Rascals in the Air by Bill Ayer

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent

ACT ONE

SOUND: Mobile/Cell Phone SFX/call

P A ANNOUNCEMENT: That was to get your attention. Good evening/afternoon. Would you please make sure your phones are turned off, as they may interfere with the electrical system and the performance, and you may become a source of distraction to others, who have travelled all the way here, hoping to get away from everything, and to enjoy the theatrical experience. We welcome each and every one of you, and hope you enjoy this production. Please feel free to say what you think during interval or after the show. Thank you.

House LIGHTS down

Poor-az comes in to drape himself on bench/bed

Mr Brandycoot comes in to hide under desk CROQUET, pronounced Crow-kay, enters DR to spotlight area

3. FADE UP SPOTLIGHT DR

CROQUET: (front) My name is Croquet, Hector Croquet; at your service, secret agent or otherwise. I have served Country, King and Clients galore. They flock to my door. No one, here or otherwise, has such zeal as I, in nosing out criminals, traitors, and conspiracies. And yet -- you look upon a poor and humble man.

LIGHTS: FADE UP 1. WHOLE SET

Croquet moves to DC

CROQUET: (front) Clients place their plight before the acutest brain anyplace, or otherwise; this acute brain here -- mine, ready to serve. The office, it must be said, is spare of furniture, because it is heavy and in extreme times, may cost money.

A creature stirs on the bench/bed

Croquet returns to DR

CROQUET: (front) The frugal repast that doth sustain me, currently cabbage remnants, I do par-taketh of in secret, when quite alone. It has to be hidden from the gluttonous glances of --

A ragged creature with decrepit hair, sits up suddenly and noisily on the bench/bed

CROQUET: (looks US to Poor-az) -- Poor-az! Ah! I can hardly speak of him without feeling choked with emotion. He is the thorn that hath wounded my over-sensitive heart, has caused me to spring at his throat at great risk to my knuckles, which turn white, so deathly white and bloodless, as I throttle him relentlessly, (benevolent smile) with much violence.

POOR-AZ rises, rags hanging from scruffy attire, moves DS to DC, looks at Croquet

Croquet crosses L to DC, to face Poor-az

CROQUET: You, you pungent, woebegone creature; I spent valuable time, with an axe, chopping glugs from your matted hair. I do not do things by halves. And I took care to spare your ears. How many Masters are so benevolent? Think of it!

POOR-AZ: I do think! You dragged me with blazing white knuckles, by my crumbling coat collar out of the gutter, slime and mud where I was grubbing for trifles. I was frozen, starving, down-right pitiable. My complexion decidedly blue, my centimes decidedly few. And you, Sir, the confidant of Kings, Autocrats, Emperors, (aside) so he keeps telling me, (to Croquet) you took me to your bosom, fed me -

CROQUET: -- with fragments from my own humble repasts; pig knuckle gravy, crushed cutlet bones, stale bread crusts, lumpy sausage skins, carrots tops, onion peels ---

POOR-AZ: -- and clothed me with your most worn out pantaloons, housed me, gave me the post of Secretary with Light Duties; I swept rooms, scrubbed floors, walls, ceilings, fetched water from wells, stamped on bugs and mice, chased rats, lit fires in iron stoves, prepared chowder to boil, ran errands, proved myself efficient, useful, loyal, to open door to clients ---

Poor-az opens the OUTER DOOR, to imaginary client

POOR-AZ: -- show them in, explain that my Master will condescend himself after engaging in State affairs.

Poor-az waves imaginary client to come inside

POOR-AZ: -- I must, of course, be forever prepared ---

Poor-az steps sufficiently US of OUTER DOOR

POOR-AZ: -- for any emergency ---

The OUTER DOOR flings open, hiding Poor-az out of sight MR SHOWEN-ORRF enters dramatically, holds door handle to get the right safety angle

POOR-AZ: (as he disappears) Yummph!

Pause as Showen-orrf steps into the room

CROQUET: (dignified observation) Without so much as a "by your leave."

SHOWEN-ORRF: (snooty) Without so much as a “knave to receive.”

Poor-az reappears R of Showen-orrf, tottering off balance

SHOWEN-ORRF: (to Poor-az) Call that a knave? That’s a lout.

POOR-AZ: (staggering) A Lout?

CROQUET: No doubt.

POOR-AZ: Me?

CROQUET: Totally, Lout.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Get out!

POOR-AZ: And you say, I shouldn’t gripe.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Do as I say, Guttersnipe.

Showen-orrf swings Poor-az DS, below him, to exit open OUTER DOOR, looks out and then

Showen-orrf crosses, opens INNER DOOR, looks off

Showen-orrf returns to the OUTER DOOR, looks out, closes it Satisfied, he turns to Croquet

SHOWEN-ORRF: My name, Sir, is Showen-orrf.

CROQUET: Unfortunate.

SHOWEN-ORRF: I want your discretion, ingenuity and alertness.

CROQUET: Gree-dee! Too much. How dare you, Sir?!

SHOWEN-ORRF: With consummate ease.

CROQUET: My clients are of exalted rank --

SHOWEN-ORRF: Are we alone?

CROQUET: --- in a fashionable area. (front) I was almost dumbfounded.

SHOWEN-ORRF: You look almost dumbfounded.

CROQUET: I am never ‘almost’.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Any unwanted listeners?

CROQUET: Not that I can hear.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Any eavesdroppers?

Croquet move R to desk

CROQUET: My Pest Control is up to date. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

SHOWEN-ORRF: I entered with ease. Come, let us mince no words.

Showen-orrf angles the armchair to the desk, sits

CROQUET: That chair, I reserve for lady visitors.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Do they do this?

Showen-orrf throws his leg over one arm of the chair Croquet gasps

CROQUET: (to self) In my secret fantasies.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Answer, answer me.

CROQUET: Not my ladies, is my answer.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Accept my proposal and they will.

CROQUET: (with glee) With gusto?

SHOWEN-ORRF: With gay abandon.

CROQUET: What do you take me for, Sir!

SHOWEN-ORRF: You’ll find out. I’ll kick up my heels then.

CROQUET: My mindful hour glass, tells me your time is up.

SHOWEN-ORRF: My deal will get you gold watches galore, with time on your wrists.

CROQUET: I shall have to set my lout on you!

SHOWEN-ORRF: Name your price!

CROQUET: I cannot be bought!

SHOWEN-ORRF: Two hundred francs.

Sudden pause Showen-orrf looks over his left shoulder, then over his right

SHOWEN-ORRF: And double the amount when you are successful.

Pause

Showen-orrf extracts a money bag, loosens the drawstring to prove his point

CROQUET: Mr Showen-orrf, I listen.

SHOWEN-ORRF: No doubt you know the Consulate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

CROQUET: No doubt.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Mr Brandycoot's office is on the first floor, at the end of the long passage. At this hour, until after midnight, Mr Brandycoot will be copying documents which I want.

CROQUET: Want-able, yes, want-able.

SHOWEN-ORRF: At midnight, I become a noisy disturbance in the passage. He will come out to check, you dash in, seize the document on the desk, and come to me at once.

CROQUET: Risky.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Not at all.

CROQUET: Trouble.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Trouble?

CROQUET: If I am caught --

SHOWEN-ORRF: Pessimist.

CROQUET: -- it means penal servitude.

SHOWEN-ORRF: No hoper.

CROQUET: New Caledonia, perhaps.

SHOWEN-ORRF: Although --

CROQUET: Yes?

SHOWEN-ORRF: -- if you succeed --

CROQUET: Of course.

SHOWEN-ORRF: -- you will have four hundred francs.

Pause

LIGHTS: BLACKOUT (Except backstage safety floor/rostrum light spill US, on at all times)

MR BRANDYCOOT comes up from desk hideout, to sit at desk with his props in hand

Croquet moves to DR, gets battery LANTERN from off, moves to spotlight position DR

LIGHTS: FADE UP 3. SPOTLIGHT DR, STAY ON

Croquet standing, holding battery LANTERN switched off, looking US

SOUND: TWELVE BELLS OF NOTRE DAME -- at the same time as

VOICES OFF: Murder! Who is it? What happened? Foul! Is that you? All is not well! Help!

SOUND: DOORS OPENED, BANGED, GENERAL RUNNING, RUSHING FOOTSTEPS

CROQUET: Activity everywhere -- though nothing in Brandycoot’s office. There was nothing for it, I sprang to activity.

Croquet moves very slowly into the shadows, US to desk, arms stretched before him

LIGHTS: FADE UP ON 2. FLAT/WALL UR TO MAKE A SILHOUETTE OF:

Someone facing front, seated at the desk (lit from behind, face in shadow)

Croquet bumps his way to above the desk, feeling his way into the darkness

His hand touches the person in shadow --- he reels back

CROQUET: Arrgh!

Silence --- nothing ---

Croquet straightens himself up, adjusts his positon, looking at the profile of the silhouette

CROQUET: You there . . . I must warn you, Sir, I am well armed. One sound from you -- and

I will be obliged to end your days -- tonight! . . . Forthwith, anyway.

Nothing -- silence --

CROQUET: Last warning . . . Be quiet!

No movement

CROQUET: You understand, I take it, that I have, uh, exactly what is called -- ‘the drop on

you?’ (pause) So, I now command you to, uh . . . put up your hands!

Not a breath

CROQUET: (to himself) All right . . . you asked for this.

Croquet switches on battery LANTERN If Brandycoots’ open eyes can’t be seen, FADE UP 1. WHOLE SET as LANTERN light

BRANDYCOOT sits at desk looking front, his bleary eyes wide open in drunken stupor

He has an empty brandy/cognac bottle in one hand and an empty glass in the other

And documents at his elbow

CROQUET: Ah -- Mr Brandycoot. What sort of seclusive, shrouded bit of solitude is this? Well, your secret is safe with me. I won’t disturb you.

Croquet takes documents from desk

CROQUET: A thousand thanks -- four hundred francs.

Croquet switches off battery LANTERN

LIGHTS: FADE OUT 2. FLAT/WALL UR SILHOUETTE LIGHT BLACKOUT for the time it takes;

Brandycoot to return to hideout under desk, with bottle and glass to store there, for next time Croquet returns battery LANTERN to DR off, and stays in spotlight area, holding documents

LIGHTS: FADE UP 1.WHOLE SET

CROQUET: (to himself) Well, one glance at the documents reveals a ‘Treaty of Alliance between Our Country and Theirs, intending to prejudice Nearby Countries, who would pay considerable sums for the merest glance at this. So, Showen-orrf is a secret service agent who does not take risks --- but would reap the full reward of my daring coup, and abandon me with four hundred miserable francs!

Croquet moves to sit desk chair with the documents Croquet uses pre-set papers for copying documents, and pre-set pen/quill (no ink, saves accidents)

CROQUET: (to himself) I must set to work with my magnificent calligraphy, brought to perfection, with the copying of this document. I could sing from the rooftops, such rousing melodies -- if I but knew any, and if I could sing.

The OUTER DOOR swings open, Poor-az falls inwards onto his back

CROQUET: Why don't you knock?

POOR-AZ: I thought you would call me names.

CROQUET: You are a slaps-tickle Oaf, Donkey, Miscreant, Rapscallion.

Poor-az rolls over, studying Croquet

Croquet rises, moves DS

CROQUET: (front) The events of the last few hours, would have defeated any brain less keen, less daring than that of Hector Croquet. And now -- (in fantasy world) Ten thousand francs perhaps? Well, I fancy I would not give up business altogether, but with new capital I could extend and -- yes, there is that country house that I remember, with a few acres of garden and fruit trees . . .

Poor-az rises, looks outside OUTER DOOR

CROQUET: (still in fantasy world) . . . I would marry! Yes, I am susceptible where the fair sex is concerned, and now -- I could pick and choose!

Poor-az returns to rolling like house-trained pet

POOR-AZ: (announcing) A lady with chaperone to see you.

CROQUET: (still in fantasy) They would seek me here, seek me there, pursue me, make a beeline for me, straight through that door --

MISS MADE-FORRIT enters, wearing gloves, bonnet, pauses rather than step over Poor-az, who rolls US toward his bench/bed, hides behind it

Miss Made-forrit steps forward to CL, below armchair Croquet is thunderstruck by the vision of Miss Made-forrit

MISS MADE-FORRIT: You are Mr Croquet, I believe.

CROQUET: (to self) Ah, dulcet, adorably tremulous voice!

MISS MADE-FORRIT: My name is Miss … Made-forrit.

Miss Made-forrit flashes her lashes

ARTHURMARTHA enters, apparently one tough transvestite, closes door, waits at L

CROQUET: (to self) I see only one sweet, shy young thing. I am well blinkered. (bows to her) Hector Croquet, entirely at your service, my dear lady.

MISS MADE-FORRIT: And this is my sibling, ArthurMartha.

ARTHURMARTHA: I grunt my disapproval.

Croquet swoops to stool DR, taking it to ArthurMartha, to place it at L

CROQUET: (to self) I disapprove of grunts, but I hear nought but bluebells, I mean, bower birds -- I think. Anyway, they are trilling. And now, civility prevails . . . Er, Miss? Are you?

ArthurMartha is not impressed with Croquet, or the stool

CROQUET: Er, ArthurMartha, or . . . are you?

ARTHURMARTHA: Gruntzz.

CROQUET: Uh, won’t you be seated . . .

Croquet feels the tension mounting, steps back a little

ArthurMartha, not happy, sits stool, L of armchair

Croquet, now L of Miss Made-forrit, turns his attention to her

Croquet moves R of Miss Made-forrit, to seat her in armchair at C

CROQUET: . . . Miss Made-forrit.

Croquet watches in anticipation as Miss Made-forrit moves to sit

Miss Made-forrit sits proper ladylike

Croquet, disappointed, steps backwards from her to R, below the desk, to pose agreeably

MISS MADE-FORRIT: Mr Croquet, I require your discretion, ingenuity and alertness.

ARTHURMARTHA: I have been to the chowder-headed plods; they cannot, will not, act without inducement. However, a kindly copper mentioned you.

MISS MADE-FORRIT: He said that you were attached to the police as a voluntary secret agent, that I must not tell anyone, and that sometimes you were successful.

CROQUET: Sometimes?!

MISS MADE-FORRIT: Yes, exactly, yes.

CROQUET: I beg to differ.

ARTHURMARTHA: To differ, in your case, is not becoming.

MISS MADE-FORRIT: Are you sure?

ARTHURMARTHA: Decidedly.

CROQUET: I don’t agree. Is that agreeable to you, instead of differing?

ARTHURMARTHA: Don’t make it worse, you man person. Just listen: This is not for herself, Mr Croquet -- but for her fiancé Mr Brandycoot.

Croquet steps DS, looks front

CROQUET: (front) I flatter myself, that I exhibit nothing of the astonishment at the mention of Brandycoot's name. However, I am rendered speechless.

Croquet returns to his pose, speechless

MISS MADE-FORRIT: He is hovering, in fact, between life and death.

CROQUET: Oh, horror of horrors!

MISS MADE-FORRIT: Mr Brandycoot confided in me, that secret papers entrusted to him, unknown to anyone else, were stolen last night.

ARTHURMARTHA: This has been confirmed by no less than seven others.

Croquet moves quickly to the OUTER DOOR, opens to peep out, to see nothing

CROQUET: So! Profound Secrecy must engulf our intimate encounters.

Croquet closes door, turns to the clients, poses casually

ARTHURMARTHA: The very safety of this country needs hush-hush, shush up, undercover, classified --

MISS MADE-FORRIT: -- cloak-and-dagger, clandestine, camouflage --

Croquet swoops across to Miss Made-forrit, hovering over her

CROQUET: (front) I detect a gasp from her sweet lips, as a result of my sudden adjacency. My looming large in her territory, as it were.

MISS MADE-FORRIT: (to Croquet) Nothing less will satisfy.

CROQUET: One of these days or nights, my dear little cherub, yes.

ARTHURMARTHA: (aside) I detect ‘sweet somethings’.

MISS MADE-FORRIT: Anything to help me save the secrets, and save my Brandy-wandy, who lies at death's door with a terrible attack of brain fever.

CROQUET: Oh, traves-tee!! Oh grogger-ree!

MISS MADE-FORRIT: Sympathy-ee!!

CROQUET: Oh grogger-ree!

ARTHURMARTHA: Veril-ee!!

CROQUET: (front) Brought on by the hard stuff, don’t you know.

MISS MADE-FORRIT: ArthurMartha and I offer ten thousand francs for the return of said documents.

CROQUET: That makes twenty!

MISS MADE-FORRIT: Not at all.

CROQUET: I pledge words of honour, they will lie at your feet or die in your service.

MISS MADE-FORRIT: So be it.

[End of Extract]

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