The Great Hall of Castle Anticant. Preparations are a-swing for the Nuptial Ball in honour of MRS MALAPROP and THE BEADLE. Footmen and housemaids are busily cleaning, scrubbing, polishing, and putting up festive decorations including entwined hearts. Amid all the mêlée DAME BARBARA sits at the high table, scribbling feverishly away at a brand-new wedding ode:
“All hail to Mrs Malaprop!
The Beadle’s made her a fair cop
And after weeks of constant wheedle
She’ll soon become his Madam Beadle.
So let us cease our teasing mockings,
Stop poking fun at woollen stockings
And see her burst forth in full glory –
Her wedding gown’s another story.
She’ll put all other brides to shame
And marry with enduring fame
In shimmering tulle and lots of feathers
Which [unlike Camilla’s] brave all weathers.
The Beadle, too, in smartest best
Will wear his brand-new hat and vest;
His Best Man will be wicked Zola –
Who’s speech could not be any droller.
He plans to make his listeners squeal
With laughter as he doth reveal
The Beadle’s fury at the tricks
They played on him with LB’s knicks
Merrily fluttering in the breeze
Atop the flagpole if you please…..”
Enter BEN TROVATO, who reads the above over Dame Barbara’ s shoulder.
BEN: Do you really think this doggerel is appropriate for such a tear-jerking occasion? I shall have to cut down on the pink gin supply.
DAME: You will do nothing of the sort! You are keeping me on short commons as it is.
Enter EL WOOK and LITTLE RED-FACED RIDING BOOTS.
LRRB: El Wook has saved the day! As he was obliged to dispense with the services of the original troupe of Lewd Maidens, because of their moral unsuitability for this type of seasonal entertainment, he has hastily rung round other theatrical agencies and has located an out-of-work chorus of young ladies who are guaranteed as being ever-so-slightly shopsoiled. They will be arriving by charabanc within the next half hour, so our rehearsals will be able to proceed.
DAME: These young women sound of dubious reputation! I doubt whether they would be suitable for inclusion in one of my immortal bosom-heavers; all my heroines are virgins.
EL WOOK: Never fear, Dame Barbara. These damsels are all guaranteed virginal by Sir Richard Branson himself. Steady as a Northern Rock, he says they are.
Enter HARRASSED HATTIE.
HH: Woe is me! All the perfumes of Gordon’s Grotto will not sweeten this little paw. A dirty 5K note it clutched, but from whom I never saw. I was sleepwalking at the time. Now diabolical Dave Abrahams has murdered sleep and an Inspector Yates threatens to call….
She wanders off, distractedly, clutching someone else’s umbrella.
DAME: Oh dear! That poor young woman seems to be in distress. Ben, dear, you’d better go after her and give her a restorative cognac in the Snug.
Enter SNOOPY SCRIBBLER.
SS: Dame Barbara! Allow me to treat you to another pink gin.
DAME: By all means. [Shouts] Ben! Another half-dozen pink gins, please, and charge them to this gentleman’s account. Now [to SS], what can I do for you?
SS: Naturally, we at the Burrow Bugle pride ourselves on our exclusive access to the stories behind the news. We would be honoured if you would become our accredited correspondent for a blow-by-blow and under-the-cushions account of the forthcoming wedding and other festive events at Castle Anticant. We would, needless to say, remunerate you copiously in both currency and liquid form.
DAME: Like all prudent investors these days, I am no longer willing to be paid in US dollars. Euros or Venezuelan oil shares only, please.
SS: No problem, dear lady. I shall go and arrange it at once. He exits.
Z: Dame Barbara, I have come to rehearse to you, dear Mistress of the Revels, my Best Man’s speech in the hope that you will approve its suitability.
DAME: Please do. I am all ears [except for my mouth and nose. More pink gin pronto, Ben].
So over to Best Man Zola…..
[And it had better be good!]