Rainbows End: A Crock of Gold? (One)

INT/EXT: BASEMENT FLAT OF 3, RAINBOWS END—NIGHT (MAGIC)

 

Everything is pitch black. Then, RON flicks the switch. The Basement Flat is an enormous moonlit space: a land of its own, like Narnia or Oz. Part flowery bower, part urban wasteland, the flat occupies a mid-point between Shakespeare’s green world and a travellers’ encampment: loosestrife, buddleia and cow parsley grow amid rubble and abandoned white goods. A battered armchair and sofa stand in front of an ancient TV set. On one side is an ormolu throne, on the other side is a builder’s skip.

RON changes into a battered velvet smoking jacket and monogrammed slippers, then pours himself a dry sherry. He settles down in his armchair to read his correspondence.

RON

(Reading and mumbling to himself.)

‘Dear Mr O’Brien, We are writing to inform you that you are in arrears…’ 

(Screws up the letter.)

‘Dear Mr O’Brien, our bailiff has visited and confirmed your address.’ 

(Screws up second letter.) 

‘Dear Ron O’Brien, With regard to hire-purchase agreement number…’

(Screws up third letter.)

Deer once roamed these woods. Salmon leapt the falls. 

RON screws up the letters, and stands up—a Lear-like figure of ruined majesty.

RON

Out there I am Ron O’Brien. Or just plain Ron. But here, here I am the Überron! Here, I am Oberon, Prince of Shadows, King of the Elves, Emperor of Fairyland… lord of all I survey…

RON looks around, appalled, then slumps down on the armchair. 

RON

(Mumbling to himself.)

Clap your hands if you believe in fairies. Huh.

(Shouting.)

Moth! Moth! Come when I call you! Moth!

RON softly croons, unaccompanied, a keening lament for his dying kingdom. 

RON

(Singing.)

The dark forests and moonlit glades,

Where spirits danced their fairy rounds,

Were cleared for new retail arcades—

Crocks o’ gold exchanged for paper pounds.

The flowery meads, where poppies drowsed,

The lonely sedge where curlews wept,

Were tarmacked over; mortals housed

In dells where once the fairies slept.

 

The dragons knights chased from the land

Were turned to fossils in the stone;

Jack’s giants fell after one last stand,

And we elves were left to fight alone.

RON breaks off. He shouts out impatient and irritable.

RON

Cobweb! Mustardseed! Where are you boys? Pleaseblossom! Come out this minute! Come at the dread command of your liege lord. Moth! 

MOTH pops his head up out of the builder’s skip. Corduroys, velvet waistcoat, a pheasant feather in his broad-brimmed hat.

RON

Ah, Moth. 

 

MOTH

Yes, sire.

 

RON

Fetch me my sceptre! Fetch me the Dream-Wand of Queen Mab. Mustardseed!

MOTH looks puzzled, not stirring. MUSTARDSEED appears next to Moth. Dungarees, curly black gipsy hair, knitted hat: all very Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

RON

Mustardseed! Fetch me the Golden Orb of the Lost Land of Lyonesse! Cobweb! Fetch me the Rainbow Robe of Merlin the Mad and bring me my fairy Cloak of Invisibility! 

COBWEB rises out of the skip, a dreadlocked crusty in a T-shirt and Doc Martins. PEASEBLOSSOM appears, smoking a spliff, dressed in a singlet and a homburg hat.

RON

Peaseblossom! Peaseblossom, fetch me my crown. The imperial crown of Elfland, I say! 

.

The FAIRIES dive back into the skip. Old clothes, old toys, and all kinds of household junk are thrown up into the air.

RON

(Muttering.)

Skylarks sang above the downs. Clap your hands. Clap if you believe… Clap...

The Fairies reappear, looking somewhat sheepish.

RON

(Imperious.)

Ah, Moth. Did you fetch me my sceptre?

Moth looks down and shuffles his feet uncomfortably.

RON

Have you Queen Mab’s Wand of Dreams?

 

MOTH

You—uh-hum—pawned it, sire.

 

RON

I pawned it? 

 

MOTH

You’d borrowed money. To bet on a horse. A dead cert. You said you had it straight from the horse’s own mouth. 

 

RON

Hmm. So I did. The horse was clearly delusional. Lots of issues. Low self-esteem. Difficult childhood—that kind of thing. Mickey the Tip introduced us. Cobweb, have you fetched me the Rainbow Robe of Merlin? 

 

MOTH

You sold it. 

 

RON

Sold it?

 

MOTH

On eBay. After the shocks went on the Cortina.

 

RON

My Cloak of Invisibility?

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

We…uh… we couldn’t find it.

 

RON

(Angrily.)

And why not, pray?

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

It’s invisible.

 

RON

Fair dos. And the Golden Orb of Lyonesse? 

 

MUSTARDSEED

You bet it. You had two pair—fives and sevens.

 

RON

Fives and sevens?

 

MUSTARDSEED

You’d had a drop in, to be fair.

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

We were all steaming. But you were trolleyed. 

 

RON

And my crown, Peaseblossom? What happened to my crown?

 

MOTH

I’d rather not say.

 

RON

Mustardseed? Cobweb?

The FAIRIES shuffle uncomfortably, picking at their fingers and coughing faintly.

PEASEBLOSSOM

‘Member that tart you picked up on Grays Inn Road?

 

RON

Ah, yes. Now I recall. A nymph with wild flashing eyes, a low voice of dulcet note, hair like ripe corn—

 

MOTH

Hush, sire. 

 

COBWEB

That’s right. And the enormous gazongas. 

 

MUSTARDSEED

Great big, they were.

 

MOTH

Hush. We vowed never to speak of this thing.

 

COBWEB

But she’d got these great big—

 

MOTH

Durst thou profane our sacred mysteries?

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

I’d certainly have had a go.

 

MUSTARDSEED

Fair play, I say.

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

(Whispered.)

Mind you, a fairy who’s gotta pay for it!

 

MUSTARDSEED

(Whispered.)

‘Tis a bit tacky. 

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

(Finally.)

Embarrassing. That’s what it is. 

 

MOTH

And what if word of this dalliance should reach the ear of your fairy queen?

 

COBWEB

(Whispered.)

Like she’s gonna care.

 

PEASEBLOSSON

(Whispered.)

She’s at it like there’s no tomorrow.

 

MUSTARDSEED

(Whispered.)

Bangin’ away hammer and tongs.

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

(Sniggering.)

Whips and chains.

 

COBWEB

Kinky stuff.

 

RON

(Majestic.)

Enough. 

(Weary, then broken.)

Enough. No more. Dappled deer once grazed these woods. Wolves howled at the moon. Butterflies danced in the meadows. And everywhere, everywhere our kind: goblins and hobgoblins, pucks and shape-shifting spirits. Fairyland stretched everywhere, covering land and sea and air, and reached deep beneath the earth into caves and grottoes, the secret mines of gnomes. And now, we’re stuck in this wretched basement and nobody even seems to notice we’ve gone!

RON returns to his folk ballad, now accompanied by the FOUR FAIRIES. After the second verse, the Fairies robe their king in homemade regalia: a shower-curtain for a cloak; a bong for a sceptre; a plastic croquet ball for an orb; a lampshade for a crown. 

RON

(Singing, accompanied by FOUR FAIRIES)

We once would work all through the night,

Hanging pearls in ev’ry cowslip’s ear,

But Newton’s prism now bends the light,

And all our magic’s disappeared.

 

Once we’d spin gold from worthless hay,

Hide treasures at the rainbows’ ends;

Now bankers get far more in pay

And lawyers drive Mercedes Benz.

 

We once would drive a lover mad, 

Awash on a surge of endorphins,

But now hormonal changes in the lad

Can be explained by Richard Dawkins.

 

My name is Oberon, the King,

Once lord of mighty Fairyland.

Now I weep and wail as I sing—

(He gestures to the FAIRIES.)

And wish I’d booked Mariah Carey’s band.

The FOUR FAIRIES break off playing in disarray.

MUSTARDSEED

There he goes! Richard Bleedin’ Dawkins again. And this time it’s with Mariah Carey.

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

(Thoughtful.)

Call me old-fashioned, but I’d still go for Celine every time head-to-head in a power-ballad face-off. 

(Celine Dion dubbed in.)

‘And you're here in my heart,

And my heart will go on and on.’

 

MUSTARDSEED

Dunno: I reckon poor old Whitney could more than hold her own.

(Whitney Houston dubbed in.)

‘I-I-I, I-I will always love yoo—oo—oo— oo—’

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

Ah, Whitney. A voice like warm molasses and the vocal control of a border collie with its tail trapped in the kitchen door. 

(A moment of nostalgic reverie.)

But what’s all this got to do with Richard Dawkins?

 

RON

Oh, my boy. My dear, dear boy—haven’t you got it yet? Have you really not twigged? If nobody believes in us, we won’t exist. We’ll die. All that Tinkerbell stuff? ‘Clap, if you believe in fairies’? Ring any bells?

FAIRY DANCERS appear, following Ron’s patter song with playful literalism.

RON

(Singing, accompanied the by the FOUR FAIRIES)

The clever scientists say they know exactly what goes on

With leptons, quarks and fields, and Doctor Higgs’ boson:

They study subatomic particles no-one else perceives—

But faith will fly, and fairies die, if no-one else believes.

Beneath the ocean’s rolling waves lurk giant squids and rays

And when the Loch Ness Monster’s found it surely will amaze

The sceptics and the scientists, showing they were wrong to scoff.

But when we elves insist that we exist they look away and cough!

Such doubt infects us sprites, like viral epidemics:

A sceptic’s scorn, a doubter’s yawn, the proofs of academics,

Leave wood and stream, trance and dream, without any kind of charm,

The kind of GM desert only Monsanto’d want to farm.

This land’s been mine since Arthur took his sword from out the lake:

Here, I danced with Shakespeare’s lovers, took tea with William Blake,

But now my magic’s all worn out and all my passion’s spent,

For I haven’t got a job and I cannot pay the rent.

COBWEB

That ain’t true. He’s got loads of money. I seen it.

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

Ain’t no use to him though, is it? That’s fairy gold, that is. 

 

MUSTARDSEED

Yeah. Take it out of here and it’ll vanish.

 

COBWEB

Vanish?

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

At twilight. 

 

MUSTARDSEED

Just melts away. 

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

Like a dream. 

 

MUSTARDSEED

Pssssh!

 

MOTH

I’m afraid they’re right. Not legal tender. No one will accept it outside. Not anymore.

The FAIRY DANCERS drag in huge coffers of gold. RON scoops up a handful of coins, before hurling them down in disgust.

RON

(Singing, accompanied by the FOUR FAIRIES.)

There was a time when fairy gold was good for all transactions:

Like Visa card, accepted ev’rywhere with smiling satisfaction.

But then the confidence began to fail in fairy stock:

The markets tumbled, falling faster than a Northern Rock;

Exchanging pounds for fairy gold, the rate became outrageous,

Then price inflation shot up as doubt became contagious.

These days our gold commands so little faith amongst forex traders,

Our credit’s gone up in smoke and the Fraud Squad want to raid us.

RON slumps down to watch Channel 4 Racing. The FOUR FAIRIES cluster around, cheering on Ron’s horse. It’s looking good. Ron’s luck’s finally going to change! And… he’s lost. Ron throws down his Racing Post, closing his eyes in despair.

MOTH

Oh, hard luck, sire! A brave effort.

 

MUSTARDSEED

Faded in the last furlong. 

 

MOTH

Never mind, sire.

(Proffering the TV remote.)

How about the 1:30 from Uttoxeter? We’re going with South Sea Bubble, I believe.

ROBIN enters. His rocker clothes have become more psychedelic: more Jimi Hendrix than hardcore headbanger.

ROBIN

Governor.

 

RON

Ah, Robin. Just the fellow.

ROBIN slides down on the sofa beside RON, lighting up a bong. After he’s taken a hit, Robin offers the bong to Ron.

RON

Not for me, dear boy. You know me: I only rarely partake these days. Just special occasions… and for medicinal use… 

(Takes the bong.)

Well, maybe a tiny bit for my lumbago—and as I’ve had a particularly trying morning, and there’s an r in the month… 

(Takes a hit.)

Now, about this assistant of yours, Nightingale—pretty little thing—a puck, is she? What on earth’s got into the child—moping about with a face like thunder?

 

MUSTARDSEED

I seen ‘er. Looks proper out of sorts, and that’s the God’s truth of it. 

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

I seen her too, hanging around with her mobile phone, looking like a wet weekend.

 

MUSTARDSEED

What’s the sense in a miserable puck? That’s what I wanna know.

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

‘Tain’t right.

 

MUSTARDSEED

‘Tain’t natural.

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

‘Tain’t supernatural.

 

MUSTARDSEED

‘Tain’t puckish. That’s for sure.

 

RON

Robin, you’re a puck too. Do you know what’s got into Nightingale?

 

ROBIN

Don’t rightly know, chief. But the word on the street is…

(Broad whisper.)

… she’s in love.

 

RON

In love?

 

ROBIN

In love.

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

What—a puck in love? Oh, that is priceless!

 

MUSTARDSEED

(Shaking his head.)

Never thought to see the day: a puck in love.

 

RON

And do we know who she’s in love with?

 

MOTH

Yes, pray tell. Do we know for whom the sweet lady weeps? 

 

PEASEBLOSSOM

Yeah, spill the beans, Robbo: who’s Nightingale got the hots for? Bet it’s me.

PEASEBLOSSOM struts and poses and tilts his homburg hat. A few bars of Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’.

MUSTARDSEED

Or me.

MUSTARDSEED camel-walks, boogaloos and does the splits. A few bars of James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’.

COBWEB

Or me.

COBWEB grins as the other FAIRIES look away or check their nails. Sound of wind. Tumbleweed blows across the stage.

RON

Do you know, Robin?

 

ROBIN

Beats me, chief. I’ve asked her plenty, but she ain’t telling. Shut up like a clam, she is.

 

RON

Ah, poor Nightingale. I feel for her: the hopes, the fears, the trembling anticipation of furtive meetings, the pangs and yearning of young love. 

© 2017 by duncanturner.org. Contact: duncan.turner5@btinternet.com

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