Round Robin 2023 - the Grovesbury Players' Christmas Panto

First rehearsal by Rosemary Ostley

“Hurry now please. We only have ten weeks of rehearsal until opening night.” 

 Marjory Evans pressed ‘send’ to the Grovesbury Players WhatsApp group as she walked briskly to St Crispin’s church hall. Marjory did everything briskly, as her late husband Hugo could attest. First rehearsal tonight following last week’s meeting at the local pub, the Firkin Duck, where landlord ’Short measure Bill’ Paterson had pulled ‘Cinderella’ out the hat and parts had been cast. At least it was a pantomime Marjory was familiar with, but she was now brooding on the casting of Buttons. Danny Toogood had vowed to play him as ‘street-wise and with dubious habits’, but she owed Danny since he’d kept schtum about Marjory’s little peccadillo.

 At the hall the producer, Geoff Strange was up on the stage limply encouraging the dusty curtains to draw apart. “I’ve already learned all my lines for act one,” sang out Blossom Trott as she sailed into the hall. “I won’t need prompting.” Marjory closed her eyes, sent one up to the goddess of am dram, then smiled “Jolly good, that’s the ticket.”

 By 7.30 everyone was there except Dave Francis. “Does anyone know where our Prince is?” enquired Marjory. “’e did have a nasty case of the Karachi crouch, Sunday,” mumbled Alf Pooker, but ‘e said ‘e’d be ‘ere.” Sure enough, a few moments later Dave burst into the hall to the muffled strains of a flushing toilet. “Right, let’s start with the scene where the ugly sisters go off to the ball, leaving Cinders behind. Then we’ll tackle the scene at the ball itself where Cinders dances with the Prince. “But I’m not in those scenes and I’ve learnt all my lines,” whined Blossom. Marjory silenced her with a look.

 Calvin Spratt and Luigi Brunetti, playing the ugly sisters, began to bicker, but it soon became obvious it was a lovers’ tiff with scant reference to the script. Marjory halted proceedings. “Please leave details of your love life at home, you two. Now, to the script.” After several repetitions, the scene eventually concluded. Grimacing at the wall clock, Marjory called for Cinders. “Where the hell has Penny gone?” she spat. “Gawn for a fag, I ‘spect” sniggered Alf. “Someone find her, time is running on” barked Marjory. Suddenly the sound of an escalating argument broke and a furious-looking Penny stormed in from backstage, with Maureen Pritchard, props and costumes, simpering behind her. “I am NOT wearing that wig, it makes me look like a, a, a tart!” Penny squawked. Everyone looked at their feet. “If the wig fits…” whispered Calvin to Luigi.

 “The bloody wig isn’t important right now, Penny. Just take a deep breath and get on with it,” directed Marjory. A mulish Penny sauntered over to stand with Dave. With Cybil Rawlinson banging out a waltz on the out of tune piano, the scene began to take shape, until one of the piano hammers got stuck. Suddenly an explosion pierced the silence, all eyes swivelling towards Dave. ‘Cut, cut’ shouted Marjory. 'That‘ll do for tonight.’  

Second rehearsal by Ray Mayhew

 "Hurry now. We only have 9 weeks of rehearsal till opening night.” Nobody was taking any notice of Marjory. All were engrossed with the view beyond the open stage curtains. Last week’s explosion had left an amazing pattern of black streaks on the walls. Dave Francis and his crafty backstage fag carelessly left to smoulder, were the culprits. Colin Plant’s pyrotechnic finale piece was the victim of Dave’s carelessness. “It seems we need a reminder of smoking only in the car park and only when you are not in the scene in progress,” continued Marjory. “Does anyone know where our Prince is?” After scanning the hall all eyes rested on the pair of brown brogues protruding from the stage right curtains. Sensing his cover was blown Dave gradually emerged from his hiding place.

“Now the cast is complete we can proceed. Spirit of Cinderella’s Mother on stage Marjory boomed.” Beaming all over her face Blossom Trott stepped forward. Everyone else was keen to see where this rare Character fitted into the traditional plot. When the monologue was finished Marjory stood open mouthed. ‘Blossom wasn’t bragging last week,' she thought, ‘It was word perfect and very moving.’ Still shocked all she could manage to say was “Okay, thank you.”

 “That daft old girl ain’t as simple as she looks,” muttered Alf, “still nobody could be that simple” he sniggered.

 Marjory had been struggling all week with the casting of Buttons. ‘I have to keep Danny Toogood from spilling the beans’ she reasoned. ‘If I want to continue as a pillar of the community he must have the part he’s been hankering for.’

 “Danny Toogood on stage please” With a ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ smile he arrived yet still she felt a sense of menace.

 “Yes Mrs Evans”

 “ Would you like to take on the part of Buttons?” was her pointless question.

Well…… I suppose so” concealed his glee. “You’ve obviously seen me as helpful and fun loving, just as the character is meant to be. Everyone likes a bit of fun don’t they Mrs Evans?”

 “Quite so. Cinderella on stage please and start from page 7, the first time they’re both on stage together.” Glum faced Penny DeLite was obviously not as pleased as Danny was with the pairing.

 “I’ve had a great idea” said Danny. “When I come on I say “My name is Buttons” then go all Shakespearian with “Oh woe is me for I am undone.” A groan went round the hall. “We had better get started as scripted. We can consider any changes later” responded Marjory. After they had read the scene the lack of rapport between the actors killed the friendship in the script. In saying her thank you to them Marjory realised a lot of work was needed to find a way of being a peacemaker.

 “If looks could kill he’d be a goner,” Luigi whispered to Calvin.

 “Ugly sisters on stage please” called Marjory.

 “Oh I thought that could be Penny and Blossom” laughed Calvin “but I guess that means us two.”

 Cybil started banging out some lively music as the 2 drag queens deftly went through the dance routine. The lightness of their feet was unfortunately not matched by the piano accompaniment. Their routine ended with Luigi spinning Calvin with great energy. The pirouetting ugly sister gracefully glided across the stage and over the edge. Landing with sickening thud leaving a prostrate Calvin, which drew an anguished cry from Luigi but nothing from Calvin


Rehearsal 3 by Andrew Stock

 “Hurry now please we only have eight weeks of rehearsal until opening night.”

 Marjory called the group together with a clap of her hands, “Please be quick gather around I have some news that may affect us all and then Colin would like a word.” Before she could continue the hall doors crashed open and the falsetto voice of Luigi already dressed in full ugly sister costume echoed around the hall,

 “Cooee Marjory do not panic we are here. So sorry I am late.” As if to heighten his entrance he quickly donned the tall feather headdress he had taken to wearing presumably for the, as yet unrehearsed ballroom scene, “We are here and ready to begin.”

 (Northern) “Would you look at the state of her. Seen less glitter on strictly come dancing.”

“I think he looks sweet Alf.” Cybil Rawlinson closed the piano lid and sighed loudly, “Such long slim legs.”

 “Not as long and as slim as yours eh Penny?” Danny winked towards the glum faced Penny who looked towards Marjory for support.

 “That will be quite enough of that Danny.” She quickly turned her attention to Luigi who now sat demurely on a chair, his back stiff and legs crossed at the ankles his hands resting fingertip straight on his knees. “I thought you would be at the hospital with Calvin, I’ve altered the schedule for this evening with him not coming out until tomorrow.”

 “Oh how is he Luigi?”

 “Yes how is he?” The chorus threatened to rise out of control but with the grace of an orchestra conductor Luigi waved a hand silencing them with a flick of his wrist.

 “Oh the silly petal is doing very well indeed. The stitches will be out tomorrow and the little scar he has on his cheek is healing nicely and if I say so myself will give him a very rugged look, show a bit of the bad boy he has about him.”

 (Northern) “For Gawds sake.” Alf Pooker flopped heavily into his chair “Come on Marjory what’s new?”

 “Well.” She began “It appears we have had a case of vandalism.”

 “Oh my God no!” Luigi rose to his feet and wobbled as though about to feint “I just can’t take any more there always seems to be an ‘ism’ sexism, racism and now discrimination against Vanda.” He stopped wobbling and asked suddenly, “Who is Vanda, is she the one playing Cinders?”

 (Northern) “What the ‘ells ‘e’ on about?” Marjory sighed.

 “There is no Vanda Luigi. Vandalism. Please just listen to Colin he will explain. Colin Plant, set director stepped forward fidgeting with his hammer as though ready to beat a confession from the nearest person.

 London) “It looks as though someone broke in frew a window in the nite and painted a large penis on the side of the pumpkin along with the words ‘not all property is theft’.” Alf whistled a long tuneless note breaking the silence

 (Northern) “Well that’s a proper cock up and no mistake.” In response Colin nodded (London) “Yes indeed, I can tell you it will take more than one coat of emulsion to cover that up.” As the cast talked heatedly about what was surely some horrible practice joke Marjory caught the glance of Danny Toogood who allowed himself a small secretive smile.


Rehearsal 4 by Veronica Sims

 “Hurry now please we only have seven weeks of rehearsal until opening night.”

 Marjory was rather relieved to see Calvin Spratt arrive with his fellow Ugly Sister and partner Luigi. ‘One problem less’, she told herself.  Next, she went into the room where Colin and Maureen had stored the props. Colin was there, looking a tad pleased with himself.

‘OK, Colin what is the verdict on the over-painting of the penis?’ she asked. Actually, from his expression she had already guessed that his paint job had been successful.

‘Well, it weren’t easy, you understand, but I managed it. Four coats, yes, four effing coats. Just as well, I had paint left over from doing-up me youngster’s bedroom. It is not cheap paint, ye know. Don’t worry I won’t be charging you.’

‘Thank you, Calvin, thank you for taking sooo much trouble. I won’t forget it. I promise.’ Marjory knew when she had to over-do the thanks a bit.  Though It was ‘over doing thanks’ that had got her into the rather delicate, and embarrassing situation that led her to be the victim of Danny Toogood’s stranglehold over her.

She went back to the stage area where the cast were hanging around waiting to rehearse. Cybil sat at the piano practicing her scales. She hadn’t been playing the piano that long and had to keep up with the practical exercises. She felt she had made excellent progress. Marjory wasn’t as confident in Cybil’s skills but apparently, ‘beggars can’t be choosers’.  After all Grovesbury was a small village and although it boasted a bassoon player, two violinists and a drummer who played in a rock band, the only pianist, other than Cybil, was the church organist and he felt theatricals were the works of the devil. That left Sybil!

Marjory placed herself in front of the chattering, would-be thespians. She clapped her hands vigorously and eventually, the babbling stopped, and the cast turned toward her.

‘The penis has been erased,’ she announced, ‘I am sure that is a weight off everybody’s mind.’’

There was some muffled sniggering from the back. She suspected Danny Toogood.

She looked at her motley bunch of would-be stars of stage and screen and her heart gave a flutter of anxiety. How was she to deliver a proper pantomime to the village with only this lot of would-be thespians as the ingredients of her dramaturgical stew? It would be more like a ‘workhouse gruel’, she feared.

She took a deep breath and was starting to speak when her words were drowned by a thunderous battering of the hall door. Her audience spun around to see what was happening behind them.

Dramatic Entrance (AGAIN)

The door flung open, crashed into the wall, flakes of paint flew in all directions. A man stood in the doorway. He looked like George Cluny.

‘Hi, hope I’m not intruding?’ he declared in smooth Yankee tones. ‘We’ve just moved here. I heard you were rehearsing for your Christmas Panto, always wanted to do Panto. I’d love to do Buttons…’

A sound, not unlike that of the screech of the unlubricated brakes of a vintage tractor trying not to crash into a ditch, erupted from the midst of the astonished cast.

‘I’m Buttons’ yelled Toogood.


Rehearsal 5 by Jacquie Gulliver

 “Hurry now please we only have six weeks of rehearsal until opening night.”

 Marjory Evans walked briskly down from the church where she had just had a quick word with St Crispin, patron saint of cobblers. Cinderella was after all, essentially a story about a shoe, so hopefully he would intervene and make Danny Toogood disappear. Permanently she hoped.

Just then a thick grey head of hair appeared on the other side of the graveyard wall followed by the handsome face of the American Ed Bates. Marjory's heart plummeted down to her stomach as her brain scrabbled for something witty to say. But what does one say to a retired tobacco auctioneer from South Carolina? 'What are you doing prowling around an English country graveyard?' Was what came out.

 'Hey Marjory,' Ed drawled. He opened the gate and walked beside her down towards the church hall where Danny Toogood waited.

 'And what brings our American friend back to the Grovesbury Players?' Danny leered at Marjory.

 'Hey, Buttons,' Ed greeted him. 'I've rented a house for a month to have a look around — my ancestors came from here. And I've offered to help Marjory with the production…'

 'All the parts are taken.' Danny was abrupt, but auctioneers are adept at reading people and Ed dropped the bid.

 'Sure, I know.' Ed smiled. He was either unaware of Danny's hostility or he was a very good actor. 'I'll cut the lights, or do whatever needs doing and be happier than a pig in mud while I'm doin' it.'

 The others arrived in a gaggle but Cinderella separated herself from them and headed straight for Marjory. 'May I have a word?' Penny De Lite took her arm and led her away. 'It's about Danny. He's too touchy, Marge. It's verging on groping.'

 'Oh Lord.' Marjorie looked stricken. 'I'll have a word with him.'

'Where's the Prince?' Calvin Spratt asked no one in particular.

 'Wesa da prince, wesa da prince?' Luigi Brunetti echoed in mock Italian English.

 Colin Plant materialized next to Marjory fingering his claw hammer. At the same time Alf let out an irritating whistle and Maureen Pritchard from props and costumes held up the ripped skirt of Cinder's ballgown. 'And the penis is back on the pumpkin,' Colin said. 'No slogan this time, just the penis.'

 'And balls.' Alf gave another whistle. 'Big buggers they are too.' Then sotto voce, so that only Marjory heard. 'It's that pillock Danny Toogood.'

 'Thank you, Alf.' Marjory looked stern. She had five weeks to get this show on the road and there was no time to waste on Alf. 'Right!' She called them to order. 'As the Prince is still not here, we'll start with the scene where Buttons is consoling Cinders because she has not been invited to the ball. 'And Danny, I would remind you that Buttons is a male servant of the household, liked, but not loved, by Cinderella.'

Danny nodded but immediately turned to Penny with a smirk. The expression on Penny's face commanded Marjory's attention. It was that of an entomologist, studying a mosquito, the specie of which, she was familiar with.


Reherarsal 6. “On with the show “by John Broadhouse

 Marjory Evans dilemma was to replace Danny Toogood with Ed Bates, the swathe American. to play Buttons, as this would solve the problem with Penny’s allegation that Danny was being too familiar with her during rehearsals, but how could she manage it without causing too much friction!

 At the village hall the cast were busy discussing the latest act of vandalism, when Marjory brought them to order sharply, “We have just four weeks before the panto goes live to the residents of Grovesbury, and who knows, possibly further afield, I did hear that a London director might drop in on the night”, Marjory thought the little lie might boost morale, “Lets start the scene where the Prince meets Cinders at the ball”.

 Luigi butted in, “You’ll be lucky duckies, to find the Prince, last time I saw him he was staggering out of the Firkin Duck, pissed as a newt, doubt you’re see him for another day, that’s right, isn’t it Calvin, we both saw him, throwing up in the village pond”.

Calvin gave a wry smile to Luigi.

 “Right, who have we got as stand in for Dave Francis”, enquired Marjory looking at Colin who had the cast list.

 “There’s been an oversight, there isn’t one, strange as it seems, everyone else has a standby”.

 “I can do it”, replied Danny smiling, “I could play both Buttons and the Prince”.

 This was Penny’s and Marjory’s worst nightmare.

 Another voice from the back of the hall called out, “You can put me down for it”.

 The cast quickly turned their heads to see Ed Bates standing with a copy of the script.

 Marjory saw this as an opportunity for a quick fix, but it also complicated her plans concerning Danny and Ed.

 Calvin whispered to Luigi, “That’s all we need, a Yankee talking prince, I know why she jumped at the thought of him, they had an affair before he cleared off to the states, they tried to keep it quiet, but nothing escapes me”.

 Colin Plant got to his feet and addressed Marjory, “Before we start the rehearsal we need to sort out the continuing vandalism, Maureen has managed to repair Cinders ballgown and I am still working on the removal of the penis and balls, but we need to put a stop to it, in fact the hall has an internal CCT and I have a copy of the culprit which I will show to Marjory later, hopefully this will stop all this unnecessary agro”.

 Calvin whispered to Luigi, “At least he’ got the balls to sort things out”.

Luigi couldn’t contain his laughter and instantly drew attention to himself.

 “This is not a laughing matter”, barked Marjory, “and I will have words with the culprit, rest assured we will deal with this in a fitting manner becoming of the Grovesbury Players”.

 Ed walked onto the stage with Penny still clutching his script, Danny stared at him with daggered eyes as Ed put his arms around her for the dance.



Rehearsal Seven, by Caroline Coleman 

 “Hurry now please. We only have four weeks of rehearsal until opening night”.  

The cast stayed in their seats. Luigi and Calvin giggled impishly at something on their phone, their faces monstrously lit blue by the screen. Maureen was fighting with a knitting bag that spewed wool and needles onto the floor. Blossom picked at her false nails. An air of resignation hung in the air. 

Marjory sighed with exasperation. They were going to need a firework underneath them this evening. She clapped sharply. 

“Right!, let’s start! We’ll do the final scene – everybody on stage please”. 

As they wandered unhurriedly onto the stage, Cybil started to play a funeral march, but was rapidly quelled by Marjory’s evil eye. Then Blossom tripped on a shoe, which shot gracefully through the air before clobbering Penny smartly on the head. Everybody, except Penny, laughed. 

Maureen immediately leapt onto the stage and grabbed the shoe, fussing over whether it had been damaged. Just as Penny realised nobody was taking any notice of her, a whisp of smoke emanated from the shoe. They all stared in disbelief as a second, larger puff drifted into the hall, accompanied by a hacking cough. 

“What the chuff ..?”, gasped Alf. 

There was a groan, a sound like jelly falling from a mould, and a surprisingly large, elderly man slid from the shoe and landed in a tangled heap. He clambered to his feet, dusted down his red velvet waistcoat and stared around him belligerently. The cast gaped back in silence. 

“Hmm. You’re going to need some work”, he muttered grumpily. Had Marjory regained her power of speech, she could only have agreed. 

“Right,” said the man, “you in the silly hat”. Luigi and Calvin strutted forward but he ignored them completely; he meant Blossom. 

“That thing behind you. Please don’t tell me that’s meant to be a pumpkin.” Blossom nodded and the colour rose in Colin’s face. “Blimey! Has someone thrown a paint can at it? Well, I suppose it’ll have to do. Now, where are your mice?” 

“Erm, we don’t have any”, said Maureen, apologetically. “The council wouldn’t let us. And anyway, the mice were invented by Disney”. 

From somewhere another noxious puff of smoke appeared. 

“How are you supposed to do Cinderella without any bloody mice?”, the man exploded. “I just don’t believe some of the rubbish I get sent to!”.  

The cast started to find their voices again, protesting at the uninvited criticism. But the genie turned a deaf ear to their complaints. Instead, he jabbed a finger towards Danny. “You’ll do”, he said. 

“Wha …?”, stuttered Danny. 

“You’ll have to be a mouse.” 

Danny seemed to crumple in front of the assembled cast. “But I was meant to be Buttons.” 

“You?”, asked the genie, genuinely surprised. “No, no, no, you’re not Buttons material at all.” He indicated towards Ed. “Now that honest, upstanding gentleman over there. That’s what I call a man for the role.” Ed’s chest puffed up proudly and Marjory stifled a nervous giggle. 

The shoe genie held up his hands and called the cast to order. “Right listen up you lot. The paperwork says you’ve got four weeks left before the unfortunates of this village pay good money to come and watch you stagger around this stage. So, if you don’t want to embarrass yourselves, you are going to need to get your act together. NOW!!! So let’s start at the beginning.”



Rehearsal Eight / Chapter 8 by Joy Wilkinson


Ed gazed at her, his eyes large and hopeful.

 Marjory shifted on the cushioned cover of the chair beneath her ample bottom and held out her right leg. Danny Toogood took her ankle and removed her clumpy brown but practical shoe. He held her stockinged foot in one hand, reached to one side with the other, and pulled a stool covered in emerald velvet under her leg. He reverently placed her foot on the velvet where it sat like a precious jewel.

 All she could think about was whether Danny’s sense of smell had ever recovered from the dose of covid he had during the summer. And hoping her stockings were the clean ones she put on this morning.

 She looked around her. It was weird, but this room looked very much like the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. It was a long, rectangular room, with large mirrors adorning both the long sides. Each mirror was framed with an ornate golden arch. Huge crystal chandeliers hung from the high ceiling. As she looked more closely, she could see that each mirror seemed to show a reflection of someone though she could not actually see anyone in the hall itself. One reflection looked very much like Blossom, another was surely Maureen, and was that Calvin and Luigi?

 A crash came from the end of the room and Marjory jerked her head round just as one of the chandeliers detached from the ceiling and fell to the floor. As it landed, the crystals started to roll and turned from diamonds into pieces of amber, which became dull and then started to stick together until a large orange ball was rolling along the floor. And as she continued to watch, the orange ball became a pumpkin and started to swerve all over the floor because it was not very round and could not roll straight.

A shout echoed down the hall and Marjory looked up to see the shoe goblin, in his red velvet waistcoat, holding a large stick and chasing the pumpkin. Behind him, a motley collection of mice and rats, dressed in a variety of multicoloured waistcoats, raced along, emitting high pitched squeals as they ran.

 As the goblin went past the mirrors, the glass cracked and Blossom and Maureen, then Calvin and Luigi escaped through the ornate gilded frames and joined him in running after the pumpkin, shouting for it to stop. But it did not seem to matter how fast they ran, they could not get any closer to the pumpkin. As they ran, more chandeliers fell to the floor and turned into huge pumpkins, until it seemed the room was crowded with pumpkins, and goblins and rats and mice and people running and shouting and squealing, and all waving large sticks.

“I think you’re going to need these,” Ed said to her, holding out a pair of bright pink Nike Alphafly running shoes. He grinned as he placed one on the foot resting on the stool, lacing it up tightly. It fitted perfectly.

 “I knew it!” he shouted, “You’re the one for me!”

 No you’re not, thought Marjorie, grasping hold of the other running shoe and putting it on. She stood up quickly, knocking the foot stool to the ground. In front of her Ed stood with his eyes closed, holding out his arms, his face puckered up ready for a kiss. Behind him the pumpkins and goblins and people and rats and mice raced towards her. As she watched the rats and mice turned into footmen and horses.

 Marjorie turned and ran.

 More chandeliers kept crashing to the floor, making a ringing sound as they hit the marble tiles. Marjorie tried to run faster but her legs seemed all twisted and she fell, her head slamming onto the floor. The ringing from the chandeliers now added to a ringing in her head which became louder and more persistent.

 She opened her eyes and reached out her hand to switch off the alarm clock. Her bedding was all over the place, the sheets tangled around her legs. She groaned, holding her head in her hands. She really should not have gone to the Firkin Duck last night. Did she really agree to a competitive shot drinking contest with Ed?

 She must get her act together and quickly, tomorrow night was the final dress rehearsal.


Rehearsal nine. By Joan Lightning

“Please be on time tonight. This is our last rehearsal before the show. Full dress rehearsal.”

As Marjorie unlocked the door, her phone began pinging. Carrying her bag with one hand, she flipped the phone case open to read.

“Almost there.”

“On my way.”

“Be five minutes.”

Penny’s response was different,

“Great news. Tell you when I get there. Danny’s been arrested!”

Marjorie was still gawping at her phone when Maureen, Cybil and Dave arrived. “Have you heard th—?”

Calvin and Luigi ran through the door before they could finish, and immediately launched into “Danny’s gone. Arrested and taken across the country to London.” “He’s been a naughty boy!” “Very naughty!”

Which, coming from two apparent drag queens in full costume, did strike Marjorie as slightly surreal. And she was then swept away in a flood of gabbled information from Maureen.

“He won’t be back any time soon. He’s been charged with hacking the CIA. They want him to stand trial in Washington.”

“Hey! I wanted to tell her.” Penny arrived grinning. “Isn’t it great? He’s gone for good.”

“The unpleasant fella with the bad attitude?” Ed’s American tones followed Penny in. “They’ll not let him loose if the CIA are after him.”

“Excuse me a moment, would you?” Marjorie asked, then stepped through into the ladies and closed the door.

“Yes! Yes! Yes !!! Thank you, St Crispin. Thank you-thank you-thank you.”
She flushed the toilet and returned to the hall. Even the sight of all the faces staring at her did not disturb her dignity. They must have heard every word, of course, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered now. She was free. She smiled. Everyone was present who should be present, and the day was perfect.
“Ed, would you take Buttons please?” she said. “Everyone, let’s get to it. Under the circumstances, we may be able to squeeze in an additional rehearsal on Thursday, but I suspect that Ed will be word perfect anyway.”

“You bet!” George Clooney smiled at her from Ed’s face.

“So, get the scene up, and places everyone…”

Two hours later, they gathered outside the hall door, not wanting to break up after the wonderful rehearsal. “That was wonderful.” Penny enthused. “Ed, you brought such an energy into the role.”

Marjorie agreed, as she reached for the door handle to lock up. Even Cybil’s playing had been in key and at a reasonable pace. The penis had been removed and all the props were in good condition.

“That was perfect!! Colin said as she pulled the key from her pocket. “Now that Danny’s gone, there’s absolutely nothing that can go wrong before the perf—”

“Don’t say it!” Alf yelped. “Don’t ever say nothing can—”

Something crashed on the other side of the door as Marjorie turned the key. A crash that sent a vibration through the door, knocking dust from the edges of the door frame.

“What the?” Geoff asked. “Open up again, Marj.”

Alf scowled at Colin. “You ‘ad to go an’ say it. ‘Nothing can go wrong.’ Temptin’ fate, my gran would say.”

Marjorie unlocked the door, but when she turned the handle and pushed, nothing happened.

“It’s jammed,” she said. “Do you have the key for the main door, Geoff?”

“No. I’ll have to call Reverend Thomas.”

“Great. Just... great!” Marjory said.

One week left to go. What had happened and how bad was it?


Chapter ten: Performance night for the Grovesbury Players. By Andrew STock

          “Well done everybody, really very well done.” Marjory clapped her hands hoping to bring silence to the cast who gathered tightly together under the car port of the vicarage. “I can honestly say I think that went slightly better than we had hoped for.”

          “Depends on your definition of slightly better.” Colin Platt wiped his nose on a damp handkerchief “From where I’m standin’ it was a bloody disaster. With all the rain the scenery is as damp as wet bread, the costumes hardly stood out hidden under raincoats and cagoule’s and who’s ever seen a fairy godmother in wellington boots and carrying an umbrella?”

          “Yes Colin but everyone…”

          “And don’t get me started on the pumpkin. No sooner had cinderella here managed to drag herself aboard than the whole thing collapsed under the weight of walking boots, fleece jacket and horse blanket wrapped around her shoulders.”

          “That’s not my fault Colin its bloody freezing out here I was cold.” Penny shivered enthusiastically to heighten her point

          “Ah sweetie we are all cold I just say make the most of it and soldier on.” Calvin smiled brightly beneath his oversized sou wester and was greeted with an enveloping hug from Luigi who matched Calvin in every dress detail.

          “Ooh darling imagine you as a soldier it’s enough to get anyone to don a helmet.” The two men laughed loudly.

          “Dirty bleeders. should be ashamed of yourself.” Alf Pooker turned to face Marjory ignoring the two men who giggled like school children as they sudo whispered the words ‘attention!’ “Listen Marjory as far as our performances go this ‘as been a total shambles worse even than Rumplestiltskin two years ago. At least then Cybil only had to play one tune and not on a piano full of water.”

          “Handel managed ok.” Ed Bates drawled slowly, flashing Alf his fluorescent George Clooney smile.

          “Wot you talking about, bloody Handel?”

          “Water music buddy. Get it? Handel’s water music.”

          “Piss off Yank.”

          “Gentlemen please!” Marjory stepped between them averting a national crisis, “Why don’t we all go home a dry off and meet at the Firkin Duck at let’s say 7.30 eh?” There was a mumble of agreement and slowly the small group filed away leaving Marjory on her own. They were right of course it had been an unmitigated disaster. As soon as she had heard the collapse behind the hall door last week she had known the cause. She pictured it now the men pushing at the door forcing their way through the devastation of the collapsed ceiling. Dave Francis had been first to enter using his mobile phone as a torch.

          “My God the whole ceiling has collapsed, there seems to be boxes everywhere.” There had been a pause as they waited outside, the cast with looks of confusion and distress masking their features, Marjory with a frown and a churning swirl deep in her stomach. “Jesus are these vibrators?” Dave Francis had taken on the high pitched call of an excited child spurring the others into action. The crush to get through the door had been instantaneous and soon voices floated through the bobbing phone lights,



          “Are these handcuffs? Sweet Jesus there must be a hundred of them.” Marjory had waited until the noise had died down and slowly calmed her breathing. She had known it had been risky especially since the last order had arrived ahead of schedule doubling her stock ready for the New year sales but she had hoped the attic space of the hall would be sufficient until she was able to sell it all to her internet customers. Dam Danny Toogood, if he hadn’t come across all of her items whilst he tried himself to hide his illicit computer hacking equipment in the attic space she would have had it all moved before anyone was the wiser. He had quickly worked out who the stock had belonged to and left little clues for her to find, well a very large clue to be honest in the shape of a penis painted on the side of the pumpkin. No doubt he would have continued his blackmail of her until she had paid him what he wanted or he had exposed her little sideline to the parish magazine. Shaking her head she pulled the collar of her coat around her neck. Thank God her little conversation with Ed Bates a very dear friend of her beloved Hugo and ex CIA operative whose cover as a tobacco auctioneer had served him so well for so many years had worked so well. Ed had taken great delight in researching the odious Danny and struck gold with finding the recent and highly illegal internet action. Ah well sometimes it payed to have friends in high places. Marjory began a slow walk towards the Firkin Duck, perhaps an open air production had not been a good idea but to be honest there had been little choice with the hall out of action. Marjory didn’t mind too much in fact it probably helped as now at least there was an excuse for the wooden performances and the out of tune playing and the pumpkin? Well as Colin had said don’t get her started on the pumpkin. Stepping through the door of the Firkin Duck Marjory smiled, it hadn’t worked out too badly, the village had been treated to its first ever outdoor pantomime, sales of her sex toys had doubled in the past week mostly around the local area thanks to the ‘Village voice’ magazine and Cybil was seated at the piano managing to not quite murder ‘Hark the herald angels’And the cast were all in fine voice, or at least giving it a go and even Ed and Alf were joining in laughing together. Yes perhaps things had worked out quite nicely. Now she decided a stiff gin and tonic was in order and then tomorrow… Marjory smiled, Tomorrow she would take a quick look through the Vicars plans for next years pantomime ‘Babes in the Woods’ God help them all.