TOM – Birth of a Legend. Act 1, Scene 5 – October 7, 2019

by admin on October 7, 2019

I think I have settled on the new sub-title of: Birth of a Legend instead of The Phoenix from the Lake.

See previous posts in September to read earlier scenes.

Summary of play so far:

TOM & WINNIE, his mistress, have been caught in flagrante delicto by his painter friends. An argument ensues about the war and whether they should enlist or not. The men all have been drinking heavily and leave WINNIE to see one of their friends off on the train to join the war and the others are caught up in a recruiting pitch to enlist them in this next scene.




(The whole scene is performed as a stylised music hall sketch.)

(A large sign printed ‘UNION STATION’ appears at rear of the stage. A long painted cloth of railway carriages moves across stage and stops. Behind it are heads and shoulders of many puppet soldiers on sticks bobbing up and down as they mill around behind it to sound effects of cheering crowds waving Union Jack flags and Canadian Red Ensigns; steam train whistles.

 The rear deck of a railway carriage indicated by a small step-stool on wheels, appears stage right and VARLEY steps up onto it, singing WW1 song.

VARLEY:                                                   “Goodbye-ee, goodby-ee,                                                                                           Wipe a tear, tiny tear from your eye-ee.                                                                                                                             Cheerio, old chap, toodle-oo pip, pip,                                                                                                                                           Fare thee well, cheerio, goodbye-ee.”                                    (He waves his army cap to his friends as the ‘carriage’ moves back offstage right, to sounds of departing steam train. The painted cloth and puppets follow, leaving HARRIS, JACKSON and TOM waving goodbye.)

 (Behind them the set structure has now become a portable recruiting platform and appears stage left, accompanied by the beat of a female drummer, MARIE, and fife player, ANTOINETTE, dressed as tarty French camp followers. They mount the platform to stand under the famous poster of Lord Kitchener pointing his finger, flaunting their charms as the RECRUITING OFFICER bounds up to stand between them. They do a music hall song and dance routine to a WW1 popular recruiting song.)

MARIE & ANTOINETTE: (Singing)                                                                                                                                               Oh we don’t want to lose you                                                                                                                                                               But we think you ought to go,                                                                                                                                                        For your king and your country                                                                                                                                                   Both need you so.

We shall want you and miss you                                                                                                                                                    But with all our might and main,                                                                                                                                                   We shall cheer you, thank you, kiss you,                                                                                                                                 When you come home again.

RECRUITING OFFICER:                                                         (like a circus barker) Roll up, roll up, gentlemen. Be the first to sign up for our next train load of brave men, off to fight for freedom from the Kaiser. And save these beautiful daughters of France from the clutches of the beastly Bosche. Who’ll be the first to step forward and meet our charming French allies, Marie and Antoinette? (To JACKSON) You sir, you look like a man who would defend the virtue of the ladies of a grateful French nation. Escort him to the surgeon to see if he’s fit to protect your honour, Marie and then we’ll sign him up.

MARIE:                                                                (descends and seductively beckons JACKSON behind the platform.) Mais oui, avec plaisir. Ooh la la, come wiz me and we will check you all ovair, monsieur.

RECRUITING OFFICER:                                                        Now who’s next to join his friend to fight for Canada. What about you, sir? Will you take the King’s Shilling, or the white feather? Help him choose, Antoinette.

ANTOINETTE:                                                               (takes the shilling coin from her cleavage in one hand and the white feather in the other, as she comes down to face TOM). Now ees your chance, monsieur. Join your comrade-in-arms or – face disgrace. Eh bien, which will it be?

(HARRIS pushes TOM into the arms of ANTOINETTE and she leads him behind the platform, where JACKSON reappears, tucking his shirt into his trousers and goes up on the platform with MARIE.

REC. OFFICER:                                                              Well Marie, will he be your hero? What says the surgeon – yes or no?

MARIE:                                                                (helping to tuck in JACKSON’s shirt and pats his bottom) Oui, a fine figure of a man, ze docteur say. Et moi, aussi. (makes a suggestive gesture as she strokes the pen before handing it to JACKSON to sign and she takes the King’s Shilling from her bosom and hands it to him, to cheers and applause.)

(A minute later TOM reappears led by ANTOINETTE who shoves him back into the arms of HARRIS.)

REC. OFFICER:                                                     What’s this, Antoinette? A big lad like this, not fit to fight for King and Country? (She whispers in his ear.) Flat feet? You’re no good to the army with flat feet, man. How do you expect to march into France and defend these young women on flat feet? How old are you, anyway?

TOM:                                                                    Thirty-nine.

REC. OFF:                                                                 Good God, we need young men, not their flat-footed fathers. Rejected! Who’s next?


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