Monday, July 5, 2010

From the Top Shelf - St. Dominic's I

For your enjoyment, here is another scene from Oh! Calcutta! - an avant-garde theatrical revue, consisting of sketches on sex-related topics.

Due to the length of the scene, it will be published in three parts, and I will link them to each other once all have been published.

The scene takes place in a fictitious girls' school. As the plot unfolds, the audience is asked to decide which girl should be punished. Based on the response, the script is followed in different ways. I hope you like it.
But be warned: the language is a challenging mixture of girls' school lingo and outmoded expressions from the early 20th century.

(The words in italics are stage directions.)

St. Dominic's, 1917

The Cast

GWEN, FAUVETTE, MORVYTH: Fifth form girls
ELSPETH: Fifth form monitor
MISS BEESLEY: Headmistress

Scene I

Dropcloth of cover of girls' school books circa 1917. Recorded sound of girls singing school song. Superimpose projections caption: "THE FIFTH FORM AT ST. DOMINICS, 1917". Fade caption. Superimpose second caption: "CHAPTER ONE". Fade caption. Superimpose third caption: "GWEN MAKES A BAD START". Meanwhile, over the public address system:

VOICE (female): in the depth of every Englishman's subconscious there is a cat-o'-nine-tails and a schoolgirl in black stockings. Remark attributed to the French humorist, Pierre Daninos.

The school song, which has faded for the announcement, swells up and ends. The dropcloth rises. Behind it are three dormitory camp beds, occupied by GWEN, FAUVETTE, and MORVYTH. A bell rings. ELSPETH, the dormitory prefect, enters, dressed in school uniform--gymslip, black stockings, white blouse, and school tie.

ELSPETH: Come on, girls! Stir your old bones! Don't want to treat you to a jaw-wag on the first day of term. Let's have no monkey tricks, or Miss Beesley'll be down on us like a ton of bricks!

GWEN (sitting up in bed): Must you be so jinky, Elspeth? This child's fagged out entirely!

ELSPETH: Stop frivolling, you silly young blighter, or I'll splificate you!

FAUVETTE (to audience): Fumed Elspeth.

GWEN: You needn't be so peacocky, just because you're a monitor!

FAUVETTE (to audience): Chirruped Gwen, with a grin on her impish face.

ELSPETH (to GWEN): Now listen to me, you young scalawag. You may have been the firebrand of the Fourth, but this is your first day in the Fifth, and you'll have a grizzly time of it unless you mind your manners!

GWEN (jumping out of bed and slipping dark blue knickers under her nightie): No use expecting me to knuckle under, Elspeth, I'm as used to scolding as eels to skinning!

ELSPETH: Any more chat from you, and I'll report you to Miss Beesley. And a summons from that worthy rarely bodes good fortune to the recipient. (To audience) Gwen's gauche and brusque, but at heart she's unimpeachable!

Morvyth, still curled up in bed, suddenly bursts into tears.

ELSPETH (going to MORVYTH'S bed): Hello! Whence this thusness? Gracious, girl, turn off the waterworks! We don't care for this sickly sort of stuff at St. Dominic's.

MORVYTH: I'm sorry, Elspeth, but I'm dreadfully homesick!

FAUVETTE (to audience; by now she is languidly dressing and washing): Wailed Morvyth.

ELSPETH: For goodness' sake bottle it up, Morvyth!

MORVYTH: But my brother's volunteered to be a Tommy, you see, and they're sending him to the front!

ELSPETH: Then you ought to be proud of him, you silly goose! I've met some lads who've come back blinded from the war, and they're twice as cheerful and patient as you.

MORVYTH (hugging ELSPETH): You are a trump, Elspeth!

ELSPETH (extricating herself) Don't, Morvyth!

FAUVETTE (to audience): Said Elspeth huskily.

ELSPETH (to audience): Morvyth is a dear, delightful lovable lazybones, with sweetly coaxing little ways, and a helpless confiding look in her blue eyes. Her fossils form the nucleus of the school museum.

All the girls are now out of bed and dressing. They follow the same procedure: having pulled on their knickers, they remove their nighties and put on white blouses, gymslips, school ties, and black stockings held by garters.

GWEN (to audience): The spiciest character in the form is Fauvette, otherwise known as "The Kipper", and rumoured to be the richest girl in school.

FAUVETTE (to audience): Some of the girls are fearfully down on me because my wealthy parents send me postal orders. They tease me and call me "Proudie" or "Madam Conceit".

Bell rings.

ELSPETH: Oops! Two minutes to go before Assembly. Scooterons-nous this very sec! I'll nip ahead, Fauvette, I'm counting on you to see to it that the Fifth is there on time in full fig! (Elspeth exits.)

FAUVETTE: Strafe the dear old Fifth as far as I'm concerned! Elspeth may be in a rush, but it's not this child's usual way of proceeding!

GWEN: Fauvette!

FAUVETTE (to audience): Interposed Gwen, her dark eyes dancing.

GWEN: Will the Bumble Bee be taking us for English composition?

All three, fully dressed, have come downstage. The dropcloth falls behind them.

FAUVETTE: The Bumble Bee? Great Minerva, how ignorant the new bug is! My poor babe, let me initiate you into the shibboleths of the Fifth. Be it known to you that our respected Head, Miss Beasley, vulgarly known as the Bumble Bee, is among our elect set yclept Lemonade--partly owing to her habit of fizzing over, and partly owing to a certain acid quality in her temper.

GWEN: But why shouldn't I call her the Bumble Bee if I want to?

FAUVETTE: Because, old sport, you mustn't correct your betters.

GWEN: And what makes you better than I am?

MORVYTH (to audience): Sniffed Gwen in her forthright way.

FAUVETTE: Because, frabjous child, your parents are humble folk, whereas mine are bearing the nation's burden on their shoulders.

MORVYTH: Do stow it, Fauvette!

FAUVETTE (to GWEN): Make no mistake, I shall take care to keep my weekly postal order locked up in my desk, in case you snaffle it!

GWEN: I wouldn't touch anything of yours with a pair of tongs!

MORVYTH (to audience): Flared Gwen.

FAUVETTE: And I wouldn't touch anything of yours except with a pair of tongs. You're so unwashed!

GWEN: You old bluebottle!

GWEN throws herself on FAUVETTE. They pummel each other, rolling around on the stage. MORVYTH looks aghast. Suddenly ELSPETH re-enters, looking fierce.

ELSPETH (separating the combatants): Peace, turbulent herd! Fauvette, tell me what happened.

FAUVETTE: Please don't think me a rotten sneak, Elspeth, but Gwen set upon me!

GWEN (hotly): I say ...

MORVYTH (to audience): Interjected Gwen.

ELSPETH: Did you start this imbroglio, Gwen?

GWEN: Great heavens, no, Fauvette egged me on!

ELSPETH: Then let me give you both a word of advice, my lofty Pharaohs. Pride frequently comes before a fall.

ELSPETH seizes Gwen by the ear. Fauvette looks smug.

MORVYTH (to audience): I see breakers ahead.

All four girls freeze in this grouping.

VOICE (female, over public address system): You have now met GWEN, FAUVETTE, MORVYTH, and ELSPETH. At the end of this sketch, one of them will be publicly spanked. By a process of elimination, you, the audience, will decide on the victim. You can now eliminate either Gwen or Fauvette. Please indicate your choice by raising your right hand.

Is it Gwen?

GWEN steps forward from group and faces audience.

Or Fauvette?

FAUVETTE does the same.

(Using whichever name gets the most votes)__________ is hereby exonerated.


Next - Scene II

From Hermione's Heart


ronnie said...

I raise my right hand when Gwen steps forward.

Thanks Hermione, I enjoyed that. I think I would have liked to have seen some of Oh Calcutta.

The girl's lingo is so amusing. Look forward to more.


Hermione said...

Aha! There's the missing comment.

I wish I had seen the show too.