THE BACH IN THE BUSH
A Christmas Play for Young and Old
set in New Zealand.
Text and story by Phillip Mann
An operatic version of this play exists with Music by Michael Vinten. This has not so far been performed.
Story Teller. Male. Kind and thoughtful. Suggest a timeless quality.
Mouse. Female. Always busy about the house
Weta. Male. A bit rough and gruff, but kind. He occasionally has a slight stutter.
Spider. Male or female. Quick witted. Plays the harp
Mrs Stropp. Very wealthy socialite. Bossy.
Mr Dawson. A hapless land-agent who thinks he is smart.
THE PLAY IS SET IN AN OLD HUT – THE BACH – SOMEWHERE DEEP IN THE NEW ZEALAND BUSH. WE SHOULD IMAGINE THE BACH, OVERSHADOWED BY TREES, STANDING CLOSE TO THE SHORE OF A LAKE WHICH IS SURROUNDED BY DARK HILLS. THE AUDIENCE ARE IN THE POSITION OF THE LAKE.
WE ARE MILES FROM ANYWHERE AND WELL OFF THE BEATEN TRACK, THOUGH THE BACH IS ACCESSIBLE BY CAR – JUST.
THE TIME IS JUST BEFORE DAWN ON CHRISTMAS EVE.
WHEN THE PLAY BEGINS, WE ARE OUTSIDE THE HUT. LATER IN THE PLAY, THE STORYTELLER WILL SWING THE FRONT OF THE BATCH OPEN SO THAT WE CAN SEE THE INTERIOR.
THE SET WILL NEED CLIMBING SPACE FOR SPIDER, A CUBBY-HOLE FOR MOUSE AND AN OLD PILE OF LOGS FOR WETA. ODDMENTS OF OLD FURNITURE CAN BE SCATTERED ABOUT. THE BATCH SHOULD FEEL HOMELY RATHER THAN DERELICT.
THE PLAY CAN BE PERFORMED BY SIX ACTORS. HOWEVER, IF THE DIRECTOR WISHES TO EXTEND THE CAST TO INCLUDE CHILDREN THEN THEY COULD TAKE PART AS CREATURES THAT LIVE IN THE BUSH IN THE OPENING SCENE AND THE FINAL SCENE, AS WELL AS IN THE NIGHT-TIME SCENE.
CONCERNING SOUND EFFECTS, MUSIC CAN BE USED AT ANY TIME TO SUPPORT THE MAGICAL ATMOSPHERE. THIS CAN BE LIVE ON STAGE OR RECORDED. WHILE CREATURES SUCH AS MOUSE, SPIDER AND WETA. CAN MAKE THEIR OWN SOUNDS, SPIDER WILL NEED SOME HELP TO SUGGEST HER HARP, WHICH IS OF COURSE, A WEB..
CONCERNING COSTUMES, THE EFFECT SHOULD BE IMPRESSIONISTIC RATHER THAN REALISTIC. THUS, IN THE FIRST PERFORMANCE, WETA WAS PLAYED BY AN ACTOR WHO WORE A BLACK MOTOR CYCLE CRASH HELMET. BROWN GLOVES, A BROWN LEATHER JERKIN, HIKING BOOTS AND HAD TWO LONG LENGTHS OF BAMBOO WHICH HE USED TO GREAT EFFECT TO SUGGEST WETA’S ANTENNAE. SPIDER WORE BLACK TIGHTS A SKULL CAP AND SMALL ANTENNAE ON SPRINGS. MOUSE WAS FLUFFY AND PINK. THE OVERALL EFFECT WAS IMPRESSIVE. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THE MOVEMENTS AND THE VOICES SUGGEST THE CREATURES
WHEN THE PLAY BEGINS, MUSIC SUGGESTS THE CREATURES THAT LIVE IN THE BUSH, AS WELL AS A WARM SUMMER NIGHT. A GENTLE BREEZE STIRS THE BRANCHES OF THE TREES. AND IN THIS WE HEAR WHISPERED THE NAMES OF TREES:: KAURI, KAHIKATEA, RIMU, RATA, PONGA, KOWHAI. ETC.
THE SOUND BUILDS TO A CRESCENDO, AT WHICH POINT WE HEAR THE DEEP NOTE OF A GONG. THIS GONG IS CARRIED BY THE STORYTELLER AND IS USED WHENEVER WE NEED TO CHANGE TIME OR SUGGEST SOMETHING MAGICAL.
THE BACKGROUND SOUND SUBSIDES AS THE STORY TELLER STEPS FORWARD AND THE ACTION BEGINS, BUT IT DOES NOT DISAPPEAR ENTIRELY.
Scene 1. Night Sounds of the Bush
STORY TELLER Now there’s an old story and I believe it’s true, that on the night before Christmas, all animals, all creatures great and small, all fish in the sea and birds in the air, gain the power to speak to one another, and to us. Yes. But you have to listen very carefully, of course.
Listen. (PAUSE) Listen to the sounds of the night.
Listen to all the creatures that live in the bush.
They are talking. (CRESCENDO OF BUSH SOUNDS. AGAIN THE STORY TELLER RAISES HIS HAND AND THE SOUNDS SUBSIDE.)
Now it is dark, but soon the sun will rise.
(GONG. MUSIC SUGGESTING SUNRISE BEGINS SOFTLY. LIGHTS AND SOUND WORK TOGETHER.) Already it is red on the distant hills.
The sun is rising. Watch! (GONG)
SUNLIGHT SLOWLY FLOODS THE SCENE.
THE SOUNDS OF THE CREATURES CHANGES AS THE. LIGHTS FADE UP. WE CAN SEE THE STORY TELLER AND THE TREES AND THE HUT CLEARLY.
HUNG ON A NAIL OUTSIDE THE HUT IS A BATTERED SIGN WHICH READS “FOR SALE”.
See this old hut, still standing after a hundred years!
It is deserted now, but once a family lived here. Once there were flowers at the door, and smoke curling up from the chimney, a little veggie patch with beans and kumera, and a boat moored by the lake, (HE INDICATES RHE AUDIENCE) that’s where you are. But, that was a long time ago. Now all that live here are the insects and birds – and me. Let/s see if there is anyone at home.
Scene 2. Meeting the Creatures that Live in the House
THE STORY TELLER BANGS ON THE DOOR.
IMMEDIATELY THERE IS A SCURRYING AND CHATTERING INSIDE AND MOMENTS LATER, LONG FEELERS APPEAR TAPPING AT THE WINDOW. WHEN THE STORY TELLER TOUCHES THEM THEY IMMEDIATELY WITHDRAW.
HE PUSHES OPEN THE DOOR AND OUT COMES A WETA MOVING QUICKLY.
THE WETA CLAMBERS ABOUT, RIGHT TO THE FRONT OF THE STAGE, TAPPING AND FEELING. THEN IT ADVANCES ON THE STORY-TELLER WHO HAS TO FIGHT IT OFF.
STORY TELLER Gerrrofffff.
WETA (ROUGH VOICE) Oh its you. You should have sounded your gong. And don’t tread on those logs. That’s my breakfast.
STORY TELLER Just thought I’d drop round to wish you Merry Christmas.
WETA Well come in. The girls will be glad to see you. Spider and Mouse were asking about you.
AS THEY ENTER, THE STORY TELLER SWINGS OPEN THE WALL TO REVEAL THE INTERIOR OF THE OLD BACH. INSIDE, THE CREATURES ARE ALL VERY BUSY GETTING READY FOR CHRISTMAS. MOUSE IS IN ONE CORNER SCURRYING ABOUT WITH A CAKE.
WETA GOES TO A PILE OF LOGS NEAR THE OLD FIRE PLACE AND BEGINS PUTTING UP HIS DECORATIONS.
SPIDER IS HIGH UP IN ONE CORNER SPINNING A SPECIAL WEB FOR CHRISTMAS.
MOUSE Hello, sorry everything is such a mess. I haven’t even cleared the breakfast things… (SUDDENLY WORRIED) You don’t have a cat with you do you?
SPIDER Or a long handled broom…
STORY TELLER No. No. just a friendly visit. I won’t touch anything. I just…
WETA (MORE AGGRESSIVE) And matches… You don’t have matches on you do you? (WETA BEGINS TO FRISK THE STORYTELLER.)
STORY TELLER Here what are you…? Gerroff. (GONG DROPPED ON FLOOR) Now look what you’ve made me do. My gong’s all bent.
WETA Sorry about that. Just being careful. Matches means fire. None of us like that, do we?
SPIDER AND MOUSE Noooooo
STORY TELLER Well I don’t have any matches. (THEY ALL RELAX AND GET BACK TO THEIR TASKS.) So what have you been doing since the last time I was here?
WETA Well I’ve… er … continued with my liter-ra-riry experiments. Do you want to hear?
STORY TELLER Yes.
WETA A poem by Weta.
What could be better
than being a weta
and wearing a sweater
of yellow and brown?
I come out at night,
and my jaws they can bite
so better sit tight
when Wetas in town. (HE LAUGHS)
Pretty good eh?
STORY TELLER Well its….
MOUSE (TIMIDLY) I wrote a poem too.
Mouse is hurrying,’
So many mouths to feed.
I just want to bake
A big Christmas cake
But I’ve still got the garden to weed.
STORY TELLER Very good. (SHORT PAUSE) And you Mrs Spider?
SPIDER I don’t do poetry. (HAUGHTY) I play the harp. (SHE PLAYS A CADENZA ON HER WEB/HARP)
But I don’t have time to play for you.. Too busy you see. This being Christmas Eve.
MOUSE Me too.
WETA And me. Still got the d-d-decorations to put up. Close the door behind you as you GO please.
SUDDENLY THERE IS THE SOUND OF A CAR HORN. A CAR IS BEING DRIVEN VERY BADLY. IT COMES TO A HALT WITH A SCREECH OF BRAKES. ALL THE CREATURES STOP WHAT THEY ARE DOING.
WETA What’s that?
SPIDER (SHE GOES TO THE WINDOW) A car. Out here. But no one ever comes out here. (CAR DOORS SLAM.)Visitors!
MOUSE Close the door. Lock it.
WETA We don’t want visitors.
THE STORY TELLER LOCKS THE DOOR.
STORY TELLER There. Now they can’t get in.
WETA Now quiet everyone. (SPIDER ACCIDENTALLY BRUSHES HER HARP) I said quiet.
SPIDER (WHISPERS) Just climbing into my web…. Don’t get your feelers in a twist.
MOUSE I’m off to my nest behind the wall.
WETA And I’ll just climb under this log. And you…
STORY TELLER Yes?
WETA Not a sound. OK?
Scene 3. The Arrival of Mrs Strop and Mr Dawson.
MRS STROPP (OFF) Come on. This way. No loitering. If you can’t get through the bush. Use your slasher Mr Dawson.
MR DAWSON (FEEBLE) Coming Mrs Stropp, coming. (THERE IS A CRASH OFF STAGE) Owww!
SPIDER, MOUSE AND WETA HIDE.
THE DOOR TO THE HUT IS SHAKEN VIOLENTLY SEVERAL TIMES. THERE IS A RATTLING OF KEYS ETC.
MRS STROPP Come on man, open the door.
MR D I’m trying, but the lock’s stuck.
MRS S Here, give me the key. Now. One, two, three and …….
THE DOOR BURSTS OPEN. ENTER MRS STROPP AND MR DAWSON. SHE IS A LARGE BOSSY LADY WITH A WALKING STICK. HE IS A SHRIMPISH APOLOGETIC LAND AGENT.
SHE LOOKS ROUND IN HORROR AND DISBELIEF.
MRS S So this is the place! “A splendid rural retreat with fine views set in magnificent native bush.” You said
MR D Yes.
MRS STROPP It is a ruin. A ruin! Shall I spell that for you? R. U. I…… (SHE SUDDENLY SEES THE STORY-TELLER) Ahhhhh. And who are you?
STORY TELLER T Me? I’m the story teller.
MRS STROPP You are a trespasser and a vagabond. Mr Dawson, throw him out. (MR DAWSON LIMBERS UP) No, wait. He can help tidy up. This place is a pit. P. I. T.
MR DAWSON Tea. Good idea. I could just do with a cuppa.
MRS STROPP Tea. Tea. We’ve no time for tea. There’s work to be done. You two get started and I shall plan some interior decorating. There is no time to waste.
MUSIC WHILE SHE GETS A TAPE MEASURE FROM HER LARGE BAG, WHICH ALSO CONTAINS WALLPAPER SAMPLES AND COLOUR CHARTS, AND BEGINS TO TAKE MEASUREMENTS. SHE MUTTERS WHILE COUNTING.
MEANWHILE MR DAWSON IS GRUMBLING TO HIMSELF AS HE BEGINS TO CLEAR UP NEAR THE FIRE PLACE. HE MEETS THE WETA . MR DAWSON IS TERRIFIED AND STEPS BACK, BUMPING INTO MRS STROPP. WETA HIDES.
MRS STROPP Careful you clumsy……..
MR DAWSON But it was a ….And it had two great big… And it was as big as…
MRS STROPP Pull yourself together, man. Sweep down those cobwebs. Move.
MR DAWSON Yes Mrs Stropp. (MUTTER, MUTTER)
WHEN HE BEGINS TO TAKE DOWN THE WEB, THE SPIDER SHINNIES DOWN, FRIGHTENS HIM AND THEN HIDES.
MR DAWSON Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah
MRS STROPP Now what?
MR DAWSON A giant spider, there.
MRS STROPP Where?
MR DAWSON There…… (TURNS) Where’s it gone? It was there.
MRS STROPP (TAPPING FOOT OMINOUSLY) Mr Dawson. You have brought me bumping through the bush in that wretched car of yours, just to show me this miserable hovel, and now, all you can do is get in my way. (TO THE STORY-TELLER) And you can go and get a bucket of water and clean the windows. MOVE!
BOTH Yes Mrs Stropp. (THEY EXIT, COLLIDING IN THE DOORWAY.)
MRS S Ah some peace at last. (SHE LOOKS ROUND)
This place has possibilities, (SHE SHUTS HER EYES AND TAKES A DEEP BREATH AS THOUGH MEDITATING. THEN SHE SINGS IN A MONOTONE.)
To the creative mind nothing is impossible if it can be visualized.
(SHE OPENS HER EYES SUDDENLY AND SING/RECITES)
When I’ve knocked down that old door
I ‘ll build a patio by the shore,
And a jetty where the boats can come and go.
Then I’ll cut down all these trees
‘cos they’re noisy in the breeze
And the pollen makes me sneeze (SNEEZE)
and besides they spoil the feng-shui flow.
But before the decorators,
I’ll call in some fumigators
To spray the house in every way they can.
For spiders, wetas and mice,
As companions aren’t nice,
And they certainly don’t figure in my plan.
Next I’ll replace all the doors
And I’ll concrete all the floors
And cover them with tiles of blue and green.
I’ll build the spa pool out the back,
Made of marble, white and black
And every surface will be easy to keep clean.
garage space for four cars,
– or maybe even more cars.
For many guests will visit once they know
I think I’d better plan
For a double caravan
And a sleep-out just in case of over-flow.
O My house will be so stunning,
‘House and Garden’ will come running
To photograph and ask for my advice.
“I like my gardens spacious,
And my borders….. herbaceous,
the natural look is always worth the price.”
Ah well, back to reality. (SHE LOOKS ROUND AND SHUDDERS) Oh can’t wait to get rid of all the nasty creepy – crawlies. Talking of which, where is that Mr Dawson?
SHE LEAVES BY THE FRONT DOOR. SPIDER, WETA AND MOUSE HAVE HEARD EVERYTHING SHE HAS SAID. THEY COME CREEPING OUT.
MOUSE Did you hear what she said?
WETA Y-yes. She’s going to ch-change everything. She’ll b-b-burn my wood pile.
SPIDER There’ll be no peace…… no flies, webs all gone.
MOUSE No nice dusty corners. No dry leaves to make a nest in. She’ll probably have a cat.
WETA A cat. Two cats.
SPIDER And what about the fumigators? Aaaaaaaaaaa
ALL What’ll we do?
SPIDER We must fight back, that’s what.
MOUSE But what can we do? We are only small.
WETA This is w-w-war.
MOUSE I know. I’ll get under the car bonnet and see of there’s something I can nibble. I’m good at that.
WETA And I’ll find something to m-m-mangle with my mandibles.
SPIDER I’ll help too. Webs are very good for clogging things.
MOUSE Just a minute. If we do things to Mr Dawson’s car…..
WETA AND SPIDER What?
MOUSE They’ll have to spend the night here, won’t they?
MOUSE It’s Christmas Eve.
WETA AND SPIDER (UNDERSTANDING WHAT MOUSE IS DRIVING AT.) Yes. (ALL LAUGH)
ALL We’ll give them a night to remember… Yay.
THEY LEAVE BY THE DOOR. MUSIC WHILE THE SET AGAIN CHANGES TO THE OUTSIDE.
Scene 4. Outside the Old Hut.
THE STORY TELLER IS JUST FINISHING CLEANING THE WINDOWS. WE HEAR AN EXPLOSION OFF STAGE.
FINALLY, MR DAWSON STAGGERS ON, HE HAS OIL ON HIS SUIT AND IS VERY DISHEVELLED. ALSO, HE IS VERY WORRIED AND OUT OF BREATH.
MR DAWSON Mrs Stropp, have you seen her? (STORY TELLER SHAKES HIS HEAD.)
Well thank heaven for that.
I’m in trouble, deep deep trouble.
Worst than a mouse, caught by a cat.
STORY TELLER What happened.
MR DAWSON You see I ….(THE FOLLOWING SHOULD BE SUNG/SPOKEN AS IN THE MUSIC HALL)
Hired a car this morning, ^ the latest of its kind.
Four wheel drive, power steering ^ and windows you don’t wind,
It can cross flooding rivers, ^ climb mountains with great ease
It can drive through swamp and jungle ^ and even pull down trees.
There’s just one thing this car can’t do
To tell it breaks my heart,
Without a drop of petrol
The blinking thing won’t start.
STORY TELLER (SPEAKING) You mean you’ve run out of petrol?
MR DAWSON No its worse than that. You see I…
Opened up the bonnet ^ just to see what had gone wrong
And the smell of leaking petrol ^ was very, very strong
And there I saw a little mouse ^ as cheeky as you please
Biting on the petrol lead ^ like a piece of cheese.
And now the tank’s quite empty
To tell it breaks my heart,
Without a drop of petrol
The blinking thing won’t start.
STOR TELLER We can soon get you some petrol
MR DAWSON But its worse than that. You see I…
Saw a spider’d spun its web ^ from battery to block
I touched it with my finger and ^ aaaaaaahhhh
AT THIS MOMENT HE IMITATES AN ELECTRIC SHOCK, AND SHAKES UNTIL THE STORY TELLER STRIKES HIS GONG AND RELEASES HIM.
STOR TELLER It gave you quite a shock
Mr DAWSON But then I saw a terrible sight, ^ a giant, fang-jawed Weta
It was ramming bits of wood into ^ the factory-adjusted,-state-of-the-art,-very –expensive-and-not-to-be-touched-by-anyone-except-a-qualified-mechanic,… carburettor.
So now the car’s a total wreck
To tell it breaks my heart
With petrol gone and battery dead
There’s no way it will start.
Mr DAWSON What am I going to do? We’re stuck here now. She’ll skin me alive when she finds out.
MRS STROPP (OFF) Mr Dawson. MR DAWSON WHERE ARE YOU?
MR DAWSON Oh heck. I’m off.
MR DAWSON DIVES OFF THE STAGE AND TRIES TO HIDE IN THE AUDIENCE
MRS STROPP (ENTERS STAGE STILL CALLING. SHE HAS HER WALKING STICK WITH HER) Mr Dawson.. Where are you? This is no time for childish games. I want to go home now. There’s still lots of things I’ve got to do before Christmas Day. (SEES STORY TELLER) You again! Have you seen Mr Dawson?
STOR TELLER SHAKES HIS HEAD AND POINTS IN TWO DIRECTIONS
MRS STROPP Ha!! Might as well talk to a bag of saw dust! (SHE SEES MR D IN THE AUDIENCE) Mr Dawson, I can see you. This is no time for swimming. Come back up here this instant. (MR D CLIMBS BACK ONTO THE STAGE) Now, I want to get back to the city. You must drive me.
MR DAWSON Er……. You can’t. I mean, I mean I can’t…….drive you.
MRS STROPP Can’t???? Why not?
MR DAWSON Well, you know that car?
MRS STROPP Yes.
MR DAWSON Well, (VERY SOFTLY) it’s runoutapetrol.
MRS STROPP What? Speak up man I can hardly hear you.
MR D (VERY QUICK) Thebattery’sgonecaphut
MRS STROPP Speak more clearly man.
MR DAWSON (SHOUTS) IT HAS BROKEN DOWN.
MRS STROPPWHAT!!!! (RAISING HER STICK) You are the most, incompetent, dim-witted, hopeless…
MRS STROPP feather-brained, man I have ever met.
MR DAWSON Just a minute. Just a minute. It could be worse.
MR DAWSON At least we’ve got somewhere to stay. Just think if we were stranded on the ninety mile beach. Nothing but sand for oo ……. ninety miles.
MRS STROPP You mean I’ll have to spend the night in that place, in that hovel?
MR DAWSON Come on. It won’t be so bad. Where’s your spirit of adventure? We’ve got plenty of food….
MRS STROPP But……
MR DAWSON And candles.
MRS STROPP But…….
MR DAWSON And even blankets. When I travel I go prepared for any eventuality. (VALIENT) You’ll be safe with me, Mrs S. And we’ll sort things out in the morning. We’ll be right as rain.
MR DAWSON USHERS HER INTO THE HUT, MRS STROPP PROTESTING ALL THE WHILE.
THE STORY TELLER STEPS FORWARD AND STRIKES THE GONG LIGHTLY. THE LIGHT BEGINS TO FADE.
MUSIC TO SUGGEST A WARM SUMMER’S EVENING. VERY PEACEFUL. IN THE FOLLOWING, THE MUSIC AND LIGHTS MUST WORK TOGETHER.
STORY TELLER Day turns into evening.
STRIKES THE GONG LIGHTLY. MUSIC TRANSITION. LIGHTS CHANGE TO SUNSET
Evening turns into night.
STRIKES THE GONG LIGHTLY. MUSIC TRANSITION. LIGHTS CHANGE. STARS COME OUT
SOUNDS OF CREATURES OF THE BUSH. SUGGEST BUILD MUSIC THEME ROUND “SILENT NIGHT”
And tonight is Christmas Eve, remember.
DURING THIS CANDLE LIGHTS APPEAR AT THE WINDOWS OF THE OLD HUT.
AS THE MUSIC COMES TO ITS END, THE STORY TELLER AGAIN STEPS TO THE FRONT.
STORY TELLER It is a beautiful night. The air smells sweet.
THE SET SWINGS OPEN REVEALING THE INTERIOR.
Scene 5. That Night in the Old Hut.
INSIDE THE HOUSE, CANDLES HAVE BEEN LIT. THE SCENE SHOULD LOOK QUITE PLEASANT AND HOMELY. TWO BEDS HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE HUT. MR DAWSON’S BED IS IN AN ALCOVE OR ON A TABLE BY THE WALL.
MRS STROPP HAS CHANGED INTO HER NIGHT ATTIRE WHICH CONSISTS OF A FRILLY HOUSE COAT AND SLIPPERS. HER HAIR IS DONE UP IN ROLLERS. WETA, SPIDER AND MOUSE CAN BE SEEN BY THE AUDIENCE BUT NOT BY MRS STROPP OR MR DAWSON.
MR DAWSON IS AT THE DOOR PRACTISING DEEP BREATHING. HE ENDS UP COUGHING.
THE ATMOSPHERE BETWEEN THEM IS VERY FROSTY.
THE MUSIC FADES OUT AS THE SCENE GETS UNDERWAY.
MR DAWSON It’s a lovely night out there. Moonlight on the bay….. smell of wild honeysuckle….the calls of nature.
MRS STROPP Mr Dawson, would you kindly close the door. There is a terrible draught.
MR DAWSON Sorry. Sorry. Yes well, good night Mrs S.
MRS STROPP And don’t call me Mrs S.
MR DAWSON No. Mrs S. Sorry. Sorry. Good night.
MRS STROPP Huh!!!
MR DAWSON (SHORT PAUSE) I’ll just take this candle over here. (TO FIRE PLACE) Don’t want Santa to get lost in the dark, do we? (HE HANGS UP ONE OF HIS SOCKS.)
MRS STROPP MR DAW….
MR DAWSON Yes, yes, just going.
HE CLIMBS WITH SOME DIFFICULTY UP INTO HIS BED.
MRS STROPP I think I’ll just read for a few minutes just to settle my nerves.
PAUSE. MR DAWSON IS HAVING TROUBLE GETTING SETTLED. PILLOW THUMPING, TURNING OVER ETC. EVENTUALLY HE FALLS SLEEP AND HIS HAND SLIPS AND MAKES A THUMP. MRS STROPP IS STARTLED.
MRS STROPP Oh what was that? (REALISES) Oh only that stupid Mr Dawson.
MR DAWSON (ASLEEP) Friedicecreamandatrainsetwithrealteddybearwheels……. (SNORE)
MRS STROPP Sssssssh.
MR DAWSON Huh hmmm.
HE SLAPS HIS LIPS, SNIFFS AND ROLLS OVER. PAUSE DURING WHICH MRS STROPP COMPOSES HERSELF. THEN)
MRS STROPP Mr Dawson. Will you please be quiet!
MR DAWSON DOES NOT WAKE BUT GOES THROUGH A WHOLE RIGMAROLE OF TURNING, GRUNTING, ETC.
MRS STROPP HEARS ALL OF THIS AND GRADUALLY BECOMES VERY ANGRY. FINALLY, WHEN ALL IS QUIET SHE RELAXES.
THERE IS A MOMENT OF PEACE AND QUIET. SUDDENLY FROM MR DAWSON….
MR DAWSON SSS NNNNNNNN OOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRE
MRS STROPP SCREAMS AND THROWS HER BOOK IN THE AIR IN FRIGHT.
MRS STROPP Mr Dawson! (SHE GETS UP AND BEATS HIS BED WITH HER STICK) Will you kindly sleep with your mouth shut!!!!!
MR DAWSON WAKES WITH A FRIGHT AND BUMPS HIS HEAD ON A BEAM.
MR DAWSON AH hoooo What?
MRS STROPP Will you please be quiet. You are snoring.
MR DAWSON Who is?
MRS STROPP You is.
MR DAWSON Who me?
MRS STROPP Yes you.
MR DAWSON No sorry. Not me. I don’t snore.
MRS STROPP I heard you.
MR DAWSON No not me. What you heard was probably the wind in the branches of the Pohutakawa tree. (BECOMING SELF-RIGHTEOUS) Now listen Mrs Stropp. If I’ve to be up at the crack of dawn to take care of the car, I’ve got to get some sleep. There’s only so much a man can stand, you know …. and besides….
MRS STROPP What?
MR DAWSON Tonight is Christmas Eve.
MRS STROPP So?
MR DAWSON God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Good Night! (HEAD DOWN, HEAD UP) Merry Christmas.
HE CLOSES HIS EYES AND IS INSTANTLY ASLEEP. NO MORE SNORING.
MRS STROPP Merry Christmas indeed! (SHIVERS) All I can think about are creepy – crawlies. Oh, why did I ever come out here in the first place? A quiet place in the country was all I wanted. And now I’m stranded here in the middle of nowhere . Oh what I’d give for a nice clean motel unit.
DURING THIS, WETA SPIDER AND MOUSE HAVE BEGUN TO APPEAR FROM THEIR HIDING PLACES. THEY ADVANCE ON MRS STROPP FROM BEHIND. WETA BEATS HIS FEELERS.
MRS STROPP Ahhhh what was that? If it’s that Mr Dawson up to his tricks….. (SHE CHECKS ON MR DAWSON BUT WITHOUT SEEING ANY OF THE CREATURES.) No, he’s fast asleep. Perhaps I was just imagining things. I know, I’ll have something to eat. That’s always a good idea when you can’t sleep. (SHE OPENS HER BAG) I think there are some biscuits in here. That is if Mr Dawson hasn’t finished them all off. (SHE RUMMAGES AND FINDS A BIG TIN OF BISCUITS. WHILE SHE IS DOING THIS, THE WETA TOUCHES HER IN THE SHOULDER WITH HIS FEELERS.) Here we are. Oh, what was that? (SHE TURNS AND SEES WETA ) Ahhhhh. Who are you?
AT THIS MOMENT, THE STORY TELLER, WHO HAS BEEN WATCHING EVERYTHING, TAPS HIS GONG AND ON THIS CUE ALL THE CREATURES RISE UP AND BECOME MORE HUMAN.)
WETA Well, I’m not Father Christmas. I’m the Weta.
SPIDER HAS APPROACHED UNSEEN AND IS RIGHT BEHIND HER
SPIDER And I’m the Spider.
SPIDER TOUCHES HER AND SHE FREEZES
MRS STROPP Ah…….
MOUSE And I’m the mouse. Nibble. Nibble. Nibble. (MOUSE ATTACKS MRS STROPP’S FLUFFY SLIPPERS.)
MRS STROPP Oh get away horrid creatures. Get away! Get away!
ALL We’ve come to frighten you.
THEY CLAMBER ALL OVER HER AND CHASE HER ROUND THE ROOM. THEY CORNER HER UP AGAINST THE CHIMNEY.
MRS STROPP (VERY SMALL VOICE) Mr Dawson. …. Help.
THEY ARE JUST ABOUT TO ATTACK WHEN MOUSE STARTS SNIFFING VIGOROUSLY..
MOUSE I can smell something nice.
SPIDER Me too.
WETA And me.
MOUSE We haven’t had biscuits since those campers came by………….. years ago.
MRS S (TIMIDLY) Would you like some biscuits? I’ve got some here. (OFFERS TIN) Have as many as you like.
THEY ALL DIVE IN
WETA I’ve been too worried to eat all day.
SPIDER AND MOUSE (NODDING AND MUNCHING) Me too.
MRS STROPP Worried? Did you say worried? (ALL THE CREATURES NOD) But why?
WETA There you are, happy at home, chewing through logs, then suddenly someone comes and says they are going to turn you out of your house….
SPIDER Fumigate you…..
MOUSE And pour concrete everywhere. I hate concrete. You can’t nibble through concrete can you? It wears your teeth down.
SPIDER And what about me? I suppose you think it’s easy spinning webs all the time. Well it isn’t. It takes a whole night to spin a decent web. And then BANG, along comes a bird or a mouse or some fool with a broom and you have to start all over again . I tell you, it’s not easy being a spider…..
MOUSE Or a mouse…..
WETA Or a weta….
THE STORYTELLER TAPS HIS GONG. THEY DO NOT REACT TO HIM, BUT THERE IS A CHANGE OF MOOD.
MRS S Just a minute, I’ve just thought of something. If you are a spider……
MRS STROPP A Mouse.
MOUSE Correct. Can I have a bit more……
MRS STROPP And you are a weta…..
WETA That’s me.
MRS STROPP And I’m a human…..
ALL CREATURES Well, what about it?
MRS STROPP How come I can understand you?
ALL THE CREATURES PAUSE FOR A MOMENT, THINK, AND THEN GET BACK TO THEIR EATING.
You seem just like……no, no, that’s silly.
WETA Go on.
MOUSE Don’t be shy.
SPIDER We won’t laugh. Will we?
ALL CREATURES No.
MRS STROPP Well you seem almost like… people.
BRIEF PAUSE. THEN ALL THE CREATURES FALL ABOUT LAUGHING
ALL CREATURES People! Us! She thinks we’re like people. Ha Ha.
WETA We’re nothing like people.
ALL (SLIGHT MENACE) We’re nothing like people.
MRS STROPP Well, you sound like people.
SPIDER That’s because we’re worried.
WETA We heard what you were saying.
MRS STROPP What was I saying?
MOUSE You were talking about doing this place up. We like it the way it is.
SPIDER Yeah. You may think it looks a bit dirty, but we like it the way it is.
WETA (WITH FEELING) I’m partial to a bit of dirt.
MOUSE I like this place. I feel safe here. I can bring up my family here.
MRS STROPP Family, you’ve got a family?
MOUSE Seven children just now. Two hundred and forty nine grand children. Over eight hundred great grand children and more than….. well I’ve lost count. But they’re all around here somewhere.
WETA I’ve got kids too. Some are in the wood work. Some are outside. Can’t keep track of them all.
SPIDER My kids are all upstairs. I’ve got over a thousand.
MRS STROPP And you all live here?
SPIDER Yep. Home sweet home.
WETA, SPIDER, MOUSE Home is where you’re log/ web/ nest is, as we say.
ALL STRETCH AND YAWN. THEY GATHER ROUND HER
MOUSE Tell us about yourself.
MRS STROPP Well, there’s not much to tell.
SPIDER AND MOUSE Go on. There must be.
MOUSE Well, what do you do?
MRS STROPP I ……. well I……….
WETA Go on.
MRS STROPP Well I travel about…..
MRS STROPP And I buy things.
MRS STROPP And I do them up.
WETA Sounds boring.
SPIDER You can’t ‘do up’ a well strung web.
MOUSE Or a comfy nest in the straw.
WETA Or a nice rotten log. I hate treated timber. Get’s stuck in your man-di-bles.
SPIDER HAS CLIMBED UP TO WHERE MR DAWSON IS SLEEPING.
SPIDER Here, what’s he do?
MRS STROPP Mr Dawson sells things.
MOUSE (CATCHING ON) Is he selling this house?
MRS STROPP Yes. Well he wants to. (ALL THE CREATURES REACT)
WETA Grrrrrr. Shall I bite him?
MOUSE Yes. And I’ll tickle him.
SPIDER And I’ll spin a web up his nose.
THEY ADVANCE ON THE SLEEPING MR DAWSON WITH INTENT.
MRS STROPP No, no, no, you mustn’t. You must leave Mr Dawson alone.
MRS STROPP You must leave him alone. He’s less trouble when he’s asleep and besides …… tonight is Christmas Eve.
ALL CREATURES Christmas Eve? (THEY LOOK AT ONE ANOTHER) So what?.
MRS STROPP (SHOCKED) Well Christmas Eve is a time for being kind to one another.
MOUSE AND SPIDER (UNCONVINCED) Oh. Just as you like.
WETA (WAVING HIS FEELERS) I fancy a good bite.
MRS STROPP No No No No No. Let’s do something nice.
MOUSE Such as?
MRS STROPP Well you could sing a song. You must know some lovely songs.
WETA Me???? Sing????? I write verse.
MRS STROPP I’m sure you know some lovely songs. All of you. Like in a choir.
ALL CREATURES (SLIGHTLY SHY) Well, if you insist.
WETA CLEARS HIS THROAT. MOUSE PRACTISE SOME SCALES ETC SPIDER CAN PLUCK A NOTE ON HER WEB. THEY CONFER AND FINALLY AGREE
ALL CREATURES How’s this then?
THE FOLLOWING SHOULD BE SUNG TO INTERESTING HARMONIES. THINK OF THE KINGS SINGERS OR A BARBER’S SHOP QUARTET)
SPIDER I’m Spider
WETA I’m Weta
MOUSE I’m Mouse
MRS STROPP Tra la laaaaa
ALL CREATURES We live in this comfy old house.
MRS STROPP Tra la laaaaa
WETA We’re happy as Kings
MOUSE / SPIDER (INDIGNANT) Queens!!!!
WETA Chewing on (HE THINKS) theeeengs
ALL CREATUIRES We’re Spider and Weta and Mouse. (VERY LOUD) Tra la laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
MRS STROPP Capital! Marvellous. (SHE CLAPS HER HANDS)
MOUSE / SPIDER Now you.
MRS STROPP Oh no. I couldn’t.
MOUSE We did.
WETA Go on. Let your hair down.
MRS STROPP Oh well. Here goes. (SHY AND RELUCTANT BUT ENJOYING HERSELF ALL THE SAME.) My name as you know is Mrs Stropp.
ALL CREATURES (IN BEAUTIFUL HARMONY) Mrs Stropp,
MRS STROPP In society I’ve reached the top.
ALL CREATURES (IN BEAUTIFUL AND COMPLEX HARMONY) Very top.
MRS STROPP But working all day
Leaves me no time to play,
(SHE LOSES CONFIDENCE) And now I think I must stop.
ALL CREATURES TRA LA LAAAAA
ALL LAUGH AND ROLL ABOUT
MRS STROPP Oh, isn’t this wonderful. I’ve never felt so happy! There’s such a lot I have to ask you. Come on. Come and sit by me. Tuck in. Make your selves comfy. Now ……..
STORY TELLER STEPS FORWARD. ACTION OF MRS STROPP AND THE CREATURS.CONTINUES UNDER THE FOLLOWING BUT SILENTLY. THEY ARE HAVING A PARTY .
STORY TELLER And so it went on all night. They talked about families and home, and presents, and what they liked to eat, and what they do on rainy days ….. and all the time Mr Dawson was hard asleep. And he didn’t hear a thing.
Then, just before dawn there came a strange sound in the sky. It was like trumpets and the ringing of bells. It was like singing, and. “Gloria,” were the words, “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Creatures.”
But then the dawn came and everything was different.
MRS STROPP AND THE CREATURES ARE GATHERED TOGETHER TELLING STORIES.
MOUSE ….. so there we were, all us mice together and we pushed and we pushed, and the cat fell off the roof and down into the barrel full of rain water and …… mimsy mimsy, mims mimsy. Mimmm mimsy….
MRS STROPP What? Sorry I can’t understand you. I’ve suddenly…….
SPIDER What she said was srsrsr ssss rrrrrrr spspsspspspspsp
MRS STROPP I don’t think I ………
SHE TURNS TO WETA. ALL THE CREATURES BEGIN CHANGING BACK TO WHAT THEY WERE AT THE BEGINNING.
WETA Rausch rauschsce Endeded aaaae. ( WITH A MAJOR EFFORT) Allll isss endedededddd. Rauscrh Goooooood byeeee. (HE WAVES HIS FEELERS)
ONE BY ONE THE CREATURES MOVE APART AND RETURN TO THEIR HOMES, EACH ONE MURMURING IN ITS OWN LANGUAGE. THEY ARE TIRED. MRS S YAWNS. MUSIC SUGGESTS A GENTLE LULLABY.
MRS STROPP (YAWNS) Oh, I’m suddenly so tired. I think I’ll just….SHE STRETCHES OUT AND FALLS ASLEEP.
THE STORY TELLER STEPS FORWARD. HE BLOWS OUT THE CANDLES
STORY TELLER And Mrs Stropp fell into a deep, deep sleep. She didn’t even wake with the dawn chorus. (MUSIC)
She didn’t even wake when the sun came up. (MUSIC AND LIGHTS) She didn’t even wake when Mr Dawson finally stretched and fell out of bed.
MR DAWSON TOTTERS TO HIS FEET. HE IS LIKE ONE OF THE WALKING DEAD. HE OPENS THE DOOR AND BEGINS TO DO SOME EXERCISES. MRS STROPP WAKES UP AND STRETCHES.
MRS STROPP Good morning Mr Dawson. Happy Christmas.
MR D Eh ?
MRS STROPP I said Happy Christmas. I’ve had the most wonderful dream. The most wonderful sleep.
MR DAWSON Good. I didn’t sleep a wink. I stayed awake to make sure that no creepy – crawlies …..
MRS STROPP Rubbish. You were snoring like a creaking door. (SINGING WHILE SHE GETS UP) But let me tell you about my wonderful dream. I dreamed that all the creatures that live in this house came and talked to me….. no, I did and I dreamed that they told me all about their lives here. Quite incredible. You wouldn’t believe it.
MR DAWSON (YAWNING) No, I’m sure I wouldn’t.
MRS STROPP But now I’ve decided something. (PAUSE) I’ve decided I’m going to buy this place after all.
SPIDER, WETA AND MOUSE WAKE UP AND LISTEN CLOSELY TO WHAT IS BEING SAID. THEY ARE NOT SEEN BY MRS S OR MR DAWSON.
MR DAWSON (WAKING UP VERY QUICKLY) You won’t regret it. Wise investment. Splendid rural retreat with fine views set in magnificent natural bush. A developer’s dream. It just so happens that I have all the papers here. (FINDS THEM) If you just care to sign here, here, and here. No, keep the pen. Happy Christmas.
MRS STROPP And do you know what I’m going to do with this house?
MR DAWSON I can arrange contractors for ……
MRS STROPP I’m going to leave it just as it is.
MR DAWSON But it’s a dump.
MRS STROPP Just as it is. (SPIDER, WETA AND MOUSE ALL REACT) Now come on Mr Dawson, and please do close your mouth. It is Christmas Day, and we’ve got to hike to the next town all because you forgot to fill the car with petrol. Come on. I haven’t got all day. And you (TO THE STORY TELLER) You can stay here and look after things. This place is NOT for sale. (TO SPIDER, WETA AND MOUSE THOUGH SHE DOES NOT SEE THEM) Good bye. And Happy Christmas.
SPIDER, WETA AND MOUSE ALL WAVE. THEN THEY GET ON WITH LIFE AS NORMAL. STORY TELLER STEPS FORWARD.
STORY TELLER So there we are. The house stayed just as it was.
But every year Mrs Stropp came to see them… and even Mr Dawson came sometimes. And they always brought biscuits. And as for Spider, Weta and Mouse. .they always remember the time that they could speak. And here they are.
THEY COME FORWARD AS THE CREATURES, BUT THEN WHEN THEY REACH THE FRONT OF THE STAGE THEY BECOME THE ACTORS.
MRS STROPP AND MR DAWSON RE-ENTER IN CHARACTER WHICH THEY DROP AS SOON AS THE JOIN THE OTHERS.
Merry Christmas everybody.
ALL Merry Christmas. (THEY WAVE AND THEN SING)
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year.
Happy Christmas One and All.