The Scarlet Pimpernel
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Baroness Orczy.
"They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere... Is he in heaven, or is he in hell? That damned, elusive ... Pimpernel!"
13 parts: 7F, 6M (some doubling possible)
The romantic adventure of a noble Englishman – Sir Percy Blakeney (in disguise as the Scarlet Pimpernel) - and his followers, sworn to rescue aristos from the guillotine and his arch rival, Chauvelin. Caught up in the adventure, is Marguerite St Just – Sir Percy’s new wife and Chauvelin’s ex lover. Sir Percy, having wed Marguerite, finds out – too late – that she has incriminated a French family and they have been executed. He withdraws his love from her. Marguerite, is despair over her failed marriage and with no idea her husband is the famed Pimpernel, is blackmailed by Chauvelin to betraying the Pimpernel. When Percy departs for France, she comes to realise the Pimpernel’s identity and the race is on to save Percy and her marriage from the trap set by Chauvelin. She appears to be too late, but the Pimpernel always has another trick up his sleeve.
Picture: Peter Scrine as Sir Percy Blakeney and Kim Griffin as Marguerite
Chauvelin - (recovering) I am indeed charmed to see you sir percy. You must excuse me. Your … arrival quite took my breath away.
Sir percy - La, it did quite, didn’t m’sieu … er… chambertin?
Chauvelin - Chauvelin!
Sir percy - Beg pardon a thousand times. Yes, chauvelin … i could never cotton to these foreign names. I say armand … you here too i see.
Armand - as you say, percy. How are you?
Sir percy - Quite well, thank you. And you
Armand - A little uncomfortable, to tell you the truth.
(there is a pause)
Chauvelin - Why are you here?
Sir percy - Oh, y’know. Noblesse oblige.
Chauvelin - On your way to paris, sir percy?
Sir percy - Odd’s life no. Beastly uncomfortable place paris for me, just now.
Chauvelin - Surely not for an englishman such as yourself who takes no interest in the conflict that is raging there. Now for a true frenchman it is different you see. For too long the children of france suffered under the grinding heel of the aristos. And now, as is just and fair, it is time for the oppressors to have their reward.
Sir percy - La, it is no business of mine what you frenchies do.
Chauvelin - I heartily agree with you. But unfortunately, you english seem intent on interfering in the affairs of france. Perhaps had you known what it was to grow up in france, to be abused, starved and beaten by the very people who should have cared for you, the very people to whom noblesse oblige should have meant care and compassion for those less fortunate, you might be a little more sympathetic to the cause of the republique.
Sir percy - Er, just so. Still, cutting of their heads seems a little … well, drastic, don’t y’know?
Chauvelin - No, sir percy. I do not know. I think all is fair in the name of egalite.
Sir percy - Odd’s blood, i daresay! You know your own business best. But do not let me detain you, m’sieu chambertin, if you are in a hurry. Take no heed of me. My time is my own.
Chauvelin - Not for much longer, i think. You, no doubt, sir percy, have heard of this … englishman… this scarlet pimpernel.
Sir percy - Demmed restless fellow, from what i understand. All that dashing about.
Chauvelin - Oui. Exactly. I would like to tell you a little something about this pimpernel, sir percy, and myself.
Sir percy - (yawning) If you must.
Chauvelin - This englishman, this pimpernel who loves to dress up – in disguise – i shall capture this phantom. He has thrown down the gauntlet, you see. Every rescue of his makes the challenge even greater. Do you understand? And i will perjure my soul itself to bring this enemy of france’s to the guillotine.
Sir percy - I say what? Don’t think i follow you, m’sieu chambertin. But i say, would you honour me sir? (offers snuffbox) ‘tis my own recipe and quite unique, i would say.
(chauvelin gazes for a moment at sir percy and decides to play along. He takes a pinch of snuff and inhales deeply. It is pepper. He is rendered incapable by a paroxym of sneezing. Percy seems to spring to life, swiftly releasing armand)
Sir percy - Armand! Quickly – to the day dream! She is in her usual harbour. There are packages there waiting to be transported safely to england. If i am not there with the turn of the tide, leave with out me.
Armand - percy! I knew you would come! But margueite
Sir percy - No time now armand, to the day dream. No arguing.
(armand exits. Percy turns to chauvelin )
Au revoir, monsoor. I promise you, we shall meet again.
(sir percy exits, almost dancing. Chauvelin is still recovering. He staggers to the door.)
Chauvelin - Guards! Guards! (to himself) idiots!
(a guard enters the other door and salutes)
You fool degas! That was the scarlet pimpernel! And you have let him escape.