ARCHANGELS DONíT PLAY PINBALL

[ ďGli arcangeli non giocano al flipperĒ ]

 

A Farce in Three Acts

by Dario Fo

translated by Ed Emery

_________________________________________

For all queries regarding performance rights, please contact

Agenzia Tolnay : info [@] tolnayagency.it

For all queries regarding the text, please contact the translator at:

ed.emery [@]thefreeuniversity.net

Original text copyright © Dario Fo

Translation copyright © Ed Emery

_________________________________________

 

ARCHANGELS DONíT PLAY PINBALL

 

 

ACT ONE

 

Scene 1: A street in Milan

Scene 2: A cake shop

Scene 3: A street cafe

Scene 4: A house in the red light district

 

ACT TWO

 

Scene 1: A ministry in Rome

Scene 2: A municipal dog pound

Scene 3: At the conjurorís house

Scene 4: In a railway carrige

Scene 5: At the opening of a school

 

ACT THREE

 

Scene 1: A bedroom

Scene 2: The street cafe again

Scene 3: A house in the red light district

 

 

 

 

 

CHARACTERS:

 

Lofty (Sunny Weather)

First Friend / Clerk / Dog-Catcher / Carabiniere / Bystander at Opening Ceremony

Second Friend / Clerk / Director of the Dog Pound / Mayor

Third FriendWaiter / Policeman / Conjuror / Master of Ceremonies

Man in Pastry Shop / Orthodox Priest / Man Waiting at Window / Police Inspector / Minister

Fourth Friend / Clerk / Kennel Keeper at the Dog Pound / Station Master / Bystander at Opening Ceremony

Fifth Friend / Doctor / Clerk / Train Guard

Sixth Friend / Clerk / Carabiniere at the Opening Cereony

Blondie (Angela)

First Girl Friend / Lady at the Window / Lady at the Opening Ceremony

Second Girl Friend / Second Lady at the Window / Lady at the Opening Ceremony

Third Girl Friend / Lady at the Opening Ceremony

 

There are 12 actors in all, four of them women. With the exception of Lofty and Blondie, each actor plays several parts, as listed above.

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE

SCENE ONE

 

Scene: A Street in Milan

 

The curtain opens on a completely bare stage, with a plain backdrop. Enter seven YOUNG MEN, dressed identically in white shirts, black trousers and braces. They march in step, to the front of the stage, and begin to sing.

 

CHORUS:

 

The night is like a giant umbrella full of holes.

Someoneís shot it full of drops of lime.

Like a giant pinball game constructed for King-Kong,

The moon is like a flashing ĎReplayí sign.

And my cityís like a giant pinball too.

The girls are flipper buttons there to press.

Easy does it, or theyíll go into a tilt.

Steady there Ďcos this game needs finesse.

 

Watch out for the tilt!

Watch out for the tilt!

A red light isnít my way,

gimme a flashing green light ĎReplayí.Watch out for the tilt!

Watchout for the tilt!

Itís the basic rule of every game,

but few can keep it in the brain.

Watch out for the tilt!

Watch out for the tilt

 

Weíre the toughest,

weíre the quickest,

weíre the greatest,

weíre the gang.

We scare the rich by nicking their dogs and cats.

And when weíve terrorised them, so they start to moan and whine

We blackmail cash from these aristocrats.

At night youíll find us prowling in the shadows in car parks.

 

Stealing radios from the cars.

Easy does it, or theyíll go into a tilt.

A shaky hand wonít get us very far.

 

Watch out for the tilt!

Watch out for the tilt!

Always block before you shoot Ė

one false move youíll lose the loot.

Donít set off the tilt!

Donít set off the tilt!

If you want to steal, donít be a fool Ė

take my advice and play it cool.

Donít set off the tilt!

Donít set off the tilt!

 

During this song, the seven YOUNG MEN are standing front-stage, in front of a traverse curtain running across the stage. At the end of the song, one of the YOUNG MEN (the tall one) suddenly topples over, quite rigid. Two of the YOUNG MEN pick him up by the shoulders; two others take him by the feet. The other two exit stage right.

 

LOFTY: Hopla!

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: God, youíre heavy!

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Hey, donít overdo it with the corpse bit! Youíre only supposed to look ill, you know.

 

LOFTY: How am I supposed to look, then?

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Sort of stiff.

 

LOFTY: Stiff like this?

 

He arches his back

.

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Whatís happened? Have you had a stroke? Get that belly down!

 

He tries to flatten his belly with a rabbit punch.

 

LOFTY: [Straightening his body with a jerk] Ouch! Donít do that! [He ends up on the ground] Hey, no, thatís enough! Iím not playing any more. You can be the impending corpse, if you like. I already told you, I never fancied the part in the first place...

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Ah, so you didnít fancy it? Do you hear that? He never fancied it... And here we are, risking prison. Thereís gratitude for you!

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: What, you donít mean you were actually expecting thanks from monkey-face here, do you? You must be stupid!

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Weíre all stupid! There we go, we get him a wife: a ice bit of stuff, with pots of money, guaranteed a virgin...

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: [As if reading the banns for a forthcoming marriage] With her own house and a Very Proper Person... And now, when we try to organise him a decent wedding dowry into the bargain, he has the nerve to say that he doesnít fancy playing the prospective corpse! How ungrateful can you get!

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Donít you think youíre pretty damn disgusting?!

 

LOFTY: [Tearfully] Yes, yes, I do... You know, I think I mus be a terrible person... really! Youíre all so good to me... Youíre always helping me, and I... If you just dumped me here, all alone, it would serve me right. Youíd be quite right to spit in my eye... Schplock! [He turns to one of the YOUNG MEN and spits in his eye]

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: [Leaping backwards] Hey, go easy on the self-mortification... Iím already shot-sighted as it is... !

 

He wipes his eye.

 

The traverse curtain is drawn aside to reveal the inside of a pastry shop.

 

ACT ONE

SCENE TWO

 

Scene: A Cake Shop

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Now, I hope youíre not going to start whingeing again! Come on, get a move on. Up on my back.

 

LOFTY: Alright, alright, Iím coming.

 

He goes round behind the YOUNG MAN and flings both arms around his neck.

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: I thought I told you to get up on my back.

 

LOFTY: Well I am on your back. Itís not my fault if youíve got little legs...

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Will you knock it off, stupid!

 

LOFTY: Oh alright then, Iíll knock it off.

 

He starts hitting his friendís head. The SECOND YOUNG MAN humps LOFTY up onto his back, and two others take his feet. They go in through the shop door. The PASTRY-COOK owner of the shop comes out to serve them. He is alarmed by what he sees.

 

PASTRY-COOK: Whatís the matter with him?

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Would you mind clearing a bit of space on your counter, please.

 

PASTRY-COOK: Was it an accident? Has he been run over?

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: I wish it was an accident... ! The odd broken leg, a quick slap-dash with the plaster, and heíd be right as rain. But hunfortunately...

 

PASTRY-COOK: Hunfortunately what... ?

 

They lay LOFTY out on the counter. He groans.

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Unfortunately, unfortunately! Canít you see... heís dying?

 

LOFTY gives what sounds like a dying croak.

 

PASTRY-COOK: And you have to bring him into my shop to die in the middle of my cakes and pastries!

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: You donít expect us to eave him to die out in the street, do you?! Have you no conscience?!

 

PASTRY-COOK: Alright, then, youíd better call a doctor!

 

LOFTY groans.

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Good idea. Whereís the phone?

 

PASTRY-COOK: [Passing the phone] Here you are... Wait, Iíll get the phone book... Maybe weíd best call the hospital straight of and ask them to send an ambulance...

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Give it here. If Iím not mistaken, the numberís on page 1...

 

PASTRY-COOK: Alright, then, youíd better call a doctor!**

 

PASTRY-COOK: [Pointing to LOFTY] But whatís the matter with him?

 

LOFTY groans.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Must be a stroke.

 

Enter one of the YOUNG MEN, clearing the way for another, who is carrying a doctorís bag.

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Here he is, Doctor. Over here... Out of the way, lads. Good thing I thought of going to get a doctor. Clear a space!

 

DOCTOR: Pass me a chair, please.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: [Each of the YOUNG MEN turns his head and passes the order down the line] Chair!

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Chair!

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Chair!

 

FIFTH YOUNG MAN: Chair!

 

PASTRY-COOK: Chair!

 

In a frenzy of activity, they pass six chairs from one person to another, with the result that, by the time theyíve finished, all the chairs are back where they started, and still nobody is sitting.

 

DOCTOR: [To LOFTY] How do you feel?

 

LOFTY: [Questioning the DOCTOR in turn] How do I feel?

 

DOCTOR: How should I know?! [Whispering] Itís you whoís supposed to tell me!

 

LOFTY: Iím supposed to say how I feel? But you told me only to say: Ouch, Ouch, Ouch...

 

DOCTOR: [Delivering a swift rap of the knuckles to the forehead] Shut up!

 

LOFTY: Shut up. Ouch, Ouch, Ouch.

 

PASTRY-COOK: [The PASTRY-COOK advances from behind his counter, pushing past LOFTYís friends] Whatís the matter with him, Doctor?

 

DOCTOR: [Feeling LOFTYís pulse] It amazes me that this manís still alive! I canít even feel his pulse. [He makes LOFTY sit down] May I?

 

LOFTY: Yes, yes, go ahead.

 

DOCTOR: [Putting his ear to LOFTYís back] Breathe in. [LOFTY breathes in deeply] Deeper! [LOFTY does as he is told] Cough. [LOFTY coughs] Harder! [When the fake DOCTOR puts his ear to LOFTYís back, the FIRST YOUNG MAN puts his ear to the DOCTORís back, and so on down the line, with each of the YOUNG MEN listening to the next oneís back, and ending up with the PASTRY-COOK last in line. Each cough makes the listeners jump, with the jump getting larger as it goes down the line, as if the sound signal is being amplified as it goes from one to the other] Show me your tongue. [LOFTY does as he says. The DOCTOR pulls back one of his eyelids] Oh dear! [He shakes his head] Show me your stomach. [He feels LOFTYís stomach. LOFTY wriggles and squeals, because he is ticklish] That just confirms what I thought. This man is suffering from third-degree poisoning.

 

PASTRY-COOK: Poisoning? I donít think so, lads! Unlucky in love, more like.

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: What do you mean, unlucky in love! He was supposed t be getting married tomorrow morning.

 

PASTRY-COOK: Precisely, thatís what I mean!

 

LOFTY: [LOFTY is listening to his own heart through a stethoscope hich he has taken from the DOCTORís bag] Itís going meep, meep! [Pointing to the stethoscope] The line seems to be engaged. Weíll have to wait a while. Madam, would you please get a move on . . . .

 

DOCTOR: [Snatching the stethoscope] He must have eaten something a bit... dodgy. Do you have any idea what it might have been?

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Well, weíve all been out for a meal together... But he didnít touch a thing. He was a bag of nerves. After all, this is his last night of freedom!

 

DOCTOR: [Searchingly] Are you sure that he didnít eat a thing?

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: [With calculated vagueness] Nothing... No, really, nothing. All he ate wa five or six cream puffs he must have bought somewhere or other...

 

PASTRY-COOK: [As if the truth has suddenly dawned] What do you mean, somewhere or other? Come to think of it, I thought I recognised that face. He bought his cream puffs here!.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: [Sardonic and menacing] Ah, so he bought them here, did he? Splendid!

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Oh yes... wonderful! [They all crowd round the PASTRY-COOK, menacingly] So you are the murderer!

 

PASTRY-COOK: [Backing off behind his counter] Hey, I say, donít mess around, lads! You donít really think that it was my cream puffs... Theyíre fresh baked every day... Ten years Iíve been in this game, and Iíve never had anything like... And anyway... since youíve eaten them too, that just goes to show... !

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: It goes to show nothing of the sort, because none of us actually ate any. Luckily, we didnít have time... !

 

CHORUS: We had a narrow escape!

 

DOCTOR: [Authoritarian] Would you mind leaving your arguments till later. Weíre going to have to call an ambulance straight away. Weíll leave the police to deal with this gentleman.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Hereís the number. [He dials it, and then brazenly puts his finger down on the phone rest] Hello...

 

PASTRY-COOK [Pleading] Look, Doctor, there must be some mistake here; it canít have been my pastries...

 

DOCTOR: [Curt and dismissive] Thatís as may be. Anyway, thatís something which can only be decided by the police forensic department.

 

LOFTY: [Falsetto] Oooooh! Ooooouch!

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: [Still holding the phone] Damn! Nobodyís answering! Itís always the same when you need them! Never bloody get hold of them! What a bunch of... !

 

One of the YOUNG MEN hits LOFTY, to make him groan.

 

LOFTY: Ouch, Ouch, Ouch!

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: [In heart-rending tones] Doctor, canít you do something? I donít know, an injection, or something... I canít bear to listen to him!

 

LOFTY: Ouch, Ouch, Oooooh! [To his friend] You see, I can do it all by myself! Ouch, Ouch, Oooooh!

 

DOCTOR: [In a professional tone] Iím afraid that not even a stomach-pump will cure him.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: [Sounding like an avid supporter of euthanasia] Well, if there really is nothing more to be done... maybe weíd better get it over and done with. Letís give him some more of these cream puffs [He picks up a tray of pastries], or maybe this cornetto... that way, heíll die quicker.

 

DOCTOR: This is no laughing matter. Put that filthy stuff away!

 

They throw the cream horn from one to another, as if itís a ball.

 

PASTRY-COOK: [His honour is offended] I say, Doctor, no... Go easy! Filthy stuff, indeed! Thatís going a bit far! Youíll see... when the public health department has examined my goods...

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: [Aggresive, stopping him in his tracks] ...Theyíll shut your shop for good, theyíll withdraw your licence, and, more than likely, theyíll put you away for life, my dear Dracula!

 

PASTRY-COOK: [In a tight corner, but still fighting] Go easy with the insults! And beware of making insinuations, because...

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: [Not giving an inch] Because? Because what? Ha! Insinuations he calls them! Everybody knows that your little sweety-puffs are made of... synthetic powders.

 

PASTRY-COOK: [Backed onto the defensive] Well, so what? And who doesnít use them nowadays? Even the big firms use them.

 

DOCTOR: [Like a referee stopping a boxing match because one of the contenders is hopelessly outclassed] Anyway, powders or not, your shop will be closed pending the outcome of the... inquest... which is going to take... a good, long while... Anyway, weíd better call the police straight away.

 

LOFTY: [Free-associating, as if hallucinating] Yes, yes, the police! [He picks up the phone] Hello. Police... Calling all cars...

He makes a noise imitating a police siren.

 

DOCTOR: [Snatching the phone] Thatís what we should have done straight away...

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Police? [He thumbs through the phone directory at incredible speed] Ah yes, here we are. Police.

 

He goes over to dial the number.

 

LOFTY: [As above] Yes, yes, the police... and my mummy...

 

PASTRY-COOK: [In desperation] No, please, stop! You canít... If they shut down my shop for all that time, Iíll be ruined. Please, show a little understanding! I swear, it wasnít my fault. Donít drive me to ruin.

 

LOFTY: [Whining pitifully] Yes, yes, drive him to ruin! Ouch! Ooooh! I want my mummy!

 

DOCTOR: [Humane and understanding] But look... Even if we take him to hospital, the minute the doctors diagnose food poisoning, theyíre bound to put in a police report themselves...

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: [Wickedly] And after that, you wonít even get a permit to sell peanuts!

 

PASTRY-COOK: [Tearful, destroyed] God, what a disaster! What am I supposed to do now? [The FOURTH YOUNG MAN takes his hand, and tries to console him] Iíve put everything I had into this shop, and just as business was starting to pick up...

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Ah, at last! Iíve got the Casualty Ward, Doctor. Do you want to talk with them?

 

He hands him the phone.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Just a minute, listen. [He pulls out a handkerchief, and as he talks, he mops the sweat from the poor PASTRY-COOKís brow. He dries his tears, and even blows his nose. Then, he applies this much-used handkerchief to mopping the PASTRY-COOKís face] I have no way of knowing whether this gentleman is an honest person or not. But just supposing that he is, we canít allow him to be kicked out in the street just by a stroke of bad luck. After all, itís not him who makes the artificial powders Ė itís the big companies! And, as usual, theyíre the oes who get off scot-free. Itís the same old story Ė big fish and little fish.

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Letís not start on politics now. Get to the point. What are you saying? Youíre surely not suggesting that we take our friend and dump him in a ditch, just to save this fellow... ?

 

LOFTY: Oh, no, not in a ditch... I want my mummy...

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Behave yourself, you, otherwise Iíll give you another cream puff.

 

PASTRY-COOK: [Snatching the phone from the fake DOCTORís hand] Oh, please, canít you do something to help?! After all, sometimes, all it takes is a little good will...

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: [He picks up the phone, distractedly, and puts it to his ear] Listen, Doctor, wouldnít it be possible to go to one of those private clinics? Who knows... maybe... with a little application of cash... maybe theyíd keep quiet... ?

 

DOCTOR: [While taking the phone and pretending to be speaking with somebody at the other end of the line] Yes, thatís a good idea! But do you know how much it would take to hush up a case like this? Youíre talking aout a hundred thousand lire before theyíll even look at you!

 

PASTRY-COOK: [Taking the phone in turn] Well, I could certainly put in something. Letís see how much cash Iíve got in the till...

 

He puts the phone down and goes to look in his till.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: [Winking broadly] No, no, lads, I donít like this business. Compassionate considerations are all very well, but we can hardly be expected to run the risk of winding up in prison, just for his sake. And anyway, supposing this young man dies Ė someoneís going to have him on their conscience!

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: [Turning to LOFTY] Oi, stupid, groan!

 

LOFTY: Yes, yes, Iím groaning... Oooouch, Oooooh... Oooouch, Oooooh...

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Canít you see that heís dying?

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Come on, come on, donít be so stingy! Have you no pity on the poor lad... ? [So saying, he grabs the wad of money that the PASTRY-COOK is holding] Give it here. How much is there?

 

He starts counting.

 

PASTRY-COOK: About a hundred thousand. But if you prefer, I could do you a cheque.

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: No cheques, no... The clinic where weíre taking him doesnít accept cheques.

 

DOCTOR: [Catching the wad of money] This will do for the moment. Then weíll see...

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Shall I call a taxi?

 

DOCTOR: No, thereís no need. Iíve got my car parked round the corner. Letís go.

 

LOFTY: [Getting up, and making as if to get down from the counter] Letís go, lads.

 

He receives a wallop, which flattens him again.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Behave yourself, idiot! [Turning to the others] Give me a hand.

 

LOFTY remains rigid. They hoist him onto their shoulders.

 

PASTRY-COOK: [Going to the door with them] I really donít know how to thank you, lads... Letís hope that everything turns out for the best...

 

DOCTOR: Donít worry. The director of the clinic is a very good friend of mine. Actually, maybe youíd better give me a few more of those cream puffs, so that he can analyse them. Once heís discovered the cause, it will be easierto prescribe the cure.

 

PASTRY-COOK: Please, please, take them all. Iíd have had to dump them anyway...

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Weíll see to that. [They grab handfuls of cream puffs and assorted pastries] Letís take these too. You never know.

 

One of the YOUNG MEN grabs a few cakes.

 

PASTRY-COOK: Why the cakes? Where do the cakes come into it?

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Oh they do, they do! Cakes always have a lot to do with it!

 

They load all the pastries onto LOFTYís stomach, thereby turning him into a stetcher.

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: You have no idea how much stuff these experts need to make an analysis. See you next time!

 

PASTRY-COOK: Letís hope not! [He slumps onto a chair] God, what an afternoon! [Distractedly, he picks up a cream puff and takes a bite] I got off lucky there! Iíll never use artificial powders again as long as Ilive! Mind you, to taste them youíd never think that they were poisonous. Poisonous?! [He suddenly realises that he has swallowed half a cream puff] Oh, God, what have I done?! Oh, God, Iím dying. Doctor wait for me... [He sticks his head out of the shop] Hey, you, wait for me! Iím coming too. [Exit, running] Oh, God, what have I done!

 

The traverse curtain is pulled across again, to conceal the shop. The YOUNG MEN enter, front-stage. They are obviously pleased with themselves, laughing and slapping each other on the back.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Ha, ha! It went like a dream! Iíve never seen such a donkey in all my life!

 

DOCTOR: I must say, you were all very good. Even I would have fallen for it.

 

LOFTY: Was I very good too?

 

PASTRY-COOK: Hey! Stop! Wait for me... !

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Letís go, boys Ė Cream Puffís had second thoughts!

 

They give LOFTY another wallop, to knock him flat. They load him up again, and off they go. Enter the PASTRY-COOK

.

PASTRY-COOK: Theyíve gone! Where are you... ? Wait for me, I donít want to die!

 

He runs off after them, but takes the wrong exit.

 

LOFTY: [Peering round the wings] Hey, Cookie, weíve gone this way.

 

He vanishes, and the PASTRY-COOK runs back after him. Re-enter the YOUNG MEN.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Talk about a run for your money!

 

LOFTY: Shame itís over. I enjoyed that!

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Weíve shaken him off this time.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Yes, but donít letís hang about here. Letís go to the bar. We can relax there.

 

 

ACT ONE

SCENE THREE

 

Scene: A Street Cafe

 

The YOUNG MEN stroll across the stage. Meanwhile, stage-left, a small table is brought on, with a number of chairs. A GENTLEMAN sits down on one of the chairs, slightly in the shade. As the group gets close to him, a spotlight picks out the GENTLEMANís face. He looks for all the world like the PASTRY-COOK.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: There he is again!

 

LOFTY: Letís go, lads!

 

He lets himself go rigid again, and topples over. This time there is nobody to catch him, so he crashes to the ground, and lies there, motionless. The others all bump into each other in the general confusion. Some of them trip and fall.

 

GENTLEMAN: Easy, boys! Whatís the matter with you? Antonio, Berto... Why all the hurry?

 

DOCTOR: [Suddenly stopping] Michele, is that you? Good God, in that light I would have sworn that you were the pastry-cook. In fact, if it wasnít for his apron, youíd be a dead ringer...

 

GENTLEMAN: What pastry-cook?

 

The YOUNG MEN re-enter, one by one.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Hello, Michele. You gave us quite a fright, there!

 

THIRD AND FOURTH YOUNG MEN: Whoís he, then?

 

DOCTOR: Iím sorry: allow me to introduce my friends. Pietro, Marco, Luciano... [as the FOURTH YOUNG MAN arrives] and Giulio.

 

ALL THE YOUNG MEN: [Shaking hands] Delighted... Pleased to meet you...

 

GENTLEMAN: [Noticing the trays of pastries] Are you going to a party?

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Weíre coming from a party, more like...

 

DOCTOR: We have just succeeded in diddling pastry-cook, who is the spitting image of you.

 

As they are talking, two of the YOUNG MEN go up to LOFTY, who has not moved from the moment he fell over.

 

GENTLEMAN: Ah, now I see why all the hurry...

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: [Prodding LOFTY with his foot] Hey, Lofty, wake up, dangerís over!

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Donít worry. Jokeís over now. Heís not the pastry-cook. [He pats his face] Oh good God! He must have knocked himself out... Antonio, come over here... Youíre good at being a doctor! Take a look...

 

The DOCTOR comes over, feels his pulse, and listens to his heart.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: [Aside] Youíd almost take him for the real thing.

 

DOCTOR: Itís nothing. Splash a little water in his face, and heíll be OK... Waiter! A jug of water, please.

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: No point in waiting for that waiter to shift himself! Iíll go.

 

He exits.

 

GENTLEMAN: Letís hope heís not concussed.

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Donít worry. If a personís going to get concussion, it means heís got to have a brain in the first place. I bet his skullís as solid as a billiard ball.

 

DOCTOR: We only take him along because heís good for a few laughs. We play the daftest tricks on him, and he always falls for them...

 

He goes to sit down on the only available chair. They whip it out from under him, and he thuds to the floor.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Once, we actually persuaded him that he had turned invisible.

 

One after another, the YOUNG MEN whip the chair out from beneath each other Ė and rhythmically, as if in a ballet Ė they crash to the floor with a loud thud. The last in line, thinking that he has the chair all to himself, goes to sit down. However, the nearest YOUNG MAN kicks it out of the way. Final mighty thud. All this action takes place as the FOURTH YOUNG MAN continues uninterrupted with his story.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: He fell for it too! He went up behind this girl who was walking down the street, and started feeling her up. The best part about it was that she went along with it, but her boyfriend, who was walking next to her, didnít quite see things the same way! Oh, our poor invisible man! He ended up with two big black eyes, and the poor devil couldnít see for two days!

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: But the best joke is the one that weíre working on at he moment. Weíre getting him married off to a lady of easy virtue.

 

GENTLEMAN: To a what?

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: To a tart... A pro-sti-tute.

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Well, actually, sheís not a real prostitute, in the sense that she doesnít really earn her living at it, like the others... Sheís more what youíd call a part-timer.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Yes, more like door-to-door service. Home help sort of touch. [Imitating a womanís voice] Can I do you now, sir?

 

GENTLEMAN: But youíre not really marrying him off for real, are yu?

 

DOCTOR: Donít be silly! If we did, where would the fun be? Hang on, and Iíll tell you how itís gone so far. [Turning to the YOUNG MAN who has arrived with a jug of water] Donít wake him up yet. I want to tell the story... And then weíll ask him to give us a hand too... [Pointing to the GENTLEMAN] So, for a start, we filled his head with all sorts of ideas... telling him that it was time he got himself a wife, that he couldnít go on living like a tramp for the rest of his life, that he had to do this, that and the other. Then we got him to put a small-ad in the local paper...

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Hang on, I bet heís still got it in his pocket... [The FIRST YOUNG MAN hunts through LOFTYís jacket until he finds a newspaper cutting] Here it is; read it out!

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: [Reading] ĎYoung man, unemployed, no property, average looks, slight physical defect...í

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: We persuaded him that itís always best to tell the truth.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: [As above] Ď...seeks to marry young lady, rich, extremely beautiful, preferably blonde, must be a virgin, home-owner, and no physical defects.í

 

GENTLEMAN: Donít tell me he actually went and handed it in at the office! Can you imagine their faces!

 

DOCTOR: But you should have seen his face when he got a letter in reply. Needless to say, weíd sent it ourselves, making out that it was from a rich and very beautiful Albanian woman!

 

GENTLEMAN: Albanian? Why Albanian?

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Because Albanians are orthodox Christians, and weíve managed to persuade him that, in the orthodox religion, the groom is not allowed to see the brideís face until after the wedding.

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: I tell you, this wedding is going to be hysterical! Weíve found the bride. And, thanks to the pastry-cook, weíve also got the money to pay her and her girlfriends...

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: [Pointing to their loot] Not to mention a wedding cake and pastries galore.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: And weíve even got the priestís coat [From under his jacket, he pulls out a long black tunic] Coptic, into the bargain. Now all we need is a priest...

 

DOCTOR: And I say that weíve found the very man... Here he is!

 

He points to his friend.

 

GENTLEMAN: Me? Are you crazy?! I could never go through with it. Once I start laughing, thereís no stopping me!

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: You can do what you like, it wonít matter. Heís never going to notice.

 

SECOND YOUNG MAN: Ssssh, heís coming to.

 

LOFTY: [He starts moving his arms, and gingerly feeling the back of his head] Ooooh! Ooooouch! What hit me?!

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Quick, Father, get into your clothes!

 

From under his jacket he pulls an Orthodox priestís hat, and jams it on the GENTLEMANís head.Another YOUNG MAN slips the black tunic around him. They hoist him up onto a tabl. Then they set a chair on the table and set him down, as if on a throne.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: [Patting LOFTYís face] Come on, wake up. Nothing to worry about. Youíve just had a little nap!

 

LOFTY: Eh, whoís that... ? Oh, itís you. [Then he sees the GENTLEMAN] The pastry-cook! Letís go!

 

He makes as if to run off.

 

DOCTOR: [Sitting him down again] No, calm down. Itís not the pastry-cook. I know it looks like him, but itís not.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: This is a Coptic priest. Weíve arranged him specially for your wedding.

 

LOFTY: A Copt especially for me? [He gets up, all stiff and aching, and goes over to the fake PRIEST] Pleased to meet you.

 

The THIRD YOUNG MAN signals to him to go down on his knees.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: Kiss his hand, ignoramus!

 

LOFTY: [Kneeling down] Yes, yes, thank you.

 

He kisses the PRIESTís hand.

 

GENTLEMAN: Most welcome, most welcome. Get up, my son.

 

He turns his face the other way, so as not to let LOFTY see that heís laughing.

 

FIRST YOUNG MAN: You heard what he said. Get up, and pick him up in your arms.

 

LOFTY: In my arms? Why in my arms?

 

DOCTOR: Because thatís the way that the Orthodox do things. In our country, the groom carries the bride over the threshold. But in Albania the groom carries the brideís priest. Go on, get a move on! In fact, get him up on your back, because itíll be easier.

 

LOFTY: The brideís priest? On my back? And where am I supposed to take him?

 

He humps the PRIEST up onto his shoulders

.

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Obviously, to the brideís house, idiot! Come on, weíll show you the way.

 

In the intervening period, a red table cloth has been spread over the table. The table is then lifted up and held over the PRIESTís head as a canopy.

 

LOFTY: Oh, good, good, so at last Iím going to see her.

 

FOURTH YOUNG MAN: Now, letís go! Sing!

 

They move off in procession, singing.

 

The night is a like a giant umbrella full of holes.

Someoneís shot it full of drops of lime...

 

Blackout.

 

As they exit, the traverse curtain opens again.

 

ACT ONE

SCENE FOUR

 

Scene: A house in the red light district

 

We are in the YOUNG LADIESí house. It is decked with coloured paper festoons. The fake PRIEST is binding LOFTYís wrists to the wrists of his bride. The BRIDE is all dressed in white, and wears a veil which hides her face. LOFTY is blindfolded. All the YOUNG MEN, together with three of the YOUNG LADIES, hold decorated candles in their hands, and sing in chorus:

 

Chorus:

 

Clasp my wrists tightly in your hands

And even with my eyes closed, into your eyes I see.

 

Clasp my wrists closely to your hands,

And even with my eyes closed, your heart has no mystery.

 

Please take my love Ė please take my love

Please take my love Ė please take my love

I give it freely just for one smile

Please take my love Ė please take my love

Please take my love Ė please take my love

I give it freely just to hold you a while.

 

PRIEST: [Stepping between the two of them] Now you repeat to yourselves, after me: Whatever you look like, whatever your virtues, whatever your faults, I promise to keep you always with me, until death us do part.

 

CHORUS: Until death us do part!

 

PRIEST: Always with me, since it is fate that has given you to me.

 

CHORUS: Until death us do part!

 

PRIEST: From now on, my shadow will be yours, I shall see light only through your eyes, I shall speak words only through your lips.

 

CHORUS: Until death us do part!

 

PRIEST: My blood will pass through your heart, and yours through mine, because we shall be one single being, until death us do part!

 

CHORUS: Until death us do part!

 

PRIEST: I now pronounce you man and wife... You may now look at each other.

 

Two of the YOUNG MEN busy theselves taking the blindfolds off the couple and untying them. First LOFTY has his blindfold removed, and then his BRIDE. She is a tall blonde with an open, honest face. Everybody applauds. Then there is silence. The BRIDE smiles, and the GROOM stands stockstill, as if struck with amazement.

 

LOFTY: Oh, I say... !

 

DOCTOR: Is that all you can say? What do you think of her?

 

LOFTY: Oh, I say!

 

BRIDE: Pleased to meet you!

 

LOFTY: Pleased to meet you! Oh, I say... !

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: You could at least say something! She is your wife, after all!

 

LOFTY: Is she really my wife?

 

CHORUS: Of course she is, youíve just married her.

 

LOFTY: Oh, I say! Pleased to meet you.

 

BLONDIE: [Simply] Pleased to meet you.

 

PRIEST: And you, Miss... Iím sorry, Madam... I almost forgot, I just married you... As I was saying, what do you think of your husband?

 

BLONDIE: Well, heís lovely and tall... Oh, I say, how tall he is!

 

LOFTY AND BLONDIE: [In chorus] Oh, I say! Pleased to meet you!

 

DOCTOR: Well, now weíve got you spliced good and proper, long live the bride and groom!

 

ALL: [In chorus] Long live the bride and groom!

 

THIRD YOUNG MAN: Come on, come on. Youíre the groom. Make yourself useful. Pour us a drink!

 

LOFTY: [Picking up a bottle, while the girls go round with trays of glasses of various sizes] Listen, Giulio, this wonít turn out to be a trick, will it... ?

 

GIULIO: A trick? What do you mean, a trick? You donít think weíre the kind of people who play practical jokes?

 

LOFTY: No, but you donít suppose sheís going to have second thoughts, do you?

 

GIULIO: Donít worry, she wonít have second thoughts... Sheís never thought a thought in her life, so how can she have second thoughts?

 

LOFTY: Never had a thought? But she is beautiful! Oh, I say... Hey... [All the YOUNG MEN crowd round to kiss the bride and her girl friends] Me too! Me too! Iíve got to kiss the bride too! She is my bride, after all... [For all that he tries, LOFTY doesnít manage to kiss her. The YOUNG MEN pass her from one to the other, as if in a game of Piggy-in-the-Middle. They laugh uproariously. The GIRLS also play along with the game, and let themselves be cuddled by the YOUNG MEN. In a whirl of shouting, laughter and movement, gradually everybody disappears off-stage, via various exits. In the confusion, LOFTY is left holding the Orthodox PRIEST in his arms] Sheís my bride... !

 

PRIEST: What are you doing? Iím the priest.

 

LOFTY: The priest? Oh! [He takes his hand and kisses it] Iím sorry, but actually I was hoping to kiss the bride. Whereís my bride, soís I can kiss her?

 

PRIEST: She must be in one of the bedrooms, with one of your friends.

 

LOFTY: Ah, well, if sheís... [He realises what the PRIEST has said, and is thunderstruck] In one of the bedrooms?! What do you mean?! In bed?

 

PRIEST: Yes, thatís the custom. Your custom over here is that you kiss the bride. But in our Orthodox religion, one goes to bed with the bride. Thatís our custom...

 

From stage-right, we hear loud shouting.

 

BLONDIE: You pig! Take that off, take it off at once!

 

VOICES: Whatís got into you... ? Hey... Get your hands off!

 

BLONDIE: Look, thatís not your stuff, so youíve no right to wreck it!

 

DOCTOR: [Entering, wearing BLONDIEís wedding dress, pursued by BLONDIE in her petticoat] Alright, Iíll take it off! For chrissake, what a spoilsport!

 

BLONDIE: And go easy, because youíll tear it.

 

Enter another of the YOUG MEN, wearing one of the YOUNG LADIESí dresses; then another, and another, all dressed in womenís clothing.

 

FIRST TRANSVESTITE: [As the other Ďgirlsí giggle stupidly] Calm down, girls, calm down. This is a serious matter. Come on, whatís all this racket?

 

SECOND TRANSVESTITE: [Turning to LOFTY] Oh, what a big boy! And how good looking What a shame youíre already married, otherwise... just think of the fun we could have had!

 

THIRD TRANSVESTITE: [Pointing to the friend with whom he is arm-in-arm] Excuse me, Mr Priest, we want to get married.

 

FOURTH TRANSVESTITE: Oh, yes, Iíve decided to make an honest woman of her... Up till now, you know, weíve been living in sin... !

 

BLONDIE: And now Iím annoyed Ė get out!

 

DOCTOR: Hey, Blondie, we had an agreement...

 

BLONDIE: The agreement wasnít for you to kick up a fuss.

 

GIRL: Well, whatís the matter... They havenít done anything wrong...

 

OTHER GIRL: God, what a misery-guts you are! Just for one stupid old nightdress...

 

BLONDIE: But thatís the nightdress I go to bed with.

 

DOCTOR: The nightdress and who else?

 

Everybody laughs.

 

BLONDIE: [Turning to the other GIRLS] And you can get out too... Go on, scram!

 

GIRLS: [All speaking together] Alright. Weíre going. Just ignore her... Sheís just neurotic... ! Goodbye! Come o my house... There you can put on all the womenís clothes that you want...

 

FOURTH TRANSVESTITE: [As if quoting a proverb] The only parties you remember are the ones that end badly... See you, love.

 

FIRST TRANSVESTITE: And to think that this little prank cost us a hundred thousand... Iím still not sure whoís the bigger mug here, him or us!

 

BLONDIE: [Turning to the PRIEST, who is still chanting] Hey, you, Priest, you can scram, too!

 

PRIEST: [Moving towards the exit] My blessings upon you, my daughter! [BLONDIE blows a raspberry. The PRIEST passes comment on her refined manners] Charming!

 

He exits.

 

BLONDIE: Drop dead, you... ! [She closes the door] Oh, at last, theyíve gone away. Iíve just about had them up to here!!

 

She moves across the room.

 

LOFTY: [He is still sitting there, at the back of the stage] What a bunch of jokers, eh?

 

BLONDIE: [Not noticing his presence] You can say that again!

 

LOFTY: [Understandingly] I tell you, once they start, it always seems to end up like this... Itís enough to drive a person nuts...

 

BLONDIE: [Suddenly realising that heís there] Hey, what are you doing here? I thought you went off with the others.

 

LOFTY: [Insouciant] Why would I have done that? After all, weíre only just married, and it would hardly be right for me to go off, on our first night together... it really wouldnít be right...

 

BLONDIE: [She runs over to the window, sticks out her head, and shouts down] Hey, havenít you forgotten something?

 

VOICS FROM OUTSIDE: Oh, yes... Lofty! Well, the good Lord gave him to you, so youíd better make the most of him... Ha, ha, ha... ! [Laughter] Goodnight, lovebirds!

 

BLONDIE: You rats... ! And now what am I going to do with you?

 

LOFTY: [With not a trace of irony] Tell me about yourself; about when you were young.

 

BLONDIE: Eh?!

 

LOFTY: [As above, sincere and insouciant] Well, if weíre going to get to know each other, maybe it would be best to start from when we were kids. For example, I remember that when I was a young lad, I was so developed that, at the age of 15, people took me for 10.

 

BLONDIE: Well, I remember that when I was a young girl, I was so developed, that at 15 they took me for 5.

 

LOFTY: Howís that? Only five?

 

BLONDIE: Yes, five... five thousand lire... cash.

 

LOFTY: Ha, ha! [He laughs happily, and then changes tone] Thereís no point in pretending to be a hard-nut with me. It wonít wash. I noticed how you trembled when I was holding your wrists... [He comes up to her and takes up the position of the wedding rite] Go on, admit it Ė you were getting all emotional too.

 

BLONDIE: Well, yes, a little bit emotional, Iíll admit... [She begins taking down the paper decorations, and LOFTY gives her a hand] What with all that chanting, and all those long words. It was pretty powerful stuff! And then the white dress ino the bargain... Even an elephant would get all weepy if you dressed it up in a white wedding dress! So there you are: I wasnít getting emotional over you... you or anyone else. It was because of the whole set-up...

 

LOFTY: Not me or anyone else? But what about when you said: ĎWow, arenít you tall... !í

 

BLONDIE: Alright, I said that youíre tall. So what? Youíre not going to tell me that youíre not tall, are you?

 

LOFTY: Yes, but when you said that I was tall, well, you werenít just saying it because Iím tall... I tell you, nobodyís ever told me that I was tall like that before... Go on, say it again!

 

BLONDIE: What, that youíre tall?

 

LOFTY: Yes, I like the way you say it.

 

BLONDIE: Hey, are you making fun of me? Donít take the piss... !

 

She hurls a bunch of paper decorations in his direction. LOFTY catches them nonchalantly.

 

LOFTY: Me, make fun of you? I wouldnít dream of it Ė youíre so beautifu! And so tall as well... ! Just for you, Iíd like to be even taller. Reeeally tall... So that then youíll say: ĎWow, youíre reeeally tallí!

 

BLONDIE: [Not sure whether to be flattered or irritated] Listen, pack it in, will you! When you start talking like that, itís like being in a loony bin... ! They warned me that you were a bit weird, but I never realsed that you were barmy! [She approaches LOFTY, a touch maternal] But hasnít it even occurred to you yet, that that bunch of bums...

 

LOFTY: [Not reacting to what he says. Preoccupied] Tell me something, that custom about the groomís friends sleeping with the bride... I suppose it does only apply to the wedding night... ?

 

BLONDIE: What are you talking about? What custom?

 

LOFTY: [As if thinking aloud] No, it really would be too much. There you are, tucked up with your wife, and one of your friends comes in and says: ĎExcuse me, mind if I borrow your wife for a while...í [She looks at him, bemused] If you donít mind, I think we ought to lay our cards on the table... Ií really not too keen on that kind of thing.

 

BLONDIE: What on earth have they been telling you? [With angry gestures she begins picking up glasses from around the room] Why did I ever get involved in this farce? Because, damn it, thereís no way to have fun with someone like you! How can anybody enjoy beating someone over the head, when they just smile at you and say thank you and you sit at them and they just look at you with a face like that?!

 

LOFTY: [Totally unruffled. Still with his melancholy smile] What do you mean? Whatís wrong with my face? Donít you like it?

 

BLONDIE: N, I never said that! Itís a bit silly, I suppose, but at least itís honest...

 

LOFTY: Yours is honest too.

 

BLONDIE: [She looks at him for a moment. She is about to smile, but suddenly frowns] Now look, are you going to leave... ? Canít I ever get a bit of peace... ?

 

LOFTY: [He gets up slowly, speaking deliberately] Alright, alright, Iím going... Calm down, though! After all, you havenít done so badly out of this little prank. In fact, they paid you pretty handsomely. [Suddenly turning a bit nasty] And now youíre getting all guilty because youíre disgusted with yourself for having earned your money at the expense of a poor idiot who just stands here looking at you like youíre Snow White with her seven dwarfs... And so you start shouting and yelling... Calm down, eh! [BLONDIE looks at him in amazement] Alright? Calmed down? Right. Goodbye.He makes as if about to leave

 

BLONDIE: Hey, wait a minute... ! Youíre not going to tell me that your brain has started working all of a sudden? What was that little outburst all about?

 

LOFTY [He takes a few steps back into the room. He leans on the back of the chair, and carries on gazing at her with the same melancholic, slightly distant smile] Oh, donít you worry! My brain has ben working all along. Iím perfectly well aware that they make fun of me... In fact, most times itís me who sets up the situation in the first place... That little gang are completely devoid of imagination, and if I didnít give them a hand... theyíd be completely incapable.

 

BLONDIE: [She drops into a chair, astonished] Now I know youíre barmy! Not only do you know that theyíre making fun of you, but you even give them a hand. Can you explain to me what pleasure you get out of it all?

 

LOFTY: [Pulling a cigarete out of his pocket] Itís not exactly pleasure. You see, letting people make a fool of me is more or less my profession.

 

BLONDIE: A profession?! People making a fool of you, a proession?

 

LOFTY: Yes. Do you know what jesters were? He lights the cigarette.

 

BLONDIE: Of course! [Erudite and encyclopaedic] Jesters were people hired by kings and royalty to keep them amused... Correct?

 

LOFTY: [Laughing] Absolutely correct. And thatís exactly what I do. The only difference being that since thereís no more kings and royalty, I make my pals at the cafe laugh. In short, Iím the poor manís Rigoletto... But the most important thing is that it provides me with a source of income.

 

BLONDIE: [Amazed, incredulous] They pay you for it?

 

LOFTY: I tell you, I earn more than if I was a clerk, and I have to work a lot less. Look: every single thing that Iím wearing comes from them; I sleep in their houses, a different house every night; they pay for my meals, my cigarettes, my drink... And if I ask for a little loan now and then, they always oblige... You never refuse an idiot a loan...

 

BLONDIE: [She spits on the floor in disgust] What kind of a man are you! Doesnít it disgust you, the idea of earning your living like that?

 

LOFTY: [Adopting the same tone. Provocative] And what does it do for you, to earn your living in the way that you do?

 

BLONDIE: [After a momentís embarrassed silence] Touchť! That hurt!

 

LOFTY: [Sorry, since he had expected a quite different reaction] Iím sorry, I didít mean to say that.

 

BLONDIE: [Melancholic, sighing] No, I deserved it. Hereís me, preaching about self-respect! What a joke! It makes me angry. Look Ė for a woman, when all sheís got is her looks, like me, the only way to make money Ė wrap it up any way you like Ė is always the same. But for a man...

 

LOFTY: [He gets up and, bringing his chair over to BLONDIE, sits down next to her] Itís just the same: it all depends on how you start out... Itís not that someone like you decides from one day to the next to walk the streets. Either youíre born to it, or you work it out as you go along. Iím born to it. My father was the start of it all. Just for a joke, seeing that our surname was Weather, he decided to give me three names when I was baptised: Lovely, Cloudy and Stormy! ĎThat way youíll be able to pick your name according to what the weather looks like,í he used to say.

 

BLONDIE: [First she i amused, but then appalled] He must have been mad!

 

LOFTY: [Warming to his theme] Mad! Iíll say! You ought to try it, with your schoolmates out in the playground... and with grown-ups: ĎHow are you doing? Whatís the weather like today? Har, har!í Year in, year out!

 

BLONDIE: [Not smiling] It must really get on your nerves.

 

LOFTY: [Leisurely, like a story-teller telling of something thatís happened to someone else] Even during the war they tried to make a fool of me... When a fellow gets wounded, he can be wounded in a hundred different places... in an arm, maybe, or a leg... or in the head... But with me, I copped a wound in the parsonís nose! A single bullet took it clean away! Wham!

 

BLONDIE: [She canít help laughing] Ha! Ha! [She gets an attack of hiccups] Hic... ! But how on earth did they manage to hit you precisely there?! Hic!

 

LOFTY: Precisely Ė how on earth! You see? Even you start laughing... and now youíre getting hiccups. Even fate thought it was a good laugh to get me hit precisely there.

 

BLONDIE: Ha! Ha!

 

LOFTY: Now Iím registered as a Grade 2 War Invalid. Iím supposed to be entitled to all sorts of benefits and privileges, and even a pension. One day I was sitting on a tram, and a fellow asked me to give up my seat to him. He said he was a war invalid. So I answered: ĎIím a war invalid too.í He looked at me, obviously not believing me, and said: ĎWhere are you wounded?í ĎThe Parsonís Nose,í say I. Iíd hardly finished speaking, when he grabbed me by the tie and started shouting: ĎListen, Iíve got nothing against homosexuals, but I see red when they go round boasting about the fact... Ď I tel you, he was within an ace of throwing me off the tram. [BLONDIE laughs] And then youíre surprised that a fellow ends up playing the fool a bit!

 

BLONDIE: [Affectionately] If you ask me, you bring these problems on yourself. You seem to be always walking around looking over your shoulder, to find out what people are saying behind your back. And then, bang! you crash into the first lamp-post you come to! Hic... ! [She hiccups] And then you start cursing fate for putting lamp-posts on pavements.

 

LOFTY: Well done! Youíve summed me up to a T... But sorry to go back to it: if you are so good at rumbling other peopleís cock-ups, mine in particular, then how come you got caught up in the life you lead?

 

BLONDIE: [She picks up a tray and a towel, and continues speaking in a dispassionate tone] Because when I began, I was more ignorant than I am now. And ignorance really is the worst of all possible evils. My father always used to say... Hic...

 

[She repeats this phrase, like a record-player needle stuck in a groove] My father always used to say... Hic... [She repeats this phrase, while at the same time cleaning her tray, her hand going round and round as if it were the arm of a record-player resting on a record. LOFTY lifts her arm a fraction, and shifts it slightly across the tray, like somebody stopping a record skipping. This done, BLONDIE continues talking normally]

 

My father always used to say that when a man or woman suffers from the disease of ignorance, they end up lke long skinny trees with no leaves. Poles. But even as a pole, Iíve turned out wonky...

 

LOFTY: [Without looking at her; with a tender smile] Well, I tell you what, you might even be better off being wonky, if you happened to end up with a pole who was wonky in the opposite direction to you... if you tied the two of them firmly at the top... [Catching his breath] they would stand a lot firmer than if they were straight.

 

BLONDIE: [She steps back to take a better look at him] Would that happen to be a double meaning... ? [Hiccuping] I mean, are you talking about you and me?

 

LOFTY: [He slowly gets up, and speaks in fits and starts] Listen, why donít we pretend that I donít know who you are, and you donít know who I am? Come on... Do you think that you could stay with me?

 

BLONDIE: [Almost tripping over herself, and then slowing down] Stay with you? In what sense... ? Just for tonight? Or for a long time? No, because if it was just for tonight, I would tell you who I am, and Iíd ask for the going rate...

 

LOFTY: [He drops into the chair. He rubs hs hands] Ah, so now weíre getting serious!

 

BLONDIE: [Intensely] Why, what were you thinking... ? Havenít you understood yet that if Iím standing here telling you all this, itís because I think I know what youíre all about, and because, bloody hell, I never get a chance to explain things as they are, like Iím doing now.

 

We hear a knocking.

 

FRIEND: [From outside] Are you home?

 

BLONDIE: Hic... [She hiccups] Go away, Iím busy!

 

FRIEND: [As above] Let me in. Iíve come to bring you back your clothes.

 

BLONDIE: Oh alright. [She opens the door] Come in... Give them here... Oh, look at the state theyíre in...

 

FRIEND: [Noticing LOFTY] Oh, is he still here? [Bragging] Give me a minute and Iíll get shot of him. [He goes over to LOFTY. With heavy irony] Excuse me, Lofty, I have to talk withthe lady about some rather delicate matters. Would you mind shifting your carcase?

 

LOFTY does not budge. BLONDIE angrily throws the bundle of clothes down onto a chair.

 

BLONDIE: Heís not shifting anywhere! If anyoneís going to shift their carcase, itís you. And that means now... !

 

FRIEND: [BLONDIE advances on him, menacingy, and he tries to fend her off] No, youíve got me wrong... Look, Iím not just here to fool about... Iím paying like a lord, and, whatís more, cash in advance... Look at this... A right little bunch of roses.. [He waves around a bundle of 10,000 lire notes] Come on, get shot of Lofty. My soul is feeling poetic tonight.

 

BLONDIE: [She looks at LOFTY for a moment. He is still sitting, lost in thought. She turns to the FRIEND] You throw him out... And in the meantime, Iím going to put this stuff away! [Turning to LOFTY. In a whisper] Come on, let me see if you really are interested in this wonky pole.

 

She exits. The FRIEND has removed his jacket.

 

FRIEND: [Turning to LOFTY and pointing a finger] Alright, now get this into your head...

 

He tosses his jacket onto a chair.

 

LOFTY: [Getting up, as if just waking up] Alright. I get the message. Iím going...

 

FRIEND: [Surprised] Youíre going?

 

LOFTY: [Turning and coming back] Why, donít you want me to go?

 

FRIEND: No... No...

 

LOFTY: [He sits down again] Alright, then, Iíll stay...

 

FRIEND: No, no... ! I meant yes, yes...

 

LOFTY: [He gets up again, giving him a deprecating look] Yes, yes, or no, no? If you ask me, you must be a bit stupid. [He sits down again] Anyway, youíre going to have to lend me a thousand lire for the cab...

 

FRIEND: [Without thinking, he goes to hunt through the pockets of his jacket] A thousand lire... ? Why? Where do you have to get to?

 

LOFTY: To the central police station... At this time of night, itís the only one open.

 

FRIEND: [He spins round, abruptly] To the central police station... ? What for?!

 

LOFTY: [He crosses his legs in a matter-of-fact manner] Oh, just to report a couple of small items. Like blackmailing and swindling a pastry-cook... I tell you what, itís weighing on my conscience... The more I think about it, the more I think that I should go and give myself up... You know, now that Iím married, Iíve decided to turn over a new leaf...

 

FRIEND: [Taken aback, and then becoming increasingly aggressive] Hang on a minute, have you gone completely round the twist?! Youíre going to end up putting us all behind bars... You are an unthinking, ungrateful, undeserving swine. Thatís what you are. And Iím going to smash your face in. And to think, we only did it for your sake.

 

LOFTY: [Pretending t be taken aback] Only for my sake... ? In that case, whose is all that money?

 

He points to the money.

 

FRIEND: Huh, whatís that got to do with it? Thatís for our pains. We also have to live, friend!

 

LOFTY: [He stretches his legs, with an air of boredom] Yes indeed, you have to live. Now I come to think of it, it wouldnít be such a good idea if I went and gave myself up... Apart from anything else, Iíd end up being locked up myself...

 

FRIEND: [With a sigh of relief, he presses his point] And youíd probably end up getting a longer sentence than the rest of us put together.

 

LOFTY: [Casual again. Smiling. His speech is punctuated with abrupt gestures. His head inclines first to one side and then to the other] No. I wouldnít get a longer sentence than you. Iím an idiot... Everybody knows that Iím an idiot... I could always say that you forced me into it... thatI really did believe that I was ill. After all, if you can persuade a fellow that heís invisible, and that heís married to a prostitute... then you can make him believe anything. In fact, now I come to think of t, I reckon youíll probably cop an extra few months for taking advantage of someone who didnít know any better...

 

FRIEND: [After a brief pause, he suddenly whips his hands out of his trouser pockets and comes up close to LOFTY, with an air of amazement] Hey, I say... is that you talking, or some brother of yours, with a university degree, that youíve been keeping in mothballs. It looks to me as if you were just pretending to be stupid, so that you didnít have to pay your rounds... Will you look at this son of a bitch... ! Just imagine... We thought that we were taking you for a ride...

 

LOFTY: [With a calculating and provocative smile] Indeed... Isnít life amazing... Just when you think that one thing is happening... it turns out that something quite different is going on... This money, for example... [He points to the money which is sticking out of the FRIENDís pocket] ...thereís you, thinking that itís all yours... But in reality [He snatches the money from him] ...now itís all mine

 

FRIEND: Give me that your money... or Iíll smash your face in...

 

He grabs LOFTY and pulls him to his feet.

 

LOFTY: Another little thing that I forgot to tell you... Iíve got a pretty good right hook... [He delivers a swinging righthander. Then, booting him up the backside, he kicks him out of the door] Get out! Get out!

 

FRIEND: Youíre going to pay for this, Lofty! You wonít be so bloody cocky when the others get to hear about this...

 

Re-enter BLONDIE.

 

BLONDIE: Hic! [She hiccups] Heís right... The others wonít let you offso easily, thatís for sure... Itíll be bye-bye jester.

 

LOFTY: Now you mention it, I reckon my first mistake was coming and spilling the beans to you.

 

BLONDIE: [She hiccups] Hic!

 

LOFTY: Look, if you try drinking from the wrong side of a glass, maybe your hicups will go.

 

BLONDIE: What?

 

LOFTY: Like this. Look. [He takes a glass full of water. He bends over and drinks from the opposite side of the glass. The water spills all over him. He coughs] As I was saying, maybe my first mistake was coming and telling you everything. Maybe Iíd have done better to keep it to myself.

 

BLONDIE: [She also tries the business with the glass. She takes a deep breath afterwards] Hey, theyíve gone.

 

LOFTY: Good, Iím glad... Hic... ! [He in turn begins to hiccup] Now Iíve got them!

 

BLONDIE: Iím sorry... What were you saying about keeping it to yourself?

 

LOFTY: I was saying that maybe if Iíd kept quiet, I wouldnít have ended up going away emptyhanded, like Iím going to have to do now.

 

BLONDIE: Youíre going away? [LOFTY nods in the affirmative] And where are you going?

 

LOFTY: Well, Iíve got enough money for a bed for the night... [He shows her the money that heís just snatched from the FRIEND]... and maybe Iíve even got enough to get me down to Rome...

 

He hiccups.

 

BLONDIE: To Rome?

 

LOFTY: Yes. I want to see if I can get my hands on all the pension money thatís owing to me... Once I get tht, itís going to be a lot easier to walk down the street without having to look over my shoulder all the time, as you were saying... Hic... ! [He hiccups] Well, goodbye. Itís been a pleasure.He holds out his hand.

 

BLONDIE: [Slowly, almost embarrassed, she takes LOFTYís hand] Goodbye. Itís been a pleasure.

 

LOFTY: A pleasure, what?

 

BLONDIE: What do you mean, a pleasure, what?

 

LOFTY: [Teacherly] When a person says that somethingís been a pleasure, theyíre also supposed to say their name. Whatís your name?

 

BLONDIE: Angela...

 

LOFTY: Hic! [He hiccups] Angela?

 

BLONDIE: [She holds his hand, tenderly] Yes... really my real name is Angelica... but, you know, with the kind of work that I do... calling myself angelic would sound a bit silly. So, there you go... when my parents baptised me, they could hardly have known that I would end up here, eh?

 

LOFTY: True enough! And anyway... Angela is nicer... [He smiles at her. He tilts his head to one side] Goodbye, Angela. I do hope we met again.

 

He hiccups.

 

BLONDIE: Goodbye... We will meet again, eh? Watch out, becauseitís dark on the stairs.

 

LOFTY: Donít worry. I can see where Iím going.

 

BLONDIE: Goodbye. [We hear a loud crash offstage] What happened?

 

LOFTY: [From offstage, sounding as if he is only barely refraining from a string of curses] Damnation! Youíre right. Itís true, I really do walk around looking over my shoulder... I didnít see the steps...

 

BLONDIE: Have you hurt yourself?

 

LOFTY: [From offstage] No, itís nothing.

 

BLONDIE: Have your hiccups gone?

 

LOFTY: [From offstage] Letís hope so.

 

BLONDIE: Goodbye.

 

LOFTY: Goodbye, Angela. Weíll meet again.

 

BLONDIE: Wait, wait!

 

LOFTY: [From offstage] Yes?! [There is a note of expectation in his voice]

 

BLONDIE: Iíve got something to ask you. Um... What should I call you? I mean, which of your names do you prefer to be called by?

 

LOFTY: [After a short pause to indicate disappointment, he speaks up, in a tone of euphoria] Call me Lovely... because as from this evenig, Iím really glad that my father gave me that name.

 

BLONDIE: Goodbye, Lovely.

 

LOFTY: Goodbye, Angela.

 

Prolonged noise of somebody falling downstairs.

 

BLONDIE: If that doesnít get rid of his hiccups, then nothing will!

 

[She laughs. She picks up a transistor radio. She turns it on, and hangs it round the neck of a tailorís dummy which stands in the centre of the room. We hear the faint strains of the song: ĎClasp my wrists tightlyí]

 

...Lovely ...Lofty Lovely Weather... Yes, heís right. Itís very tempting to play about with it...

 

[She begins to hum along with the tune coming from the transistor radio. She peers through the curtains and looks down into the street below. Slowly she begins to get undressed. She kicks her shoes in the air, one after another]

 

... ĎClasp my wrists tightlyí

 

[She picks up the jacket that has been left on a chair. Lost in thought, she goes to slip i on the tailorís dummy standing back-stage. She takes the dummy in her arms. She mimes a passionate embrace. Only then does she notice that this was LOFTYís jacket]

 

... But this is Lovelyís jacket... Oh hell! I sent him out in his shirt-sleeves... Oh, I hope he comes back to get it... In fact, he must come back... He can hardly go to Rome without a jacket... Heíll have to come back... And when he comes through the door, Iíll say: ĎDear Lovely, if you want to take your jacket, youíre going to have to take me tooí. [She tries to imitate LOFTYís voice] ĎBut what do you mean Ė before, you rejected me... !í ĎBut now Iím saying yes... Iíve had second thoughts... I could really hit it off with a good-looking wonky pole like yourself... Ď

 

[Once again, she embraces the dummy] Come here, come here, let me bind you to me... Come on, donít tremble like that. Whew! How my heart is beating... ! And yours? [She puts her ear to the dummyís chest. We hear a knocking at the door] I say, thatís going a bit far! [She realises that somebody is knocking at the door] Is that you... ? Have you come back to get your jacket... ? Come in.

 

[She suddenly realises that she is in a state of half undress] ...No, wait, donít come in yet. [She goes and hides behind a screen] There, now you can come in. [Enter the FRIEND whom we saw a few minutes previously] ...Bu donít come round here. Iím sorry if I kept you waiting, but I was already undressed. I know itís silly for me to want to hide... Donít think Iím being a prude Ė not a bit of it. But, I donít know... when Iím wit you, I feel shy... I know it sounds stupid, but thatís the way I am... Mind you, Iíve said and done so many stupid things today...

 

She slips on a dressing gown.

 

FRIEND: [Flattered, strutting like a peacock] Well...

 

BLONDIE: No... donít say a word, otherwise I wonít be able to tell you something which I absolutely must tell you, because otherwise Iím going to burst... Iíve discovered that Iíve got a crush on you... Donít laugh... Iíve really got a crush on you... [By now the FRIEND is strutting lik the king of the castle] I realised it the moment you went away, because the minute I saw your jacket, I immediately thought to myself: ĎI hope he comes back to get it, because then... then Iíll make sure tha he takes me too!í Oh, there, Iíve done it... ! [She laughs] Arenít you going to say anything... ? I knew that youíd be stuck for words... It took a lot for me to say it too, you know, and now Iím really glad that I have said it... [She comes out from behind the screen] Here I am...

 

BLONDIE is completely taken aback when she sees the FRIEND standing there, his face wreathed in smiles.

 

FRIEND: [He comes over to her, walking like a cock rampant] Good God, I must be some kind of magician... Iíve bewitched you! And just think, I thought you didnít even like me... You see how mistaken a person can be... [He comes round behind her, running his hand up her back] Well, letís go... and youíll find that youíve not made a bad choice... [BLONDIE doesnít move] Hey, I mean, I hope my magic looks havenít turned you to stone... ! Come on, Goodlooking. [He gives her a little slap] Wake up. Iíll take you to beddy-byes.

 

BLONDIE: [She responds by giving him a mighty wallop] Get out! [She starts hurling at him everything she can get her hands on] Get out, get out, get out!

 

FRIEND: Alright... Iím going, Iím going... But look, thereís no need for you... hang on a minute...

 

He exits, and once again we hear a terrible crash on the stairs. The FRIEND has taken a tumble. BLONDIE bursts into tears and runs over to the dummy. She looks at it for a moment, and then, with a kick, she sends it flying. The transistor radio hanging round the dummyís neck tumbles to the floor. BLONDIE , worried, picks it up, switches it on, and shakes it, to make sure that itís not broken. The radio is still working. We hear the voice of a RADIO ANNOUNCER, saying:

 

VOICE OF THE RADIO ANNOUNCER: ...Over the rest of the country, we will have Lovely Weather. That was the weather forecast up until noon tomorrow.

 

BLONDIE bursts into tears and hurls the radio to the floor.

 

 

ACT TWO

SCENE ONE

 

Scene: A Ministry in Rome

 

Enter five CLERKS. They are wearing black trousers, black waistcoats, and clown-style bald wigs, whose bottom edge is adorned by a thick fringe of hair. As a sign of their office, each carries a rubber stamp hanging roundhis neck. They march on, in front of a partition made up of a series of little windows. Wheeling to the right, they march towards the footlights, singing, and move around the stage with the grotesque gestures of clerks. They open doors and drawers, they type, they stamp documents etc.

 

ďKings of the Ink Rubber StampĒ

 

To glorify Egyptians they built a pyramid,

A statue for King David,

Charlton Heston made El Cid.

In memory of Columbus, America they named.

Nelson for his column heís famed Ė we spit on them.

Da Vinci has his painting the Mona Lisa

And even though itís leaning, thereís the tower of Pisa.

Each with his monument they go down in history.

Cleopatra has her needle, the housemaid her knee.

 

Tell me

 

CHORUS:

 

The name of the man who sat at his desk over averages, figures and norms

Multiplying, dividing, subtracting and adding, checking the census forms.

Let us sing of the deeds of the Lords of the rates and the social security,

Imbursing, permitting, discharging and taxing, and adding on V.A.T.

 

Tell me

 

The name of the man who sat at his desk over records, insurance and dole,

Writing chronicles, catalogues, calendas, analogues, tying up every loophole.

We brothers unite, for a statue we fight, for our work at the office desk lamp.

We stacked up the piles of red tape and files.

Weíre the Kings of the Ink Rubber Stamp.

 

Weíre the Kings of the Ink Rubber Stamp.

 

VERSE:

 

St Mark has got his square, Bolshoi his ballet,

An arch for Julius Caesar and his ĎEt tu Bruteí.

Eiffel has his tower. Grany Smith has her fruit,

Not denying Wellington his boot Ė we spit on them.

Khyber has his pass in far off India.

And bright up in the sky, the magi had their star.

Each with his monument they go down in history.

Achilles has his heel and Earl Grey his tea.

 

LINK:

 

It hurts us in our hearts thereís no monument for us.

Who can name a famous bureaucrat? We die anonymous!

 

Tell me

 

CHORUS:

 

We stacked up the piles of red tape and files,

Multiplying, dividing, subtracting and adding,

Imbursing, permitting, discharging and taxing,

Chronicles, catalogues, calendars, analogues!

Weíre the Kings of the Ink Rubber Stamp.

 

The five CLERKS take up positions in their respective cubicles. During the song, he shutters of these cubicles were in raised position. Now they all drop shut, except for the first one, which remains open. Enter a WOMAN. She goes straight to the first window and briskly begins sortin out some business. Enter LOFTY. He has with him a very heavy suitcase and a parcel. He goes straight over and starts queueing behind the WOMAN. When it comes to his turn, the shutter on the cubicle suddenly drops, and almost simultaneously one of the others open. LOFTY, encumbered by his parcel and the suitcase, but more particularly puzzled by the fact that the LADY bears a strange resemblance to one of ANGELAís girlfriends, is slow to reach the other window. As a result, he is pipped to the post by another GENTLEMAN, who comes in at that moment.

 

LOFTY: Hey, now look, I was here first... Thatís cheating, diving in like that!

 

GENTLEMAN: I havenít dived in anywhere...

 

LOFTY: [He notices a curious resemblance of the GENTLEMAN to one of his friends] Hey, the Albanian vicar... What are you doing, here in Rome?

 

GENTLEMAN: I beg your pardon...

 

LOFTY: Come off it, you canít fool me... Even if you have grown whiskers!

 

GENTLEMAN: Youíre the one who should come off it... Particularly when you pick on someone who has neither the time nor the inclination...

 

LOFTY: Iím sorry, but I mistook you for a friend of mine who hasnít got a moustache... Anyway, seeing that youíve got a moustache, you hang onto it... Alright? Friends again? Come on.

 

At this point another window opens.

 

GENTLEMAN: Look you, Iíd advise you not to go making fun of my moustache... Here you are, the windowís all yours... But thank your lucky stars that Iím in a hurry... Because otherwise...

 

He moves over to another window

 

LOFTY: Alright, keep your hair on... So, I passed comment on your moustache... Well look, itís not against the law to be rude about peopleís moustaches, particularly because, luckly for us, priests donít wear them any more.

 

All of a sudden, the window at which LOFTY is standing drops shut. He is momentarily angered, but then has no choice but to go and get in the quue behind the GENTLEMAN, who glares at him malevolently. A LADY comes in, and joins in the queue behind him. The LADY bears a striking resemblance to the second of ANGELAís girl fiends. LOFTY looks at her, and then ventures:

 

LOFTY: Excuse me, excuse me. You know what, youíre the spitting image of a friend of mine whoís a...

 

LADY: [She is irritated. She cuts him off in mid-sentence, and glares at him] I beg your pardon?

 

LOFTY: ...whoís a... I mean... I mistook you for an auntie of mine whoís a Red Cross nurse in Torremolinos.

 

Meantime, another window has opened. The LADY leaves the queue and goes over to the window, having picked up the suitcase that she has had with her since she entered. The LADY moves pretty fast, and while the GENTLEMAN is taking his time, the LADY prepares to leave the window. LOFTY picks up his baggage, and prepares to move into the vacant space. But the LADY has second thoughts, turns round, and comes back to the window.

 

LADY: Oh, I forgot... Could you write me out a list of the forms that I have to get from the Council? Thank you...

 

LOFTY is caught on the hop for a moment, and, as in the game of Piggy-in-the-Middle, is temporarily wrong-footed. In other words, the MAN behind him is about to leave; LOFTY tries to move in a hurry; but since heís laden down with baggage, he gets there too late. In his haste, he has picked up the suitcase belonging to the LADY, who immediately shouts after him.

 

LADY: I say, young man! Will you stop fooling about! My suitcase, if you please!

 

LOFTY: Oh... yes... Iím sorry, my mistake...

 

LADY: A likely story! First youíre Ďmistakení about who I look like, and then youíre Ďmistakení about my suitcase.

 

LOFTY: Please, I hope you donít think... Leaving aside the fact that our suitcases really are pretty similar... You donít seriously think that Iím about to start on a career as a suitcase thief, do you... cardboard suitcases at that! [Reaching the window] Listen, if you donít mind... [With a great thud, the second window, which the LADY has only just let, closes] Itís all your fault! Why the hell didnít I leave you at home!

 

So saying, he gives a mighty kick to the LADYís suitcase.

 

LADY: I say, have you gone mad?

 

LOFTY: Oh, I am sorry... I mistook it for mine...

 

LADY: Again?!! Thank your lucky stars that Iím not a man.

 

LOFTY: Indeed I do, indeed I do... ! [He bends down to give a little rub to the spot he kicked. Then he goes over to the window, which, with malevolence aforethought, shuts in his face] Iím going to demolish this... repeat-action confessional! [The LADY exits, haughtily. LOFTY turns round and trips over his own suitcase. He gives it a look of pure hatred. He steps back to give it a kick, and then pauses for a moment, with his leg raised. Enter a WAITER, with a tray, cups and a large coffee pot. He too looks like one of the FRIENDS from previously] Giulio... !

 

WAITER: My nameís Sergio, not Giulio... And anyway, if you want something, youíre going to have to order it from the bar yourself. I only serve the clerks...

 

He rattles a teaspoon in a coffee cup. As if by magic, the rattle of the coffee cup causes the shutter on the first window to open. The WAITER holds out a cup. The CLERK behind the window takes the cup, and shuts the window in LOFTYís face as he runs up, holding out a document.

 

LOFTY: If you donít mind, I would like..

 

Meantime, the WAITER has gone on to the next window. A rattle of cups. The window opens, and LOFTY leaps forward.

 

LOFTY: Excuse me, if you donít ind... [The action is repeated. LOFTY decides to play it clever. He doesnít bother about the third window, but goes and crouches next to the fourth window, ready to slip in his document the minute the CLERK shows his face. The coffee cup rattles, and the window opens. But it is not the fourth window. It is the fifth window, the one behind LOFTY. LOFTY spins round hurriedly, but heís too late. The CLERK has already taken his coffee and shut his window] What about this one... Doesnít he get coffee?

 

He points to the window which had remained closed, and goes over to the WAITER.

 

WAITER: No. He has tea....

 

He picks up a larger cup from his tray, and slips it through the window which has opened to receive it, and which then promptly shuts again.

 

LOFTY: Hey, now, thatís ENOUGH! I left my friends, to get away from their stupid jokes, and now hereís their doubles playing even worse jokes on me!! [LOFTY gives his suitcase a terrible kicking. He lets out a yell, and begins hopping around in pain. Meantime, the WAITER nimbly retrieves the cups, which the CLERKS pass out to him one after the other, immediately closing their windows afterwards, like some kind of clockwork mechanism. LOFTY contrives to get a finger caught under one of the shutters] Ouch! My finger... !

 

WAITER: [Sniggering provocatively] Ha, ha! What a splendid squashed finger! Iíve never seen such a squashed finger... [The WAITER continues laughing unabated, and does not notice that the GENTLEMAN from previously has entered. He bumps into him. He drops a number of coffee cups on the floor. The windows re-open. The CLERKS lagh in unison, and then close their windows. The WAITER, assisted by the GENTLEMAN, picks up the broken crockery. Then, with his cloth, he tries to clean the GENTLEMANís jacket, which now hs coffee stains on it. They apologise to each other. The WAITER gets so engrossed in this paroxysm of cleaning that he even ends up taking the GENTLEMANís hands and polishing his nails in the manner of a manicurist] Iím sorry, I didnít see you...

 

GENTLEMAN: Me neither. I was concentrating on my paperwork. Iím afraid Iíve caused you a bit of disaster!

 

WAITER: Oh, itís nothing! What about your jacket, though? Look at the sleeve, itís got stains all down it.

 

GENTLEMAN: A bit of water should take are of that...

 

WAITER: Well, letís give it a go... [He spits on the jacket, and tries to clean it off with his own sleeve] Like I say, Iím really sorry.

 

He goe to walk off, but LOFTY deliberately thrusts his suitcase in front of him. This time the WAITER takes a tumble verging on the catastrophic. A mighty crash, and thereís broken crockery everywhere.The GENTLEMAN rushes over to help the WAITER to his feet, but LOFTY kicks his parcel in front of him. Another crash. The windows open, and the CLERKS stick their heads out in order to get a better view of the disaster. They laugh. LOFTY ducks and runs up to the windows. One by one he contrives to shut them, in such a manner as to trap the CLERKSí heads underneath, as under as guillotine. Then he gives a mighty kick to the WAITER, who has only just finished picking up all his bits and pieces, sending him flying out of the door. The GENTLEMAN ets the message, and exits running. The CLERKS all shout for help.

 

LOFTY: Thatís enough! Silence... ! I said thatís enough! Shut up! Listen to me! [He locks the door] And now that finally I have the honour and the pleasure of your attention, youíre going to listen to me... I have come here on very important business: my pension. Iíve brought all my papers with me...

 

[He opens his suitcase and pulls out a big packet of documents. He waves a bundle of papers, which he then shoves, one by one, under the noses of the CLERKS. One each]

 

Birth certificate... residence permit... Permanent discharge papers... Long-term invalidity certificate... Permits on headed paper... Permits on plain paper... Pre-dated permits... Supernumerary permits... And a reserve permit just incase. I donít understand what a single one of these is about... But I have done my duty, and now you are going to do yours: verification, signature, and rubber stamps. I want all the marks and countermarks, rubber stamps, stamps and counterstamps that may be required... so that when I leave here, I want to go away with all my papers in order, so as to get my pension.

 

He moves fast,and grabs the rubber stamps which the CLERKS have hanging round their necks. By virtue of the fact that they are hanging on elastic, he succeeds in positioning a rubber stamp on the forehead of each of the CLERKS. Then he moves over to one side. He grabs a lever which is connected to the long partition that runs down as a counter, under the cubicle windows, onto which he has already slapped his papers, ready for stamping.

 

Iíve got no time to waste... And just in case thereís any messing about, here Iíve got a little present that I brought back from the war, which, I assure you, I shall explode rightunder your noses the minute I suspect that anyone here is trying funny business... Here you are, take a look: a model 38 hand grenade. [He pulls a hand grenade out of his cse, and sticks it on the doormanís desk]

 

Round rubber stamps! [Two of the CLERKS bring their heads down with a thud, and stamp the papers] Square rubber stamps! [Two other CLERKS do the same] All rubber stamps together! Stamp, stamp, stamp! Stamp, stamp, stamp! All rubber stamps together! [The CLERKS do not do as instructed] All stamps together! [They still do nothing] I said: all stamps together! [They still do nothing] Damn Ė itís jammed! [He gives the lever a hefty pull, so that the counter begins to jiggle rhythmically to and fro, under the noses of the CLERKS, whose heads, with the rubber stamps strapped to their foreheads, bob up and down in alternating rhythm, stamping his documents. The overall impression is of an extraordinary futuristic machine] Stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp!

 

[As the rhythm speeds up, the whole sound effect transforms into the chuffing of a steam engine, rattling along, with a fina Ďtoot-tootí as the whole apparatus comes wheezing to a halt] Toot-toot... Toot-toot... Ding, ding... Weíve arrived! And now all I need is my registry document, which, obviously, weíre going to find under the appropriate entry in one of the filing cabinets.

 

[Along one side of the office runs a wall completely occupied by filing drawers. LOFTY pulls out the drawer that he is looking for] Aís over there, S is over here. So W must be over here. Ah, there it is. [He sticks the drawer under the nose of the first CLERK] There you go, find my filecard. The name is Weather, Christian names Lovely, Cloudy, Stormy, and God help anyone who laughs, because heíll get a punch on the nose!

 

[The CLERK succeeds in pulling out a card, parrot-style, using his teeth] Here we go with the lucky draw! Some you win, some you lose! Well done! Youíve picked the very one! Itís me: Lovely Weather... Born in... Distinguishing marks... Breed: Retriever dog... ! No... ?! Ah, yes... Breed: Retriever dog. Profession: Hunter of birds. Tail docked, large floppy ears, short canines, appears to be a mongrel... Ha! Ha! [He laughs, hysterically] So I appear to be a mongrel?! [The CLERKS laugh. LOFTY picks up his hand grenade and pulls out the pin. The CLERKS stop laughing]

 

Whose bright idea was it to pull a filthy trick like that on me? Comeon, spit it out. Who was it? I warned you, donít play the fool with me... Donít try and act clever! These days I donít even let my friends play tricks on me... And they pay for the pleasure... ! Sign me up as a retriever, would you?! [He raises his arm as if about to throw the hand grenade] Youíre going to pay for this! Go ahead, laugh! Laugh for the last time! Go ahead... Ha, ha, ha! [The CLERKS want to shout for help, but they are struck dumb with terror] Roll up, roll up! Coconut shy! Four balls for a shilling! Ha, ha, ha...

 

We hear banging and knocking at the door.

 

VOICE: Open up... Whatís going on!? Open up!

 

LOFTY: Will you just look at those faces... ! Ha, ha...

 

Blackout.

 

During the blackout we hear the sound of the door being forced, and a lot of shouting.

 

VOICES: Stop him... Look out, heís got a bomb! Get a hold of him!

 

LOFTY: Take good aim, gentlemen. First prize, a medal. A toy monkey for the gentleman, and a balloon on a string...

 

The way he laughs sounds for all the world like a madman. The lights come up again. We now find LOFTY handcuffed to a chair. In front of him sits a POLICE INSPECTOR, and next to the INSPECTOR stands a POLICE SERGEANT in plain clothes.

 

LOFTY: [Eyeing them up from head to toe] A balloon on a string... [He appears to recognise them] Here we go again: another two look-alikes! [Turning to the POLICE INSPECTOR] Excuse me, you wouldnít happen to have a twin brother in Milan, whoís a pastry-cook half the time, and an Orthodox priest the rest... would you?

 

INSPECTOR: An Orthodox priest?

 

LOFTY: [All in one breath] Yes, an Orthodox priest... well, heís not a real Orthodox priest... he just dresses up as an Orthodox priest. Anyway, he was the one who married me... not in the sense that I married a priest... I wouldnít dream of it... but the fact is that you have a striking resemblance to the pastry-cook too... in fact, thatís just what I said to myself: itís amazing how much that fellow looks like the pastry-cook!

 

During this speech, LOFTY moves his arms and handcuffed hands from side to side, in a movement that suggests the unwinding of a skein of wool.

 

INSPECTOR: Thatíll do. I said THATíLL DO! Listen, thereís no point in your carrying on like this. [Caught up in the game, almost without realising it, the POLICE INSPECTOR moves his hands from side to side as if he was rolling the wool into a ball] Donít think youíll get away with passing yourself off as a lunatic. Iíve seen it all before. [He suddenly realises the absurd game heís caught up in; he throws away the imaginary ball of wool. The SERGEANT catches it and puts it in hs pocket] Come on, now, thereís a good chap: whatís your name?

 

LOFTY: And yours?

 

INSPECTOR: What do you mean: Ďand yoursí? Leaving aside the fact Iím the one putting the questions round here...

 

LOFTY: What?! You? Still?! Hey, thatís not fair... Come on, letís take turns. Lets ching up for it... Shall we let him play too? Yes, ltís. [He waves his hand up and down as in the childrenís counting game] Right. One, two, three... Say when... One, two, three, four...

 

INSPECTOR: When!

 

LOFTY: When, on the four... Good. [He begins the count] Four, five, six, twelve, thirteen is out and Iím in... Itís your turn... [He points to the INSPECTOR) Heís not playing.

 

He points to the SERGEANT, who gives him a sideswipe. LOFTY parries the blow with the palm of his hand. Another sideswipe, followed by another parry. The movement becomes amost mechanical. The result is a game very similar to that played by children: Pat-a-Palm. In the end, the SERGEANT ends up getting a wallop.

 

SERGEANT: Are you going to stop fooling about, or not?! Are you going to answer the Inspectorís question?

 

LOFTY: Ah... so youíre an Inspector? You should have said so... I thought it was a bit odd for pastry-cooks and Orthodox priests to start slapping handcuffs on people... Well, Inspector, you know what I say? I quite like you!

 

SERGEANT: [Losing patience and giving him a backhander] Watch it, sonny. Who asked you to get so familiar?

 

LOFTY: And the same goes for you. Is there some section in Police Regulations which says that a olice Inspector can address a citizen in familiar terms, but a citizen canít do the same back?

 

SERGEANT: I said watch it, laddy! Who do you think you are?!

 

He gives him a resounding slap in the face.

 

LOFTY: Hey, no! No, all this whacky-whacky is getting a bit out of hand... Goodbye.

 

He makes as if to leave.

 

INSPECTOR: [Restraining him] Calm down, calm down... Come and sit down here... Alright, if you insist, from now on, itíll be surnames only, alright?

 

LOFTY: No, tell you what, Inspector, Iíve had second thoughts. Letís use Christian names. Itís more intimate. After all, weíre getting on so well now...

 

INSPECTOR: Speaking of getting on, youíre beginning to get on my nerves... ! [He gets himself under control again, after the SERGEANT signals to him not to carry on in this vein] Right, if you donít mind, name and surname!

 

LOFTY: Lovely, Cloudy, Stormy Weather...

 

SERGEANT: [Beside himself] Stop taking the piss, because even if the Inspector is a patient man, Iím not!

 

He gives LOFTY another backhander.

 

LOFTY: Hey, thatís not fair! Hitting a man when heís down!

 

Seeing another backhander coming, he ducks.

 

INSPECTOR: Listen, you! [The backhander hits the INSPECTOR] That will do, Sergeant! [Turning to LOFTY, grinding his teeth with rage] Am I going to have to wait long?

 

LOFTY: If the Corporal here is going to carry on like this, then Iím not saying another word, and thatís that... Anyway, Lovely Cloudy Weather really is my real name. If you donít believ me, look at these papers. In fact, this one in particular... [He points to a sheet of paper sticking out of his case]... and then youíll see...

 

SERGEANT: [He picks up the document and reads] REHTAEW| YLEVOL...

 

INSPECTOR: [Looking at him pityingly] Sergeant! You are reading it upside down!

 

SERGEANT: Ah, yes. [He turns the sheet of paper the right way up] Lovely Weather, thatís exactly what it says here...

 

He hands over the document.

 

LOFTY: Cloudy and Stormy are my two other Christian names. I told you so...

 

INSPECTOR: [Reading the heading on the sheet of paper] War Office, Statement of Permanent Invalidity... Ah, so youíre a war invalid?

 

LOFTY: Yes indeed. Grade 2... [Speaking to the SERGEANT, who has literally gone white as a sheet] Incidentally, Sergeant, I donít quite remember where I read it, but I believe that there are very serious penalties for people who perpetrate violence on a war invalid... Particularly when the above-mentioned finds himself in a position of being physically unable to defend himself... ! Oh dear, Sergeant, youíll be in trouble now... !

 

He gives him a wallop.

 

INSPECTOR: Let him go, Sergeant!

 

The SERGEANT removes the handcuffs.

 

LOFTY: Isnít life funny! A person moves heaven and earth to advance his career, and one day, just for a silly little thing, it all vanishes before his eyes! All because of this nasty habit of slapping people about! Naughty, nasty hands... ! [He slaps the back of the SERGEANTís hands. The SERGEANT wants to retaliate, but LOFTY stops him] Tut, tut, Sergeant, donít forget... War Invalid! You canít een touch a war invalid with a flower. Would you like a word of advice? If I were you, Iíd put the handcuffs on yourself!

 

Mechanically, the SERGEANT goes as if to put the handcuffs on himsef. He suddenly stops, realising what heís doing.

 

INSPECTOR: Alright. Shall we continue? Sergeant, would you mind taking notes, please? [The SERGEANT pulls out a notebook] Right. Letís start again. Christian name: Lovely; surname: Weather... Did you get that? [The SERGEANT, much chastened, signals yes, by nodding] Profession?

 

LOFTY: Hunting dog. Breed: retriever...

 

INSPECTOR: [Not thinking] Hunting dog... [He suddenly leaps to his feet] Now then! This is going too far! [He is beside himself. He comes face to face with LOFTY] Nobody takes the piss out of me. Not even real criminals! I can see weíre going to have to sort you out!

 

LOFTY: Remember the war wound, Inspector... Think of your family!

 

INSPECTOR: Alright... [He sits down again, fuming] But I warn you, war wound or not, if you donít stop piss-balling about... even if it means me being transferred to Sicily...

 

LOFTY: For heavenís sake, to Sicily! Donít have yourself sent to Sicily, Inspector. That would upset me terribly!

 

INSPECTOR: I will, though. I canít stand jokes. [They begin the performance again, in a series of gestures that build to a frenzy] Especially when they are played by civil servants and officers of the state, to whom has been entrusted the task of seeing to the rights and well-being of our citizens. [To the SERGEANT] I understand your devotion to your superiors but Iím going to ask you to get up.

 

SERGEANT: [He gets up] Of course.

 

INSPECTOR: [To SERGEANT) Sergeant, I want you to introduce me to every clerk in this office, one by one... Get a move on! Now Iíll show them! Theyíll find out what happens to people who play silly tricks on honest citizens!

 

The SERGEANT opens the door abruptly, and all the CLERKS, who had been listening at the keyhole, come tumbling into the room.

 

SERGEANT: Ah, listening at the keyhole, were we?!

 

INSPECTOR: Good, well done, make yourselves at home. That means that Iím not going to have to waste time explaining what I want from you. Letís have you! [The CLERKS line up in front of him] Right, whatís the story behind all this nonsense?!

 

He walks up and down the line, as if reviewing troops, waving the document under their noses.

 

LOFTY: [Walking behind the INSPECTOR, obviously well-pleased] Come on, letís have you!

 

INSPECTOR: I see, nobody knows! Alright, then, Iíll tell you what it is: itís a joke in very poor taste... This is making fun of honest citizens!

 

LOFTY: [Prompting him] ...who pay their taxes!

 

INSPECTOR: ...who pay their taxes...

 

LOFTY: ...who pay your wages...

 

INSPECTOR: ...who pay... Hey... gently!

 

LOFTY: Yes, yes, gently. But youíll se. Weíll get to the bottom of this.

 

INSPECTOR: I want the person responsible for this deplorable and dishonourable act, which is a disgrace not only to your profession, but to all civi servants...

 

LOFTY: [Still prompting] ...including me.

 

INSPECTOR: ...including me! ...And it is precisely in defence of the honour and dignity... of...

 

LOFTY: [As above] ...the aforementioned...

 

INSPECTOR: ...of the aforementioned... thank you... that I demand to know the name of the feckless, anti-social individual whom you are protecting! I give you three minutes to tell me, after which...

 

LOFTY: Iíll bang you all up against the wall!

 

INSPECTOR: Iíll bang you all up against the wall!

 

LOFTY goes through the motions of a firing squad with a machine gun. He pretends that his gun jams. He mimes taking it apart, and then puts it back together, transforming it into a violin, on which he plays a brief Ďfugueí.

 

LOFTY: Well, maybe banging everyone up against the wall... would be a bit much. Weíll just have a little firing squad: one, two, three...

 

He begins counting off the CLERKS.

 

FIRST CLERK: [Taking a step forward] May I speak?

 

LOFTY: No!

 

INSPECTOR: [As if in a daze] No!

 

SERGEANT: [Servile] No!

 

INSPECTOR: One minute, thatís all youíve got...

 

LOFTY: [Parroting him] Thatís all youíve got...

 

FIRST CLERK: I believe that I, on behalf of my colleagues, may be able to offer some small explanation of the matter in hand...

 

LOFTY: You see, Inspector? A mass execution generally proves pretty effective... Sergeant, take this down!

 

FIRST CLERK: The origins of the problem before us undoubtedly go back fifteen years.

 

SECOND CLERK: In other words, to the war.

 

FIRST CLERK: One of our older colleagues was forced to take early retirement, so that he never made it to the higher grade...

 

THIRD CLERK: ...to which, by rights, he was due to be promoted within a matter of months...

 

Each of the CLERKS takes a couple of steps forward in order to make his point, and then, after finishing his contribution, steps back into line.

 

LOFTY: Not a bad joke, that! Iíll have to add it to my collection.

 

FIRST CLERK: I was saying... The clerk on whom destiny had played such a terrible joke...

 

LOFTY: I didnít know that you called your bosses here Ďdestinyí: Chief Desiny... Inspector Destiny...

 

INSPECTOR: If you donít mind, letís finish...

 

LOFTY: So, what did our poor unfortunate friend do?

 

FIRST CLERK: He almost went mad...

 

FOURTH CLERK: And, determined to take revenge, he began to make alterations and modifications to the census material in the Registry.

 

SECOND CLERK: And since he had been in charge of this section for the last 30 years, you can imagine the total chaos he created.

 

THIRD CLERK: In fact, by the time heíd finished, we had: a bishop married to a lighthouse keeper.

 

FIRST CLERK: A man who died two years before he was born.

 

FIFTH CLERK: A general who turned out never to have done his military service.

 

SECOND CLERK: Another was brought back to life twenty years after his death, and expatriated to America, where he changed sex and married...

 

THIRD CLERK: ...a barman from the Bronx. [As the CLERKS step in and out of line, their movements begin to suggest a kind of folk dance, with skips, cross-overs and turns] However, all these changes and alterations were only carried out on the persons (and the relations) of the colleagues and superiors whom he considered responsible for the insult inflicted on him!

 

LOFTY: [Interrupting his exposition] Alright, fair enough. But why pick on me? What have I ever done to the man, to deserve being turned into a retriever dog, and a mongrel to boot?

 

FIRST CLERK: Have you by chance any relatives working in the Ministry?

 

LOFTY: No. Iím from Lombardy.

 

FIRST CLERK: Somebody with a similar name, perhaps... ?

 

LOFTY: What do you mean, similar name?! Not everybody has the good fortune to have a father as mad as mine!

 

SECOND CLERK: He must have just got carried away with changing registry entries...

 

LOFTY: [Almost hysterical] But why did he have to get carried away with me? Iíll give him carried away! By the time Iím finished with him, heíll need carrying away! [He grabs one of the CLERKS by the scuff of the neck] Where is he... ? Iíll give him pension! Where do I find him?!

 

SECOND CLERK: In the cemetery!

 

LOFTY: Heís dead?!

 

THIRD CLERK: Yes. He died two months later. They say he never stopped laughing... and that his laughter was so infectious that all his relations round the death bed got caught up with it... It appears that they even laughed at his funeral...

 

FIRST CLERK: What do you mean, Ďappearsí? I was there, and I tell you, it was the funniest funeral Iíve ever been to...

 

ALL THE CLERKS: In chorus] God, what a laugh we had!

 

LOFTY: Alright, alright, letís forget funny funerals and get back to our story! I would like to know how youíve been able to get away with his state of falsified chaos!

 

The CLERKS begin moving in different directions. LOFTY sits down to watch.

 

FIRST CLERK: At the start we were all desperate Ė particularly our superiors. The alterations had been carried out so carefully and skilfully that in order to put right everything that heíd undone, we would have had to call in every single person concerned...

 

SECOND CLERK: Not to mention people who were already dead.

 

THIRD CLERK: And people who were not even born yet...

 

FIRST CLERK: Inevitably, there would have been a scandal... And an inquiry [With all these people coming and going across the stage, the SERGEANT, standing centre-stage, puts on a pair of white gloves and pretends to be directing traffic] ...Followed by an equally inevitable trial, not to mention the ridicule which would be heaped on everyone involved in this tragic circumstance Ė most of them rather extremely highly placed.

 

The INSPECTOR too is caught up in the game, but he ends up crossing the stage just as the TRAFFIC COP/SERGEANT has raised his hand to signal stop. The SERGEANT pulls out a whistle and blows on it, repeatedly. He is about to book the INSPECTOR for a traffic offence. However, the INSPECTOR pulls out his police warrant-card, and waves it under the SERGEANTís nose.

 

SERGEANT: [Stopped in his tracks] Ah... Consider it not said, sir... [Turning to the others, who have formed a huddle behind him] Keep moving, keep moving! [Turning to the THIRD CLERK] You, drive on.

 

THIRD CLERK: Well, we were saved by a fortunate mishap Ė one wing of the Ministry building was obliterated during an air raid. So we collected up all the falsified documents and burned them, and their loss was put down to the air raid...

 

ALL THE CLERKS: [In chorus] A Very Good Idea!

 

LOFTY: All the documents, except mine!

 

THIRD CLERK: Precisely, except yours. I canít imagine how yours slipped through!

 

LOFTY: [He slowly gets up, looks them up and down, one by one, as if reviewing them, and then addresses them aggressively] Ah, so you canít imagine, eh? Well, Iíll tell you why... Because yours truly is not one of the Firm. Ergo et propter hoc, who gives a damn... ! Well, a bomb might have saved you last time round, but this time itís going to blow you sky-high! Ha, ha! [To the INSPECTOR and the SERGEANT] Except you two of course. Iíll use the law to throw you all out in the street... [To the INSPECTOR and SERGEANT. And weíll see about you, after.

 

Now I begin to understand why your mad colleague involved me in all this. I was the reserve detonator, in case the first one failed to go off... Ha, ha! [He laughs, and turns and picks out somebody in the audience, as if he has just discovered the deceased come back to life] Hey, I donít know about mad... ! Youíve been pretty clever! Ha, ha! You prepared your counter-move in advance... You were right to go out laughing... ! Ha, ha... ! Listen to him laugh... Ha, ha!

 

SERGEANT: [Seriously worried] Heís off his rocker...

 

INSPECTOR: Calm down! Donít get overexcited, itís bad for you. Weíll sort it out, youíll see. Sit down and relax. Leave it to me.

 

Everybody rushes about getting chairs for LOFTY and the INSPECTOR, who, inevitably, end up sitting down, missing the chairs, and going down with a thud.

 

LOFTY: Relax, he says!

 

INSPECTOR: [Paternalistically] Now, letís see: if Iím not mistaken, you came here to get your pension speeded up a bit. But itís going to take years before all this is sorted out. Donít forget that youíll only get your true identity back when the trial proceedings are over. So the first thing to do is to sort out your position on the Registry files. [To the CLERKS) And since all of you, to a greater or lesser degree, are responsible for this state of affairs, youíd better get cracking...

 

FIRST CLERK: Well, as regards his Registry Office entry, there might be a way... But it all depends whether the gentleman is prepared to collaborate...

 

INSPECTOR: [Turning to the CLERKS] Just a minute. Iíve been bending over backwards, but I can only go so far. If everything is not sorted out within three days, I am going to put out an arrest warrant for your whole department and youíll all end up with a nice long remand in custody pending trial. Understand? Goodbye!

 

SERGEANT: [To the INSPECTOR, as he exits] Farewell, Chief!

 

INSPECTOR: Farewell, my friend! [He exits, and then immediately comes back on stage, walking backwards, as if in a film that has been run in reverse] Understand? Goodbye!

 

He signals to the SERGEANT.

 

SERGEANT: Oh, yes...

 

He falls in behind the INSPECTOR. They exit in step, with the SERGEANT setting the rhythm with his whistle.

 

LOFTY: OK, spit it out! What is this idea that youíve come up with?

 

ALL THE CLERKS: Excuse us.

 

They group themselves in a huddle, as if in a rugby scrum.

 

FIRST CLERK: [Coming out of the circle] If you could be so kind as to continue being a retriever... just for a few more days, then...

 

LOFTY: [Shrilly, meanly] Then what... ?

 

SECOND CLERK: [Falteringly] ...then everything would be resolved: three days is all it would take... [He consults with his colleagues in a whisper. They concur] Naturally, youíre going to have to give us a hand.

 

LOFTY: [With irony, not convinced] Oh yes, naturally. What am I supposed to do?

 

FIRST CLERK: [All in one breath] Have yourself caught by one of the city dog-catchers without a muzzle, or without the regulation name-tag round your neck...

 

LOFTY: [Shrilly, almost screaming] What?

 

THIRD CLERK: [Backing off, ready to make a run for it] Obviously, the dog-catcher would be in on whatís going on. The Director of the City Dog Pound is an ex-colleague of ours, and would certainly not refuse us such a teeny-weeny favour.

 

LOFTY: [Calmly, chewing it over word by word] So, to cut a long story short, Iím going to have to pass myself off as a stray dog. And what happens then?

 

FIRST CLERK: [Reassured, but not very much] Well, as you know, by law, after three days in captivity, if nobody comes to claim a stray, then the dog is put down in the gas chamber.

 

LOFTY: [Lost in thought] Yes, I know... strays are... [With a start. Shrilly, as above] In the gas chamber?! Iím afraid Iím not too keen on this particular little scheme. Iím going to have to think about it.

 

FOURTH CLERK: [With an affable smile] But what on earth did you think we meant... ? Obviously, weíre not suggesting that you go to the gas chamber! [As if explaining the most obvious thing in the world] Once the three days required by law are over, then it will go down in the records that you, as a dog, have been put down. When this little difficulty is out of the way, you will be able to come back to us, with any two suitable witnesses, and regain your true identity.

 

THIRD CLERK: [In the same tone] And then, on the same day, you will also be able to draw everything thatís owing to you on your pension, which, if I do a quick sum, must amount to something like... [All the CLERKS raise their hands, with their fingers spread out. LOFTY is made to do the same. The ACCOUNTING CLERK does his sums by ficking their fingers up and down, as if he was pressing the keys of a calculator] Donít mind me... Eight million lire...

 

LOFTY: [Enthusiastically] Eight million! So thatís why they call it the Parsonís Nose! It must be holy! If thatís the kind of money weíre talking about, then... let the dog-catcher come! Better to spend three days as a poor dog than a hundred days as a poor man... ! Long live the bureaucracy!!

 

All the CLERKS step forward to the footlights, and, in chorus, sing their bureaucratsí song. The traverse curtain is drawn across behind them, so that the scenery behind it can be changed.

 

CLERKS: [In chorus]

 

The name of the man who sat at his desk over averages, figures and norms

Multiplying, dividing, subtracting and adding, checking the census forms.

Let us sing of the deeds of the Lords of the rates and the social security,

Imbursing, permitting, discharging and taxing, and adding on V.A.T.

 

Tell me

 

The name of the man who sat at his desk over records, insurance and dole,

Writing chronicles, catalogues, calendars, analogues, tying up every loophole.

We brothers unite, for a statue we fight, for our work at the office desk lamp.

We stacked up the piles of red tape and files.

Weíre the Kings of the Ink Rubber Stamp.

Weíre the Kings of the Ink Rubber Stamp.

 

Blackout.

 

ACT TWO

SCENE TWO

 

Scene: A Municipal Dog Pound

 

The lights come up. The traverse curtain opens. We are in the municipal Dog Pound. There are several kennels/ages around the edge of the stage, and one in the centre, on which we see a notice, which reads: ĎBeware of the Maní. Enter LOFTY, dragged in most unwillingly by the DOG CATCHER. He is wearing a muzzle, and has a dog collar round his neck. The DOG POUND KEEPER opens the central cage, and tries to push him in. One of the DOG CATCHERS tries to drag him in by tugging on his lead.

 

LOFTY: Hey, go easy with that lead, youíre bloody throttling me... Letís have some manners, for heavenís sake!

 

FIRST DOG CATCHER: Well, get a move on, then... If all mongrels were like you, Iíd be long since dead and gone. Come on, get your things off!

 

Once again, he tries to shove him into the centre cage.

 

LOFTY: [Wrenching himself free, and shouting shrilly] What do you mean?!

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: Itís the regulations.

 

KEEPER AND DOG CATCHERS: [In unison, as if reading the rules] The captured animal must be stripped of any accessories that it may be wearing at the moment of capture. To whit: lead, collar, name tag, doggy coat, etcetera. LOFTY: [Waving his arms like the conductor of an orchestra bringing a piece to an end] Alright, alright: I get the message. I see youíve learnt your lines. Seven out of ten for effort! [In a bad mood] Anyway, as far as accessories goes, all Iíve got is a collar and muzzle. So, cop this lot, and much good may they do you! [He takes off his Ďaccessoriesí and hurls them at the two KEEPERS) And you can stop taking the mickey, because I only agreed to take part in this charade so as to do a favour for your friends. So, start behavinga bit sensibly, because otherwise Iíll kick up a rare old shindig, and you can kiss your jobs goodbye... Theyíll send you out catching cats! Alright?

 

He moves closer to the SECOND DOG CATCHER..

 

FIRST DOG CATCHER: Alright! Alright! But as you know, the regulations state that...

 

LOFTY: [He goes into the cage, but comes out again immediately, holding his nose] Speaking of regulations, whatís the vile smell in this place? Regulation smell, is it? [In the tone of a Duty Corporal] Letís have you! Scrubbing brush, soap and hot water, because weíre going to see some changes round here... ! Come on, jump to it! Move it, move it... !

 

The two of them unthinkingly leap to attention. The FIRST DOG CATCHER turns on his heel and exits.

 

VOICE FROM LOUDSPEAKER: Your attention please. In a few minutes we shall be opening the gates to admit visitors to the Municipal Dog Pound. However, we must ask visitors not o tease or annoy our animal guests in their cages, and not to feed them. In particular you are advised not to get too close to cages which display notices saying: This Animal Is Dangerous. You are also reminded that access to the gas chamber, particularly when it is in operation, is restricted to the animals in question.

 

LOFTY listens attentively, while the FIRST KEEPER returns with a scrubbing bruh and a bucket of water, and busies himself cleaning up. Enter several VISITORS. LOFTY wanders round the cages and stops in front of one of them. He removes the sign attached to the bars. A LADY stops in front of the cage on the right.

 

LADY: [Speaking in an oochy-coochy tone of voice] Nice doggy, nice doggy... Oh, youíre a lovely pointer.

 

LOFTY: [Going up and standing behind her] Thatís not a pointer, madam, itís a retriever.

 

LADY: [Without turning round] How can you say that with such certainty?

 

LOFTY: Because Iím a retriever too!

 

The LADY turns round with an amused smile. In the meantime, LOFTY has put his muzzle on. Seeing him, she lets out a scream, and exits, running.

 

FIRST DOG CATCHER: [Running up] Whatís the big idea...? What are you doing, going round frightening the ladies? Do you want me to get a ticking-off from the Director? [He grabs him by the collar] Come on, get into your cage. Itís clean now!

 

LOFTY: [Enjoying himself, and imitating the playful barking of a puppy] Alright. But now will you please leave me in peace, because I want to read for a while. [He pulls a newspaper out of his pocket] Please tell reception that if anyone calls, Iím not in. Would you mind shutting the door? Thank you.

 

He opens the newspaper in front of his face, while one of the DOG KEEPERS hangs a sign on the bars of the cage. An odd-looking GENTLEMAN, dressed in old-fashioned clothes and wearing a bowler hat, comes up to the cage. He takes a look at the sign, and then gets up on tiptoe in an attempt to see who is hiding behind the newspaper. LOFTY barks. He peeks over the top of his newspaper, and then ducks back down. Then, irritated by the strangerís curiosity, he moves aggressively over to the bars,snarling and growling like a mad dog.

 

GENTLEMAN: [He takes a startled leap backwards. For a moment, he is completely taken aback. Then, very politely, he turns to the first DOG CATCHER, who is still loitering about with his cleaning gear] Excuse me, are you quite sure that this is a retriever?

 

FIRST DOG CATCHER: [Openly making fun of him] How should I know? Iím not a dog-spotter Ė Iím only paid to catch them. But if the sign says heís a retriever, then thatís what he is.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Convinced. Without even a trace of irony] Good. Alright. Iíll take him.

 

FIRST DOG CATCHER: [Convinced that heís making fun of him in return] What?

 

GENTLEMAN: [Serious, and even more determined. He passes over a handful of money] Thereís the money for the fee... And here are my particulars. Iíd like to take it away with me now.

 

FIRST DOG CATCHER: So, you want to play silly bleeders, eh?

 

GENTLEMAN: [With a madmanís logic. With feeling] I canít imagine what makes you think that. Am I or am I not fully within my rights to take the dog that I choose, as and when I want it? And this is the animal that I want.

 

LOFTY: [He has been following this conversation with great interest. Suddenly he reaches one arm out between the bars, and grabs the bowler-hatted GENTLEMAN by the collar] Listen here, you pre-Raphaelite nincompoop [He is referring to the GENTLEMANís late nineteenth-century dress] If you dare say one more time that this animal, namely I myself, yours truly, Ďinterestsí you, then youíre going to get such a boot in the duodenum that youíll end up needing emergency surgery for suspecte acute appendicitis! Alright?

 

GENTLEMAN: [Dumbfounded. Turning to the DOG KEEPER] Excuse me, was that him talking, or are you a ventriloquist?

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: [Freshly arrived on-stage] Allow me to explain, sir... [Aside, to the other two] Leave this to me. I know this one. Heís nuts. [With a big wink, he puts his arm around the GENTLEMAN and steers him away from the cage, speaking sympathetically, in subdued tones] You see, itís a bit of a sad story. Iíll admit that this fellow appears to be a dog... But the truth is, heís a man...

 

GENTLEMAN: [He takes a sideways look at LOFTY, to see if what the DOG CATCHER said is true] Really? Thatís amazing!

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: [Sighing. With feeling] Yes. Heís a man. Poor devil. Heís gone out of his mind.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Terribly upset] Out of his mind? Why?

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: [As above] Itís a sad story. He used to have a dog, but the dog ran away, was caught by us, and was put into that cage. By the time he arrived to collect it, the poor devil was already dead.

 

GENTLEMAN: [With a lump in his throat] In the gas chamber?

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: [After a brief pause] No, suicide... Maybe he thought his owner had abandoned him... [Sighing] And, in a moment of depression...

 

He makes a gesture with his hand, to indicate cutting his throat.

 

GENTLEMAN: Suicide?! And how did he do it?

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: [He gestures to indicate somebody shooting themselves, but then has second thoughts, and decides on something else] He slashed his wrists with a piece of broken glass. You see, the ownerís wife had also died by the same method, and, as you may know, dogs are very quick to learn.

 

GENTLEMAN: [He gazes into the middle distance, as if lost in thought] You donít have to tell me. I had a dog once, which was an alcoholic. [He nods his head in the direction of LOFTYís cage] Poor man. So, he went mad with grief? But whatís he doing in there now?

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: [He takes him under his arm again. Together, the two of them stroll down the footlights] Every day, at visiting time, he comes here and asks us to let him go into the cage where his faithful friend passed away. We canít find it in us to refuse him, poor devil Ė itís heartbreaking!

 

GENTLEMAN: [He stops, still half lost in thought] Ah yes, I know what you mean... I certainly know what you mean. I found it terribly painful when Garibaldi died.

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: You were a Garibaldi supporter?

 

GENTLEMAN: [Proudly] No. I was a conjuror! A Republican, but a conjuror! And Garibaldi was a mustard-coloured poodle puppy. [Delightedly he traces the dogís shape in the air] And when heíd been to the poodle parlour, with that pom-pom on his head, and those big blonde ears flopping down around his chin, he looked just like Garibaldi as a young man. [He pauses briefly, giving the DOG KEEPER a fixed look] You know, he was really intelligent. He had even learned how to do conjuring tricks. [His voice takes on a tone of splendour] Can you imagine it, a conjuring dog. Splendid, he was!

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: [Giving him full rein] Good heavens! A conjuring dog?

 

GENTLEMAN: [As if about to crack up] Yes. But the problem was that he died on me just a couple of days before his debut. [He sighs, and adds, very sadly:] When he died, I felt as if I was about to go mad.

 

The SECOND DOG CATCHER sniggers to himself.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Suspiciously] What?

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: [Embarrassed. Trying to make amends] I said: I can well believe it.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Toying with the label on LOFTYís cage. Suddenly he turns on the KEEPER, very annoyed] And to think that I almost fell for it... Might one know why you have been spinning me this pack of lies?

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: [Taken aback] What pack of lies?

 

GENTLEMAN: Donít try and be clever! The description on this label matches exactly. Retriever dog: docked tail; big ears; unmarked coat; thick dark hair on the head; and short canines. Thereís no doubt, itís him!

 

LOFTY: [Turning aggressive, he thumps the GENTLEMAN on his bowler hat. Then he puts his arm round his neck and pulls him back against the bars] Spot on! Yes, I am the afore-mentioned retriever! And since I am also an evil-minded, idle mongrel, if you donít shove off at once, I shall have your ear off. [He loosens his grip] And I warn you that Iíve got rabies, distemper and scabies all rolled into one... So if youíre not careful, as well as losing an ear, youíre likely to snuff it too.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Terrified. Straightening out his dented bowler hat] Is it true what he says?

 

FIRST DOG CATCHER: [Barely restraining himself from laughing in his face] Completely true. Canít you see what a rabid face heís got?

 

GENTLEMAN: [Hysterical] But have you no sense of responsibility? Why havenít you put a ĎDangerí notice on his cage, in case he bites someone?

 

He backs off, as LOFTY romps around his cage, howling.

 

LOFTY: Uhuuuu! Uhuuu! Grrrr! Uhuuu!

 

The mad CONJUROR has barely left the stage, when another GENTLEMAN arrives. Running up, he grabs the bull-whip from one of the KEEPERS, and begins lashing out at LOFTY.

 

DIRECTOR: Good dog... ! Down! Down!

 

LOFTY: Ouch! Aaargh! Uhuuu! Uhuuu! [The whip catches him on one leg. He hops about, whining]

 

DIRECTOR: Down, boy! [LOFTY sits down at once. With an authoritarian air, the DIRECTOR turns to the DOG KEEPERS] And what do you think youíre playing at? Arenít you capable of keeping this animal under control? What kind of dog keepers are you?

 

FIRST DOG CATCHER: [Trying to grab the whip from his hands] Hey, what is this? April Foolís Day? Who are you?

 

DIRECTOR: I am the Director.

 

He takes a step forwards, and contrives to jam his foot into the cleaning bucket.

 

SECOND DOG CATCHER: Who are you kidding! If you donít mind, I know our Director. Heís Dr Campironi.

 

DIRECTOR: He was Dr Campironi. But as from this morning, heís been transferred to another post. [He frees his foot from the bucket] ...and seeing that as from this moment I am Director, youíll do me the honour of making a few changes round here, because otherwise youíll get a taste of my whip too.

 

LOFTY: [Quick as a flash, he grabs the whip. He wraps it round the DIRECTORís leg and immobilises him] See here, Mr Director... Iíve taken an instant dislike to you, mainly because youíre the spitting image of a friend of mine whoís a rat-face just like you. So I warn you, if you show your face round here one more time, doing the Zorro bit, Iíll come and pluck you, like a daisy, right down to the little yellow bit in the middle.

 

[MISSING...]

 

LOFTYís cage. Suddenly he turns on the KEEPER, very annoyed] And to think that I almost fell for it... Might one know why you have been spinning me this pack of lies?

 

He pushes the DIRECTOR away from him with such force as to send him pirouetting, in classic ballet style.

 

DIRECTOR: [Staggering, dizzily] What is this man doing in this cage?

 

FIRST DOG CATCHER: [Steadying him] Iím sorry, but didnít the other Director tell you about the favour weíre supposed to be doing for the Registry Office?

 

DIRECTOR: Ah, yes, he did. [He goes over towards LOFTY, but stops at a respectful distance] Be that as it may, youíd best be behaving yourself as befits an animal of your breed. [He removes the bucket from his foot]... A breed noted for its meek and docile temperament. Otherwise, I wonít even wait for the statutory three days to pass. [His voice changes tone] Iíll bang you into the gas chamber straight away, and thatíll be that, understood?

 

Once again he contrives to stick his foot in the bucket, but does not notice.

 

LOFTY: [With his head jammed between the bars, almost screaming] Understand what? Oi! Daisy! Whatís all that stuff about not waiting three days... thegas chamber ... and thatíll be that? We had an agreement that after three days youíd go ahead and put me down, but only for make-believe. [To the two DOG KEEPERS] Look lads, letís not joke with gas!

 

DIRECTOR: [Waving his arms like the conductor of a military band] I never agreed anything with anyone. My motto is, and always has been: seriousness and a respect for the law! If wihin three days nobody comes to take you off our hands, then you will be put down! In a country where nepotism and little favours are standard practice, the least we can do is to make sure that they donít creep ino the running of our Dog Pound. And now step aside, because I want you to introduce me to the rest of the staff.

 

He contrives to jam his other foot in the other bucket, and sets off with a military gait, followed by the two DOG KEEPERS..

 

LOFTY: [He is completely taken aback. He shakes the bars of his cage, but the door remains shut. Tearfully] Mummy, mummy, theyíre all murderers here. [He shouts over to the other cages] Hey, spaniels, alsatians, mongrels, give us a hand! Letís organise a mass escape, because I really donít fancy ending up in a gas chamber. What have I done to deserve it? Iím no ĎManís Best Friendí, me! Wake up! Kick up a row... ! Do something! [He pauses for a moment, hoping that something is going to happen] Well, look at that: not one of the bastards moved! Well, you know what I say: you disgust me, and it serves you right, because anyone who allows someone to dock their ears and tails, to slap them on the nose without uttering so much as aword, deserves to end up in the gas chamber! Iím really pleased! Ha, ha! You see how pleased I am Ė Ha, ha! [He breaks down into sobs that sound like a dogís yelping. Meantime, re-enter the CONJUROR. LOFTY shouts out loud] I donít want to die

 

GENTLEMAN: [The sound of LOFTYís voice makes him jump, frightened] Oh, you horrible, ugly brute!

 

He walks off.

 

LOFTY: Excuse me, Sir, listen... [He barks, then speaks, then barks. Since the GENTLEMAN pays no attention, he tries to attract his attention by miaowing. The GENTLEMAN comes back over to the cage] Iíve got something to tell you...

 

The CONJUROR looks at him for a moment, and then turns his back on him. Once again, LOFTY miaows. And once again, the CONJUROR does an about-turn.

 

GENTLEMAN: Whatís the matter with you?

 

LOFTY: [Pleading] Sir, take me away from here. Save me. theyíve tricked me. They really are going to send me to the gas chamber... Theyíre evil here... especially Daisy-Features there... Take me away from here... Pleeeease...

 

GENTLEMAN: [Moved, in a paternal tone] But my dear doggy friend, rest assured that I would be more than happy to. For years I have been looking for an animal like you, to replace my poor Garibaldi. But youíve got rabies, and one canít mess around with rabies! Suppose you took it into your head to bite me... ?

 

LOFTY: [Pleading with him, passionately] But no, I havenít got anything... Iím completely healthy! I was just having a bit of fun with you. [Enter one of the DOG CATCHERS] Look, thereís the Keeper. You ask him, because he knows whatís going on. And then, when you know the truth, if you take me away from here, youíll never have cause to regret it. Iíll be so well-behaved! Iíll do everything you tell me: Iíll eat my dogmeat, my crusts and my dog biscuits. Iíll sit, Iíll beg, Iíll retrieve, and, if you want, Iíll even piss up against trees. Just get me out of here!

 

He barks and whines. Other dogs take up the refrain.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Turning to the KEEPER) Listen, about that retriever dog...

 

The conversation between the two of them is submerged under the barking of dogs. Itís feeding time.The KEEPER is distributing bowls of dog food from cage to cage. As the KEEPER does his rounds, he nods his head affirmatively. He takes the money, and signs a piece of paper. Then he comes over to the cage and opens it. He puts a collar and muzzle on LOFTY. The CONJUROR takes his lead.

 

GENTLEMAN: There you are. As from this moment, you are no longer a stray. Youíve got an owner. But I warn you, if you donít behave yourself as you promised, if you start playing up, Iíll bring you straiht back to the Dog Pound, alright?

 

LOFTY: Yes, yes, alright. But before we leave, would you let me play up just one last time? Just a little bit...

 

GENTLEMAN: Alright, as long as itís for the last time...

 

LOFTY: Thank you! [He snatches the whip from the KEEPERís hand, and disappears off stage right. After a moment, he reappears from stage left, preceded by the DIRECTOR, who is hopping along, trying to escape the lashing of LOFTYís whip] Letís have you, Mr Director! Jump to it! Weíve got to do away with all this nepotism, and little favours! Everyone needs a fair crack of the whip! We must respect the law, and there must be equality for all: dogs, men, cats ... and Dog Pound Diretors!

 

LOFTY takes up a position like a circus trainer. He forces the three of them to get into line. Then, with a crack of the whip, he makes them come forward, stepping high, as if they are prancng horses. They pirouette, dance and gallop. The three actorsí movements are accompanied by a rising crescendo of circus music.

 

Blackout

 

ACT TWO

SCENE THREE

 

Scene: At the Conjurorís House

 

As the lights come up, enter the CONJUROR from stage right, in a wheelchair, passing in front of the traverse curtain.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Shouting at the top of his voice] Lofty! Lofty... ! Here, boy... ! You see, he wonít answer! And he promised me that he was going to be obedient and obliging. Heís trying to give me another heart attack... Imagine it Ė me, believing a dogís promises! And a mongrel retriever, into the bargain! [He rolls his eyes to the skies] Oh, Garibaldi, my Garibaldi Ė you were a real dog! [He arranges the fingers of his left hand into the shape of a dogís head, and strokes them] You are the only one who really loved me! I used to love the way you wagged your tail... But this one, never! Not only does he have no tail to wag, but doesnít even have the stub of a tail. And heís stubborn and lazy into the bargain, and he wonít pay attention when youíre trying to teach him the tricks of the trade. The few conjuring tricks that I have succeeded in teaching him have cost me my health. An attack of nerves has confined me to this wheelchair. And to think that I saved that mongrelís life! Heíll be the death of me, and he knows it. Heís been gone for half an hour now, just to get a newspaper! Lofty! Lofty! [We hear LOFTY barking from off-stage] Iíve told you a thousand times, I wonít have you reading my newspaper! Imagine it Ė a dog, reading a newspaper, and in the street, at that! What on earth are people going to think? Come on, come in, and, do start behaving yourself!

 

LOFTY: [He enters on all fours, still barking. He has a newspaper between his teeh. He is wearing a tartan woollen blanket around his middle, and a spotty knitted woollen suit covering the rest of his body. He comes over to the CONJUROR, and gives him his newspaper] There you are your newspaper Ė all yours!

 

GENTLEMAN: And the bread, and the eggs, and the rest of the things that I sent you to buy... where are they?

 

LOFTY: Theyíre in the newspaper.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Unfolding the newspaper] But thereís nothing here!

 

LOFTY: What do you mean, nothing? But I was certain... I remember laying ot the newspaper... [He takes the newspaper from the CONJURORís hands, and opens it out in front of his owner, mimicking the actions of a conjuror] And I said: ĎPlease, could you give me two eggs.íThey gave me the two eggs [He mimes the action] I took the two eggs, and put them in the newspaper, and then folded it up. Are they there, or are they not? Shall we have a look?

 

GENTLEMAN: [Holding his breath] Yes.

 

LOFTY: [He spreads out the newspaper, holds the top edge of it in his hand, passes his other hand behind the sheet, and pulls out two eggs] Hey presto! There you have them Ė two eggs! And then I asked: ĎCould I also have some bread, please.í So they gave me some bread, and I took it, and I put it under my newspaper. Shall we see if thereís some bread there?

 

GENTLEMAN: Yes.

 

LOFTY: Hey presto! Thereís the bread! Then I said: ĎLook, Iím tired of waiting round here. Will you please hurry up with the rest of the stuff so that I can get off home.í So they gave me the rest. I took it, and put it under the newspaper. Shall we see if itís there? Hey presto! And hereís all the rest!

 

He pulls out a tray full of fruit, green vegetables, sausages and other foodstuffs. He puts the tray on the palm of his ownerís hand. He raises his ownerís other hand into the same position, as if he was a grocerís scales. He presses lightly on the palm of the other hand, and the two hands move up and down, alternately.

 

LOFTY: You see? The weight is correct, down to the last gramme! And you said that I was thick, and that Iím incapable of learning your tricks. Look: one, two, three, now you see it, and now you donít.

 

He contrives to make the whole caboodle vanish.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Childishly enthusiastic] Well done, that really deserves a prize. Iíll give you...

 

LOFTY: [Without stopping to draw breath] Give me back my trousers!

 

GENTLEMAN: [Craftily] Ah yes Ė soís you can run away! No, no, no trousers... Since youíve learnt your lesson so well, Iím going to take you to an old friend of mine who runs an equestrian circus. Ha, ha... ! When he sees you doing the tricks that Iíve taught you... Ha, ha, ha... ! I canít wait to see his face. [Imitating his voice] ĎWhat? A conjuring dog?! Iíve never seen anything like that! Would you be willing to sell him? How much are you asking?í [He takes up a determined stance, with arms akimbo] ĎIím not selling!í ĎAlright then, rent him: Iíll give you a hundred thousand lire a month.í ĎNo!í ĎA week, then!í ĎNo!í ĎA day, then!í ĎAlright, a hundred thousand lire a day!í And, wham, bam, shazam, cash on the nail! [In high spirits, looking a bit crazy] And you know what Iím going to do with all that money?

 

LOFTY: Set up a Hostel for Destitute Dogs?

 

GENTLEMAN: [Laughing at him, cynically] The dogs can go hang! I never could abide dogs, myself! I only like cats! And with that money, I shall buy myself hundreds and hundreds of cats, of every colour and every breed. Because I adore cats... [He strokes the back of his left hand, as if it was a cat] Miaow, miaow... Purr, purr... ! What a shame that youíre not a cat!

 

LOFTY: [Like a little orphan] But Iím very good at being a cat, I am. Donít you remember how I was miaowing in the Dog Pound? Miaow... Purrr! [He finishes off his miaowing by spitting in the GENTLEMANís face. Then, pursing his hands into claws, he lashes out with his paws] Pfuuut... Pfuuut...

 

GENTLEMAN: But whatís got into you... ! Youíre spitting in my face... !

 

LOFTY: [He gives a kick to the wheelchair, and sends the cripple flying] Thatís right, Iím spitting in your face, because you are beneath contempt. Youíre a stinker, and youíre mad into the bargain! So it was all lies when you said that you were a dogís best friend, and that you needed my protection!

 

GENTLEMAN: [Cowardly, terrified] Come along, donít get jealous! And Iíll tell you the truth: I only buy cats so that I can sell them again. [Slily] You have no idea the money that can be made in the cat-trading game... Specially when more than hal of the leopard-skin coats in circulation are in fact dyed cat furs!

 

LOFTY: [He miaows and spits] You double stinker! Not only are you trying to skin me, but you want cat-skins into the bargain... Damn you! Hiss... spit...

 

GENTLEMAN: [Leaping from his wheelchair] Hey, good boy, down boy!

 

LOFTY: And, whatís more, you can walk! You even stooped so low as to pretend to be paralysed... just soís I would have pity on you. And just because Iím tender-hearted, you thought that I wouldnít leave you in the lurch... Damn you!

 

He gives the wheelchair another kick.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Grabbing him by the collar] Down, I told you... Down! [He forces him down onto his knees] Iíll show you what happens to dogs who donít respect their masters... ! Now Iím going to chain you up and give you a thrashing!

 

LOFTY: And Iím going to bite you! Take that! [He bites his hand. The CONJUROR lets out a yell, and lets go] And you know what Iím going to tell you now? I really have got rabies.

 

GENTLEMAN: No!

 

He looks at his hand, very alarmed.

 

LOFTY: Yes... Iíve got the worst, dirtiest, and most virulent kind of rabies Ė Arabic rabies! And now that Iíve bitten you, youíve got it too. Good day.

 

GENTLEMAN: [Tearful, in despair] No, Lofty... ! Lofty... !

 

LOFTY: Down, boy! Down!

 

He exits, barking.

 

Blackout.

 

ACT TWO

SCENE FOUR

 

Scene: In a Railway Carriage

 

The curtain rises to reveal a section of a first-class railway carriage. Only two parts of the carriage are constructed in their entirety Ė oneof the compartments, and a toilet, extreme stage right. As the curtain rises, we see a GENTLEMAN in pyjamas, in the compartment, sleeping. LOFTY, still dressed in his woollen doggy coat, comes creeping down the train corridor. He notices a pair of folded trousers placed on the luggage rack. He snatches the trousers, and goes off to lock himself in the toilet. The TRAIN GUARD arrives, and gently an tactfully wakes the GENTLEMAN.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Excuse me, Minister, weíll be arriving in a quarter of an hour...

 

He reaches out and shake him.

 

MINISTER: [Stretching and yawning] Eh, ah, itís you... God, my backís all aches and pains.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Well yes, the bed... could have been more comfortable.

 

MINISTER: Too true. And this damned village where Iím supposed to get off Ė even slow trains donít stop there. Why do I always have to get landed with tedious jobs lke this?!

 

So saying, the MINISTER fumbles in his toilet bag.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Well, if youíll excuse me... [He moves off down the corridor. He catches sight of LOFTY, who has by now put on the trousers, and who, at the sight of the TRAIN GUARD, beats a hasty retreat and goes back to hide in the toilet. The TRAIN GUARD becomes suspicious, and kocks on the door] Can I see your ticket, please, sir... ! Sir! Are you feeling ill? Donít try and play fun and games with me! I warn you that if you donít come out at once, I shall open the door from outside. [From his pocket, he pulls out a key. He puts it in the lock, and tries to open the door. But LOFTY hangs onto the door from inside. We hear a cracking noise. The TRAIN GUARD pulls out his T-key, and looks at it] Damn! Itís broken! Iíll make you pay for this, if you donít come out at once. [He pauses briefly] Alright. I can wait. But I warn you, at the next stop, Iím going to call the carabinieri.

 

Inside the toilet, LOFTY is still hanging on to the door handle. Meanwhile, in the compartment, the MINISTER is looking for his trousers.

 

MINISTER: I could have sworn I left them on the luggage rack... [Sticking his head out] Guard! Where are my trousers?!

 

TRAIN GUARD: You called, sir?

 

MINISTER: Yes. I canít find my trousers. Theyíve vanished.

 

TRAIN GUARD: [Coming back down the corridor] Impossible!

 

MINISTER: I remember perfectly well putting them up here. They must have stolen them while I was asleep. Maybe the thief thought heíd find my wallet in my trousers. Luckily, I put it in my suitcase.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Ah, just as well...

 

MINISTER: Just as well be damned! How am I supposed o get off the train without trousers?!

 

TRAIN GUARD: But havenít you got another pair in your suitcase?

 

MINISTER: Yes, Iíve got two pairs. But theyíre sports rousers, and I can hardly go to the opening ceremony wearing a black jacket with jodphurs or golfing trousers...

 

TRAIN GUARD: Hmmm...Looks like youíve got problems! What do you suggest we do?

 

MINISTER: [Eyeing the TRAIN GUARDís black trousers] Listen, why donít you give me yours? Theyíre not exactly dress trousers, but at least theyíre black. Whatís more, weíre both about the same height.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Ah yes, and I suppose I then travel in my underpants?

 

MINISTER: No, you can take one of my pairs of trousers. Take your pick. Go ahead and change, and in the meantime, Iím going to freshen up a bit.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Oh, alright...

 

MINISTER: Thank you. You are very kind. I shall remember you.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Oh, thank you, Minister. [Exit the MINISTER. He goes down the corridor, and passes LOFTY, who has emerged from the toilet and still has the handle in his hand. He doesnít know where to hide it, and sticks it in his pocket. He passes swiftly in front of the compartment where the TRAIN GUARD has taken his trousers off. He has emptied his own trousers of his various tools of the trade, and is now struggling to open the suitcase. It wonít open] Damn! Itís locked... !

 

He comes out of the compartment, and moves down the corridor, cautiously, scared of being seen in his underpants. He knocks on the door of the toilet on the left, into which LOFTY has sneaked, to hide.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Sir... ! Ah, thereís nobody here. He must be in the other toilet. And the other fellow must have done a bunk. [He goes and stands in front of the toilet where the MINISTER is now busily cleaning his teeth] Minister...

 

MINISTER: Yes?

 

TRAIN GUARD: The suitcase is locked. If you tell me where youíve put the keys... I thought they might have been in your jacket, but I didnít like to take the liberty.

 

MINISTER: [Gargling, not thinking what he is saying] No, theyíre not in the jacket. Theyíre in the key pocket of my trousers...

 

TRAIN GUARD: Your trousers?

 

MINISTER: [Realising what he has said, and almost choking on his gargle] Pfui... ! They were in my trousers!! [He coughs] So what do we... ? Wait, I know a way of forcing the lock. Do you have a penknife?

 

He tries to open the door, but finds that it has no handle.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Yes, Iíve got a penknife.

 

He searches in his jacket pockets. Meantime LOFTY returns to the MINISTERís compartment. He takes a stiff-fronted shirt from the luggage rack and puts it on. He also removes a jacket hanging from a hook by the window and puts it on. Only when he has put it on does he realise that it is a morning coat, with long tails. LOFTY takes them and flaps them, as if they are wings, fascinated, almost as if he expects to take off and fly.

 

MINISTER: Thereís no handle on this door, though! Could you open the door for me, with your special key?

 

TRAIN GUARD: Well, the problem is, my key is broken. All because of that idiot earlier!

 

MINISTER: Well, think, man! Do something! I canít stay stuck in here. How far is it to my station?

 

TRAIN GUARD: Iím afraid weíre almost there. [He pulls out of his jacket pocket everything that could possibly be of use as a lever] No, Iím afraid thereís nothing we can do!

 

MINISTER: Well, hurry up. Call the other train guard. Heís bound to have a key.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Yes, he has. But the problem is that heís at the other end of the train, and the door leading into the other carriage is locked, and in order to open it, Iím going to need he same key... In other words, the one that Iíve just broken. Iím afraid weíre just going to have to wait till the next station.

 

MINISTER: I wonít dream of it! Iím supposed to be gettig off at the next stop... wearing trousers... and you must get me out of here at once! Pull the alarm cord, if you have to. Stop the train.

 

TRAIN GUARD: Thereís no point. Itís already stopping, of its own accord. Excuse me, but Iím going to have to go back and put my trousers on.

 

MINISTER: No, youíre not putting anything on! You gave me those trousers, and God help anyone who takes them from me!

 

Meantime, LOFTY has finished dressing. He knots his tie and puts on his top hat.

 

TRAIN GUARD: But I have to get off the train, to do my job! And anyway, if I doít get off, how am I supposed to get the key from my colleague?

 

The train comes to a halt.

 

MINISTER: Call him from the window.

 

LOFTY prepares to get off. The STATION MASTER appears. LOFTY gets off, only to find himself sandwiched between two CARABINIERI in full uniform. Resigned, he makes as if to let himself be handcuffed. A GENTLEMAN with a tricolour sash around his waist comes forward to shake his hand. One of the CARABINIERI brings down his suitcase, and, taking the TRAIN GUARDís trousers, wraps them in a newspaper, and passes them to the other CARABINIERE.

 

TRAIN GUARD: [Still glued to the toilet door] But the other guard doesnít get off the train. Itís not his job.

 

MINISTER: Well, do what you want, then. But I warn you that if you donít get me out of here in time, I am going to report you, and I shall have you sacked, and I shall put an end to your career!

 

TRAIN GUARD: [He runs to the compartment. He finds it empty] My trousers! Whereís my trousers?

 

The group has exited, to the sound of a fanfare. The STATION MASTER comes looking for the TRAIN GUARD.

 

STATION MASTER: Guard! Hey, Guard... ! Where are you?

 

TRAIN GUARD: [Showing his face] Here I am.

 

STATION MASTER: Well, donít you fellows get off the train any more? Whoís going to blow the whistle for the train to leave?

 

TRAIN GUARD: I was looking for my trousers... But theyíve disappeared too, and I can hardly show myself like this.

 

He steps forward in his underpants.

 

STATION MASTER: Have you gone mad?!

 

TRAIN GUARD: I took them off for the Minister. He wouldnít take no for an answer! He wanted them, at any cost!

 

STATION MASTER: The Minister wanted your trousers?! What Minister?!

 

TRAIN GUARD: The one whoís in the toilet.

 

STATION MASTER: But the Minister has just got off! There he is, going off with the Mayor and the others.

 

TRAIN GUARD: So in that case, whoís this fellow?

 

STATION MASTER: How should I know? But this is complete madness Ė letting people snitch the trousers off you, and theyíre not even Government ministers!

 

TRAIN GUARD: Ah, now I realise who he is... Itís the same fellow that locked himself in before... So thatís why he was pretending that he couldnít get out. He was pretending to be the Minister Ė but the real Minister went off with my trousers, thinking that I had taken his. If I get my hands on this one, Iíll kill him. Iíll throw him out of the window. No. First Iíll make him give me his trousers, and then Iíll kill him!

 

STATION MASTER: Throw him anywhere you want, but in the meantime, can we get this train moving, because itís running late already.

 

He raises his green flag. We hear the sound of the steam engine puffing into life, and we have the impression that the train is leaving, because the STATION MASTER moves off sideways across front-stage, to disappear into the wings.

 

MINISTER: [Shouting] Stop! Stop! You mustnít let this train leave! Let me off! Guard, open up!

 

TRAIN GUARD: [Removing his jacket] Donít worry, Iíll open up alright. But this time Iíll batter the door down! Iíll teach you to play tricks with people whoíve got a job to do! Your days as a minister are finished, Sunshine!

 

MINISTER: My days as a minister are finished? What do you mean? Oh hell, the government must have fallen again!

 

Blackout.

 

We hear marching-band music, which cotinues playing softly as a musical backdrop for the scene that follows.

 

ACT TWO

SCENE FIVE

 

Scene: At the Opening of a School

 

The lights come up to how the traverse curtain closed. On-stage we see LOFTY, in ceremonial dress, surrounded by council officials and their wives. They are drinking a toast. Everyone raises their glasses.

 

ALL: Cheers! Your health!

 

MAYOR: [One of the COUNCIL OFFICIALS is whispering in the MAYORís ear. The MAYOR then turns to LOFTY, with a broad, mischievous grin] Ah, Minister... Weíve arranged a special surprise for you... Your wife is here.

 

LOFTY: [He splutters, sending out a spray of wine that he had in his mouth] My wife?!

 

He coughs.

 

MAYOR: Ahaa! I knew youíd be stuck for words! You didnít expect that, eh?

 

LOFTY: No, I certainly didnít!

 

He continues coughing, banging the MAYOR on the back.

 

OFFICIAL: The lady told me youíd be surprised.

 

LOFTY: More than surprised. Amazed!

 

MAYOR: [Man-to-man, winking] The lady arrived last night, and she asked us to keep her presence secret from you until the time came to drink the toast. See if you can remember why...

 

LOFTY: Why? Letís see if Iíve forgotten correctly: why?

 

OFFICIAL: Because today is your wedding anniversary.

 

LOFTY: Well done! Spot on!

 

OFFICIAL: The lady was right, when she said youíd have forgotten.

 

LOFTY: [With a chilly laugh] Ah, yes, she was right. Ha, ha...

 

MAYOR: [He moves over to the wings, stage right. He extends an arm, in the manner of a compere inviting a singer on-stage] Come on, Madam, you can come in now. Weíve prepared him nicely. [LOFTY closes his eyes, and when he opens them again he finds ANGELA standing in front of him]. Minister, Minister, your wife...

 

LOFTY: [He takes a step backwards] Angela!

 

ANGELA: [She takes two steps forward] Lofty!

 

LOFTY AND ANGELA: [In unison] What are you doing here?

 

MAYOR: [Hail-fellow, hearty] Now look at that Ė instead of being pleased... Really, Minister, donít look at her like that. Just think, the lady has come all this way, just to celebrate your wedding anniversary. It just shows how much she loves you! Come on, donít be angry with her. I shall leave you two lovebirds alone. But only for five minutes. No longer. Theyíre waiting for us to go and lay the foundation stone.

 

He exits, followed by the COUNCIL OFFICIALS.

 

LOFTY: [Holding his breath] Are you really married to the Minister?

 

ANGELA: [In a low voice, trying to allay his fears] No, Iím only his girlfriend. I needed to see him, and I passed myself off as his wife. Just as well that he hasnít come. Just imagine the fuss heíd have kicked up. Heís such a bore, a bigot. Just think Ė he forced me to wear this dress back-to-front, just because of the little low neckline... Look [She turns round, and we see her bare back, plunging to the waistline] Now, I ask you. Isnít that a bigot?

 

LOFTY: [Delighted, egging her on, emphasising the Ďtrií] Heís a tri-got!

 

ANGELA: [Not getting the joke] Just as well that he hasnít come! [As if only now recognising him for who he is] Oh, how lovely to see you, Lofty! How happy I am to have found you again! [She notices his ceremonial dress] But what are you doing, dressed like this? My, youíve come a long way!

 

LOFTY: [Modestly] Well, I started out as a dog.

 

ANGELA: [Aphoristic] Well one always has to start at the bottom... [Returning to her previous breakneck pace] Oh, but how lovely to see you, Lofty! How happy I am to have found you again! Letís hope that HE doesnít turn up and ruin everything!

 

LOFTY: [He chuckles, confidently] Donít worry Ė I think weíve seen the last of him.

 

Every now and then a WAITER crosses the stage, filling glasses. LOFTY takes and drinks several.

 

ANGELA: How can you be so sure? Do you know him?

 

LOFTY: I should say I know him! How could I be here, otherwise?

 

ANGELA: Did he send you to stand in for him?

 

LOFTY: No, he doesnít know anything about it.

 

ANGELA: Heís in trouble, eh?

 

[Paragraph missing?]

 

Then with an elegant gesture, he folds the ribbon up, and cuts it into many small pieces. He goes and puts the pieces ino a top hat, which he removes from the head of one of the bystanders. Then he gives a magic wave, and from inside the top hat he pulls out a large number of small flags on sticks. He hands these round to the bystanders. They applaud, delightedly. The MAYOR speaks, over the public address system.

 

MAYOR: And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, before we come to the laying of the foundation ston for what is shortly to be our new school, I would like to ask the Minister to hand out the prizes to these teachers of ours, who have done so much...

 

Because the public address system is malfunctoning, only occasional words of his speech reach the audience. For the rest, all we see is the MAYORís mouth moving.

 

MAYOR: ...justice ...of liberty ...our country ...glory ...love ...Italy...

 

The bystanders applaud. Once again the cushion arrives Ė this time bearing medals. LOFTY takes one and pins it to the chest of the first gentleman pointed out to him. He embraces him, and moves on. He finds himself confronted with the ample bosom of a lady. He is embarrassed, and does not know where to pin the medal. Finally he decides. He turns the lady round, and pins the medal to her back. Then he embraces her, with increasing embarrassment. Every time he hands out a medal, everybody applauds. LOFTY reaches ANGELA. He looks at her. He looks at the cushion, but there are no medals left. He goes over to one of the previous recipients, and with a smile he excuses himself, removes the medal, goes back to ANGELA, and pins it on her. Then he embraces her. Then he has second thoughts. He signals to the USHER who brought in the cushion, asking him to come over. With two fingers, he tweaks his nose, and as if by magic pulls a medal out of it. He goes back to ANGELA. He pins it on her, and embraces her. He looks at her, deeply happy. He wants to embrace her again, but without a medal, he canít. He returns to the bearer of the cushion, and the whole scene is repeated: he pulls out a medal... pins it on her... embraces her... Once again, he returns to the cushion bearer, but this time the USHER stops him with a wave of his hand. The USHER pulls a medal out of his own nose, and then hands it to LOFTY, who goes and pins it to ANGELAís breast. Everyone applauds. The MAYOR comes over, and taps him on the shoulder. The MAYOR also receives a medal and an embrace.

 

MAYOR: Thank you, Minister. Here is the parchment... Would you be so kind as to place it in the stone?

 

LOFTY: [Having embraced Angela for the umpteenth time] The honour is all mine!

 

He takes the parchment scroll, unrolls it, and shows it to the audience. Then he rolls it up again, and tucks it down into the foundation stone. He lights a match, and applies it to the hole. There is a shower of sparks from fireworks. There follow bangs and flashes from all sides. Trumpets play a crazy fanfare. Everyone flees, terrified. LOFTY and ANGELA are left alone. They carry on hugging each other.

 

ANGELA: Oh, how lovely... It really is you, Lofty!

 

VOICES OFF STAGE: Thereís no point trying to run away... Iím going to catch you...

 

Enter the TRAIN GUARD, still in his underpants, pursued by the MINISTER in his pyjamas. Both of them disappear off backstage.

 

ANGELA: [She breaks away from LOFTY and runs off after them] Hey, Minister. Wait for me!

 

Re-enter the TRAIN GUARD. LOFTY runs off, pursued by the TRAIN GUARD, who has recognised him.

 

 

ACT THREE

SCENE ONE

 

Scene: A Bedroom

 

We are in an Empire-style bedroom, if possible with a full four-poster bed. A set of double doors leads in from the hallway, and there is another door leading to the bathroom. Stage right stands a divan and two armchairs. Stage left stands a screen, with a small desk next to it. The hall door opens. Enter the MAYOR, who hands the key to LOFTY and leads him in.

 

MAYOR: Please, come in. Hereís your key... [LOFTY puts it in his pocket] Well, how do you like it?

 

LOFTY: [Looking around] Not bad at all. And this is the bed where you say Napoleon slept?

 

MAYOR: Yes, the man himself. You see, before it was turned into a hotel, this building was the headquarters of the Austrian governor.

 

LOFTY: Itís amazing how many beds that Napoleon has slept in! If you believed everything they tell you wherever you go, youíd think he did nothing but sleep.

 

MAYOR: [Openly adulatory] Ha, ha! Iíd never thought of that! You know, youíre the funniest Minister that Iíve ever had the pleaure to meet.

 

LOFTY: [Meaningfully, but without stressing the point] Maybe because Iím not quite the Minister I appear to be... [He flops onto the divan, which stands on theright-hand side of the room] Excuse me if I sit down, but after all that running... I havenít run so much since I was a retriever...

 

MAYOR: What?

 

LOFTY: [Almost to himself] Nothing, nothing... just remembering early days in the job...

 

MAYOR: [Flatteringly] Of course. But Ė forgive me if I keep on about it Ė you were really wonderful today Ė your idea about fireworks, your conjuring tricks! A minister who can conjure Ė Iíd never have expected that.

 

LOFTY: Well, let me tell you, in our circles anything is possible. Some people do somersaults, others walk on ceilings, there are quick-change artists, people who jump through flaming hoops, vote-swallowers. Jugglers are quite commonplace Ė anyone can do it.

 

MAYOR: [Laughing] If only they could hear you.

 

LOFTY: [Pointing to three suitcases on a little table] Whose are those cases? I only stole... I beg your pardon, brought... one...

 

MAYOR: Theyíre your wifeís. The lady slept here last night.

 

LOFTY: In Napoleonís bed? A good job heís been gone for a while Ė or Iíd have had my doubts! Well, ltís hope that sheís managed to get herself unhitched from that pest in the pyjamas...

 

MAYOR: I beg your pardon?

 

LOFTY: Eh... ah... No, I was just saying tha I was a bit worried about Angela, about my wife... You see, in the confusion, I lost her, and since I canít find my pyjamas...

 

He pretends to rummage in the suitcase which he put on the bed when he came in.

 

MAYOR: Well, if thatís all you need, I can give you a pair of mine. I live in this very building.

 

LOFTY: [He takes the suitcase and puts it down on the desk in front of the screen] Oh no, really... Itís not worth it, just for a pair of pyjamas...

 

MAYOR: Itís no big matter. After all, what youíve done for us... By the way, I forgot the most important thing. Here you are.

 

He hands him an envelope.

 

LOFTY: Whatís that? Ah, I see. And to think that I never believed in all that stuff about bribing ministers... !

 

He chuckles. The MAYOR laughs along with him.

 

MAYOR: And you can carry on not believing in it, because this is not a bribe.

 

LOFTY: Oh no? What a shame!

 

MAYOR: What a splendid chap! Always ready for a joke...

 

LOFTY: [Bitterly] You said it.

 

MAYOR: [Still adulatory] But you wouldnít expect, with the reputation that youíve got round here Ė you know, weíre not completely cut off from news from Rome Ė we wouldnít have dreamed of insulting you like that...

 

LOFTY: [Disappointed] You wouldnít?

 

MAYOR: [Missing the point] This is the money that has been collected for the monument to Manís Best Friend.

 

LOFTY: [Falsetto] For what?! [He gets up] That name rings a bell!

 

MAYOR: Yes, our monument to Manís Best Friend, to his faithful dog. Donít you remember that we wrote to you asking if you could do something for us?

 

LOFTY: Yes, yes, now I remember: the monument to the faithful dog, to Manís Best Friend. Aaaaoooow...

 

He howls.

 

MAYOR: Thatís brilliant! Youíre a dog to a T!

 

LOFTY: [Not at all amused] Thatís quite enough of that, thank you. [He points to the envelope] How much is in there?

 

MAYOR: Nine million lire. Naturally, only two million are for the monument. The rest is for the new Dog Pound.

 

LOFTY: [Pretending to be both interested and moved] Why, are you going to build a Dog Pound?

 

MAYOR: Yes. You see, unfortunately, the old one was destroyed during the War, and you have no idea how many strays we have infesting our town.

 

LOFTY: [Waxing rhetorical] But now, with a splendid gas chamber... Uhuuuu... ! [He makes a gesture, indicating elimination of dogs] Zap! Death to the Stray, and a monument to the Faithful! [He pats the Mayor on the back] Well done Ė it was clever of you to think of coming to me.

 

MAYOR: [Inordinately proud of himself] You donít have to tell me; we know that our money is in good hands.

 

LOFTY: Lord, how right you are!

 

MAYOR: [Pointing the way] Please, this way.

 

LOFTY: Where are we going?

 

MAYOR: To get the pyjamas.

 

LOFTY: [Striding out purposefully] Ah yes, letís have the pyjamas too, while weíre at it!

 

They exit, and re-lock the door. A few seconds pass, and we hear a key turning in the lock.

 

ANGELA: [She enters, followed by the MINISTER] Here we are, this is it. Look, look, what a lovely bed Ė all big and soft. [She caresses him] You know, I didnít sleep a wink all night. Every time I was about to fall asleep, I began to think that if I slept, I would lose the satisfaction of thinking that I was sleeping in such a beautiful bed. So I turned the light on, and splashed a bit of water in my face, and that way I stayed awake. I just lay there, thinking, happy as can be...

 

MINISTER: [Giving her a look full of feeling] I tell you, I have met some daffy people in my time, but nobody quite like you...

 

ANGELA: Listen whoís talking! This is the man who goes round in his pyjamas, running after train guards in their underpants... When I think of the face on that hotel doorman when he saw you...

 

MINISTER: [Annoyed, hysterical] You can pack that up!

 

ANGELA: [Mortified] Yes, alright, I will... So this is the thanks I get for pulling you out of the mess youíre in... If it wasnít for the fact that the Minister who came to replace you was a friend of mine, you would have seen...

 

MINISTER: [Sarcastic, bombastic] Do me a favour, your friend... ! If he was kind to you, you owe it only to the fact of that stupid idea of passing yourself off as my wife... [He notices his suitcase] My suitcase! Thank goodness Ė theyíve found it! [He takes the suitcase and puts it on the bed] And I wonder what on earth he must have thought of me, always assuming that he believed you...

 

ANGELA: [She sits down on the divan. She gets up again. She sits in an armchair. She gets up again. She goes and sits on the little table, and here, finally, she feels comfortable] Donít worry, I never told him that I was your wife. And as regards him being kind to me, he has always been kind to me... even before he got to the top. And if you really want to know, when we first met, he even asked me to marry him.

 

MINISTER: [Searching in his suitcase] Voilŗ!

 

He pulls out a dressing gown.

 

ANGELA: Well, not exactly to marry him... But he did ask me to be his girlfriend, and I, idiot that I was, said no... And then I came and said yes to you. God, I must have been out of my mind!

 

MINISTER: [Sure of himself] Youíve got plenty of time to change your mind, if you want.

 

ANGELA: [Sadly, pensive] But who knows if thatís still what he wants. [With a little smile] You know, when he gave me those medals, it seemed like he did. [Sad again] But with the job that heís got now...

 

MINISTER: [Mocking her] He might have had second thoughts, and...

 

ANGELA: [She misses the point of the irony. As if speaking to herself] But no. I mean that, for as long as he was playing Rigoletto, we could have made a proper couple. But now...

 

MINISTER: [Sparkling, effervescent] What, what? You never told me that you were in opera... !

 

ANGELA: [Replying in the same tone] Oh didnít I? Well, that was where I learned to play the part of La Traviata!

 

MINISTER: [Momentarily taken aback by the promptness of her response, he continues, in high spirits] Listen to her! La Traviata!! If youíll excuse me, Iím going to take a bath... And in order to show me that you are not completely intolerable, please, sing me something. If nothing else, itíll stop me from falling asleep in the bath. Iím dog-tired. [ANGELA does not appreciate the MINISTERís snub. He goes into the bathroom. She pulls faces, like a naughty child. The MINISTER speaks, from inside the bathroom] Well, come on, say something. Tell me more about this great love of yours. Ha, ha! You know what I say? I say youíve been imagining things. A Minister Ė he comes specially from Rome to replace me. Heís called Lovely Weather. Heís an ex-baritone. And whatís more, heís in love with you... . Even a kid wouldnít have dreamed up something like that... Ha, ha! Minister Lovely Weather... Iíd really like to meet him!

 

We hear water running in the bathroom.

 

ANGELA: [She stands there, silent, for a moment. Then she has an idea. She goes to the hall door, and knocks on the inside. The she begins play-acting, in a loud voice, in amateur dramatic style] Whoís there... ? What... ? Oh, itís you, Lovely... No, dear, donít come in, because Iím not alone... Go away. Heís here, in the bathroom... You want to talk to me... ? Alright, then, come in. But only for a minute. [She opens and shuts the door, slamming it several times. She walks across the room, stamping her feet]

 

But darling, donít make such a noise, heíll hear us... What are you doing? [She mimes a passionate embrace] Heavens, whatís got into you? You mustnít hold me like that! Let me go, Lovely, let me go! You want a kiss... ? No, I mustnít, he might hear us... [She kisses her own hand] No, donít... [She gives herself a slap on the hand] Iím sorry if I slapped you, but you really asked for it... [Imitating a manís voice] No, no, no... ĎYesí... [She kisses her hand, and then slaps her arm; she continues repeating the action, until she makes a mistake, and ends up slapping herself] Oh, no, stop it, Lofty, please... Now go away...

 

[Imitating his voice] ĎRun away with me... !í I canít [She turns to the bathroom, in the hope of seeing the MINISTER sticking his head out] Leave me alone... Youíll tear my dress... [She makes a noise like cloth tearing] Scrccch! There Ė you see Ė youíve torn it... What? Youíll buy me another one, in white? [She goes over to the bathroom door. She raises her voice] ĎYes.í A wedding dress... ? ĎYes... Ď You want to marry me... ? [She begins to get confused. She gets the voices wrong. She speaks in a baritone when she should be speaking with her own voice, and vice versa] ĎYesí. Alright, yes, I will come with you... Wait for me downstairs. [She realises the mistake and corrects herself] Iíll get my stuff together, and Iíll be down straight away. Goodbye, darling... ĎGoodbye, darlingí. [She kisses her hand, and then gives herself another slap] Oh, Iím sorry. Force of habit... Goodbye! [She opens the door, and then shuts it again. At this moment, the MINISTER appears, and watches her, amused, as he dries his hair. She feigns surprise] Ah, itís you!

 

MINISTER: [Taking off her voice] Yes, itís me.

 

ANGELA: [Pretending to be embarrassed] Um, it was the... the waiter... he got the wrong door...

 

MINISTER: The waiter... ? A waiter called Lovely?

 

ANGELA: [Still playing out her part] Oh, my God! So you heard everything?! But I swear, I didnít mean to... The door was open... I couldnít stop him coming in.

 

She opens the door, and behind this door we see the other door, the double door.

 

MINISTER: Yes, I know this door was open, but what about the other one?

 

ANGELA: [She tries the door handle. The door is locked] Itís locked?!

 

MINISTER: [Laughing out loud] Ha, ha! Thatís right, itís locked. Itís been locked all along. I locked it, and hereís the key. So tell me, how did your Lovely get in? Through the keyhole? Ha, ha! Amazing what love can do! Anyway, my compliments, you played your part really well! Thanks for the entertainmen. But now slow down, and stop playing around, because Iíve got to write a couple of letters, to post tomorrow morning. Go to bed, if you like, and turn the light out, because Iím going to stay up for a while. [He goes behind the screen. He sits down at his desk. He switches on a table-lamp. ANGELA throws a shoe, which hits the screen. The MINISTER chuckles] Darling, I think I heard someone knock. Could you go and open the door.

 

ANGELA: Very funny!

 

We hear a key moving in the lock. The hall door opens behind ANGELA. LOFTY enters but does not see ANGELA, because she has bent down behind the bed, to get her shoe. Seeing him come in, ANGELA speaks in a whisper.

 

ANGELA: Lovely! But how on earth did you get in?

 

LOFTY: [Happy] Angela, thank goodness youíve come back. I thought youíd gone off with that other fellow.

 

ANGELA: [Pushing hm to the back of the stage] Shut up. Heís over there, behind the screen.

 

LOFTY: Is he asleep?

 

The MINISTER chuckles, and shakes his head, thinking that ANGELA has started on a replay of the earlier scene.

 

ANGELA: [Still in a whisper] No, heís writing a letter. But you mustnít stay, because he might hear us.

 

LOFTY: [Also whispering] No way! Iím not going away, unless you come along with me...

 

The MINISTER breaks off writing. He cocks a curios ear for a moment, and then returns to his writing, with a knowing smile.

 

ANGELA: [She embraces LOFTY, full of emotion] With you... ? Oh, Lovely, do you really mean it?

 

She gives him a kiss on the cheek.

 

LOFTY: [Touching his cheek] Angela, a kiss?!

 

He gives her a kiss in turn, and receives a slap in return.

 

ANGELA: Oh, Iím sorry... itís force of habit, and also because Iím all emotional... [LOFTY gives her an enormous bear-hug] No, no, donít hold me like that, youíll tear my dress... There, see, youíve torn it...

 

LOFTY: Iíll buy you a new one.

 

MINISTER: [Still continuing to write, he imitates LOFTYís voice, thinking that itís still ANGELA who is playing the two parts] And it will be all white!

 

ANGELA: Did you say all white?

 

LOFTY: No, I didnít say all white, but if you want it white, come along, Iíll buy you a white dress...

 

ANGELA: But how are we going to get out?

 

LOFTY: The same way I got in: I had the key! [He shows ANGELA the key] Letís go.

 

ANGELA takes her suitcase. LOFTY gives her a hand, and also carries off the MINISTERís suitcase, from where it was lying on the bed.

 

ANGELA: What a shame that we canít take this lovely bed as well.

 

LOFTY: Weíll save that for another time. For the moment, Iím satisfied just taking you...

 

They exit.

 

MINISTER: [Happily humming the tune of the Wedding March] Ta-rum-ta-tum... Ta-rum-ta-tum... [He applauds] Well done, well done! Have you finished the touching scene... ? Ha, ha... ! Thatíll do for now, though. This time you went over the top a bit, eh? [He folds his letter, and puts it in an envelope] The first time, it was pretty good, almost believable. But this time, you ruined it. You overdid it. I tell you, your imitation of a male voice, well, it was painful... Real ham stuff... And then, I ask you, Iíve hardly finished telling you that Iíve got the key to the main door, and you fall into the same trap again... So how did you get out this time? Under the doormat? Ha, ha... ! [He sticks his head round the screen] Angela, where are you? ... Come on, donít go getting upset, come on out... Youíre in the bathroom, I know. Come on, donít tell me that youíre angry.. After all, you were joking too, eh? [He opens the bathroom door] No, sheís not here. Where are you hiding? [He looks under the bed] Stop messing about, Angela!

 

The hall door open. Enter the MAYOR.

 

MAYOR: [He does not see the MINISTER, who is crouched down looking under the bed] Minister, here are your pyjamas... Minister!

 

MINISTER: [Getting up, lost in thought] You were saying?

 

MAYOR: [Surprised] Excuse me, who are you?

 

MINISTER: [Annoyed, pompous] What do you mean, who am I... ? I am... [He looks round] But how did you manage to get in?

 

MAYOR: [As if it is self-evident] Through the door. It was open...

 

MINISTER: It was open? [He goes over to the door and opens it] Itís open!

 

MAYOR: [Looking at him very suspiciously] Would you mind telling me what youíre doing in the Ministerís bedroom?

 

MINISTER: [Rolling his eyes] But then, if it was unlocked, and it wasnít you who opened it...

 

MAYOR: [Insistent, coming right up to him] Would you mind answering my question? Who opened the door?

 

MINISTER: [He flops into an armchair] Thatís precisely what Iíd like to know.

 

MAYOR: [He thumps his fist down on the back of the armchair] Right. Thatíll do! Where is the Minister?

 

MINISTER: [Not moving] Here I am. What do you want?

 

MAYOR: [Thumping his fist on the armchair again] Will you stop playing the fool! Where is the Minister?

 

MINISTER: [He leaps to his feet. He points a threatening finger at him] Leaving aside playing the fool, which minister are you talking about?

 

MAYOR: Why, the Minister Lovely Weather!

 

MINISTER: [In half-strangled tones] Lovely Weather?

 

MAYOR: [Speaking rapidly, with feeling] Yes. Heís staying here with his wife... Although, as far as I can gather, sheís actually his girlfriend... But whatís it to do with you?

 

MINISTER: [Stuck for words, speaking like a ventriloquist] Minister Lovely Weather... ? So he really does exist, then?

 

MAYOR: [Spreading his arms] Why, should he not exist... ? Itís a good thing that he does exist! Heís the best minister that weíve got. [He stops abruptly, and changes tone] So, where is he?

 

MINISTER: [As if about to faint] Heís run off with my girlfriend... [He suddenly realises that his suitcase has disappeared] And with my suitcase, into the bargain.

 

MAYOR: [Amused] Ah! So she was your girlfriend... ? I like it!

 

MINISTER: [Shrilly, on the point of tears] Without my trousers, yet again!

 

MAYOR: [Chuckling] Well, Iím glad, because Iíve taken a great dislike to you...

 

MINISTER: [He looks at the MAYOR, and suddenly has an idea. He picks up the letter-opener knife from the desk, and holds it to his throat] Off with your trousers! Remove your trousers!

 

MAYOR: [Stuttering] But, I say... What are you doing?

 

MINISTER: [He gets behind the MAYOR, and puts a stranglehold on him, still brandishing the letter-opener] Remove your trousers, otherwise...

 

MAYOR: Yes, yes, Iíll take them off... Iíll take them off... But for goodness sake, donít ruin me politically.

 

MINISTER: Huh! You make me laugh. Politically... ! Give me your trousers!

 

The MAYOR removes his trousers. He gives them to the MINISTER. All of a sudden, enter the TRAIN GUARD, still in his underpants. He sees the trousers, snatches them up and runs off.

 

TRAIN GUARD: About time too!

 

Blackout.

 

Musical interlude.

 

 

 

ACT THREE

SCENE TWO

 

Scene: The Street Cafe again

 

The lights come up, and the traverse curtain has been drawn across. The actors are positioned front-stage, in the positions they occupied during Act One, in the scene preceding the wedding. The action picks up again precisely at the point at which LOFTYís four friends were busying themselves trying to wake him. LOFTY is still on the floor. One of the FRIENDS stands over him, patting his face, and the other, the one who played the ORTHODOX PRIEST, is sitting at the table, just as he was at the relevant moment in Act One. The stage lights come up gradually. A series of muffled sounds indicate that LOFTY is about to wake up.

 

ANGELAíS VOICE: [As if disembodied] You see, you see how those two are stuck for words?

 

LOFTY: [Talking in his sleep] Ha, ha! And look at the train guard running!

 

ANGELA: [As above] Come on, letís run too... Come on!

 

LOFTY: [Still lying flat out. Moving his arms slowly, but with his eyes still closed] Angela, wait for me... Angela, wait for me...

 

FIRST FRIEND: Heís still dreaming!

 

DOCTOR: Here, throw a bit of water over him, thatíll bring him round!

 

One of the FRIENDS squirts a soda siphon in LOFTYís face. LOFTY gasps, opens his eyes, and looks around.

 

LOFTY: Angela... Angela... Whereís Angela?

 

He sits up. He continues staring at his FRIENDS, dumbfounded.

 

FIRST FRIEND: [Still giving him a slap or two] Oh, at last! About time! Youíve had a right old snore, there...

 

SECOND FRIEND: [Passing his hand in front of LOFTYís eyes] Hey! Wake up! Youíve given us a right fright... ! You sounded like you were in a fever, the way you were spouting on...

 

THIRD FRIEND: And you werenít just talking! Did you know you were being a dog too... ? Uhuuuu!

 

Everyone laughs.

 

LOFTY: [Very sadly] So it was all a dream, then... ?

 

DOCTOR: [Extending a hand, to help him to get up] Yes... And for a full fifteen minutes, at that. We were on the point of calling the ambulance for real...

 

LOFTY: [He pushes the FRIENDís hand away from him, violently] What a dirty, rotten, lousy thing... to happen... ! It was just a dream... ! Hey, butthat doesnít count... Itís too easy to end your stories just like that... When you donít know how to take it any further, you just say that everything was a dream, and thatís that. [Still sitting down, he gives a kick to the FRIEND playing the DOCTOR] Dirty, rotten, stinking, stupid, miserable, deceitful... [He pauses briefly] ...ugly, bastard Luck! But I might have known! Just seeing everyone with the sme faces as you lot should have been enough to make me understand that it was a dream! What dirty, poxy, lousy, bastard, evil... [Pausing again] ... STUPID LUCK!

 

[Paragraph missing?]

 

Everyone laughs.

 

DOCTOR: Come on, Lofty, mind your language. Now weíre going to cheer you up a bit! While youíve been lying there flat on your back, weíve been preparing you a lovely surprise: guess who this gentleman is!

 

He steps to one side, moving the other FRIENDS aside, and reveals the newcomer.

 

LOFTY: [With a start, jumping to his feet] Impossible! No, it canít be!

 

FIRST FRIEND: No, no! Itís not the pastry-cook. Calm down...

 

LOFTY: I know. Heís the Orthodox priest.

 

They all look at one another.

 

DOCTOR: Thatís right. But how do you know?

 

SECOND FRIEND: Maybe he heard us talking, while he was asleep...

 

THIRD FRIEND: Donít be daft!

 

LOFTY: [Going over to the PRIEST. In high spirits. Touches him] Youíre alive!

 

PRIEST: Why? Does that upset you?

 

LOFTY: Mr Priest, have my friends brought you here specially for my wedding?

 

PRIEST: [Playing his part again] Yes, my son... But calm down, and relax.

 

LOFTY: [As if completely carried away] Mr Priest, youíre splendid. Youíre a wonder! Mr Priest, youíre a whizz! Oh, brilliant!

 

He kisses his hands, and gives him hefty slaps on the back.

 

FOURTH FRIEND: [Grabbing him by the arm, and trying to calm him down] Heís cracked... ! Hey, Lofty, whatís got into you?

 

SECOND FRIEND: Heís taken too many knocks Ė this time he really has flipped!

 

LOFTY: [He breaks free, and raises his arms, ecstatically] Shut up, lads. Itís a replay... !

 

THIRD FRIEND: What do you mean, a replay?

 

LOFTY: [Whispering, almost as if fearful of breaking a spell] Havenít you understood yet? Weíre going back to the start... . Itís like in the pictures, where they show you a bit from next weekís film, and then they show you the whole film all over again...

 

They look at each other, worried.

 

FIRST FRIEND: Heís gone completely round the twist...

 

LOFTY: [He hugs the PRIEST again] Only this time, itís not a film Ė itís real! [He stops abruptly] Just a mnute. I suppose I havenít fallen asleep a second time? Excuse me.

 

He hits one of the FRIENDS standing nearby.

 

FIRST FRIEND: [Obviously caught by surprise] Ouch... ! Hey!

 

LOFTY: [He takes his hand, and shakes it warmly] Brilliant! I am awake... And if Iím awake, and if heís the priest who was there when I was sleeping, then, if we carry on with the show, then weíll get to the bit with Angela in...

 

DOCTOR: But who told you that her nameís Angela?

 

LOFTY: She is called Angela, isnít she... ? [Excited] Excellent! Mr Priest, on with the show... !

 

PRIEST: [LOFTY lifts him onto his shoulders] Hey, whatís got into you?

 

LOFTY: What do you mean, whatís got into me?! Iím lifting up the brideís priest. Wasnít that what you told me? Forward march, lads, take me to my blonde... I swear, if sheís the same one as before, Iíll grab her, and Iíll never let her go. [They form up in procession, as previously] Letís go. Sing!

 

They exit, singing in chorus:

 

ĎClasp my wrist tightly...í etc.

 

ACT THREE

SCENE THREE

 

Scene: A House in the Red Light District

 

We are in the girlsí room. In the middle of the room, as in Act One, Scene Four, stand LOFTY and BLONDIE, with their wrists bound together. LOFTY has his eyes blindfolded, and the BRIDE has her face completely covered with a veil. The PRIEST is reaching the end of his service.

 

PRIEST: [Intoning, almost nasal] My blood will pass through your heart, and yours through mine, because we shall be one thing until the end of time.

 

EVERYONE: [Including BLONDIE, in chorus] Till death us do part.

 

LOFTY: [Euphoric, in the major mode] Yes, yes... Thatís her voice, just like before... God, Iím all trembling... I donít think I can carry on...

 

PRIEST: You are now man and wife. Unbind them, and let them see each other.

 

LOFTY: [Electrified] Yes, yes... Now we can see each other... Hurry up and take this blindfold off... [Two FRIENDS help to unbind them] Come on, get a move on... Wait, I want to be the one to lift her veil...

 

He lifts the blindfold from his eyes, and prepares to raise BLONDIEís veil, but he holds back for a moment.

 

LOFTY: Itís her! Itís her... ! Tall and beautiful, just like the one before... ! And sheís even got the same dress, and the same veil... [His hands are trembling] Hey, no, I canít go through with it... My fingers are twitching like I was playing a piano accordion... Will you take her veil off for me... ?

 

He points to the veil still covering BLONDIEís face. Two of the FRIENDS reach forward. BLONDIE ducks away.

 

BLONDIE: No, keep away. Iíll take it off myself... Because otherwise, youíre going to spoil my hair...

 

LOFTY: Come on, get a move on, because my eyes are almost popping out of my head... [BLONDIE lifts her veil, and we see a face that looks like a puppetís face. A long nose, all bumpy; a thin mouth, not at all feminine; the eyes are hidden by a pair of pebble glasses; and incredibly hairy eyebrows, which virtually meet over her nose. Everyone laughs, trying in vain to hold back the laughter] Noooo!

 

He is struck dumb.

 

DOCTOR: [Pushing him towards BLONDIE] Hey, is that all you have to say? What do you think of the nice little wife weíve chosen you, eh?

 

LOFT: [Shouting] You pigs! Bastards! Shit heads!

 

He grabs the first FRIEND he can lay hands on, and makes as if to strangle him.

 

DOCTOR: [Trying to fight his way free] No... Let go... Let go, idiot... !

 

FIRST FRIEND: [Joining with the other FRIENDS to try and make him let go] Sit down, and behave yourself!