Lord Edward Bramley (impersonating Jenkins, the butler)
Lady Alice Bramley
Constance Whetherby, Gerard’s fiancée
Jenkins, the Butler
Mabel, the maid
Archibald, aka Inspector Witherspoon, (Lord Bramley’s estranged heir)
Chorus of servants
Actors of The Poirot Players:
Mike, playing Lord Bramley
Geoff, playing Sir Richard Braithwaite M.P for Rutland
Claire, playing Lady Pamela, Richard’s wife
Steve, playing O’Malley, the detective
Act 1, Scene 1
The Drawing Room at Bramley Hall
The drawing room is decorated in a rather dated style with traditional frilled standard lamps, leather chairs and sofa, several card tables, an ornate sideboard, candelabra on the mantle-piece and numerous family portraits around the walls. Jenkins, aka Lord Bramley, dressed as a butler, is busy arranging trays of glasses and pumping up the cushions in the drawing room. Enter the real Jenkins, in less-formal dress.
BRAMLEY: Ah, Jenkins, just in the nick of time. I need to ask you about the wine list.
JENKINS: Certainly, my lord.
BRAMLEY: You know I never venture into the cellar these days – damn gout. I’ve only a dim memory of the lie of the land. Will I be able to find the necessary intoxicants.
JENKINS: My lord, permit me to remain and advise you.
BRAMLEY: Certainly not, Jenkins, I’ve given you the night off and the night off you shall have.
JENKINS: But, my lord,
BRAMLEY: No buts….. You know how I like a practical joke, Jenkins. Tonight, I shall be Jenkins. My guests shall be arriving soon, including those from the Poirot Players and I shall wait on them.
JENKINS: But, my lord, will your guests not recognise you?
BRAMLEY: Absolutely not! Two of them have met Lady Bramley but none of them are yet known to me. I suppose they may have seen me from a distance, at the polo or the races, but they’ll not recognise me out of my tweeds. And three of them are not really guests; they are actors. One will be playing myself and the two others will be masquerading as guests.
JENKINS: And is Lady Bramley…….?
BRAMLEY: In on the game, of course. She’s always wanted to go to a murder-mystery dinner – and tonight she shall – in her own dining room.
JENKINS: As you wish my lord. (Aside) I wouldn’t want to be the one to spoil your little game.
BRAMLEY: Now, about the cellar….
JENKINS: Very well, my lord:
(The following dialogue should be rhythmic and increasing in dynamics and tempo.)
Your first task, my lord, is to fill a flask with the best Madeira from the dark oak cask.
BRAMLEY: (Parrot-fashion, attempting to memorise the instructions.) A flask of Madeira from the dark oak cask.
JENKINS: The next thing to do is to carry up the brew in the bottles coloured blue with a turquoise hue.
BRAMLEY: Bottles coloured blue with a turquoise hue.
JENKINS: Then take a quart of wine from the rack of pine made from burgundy grapes from the Duke’s best vine.
BRAMLEY: A quart of wine from the rack of pine.
JENKINS: Don’t forget to chill the champagne from Brazil but warm the brandy and keep it handy.
BRAMLEY: Warm the brandy and keep it handy.
JENKINS: From the back of the rack at the top of the stack, take a bottle of port with a light brown cork.
BRAMLEY: A bottle of pork with a light brown court.
JENKINS: The new red rum’s in the rose coloured drum but you’d better watch out for the leaky spout.
BRAMLEY: I’d better watch out for the speaky lout.
JENKINS: That’s everything, my lord.
BRAMLEY: (Aside) Thank goodness for that. Thank you, Jenkins.
JENKINS: Will that be all my Lord?
BRAMLEY: Yes thank you, Jenkins.
JENKINS: Very good sir, and good night sir.
BRAMLEY: Good night Jenkins. (To himself) My first task is to fill a flask with the best Madeira from the dark oak cask.
(He exits, then re-enters, takes a decanter and exits again. Enter Mike, through the other door, dressed as Lord Bramley. He wanders around to take in the surroundings, inspects the drinks on the sideboard and sinks into one of the chairs.)
MIKE: (Practising his banter, he repeats the following line in several voices, eventually settling on a gravely, slow aristocratic drawl with an occasional stutter. He jumps up to say the line the last time as if welcoming a guest.) Ah, good evening Sir Richard, Lady Pamela. Good of you to come at short notice. (Jumping to one side and impersonating Lady Pamela) The pleasure is all ours, my lord. How gracious of you to invite us.
(Enter Bramley, as Jenkins, with the decanter, unseen by Mike.)
(In Bramley’s voice) Do have a seat, my dear. Anywhere you like. (Lady P) I think I’ll sit over here in the corner. That way I won’t make a nuisance of myself…
MIKE: Cor blimey, you made me jump. I mean, goodness, my man, you did give me a start.
BRAMLEY: I say, you are a very good likeness, very aristocratic-looking. You haven’t quite got the voice yet though.
MIKE: I’m working on it. (Mistaking Bramley for one of the servants) Where is the crazy old fart anyway?
BRAMLEY: I… I… I….
MIKE: He asked me to get here early so that I could acclimatise myself before welcoming the guests.
(Bramley goes to speak, but is interrupted.)
MIKE: Don’t tell me, he’s in the library reading a leather-bound tome, or perhaps in his counting house, counting out his money, or in front of a mirror with a plumb in his mouth, practising his la-di-dah. I know what these stuck-up lords are like.
MABEL: (To Bramley) My Lord, Lady Bramley has requested your assistance in the hall. (Mike is frozen into a position of horror with a wide open mouth.)
BRAMLEY: Certainly, Mabel – and remember, from now on I’m Jenkins, the butler.
MABEL: Certainly, my lor… Mister Jenkins.
BRAMLEY: (Turning to Mike) A splendid start, Mike. Keep it up. (Exits)
MIKE; (Unfreezing) Cor, strike a light, that was never ‘im.
MABEL: That was Lord Bramley.
MIKE: (Aside) You’ve put your foot in it again, Mikey! (To Mabel) But I just called him a crazy old fart.
MABEL: You… you… (Pointing from Mike to the door repeatedly) a crazy old fart? (She breaks into hysterical giggles.)
(Mike goes to the door but as he opens it a long line of servants enters, carrying bowls of fruit, dusters, feather-dusters and brushes with dust pans. At the same time the introduction to the song starts. During the song, the servants dust sweep, wipe and set out the fruit on silver plates. Mabel continues to giggle throughout the song.)
SONG 1 The Family Pedigree
(During the last verse, Bramley enters with a hop and a skip, carrying a silver tray of glasses, which he places on the side-board. As the song ends Bramley and all the servants exit except Mabel. Mike pours himself a drink from the decanter, which he downs in one.)
MIKE: You can’t beat good old Dutch courage!
(He takes a silver bowl of grapes and moves to the corner chair. He continues to practise the dialogue as before and discovers that this is easier with some grapes in his mouth. As he practises he puts more and more grapes in his mouth. Meanwhile, Mabel still has the giggles. Picking up the Madeira decanter, she takes a long swig then notices the level looks a bit low. So, she looks around, takes some flowers out of a vase and tops up the decanter with the dirty vase water. She then wipes her mouth on the corner of the table-cloth and as she does so, enter Bramley. He does not notice Mike in the chair. While wiping her mouth, Mabel crouches.)
MABEL: (Sings) ‘Lord Bramley is a Crazy Old Fart’ (she giggles.)
BRAMLEY: (Peering around the table.) Mabel, what on earth are you doing?
MABEL: My Lord, you startled me. (She hiccups due to the effects of the Madeira.)
BRAMLEY; My name is Jenkins, Mabel!
MABEL: Yes, sorry Jenkins-Mabel
BRAMLEY: No, just Jenkins.
MABEL: Just Jenkins.
BRAMLEY: (Aside) Now, where was I? Oh, yes, (he does a little dance as he heads towards the door, chanting) the next thing to do is to carry up the brew in the bottles coloured blue with a turquoise hue.
MABEL: I beg your pardon, my lord?
MABEL: I mean, Mabel; I mean, Just Jenkins. (The doorbell rings. Mike jumps up holding the bowl of grapes.)
BRAMLEY: Tally Ho, they arrive at last. (Exits)
MABEL: He really is a crazy old fart!
MIKE: My goodness the t..t…t…time has arrived. (He looks around for somewhere to put the bowl of grapes and places them on the chair he has just vacated.) Good evening, Duchess, how nice to see you. (He practises a few times. The last time he stutters.)
(Enter Bramley with Lady Bramley, Gerard and Constance. Bramley stays upstage)
BRAMLEY: The Lady Bramley, Mr Gerard Hissington-Wasserby and fiancée, Miss Constance Whetherby.
MIKE: Thank you Jenkins I do know my own wife.
(He guffaws with laughter. Lady Bramley glares at him but Gerard and Constance join in politely with the laughter.)
MIKE: Gerard, how nice to meet you; Constance I am charmed. (He bows slightly and kisses her hand.)
CONSTANCE: Why, thank you, your lordship.
MIKE: I hear you’re a cousin of the dear Lady Bramley, Gerard, from Australia.
GERARD: New Zealand, actually, and quite a distant cousin. It would take too long to explain. In fact, I last saw Alice when I was a baby. Don’t remember it, of course.
LADY BRAMLEY: I remember you – all wind, dribbles and boo hoos.
CONST: I think that applies to all babies, my lady.
MIKE: Well, what brings you here from the colonies.
CONST: A boat! (She guffaws).
GERARD: A wedding, in fact – another cousin.
MIKE: Oh, what jolly fun, eh! And they let you into the country with no problems?
LADY: Edward! I said no convict jokes.
CONST: Some of the populace are bred from good aristocratic stock, you see.
MIKE; Breeding good stock, eh?
LADY: You mean ‘good breeding stock!’
GERARD: Constance, dear, are you warm enough? There is a chill in the air tonight.
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Lord Bramley Score Sample
The Regal Theatre, Minehead, Somerset, England