And so it is Twelfth Night.
The time when the whole world is topsy turvy.
Our French Chef, M. Yves Grosseteste ( otherwise known as Ivor Bighead ) is busy serving up a Punch that is packed with an absolutely REAL punch. The Maid of All Works down the street a little, Iris Kalot is putting the finishing touches to her ” Fish Pie” which she KNOWS will send her Mistress into paroxysms! The poor Lady Bon can’t abide a fish, she is about to eat, staring at her with glassy eyes! There will be a lot of screaming and yelling in the Grandly and Looks households tonight. And there is not a thing they can do about it. It is all perfectly legitimate and no one should be disciplined for anything they have done especially if it is at the behest of the Master of the Revels or from the Master himself. Oh Dear!
Sir Bumptious…old skinflint that he is, has engaged some ‘entertainment’ for the evening. Not for him the accomplished ( and costly) players of the Globe Theatre, no mention of the Admiral’s Men or the Lord Chamberlain’s men, both troupes “Shakespearean” actors to the ends of their fingers.
No – he has hired some louts from the Market Square that he saw performing some rumbustious rustic play with dancing bears and ‘maidens’ dressed as Arabic Princesses.
Here they are now…entering the house yard ( from the back door of course ) and setting up their < ahem> scenery. A cart with a curtain and a few paltry props made of pasteboard. A hush falls over the assembly. The lights are dim, a drum roll announces the action. The curtain is drawn back. ” ahhhhh”.
On the back of the cart we see a chair ( seen better days and rather rickety ) which has been crudely painted with gold paint. Above it is a carved sunburst. This, we are told by the players is to symbolise the throne of King Tat of that arid Realm -Bogoff. His “daughter “, Princess Sharlaton, she with the large brown cow eyes peering flutteringly over her veil and wavy lustrous black locks cascading down her back, is to be auctioned off to the man who can rid the Kingdom of the dreaded Beast… ( the man dressed as a bear ). The King, flanked by two guards, sits on his throne and declares
Oh woe to the Kingdom of Bogoff
Is there no one who’s brave and who’s true?
The beast has devoured my peasants
And he’s coming to eat you up too!
Oh dear…. well no…it’s NOT Shakespeare. It’s not even poetry. Still..it’s traditional Twelfth Night fare, a little play of some sort and the onlookers, simple people most, are transfixed. They have rarely seen anything like it. It wasn’t all that long ago when Theatre was a banned entertainment.
Just look at Sir Bumptious! His eyes are like saucers. His hands are fidgety. His brow is beaded in sweat. Can the potion have taken hold so quickly? A glance around the other staff…no…..they are all fixed upon the action with wide eyes.
Sir Bumptious Grandly takes out his handkerchief and coyly flutters it in front of his face. What ever is the matter with him? He smiles inanely and purses his lips. He is blowing a kiss. Princess Sharlaton catches the movement in the crowd; the white hanky fluttering in the darkness and her eyes ( above her veil ) narrow. She cocks her head to the side to see more clearly in the gloom. This only serves to make her more attractive and fey. Sir Bumptious is captivated. Princess Sharlaton shields her eyes from the glare of the torches and it looks as if she is waving at the crowd.
Sir Bumptious loud voice is heard.
In this land of the heathen and pagan
Here’s one who’ll not labour in vain
I will slay the beast of Bogoff
( who is at this moment lumbering up to the tail of the cart, threatening the maiden with growling and slashing with sharp, but false, talons)
And the Princess will be mine.
HANG ON A MINUTE!
The players are at a loss. They stand in silence. They are used to the audience booing and hissing. They are immune to the catcalls and whistles. They are even expectant of the odd rotten egg or rock hard dog turd landing in their midst. BUT STEALING THE ACTION? MAKING UP NEW LINES…? DOING A PLAYER OUT OF HIS PART!? The true hero, his mouth poised for the next line is…well…Gobsmacked!
They stare with open mouths as Sir Grandly hobbles, with his bad leg up to the cart and propels himself on to it with his trusty stick.
The Master of Revels is smirking. Any minute now……
Sir Bumptious Grandly goes down, painfully on his knees in front of the Princess.
The other players splutter. He intones.
” Oh princess, you are quite Divine
Give us a kiss and you’ll be mine”
( well Sir Bumptious is no Shakespoke either!)
He leans forward, grasps the ( rather tall ) maiden around the < ahem> area of the buttocks and squeezes. It’s as far up as he can reach.
He closes his eyes and purses his lips. ( Silly Old Codger, Sir Bumptious Grandly is in LOVE! ) He expects the kiss.
He buries his face in the Maiden’s lap…”ahhhhh.”
Quick as a flash the ‘Maiden’, who of course is no maiden but a strapping lad of fifteen with a pair of falsies, a falsetto voice and ‘lap’ that is most certainly NOT to be squashed, steps back and takes a swipe at the totally unprepared Knight of the Realm.
Just as the punch is about to land on the chin of the unsuspecting member of the aristocracy, there is a loud rumble from below him.
And an enormous melifluous fart!
And the lad falters….screws up his face and utters ” PHEWARGH!”
The Master of Revels grins. IT HAS BEGUN!
A LOUD SCREAM reverberates around the courtyard.
The Maid of all works Iris…who after this night might be a Maid of NO works, comes flying in through the gate….pursued by a flying fish, and another and …another.
Ah yes….. Lady Bon has been served her dinner!
The Master of Revels twirls his mustache…..and laughs and laughs and laughs.
Lady Bon enters the courtyard, the last of the fish in her hand. A mangy dog makes a grab for it.
( Did I say that the players had brought a dog with them?)
Lady Bon Looks, is a cat person, you understand but she has a soft spot for dogs. But not this one. She takes swipe at it. ” Get away you noisome beast!”
The fish lands smack bang in the middle of M. Grosseteste’s physog!
There are more enormous eructations emanating from the courtyard.
Half the audience are clutching their stomachs, the other half are crossing their legs.Those that are, for the moment, unaffected are holding their noses.
Sir Bumptious Grandly’s household is quite a populous one.
And there is only one outside convenience!