Read Humble Boy Online

Authors: Charlotte Jones

Humble Boy

 

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Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Characters

Act One

Act Two

By the Same Author

About the Author

Copyright

 

For my parents

 

Humble Boy
was commissioned by Anna Mackmin and Matthew Byam Shaw. It had its world premiere at the Royal National Theatre, London, in August 2001 before transferring to the West End under Matthew Byam Shaw and Act Productions Ltd in January 2002.

Humble Boy
had its U.S. premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City in May 2003; Lynne Meadow, artistic director, and Barry Grove, executive producer.
Humble Boy
was directed by John Caird; sets and costumes were designed by Tim Hatley; lights were by Paul Pyant; and sound was by Christopher Shutt. The production stage manager was Roy Harris.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Felix Humble

 

Jared Harris

Mercy Lott

 

Mary Beth Hurt

Flora Humble

 

Blair Brown

Jim

 

Bernie McInerey

George Pye

 

Paul Hecht

Rosie Pye

 

Ana Reeder

 

Humble Boy,
   presented in association with Matthew Byam Shaw and Anna Mackmin, was first performed on the Cottesloe stage of the Royal National Theatre on 9 August 2001, with the following cast:

Felix Humble
   Simon Russell Beale

Mercy Lott
   Marcia Warren

Flora Humble
   Diana Rigg

Jim
   William Gaunt

George Pye
   Denis Quilley

Rosie Pye
   Cathryn Bradshaw

Music played live by
   Charlotte Bradburn (
saxophone
), Adam Caird (
piano
), Zoe Martlew (
cello
)

Director
   John Caird

Designer
   Tim Hatley

Associate Costume Designer
   Lucy Roberts

Lighting Designer
   Paul Pyant

Music
   Joe Cutler

Sound Designer
   Christopher Shutt

Company Voice Work
   Patsy Rodenburg

The Royal National Theatre production of this play was recorded by the National Video Archive of Performance at the Theatre Museum.

Characters

in order of appearance

Felix Humble

Mercy Lott

Flora Humble

Jim
the gardener

George Pye

Rosie Pye

Act One

SCENE ONE

Set: a pretty country garden. Perhaps the suggestions of a house or a glass conservatory from which the characters enter into the garden. A patio area, perhaps with a path through the garden. At the back there is an area for gardening tools; a gardening chair or stool. There is a garden hosepipe wound up there. Something of a lawn with borders. A rose bush. At the end of the garden there is a large beehive. The suggestion of an apple tree – perhaps just some overhanging branches with a few apples.

The stage is in darkness. There is music. Perhaps resonant of ‘The Flight of the Bumblebee'. The beehive lights up to suggest the bees leaving the hive. The lights fade up on the rest of the garden. The music is still playing and the hive continues to throb with light.

Felix Humble walks in a stumbling, uncertain way into the garden. He is transfixed by the hive. He is an overweight but not unattractive man of about thirty-five. He wears old and slightly greying cricket whites, despite the fact that he is not a sportsman by any stretch of the imagination. He climbs up the steps and takes off the lid of the hive and looks in. The music ends.

Mercy Lott enters the garden. She is wearing black clothes with brown shoes. She is in her late fifties, a petite and timid, mousy woman. She watches Felix with concern. She approaches him but doesn't get too close. Felix glances at her, then returns his attention to the hive.

Felix
   (
he stumbles on the letter ‘b'
) The b–b–b–bees have gone.

Mercy
   Yes, dear. Will you come in now?

Felix
   They took the b–bees away. I saw them.

Mercy
   Your mother isn't cross. She just wants you to come in.

Felix
   There were four of them. The bee-keepers. All in white.

Mercy
   I'm sure if you just say a little sorry to her –

Felix
   They looked like astronauts.

Mercy
   Did they?

Felix
   Or cosmonauts. Depending.

Mercy
   On what, dear?

Felix
   If we were in Russia.

Mercy
   Is it still called Russia? Russia?

Felix
   What?

Mercy
   Russia? Is it still called Russia? I can't keep track. Anyway, your mother's waiting inside for you.

Felix puts the lid back on and climbs slowly and awkwardly down.

Felix
   What do you call a group of b–bee-keepers, Mercy?

Mercy
   Is this a joke? I'm not very good with jokes, dear.

Felix
   No, I mean what's the word? Like a flock of sheep, a herd of cows, a pack of dogs, a – an exaltation of larks.

Mercy
   Is it really? An exaltation. How lovely.

Felix
   What is it for b–bee-keepers?

Mercy
   Do you know? I've no idea.

Felix
   What is it for astronauts? A group of astronauts?

Mercy
   Shall we discuss it inside, dear?

Felix
   Something to do with them being white. And weightless. And silent.

Mercy
   We shouldn't leave your mother on her own with all the others.

Felix
   I just have to find the right word.

Mercy
   We really should support your mother.

Felix
   (
a flash
) I can't go in until I've found the right words. Come on. A swarm of b–bees. A what of b–bee-keepers? A what of astronauts? A what? There must be a word for it. The word must exist. I just need to get this – just … think logically. There were four of them. They were dressed in white – they took the bees away.

Mercy
   A heavenly host?

Felix
   What?

Mercy
   A heavenly host! A heavenly host of bee-keepers, stroke astronauts. I like it. (
Mercy glances anxiously towards the house. She sees Flora approaching.
) Please let's go in now.

Felix
   Or an apocalypse. An apocalypse of bee-keepers.

Mercy
   Lovely. Even better. That's settled. In we go then.

Flora enters. She is a very attractive woman in her late fifties. She looks young for her age. She wears a stylish navy blue dress and Jackie Onassis glasses.

Mercy
   Flora! We were just coming in. Weren't we, Felix? We were just sorting out what you call a group of bee-keepers and then we were right with you. Do you need me to do more sandwiches? She's not angry. You're not angry, are you, Flora?

Flora
   No.

Mercy
   There. I told you she wasn't angry. We can all go in now. Your mother isn't angry with you.

Felix
   Yes she is.

Flora
   (
calmly
) I am not angry, Felix. I am incandescent with rage.

Mercy
   Oh dear.

Felix
   (
stammering badly
) An apocalpse of b–b–b–b–bee-keepers. What do you think of that for a collective noun, Mother? It's not b–b–bad, is it?

Flora
   Stop that, Felix. You haven't done that since you were at prep school.

Mercy
   He's just a little jittery.

Flora
   He's doing it to annoy me.

Mercy
   I'm sure he's not – you're not, are you, Felix?

Flora
   He can speak perfectly well, if he wants to. He's doing it on purpose.

Felix
   (
extreme frustration
) I'm trying to b–b–b–b–b–

Mercy
   (
supplying the word for him
) Behave? He's trying to behave, Flora.

Flora
   (
coolly
) I'm afraid, Felix, you will not get the sympathy vote. Today your father has a prior claim.

Felix
   I saw them, Mother. The apocalypse of b–b–b–(
He gives up.
) They were here. While my father was being consigned to dust. You got rid of them immediately. His be– his be– be–

Flora
   I got rid of the bees on professional advice. They were swarming. Since your father's death they have developed very alarming tendencies.

Felix
   P–perhaps they were angry.

Mercy
   Felix.

Felix
   I came home and I went through the house and I find all my father's be–be–be– all his things gone. All his clothes.

Mercy
   Flora very kindly gave them to me. For the Romanian orphans.

Flora
   His bee-keeping suit is still there. In the garage. It is a constant reminder.

Mercy
   I could have taken it but Jean who runs the shop was worried there wouldn't be much call.

Felix
   I come home – and there is just an absence.

Flora
   Don't question what I do, Felix. You weren't here.

Felix
   I'm trying to find the right words.

Flora
   Oh yes, Felix, you carry on. That is what this day has been lacking. Yes. There we all were, waiting in the church for you to find just the right words. Waiting for my clever son, my golden boy, the Cambridge don, to deliver his father's oration.

Felix
   I'm not a don.

Flora
   There we all were, thinking he will make this bloody bloody awful thing … better – oh, we will cry but we will be uplifted. But instead you, let me find the exact word now, you absconded.

Felix
   I'm not well.

Flora
   Buggered off.

Felix
   I have p–pills.

Flora
   And so it falls to an amateur entomologist, an insect man, not even a close friend, a passing acquaintance of your father's, to find the right words. The
bon mot.

Mercy
   He did very well, considering.

Flora
   He did not do well, Mercy. He compared my husband's career to the life cycle of an aphid.

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