Big Jack and the Beanstalk: A pantomime in three acts by Stan Hey

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A village green, somewhere in Un-Merrie England. We see a hang-dog PEASANT locked into the village's stocks. His clothes are covered in tomatoes, carrots, rotten apples. The boy's taken a right pelting - to the point where he's unrecognisable. From stage left, THE QUEEN enters, and following on behind her on a chain, a lion, with four bandaged paws.

Queen: Ahoy there] Do you know what this place is called?

The PEASANT turns as best he can and looks in awe.

Peasant: Yes, ma'am. . . it's England.

Queen: One knows thet, dear boy - but where precisely?

Peasant: Well you had Tyburn for villains and foot-pads, and Traitor's Gate for. . . well, traitors funnily enough. This is where all the country's sporting failures are sent - Moreton-in-the-Mire. . .

Queen: Excellent. One's come to the right place for once. And you are?

The PEASANT makes an attempt to clean his face, rubbing it on his trapped hands.

Peasant: Me? Well, er, my name's Graham Turnip, ma'am.

Queen (thinking): Turnip? Thet rings one's bell. . .

Peasant: I used to manage England, ma'am.

Queen: With respect, one thought one did thet. Turnip? Ah, yes] You're the bastard thet didn't get one to the World Cup.

The QUEEN picks up a tomato from the ground and hurls it into TURNIP's face.

Queen: Take thet] (She throws another) And thet's for changing the National Anthem from 'God Save the Queen' to 'What a Load of Rubbish'.

The QUEEN dusts her hand, wanders round and opens the stocks.

Turnip: Oh, woe begone] Thank you, ma'am.

Queen: You're not getting orf thet lightly, Mr Turnip. I have a task for you.

Turnip: Name it, ma'am - as long as it doesn't involve Man City.

The QUEEN gestures to the wounded lion.

Queen: I want you to get rid of this old beast for one. He was once a symbol of our sporting pride. He used to be a lion rampant, but now he's more or less couchant] That's French for knackered, Mr Turnip.

Turnip: How did he get those injuries, ma'am?

Queen (pointing to bandaged paws): Football, cricket, tennis. . . and, er, yes, football again. Plus he's got a broken heart. So, would you sell him for one?

Turnip: Well, 'tis said by many of my critics that I couldn't organise a piss. . .

Queen: Yes, one's heard. But this is desperate measures time, Turnip - one has several lone parents to support. And real dosh, or another bloody rug for Sandringham, is just no contest.

Turnip: Very well, ma'am. I shall do my best.

The QUEEN hands over the lion's chain to TURNIP.

Queen: Orf you go then - and jolly good luck. One never knows where one's luck turns. Soon you may be back in the public esteem, your wit and wisdom appreciated by all, and you'll be feted and hailed where'er you go.

Turnip (bowing): Thank you, ma'am. . .

Queen: One was talking to the lion.

The QUEEN turns and exits stage left. TURNIP looks down with pity at the wounded lion.

Turnip: Well now, son. Looks like thee and me are going to be spending some time together. . .

The lion covers its eye with its front paws. TURNIP approaches the foot-lights. The orchestra strikes up.

Turnip (singing):

There's a place for us,

Somewhere a place for us,

Just as soon as we remember how good we are,

There'll be no knacker's yard and no abattoir]

Somewhere] There must be a sport we can win in,

A game without technique or Warne's leg-spin,

Somewhere] We'll find new ways of competing,

We'll stop the other bastards all cheating.

Then the whole damn world will watch out.

When Inger-land's back in with a shout,


AUDIENCE applauds and cheers, as TURNIP leads the lion off.

Curtain. End of Act One.

TURNIP leads the lion along by its chain, down a country lane surrounded by fields and hedges. From an adjoining field, a pantomime horse approaches, curious at the sight.

Turnip: Hello there, I'm Graham Turnip.

Horse: Wotcher] I'm Terry Vegetables]

The HORSE turns round and lifts its tail. Another voice comes from its rear end.

Horse: And I'm Alan Sugarbeet] Don't listen to my front half. He's talking through his mouth]

The front of the HORSE twists round.

Vegetables: Wot you doing, then?

Turnip: I've got this lion to sell.

Vegetables: Well now, maybe we can do a little business together.

Sugarbeet: Believe me, this is one occasion when you should look a gift-horse in the mouth.

Vegetables: Shaddap] How much do you want for it?

Turnip: Make me an offer.

A third voice now comes out of the horse's midriff.

Voice: Go orn my son, stitch him up, like a kipper]

Sugarbeet: Here] Who the hell's that, Vegetables?

Vegetables: That's Eric, my middle-man, Sugarbeet.

Sugarbeet: You slippery bastard] I want out of this.

The pantomime horse splits in two and each half runs out in separate directions. TURNIP leads the lion on, only to be confronted by a dusky, aristocratic type, dressed up in jodhpurs and a monocle. This is LORD EUBANK OF CASHFLOW.

Eubank: This is a most incommodious and supercalifragilisticexpialidotious event] You are, without question, on my land, peasant.

Turnip: Lord Eubank, you are a man of great means? Could you not find it within yourself to take on this poor and lowly lion?

Eubank: This, without question, would have to be decided by Baron Hearn of Romford. If the lion's manager can come forth with a purse which is acceptable to me, then, yes, without question, I will take on the challenge. 'Simply the Best, versus Simply the Beast.' Most droll]

LORD EUBANK struts off-stage, swishing his walking cane.

Turnip: Is there nobody out there who will give my lion sanctuary?

Downstage, two local Farmhands appear in shepherd smocks, holding hands, skipping along. One is PAUL GASCORN, the other is VINNY BONES.

Audience (to TURNIP): Behind you]

TURNIP turns. GASCORN and BONES approach.

Gascorn: Why'aye, Vinny, canny dog this, but] An he's got a furry collar like my agent]

Bones: Must be one of them attack dogs. Luvvly-jubbly]

Turnip (to audience): I think I may have a sale here. (to GASCORN) He's yours for 20 guineas.

Gascorn: What's that in poonds?

Turnip: A million to you.

Bones (aside to GASCORN): This geezer's simple. Ol' Jock Souness is buying any old dog for two million.

Gascorn: Shall we get him then? Make a decent little profit. (To TURNIP) What's his name?

Turnip: Er, Leone.

Gascorn: Not Sergio] I've played against him. Bites your legs something rotten.

Bones: Hang about, hang about - we don't want no foreign dogs.

Turnip: Actually - and not for the first time in my life - I've changed my mind. I think I can find a better home for him. . .

Gascorn: Be like that then. Ha-way then, Vinny - let's gan and shoot some fish in the canal]

GASCORN and BONES skip offstage. A horse-drawn carriage pulls down the lane, with DAMON HILL at the reins. He slows as he sees TURNIP and the lion.

Hill: Who are you, old bean?

Turnip: Just a man with something to sell.

Hill: Man? Sell? Is this a wind-up?

Another carriage speeds across stage with AYRTON SENNA at the reins. It carves up Hill's carriage and speeds on.

Audience: He's in front of you] He's in front of you]

HILL cracks his whip and the carriage speeds off in pursuit of SENNA.

TURNIP sits down wearily and the lion lies down next to him.

Turnip: Oh, misery. What's going to become of me? Will I only be remembered for my failures?

The word 'failures' echoes around the auditorium, as TURNIP falls asleep. From behind a large toadstool appear the ELEVEN ELVES OF SAN MARINO. They join hands and dance in a circle around the sleeping TURNIP.

Elves (singing):

You thought that we were just waiters,

You thought that we were just wops]

But now you have reason to hate us,

Cos we rubbed your face in da slops]

Yes, just when the USA beckoned,

We caught you still stuck in da past]

We scored a goal in nine seconds,

And your turnips were totally mashed]

The ELVES disappear as TURNIP wakes with a start.

Turnip: What a nightmare] Come on, lion. I'm going to get you to market and make a success of myself for once.

TURNIP stands and hoiks up the lion. From the wings an evil looking CUT-PURSE appears. This is RUPERT BURDOCK, the most-feared highwayman since Dick Turnip.

Turnip (cowering): I know you. I've seen the wanted posters. Rupert Burdock]

Burdock: Now, now sport, I've changed my ways. I've got God]

Turnip: Presenting Sky News, no doubt?

BURDOCK cackles.

Burdock: Now what have we got here?

Turnip: It's the lion of English sport, sport.

Burdock: I'll take him off your hands for you.

Turnip: It'd better be a good offer.

Burdock: It is. One that even you can't refuse.

BURDOCK takes out a pencil and tosses it to TURNIP.

Turnip: What's in here? UK Gold pieces?

Burdock: Better. . . seeds]

Turnip: Seeds]

Burdock: Not just ordinary ones, mate. They're Wimbledon seeds. Part of the new package I've just bought.

Turnip: They're no use to me.

Burdock: Oh yes they are]

Audience: Oh no they're not]

Burdock: You plant them now, and in a few years, you'll produce an English tennis champion.

Turnip: But that. . . that would make me famous.

Burdock: And successful.

Turnip: Right, you've got a deal, Mr Burdock.

He hands the chain of the lion to BURDOCK, who leads the lion away.

Burdock: Come along, son. I'm gonna patch you up, turn you around, and make you into a satellite dish to set before the Queen herself.

TURNIP does a little dance.

Turnip: I'm gonna be a hit again. The man who put furry yellow balls back into English tennis.

TURNIP digs up a circle of earth and plants the seeds.

Turnip: Now then, water. Water? (A thought strikes. He calls out) Mr Gascorn?

GASCORN reappears, supping a pint of strong ale.

Gascorn: What man? Can you not see I'm having wor tea?

Turnip: Now then, young Paul. Some people say that you've matured enough not to go around peeing in public, is that right?

Gascorn: Who says that? Show me an' I'll give the bastard a right scuddin']

Turnip: Go on then, just imagine you're in a stadium filled with the crowned heads of Europe. All eyes are upon you. What do you do?

Gascorn: Easy, man - I do the Dunston Rain Dance]

GASCORN produces his member and begins to spray all over the newly dug ground.

Turnip: That's the stuff] Inger-land, Inger-land, Inger-land] Inger-land, Inger-Land, Inger-LAND]

GASCORN dances around, spouting like a garden hose. Curtain. End of Act Two.

Curtain rises to reveal a huge, tangled beanstalk rising up from the ground and into the sky. TURNIP looks at it proudly.

Turnip (to AUDIENCE): The mighty oak of England. Steeped in manure, marinated in stale urine, a sure-fire recipe for successful growth. I'm gonna see what's up there.

TURNIP begins to climb. He climbs and climbs, through the tangled branches and rich foliage of the stalk. Some time later, at the top of the beanstalk, TURNIP sees a huge castle resting atop, partly wreathed in clouds, partly bathed in wondrous sunlight.

Turnip (to AUDIENCE): What a magic place. Maybe this is where the secret of reviving English sport rests? I must be brave and try to find out.

TURNIP approaches the huge main gate of the castle. By stretching up he is able to reach a bell-pull. In the distance he hears the heavy 'bong' of a massive bell. Then the big gate creaks open and a giant pair of feet appear - they belong to a giant pair of legs, a giant torso, a giant head.

Turnip: Bloody hell, somebody's gone mad with the steroids here.

Giant's voice: Who's that?

TURNIP hides by the giant's feet, but has time to glimpse the face of BIG JACK CHARLTON peering down.

Turnip (to AUDIENCE): It's him] Big Jack] Of course, I should have known. Somebody who's cracked it.

Big Jack: Fe-fi-fo-fum, I smell the scent of an Englishman. (Looks down at his feet.) Do you have an Irish granny or grandpa by any chance, wee man?

BIG JACK bends and places TURNIP on the palm of his hand.

Turnip: Er, no]

Big Jack: Well you're nae use to me, man] Except as a pipe-cleaner, mebbes. H'away then, let's have some tuck. You got a ciggy?

BIG JACK goes back into the castle, taking TURNIP with him.

Later: sitting at his dinner table, BIG JACK drinks from a dark brew and plays his Celtic harp, while TURNIP is obliged to dance on the table-top. At one end of the table is a goose, laying golden eggs.

Turnip: So what's the secret of happiness, Big Jack?

Big Jack: Wor Shredded Wheat; wor tabs; wor beah. . .

Turnip: No, no - for sport]

Big Jack: Exactly like I said, man - and the fact that wor bosses take me as I am. Not as they would want me to be. You see, your English sporting administrator is more concerned with what he looks like in a fancy blazer; in how he sounds in after-dinner speeches; with all the bollix about which committees he's served on. The Irish just give the best men the jobs and let them get on with it. Ya'nar?

Turnip: Yes I 'nar' only too well.

Big Jack: Plus there's wor magic harp an' wor goose that lays golden eggs.

Turnip (laughing): You've had a drop too much if you ask me, Jack.

BIG JACK lowers his face angrily.

Big Jack: Why would I want to ask you about anything? You don't understand, do you? Sport is about magic too - about believing in the magic. So don't knock wor goose or wor harp, you mangy little Ken Dodd look-alike?

Turnip: Don't slag me] I'm a big man. I'm a contender.

TURNIP grabs the goose and the harp.

Turnip: And I'm off]

TURNIP jumps off the table and crashes to the floor atop the goose, cushioning his landing. He runs out through the door and across to the beanstalk, starting to climb down as BIG JACK lumbers after him. TURNIP slides down the beanstalk, with the goose and the harp tucked into his shirt. BIG JACK pauses at the top of the beanstalk.

Big Jack: Ah, sod it, man] They're not going to do any good with them anyway. Back to wor pint.

TURNIP continues to scrabble down the beanstalk. Then he slips, loses his grip and tumbles through the sky, past a Rupert Burdock satellite.

Turnip (yelling): It's san-marino-one-england-nil-unbelievable]

Curtain falls.

Curtain rises to reveal two pairs of legs sticking out of the ground, one pair belonging to a human, the other to a goose. Around the legs a funeral cortege has gathered. LORD EUBANK, PAUL GASCORN, VINNY BONES, TERRY VEGETABLES, ALAN SUGARBEET, DAMON HILL, RUPERT BURDOCK, and THE QUEEN, who's got a pot of money from BURDOCK. They sing the closing song.

All (singing):

Land of Dope and Gory, Mother of the Bung,

How come all our efforts land us in the Dung?

Wider still and wider, grows the gulf in class,

Opponents only have to turn up to kick us in the ass]

There's still some things we're good at, things where we excel

Hunting, shooting, fishing and yachting we do well,

But for a modern country with a great and glorious past,

There's only one place for us now and that is stone-cold last]

Triumphal music as the curtain falls apart.

The end