancy some droit de Signeur

There’ll be no strife in court while you have tenure

[Exit Lawyer. King makes encouraging signals at King’s horse]


King’s horse:

[Coming forward, increasingly quavery, surprised to be making this keynote speech]

Doctor Butcher is up to his elbows in blood

The Dragon is dead of course...


Dragon:

Almost!


King’s horse:

... the Lost Cause a dud.

The Princess is soppy, the King is too grand,

The fool is a fool, so it falls to my hand

To tease out the lessons of our little tale.

The first is that Dragons are really the pits

The second, that princesses get on your...


St Filica:

... Nerves, yes they do, [Noticing King’s horse leaving] Hey, where is the horse?


King’s horse:

I’m pooped. I can’t last round this eight furlong course!

[Exit King’s horse]


[Enter Herald]

Herald:

My friend, the horse is a little distraught.

He asks me to take up the list what he wrought...

The third is that lawyers and doctors talk cheesy,

But the fourth, and the last, why that is so easy -

‘Tis that Broughton & Filkins have a saint in their midst

who realising a dragon must fast be got ridst,

Does the biz,

‘Cos she is...

‘Cos she is...

Brave as a lion and lithe as a mogg...

...y Strong as a horse and loyal as a dog.

A typical product of Filkins & Poggs!


[Enter The Woman on the Clapham Omnibus]

The Woman on the Clapham Omnibus

I am the thinking woman on the Clapham Omnibus

I don’t rock any boats, and I don’t make any fuss.

But since old King Methuselah was but a bitty boy

My opinion has been sought, representing hoi polloi.

And on this I am certain, and on this I am sure

The Dragon, he was very bad, and there is one thing more

St Filica is a hero, and deserveth ev’ry honour…


King:

[To the rest of the actors]

 … I heartily agree my friends, now the beast’s a gonner.

[Rousingly to Audience]

So, as a saint has a halo, a Turk has a fez,

A slayer of dragons deservest a prez.

[To St Filica, while handing her some huge and ghastly gimcrack statue]

So we had a whip round, and bought you this... thing


All:

Long live St Filica, and God save the King!


St Filica:

[Coming forward in Oscar ceremony mode]

It’s an honour, and, luvvies, en route to the bank

I’ve some weeping to do, and some people to thank...

My mum, my director and...


[Everyone now on stage shouts St Filica down]

All:

... let’s just have a cheer

For the people of Filkins and Poggs who are here

The Dragon is slain, the story is done

Hip hip to us all, and let’s drink once again.

Hurrah!

Hurrah!

Hurrah!


[End]