Jack, The Woodcutter
Mabel, His Wife
The Captain of the Guard
The Children’s Army
In the Village Outside Tom’s Cottage
The villagers are very miserable. The crops have failed and they are hungry. The children are dressed in rags and have dirty faces. Tom is curled up inside a big bucket on one side and cannot be seen by the audience or cast. One side of the stage is the interior of the cottage.
SONG 1 Try to Remember the Kind of September
At the end of the song most of the villagers drift upstage and carry on with menial tasks such as carving wood, hanging washing and bartering goods. The children play simple games with sticks and nuts. Enter Jack, the woodcutter.
JACK: Ah, there you are, wife.
MABEL: Well, Jack, how much money did you take at market. You should have got a fair price for those hard-wood faggots. Good quality they were.
JACK: (Dejected) Not a farthing, Mabel. They did not sell.
MABEL: What? What do you mean, ‘they did not sell’?
JACK: They were damp and rotten, that’s what. There must be a leak in the shed roof.
BEN: I told you, father, there is a hole big enough for Tom to climb through in that shed roof. You wouldn’t listen to me.
ZAK: That’s because he climbed onto the roof and fell through.
JACK: Speaking of Tom, where is the boy?
BILL: We haven’t seen him since dinner.
DICK: That was two days ago! We didn’t eat yesterday.
MABEL: You can’t expect to eat every day. We simply don’t have the money to buy food.
JACK: And there’s a limit to the number of wild berries we can gather. It’s more important to gather wood to sell.
HARRY: I’m so hungry, Ma. Will we be eating today?
MABEL: Well, all you’ll have is turnip stew. I was relying on your father bringing some meat home from the market.
PETE: But we had turnip stew last time we ate.
ZAK: And the time before.
JACK: Enough! If you boys worked a little harder we might be able to buy food. Now, let’s all go and find Tom and then we can go and collect some more wood from the forest.
BEN: I’m frightened of the forest. Wild bears and wolves live there.
DICK: Don’t be such a wimp, Ben.
BILL: Perhaps we could kill a bear and eat it.
ZAK: Perhaps pigs might fly.
MABEL: Come on, let’s go and find Tom. He can help repair the damage he caused to the roof.
PETE: He’s probably hiding again like he normally does.
HARRY: Let’s check all the usual places first.
Exit Jack, Mabel and the boys. Tom pops his head out of the bucket to check all is clear.
TOM: Hello! Did you hear that. What a cheek; I get blamed for everything. It’s just ‘cause I’m the youngest – and the smallest. They think I’m stupid but I’m smarter than all of them put together. One day I’ll show them – you’ll see. It’s really miserable living here; never enough to eat, the rain comes through the roof, there are no blankets on my bed and I’m always cold and hungry. And now that winter is coming things will get even worse.
SONG 2 A Winter’s Tale (Tom and Chorus) The villagers join in the chorus.
After the song, enter Jack, Mabel and the boys.
JACK: Ah, there you are Tom Thumb. Where have you been?
TOM: Oh, just here and there, nowhere in particular.
MABEL: I’ll give you nowhere in particular. (She grabs him by the ear.) Get into that house. It’s time you were in bed.
TOM: Why? I’m not tired.
MABEL: Don’t you answer me back, boy, or you’ll be straight to bed with no supper.
TOM: (Aside) Oh great, just like every other day.
TOM: I said I’m going to behave.
MABEL: Good. They all enter the house. Exit villagers.
JACK: Now wash your hands ready for supper.
PETE: (Looking in the bucket) There isn’t any water.
JACK: Then sit down at the table. They sit at a long table, the boys along the sides and the parents at each end.
MABEL: Who’s going to say grace?
MABEL: Ben, don’t be naughty.
BILL: I will, I’ll say it.
JACK: Very well, go ahead.
BILL: For the little we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful, even though it is only turnip stew again.
OTHERS: Amen! Jack serves a spoonful to each person.
TOM: Is that all I get.
ZAK: You’re only small, that’s all you need.
TOM: If I’m not fed properly I’ll never grow big, will I!
BEN: You’ll never grow big anyway.
JACK: That’s enough talking. Get on with your meal.
PETE: Meal is a slight exaggeration, I think.
MABEL: Now we have a hard day ahead of us. We will need to collect double the normal amount of wood to make up for the disaster at the market.
The boys groan.
JACK: Now, to bed – all of you.
TOM: Please father, let me go at the top end. I keep falling out of the bottom.
JACK: You will go where you are told, boy.
HARRY: Why can’t we have a bed each. It’s too squashed all in the one bed.
JACK: There’s not room for more than one bed. You know that. MABEL Shoo, shoo! Into bed. (She shoes them off.)
Exit boys, grumbling and pushing one-another.
JACK: Now, Mabel, you and I must have a serious talk.
MABEL: It’s not true. You can’t believe idle village gossip.
JACK: What on earth are you talking about, Mabel?
MABEL: Oh, nothing, Jack. Tom enters, out of sight of his father and mother, and eavesdrops.
JACK: The truth is that we simply cannot afford to feed seven boys anymore.
MABEL: But we can’t let them starve either.
JACK: Precisely. But I have an alternative suggestion. We must take them into the forest and leave them there to fend for themselves. Tom looks shocked and wipes away a tear with the back of his hand.
MABEL: Jack, how could you suggest such a thing?
JACK: What alternative do we have? They will starve if we leave them here.
MABEL: But… but… but…
JACK: It is for the best, dear.
MABEL: My heart will be broken in two.
Tom sniffs violently.
JACK: What was that?
MABEL: Just the wind, dear.
JACK: Then we have our decision. The answer is blowing in the wind.
Junior Quaintwood Players, Quainton Memorial Hall, Aylesbury, England