The Five Princesses

Posted by in Blog on Dec 2, 2011



Scene 1 – Hospital ward. SOLDIER watches while 1st & 2nd NURSE in attendance make his bed and talk to his recumbent body. N.B. The bed is made up to look as though there’s someone in it. The someone is SOLDIER, who is watching all that happens. SOLDIER is still in uniform – camouflage gear. OLD WOMAN enters and sings to the tune of “Lilliburlero” as she sweeps the floor.


OLD WOMAN:            There was an old woman tossed up in a basket

Seventeen times as high as the Moon.

Where she was going nobody could tell,

But under her arm she carried a broom.

Old woman, old woman, old woman, quoth I,

Whither O whither, O whither so high?

To sweep the cobwebs out of the sky

And I’ll be with you by and by.



NURSE 1:                        How’s he doing?


NURSE 2:            Well, he’s alive. (Louder, to SOLDIER) How are you today Lieutenant?  Are you quite comfy?


SOLDIER:            Perfectly, thanks. (Aside) They can’t hear me. I might as well not be here!


NURSE 1:            Anything?


NURSE 2:            Nup. Nothing.


SOLDIER:            Oy! I said I’m quite comfy! (Aside) Cloth-eared bint!


NURSE 1:            He’s not that badly wounded. It’s strange he’s so out of it.


SOLDIER:            Me out of it? You’re the one who can’t hear a bloke talking to you!


NURSE 2:            Not on the outside. It’s all in here that counts. Goodness knows what’s going on inside! Anyway, check back later and see to his pressure areas. Nice little job for you, Staff. Will you manage?


NURSE 1:            If I need help I’ll shout out. (Louder, to SOLDIER) I’ll come back in a while and give your back and elbows a rub. Okay?


SOLDIER:            Elbows?


NURSE 1:            Don’t forget his heels.


SOLDIER:            Heels? These girls are weird!


NURSE 1:            Oh, and by the way, we’re moving him to the side ward later. There’s a new batch coming in.


NURSE 2:            Okay Sister.


SOLDIER:            Side ward? Has it got a nice view? I’m sick of that picture of those daffodils, in a big fat vase, if they are daffodils. (Looks more closely) Maybe it’s a bin full of trumpets. Why has every hospital I’ve ever been in got horrible pictures all over the walls? There must be a special art school for terrible artists, all painting pictures for hospital walls!


NURSE 1:            Right, come on. Consultant’s rounds in five minutes. No rest for the wicked! (Exit NURSES)


SOLDIER:            (To audience) See that bloke there in the bed? That’s me. I’ve been there for …I can’t remember how long, now. In fact, I can’t remember how I got here! We were out on patrol, I know that. And then…Was there a noise? I don’t know. All I know is, I wake up, and here’s me here, and there’s me there. Bit odd, really. I tried lying down in the bed beside myself, but it was a bit of a squash to be honest. We didn’t sort of blend in together. I didn’t, I mean. We, me, him. God, it’s confusing.


(Lights dim. NURSES enter and wheel the bed off)


SOLDIER:            Oy! Wait! Where are you taking me? Him? Us? Hang on! Oy!


Enter OLD WOMAN. Lights come up slowly


OLD WOMAN:            Spare a copper for a cup o’ tea, love?


SOLDIER:            Eh? (Abstractedly)Yeah, just a minute darling. (Searches his pockets) Hang on…I thought I had…Here! Wait a bit! Can you see me?


OLD WOMAN:            Plain as a pimple on a baby’s bum.


SOLDIER:            Human contact at last! This is fantastic! Er…I take it you are human?


OLD WOMAN:            That’s enough of your sauce! Anyway, of course I can see you.


SOLDIER:            Yes, but they can’t, so how can you?


OLD WOMAN:            Oh, we’ve moved on from there, son. Come on, give us a couple of coppers for a cup of tea and a bun.


SOLDIER:            Moved on from where? Hey! (Looks around in dismay) This isn’t the hospital! Where are we? Where’s my…I mean, where am I?


OLD WOMAN:            I can tell you the answer to that, dear.


SOLDIER:            Well, where am I?


OLD WOMAN:            You’re right here. With me. Cosy, innit.


SOLDIER:            But look, you don’t…I mean, I’m in a hospital bed, and now it’s gone with me in it!


OLD WOMAN:            (Not at all perturbed) Ooh yes. It’s all different now, isn’t it. You must be on the next leg of your journey.


SOLDIER:            Eh? Journey? What journey?


OLD WOMAN:            Come on, slip us a couple of quid for a sandwich?


SOLDIER:            Couple of quid? Your rates are going up a bit, aren’t they?


OLD WOMAN:            Cross my palm with silver and I’ll tell you your fortune.


SOLDIER:            I thought I had a few quid, but I can’t seem to find…


OLD WOMAN:            Checked in all your pockets? What about that one there?


(SOLDIER checks the pocket she points out, and to his surprise, finds some money)


SOLDIER:            Blimey! Who’d have thought it? I just checked there! Here you are darling.


OLD WOMAN:            Ah, you’re a gent. A real prince!


SOLDIER:            I bet you say that to all the boys!


OLD WOMAN:            You know what a prince needs, don’t you!


SOLDIER:            No?


OLD WOMAN:            Someone to dance with! (OLD WOMAN dances a few steps with SOLDIER and then starts to exit, then turns back) Here, I’ll give you a tip! When you get to the castle, don’t drink what they bring you last thing at night. And keep your combats on! (Exit)


SOLDIER:            Castle? What castle?


OLD WOMAN:            (Points off) That’s your way, Soldier, if you want to find yourself again! Don’t worry; you’ve got a lucky face. Ta-ta!


SOLDIER:            Hey, don’t go! What do you mean, journey? What are you on about? She’s gone! The first person I’ve actually spoken to for goodness knows how long! Oh well, easy come, easy go I suppose. Might as well go the way she showed me as anywhere. What have I got to lose? Apart from everything?






KING:            He’ll be coming soon. You know your tasks?


SELENE:            We know nothing but our tasks.


HERMIA:            What we know we know very well.


HELIA:            (sighs heavily)


KING:            What’s this? Are you not happy in your work?


PAMELA:            Happy or unhappy, it makes no difference. We are who we are.


MARSHA:            We do what we do.


HELIA:            For ever and ever, amen.


KING:            Yes, that is how it is. And you must stand by your tasks!


PRINCESSES:            (resignedly) Yes, father.


KING:            To your places, at once! (Exit PRINCESSES)




SOLDIER:            Er…Excuse me?


KING:            Approach!


SOLDIER:            Eh?


KING:            I said: approach. Are you deaf?


SOLDIER:            No, not at all. It’s just that I’m more used to things like: can I help you? Are you being served, that sort of thing.


KING:            Foolish mortal! Do you take me for a shop assistant?


SOLDIER:            Well, I don’t know. The dressing gown’s a bit flash for a shop assistant.


KING:            Dressing gown? How dare you! These are my kingly robes!


SOLDIER:            Ah, I see…(Nervously looking around) Nurse? Sister? One of your patients is wandering around. Nurse?


KING:            You are not in hospital now, soldier. Well, that is to say, you are, but you’re not, if you follow me.


SOLDIER:            Yeh…Er…No. No, sorry. I don’t get it at all. But look, someone’ll be along to help you in a minute. Just sit down and take it easy.


KING:            Tchah! Insolent fool! Can you not recognize a kingly being when you see one? (He waves his hand. Light and sound FX)


SOLDIER:            Whoa! Pretty impressive! How did you do that?


KING:            This is my realm. All the magic here is my own. Would you have more proof?


SOLDIER:            Magic, eh? Here’s a good one! (Pulls pack of cards from pocket) Here, pick a card; any card. But don’t show me!


KING:            (Dashes the cards from his hand) I’m not talking about cheap tricks and sleight of hand.


SOLDIER:            (Picking up cards) No, really, it’s a great trick! You’d think it was real magic.


KING:            (Gestures and holds SOLDIER transfixed) Enough! Stand up straight. That’s better. You, soldier, have come blundering into my realm uninvited and unannounced. There is only one way out of here, if you wish to be reunited with the poor sleeping fellow in the bed. You will have a series of tasks to perform. (Claps his hands. PRINCESSES appear) These are my daughters. There is something special about each one. You have to discover what it is.


SOLDIER:            What, you mean, like, they’ve all got a secret, and I’ve got to find out what it is?


KING:            That’s what I like about you. You’re quick. And you know what else I like about you?


SOLDIER:            What?


KING:            Nothing!


SOLDIER:            A right charmer you turned out to be.


KING:            Solve the mystery of my daughters, and you shall be returned to your own world. But if you fail…


SOLDIER:            Yes? If I fail?


KING:            You shall remain here for ever. As my slave! (Exit, laughing diabolically. Thunder & lightning FX)


SOLDIER:            Cor! Throws his weight about a bit, doesn’t he! Well, girls, here we are.


PAMELA:            We are sorry for you, soldier. I am Pamela.


SOLDIER:            Pleased to meet you.


MARSHA:            I’m Marsha.


HERMIA:            I’m Hermia.


SOLDIER:            Delighted.


SELENE:            Selene.


SOLDIER:            Selene.


HELIA:            And I’m Helia.


SOLDIER:            Yes, you are, aren’t you. (they linger a little over the handshake)


HERMIA:            It’s true what the King says. If you fail, you’ll have to stay here for ever.


MARSHA:            As the humblest and most menial of his slaves.


SOLDIER:            And that’s pretty bad, I take it?


SELENE:            It’s awful. Terrible.


HELIA:            Eternal slavery and dreadful punishments.


SOLDIER:            Sounds like Redford Barracks!


SELENE:            Worse than anything you can imagine.


SOLDIER:            Oh, I don’t know. I can imagine some pretty terrible stuff.


MARSHA:            Yes. Worse than that!


SOLDIER:            Yes, but look, girls, I mean, you’ll help me, won’t you? You can give me the nod, tip me the wink and that, eh?


HERMIA:            If only we could!


PAMELA:            We’re under the spell of his magic, too, you see. We can do nothing to help you.


SOLDIER:            Dear oh dear!…Okay, so look. I’ve got to discover the special secret thing about each one of you, right?


PRINCESSES:            Right.


SOLDIER:            And you can’t help me. Right?


PAMELA:            Correct.


HERMIA:            But we can give you clues.


SOLDIER:            Ah, now you’re talking!


MARSHA:            But they won’t help much.


SOLDIER:            (Sighs) Okay. Where do we start? Who’s first? Or do I have to guess that, too?


PAMELA:            You start with me. Keep cool, soldier. Things are about to get hot around here!


(Music and dance – Fire. SOLDIER gets steadily hotter, taking off jacket and shirt. He begins to suffer with the heat. Dance finishes – SOLDIER is left in trouble with the heat)




Scene 3 – Hospital ward, bed made up to look as though there’s someone in it.

Enter NURSE 1. She checks patient in bed and calls for NURSE 2


NURSE 1:            Staff! Staff nurse!


Enter NURSE 2


NURSE 2:            Yes sister?


NURSE 1:            He’s burning up with fever! Get the duty doctor while I give him cold compresses.


NURSE 2:            Yes sister. (Exit and return with DOCTOR)


DOCTOR:            What’s the trouble, sister?


NURSE 1:            It’s our soldier. He’s running a high temperature. Pulse rapid but fairly strong.


DOCTOR:            Yes, well, we don’t want him to burst into flames, do we. Carry on with the cold sponges and monitor him closely. If the cold sponges don’t bring his temperature down, we’ll do some more tests. Everything else okay? Drips? Catheter?


NURSE 1:            No other signs of inflammation anywhere, Doctor.


DOCTOR:            Good. Okay, keep me posted. Thanks sister. (Exit)


NURSE 1:            Thanks doctor. Come on, Soldier. You’ve a long way to go yet.


NURSE 2:            He’s a good-looking chap, isn’t he.


NURSE 1:            Now now, Staff! Don’t go getting any ideas! But yes, he is a good-looking chap.




Scene 4 – SOLDIER, PAMELA holding a glass of juice


SOLDIER:            (groans with weariness and pain) Cor! Dear oh dear! Here, is everyone all right?


PAMELA:            All right? Why shouldn’t they be?


SOLDIER:            The fire! Didn’t anyone get hurt?


PAMELA:            That was for your benefit! That was your baptism of fire. It was all laid on specially for you.


SOLDIER:            Great! Thanks a buffalo. Frankly, you needn’t have bothered.


PAMELA:            Well, you can have a rest now. Here, I’ve brought you something to help you sleep.


SOLDIER:            Oh, fantastic! I’m absolutely parched!


PAMELA:            I’ll just put it down here and you can get it when you want. All right?


SOLDIER:            Great. Smashing. Thanks a lot. Where are you off to now?


PAMELA:            That’s for me to know and you to find out!


SOLDIER:            Oh, I see. Girly stuff.


PAMELA:            Girly stuff?


SOLDIER:            Well, when me and a few mates are out for a few drinks and that with some girls, after a bit the girls all take off to the ladies, saying it’s for them to know and us to find out. So I suppose…


PAMELA:            Don’t suppose too much, soldier! For me to know and you to find out. (laughs lightly) Bye. (Exit)


SOLDIER:            Ta ta. Missing you already.


Enter OLD WOMAN. SOLDIER reaches for the drink, but stops when he sees OLD WOMAN.


SOLDIER:            Oh! Hullo. Didn’t see you there.


OLD WOMAN:            No, I don’t suppose you did. Where’s your pretty little pal, the one who was just here?


SOLDIER:            Oh, she went off.


OLD WOMAN:            Well, where did she go?


SOLDIER:            (sententiously) That’s for her to know and me to find out.


OLD WOMAN:            And are you going to find out?


SOLDIER:            Well, you know…I don’t like to be too nosy.


OLD WOMAN:            Too nosy? You daft ha’porth! Honestly, sometimes I wonder why I bother!


SOLDIER:            What do you mean? (lifts glass to lips to drink)


OLD WOMAN:            OY! (SOLDIER splutters) What did I tell you about drinks?


SOLDIER:            Yeah but…I’m parched!


OLD WOMAN:            That old king wasn’t kidding, you know! He meant what he said! You’ll be his slave for ever if you don’t find out the secrets of the girls.


SOLDIER:            All right, but…I mean…What sort of secrets are they?


OLD WOMAN:            Well, it’s a bit difficult to explain. What was the last thing she said to you?


SOLDIER:            It was something about: That’s for me to know and you to find out, tee hee hee.


OLD WOMAN:            Tee hee hee?


SOLDIER:            Yeah, well, she sort of giggled.


OLD WOMAN:            For her to know and you to find out, eh?


SOLDIER:            That’s it.


OLD WOMAN:            Then you’d better start finding out, hadn’t you! Go on. She won’t have gone far.


SOLDIER:            What, you mean it was a clue?


OLD WOMAN:            That’s what I like about you –


SOLDIER/OLD WOMAN:            You’re quick.


SOLDIER:            Yeah, I know.


OLD WOMAN:            Careful they don’t see you!


SOLDIER:            It’s all right; I’m in my chocolate chips. (Indicates camouflage gear and exits)


Enter KING


KING:            You! What are you doing here?


OLD WOMAN:            Oh, a bit of dusting bit of sweeping. (Starts sweeping nonchalantly, humming)


KING:            Where’s the soldier?


OLD WOMAN:            He’s just…You know. He said something about biscuits.


KING:            Biscuits?


OLD WOMAN:            Jaffa cakes, chocolate chips, hob nobs …I don’t know.


KING:            (aside) The old bag’s going demented! (To OLD WOMAN) Well, don’t let me catch you talking to him, that’s all!


OLD WOMAN:            Who, me? I know my place, thank you very much. I don’t go getting familiar with all and sundry.


KING:            Well, mind you don’t. That’s all! (Exit. OLD WOMAN drops him an ironic curtsey)


OLD WOMAN:            Your wish is my command, Your Upyourselfness. (Exit)




Scene 5 – PRINCESSES having a picnic


(Song – Fool On The Hill. During the song, SOLDIER enters unseen by the others)


SELENE:            Well, did he drink up all his sleepy juice?


PAMELA:            Oh yes. He was gasping for it after all those flames.


HERMIA:            But did you see him drink it?


PAMELA:            I didn’t have to. He was desperate for something cool to drink.


HELIA:            I rather wish he hadn’t drunk it.


MARSHA:            Hark at Love’s Young Dream!


SELENE:            You don’t fancy him, do you, Helia?


HELIA:            Don’t be silly!


HERMIA:            She’s blushing! She does! She thinks he’s hot!


HELIA:            Stop it! Shut up!


PAMELA:            What do you like about him, Helia? Is it his saturnine good looks?


SELENE:            Is it his silky voice?


MARSHA:            Has he got a nice bum? (SOLDIER reacts in silence)


HELIA:            I just…I think he’s nice. That’s all. I mean I don’t like to think of him being a slave for ever and ever.


PRINCESSES:            And ever, and ever, and ever, AND EVER, AND EVER, AND EVER


MARSHA:            (As they get louder, empties a cup into the place where SOLDIER is hiding. SOLDIER reacts. MARSHA becomes aware of a movement, and discovers SOLDIER) Oy! Who’s playing Red Indians? Out you come, Tonto.


SOLDIER:            Er, hi girls. (During the rest of the scene, SOLDIER’s attention keeps coming back to HELIA)


HERMIA:            (angrily, to PAMELA) So he drank up his sleepy juice, did he?


SELENE:            Pamela, you’re hopeless!


PAMELA:            But he said he was gasping! He said he was parched! Didn’t you! You did!


SOLDIER:            I did. I was. It wasn’t her fault.


MARSHA:            So how do you explain your presence here, young man?


HERMIA:            Exactly. To what are we indebted for this unwarranted intrusion into our domestic arrangements?


SOLDIER:            Permit me to explain myself, gnädige mademoiselle. I’ve got a bit of a problem, you see.


MARSHA:            You can say that again.


SOLDIER:            I’ve got to find out what each of you is sort of all about, sort of thing.


HERMIA:            Yes, you sort of have.


SELENE:            Or you’ll sort of be a sort of slave. For sort of ever.


PRINCESSES:            (not HELIA or HERMIA) For ever and ever, AND EVER


HERMIA:            Oh don’t start that again. Well, you’d better get used to the idea, soldier, cos you’ll never find out. Come and sit down. Have a cheese and pickle roll and a glass of Vimto.


SOLDIER:            Thanks! No. I don’t suppose I will. I’ve been thinking that ever since PAMELA there mentioned things for her to know and me to find out, like a game of hide-and seek. She gave me the idea to come seeking. (PRINCESSES all freeze) So I followed you, and hid over there…What’s the matter? (Idea comes to him) Hang on! She got me seeking! That’s your thing, isn’t it, Pamela! You send people seeking! You get people to go searching; you start the pilgrimage, don’t you! That’s your, what’s it called, your leitmotif!


MARSHA:            All right, soldier; don’t make a meal of it. You got her bang to rights. But you’ve still got the rest of us to suss out.


SOLDIER:            You wouldn’t have spotted me if you hadn’t thrown your tea all over me.


MARSHA:            Well it wasn’t tea, then, mister clever-clogs. It was the oil that the olives were in.


SELENE:            You were anointed. (Laughs)


SOLDIER:            (feeling in his hair) Eugh, so I was. But yes, you found me finding you. (PRINCESSES freeze again)


HERMIA:            (touch of melancholy) I wonder what you’ll find out next!


SOLDIER:            What? Have I got her too? So Pamela’s about seeking, and Marsha’s about finding! That’s right, isn’t it! Hah! Two down, three to go!


MARSHA:            (to HERMIA) You idiot!


HERMIA:            Why? What did I say? (Realises) Oh!


SOLDIER:            Eh? Did I miss something there?


PAMELA:            Let’s hope so. We mustn’t make it too easy for him. Come on, girls. The picnic’s over. You can find your own way back, I suppose, soldier?


SOLDIER:            Don’t worry about me.


MARSHA:            We won’t. Come on. (PRINCESSES gather up picnic things and exit. HELIA lingers, looking back at SOLDIER, who looks back at her.)


SOLDIER:            Things are looking up. Nice of Hermia to invite me to sit down with them. And as for Helia…Where have I seen her before?




OLD WOMAN:            Enjoying yourself?


SOLDIER:            Oh, hi. Just enjoying the sunshine.


OLD WOMAN:            Anything to report?


SOLDIER:            Yeah, incredible good luck! I’ve got two of them!


OLD WOMAN:            Two of them! Clever old you.            So you’ll be expecting the rest of your task to be a cake-walk, then.


SOLDIER:            Well, how hard can it be?


OLD WOMAN:            Don’t get too cocky, matey. It gets difficult from here on in.


SOLDIER:            Little ray of sunshine you are. (Yawns) I’m tired!


OLD WOMAN:            Don’t go to sleep here. Have you got any clues for the next bit of your adventure?


SOLDIER:            No…Well, wait a bit…One of them said something, and one of the others told her to be quiet. What was that now?


OLD WOMAN:            I wonder!


SOLDIER:            Hey! That was it! Yes, that was it! Hermia said: I wonder what you’ll find out next, and Marsha called her an idiot! Still, wondering doesn’t get us very far, does it!


OLD WOMAN:            You can’t be sure. All wisdom begins in wonder, as Socrates said. Anyway, I can’t stay here gabbing away with you! I’ve got places to do and people to be.


SOLDIER:            Places to be and people to do, you mean. No, hang on, that can’t be right.


OLD WOMAN:            Go back and get some rest. You’re talking rubbish.


SOLDIER:            (Yawning) Yeah, I speak it fluently. Cheerio. (Exit)


OLD WOMAN:            And get a move on! It looks like rain!




Scene 6 – PRINCESSES minus HELIA


(Music – I Can’t Stand The Rain. Welly-boot dance)


Scene 7 – Hospital ward. NURSES


NURSE 2:            The fever’s broken, Sister. He’s drenched in sweat.


NURSE 1:            Good. Well, keep him out of the draft. Make sure he’s kept warm without letting him burn up.




DOCTOR:            Morning Sister, Staff Nurse. How’s our chap doing?


NURSE 1:            The fever’s broken. We’re watching him closely.


DOCTOR:            That’s the stuff. Any other problems?


NURSE 2:            Well…


NURSE 1:            Well what?


DOCTOR:            Something troubling you, Staff Nurse?


NURSE 2:            The thing is…He’s been talking in his sleep.


DOCTOR:            Oh. (Doesn’t know what to make of it.) Well, if he mentions the names of any race horses, take a note, and we’ll have a flutter. No problems otherwise? Okay. I’ll be round again before I go off duty.  (Exit)


NURSE 1:            What’s he been saying?


NURSE 2:            Something about healing. Heal you; something like that.


NURSE 1:            (To SOLDIER, as if to deaf person) Can you hear me, Lieutenant? Is there something you want to tell us?


NURSE 2:            I’ve tried that. He doesn’t seem to register.


NURSE 1:            You can never tell! Anyway, try talking to him. If he can hear you, it’ll maybe help the healing process. It’ll keep him more firmly grounded, anyway.


NURSE 2:            I’ll try. Okay Sister. (NURSE 2 sits beside the bed. NURSE 1 exits) Let’s see, what’s your name? Jack. Hi, Jack. My name’s Ruby, and I grew up on a farm. Erm…I like riding, and all sorts of music… Gawd, what else can I talk about? It’s all a bit one-way, this conversation. Still, that’s not your fault. I had a horse called Star, and we used to ride all round the countryside where I grew up…I come from a big family; I’ve got four sisters; no brothers… was good at Biology at school…


SLOW FADE over the closing speech


Scene 8 – (Music – Goodbye Ruby Tuesday)


Enter KING, storming


KING:            Two of you! Two of you! Can’t I trust you to do anything right? Two of you!


MARSHA:            But he did it fair and square. There was nothing we could do.


KING:            Nothing you could do? Nothing you could do? Have I taught you nothing?


PAMELA:            But that’s how it is with tests and tasks and things! Sometimes people manage to do them!


KING:            Did I ask you to speak? Did I? Well, did I? Did I invite you to open your stupid little trap? No? Well then, keep it shut!


SELENE:            We played by the rules. Your rules, what’s more. You can’t blame us.




KING:            Can’t blame…Can’t blame…Why you idiotic little baggage, it’s almost as if you wanted him to – Hey! That’s it! That’s what it is! You want him to succeed, don’t you! Well, come on, out with it! Who among you wants him to succeed? (KING moves slowly among them, looking into their eyes. Some are defiant, some shamefaced. He stops in front of HELIA) What about it, little Helia? Do you want him to get through all his tasks and avoid being my slave for ever?


HELIA:            What’s happening? Why are you so cross?


KING:            You may well ask, my precious wee dumpling! Tell her. (Silence) I SAID TELL HER! ARE YOU DEAF?


HERMIA:            He’s angry because the soldier has managed to find out two of the secrets already.


HELIA:            Oh.


KING:            Yes, oh. You may well oh. And how did he do that, eh?


HELIA:            It was nothing that we did.




OLD WOMAN:            They’re right, you know. They’re not to blame.


KING:            Who asked you to come poking your great schnozzle in where it’s not wanted?


OLD WOMAN:            I think you like being angry. I think you feel a bit more alive when you’re cross.


KING:            Why you – I’ll show you alive, my good woman.


PRINCESSES all silently tiptoe off


OLD WOMAN:            Yes, I reckon you think it’s suave and fashionable to have your eyes popping and your face all red…




OLD WOMAN:            …and your teeth grinding together. I bet you think that’s dead cool. I’m not your good woman, by the way.


KING:            I’ll have you flogged to within an inch of your life!


OLD WOMAN:            Yes, well, I’ve had a long life, so you’d better use a long tape measure.


KING:            I’ll…I’ll…What do you mean, tape measure?


OLD WOMAN:            What do you mean, flogged to within an inch of your life, indeed! Who do you think you are? Simon Le Bon?


KING:            You mean Simon Legree, the slave-driver.


OLD WOMAN:            Oh yes. I always get those two mixed up. Anyway, you can calm down now; they’ve gone.


KING:            (Whips round and realises that the PRINCESSES are away) You! This is your doing, you interfering old bag!


OLD WOMAN:            Who is Simon Le Bon, anyway?


KING:            (Exasperated) How the blazes should I know?


OLD WOMAN:            And less of the old bag, thank you very much! Good manners cost nothing.


KING:            If I find out that you’ve been helping the soldier, I’ll have you clapped in irons and fed to the crocodiles.


OLD WOMAN:            Ooh! Have you got crocodiles? Bit more interesting than goldfish, anyway. I bet it’s not you that cleans out their tank, though.


KING:            Oh go away.


OLD WOMAN:            Gladly, ducky.


KING:            But remember this: If I want to, I can take a terrible revenge on anyone who crosses me! Just remember! This is my realm, my kingdom! I am the Prince of this world, and I will not be defied! By anybody! (Thunder & lightning FX. Exit)




OLD WOMAN:            Mind you, you should see him on a bad day! (Exit)




Scene 9 – SOLDIER, to him, HERMIA


HERMIA:            Hello soldier. Stargazing?


SOLDIER:            Oh, hi. Yeah, pretty amazing, aren’t they.


HERMIA:            (Sitting next to him) And if you look for long enough, you can see they’re all different colours, too.


SOLDIER:            (Wondering) I never noticed that before. Wow! Did you see that? A shooting star!


HERMIA:            If you see another one, make a wish.


SOLDIER:            There! There’s another! (Closes his eyes)


HERMIA:            Did you make a wish?


SOLDIER:            Of course.


HERMIA:            What was it?


SOLDIER:            Can’t tell you. It won’t come true if I do. Hey, there’s another! What a night!


HERMIA:            A lot of shooting stars; a lot of wishes. I bet I know what you’re wishing.


SOLDIER:            Oh yeah? Bet you don’t!


HERMIA:            I wonder if…


SOLDIER:            You do a lot of wondering, don’t you. I think that’s your thing. The others tried to shut you up when you said something about wondering. You’re the one that showed me the shooting stars. That was something wonderful.

HERMIA:            (Starts up in alarm) Shush! Be quiet!


SOLDIER:            What’s the matter? All I said was –


HERMIA:            (Brightly) Er, care for a sandwich? I’ve got something to drink here, as well.


SOLDIER:            Thanks. That’s really kind. You’re a weird lot, you Princesses. First there’s Pamela: she gave me a baptism of fire and she’s the seeking one. Then there’s Marsha. She anointed my head with oil and she’s the finding one, and you gave me something to eat and drink, and showed me something wonderful. That’s your secret, isn’t it; wonder.



HERMIA:            Stop! Don’t say any more! I’ve got to go! (Exit hurriedly)


SOLDIER:            Wait a minute, don’t go! Hermia!  (Enter PAMELA & MARSHA)  What did I say? I didn’t say anything out of order!


PAMELA:            Don’t worry, soldier. You know what us girls are like.


MARSHA:            Emotional.


PAMELA:            Changeable, irrational.


MARSHA:            Don’t forget moody!


PAMELA:            Oh yes! Moody as anything.


SOLDIER:            Are you taking the mickey? I’m no chauvinist pig, you know.


MARSHA:            Of course not. You’re a real feminist, aren’t you.


PAMELA:            I mean, look at you, all in uniform. A real sensitive male.


SOLDIER:            Look, don’t be like that. I’m already in a lot of trouble as it is!


MARSHA:            What sort of trouble?


SOLDIER:            Look, this is only part of me! I’m lying in a hospital bed! I need to get back to myself!


PAMELA:            Are you not yourself, then?


SOLDIER:            Yes, but…I’ve got to get back to my body. I haven’t finished with it yet. And I can’t get back until I’ve passed all the tests that the King has laid on me.


MARSHA:            Just relax, soldier. Take it easy.


PAMELA:            Sit down. Take the weight off your feet. (They tie him up)


SOLDIER:            You’re right. I – Hey, what’s going on? Stop!


Enter KING


KING:            Well done. Now soldier, you may find it a bit more tricky to carry on with your adventure.


SOLDIER:            So I was right! I’ve got three of the secrets. But this is cheating!


KING:            I didn’t promise to play fair.


SOLDIER:            Marsha! Pamela! You can’t do this! It just isn’t right! It’s not fair! In any fairy tale the people like you have to play fair. That’s just a given!


KING:            You need to read a few more fairy tales! Grow up, soldier. Right, take him away.


PAMELA:            I warned you we were moody, didn’t I! (PAMELA & MARSHA lead SOLDIER off)


(Music – Pam’s Moods)




Scene 10 – NURSE 1, NURSE 2


NURSE 1:            …So we need to set up a saline drip for Mister Hoskins, and we need bloods from Mister Williams, and there’s a new patient coming in this afternoon with suspected  bromhidrosis, so we’ll need to observe him very carefully, but from a distance. And that’s about it. How’s our soldier laddie doing?


NURSE 2:            He’s been very restless, thrashing about. He’s had his covers off a couple of times in the night. We’ve put cot sides up and got the covers on tight.


NURSE 1:            Okay, just as long as he doesn’t suffocate.


NURSE 2:            I’ll make sure he doesn’t, Sister.


NURSE 1:            By the way, has he been talking in his sleep again?


NURSE 2:            All the time.  Lately it was something about having to get back. Must get back; must get back! And he’s still talking about healing. Heal you, heal you.


NURSE 1:            The mysteries of the unconscious mind, eh? Ah well, keep an eye on him, Staff.


NURSE 2:            I will, Sister.


NURSE 1:            But not too close an eye!


NURSE 2:            Sorry Sister?


NURSE 1:            You know what I mean! We’ve got to remain professional, haven’t we.


NURSE 2:            What do you mean? Do you mean I’m not being professional?


NURSE 1:            Don’t get upset. We can all get a bit emotionally involved with a patient.


NURSE 2:            Emotionally involved? But he’s unconscious!


NURSE 1:            It’s you I’m thinking about. When he wakes up, he might not be the man you think he is.


NURSE 2:            But…I’m…I mean…


NURSE 1:            Hey, don’t get upset! You’re an excellent nurse. Don’t get too, well, interested in him. That’s all I’m saying. I’ve seen it happen before, you know.


NURSE 2:            Yes Sister.  (Exit NURSE 1) Nosey old bag! (Exit NURSE 2)






OLD WOMAN:            Just look at you! What are we going to do with you?


SOLDIER:            You’ve got to help me! I’ve got to get out of this!


OLD WOMAN:            Ooh, I can’t help you. Not to escape, anyway. But I can give you moral support.


SOLDIER:            What do you mean, moral support?


OLD WOMAN:            Well, we can sing jolly songs together.


SOLDIER:            Oh, great.


OLD WOMAN:            (Singing) We shall overcome, we shall overcome…(Reverting to ordinary speech) Come on, sing up!


SOLDIER:            I don’t know that one. And before you start, I don’t know Kumbaya, either.


OLD WOMAN:            (Singing) All my trials, Lord, soon be over…Don’t tell me you don’t know that one?


SOLDIER:            (Gives her a bitter, slow-burn look) No-I-don’t!


OLD WOMAN:            All right, don’t be snotty. We could play a game. I spy with my little eye -


SOLDIER:            Look, if you’re not going to help me out of here, just leave me alone.


OLD WOMAN:            Not on your life. Come on, I spy with my little eye, something beginning with S.


SOLDIER:            Soldier.


OLD WOMAN:            Nope.


SOLDIER:            Senile old biddy.


OLD WOMAN:            You can go off people, you know! Anyway, it’s not that.


SOLDIER:            (Sighs deeply) I don’t know; shadows.


OLD WOMAN:            Ah, now you’re getting a bit warmer, in a sort of way. The thing is, you’ve got to say it right, and then you’ll win.


SOLDIER:            I have played this game before, you know.


OLD WOMAN:            Yes, but it’s never been so important for you before. Now come on, if there are shadows, what must there be?


SOLDIER:            Cliff Richard.


OLD WOMAN:            Eh?


SOLDIER:            Forget it. I don’t know.


OLD WOMAN:            Come on; if there are shadows, there must be …?


SOLDIER:            Look, I don’t want to be rude. I know you’re trying to help, but this is a bit of a nuisance, frankly.


OLD WOMAN:            Shadows, so there must be…?


SOLDIER:            Something in the way of a light.


OLD WOMAN:            Something in the way of…?


SOLDIER:            A light!


OLD WOMAN:            Good! Now, what makes light?


SOLDIER:            The sun?


OLD WOMAN:            Yes, or…?


SOLDIER:            A light bulb?


OLD WOMAN:            Yes, or?


SOLDIER:            The moon?


OLD WOMAN:            Ooh, you’re burning hot! Now, what names does the moon have?


SOLDIER:            (Crossly) Luna, you lunatic.


OLD WOMAN:            Yes, or…?


SOLDIER:            I haven’t the faintest…(Sudden change of mood) Oh! Selene!


OLD WOMAN:            Again? A little louder?


SOLDIER:            (A little louder) Selene!


OLD WOMAN:            Louder!


SOLDIER:            SELENE!  Are you deaf? (Reacts) Oh! (Enter SELENE & HELIA)


SELENE:            Did somebody call?


OLD WOMAN:            This chap here. He needs your special gifts.


SELENE:            Stop it! You mustn’t say anything!


SOLDIER:            Wait! Are you the one who can save me?


SELENE:            Save you?


SOLDIER:            Are you the one who can set me free; let me be in charge of my own fate?


HELIA:            Selene, you’ve got to help him!


SELENE:            Shush! (To OLD WOMAN) See what you’ve done?


OLD WOMAN:            Me? I didn’t do anything. We were just playing a game to pass the time, weren’t we?


HELIA:            It’s only fair, Selene! Come on, please help him!


SOLDIER:            Selene, if you can help me, please get me out of here!


SELENE:            I’ve no choice! If you find out my special thing, I have to help you with it. Come on. (HELIA unties SOLDIER)


SOLDIER:            Ah, that feels a lot better! Thank you, Helia.


HELIA:            It’s a pleasure!


SOLDIER:            Lead on, Selene. Helia, I’m glad you’re here.


SELENE:            Come on, let’s get out of here! (To OLD WOMAN, bitterly) You haven’t heard the end of this! (Exit)


OLD WOMAN:            Such a nice, well-brought-up girl! (Exit)


HELIA:                        So am I.


SOLDIER:            I wonder what your special thing is?


HELIA:            Only you can find that out.


SOLDIER:            Yes, but will I?


HELIA:            Oh, I really hope so!


SOLDIER:            So do I. Helia…Have we met somewhere before? Somewhere else?


HELIA:            Where? This is the only place I know.


SOLDIER:            But I know you! I know you from somewhere. I just can’t think where.


HELIA:            Maybe you shouldn’t be looking into the past to remember.


SOLDIER:            What does that mean?


HELIA:            Come on, we’d better go.


SOLDIER:            Right. But I can’t rest until I work out where I’ve seen you before! Still, it feels good to be master of myself again! Come on, let’s get out of here. (Exit)




Scene 12 – Music – Reasons For Waiting)




KING:            So, you’ve discovered four of the five secrets. Pamela, who gave you the baptism of fire, is the one who seeks. Marsha, who gave you the sprinkle of oil, is the one who finds. Hermia, who shared her picnic with you, awakens the quality of wonder. Selene, who saved you from durance vile, made you once again the master of yourself. So I suppose you think you’ll get the last one.


HELIA:            I hope he does.


KING:            Yes, no doubt you do.


SOLDIER:            I hope so, too. Helia’s, well, she’s very special; to me, anyway.


KING:            Yes, and she’s special to me too, aren’t you, my little jewel? Well, I’ve some bad news for you, Soldier. You’re not going to find out her secret. I’m banishing you from my kingdom altogether. You’ll never see Helia again!


HELIA:            But father!


KING:            Silence, daughter! I have spoken! He is to be cast out of our realm for good, never to return!


HELIA:            You can’t do this!


SOLDIER:            I must find out the last secret! I’ve got to!


KING:            Too late. You’re just too clever for us, Soldier! Come to me, my daughters!




KING:            Take this man and send him back where he came from!


HELIA:            No! No, you mustn’t! You can’t!


KING drags HELIA off. PRINCESSES take hold of SOLDIER and rush him off, throwing him at last on to the floor. Segue into next scene.




OLD WOMAN:            Hello dearie. Fallen out of bed?


SOLDIER:            What? You! So they didn’t throw me out after all! You’re here, so I must be…Wait a minute! Where is this?


OLD WOMAN:            This is the Southern Infirmary. You’ve not been well.


SOLDIER:            I don’t understand. Yes, I was here, but my body was…This is it, isn’t it. I’m back together again.


OLD WOMAN:            What’s what, Soldier?


SOLDIER:            This is my body, isn’t it. I’m back where I came from. All in one piece.


OLD WOMAN:            Marvellous what they can do these days, isn’t it.


SOLDIER:            Yes, but I wish they hadn’t.


OLD WOMAN:            Happier in the land of nod, were you? Well, it’s all for the best, probably.


SOLDIER:            I’ll never find rest or peace of mind now. There was this girl, you see.


OLD WOMAN:            Ah. How romantic! A girl in a dream.


SOLDIER:            Her father banished me from his realm. I’ll never see her again.


OLD WOMAN:            You never know. You might dream again.


SOLDIER:            I don’t think so. But you were there, too!


OLD WOMAN:            What, in your dream? As if!


SOLDIER:            No, you absolutely were! You helped me to solve the secret of Hermia!


OLD WOMAN:            Did I? Fancy that! What was it: don’t lift any heavy weights?


SOLDIER:            Her-Mia. Not hernia.


OLD WOMAN:            Well well! Clever old me, eh.


SOLDIER:            The thing is, if you’re here, she might be, too!


OLD WOMAN:            Yes, she might be. But you can’t be sure that she’ll think about you the way she thought about you in the dream.


SOLDIER:            But she’s got to! Life won’t be worth living, otherwise!


OLD WOMAN:            Here, don’t upset yourself! Take it easy. Have a sit-down. You’re not used to all this moving about.


SOLDIER:            You’re right. I’m knackered!


OLD WOMAN:            That’s right. Put your feet up. Look out, the doctor’s coming. I’d best be off. (Exit)




DOCTOR:            Hello Lieutenant! Good to see you’re back with us. How are you doing?


SOLDIER:            A bit tired, actually.


DOCTOR:            You’ve had us all very worried.


SOLDIER:            Look, doc, what’s been wrong with me?


DOCTOR:            Well, that’s a bit of a mystery, to be honest. You wouldn’t believe the scans and tests we’ve done while you’ve been out of circulation. No obvious trauma, but the coma was real enough. We’d like to keep on monitoring you, if you don’t mind, until we’re sure that everything’s tickety-boo.


SOLDIER:            Oh sure. I don’t mind. You can keep on monitoring me till everything’s tickety-boo, oojah-cum-spif and hunky-dory.


DOCTOR:            (Pause) Splendid. Anyway, make sure you don’t overdo it. You’ll be a bit wobbly on your pins for a while. Take it easy.


SOLDIER:            Righto doc.  (Exit DOCTOR) Take it easy indeed! How can I find any rest if I’ll never see Helia again? It’s just impossible.


Enter NURSE 2


SOLDIER:            Helia! I can’t believe it!


NURSE 2:            Oh, you’ve come back to us! That’s fantastic! How are you feeling?


SOLDIER:            Helia, it’s me! We were…What’s the matter?


NURSE 2:            Helia! You kept saying that in your sleep. What does it mean?


SOLDIER:            I…You were in my dream. Your name was Helia. (It dawns on him slowly that things aren’t the same here between them) Your name isn’t Helia, is it.


NURSE 2:            No. It’s Ruby. So Helia’s a name, is it?


SOLDIER:            Yes. A special name for a special person. But it was all in a dream.


NURSE 2:            When you were saying Helia in your sleep, I thought you were saying: Heal you, heal you. I couldn’t make it out.


SOLDIER:            Listen, Ruby, what time do you get off duty?


NURSE 2:            Whoa! Hold your horses, soldier! Gently does it! You’ve only just woken up.


SOLDIER:            Yeah. I suppose so. Are you regularly on this ward?


NURSE 2:            Yep. Staff Nurse. I’m the boss when Sister’s not around.


SOLDIER:            So we’ll be seeing a bit more of each other, then?


NURSE 2:            Don’t get your hopes up. You’ll probably be transferred now that you’ve regained consciousness.


SOLDIER:            Aaaaahhhhh! (Fakes a collapse)


NURSE 2:            Jack! Jack, can you hear me? Jack! (She pinches him. He reacts)


SOLDIER:            Ouch! Ah well. It was worth a try.


NURSE 2:            Cheeky devil! Right, now is there anything you want?


SOLDIER:            Ask a silly question.


NURSE 2:            I can see we’ll have trouble with you. Now lie down and behave yourself. I’ll bring you something to drink. You probably need it. (Exit)




SOLDIER:            This is terrible! This is a disaster! I should never have woken up! I was happy where I was.


OLD WOMAN:            Were you? Were you really? What about that King? He wasn’t very friendly, was he?


SOLDIER:            No, he was a right old pain. But Helia – Hey! Wait a minute! How do you know about the king?


OLD WOMAN:            Oh there I go! Silly me.


SOLDIER:            You were there, weren’t you! You were in my dream!


OLD WOMAN:            And where are you now, Soldier? Awake or dreaming?


SOLDIER:            What? Oh, this is too confusing!


OLD WOMAN:            Yes, far too difficult for a simple soldier boy. Lie down and have a rest.


SOLDIER:            Perhaps you’re right. I don’t know whether I’m coming (yawns) or going. (Yawns and settles down.)


Enter KING & PRINCESSES (they gather round SOLDIER’s bed)


HERMIA:            This isn’t going quite as I imagined it.


PAMELA:            It’s a bit unexpected, isn’t it?


MARSHA:            What about it, father? How will this all end up?


SELENE:            Have you got something up your sleeve?


KING:            Nothing at all. It’s all up to them, now. Our role in this is finished.


Enter NURSE 2 & OLD WOMAN. They wheel the bed off


HERMIA:            What’s happening? Where are they taking him?


KING:            He’s being taken to another ward now that he’s come round.


SELENE:            So is that it?


KING:            We shall have to see. Let’s see what the future holds for them.


(Music – Kites KING & PRINCESSES retire upstage)


Enter NURSE 2 with her coat over her uniform. SOLDIER steps out of the shadows with a bunch of flowers.



SOLDIER:                        Hello Ruby.


NURSE 2:            Ooh, you gave me the fright of my life! What are you doing here?


SOLDIER:            I came to see you. These are for you, by the way.


NURSE 2:            They’re lovely! But I can’t take them. It wouldn’t be professional.


SOLDIER:            Professional? Look, I’ve been discharged. I’m all okay now.


NURSE 2:            That’s good news.


SOLDIER:            And you’re off duty now, aren’t you.


NURSE 2:            Yes.


SOLDIER:            So I’m just a bloke giving a bunch of flowers to a lovely girl. And asking her to dinner. There’s nothing unprofessional about it.


NURSE 2:            But…I don’t know anything about you!


SOLDIER:            Come on, you read my case notes, didn’t you?


NURSE 2:            That was different!


SOLDIER:            I can fill in the details over dinner. Anything you want to know I’ll give you the full story.


NURSE 2:            As a matter of fact, I told you everything about me while you were unconscious. So you’d better give me your story to make it even.


SOLDIER:            My story’ll probably render you unconscious. Then we really will be even.


NURSE 2:            (Fake sigh) It’s a risk I’ll have to take, I suppose.


SOLDIER:            So you’ll come then? Great!


NURSE 2:            I didn’t say that. Anyway, where are we going for dinner?


SOLDIER:            I’ve got a table for two at the Escargot.


NURSE 2:            Wow! That’s a bit posh! But I’m still in uniform!


SOLDIER:            They won’t mind. Come on. (Exit)


SELENE:            So what is her secret?


KING:            She brings the weary rest.


HERMIA:            And what’s her sign? Mine was the shared meal, Pamela’s was the baptism of fire, Marsha did the thing with the oil and Selene rescued him. What about her?


KING:            Her sign is the bridal suite.


SELENE:            And will we live happily ever after in the land of mortals, too?


KING:            That all depends on you, my dears. That all depends on you!


(Music – When I’m 64)



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