Bill Garnett, landlord of the bull
Harry Wilmot, Jessie’s boyfriend
Ted Ducket, Tommy and Alice’s dad
Ethel Ducket, his wife
Jessica, Harry’s girl
Alice Ducket, Tommy’s sister
Molly, a friend of Alice and Mary
Sidney, Molly’s little brother
Mary Penny, Alice’s best friend
Frank, regular soldier, Alice’s boyfriend
Dick Robinson, a spiv
Arthur Robinson a spiv, Dick’s brother
Mrs Riley, runs day centre, a former market trader
Old Mother Brown, cockney matron
George Witherspoon, a cockney rogue
Earl of Gresham, William’s father
Lady Gresham William’s mother
Lord William, heir to the title
The Hon. Edward, His brother
Charles Rotherfield, a rich banker’s son
Percival Molyneux, William’s naive cousin
Horatio Clarendon, A friend of the family
Lady Sofia, William’s sister
Emma Copperfield, Sofia’s friend
Maria Sackville, ugly, snooty, engaged to William
Sykes, manservant at the Carlton Club
2 Talent Scouts
Member in the club
Voice in the Street
Pierre, Maitre D
Act I, Scene 1
In the market in Stepney Way
SONG 1 Down Stepney Way
During the song a small boy repeatedly steals vegetables from the market stalls. At the end of the song he is spotted by a stallholder who calls for the policeman, who was in the song.
MRS RILEY: (Blowing a whistle) Oi, stop, thief! Stop that boy, won’t you!
OTHERS: Thief, stop thief! (and other exclamations.)
(Tommy leaps up athletically from a squatting position and apprehends the offender by his braces. The boy struggles wildly.)
SIDNEY: Get off me you brute, I’ll have the law on yer, yer bully.
(Much laughter from the crowd. Mrs Riley catches up, out of breath.)
MRS RILEY: Yer little hooligan, what do you think you’re doing, pinchin’ them veggies. (Pulls Sidney’s ear)
SIDNEY: What veggies? (The vegetables fall to the ground from under his shirt) I’m sorry, Misses, yer see, we ain’t got nuffink to eat in our ‘ouse, we’re that skint. I ain’t ‘ad no meat since nineteen thirty-eight. Me an’ me sister Molly an’ me Gran an’ me Mam. Me dad’s gawn an’ joined the blinkin’ army ain’t he, me mum says just to spite ‘er an’ all … (All this is becoming more and more breathless.)
TOMMY: All right little man, we’re not gonna ‘urt yer…we’re yer friends ‘ere.
SIDNEY: She ain’t no friend of mine, she ain’t. (Points at Mrs Riley and scowls.)
TOMMY: She ain’t gonna call a copper. ‘Ave no fear.
MRS RILEY: No? Says who?
TOMMY: Says I, Tommy Ducket, and y’ain’t gonna argue with me are yer, Mrs Riley? (Turning to Sidney.) Yer see, she’s a good sort Mrs Riley – got an ‘eart of gold – ‘er bark’s worse’n ‘er bite – really.
(Sidney looks unconvinced. Mrs Riley barks and makes as if to bite him. He runs around behind Tommy for cover.)
The truth is sunshine, she’s known yer muvver since she was in nappies and she’s known me since I cut me first toof…
ALFIE: Fact is mate, she knows every living soul in this part of London, there ain’t nuffink goes on ‘ere without Mrs Riley knowing. Ain’t that right Mrs R?
MRS RILEY: Too right Alfie me boy, too right. I see me reputation goes before me. (She shrugs and goes back to her shopping at the stall.)
SIDNEY: But Tommy, if you ain’t stepped in she’d ‘ave called a copper, I know she would’ve.
TOMMY: (Putting his arm around Sidney.) No chance… she just wanted to teach you a lesson that’s all.
ALFIE: That one’ll go down in the cockney hall of fame, she will, yer can bet yer life on it.
(Molly, Alice and Mary come out of the crowd)
MOLLY: ‘Ere, what’s this? Getting yourself into trouble again. (Grabs Sidney’s ear.)
SIDNEY: Aah, let go of me you stupid cow!
ALFIE: Lay off of ‘im Molly ‘e ain’t done no ‘arm.
MOLLY: Nah? Well, we’ll see what our old man ‘as to say about this. He’s comin’ ‘ome on leave today.
(Molly drags Sidney off moaning.)
TOMMY: Go with her Alice, make her see sense, won’t yer.
ALICE: Sure, Tommy, I’ll do me best. (She follows Molly off.)
TOMMY: That’s my little sister, always lookin’ out for others is Alice.
ALFIE: Hold on a mo’ look who’s ‘ere, them fly be nights Dick and Arthur Robinson. You can bet them spivs’re up to no good, They can smell trouble ten mile off.
(Enter Arthur and Dick Robinson, the local spivs. They put a suitcase they are carrying onto an empty stall, open it and begin to make a display of their merchandise. The girls gasp as they see perfume, stockings etc.)
DICK: Top of the morning to you ladies and gents. Say, what’re you all so miserable about. Look, you’ll cheer up when you see what we’ve got to offer.
MARY: We ain’t gonna buy your hot property, we don’t wanna get done for ‘andling.
ARTHUR: (Acting la-di-da.) My goodness me did you hear that Richard? I believe this lady’s accusing us of impropriety.
DICK: Accusing? Two honest fellows such as ourselves? (Changes his tone.) You’ve got a cheek you ‘ave. Mary, Mary quite contrary. You hypocrite!
ARTHUR: (Closing in.) Little Miss Righteous! (Lifts her skirt slightly.) Well what have we here? Nylons? Get these at Woolworths did we? These look just like the ones we recently… acquired from the States. (They circle around her.)
DICK: And what a lovely ring. Is it new? These things are ‘ard to come by in wartime yer know. And, well I never, I recognise that scent; definitely from across the channel.
(Arthur mockingly takes a long sniff. Pretends to faint.)
ARTHUR: From gaie Paris, if I’m not mistaken.
(Mary is becoming more and more upset and is, by now, close to tears.)
MARY: So what! A girl’s gotta make herself respectable ain’t she? Even in times like these. I don’t wanna be left on the shelf like me Aunt Florence. Proper old spinster she is and she’s only thirty-five. (Starts to cry.)
(Alfie puts his arm around her but she shrugs him off and retreats, snuffling.)
ALFIE: Just leave the girl alone you rogues; stop pickin’ on ‘er.
DICK: We was just makin’ a point, me old china. We provide a service and you folks benefit. That way everyone’s happy.
ALFIE: And I ain’t your old china, so don’t call me that. I’m careful how I choose me friends.
DICK: Have it your way, suits me fine. Come on Arthur, business calls. (Goes to his stall and starts his sales talk to some girls, who crowd around. Holds up ear-rings, negligees etc.)
(Enter Harry with Jessie on his arm and Frank following with Alice in tow. Frank is dressed in the uniform of a private)
TOMMY: Watcher me old tin plates. Harry, how yer been doin’, Ain’t seen yer for yonks.
HARRY: Oh, I ain’t doin’ so bad. Been workin’ the night shift at the East India docks. Been a whole lot of containers in for unloading this last week. (Looking at Robinson’s stall.) Well can you believe it?
JESSIE: Believe what ‘Arry? What is it?
HARRY: There ain’t no market stall in the whole of the East End wiv’ nylons on offer. In fact there’s been only one shipment of ‘em in the last two months.
JESSIE: Well, what of it?
HARRY: Well, ‘ow comes them Robinson boys ‘as got nylons on their stall.
ALICE: P’raps they bought ‘em, legit like.
HARRY: P’raps Jessie here is the next queen of England. (Jessie looks smug.) You of yer rocker, Alice? They’re alf inched ain’t they. Ain’t you lot twigged that yet.
(They stare in silence like naughty school children.)
That’s the trouble with war… it brings out the worst in people. Look at you lot: East Enders, the most kindest-’eartedest, most generous peoples in the ‘ole world. Do anyfink for anybody yer would.
(Alice starts to sniffle. The market quietens as people listen to Harry.)
But war changes people… brings out the worst in ‘em. Take them Robinsons for example; why ain’t they fighting for England like our Frank ‘ere? I’ll tell yer why not, ‘cos there ain’t no money in it that’s why. What’s ‘appened to yer cockney spirit … you’ve lost it, all of you. You’re Jack Frost.
TOMMY: Yer know somefink ‘Arry? I fink you’re right. We all need to lighten up and loosen up. So there’s a war on. So what? We Londoners ain’t never let little things like wars get us down before. We saw off old Boney at Waterloo and Kaiser Bill was no match for us. And why not? We ‘ad cockney spirit! That’s why not! We gotta rediscover the old cockney spirit.
ANNIE: Me old man says Cockney spirit can be found in a clear round bottle.
ALFIE: Wrong sort of spirit, Annie. We mean that esoteric, abstract, ephemeral state- an aura of camaraderie and bonhomie! JESSIE Don’t know about an ephemeral state, sounds like an inebriated state to me.
FRANK: Elephant’s trunk, yer mean!
TOMMY: (Emphatically) Got it!
ANNIE: What’ve yer got, Tommy.
TOMMY: The Bull, of course. The Bull Tavern. Where’s old Bill, Bill Garnet, the landlord.
ALICE: He’s over there at Mrs Riley’s stall, repairing her canvas awning, but what’s up Tommy, won’t yer tell us? (They all call Bill over.)
BILL: Well, well you are excitable, you kids. What can I do for you: an engagement party, a stag night, candlelit dinner for two, a wedding reception? MARY Ooh yes, can I have all four please, but not necessarily in that order!
ALICE: Shut up Mary, this is serious.
TOMMY: ‘Ow long ‘ave you been landlord, at the Bull Tavern?
BILL: Let me see now: I left Mile End in nineteen, spent four years in the army so twenty-three, I think. Yes, that’d be right. I came ‘ere in nineteen twenty-three.
TOMMY: And Thursday nights, Bill, tell us about Thursday nights.
BILL: Thursdays was always the night for a sing-a-long. All the local folk would meet for a knees up and a ding-dong at the Bull.
ALFIE: I got yer, Tommy. You think we should revive the old tradition, for the sake of morale. Brilliant idea, I think we should.
(All chip in with comments of approval.)
TOMMY: Well that’s it settled then. Thursday night it is….if that’s alright with you Mr Garnett.
BILL: Young man, it will be my pleasure… (aside) and very good for business.
(All cheer then slowly drift back to their business in the market.)
ALICE: But Tommy, you’ve forgotten the A.F.S. training; that’s on Thursdays isn’t it? (Tommy doesn’t hear.)
FRANK: Don’t worry Alice; Tommy’s training finishes at eight, we’ll start the ding-dong at eight-thirty.
(Mary has been listening in and interrupts.)
MARY: What’s all this, training? A.F.S.?
ANNIE: Sounds like Tommy’s training to be a secret agent.
FRANK: Don’t be melodramatic, Annie. A.F.S. stands for Auxiliary Fire Service. Alfie and Tommy have been training for months now as volunteer firemen. Soon they’ll be allowed out on calls.
ANNIE: Cor, Frank, that sounds exciting. Do they get to wear a uniform?
FRANK: Well, yes, I suppose they do.
TOMMY: What’s this, Frank, are you broadcasting our war effort to the world?
ALFIE: Well, just you remember, young Annie, that this job may not turn out to be as glamorous as you think. We’ve been used to a quiet life in this ‘phoney war’ ain’t we. Well, I have a hunch things are about to change around here.
TOMMY: Those idiots in bomber command really screwed things up for us in August.
ANNIE: What happened? Was it someone’s birthday?
ALICE: Don’t be daft, Annie. You’re not stupid, surely you remember them Gerry bombs, they made enough noise.
ANNIE: Oh my Gawd, you mean….
ALICE: That’s right, August 25th, the British bombing raid on Berlin, in retaliation for a accidental Nazi raid on the East End. Nothin’ like stirring up a hornets’ nest.
ALFIE: The men from the ministry say that was just the beginning. Here in Stepney we are so close to the docks that we are bound to have a rough ride.
ANNIE: Oh, Tommy, I don’t ever want anything to happen to you.
TOMMY: Don’t you worry your silly head, princess, we’ll be just fine. (Gives her a hug. Slight embarrassed pause.)
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Jorvik Theatre, The Venue. Selby, Yorkshire, England
Portsmouth High Prep School, Southsea, England
St John’s College, Southsea, England
Planet Theatre company, Merseyside, England
Taunton Prep School, Taunton, Somerset, England