TOM – The Phoenix from the Lake – Act 1, Scene 4 – Sept 2019

by admin on September 28, 2019


See previous posts for  Act 1, sc 1,2,&3.

Play summary so far:

Tom Thomson and his mistress, Winnie are caught in flagrante delicto in Tom’s studio cabin in the Don Valley in north Toronto by his painting friends who have come to collect him for a drunken departure of Fred Varley as he leaves for the front in WW1 in France. Winnie tries to stop Tom from joining them, but they all leave her to see Fred off on the train.




(A single lamppost is pushed on bare stage down right. The four men, VARLEY, TOM, JACKSON and HARRIS come from upstage left, lurching toward it, drinking and arguing.)

VARLEY:                   Where’s the bloody streetcars in this town, Tom? I’m gonna miss my train.

TOM:                             No streetcars till 5 o’clock. Not for ‘nother hour. We’ll have to walk.

JACKSON:                   Union Station’s goddam miles away.

HARRIS:                       We’ll march there. Be good practice. Might as well get used to it.

VARLEY:                       Right you miserable excuses for soldiers. Line up. Shoulder arms. By the left, quick march.

(They form a ragged line, miming VARLEY’s commands and march out of step into the light and stop under the streetlamp.)

VARLEY:                         Halt. At ease. Pass out the rum ration, Harris.

(HARRIS fumbles for his hip flask and passes it along the line. They all take a swig.)

VARLEY:                          Right men. Get fell in. Private Jackson, what’s our map co-ordinates?

JACKSON:                        Bloor Street, then Yonge Street, an’ Union Station, Sarge.

VARLEY:                           Right. For’ard march. Pick up the pace. Give us a song, Private Thomson.

(TOM starts to sing a WW1 marching song and the others join in.)

ALL:                                    Madamezelle from Armentiers, parley-voo,                                                                                                                                    Madamezelle from Armentiers, parley-voo.                                                                                                                                     Madamezelle from Armentiers, hasn’t been laid for forty years,                                                                                                Rinky, dinky parley-voo.

(VARLEY leads them in a weaving circle round the lamp-post. HARRIS breaks off from rear of group. He jumps up on JACKSON, piggy-back, to mime riding up to them on his ‘horse.’ JACKSON staggers about; makes horse whinnying sounds.)

HARRIS:                          (in posh English officer’s voice as he canters about them on his ‘horse.’) I say, I say. What the devil’s going on here, Sargeant?

VARLEY:                            New recruits, Major. On our way to the troop train at Union Station, sir.

HARRIS:                             Dash it all, man, – they’re not in uniform.

VARLEY:                             Only just recruited them tonight, Major. We’ll kit ‘em out on the train.

HARRIS:                              Highly irregular, Sargeant, but this is war, dammit. One has to make allowances. Have to bend the rules a bit, what what? You there, at the rear. What’s your name, boy?

TOM:                                      Tom.

HARRIS:                                Don’t get familiar with me, boy, or you’ll be cleaning latrines for the next month. Last names only in this man’s army, understand? And stand  at attention when you address an officer. And salute. And say sir – boy.

TOM:                                 (mocking him with each command in turn) Yessir, nosir, three bagsfulsir.  Majorsir. – Thomsonsir.

HARRIS:                            (dismounts from his ‘horse’- stands nose to nose with TOM) Goddammit, Thomson – are you taking the piss out of me? Sargeant, put this man on charge for insulting an officer.

VARLEY:                              He don’t know any better, Major. He’s just an ignorant backwoods oaf, sir.

HARRIS:                               And what’s a backwoods oaf doing here in Toronto, Sargeant?

VARLEY:                              Claims he’s a painter, sir.

HARRIS:                               What what? Painter, eh? What d’you paint – barns? Haw,haw.

TOM:                                      Landscapes. Pictures to you.

HARRIS:                              I know what landscapes are, Thomson. Trees and lakes and flowers. What bloody use are they in the middle of a war, eh? What what? And say sir when you speak to me, – boy.

TOM:                                         Might keep you sane – sir.

HARRIS:                                  You’re the one who’s insane, Thomson. Wandering around in the backwoods waving a paint brush at the bears. Thinks he’s bloody St. Francis of Assisi, Sargeant. Haw haw.

VARLEY:                                  We’ll soon knock some sense into ‘im, Major.

TAYLOR:                                  Damn good and right we will, Thomson. You won’t be so cheeky next time I speak to you. Lead on, Sargeant. Don’t miss that bloody train.

VARLEY:                                   For’ard march. At the double. Leftrightleftrightleftright…

(They jog double time on the spot, then offstage right as scene changes to Union Station.)



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