I grew up listening to my mother reading me the stories of George MacDonald. Later on, I learned that my mum was actually author of the well known MacDonald biography The Stars and the Stillness, and one of the first editors of Orts; I can still remember seeing her painstakingly drawing by hand - copying from one of Macdonald's books - the iconic picture of Irene at the bottom of her grandmother's staircase, to form the frontispiece of an Orts edition.
I am now 40 years old and have my own children; my mum is in her 70s. MacDonald's stories have never gone away; they have pursued me throughout my long theatre career (I run Goblin Market Theatre Company, have an MA in Theatre Directing, and am doing a PhD in Drama and Translation at the University of East Anglia); in everything I have done, I have harboured the dream of adapting MacDonald's stories for the stage.
I feel deeply that this is my inheritance; nothing has quite touched me - and remained with me - the way MacDonald's work has. Now, after years of work and dreams , I have adapted The Princess and the Goblin and am ready to perform it. - to continue bringing the beauty and innocence of MacDonald's work to a new generation of children; to walk in my mother's footsteps.
I am grateful to Donna Triggs for allowing us to include scenes One and Two from Act One of her adaption of The Princess and the Goblin — Jess Lederman
The Princess and the Goblin
A Play for Children
Adapted for stage by Donna K. Triggs
from the novel by George MacDonald
Copyright March 21st 2019
Donna K. Triggs is hereby identified as author of this play in accordance with section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The author has asserted his moral rights. This play is fully protected under the copyright laws of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the United States of America and all countries of the Berne and Universal Copyright Conventions. All rights including, Stage, Motion Picture, Radio, Television, Public Readings, and Translation into foreign languages are strictly reserved. No parts of this publication, apart from quoted elements in the public domain, may lawfully be reproduced in ANY form or by any means – photocopying, transcript, recording (including video recording), manuscript, electronic, mechanical or otherwise – or be transmitted or stored in a retrieval system, without prior permission.
LICENCE TO PERFORM: All applications to perform The Princess and the Goblin: A Play for Children on the professional or amateur stage, must be made directly to the author and, where permitted, a charge will be made proportional to the venue or audience size to which the show will be performed. It is strongly recommended that no rehearsal of this material is undertaken until a licensing agreement has been reached. The provision of a licence does not infer any additional rights for the applicants, neither does it allow for their exclusive use of the material. Copyright and the freedom to use, or reuse, all, or part, of the script remains exclusive to the playwright.
APPLICATIONS TO PRODUCE THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN: A PLAY FOR CHILDREN SHOULD BE MADE BY EMAIL TO: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This play is based on the children’s book The Princess and the Goblin which was written by George MacDonald in 1862.
George Macdonald (1824-1905) was a Scottish author, poet and Christian minister. He was a pioneering figure in the field of Fantasy Literature and the mentor of fellow writer C. S. Lewis who once described MacDonald as his ‘Master’.
For more information on the life and works of MacDonald please visit the George Macdonald Society at www.george-macdonald.com.
Helfer/Captain of the guard
Goblin Chancellor/King’s Attendant
Other parts are played by members of the cast.
ACT 1 IN WHICH IRENE MEETS HER GRANDMOTHER, AND IS NOT BELIEVED
LIGHTS UP TO:
THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN. A CHILD'S NURSERY. THERE IS A DOOR UPSTAGE CENTRE AND WHEN IT IS OPENED THE AUDIENCE SEE THE FIRST FEW STEPS OF A SPIRAL STAIRCASE LEADING UPWARDS. IRENE SIS ON A CHAIR GAZING DISCONSOLATELY OUT OF THE WINDOW AT THE RAIN. LOOTIE MOVES ABOUT THE ROOM DOING VARIOUS JOBS.
IRENE: When will it stop raining Lootie?
LOOTIE: When the clouds have quite decided they've had enough of making us miserable and gone off to rain on some other poor folk's heads, those that haven't got the sense to stay inside. But that won't be for a while yet...the cloud is so thick the mountain's got lost in it look. See the puddles in the gatehouse dancing! You won't get your walk this afternoon Princess I'm afraid.
IRENE: It's been raining for ever Lootie!
LOOTIE: Not yet for ever Princess, but it is tiresome to be stuck indoors. And I've a million and one things to do, the more so with cook not being able to get here this morning with the stream flooding the road.
IRENE: If we can't go out could we not explore indoors Lootie? There's rooms and rooms in this big old castle I'm sure I've never seen. I only see the boring places like my nursery, and my bedroom, and the dining room, and Papa's rooms sometimes when he's here. Oh Lootie couldn't we play hide and seek -
LOOTIE: - Goodness no child! You'd have us lost in a thrice! If your King-papa had wanted us traipsing all over the place he'd have given permission when you came, but you know well enough you're to stay in the main parts of the house. It's an old house - mostly dust, cobwebs and damp I expect. But you're happy enough aren't you, chicken?
IRENE: I suppose so. It's just the rain Lootie.
LOOTIE: I know dear, but it won't last for ever. Ten to a penny the sun will be out again tomorrow. Princess can you be a dear and mind yourself for just a little while? I must just nip downstairs and see to some chores in the kitchen.
IRENE: That's OK Lootie, I'm very good at entertaining myself.
LOOTIE EXITS STAGE LEFT. WHEN SHE IS ALONE, IRENE STANDS AND STRETCHES, PACES THE ROOM, LOOKS OUT OF THE WINDOW. SHE IS OBVIOUSLY DRAWN BY THE DOOR UC BUT IS ALSO A LITTLE AFRAID. SHE VENTURES TO THE DOOR, OPENS IT AND GOES UP THE FIRST COUPLE OF STEPS ONLY TO COME BACK DOWN AGAIN. EVENTUALLY SHE MOVES TO SL TO LISTEN FOR LOOTIE AND, HEARING NOTHING, RUNS BACK STRAIGHT UP THE STEPS AND OUT OF SIGHT.
THE SOUND OF THE STORM INCREASES. FOR A FEW BEATS THERE IS JUST DARKNESS, THE LASHING OF RAIN, THE HOWLING OF WIND. THE SOUND OF THE STORM DROPS ENOUGH FOR US TO HEAR IRENE'S VOICE.
IRENE: (OFFSTAGE.) Lootie! Lootie!
THE SOUND OF IRENE'S FOOTSTEPS. DOORS OPENING AND SHUTTING.
IRENE: (MORE FRANTIC.) Lootie I'm scared! I can't find my way back!
IRENE'S FOOTSTEPS RUNNING NOW.
IRENE: Help me, help me! There's something chasing me!(SCREAMS.)
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING. LIGHTS UP. THE NURSERY HAS CHANGED TO:
A LANDING. UPSTAGE CENTRE IS A CLOSED DOOR. IRENE SITS ON THE FLOOR WEEPING.
IRENE: Lootie was right, there's nothing but damp and cobwebs, and it's dark and I can't find my way back. The wind howls so, it sounds like strange animals! I thought things were chasing me - strange things - but when I turned around it was only shadows. I don't know what to do. (LOOKING AT THE DOOR AND BECOMING MORE RESOLUTE.) Well, I suppose seeing as I can't find my way down I may as well go on.
IRENE LISTENS AT THE DOOR. THERE IS A FAINT HUMMING COMING FROM WITHIN. SHE KNOCKS.
IRENE EXITS THROUGH THE DOOR.
LIGHTS UP. THE ROOM HAS CHANGED TO:
A BARE GARRET ROOM, CLOSED DOOR UPSTAGE CENTRE. A VERY OLD LADY WITH LONG WHITE HAIR SITS CS AT A SPINNING WHEEL, SPINNING. IT IS THE SPINNING WHEEL FROM WHICH THE HUMMING SOUND COMES. A KNOCK AT THE DOOR.
GRANDMOTHER: (A SWEET BUT OLD AND RATHER SHAKY VOICE.) Come in.
IRENE OPENS THE DOOR FROM OFFSTAGE AND LOOKS IN.
GRANDMOTHER: Come in my dear, come in. I am glad to see you.
IRENE ENTERS AND CLOSES THE DOOR BEHIND HER.
GRANDMOTHER: Come to me, my dear. Why, what have you been doing with your eyes, child?
GRANDMOTHER: But why child?
IRENE: Because I couldn't find my way down again.
GRANDMOTHER: But you could find your way up.
IRENE: Not at first. Not for a long time.
GRANDMOTHER: But your face is streaked like the back of a zebra. Hadn't you a handkerchief to wipe your eyes with?
GRANDMOTHER: Then why didn't you come to me to wipe them for you?
IRENE: Please, I didn't know you were here. I will next time.
GRANDMOTHER: There's a good child!
GRANDMOTHER EXITS STAGE LEFT. SHE RETURNS WITH A SILVER BASIN OF WATER AND A WHITE TOWEL, WITH WHICH SHE PROCEEDS TO BATHE IRENE'S FACE.
IRENE: Your hands are so nice.
GRANDMOTHER: Do you know my name child?
IRENE: No I don't know it.
GRANDMOTHER: My name is Irene.
IRENE: That's my name!
GRANDMOTHER: I know that. I let you have it. I haven't got your name, you've got mine.
IRENE: How can that be? I've always had my name.
GRANDMOTHER: Your papa, the King, asked me if I had any objections to your having it; and of course I hadn't. I let you have it with pleasure.
WHILE THEY ARE TALKING, GRANDMOTHER FINISHES CLEANING IRENE'S FACE AND SITS TO HER SPINNING AGAIN.
IRENE: It was very kind of you to give me your name - and such a pretty one.
GRANDMOTHER: Oh, not so very kind! A name is one of those things one can give away and keep all the same. I have a good many such things. Wouldn't you like to know who I am child?
IRENE: Yes, that I should - very much!
GRANDMOTHER: I am your great-great-grandmother.
IRENE: What's that?
GRANDMOTHER: I am your father's mother's father's mother.
IRENE: Oh dear! I can't understand that!
GRANDMOTHER: I daresay not. I didn't expect that you would. But that's no reason why I shouldn't say it.
IRENE: Oh no!
GRANDMOTHER: I will explain it all to you when you are much older. But you will be able to understand this much now: I came here to take care of you.
IRENE: Is it long since you came here? Was it yesterday? Or was it today, because it was so wet that I couldn't go out?
GRANDMOTHER: I've been here ever since you came here yourself.
IRENE: What a long time! I don't remember it at all!
GRANDMOTHER: No. I suppose not.
IRENE: But I never saw you before.
GRANDMOTHER: No. But you shall see me again.
IRENE: Do you live in this room always?
GRANDMOTHER: I don't sleep in it. I sleep on the opposite side of the landing. I sit here most of the day.
IRENE: I shouldn't like it. My nursery is much prettier. You must be a queen too, if you are my great big grandmother.
GRANDMOTHER: Yes, I am a queen.
IRENE: Where is your crown then?
GRANDMOTHER: In my bedroom.
IRENE: I should like to see it.
GRANDMOTHER: You shall see it some day - not today.
IRENE: I wonder why Lootie never told me.
GRANDMOTHER: Lootie doesn't know. She never saw me.
IRENE: But somebody knows that you are in the house?
GRANDMOTHER: No; nobody.
IRENE: How do you get your dinner then?
GRANDMOTHER: I keep poultry - of a sort.
IRENE: Where do you keep them?
GRANDMOTHER: I will show you.
IRENE: And who makes the chicken broth for you?
GRANDMOTHER: I never kill any of my chickens.
IRENE: Then I can't understand.
GRANDMOTHER: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
IRENE: I had bread and milk - oh, and an egg. I daresay you eat their eggs.
GRANDMOTHER: Yes, that's it. I eat their eggs.
IRENE: Is that what makes your hair so white?
GRANDMOTHER: No, my dear. It's old age. I am very old.
IRENE: I thought so. Are you fifty?
GRANDMOTHER: Yes - more than that.
IRENE: Are you a hundred?
GRANDMOTHER: Yes - more than that. I am too old for you to guess. Come to the window and see my chickens. Bring my chair to stand on so you can see out.
GRANDMOTHER AND IRENE GO DOWNSTAGE AND LOOK OUT OF AN IMAGINARY WINDOW TOWARDS THE AUDIENCE. THE SOUND OF 'COOING' OF PIGEONS AND FLAPPING OF WINGS.
IRENE: Oh we're so high up! I can see the rooftops! And so far over the mountains, now that the rain is lifting at last. I have come a long way from the nursery! If I hadn't found you, great big grandmother, I should have stayed lost forever I think! (LOOKING SIDEWAYS.) What is that bright light I see shining from the window in the next room?
GRANDMOTHER: First, do you see the pigeons?
IRENE: Oh yes there's one! And another, all flying in at that window! Why what beautiful colours! That one is white. And that one is speckled, all blue and grey! Oh I see...the pigeons are your chickens!
GRANDMOTHER: That's right. And do you see those holes in the wall they are coming in and out of? They have nesting boxes there. The backs of the nesting boxes lead into my bedroom, and I only need pull a string to get to the eggs. The light you see is my lamp. I call it my moon. It never goes out, day or night. In the darkest night, if any of my pigeons, or anyone else, is lost they can see my moon and know where to fly to.
IRENE: How lovely! Can I see it?
GRANDMOTHER: Not now. Another time.
IRENE: Do the eggs taste nice? I think that must be lovely to get them straight from the nesting boxes!
GRANDMOTHER: Yes, they taste very nice.
IRENE: What a small egg-spoon you must have! Wouldn't it be better to keep hens, and get bigger eggs?
GRANDMOTHER: How should I feed them though?
IRENE: I see, the pigeons fly. They feed themselves.
GRANDMOTHER: Quite so.
IRENE: Will you give me an egg to eat?
GRANDMOTHER: Some day. But now you must go back or Lootie will be miserable about you. I daresay she's looking everywhere for you.
IRENE: Except here. How surprised she'll be when I tell her about my great big grandmother!
GRANDMOTHER: (WITH A CURIOUS SMILE.) Yes that she will. Mind you tell her all about it exactly.
IRENE: Yes, I will. Please will you take me back to her?
GRANDMOTHER: I can't go all the way. But I can take you to the top of your stair, and then you must run down on your own.
IRENE CLIMBS DOWN OFF THE CHAIR AND TAKES HER GRANDMOTHER'S HAND. TOGETHER THEY EXIT.