Are You Being Served?
"Poor Relations"

The Players:

Young Mr. Grace
Cuthbert Rumbold
Cpt. Stephen Peacock
Percival Tebbs
Betty Slocombe
W.C. Humphries
Shirley Brahms
Dick Lucas
Mr. Mash
Miss Belfridge
Miss Bakewell
A snooty woman
A young vicar
Four lads from Packing

Note for non-British readers: Naughts & Crosses is Tic-Tac-Toe

Scene 1

Sales Floor

Rumbold is standing at the bottom of the stairs near the lifts, looking at his watch. Mash enters stage left.

Mash:          Mornin', Mr. Rumbold!

Rumbold:    Oh, good morning, Mash.  You haven't seen any of the staff, have you?  It's nearly
                   opening time, and I wanted to have a word with them.  I'd better see them coming out
                   of the lifts soon or I shall be very cross.

Mash:          I'd hate to miss that, Mr. Rumbold, but the lifts is out of service again.   That's what
                    I come up to tell you.

Rumbold:    They were working twenty minutes ago when I came up.

Mash:          You do lead a lucky life, sir.

Rumbold:    Yes, I suppose.  Still, why aren't they using the stairs?

Mash:          Oh, that's what else I come to tell you. There's a queue.

Rumbold:     A queue?

Mash:          Yeah.  Mr. Tebbs' lumbago is actin' up again and ‘e couldn't climb the stairs.  Bunged up
                    the stairway, ‘e did!  Some of the lads from Packin' are ‘elpin ‘im.  He'll be comin' up in
                    the goods lift.

Rumbold:     [sighs] Thank you, Mr. Mash.

Mash:          Yeah.  The rest will be troopin' up the stairs any minute [leans closer to him] as
                    Mae West said to the landlady!

Rumbold:     [sternly] Thank you, Mr. Mash!

Mash:          Oy, ‘ere they come now.  [he exits left]

The staff enter from the stairs to the right of the lifts. Mrs. Slocombe is wearing a leopard-skin coat, and her hair is lavender.

Rumbold:     It's about time.  You're all very nearly late!

Peacock:      [out of breath] Sorry, sir.  The lifts--

Rumbold:     Are out of service.

Peacock:      [he pants] Yes.  And Mr. Tebbs--

Rumbold:    Was obstructing the stairway.

Peacock:      Yes, and they're bringing--

Rumbold:     Bringing him up in the goods lift now.  Yes, I know, Capt. Peacock.

Humphries:   It's hardly worth showin' up, Mr. Lucas.

Lucas:          Why do we bother, Mr. Humphries?

Slocombe:    Well, I think it's disgraceful the lifts aren't fixed yet!  They've been on and off all week.

Humphries:   Well, so have the Canteen rissoles, but no one's seen to those, either.

Slocombe:     I mean it! Fancy havin' the customers lug themselves up the stairs to do their shoppin'!

Brahms:        Yeah, they'll go to Lally & Willet's.  They got an excavater there, and all.

Slocombe:     [with disdain] You mean an osculator, Miss Brahms.

Mash re-enters from stage left, walking backwards, directing someone else in

Mash:           Right, straight back.  Steady, Seymour!  Mind the counter, Warwick!

Four Packing & Maintenance men enter bearing Mr. Tebbs in a palanquin (portable throne), two in front, two behind. He looks uncomfortable.

Rumbold:     Good heavens!

Mash:           [to Rumbold] We ‘ad this swanky chair left over from the staff  production of
                    "Cleopatra" last year, sir.  You remember.

Rumbold:     Of course I remember. [proudly] I played Sextus Pompeius.

Mash:          [leans toward Rumbold] I should try to keep that under my ‘at, sir.

Rumbold:     Yes, well, it's a lucky thing we still had the palanquin.  Mr. Tebbs, are you all right?

Tebbs:           I shall be once I am permitted to debark!  The ride in the goods lift was most distressing!

Rumbold:     Understandably. Mr. Mash, please direct your men to lower Mr. Tebbs.

Mash:          Right, sir.  Oy!  Lower gently, brothers.  He's a paid-up member.

The men lower the chair.

Mash:          There you go, Mr. Tebbs.  Home and dry!

Humphries:   [helps Tebbs out of chair] Is your lumbago feeling better?

Tebbs:           Well, I shan't be swimming the Channel any time soon.

Humphries:    I'm sure the French will understand, Mr. Tebbs.

Rumbold:      [to the Packing crew] Thank you, gentlemen, for seeing our Mr. Tebbs safely to his post.

Mash:            Right. Just remember the boys at Christmas, sir.

Tebbs:          Oh, yes indeed.  I shall ask Mrs. Tebbs to prepare one of her festive plum puddings
                     for you all.

Mash:          Speakin' on behalf of the men, Mr. Tebbs, may I say thank you, and  we'd rather ‘ave
                     a fiver each, if it's all the same.

Rumbold:     That will be all, Mash.

Mash:           [to Rumbold] Happy Christmas to you too, squire! Let's go lads, it's back to the basement
                     for the royal barge. [he jumps into the palanquin and is borne off by the men from
                     Packing] Oy! Look at me, I'm Tutankhamen.

Slocombe:     More like Tutan-Dead-Common.

Rumbold:     Well, now you're all here, I have a short announcement.  No doubt many of you will
                     have heard about the, er, disagreement the other day between Miss Hurst of Novelty
                     Candles and Mr. Rigsby of Do-It-Yourself.

Brahms:        Right.  ‘e made a disgusting comment to ‘er, and she let ‘im ‘ave it.

Slocombe:     Yes, he won't be makin' any comments to ‘er again soon.

Peacock:       At least not before he gets out of hospital.  [to Rumbold] May one ask how this affects
                    our department, sir?

Rumbold:     Well, at last evening's board meeting [lifts eyes upward] it was decided to do something
                     about the growing problem of workplace harassment.

Lucas:          Workplace harassment?

Rumbold:     Er, to be more specific, sexual harassment.

Brahms:       [to Lucas] Yes, remember?  You invented it.

Rumbold:     Ahem. Well, I'm sure you are all aware of what we're talking about  -- unwelcome actions
                     and comments of a, er, suggestive nature.  Apparently there has been sufficient increase
                    in these offenses tomerit a storewide policy on the matter. [clears throat] Henceforth,
                    sexual harassment will not be tolerated!

Peacock:       Well said, sir.

Lucas:          Yes, now on to world hunger!

Rumbold:     [looks over glasses at Lucas] If I may finish. In addition, in order to, to give some weight,
                     as it were, to this policy, the board has created  the special position of Workplace
                    Harassment Arbiter and Complaints Officer.

Humphries:   Or WHACO for short.

Peacock:       Thank you, Mr. Humphries.  So who is this, er, complaints officer, sir?

Rumbold:     Actually, Captain Peacock, the board has entrusted the position to me, no doubt owing to
                    my long years of service, my umblemished record, and my status as a happily married man.

Lucas:         [to Humphries] Did he mention nobody else wanted it?

Rumbold:     It will be my duty to hear complaints of this nature from throughout the store, and
                    make recommendations for resolving these conflicts.  I might add that I have also been
                    given full disciplinary power. Naturally, I don't expect there will be much need for it in
                    our department.

Slocombe:     [to Brahms] He really must visit more often.

Opening Bell rings

Rumbold:     Right.  Well, that about covers it.  I'm glad I caught you all.  Mr. Tebbs, do see Sister
                     if your lumbago doesn't improve.

Tebbs:          I shan't for a moment deprive myself of her ministrations, Mr. Rumbold.

Rumbold:    Er, yes.  Well, carry on, everybody. [he exits toward his office]

Peacock:      Places, everyone.  Look sharp, now.  There'll be customers any moment.

Slocombe:    Yes, if they're not too knackered climbin' up here to spend their money!

Brahms and Slocombe move toward their counter

Brahms:        It's about time they done somethin' about it.

Slocombe:    Oh, the lifts have never worked properly in this place.

Brahms:        No, I mean sexual ‘arassment.

Slocombe:    Oh yes.  Well, men are so coarse these days.  Me and Mrs. Axelby was just sayin' that
                    at the pub last night that.  You know, it's always full of men makin' rude comments and
                    puttin' their hands all over.  We were rememberin' how well behaved men used to be
                    around ladies of refinement such as what we are.

Brahms:       Was they really better behaved back then?

Slocombe:    Well, let me put it this way, Miss Brahms:  At least they waited ‘til  they got you home
                    before gettin' rude.

Brahms:       Well, nowadays you can't turn around without gettin' it, especially in this place.  That
                    Mr. Lucas is always makin' crude comments.  I've ‘alf a mind to report him next time
                    he tries it.  He's worse than the lot on my bus in the morning.

Slocombe:     Oh?

Brahms:        Ooh, they give me the pip. Lookin' at me all funny and makin' comments.  One of ‘em
                     even pinched me last week.  And ‘e was no yobbo, ‘e was wearing a nice suit, and all.

Slocombe:     [casually] Which bus do you take, Miss Brahms?

Sales Floor

A young vicar emerges from the stairs and descends to the sales floor.

Peacock:       Good morning, vicar.  Are you being served?

Vicar:          Thank you. I require some casual trousers.

Peacock:       Certainly.

Vicar:          Yes.  Some of our order are going on a camping holiday.

Peacock:       Oh, that sounds most enjoyable.

Vicar:          Yes, I'm quite looking forward to it.  On Sunday there will be special  services,
                     under the trees, as it were.  How glorious to do it out of doors!

Peacock:       [raises an eyebrow] Yes, I've heard.  I shall entrust you to our Mr. Tebbs.
                    [turns toward Mens' counter] Mr. Tebbs, are you free?

Tebbs comes waddling over

Tebbs:           I am free, Capt. Peacock.

Peacock:       The vicar is interested in some trousers for camping.

Tebbs:          [he "moves" toward the vicar] Very good. Right this way, sir.  We have some splendid
                     shetland trousers on special offer this week.  Very durable indeed.  What size are you,

Vicar:          Well, I take a 34 waist.

Tebbs:         Very good.  And the inside leg?

Vicar:          Hmmm.  You know, I'm not quite sure.

Tebbs:           Just so.  Mr. Humphries, are you free?

Humphries:   [he is standing behind the counter next to Mr. Lucas. He looks left, then right]
                     I'm free!

Tebbs:          The vicar is going camping.  Would you--

Humphries' knees buckle. Lucas steadies him.

Tebbs:          Mr. Humphries!  Are you all right?

Lucas:          He'll be fine, Mr. Tebbs.  He just tripped on a stone.

Tebbs:          A stone? [looks at the floor] Where?

Lucas:          In Memory Lane.

Humphries:   I'm quite all right, Mr. Tebbs.  How may I be of assistance?

Tebbs:           [frowning at Humphries] My customer requires a pair of Shetland wool trousers.
                     [to the vicar] My lumbago is acting up, vicar.  My assistant will take your inside leg

Humphries falters again

Lucas:          [grabs him] Steady, Mr. Humphries!

Humphries:   [smiles wanly] My trick knee.

Lucas:           [to Humphries] This reminds me of "Star Trek."

Humphries:   In what way?

Lucas:          You're going where no man has gone before!

Humphries:  Who's kidding who, Mr. Lucas? [he bounces around the counter and takes the tape
                     measure from a frowning Tebbs]

Scene 2

The Canteen

The staff are bringing their plates to the table

Slocombe:    [looking at her plate with disgust] Bangers and mash, bangers and  mash.  Every
                    blessed Monday it's bangers and mash! [she drops plate onto table]

Lucas:         You put that to music, Mrs. Slocombe, and you've got a hit on your hands.  I can just
                     see it now: "Mashing All Over," by Betty Slocombe, Last of the Red-Hot Bangers.
                     I mean, Mamas! Red-Hot Mamas!

Slocombe:    [glaring at him] For my next number, I'd like to do "Shut Your Cake-Hole!"

Brahms:        [puts down plate and sits] Don't pay him no mind, Mrs. Slocombe.   It's not worth
                    the aggro.

Lucas:          [to Brahms] Oh, you could be on the charts too.  Here's Miss Shirley Brahms singing
                    "A Hard Day's Knickers." [sits]

Brahms:       Oy!  That's the kind of sick comment what's gonna get you done!

Peacock:       [sits with plate] Mr. Lucas!  Apparently you haven't taken Mr. Rumbold's announcement
                     seriously.  Such remarks will no longer be tolerated in the workplace.  And may I add that
                     such a responsible policy is long overdue.

Brahms:        Ha!  You were singin' a different tune at the Christmas party last year.

Peacock:       To what are you referring, Miss Brahms?

Brahms:        Don't you remember?  After your third pink gin you said you wanted to play Naughts
                     & Crosses on my--

Peacock:       [interrupts her] Er, I'm sure you misunderstood, Miss Brahms.  And besides, we're all
                     tired of discussing last year's Christmas party.

Humphries:   Oh, I don't know.  We're findin' out more about it all the time, aren't we, Mr. Lucas?

Lucas:           It's the gift that keeps on giving, Mr. Humphries.

Brahms:        [points fork at Lucas] Just the same, one more smutty remark and  I'm havin' you nicked.

Lucas:          Blimey!  Can't I say a word without you puttin' it in for me?

Slocombe:     Miss Brahms is right, and I am unanimous in that!  You'll keep a  civil tongue in your ‘ead!

Lucas:          All right, all right! I just need to know my limits, is all.  For instance,  Miss Brahms,
                     if I told you you had a gorgeous body, would you hold it against me?

Brahms:        [jumps up] Right!  That's torn it! [she stomps off]

Slocombe:    There!  Now you're for it.

Peacock:       You don't know when to stop, do you, Mr. Lucas?

Lucas:         Well, I was only tryin' to be friendly, wasn't I?

Peacock:       You would be wise to think before you speak.  If she is of quality, a lady will avoid men
                     who make such vulgar displays.  When I was  courting my wife -- this was after the war,
                     of course -- all of us in the forces had come streaming back to Britain.  There were plenty
                     of men of quality about, and those who didn't know how to act around a lady soon found
                     themselves out in the cold.

Humphries:   It's not half parky these days, either.

Tebbs:           I agree, Captain Peacock. In my day, ladies were accorded great respect.  In fact,
                     we hardly got near them at all before becoming engaged.  Why, I remember when I first
                     met Mrs. Tebbs.  I was but a junior in Bathroom Fittings.  I had to prevail upon my sister
                     to carry letters to her for me.  It was all very formal back then.  Why, it  was months
                     before she consented to see me.

Lucas:           Your sister?

Tebbs:           [glares at him] Don't be cheeky, Mr. Lucas.  I am referring to Mrs. Tebbs.  Finally I
                     was permitted a short visit in her front garden, with her family there to chaperone.
                     I remember they had a wee cocker spaniel -- I believe its name was Teddy.  I was
                     allowed to give it a biscuit.

Slocombe:     [sighs] Such happy memories of those days.

Lucas:          Did it work as well for you, Mrs. Slocombe -- inviting blokes into your garden to play
                     with your pussy?

Slocombe:     [jumps up] Right!  Wait for me, Miss Brahms! [stomps out in a huff]

Scene 3

Men's Counter

Lucas waves ‘hello' across the sales floor to Brahms, who gives him the cold shoulder

Humphries:   Still in Coventry, are we?

Lucas:          Persona non grata, that's what I am!

Humphries:   Well, you can't really blame her, can you?  I mean, everyone says she's the prettiest girl
                      in Grace Brothers, and she does have to put up with every Don Juan in the store.
                      No wonder she's sick as a parrot!

Lucas:          But she should be flattered then, shouldn't she?

Humphries:   Let me put it this way, Mr. Lucas: I'm fond of ladyfingers, but I don't fancy them for
                     breakfast, lunch and tea.

Lucas:          You never told me you fancied ladyfingers.

Humphries:   [sighs] It's a day's work talking to you!

Ladies' Counter

Slocombe:    Oh, look at him over there.  He doesn't look half nervous!

Brahms:       Well, ‘e should be.  And wait ‘til Jug Ears gets through with ‘im.  Then maybe ‘e'll
                     give it a rest.

Slocombe:    Yes, Rumbold said he'd be comin' out after lunch.  I wonder what's keepin' ‘im.

Brahms:        I wish someone would come out.  We ‘aven't had a bleedin' customer since dinner.

Slocombe:     It's the lifts bein' out!  The stairs put them right off.

Brahms:        Wait!  I tell a lie.  There's someone comin' up now.

A middle-aged, stoutish woman staggers to the top of the stairs. She's wearing a floral print dress, white gloves, a string of pearls and the sort of hat favored by Her Majesty.

Peacock:      Are you being served, madam?

Woman:       [out of breath and annoyed]  Before I make my very important purchases, I wish to
                    speak to someone in authority.

Peacock:      I am the authority on this floor.  How may I be of assistance?

Woman:       I take it you're the manager?

Peacock:      The floorwalker, madam.

Woman:       The floorwalker? [she looks around] Isn't the manager available?

Peacock:       Er, he has delegated me to look after the customers.  How may I help you?

Woman:       Very well.  Firstly, I wish to complain about the condition of the lifts.  A woman of my
                     breeding is simply not used to climbing up and down stairs like a cave person!

Peacock:       I'm very sorry, madam.  The maintenance crew is--

Woman:       [interrupts] Yes, yes, I'm sure you have a good explanation.  Were you the manager,
                    I might be interested in hearing it.  Now please tell me where I might find your better
                    china.  My neighbor has broken a cup and saucer from my Royal Doulton collection,
                    with the hand-painted periwinkles, and I'm looking for replacements.

Peacock:      You'll find china on the Fourth Floor, madam.

Woman:       Gracious me.  I certainly shall not be climbing three more flights of stairs.  One must
                    never be seen purchasing exquisitely detailed china while perspiring.   It just isn't done.

Peacock:       Indeed not.  Is there anything else madam requires today?

Woman:       Well, I do need some gloves to complete a rather smart ensemble.

Peacock:       Ah.  Ladies' Accessories is right this way.  [turns toward Ladies' Counter]
                    Mrs. Slocombe, are you free?

Slocombe:     [looks right, then left]  I'm free, Captain Peacock.

Peacock:       Madam would like some gloves.

Slocombe:     Certainly.  Good afternoon.

Woman:        Are you the senior assistant on this counter?

Slocombe:     Oh, yes, madam.

Woman:        [scrutinizes her] Yes, of course you are!  I require some elegant evening gloves.
                     I'm giving one of my famous candlelight suppers, and I simply must be coordinated.
                     We're expecting some very important guests.

Slocombe:    Of course.  What color?

Woman:        [looks around, leans in] Why, they're white, of course!

Slocombe:     I meant the gloves.

Woman:        [laughs nervously] Oh!  Well, I meant the gloves as well!  Yes, yes, white gloves please.
                      Oh, and perhaps just a pair of lavender, as well.  Yes, a nice, unobtrusive lavender --
                      much like the color of your hair.  Only not quite as brassy.

Slocombe:     [annoyed] Gloves, Miss Brahms!

Woman:        Shopping is so very tedious.  My son Sheridan loves to shop, but of course, he's at
                     university.  He's very artistic, you know.  He designs  all his own clothing, and for his
                     roommate Tarquin, as well.  [leans a bit closer]  In fact, I should be surprised if your
                     store isn't selling his designs very soon.

Slocombe:     Oh, that would be lovely. I've got some display space right next to the panty-girdles.

Woman gasps

Brahms:        [brings box of gloves]  Here you are, Mrs. Slocombe.  I looked for some what was
                     lavender, but there weren't none.

Woman:        [looks at Brahms, then Slocombe]  Dear me.  The standards of  Grace Brothers
                     have fallen, haven't they?

Slocombe:     [looks woman up and down] Well, things do fall over the years, don't they?

Woman:        How dare you!  I'll have you know my distinctive Junoesque figure has been handed
                     down through my family since the Renaissance!

Slocombe:     Looks like it's been handed down and passed around.

Woman:        I've never been so shabbily served!  You may forget my custom!  [she stomps over to
                     Peacock]  I wish to register a most serious complaint.

Peacock:       [mock surprise] Really?

Woman:        Yes.  Who is your most senior executive?

Peacock:       That would be Young Mr. Grace himself, madam.

Woman:        Right.  He shall hear my complaint personally!  Where is his office?

Peacock:      [deadpan] Sixth Floor.

Woman rolls her eyes, gathers up her skirts and scurries up the main stairs

Proceed to Part 2 of Poor Relations