Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Curse of The Green Fairy

A Play in One Act (with apologies to Agatha Christie)

HERCULE POIROT – a famous Belgian detective
LORD RAGLAN – a bully
LADY RAGLAN – a snob
DICKIE TODD – a bounder
DUCHESS OF BASKERVILLE – a wealthy widow
JAMES THE BUTLER – a servant

The dining room of a grand castle in the Home Counties. The décor is early 1930s. LORD and LADY RAGLAN, DICKIE TODD and THE DUCHESS are seated at a dining table dressed in tuxedos (the men that is, not the table nor the women) while the ladies wear ravishing gowns. They have just finished their candle-lit dinner.

LORD R         (Reaches for a bottle on the table.)
                        Snifter of vintage absinthe, anyone?

LADY R          Not after last time, darling.

LORD R         You’re such a bore, dahhhhling. Right-o, let’s be responsible. I’ll ring for James to bring some coke.

(LORD R rings a bell. Enter immediately: JAMES THE BUTLER.)

LORD R         Lazy blighter. What took you so long?

BUTLER        Begging your pardon, me Lord, but some jumped-up little Froggy busybody by the name of Hercules Poy-rot is here to see you. He insists …

(Enter Poirot, brushing past the butler.)

POIROT         Premièrement, I am Belgian and, deuxièmement, it is pronounced      er-KYOOL pwa-ROH.

DICKIE           By Jove! You’re the famous detective!

POIROT         Précisément. And you are Dickie Todd, the Wimbledon tennis champion and ladies’ man.

DICKIE           I say, Poirot, that’s a rum accusation!

POIROT         Merely an observation. I noticed the washing instructions tag of the Duchess’s silk lingerie protruding above your belt. You and she obviously dressed in a hurry after your pre-dinner assignation.

DICKIE           (Glancing down.)
I thought this underwear was a tad tight in the family jewels department.

DUCHESS    Look here, you ghastly little Bulgarian!

POIROT         Belgian. And, as you British say: keep your knickers on. Or, in your case, Duchess, perhaps not. Your affair with Monsieur Todd is hardly a secret. Even your late husband knew of it when he hired me.

DUCHESS    Tommy rot! He’d never hire a fruity foreigner.

POIROT         He feared for his life, correctly as it turned out. He was stabbed, beaten, garrotted, poisoned and shot.

LORD R         Dash it, man. It could’ve been suicide.

POIROT         (Tap side of forehead with forefinger) My little grey cells say: “Non.”

(POIROT strolls to a large painting on the wall: a naked woman standing on a sunlit terrace is painted demurely from the rear.)

POIROT         Ah, Lady Raglan, I would recognise you 

LADY R          Flattery will …

POIROT         I was referring to the fact you were painted on the terrace of your pied-à-terre in Antibes where you regularly met the Duke of Baskerville for a bit of, how you say, humpty dumpty.

DICKIE           Speak English: it’s “rumpy pumpy”.

POIROT         And who better to correct me? A man who has not only slept, if that is the euphemism, with the Duchess but also with Lady Raglan …

BUTLER        (Clears throat.)
Ahem …

POIROT         And, bien sûr, with the butler. The butler who, as Lady Raglan discovered, was also a paramour of the Duke of Baskerville.

LORD R         (Glares at LADY RAGLAN.)
Both James and you were bonking Baskerville? I’d expect it of a manservant and now you can’t be trusted either!

POIROT         A family trait, non, Lord Raglan? It was you 
                      who convinced my client …

DICKIE           Who was your client, again? I’m getting a bit lost.

POIROT         The Duke of Baskerville – Lord Raglan’s business partner in a South African gold mine. Just last month, Lord Raglan convinced the Duke to sign an agreement that, if one of them died, the other would take full control of the mine.

LADY R          (Looks at her watch.)
                        Time’s up, Poy-rot. James, show him the door.

POIROT         (Holds up a finger.)
Une minute. First I must summarise, then name the culprit. (Pause) Who had a motive? Everyone. Lord Raglan was greedy, Lady Raglan was humiliated by her lover the Duke’s affair with her butler, and the Duchess wanted her husband out of the way so she could marry Dickie. Dickie simply wanted the Duchess’s money. Meanwhile, the butler knew that the Duke had left him a generous endowment in a will.

LORD R         If we all had a motive. Who was the murderer?

POIROT         All of you. It was on a night such as tonight. With one exception. There was a fifth guest: the Duke of Baskerville. You gathered. You ate. You argued. You drank absinthe – the pre-War variety made with hallucinogenic wormwood. A drink that, justement, has been banned for more than 15 years! Even the butler had a swig while carrying it up from the cellar. Driven momentarily mad by The Green Fairy as it was known, you killed the Duke as a group. You will all hang for the crime.

DUCHESS    Personally, I’m not a great fan of capital punishment. So, you can wipe that smug smile off your Balkan …

POIROT         Belgian.

DUCHESS    … face. If we’re all guilty, that means you are alone in this castle with cold blooded killers – and that’s not just because of the lack of decent heating.

POIROT         Planning is everything. The castle is surrounded by police. I only have to blow on a whistle to summon them.

(POIROT pats his pockets. He can’t find the whistle.)

BUTLER        (Clears throat. Holds up whistle.)
Ahem … I believe you dropped this when you brushed past me.

(The butler steps towards Poirot. The other characters menacingly push back their chairs.)

POIROT       Mon Dieu, I perceive a petit flaw in my 

                                      CURTAIN FALLS

                                                                                                            Copyright 2017 GREG FLYNN

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