The Sleeping Beauty by Christopher Boon

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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must not be Performed or Copied without the Author's prior consent


Prologue

(Enter Jacob)

Jacob: 'Once upon a time' our story goes,
The tale of a sweet young girl named Rose.
You'll learn tonight of her highs and lows,
Her times of joy and terrible woes.
For finding love, it brings her foes,
The likes of whom will curl your toes.
We'll hear you cry, 'Oh, stone the crows!
This cannot be the fate of Rose.'
You'll learn, though, through our rhyme and prose
Where love's concerned, a valiance grows.
So just sit back in quiet repose,
And hark ye how our story goes.

(Exit.)

Act One, Scene One, The Woodcutter's Cottage

(Lights up on Rose, a sweet young girl dressed in rags. As she
performs her household chores, she dances and sings. At first, she is
on her hands and knees, cleaning the hearth. She progresses to her
separate chores as the song continues.)

Rose: (Sings)

The toil of these days,
Is there never an end?
The scrubbing and cleaning,
The clothing to mend.

At daybreak I rise
To clean out the hearth,
Soon covered in cinders
And weary of heart.

Then to the kitchen
To fire up the stove,
Four breakfasts I make;
Though none for poor Rose.

I wash all the dishes
And scrub all the floors,
Till my hands and my knees
Are all covered in sores.

Cleaning and scrubbing
Of end not a hope;
In the nooks and the crannies
You'll find not a mote.

(Now evening, Rose finally stops working. The music fades out.)

Aunt: (Within) Rose! Wherever is that wretched girl when there's
work to be done?

Rose: What does she want now? It's like listening to fingernails on
a blackboard.

Aunt: (Within) Rose!

Rose: (Aside) See what I mean? A cat with its tail trapped in a
mangle. (She mimics a cat in a mangle. Then, in a sweet voice) Here,
Aunty! I'm coming.

(Rose goes to the kitchen area, where the lights fade up to reveal
Rose's Aunt, standing in her finery. She glares at Rose.)

Aunt: Why is the dinner not yet prepared?

Rose: I must have lost track of the time.

Aunt: Lost track of the time, indeed! Your poor mother and father
would be turning in their graves if they could see you now! You're
useless, useless! Lord only knows why you cannot be like your
cousins.

Rose: (Aside) Lord knows why anyone would want to be.

(Laughter from within.)

Aunt: Why, here they come now. And not a scrap to eat! Well, what are
you waiting for, girl?

(Rose goes to the stovetop and sets to work preparing dinner, rattling
pots and pans. Presently, Gertrude and Esmeralda enter, heavily
made-up girls dressed for the town in powdered wigs. They look at Rose
contemptuously, then go to their mother and kiss her hand.)

Gertrude: What a day we've had, Mother! The town is abuzz with
excitement. It's rumoured that Prince Roland will be passing through
here on a hunting trip with his royal train.

Esmeralda: They say he is looking for a wife and will marry the
fairest maiden in the land.

Rose: (Aside) The fairest maiden in the land? It's really not
saying much in these parts.

Aunt: A wife? Then you must have new dresses! We will go to the
dressmaker's tomorrow, for there are no maidens in the town more
beautiful than you my darlings.

(The sisters giggle excitedly.)

Esmeralda: Oh, I shall swoon with exhaustion if I don't eat soon.
Why is dinner not on the table?

Aunt: Perhaps you should ask your cousin.

Gertrude: Well? Speak, girl!

Rose: I ...

(Esmeralda picks up a broom stick and chases Rose around the kitchen.
Rose cowers in a corner, out of reach.)

Gertrude: Let's forget about dinner, as she's been too lazy to
prepare it. There's so much to think about before tomorrow. And I
need my beauty sleep.

Rose: (Aside) That's an understatement.

Esmeralda: Will you come to tuck us in, Mother?

Aunt: Of course, my little angels. (To Rose) I'll deal with you
later.

(Aunt and her daughters exit. Rose goes back to her scrubbing. Lights
and music out.)

Act One, Scene Two, The Woodcutter's Cottage

(Morning, and Gertrude and Esmeralda are in their parlour, dressing up
for town, their Aunt fussing over them. Rose is scrubbing the step,
listening.)

Esmeralda: They say that the prince is kind and generous and
fine-featured. They say he will give his heart to one and one only,
and that he will love her as he loves no other.

Gertrude: They say he has enough gold to fill a hundred houses from
top to bottom!

Aunt: In that case, my beautiful daughters, you shall have the finest
fabrics the town has to offer. No expense shall be spared!

Esmeralda: I'm so excited I can barely steady my hand to apply my
rouge.

(The Aunt takes the rouge from her daughter and applies it to her
face)

Aunt: The trick is to accentuate one's beauty with rouge, rather
than to mask it like a jester. (Esmeralda, rather overdone and not
unlike a jester, steps to the mirror to admire herself. Aunt fusses
over them one last time, fixing their hair and bodices.) Now, we must
hurry, and suffer no delays on the path to town!

(With these words, the Aunt and her daughters sweep from the room.
Fade to black. Fade up on another corner of the house, where Rose is
once again on her hands and knees, scrubbing the floor. She is humming
to herself, the same tune as she sang when we saw her working
previously. Suddenly, a bugle horn sounds, which makes the girl jump.
She rushes to the window. The horn sounds again. Music fades in. She
rushes outside, into the garden, where a commotion gathers around her:
first, a fox; and then, a number of hunting hounds in pursuit. They
move around the stage in a choreographed chase. We hear galloping, and
as the hounds lose the fox in the rose bush.)

Roland: (Shouts, from without) Dismount!

(The hounds sniffing through the bushes, Prince Roland enters with his
royal train: courtiers in hunting attire. They search around the
stage, at first oblivious to Rose, who watches them in awe from the
perimeter of her garden. Otis, Roland's servant, approaches.)

Otis: We've lost him, My Lord. The hounds must have been put off
the scent.

(Roland walks to the rose bush, touches its flowers.)

Roland: Rarely have I seen roses so beautiful as this. Little wonder
the hounds have lost the scent. It's (He then notices Rose
huddled in the corner, staring at him.) Intoxicating. (Roland goes
to one side, smoothes down his hair, breathes into his hand to check
his breath. He shrugs: it'll do. Then he goes to Rose, all pomp and
swagger.) Arrest this girl immediately on the charge of theft.

Otis: My Lord?

Roland: Can't you see she's stolen my heart?

(The courtiers guffaw. Otis shakes his head. Rose is also
unimpressed.)

Rose: Is that really the best you could come up with?

Roland: (Surprised, to Otis) Go and, um tend to the horses or
what-have-you. Make sure they're, um wed and faltered fed
and watered. (Otis bows, and exits with the other courtiers and
hounds, leaving Roland and Rose alone on the stage. They look
longingly into each other's eyes.) I'm sure I could do a little
better. How's this?

(Music in)

Roland: (Sings)

The air is still,
The wind abates;
In breathless hush
The forest waits.

No creature stirs,
No sound is heard;
Of human voice
But not a word.

What vision here,
Enchants my soul?
What lies beneath,
That grime and coal?

A shapely nose
A graceful brow;
A tender poise,
To these I vow.

But more than that
I truly seek
A tender beauty;
A beauty deep.

In thee I see,
All Nature's bloom
The fields of flowers,
The songbird's plume,

But deeper still
Behind those eyes
An ancient river,
The endless skies.

(Music out.)

Roland: Well? How was that?

(Rose is clearly captivated by him, staring into his eyes. But then
she gathers herself, continues with her charade, folding her arms and
raising her eyebrows.)

Rose: Tacky. And mawkish. Horribly mawkish.

Roland: (Aside) This is more difficult than I thought it would be.
I'll have to try a different tack. (To Rose) Do you have any idea
who I am, wench?

Rose: Why, of course. I carry around a picture of you wherever I go.

Roland: (Pleased, primping himself) Where? Next to thy bosom, wench?

Rose: No, in my purse. Your face is on all the coins. Well, the
lowest denominations, anyway.

Roland: (Aside) Spirited, isn't she? My dad always warned me about
country girls. (To Rose) Look, girl, I command legions of troops
hoards of servants tables at some of the best restaurants in town.
I've smote the fiercest, ugliest warriors in battle. (Rolls up his
sleeve) See this forearm? It's as tough as oak!

Rose: Just look at what you oafs have done to my garden! My aunt will
go spare.

Roland: Your aunt? Then it's her that looks after you?

Rose: As a ploughman looks after his horse.

Roland: And where is this aunt of yours now?

Rose: With my cousins in the town. Apparently trying to impress some
prince or other.

Roland: A prince? And you didn't go?

Rose: In these rags?

Roland: My Lady, your beauty could outshine even the dirtiest rags.

Rose: (Feigning boredom, secretly pleased) You don't get out much,
do you?

Roland: (Roland steps to Rose, takes her hand.) Say the word and I am
yours forever. You shall have all the riches in the land. Gold to fill
a house. A servant for your every need.

Rose: Oh, ho-hum. What use are those things to me? You forget the
thing a girl needs above all else.

Roland: Huh? Oh, of course. You shall have my love also: as deep as
... Um ...

Rose: The oceans?

Roland: Yes! As deep as the oceans, as mighty as ...um, as mighty as
the highest mountain, as endless as the sky.

Rose: (Twirling her hair) Oh, well, if you put it like that (And
with that, she allows herself to fall into his arms. He kisses her.
Then he stands her back up and she staggers a little.) You should have
just done that to start with. You could have saved yourself a lot of
time. And thought.

Roland: Tonight we shall feast here. (Calls out) Courtiers! Abandon
your preparations for the town! Tether the horses and make ready the
table!

(Lights fade.)


Act One, Scene Three, The Woodcutter's Cottage

(Dusk, and in the cramped kitchen of the cottage, the table is being
set for dinner, the courtiers and servants dancing around in
synchronised unison to music as they bring out roasted fowls and
knuckles of ham, sweetmeats, flagons of wine. When all is in order,
the music fades, and Roland brings Rose to the table.)

Aunt: (From without) What are all these horses doing here? Has that
girl finally turned my house into a barn? (Aunt enters with Gertrude
and Esmeralda. They gasp in astonishment. Aunt stumbles back and is
caught by her daughters. It takes a while for them to gather
themselves.) I'm sure I only had one small glass at lunchtime.

Roland: Forgive this intrusion into your home, Madam. I am Prince
Roland, son of King Ethelbert.

Aunt: (Turning on the charm) And what brings you to this cottage?

Roland: I was out hunting when our quarry hid beneath the rose bush
blooming in your garden. A happy coincidence, for I found your niece
at work in the garden.

Aunt: Oh, what of that dreadful girl? Did she put you to any
trouble?

Roland: I should say! The commonest trouble of any man that lives and
breathes.

Aunt: And what trouble is that?
Roland: She enchanted me and bewitched my soul!

Aunt: (Aside) Perhaps he's been at the wine as well. (To Roland,
clears throat) Tell me, my Lord, did you happen to notice my
daughters, Gertrude and Esmeralda?

(Gertrude and Esmeralda step forward in order, primping their hair,
fluttering their eyelids.)

Roland: (Steps back in shock) I could hardly fail to.

Aunt: And what did you make of them?

Roland: Make of them? Faces that have launched a thousand ships, to be
sure.

Rose: (Aside) Perhaps literally.

Roland: (To Aunt) Maybe a little heavy on the make-up, though.

Aunt: Make-up? That can soon be undone. A little bit of spit should
do the trick.

(She spits on her sleeve and scrubs her daughters' faces with it.)

Gertrude/
Esmeralda: Mum!

Roland: Please! My heart cannot be undone for all the spit in the
world! I wish only to receive your blessing to marry your niece.

(Aunt gasps, recoils in shock.)

Rose: Marry? You don't hang about, do you?

Roland: Well? What do you say?

Rose: Live in a palace? And leave all this? (Pause) Yeah, okay.

Roland: Come, let us make plans for the wedding.

(Aunt gasps, and falls back once again into her daughters' arms
or so she thinks. But Gertrude and Esmeralda are so shocked they fail
to catch her, and she falls to the floor. Rose and Roland exit.)

Esmeralda: That she should take our place in the prince's
affections! I cannot bear it! That she should stab us when our backs
are turned, we who have loved her and cared for her as our own
sister!

Gertrude: And that she should flaunt her happiness before our eyes,
taunt us with it! Tell us, Mother, did she bewitch the prince? Did she
cast a spell on him? I cannot think of another explanation.

Aunt: Come, come, children. What was yours will yet be yours.

Esmeralda: But you've seen them, Mother! It's intolerable. Oh, how
could he, Mother? How could he fall for such a ragged, filthy girl? It
is beyond reason!

Aunt: Such is the nature of love, if that is indeed what this is. But
even love is easily undone.

Gertrude: But we haven't time, Mother! They are planning wedding
already.

Aunt: Mark my words, my children, that what was yours will yet be
yours. Now, I have a few of my own preparations to make for the
wedding using a few special from the depths of the forest.


Aunt: (Sings)

A little drop of poison,
Don't get it on your skin.
A little drop is all it takes
To leave this world you're in.

This pin will prick your finger,
Yes, that will do the trick;
I'll do it whilst I'm fitting
That dress of silk so thick.

First you'll feel light-headed,
Then weak from head to toe.
The world will go all blurry,
Start swaying to and fro.

Then a sleep will take you,
A sleep as dark as night;
You'll countless years lie breathless,
Not once will you see light.

(Gertrude and Esmeralda join their mother at the front of the stage.)

All: (Sing)

No-one will ever wake you,
Their pleas you will not hear;
Their touch will not bestir you,
Not once through all the years.

Soon you'll be forgotten,
Their tears will all be shed;
Their love you thought so deep,
In no time will be dead.

(Lights and music fade)

[end of extract]

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