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Norman Robbins
The Grand Old Duke of York

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Synopsis

The Grand Old Duke of York is a pantomime for thirteen characters and chorus on conventional lines with a bad-tempered fairy, a good witch, knockabout scenes, reference to local names and so on, but based on a less usual subject. The wicked Baron Snatcher and his henchmen, Pye and Peas, overthrow the benign Grand Old Duke (and his ten thousand men) with the help of the nasty fairy Maleficent, and it looks as if evil and chaos shall rule. But the Gypsy boy, Colin, aided by the good witch Old Mother Shipton, thwarts the Baron's plans and all ends happily. The Duke discovers his long-lost son in Colin, who in turn gets the girl, Melody. Even Maleficent turns over a new leaf. A number of easily staged settings are alternated with front cloth scenes, affording the producer scope to be as elaborate or simple as facilities permit.

Author's Note

Like my previous pantomimes, The Grand Old Duke of York is written for easy staging, but can, of course, be performed as lavishly as required. I have alternated full or half sets with lane scenes throughout, and kept sound effects, props and lighting as simple as possible.

The Guardian of the Cave I leave to the imagination and ingenuity of the director, purely for reasons of space and availability. From my own experiences in staging amateur pantomimes, I know that great difficulty is often encountered when trying to obtain Giants, Dragons, Sea serpents, etc., for particular productions, as some other local group has always managed to collar the only one available for miles and for exactly the same period of time that you needed it. Therefore, for this pantomime, simply find out what is available and use that. Anything from a giant to a skeleton will work.

Characters should create no difficulty. All are traditional types and easily recognized.

Music should be bright and cheerful, and in my original conception of the show, I drew heavily on Musical Comedy items.

Keep the pace brisk and above all, enjoy yourselves.

Factual details

The character of Mother Shipton actually existed. Born Ursula Sonthiel, in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, 1488, her mis-shapen body and coarse features soon earned her the reputation of being a witch. Her startling prophesies brought her great fame, and amongst the many events she foretold (reputedly) were the launching of iron ships, manned flight, the discovery of radio, motor cars and World Wars I and II. She died on the day she foretold at the appointed time. Her famous dropping-well is known the world over for its petrifying properties, and visitors to her cave may see stone knitting and hats, etc., plus a collection of items still in the process of being transformed.

Frederick of York is another factual character, though it is doubted that he ever commanded ten thousand men. He was, however, very popular with his troops and an accomplished commander-in-chief. My interpretation of his character is purely for the purpose of this pantomime and is not intended to be a true one. The famous hill upon which he allegedly marched his troops has resisted all attempts to locate it. Certainly none in the York area fit the bill. This being the case, my explanation of its whereabouts is, I suppose, as good as anyone else's.

Cast

Baron Snatcher of Seizitt Hill
Martha Muffett, ex-nurserymaid to the Duke
Jack, Jill, the City watercarriers
Colin, a Gypsy boy
Old Mother Skipton, the famous witch of Knaresborough
Tommy Tucker, Marthaís beau
Pye, Peas, the Baronís hencemen
Melody, the Grand Dukeís ward
The Grand Old Duke of York, a warrior (or worrier)
Maleficent, a bad-tempered fairy
The Guardian of the Cave
Chorus of Soldiers, Citizens, Servants, Guards, Courtiers, Gypsies, etc.
Babes and Junior chrus of Denizens of the Wood, Toy Soldiers, Pixies, Hobgoblins, etc.

Dedication

For Mum and Dad who gave me the idea.

Copyright © Norman Robbins 1981