Are You Being Served?

"Night Watch"

The Players:

Cpt. Stephen Peacock           Mrs. Betty Slocombe
Mr. Ernest Grainger              Mr. Percival Tebbs
Mr. Dick Lucas                    Miss Shirley Brahms
Mr. W.C. Humphries            Mr. Mash
Young Mr. Grace                  Mr. Bert Spooner
Mr. Cuthbert Rumbold          Miss Comlozi
Miss B. Hurst                       Miss Thorpe
Mr. Walpole                         Miss Bakewell
Mrs. Rumbold                      A Tramp
Lady Customer                     Canteen Manageress

Non-speaking roles: Warwick, Seymour, Goddard, male customer

Notes for non-British readers:
Nellie Harvey is a character Mollie Sugden played on "Coronation Street;"
Mr. Callaghan is the prime minister; the Britannia is the royal yacht;
peckish means hungry; parky means cold; pong means stink; kip means sleep.

Scene 1

Young Mr. Grace's Office

Young Mr. Grace is behind his desk, sleeping. Miss Bakewell enters and gently nudges him.

Bakewell:      Mr. Grace? Mr. Grace? Wake up sir.

YMG:           Huh? What is it?

Bakewell:      It's nearly closing time.

YMG:           Oh yes. Thank you Miss, er, Bakewell.  I think I've gathered  enough strength for
                    that  now.

Bakewell:      Very good, sir.  Oh, Mr. Mash from Packing is waiting outside.  Will you see him
                      before you go?

YMG:            I don't see how I could miss him.

Bakewell:       I'll tell him you're just leaving and to make it quick one, sir.

YMG:            What's that?

Bakewell:       A quick one, sir.

YMG:            Well, alright, but I'm afraid I'm going to need another nap afterward.

Mash knocks at the open door and enters

Mash:           Excuse me, sir, Mr. Grace.

YMG:           Yes, what is it?

Mash:           Sorry to interrupt your kip, sir, but that lot of executive furniture  what you ordered
                     just come off the lorry, and seein' as it's so close to closin' time, I need your approval
                     to shift it off the dock.

YMG:           You need my approval?

Mash:           Oh, yes, sir.  Our duly drawn and ratified union contract specifies that after we go over
                     our monthly allotment of overtime, I ‘ave to get a personal OK from you, Mr. Grace.

YMG:           Over your monthly allotment?  But it's only the fifth of the month!

Mash:           Yeh, you're driving us to our grave, sir.  But we're goin' in style, ain't  we?  Heh-Heh!
                     (he nudges Bakewell, who frowns and leaves the office)

YMG:            Is that all?

Mash:           Oh yes, an' the maintainance staff have mopped up most of the water what's on the
                    Third Floor, but the carpet's still dead soggy.

YMG:           Yes, Mr. Tebbs was right.  Those waterbeds were a bad idea.

Mash:           It wasn't the beds, sir.  (leans in) It was the plugs.

YMG:           Yes, well, has the defective merchandise been taken off the floor?

Mash:           Mr. Tebbs helped load it into the furnace personally, sir.

YMG:           I see.  Well, thank you, Mr. Mash.

Mash lingers at the desk

YMG:           Is there something else?

Mash:           (bashfully) Well, sir . . . aren't you goin' to say I've done very well?

YMG:           Get out, Mash.

Mash frowns and leaves, and Bakewell enters

YMG:           Ah, Miss Bakewell.  I think I'm ready to go now.

Bakewell:      Yes, sir.  But I'm afraid Mr. Rumbold has just come up to see you.   He says it's
                     very important.

YMG:           Now I shall definitely need a nap.

Scene 2

Ladies' Counter

Mrs. Slocombe, wearing orange hair and large turquoise earrings, is holding a mirror for a woman trying on an immense hat. Miss Brahms is looking on.

Customer:     Yes, I do like the color.  But it does seem a bit . . . large.

Slocombe:     May I enquire as to what occasion for which madam is shopping  today?

Customer:     Actually, I shall be attending a yachting party.

Slocombe:     Oh, you couldn't have chosen better.  These occasions call for a bold fashion statement,
                     don't they, Miss Brahms?

Brahms:        Ooh yes.  They'll see madam comin' up the gangplank in an ‘at like that!

Slocombe:     (gives Brahms a dirty look)  Yes, madam will be the cynosure of all  eyes.  Will this be
                      on account?

Customer:     Well, I'm not quite sure . . .

Slocombe:     Did I mention that in honor of the queen's Jubilee, with every purchase this week
                     we're giving away a complimentary pair of Royal Jubilee Undergarments absolutely
                     free?  Miss Brahms?

Brahms pulls out a large pair of knickers emblazoned with the Union Jack

Customer:     Good heavens!  Who would wear such a thing?

Slocombe:     Well, (puts finger against nose) I understand the queen herself wears these.

Customer:     I rather doubt it!

Brahms:        Well then, you could still hoist ‘em up the mast if you pass the Britannia.

Slocombe:     (gives Brahms a little kick under the counter )  Yes, it makes one proud to be
                     Brrrrritish!  Would madam like a box or will you be wearin' it home?

Customer:     I'll, er, wear it, I guess.  (she bends to sign bill and has to prop up hat to see)

Slocombe:     (hands her bag with knickers) Thank you for your custom, madam.  I'm sure yours
                      will be the most bon chapeau at the yachting party.

The customer leaves unsteadily

Brahms:        Yeah, and if the ship goes down, she can use it as a lifeboat, and all.

Slocombe:     That remark about hoisting the royal knickers was uncalled for, Miss Brahms.

Brahms:        Sorry, Mrs. Slocombe.

Slocombe:     (cracking a smile) It was funny, though.  Anyway, let's tidy up.  It's nearly goin'
                      ‘ome time.

Brahms:        Ooh, isn't the week goin' fast?

Slocombe:     Yes, tomorrow's Friday already.  And remember, we've got Saturday off this week.

Brahms:        That's right -- the Jubilee!

Slocombe:     (sighs) Hard to believe it's been 25 years.  You're too young to remember, of course,
                     but it was so sad when good King George died.  He took over for his brother, you know.

Brahms:        Yeah, when ‘e married a commoner.  An' she weren't that much different from what I am.

Slocombe:     (peering at her)  Weren't she, Miss Brahms?

As the ladies start to cover their counters, Mash enters from the direction of the goods lift, directing Warwick and Seymour, who are pushing a small couch on a dolly.  The floorwalker notices and approaches.

Peacock:       Mr. Mash!  What on earth is going on?

Mash:           (stops) It's not what's goin' on, Cpt. Peacock.  It's what's goin' through.  Myself,
                     my comrades Warwick and Seymour, and this pygmy davenport ‘ere are goin'
                     through your department.

Peacock:       Mr. Mash, I have lost count of the number of times I have instructed you not to come
                    onto the floor during working hours.

Mash:           Gettin' a bit dim, are you, Captain?  You should take notes -- (leans closer) as Mae
                     West said to the newspaper man!

Peacock:       (aggravated) Now listen here-- (closing bell rings)

Mash:           Blimey, there's the bell.  Give over, Captain.  We've got two more of these to shift.

Peacock:       Oh, very well, go ahead.  Where are you taking it, anyway?

The lift bell rings. The doors open and Rumbold steps out.

Rumbold:      Ah, there it is.  Bring it straight on through, Mr. Mash. (he descends)

Mash:           Right, Mr. Rumbold.  Give it some wellie, men!  I'll get the curtain, then.

Warwick and Seymour wheel the settee toward Rumbold's office.

Peacock:       (with raised eyebrow) Redecorating, sir?

Rumbold:     Oh, er, it's part of a new Storewide De-formalization Policy, Cpt. Peacock.

Peacock:       De-formalization?

Rumbold:      Yes.  The directive came down earlier this week.  On his last trip to America,
                      Young Mr. Grace observed quite a difference in the executive offices at which he
                      called.  Many of the executives, it seems, have been augmenting their traditional
                     desks and chairs with more comfortable furniture, such as settees and coffee tables,
                     for meetings and other business.  It lends a less-formal atmosphere to the office, I'm told.

Peacock:       Hmmmm.

Rumbold:      Yes, Young Mr. Grace has ordered settees for all Upper Middle Management offices
                      in the store.  I will, of course, still be conducting most of my business behind my good
                      British desk, but in future I shall have the option of reconvening, as it were, in a more
                      comfortable setting.  I'm quite looking forward to it.

Lucas:           Where's the coffee table, then?

Rumbold:      Well, heh-heh, there's barely enough room for the settee in my office. Anyway, I'm
                      not much of a coffee drinker.

Lucas:            I see.  Does it ever get parky in your office, Mr. Rumbold?

Rumbold:      Why, yes, sometimes.

Lucas:           Well, as long as it's on account, sir, I should at least put in for a couple tea cosies.
                     (looks at Rumbold's ears)

Rumbold:      (takes off glasses, frowns)  I like to think I have a good sense of humor, but sometimes
                      I feel as if I'm missing something.

Grainger:       (to Rumbold) You're not missing anything.  He's feeble-minded.

Lucas:           Thank you, Mr. Grainger, for your vote of confidence.  Can we go home, then?

Rumbold:      Just a moment, please, all of you.  I have a rather important announcement.  Cpt.
                      Peacock, would you summon the ladies, please?

Peacock:       Certainly, sir. (turns toward the Ladies' counter. Slocombe and  Brahms are
                     already heading for the lifts) Mrs. Slocombe, are you free?

Slocombe:     I shall be free tomorrow morning at nine o'clock, Cpt. Peacock.  Until then, I am
                     otherwise engaged.  Good night.

Peacock:       Mrs. Slocombe, Mr. Rumbold has an important announcement. Miss Brahms, kindly
                     return for a moment.

Brahms:        (to Slocombe) Why does he always have to make his announcements at goin' ‘ome time?

Slocombe:     (to Brahms) Probably because it takes ‘im all day to come up with anything.

The ladies return to the sales floor

Rumbold:      Ahem.  Now, as you know, the new waterbed display in Bedding suffered an
                     unfortunate accident.  All six of the waterbeds set up yesterday sprung a leak,
                     as it were, and overnight emptied completely onto the Third Floor.

Peacock:       I heard it was the plugs, sir.

Rumbold:      Er, yes, the plugs were faulty.  Consequently, not only Bedding but Cosmetics,
                      Sport and Novelty Candles were completely shut down, and the staff of those
                     departments sent home for the day.

Grainger:       I doubt we shall ever hear the end of this.  Mr. Tebbs had protested most strongly
                      against selling waterbeds in his department.  I expect this proves him right.

Humphries:   Yes. Soggy, but right.

Rumbold:      If I may continue?  Apparently, the carpeting on the Third Floor is still rather wet,
                      and it is not believed it will be ready for customers again until after the weekend.
                      As this represents a substantial loss of revenue, and as the store is scheduled to be
                      closed Saturday, for a  further loss, I have just now proposed a scheme to Young
                     Mr. Grace to offset these deficits, and I am happy to say he has endorsed  my idea

Humphries:   (looks at camera) Wait for it . . .

Rumbold:      I have proposed a "Midnight Madness" sale!  Tomorrow -- Friday -- Grace Brothers
                     will open at their regular hour but remain open until twelve o'clock midnight, with
                     special offers throughout the store.  It's wonderfully original, I think.

Slocombe:     Who's goin' to be shoppin' at that time of night?

Rumbold:      I've read that there will be several Jubilee-related events throughout the borough
                     tomorrow evening, Mrs. Slocombe.  We're bound to attract some customers from
                     the celebratory throngs!

Slocombe:     But surely you don't expect us to work all day and night!

Rumbold:      No, of course not.  You will work only one shift, actually, and here's the genius of
                     my idea.  (he rubs his hands) As the Third Floor staff are idle, I have arranged for
                     some of them to come in tomorrow morning and take your places at the Ladies' and
                     Gentlemen's counters, where they will work until five-thirty, at which time your shift
                     will begin, and last until midnight, with an appropriate interval for supper, of course.

Peacock:       With respect, sir, it is rather short notice.  As it happens, I, er, have plans for
                     tomorrow night.

Lucas:           Yeah, I've got something on, as well.  And don't you, Mr. Humphries?

Humphries:   Well, no, but I was going to improvise.

Slocombe:     Well, we have very definite plans every Friday evenin', and I am unanimous in that!
                     Me and Mrs. Axelby watch "Coronation Street"  at the pub every week, and we're
                     not goin' to stop for some daft sale.

Brahms:       Yeah, I wanted to see the Jubilee float what Annie got from the brewery.
                   (to Slocombe)  It's goin' to be called "Britain Through the Ages."

Slocombe:     (to Brahms) Ooh, the clever thing.  Now she gets to go as Elizabeth I, like she wanted!

Rumbold:      Mrs. Slocombe, surely missing one episode of a television programme is a small
                     sacrifice to make for one's employer.

Humphries:   How can you say that?  Ken will be playing Sir Edmund Hilary!

Rumbold:      Now please! I'm not asking you to do anything I'm not prepared to do myself.  As a
                     matter of fact, I shall be working the regular shift tomorrow and the extra shift.  Even
                     Miss Thorpe has agreed to stay after work tomorrow, when we shall be reorganizing
                     the files and catching up on my correspondence.  We're all pulling our socks up and
                     pitching in, Mrs. Slocombe!

Slocombe:     That's easy for you to say!  You don't have to look after my pussy!

Rumbold:      Er, that's true, I suppose.  But we must make sacrifices for the good of the firm.

Brahms: What sacrifices is you makin', then?

Rumbold:      As a matter of fact, and beside the extra shift, Miss Brahms, Mrs. Rumbold and I
                     are celebrating our anniversary tomorrow, and we had plans to go to dinner and a show.
                     Her nephew Timothy is performing in the Woking Bowls Club production of H.M.S.

Lucas:           (shaking his head)  Oh, you wouldn't want to miss that.

Rumbold:      Ahem.  Well, I shall miss it.  At any rate, I'm afraid I'm still obligated to take my wife
                      to dinner.  We've booked at Romano's, which is very difficult to get into.  And she has
                      been looking forward to it for months.  I'm sure that, heh-heh, those of us who are
                      married will understand. (Peacock and Grainger nod)

Humphries:   Well, I don't know much about marriage, but it certainly can be convenient, can't it,
                     Mr. Lucas?

Lucas:           Oh, very convenient, Mr. Humphries.

Slocombe:     Well, personally, I don't fancy strangers muckin' about in my drawers.

Rumbold:      They're not strangers, Mrs. Slocombe.  Why, you worked on the Third Floor yourself
                      until a few years ago, when Cosmetics was expanded and the Ladies' Department was
                      shifted up here to the Fourth Floor.

Slocombe:     Oh, don't remind me.

Grainger:       (mutters) Yes, please don't.

Rumbold:      What was that, Mr. Grainger?

Grainger:       Er, if I may speak on behalf of the men, Mr. Rumbold, I have no objection to our,
                      er, displaced colleagues occupying our counter, but why couldn't they have pulled the
                      late shift?

Rumbold:      Oh yes, pardon me.  I took the liberty of making the arrangements knowing you'd be
                      in favor of the "inconvenience" bonus included in my plan of 10 pounds.

Lucas:           Each?

Rumbold:      Each.

The staff look at each other

Lucas:           Hands up those for Midnight Madness!

All except Peacock raise hands

Rumbold:      Ah, the "ayes" have it!

Peacock:       Just a minute!  I object!

Rumbold:      Oh, it's too late, Cpt. Peacock.  The staff have voted.  Tomorrow at five-thirty then.
                      I'll arrange for refreshments in the Canteen before your shift. (he exits towars his office)

Peacock:       This is most unfair!  I've gone through a great deal of trouble!

Lucas:           What's on, then, Captain?  You and Mrs. Peacock havin' your own Jubilee?

Peacock:       It's none of your affair what my plans are.  Suffice it to say I have them.

Brahms:        Well, I ‘ad plans, and all, but I can use the extra tenner.

Slocombe:     Right, and if those throngs show up, there's commission to be had.

Brahms:        I thought a throng was a skimpy bathin' costume what the ladies wear on the Riviera.

Humphries:   That's a thong, Miss Brahms.

Brahms:        Oh, right.  Say, ‘ow do you know about ladies' fashions?

Humphries:   Oh, on the beach in Rio, the men wear them, too.

Slocombe:     Are you sure, Mr. Humphries?

Humphries:   Either that, or the agent who booked my holiday will have to ring down my bill.
                     Good night!  (he skips away)

Go to Part 2 of  "Night Watch"