The year is 1957. Hope lives in an apartment in an old converted manor house in the village of Little Compton. She has devoted her life to fund raising and volunteering. One day when a friend dies she realizes all of her friends secrets have died along with her. So she decides sheís going to write a book and informs a group of villagers that she is going to feature them in it. They all try very hard to find out what she has written to see if she has revealed the secrets that she harbours about them before the book is published. When she refuses to reveal anything, she is murdered. This very funny murder mystery has a few twists and turns along the way that will have people guessing who done it and an ending thatís sure to surprise everyone. With a retired Colonel, a town councillor and his meddlesome wife, a Sunday school teacher, a simple farmer and an over zealous police inspector, the laughs and surprises never quit. This play calls for 4 matures women and 6 mature men.
Scene 2 Scene opens in Hopes living room, thereís a group of people visiting, standing and sitting chatting amongst themselves, light music can be heard. Ester enters from the kitchen carrying finger food that she offers around. Everyone holds some papers from the meeting.
HOPE Does anyone else have any more thoughts on the Mayday celebrations?
STANLEY Balls. . . . (Everyone looks at him.)
EMILY (hand to her mouth in surprise) Ooh.
STANLEY We need at least two more balls for the ladies rounders match.
HOPE Iíll make sure we have plenty on the day. . . .Well, if thatís it, thank you all for coming and Iíll see you on Sun. . . .
Some of them begin to get up.
ESTER Donít go yet, (To Hope) You havenít told them about. . . you know. . . .
HOPE I donít know if today is the right. . . .
EMILY What is it, Hope?
ESTER Go on.
TRUDY Well, donít keep us in suspense any longer, I can hardly stand it.
COLONEL Youíre pregnant!
He thinks this is hilarious but nobody else does. Emily, who is obviously embarrassed tries to hush him.
HOPE Iíve decided to write another book.
People are politely surprised and encouraging.
EMILY Thatís wonderful Hope.
TRUDY Is it another story about the Elf?
ESTER Gnome, dear.
TRUDY (She thinks she said no) Oh, itís not about the elf?
ESTER GNOME! Itís not an Elf, itís a gnome.
TRUDY (Sarcastically) Oh, gnome. Well, that sounds . . exciting, what happens to him this time?
HOPE Nothing happens to the gnome Trudy. . . .
DENNIS Well that sounds like a Bag of laughs!
COLIN Shut up Dennis and let her get on with it, or weíll be here all night.
HOPE Nothing happens to the gnome because itís not about the gnome!
They all look at each other and chatter
ALL Well, I wish sheíd make up her mind/why did she say it was about eh gnome/she didnít say it was about the gnome Ester did/ etc. . .
HOPE Excuse me. .please. . . (They all go quiet) The book is about. . .well, itís about my life here in Little Compton.
DENNIS Like I said, that sounds like a bag of laughs.
EMILY Dennis, thatís not nice.
COLONEL Well I think itís a bloody good idea. Hope has been involved in the workings of this community for many years, itís about time she got some recognition for it.
HOPE Thank you Colonel.
COLONEL Wouldnít have a drop more of the old erí. . . (holding up his glass) would you?
HOPE Oh, yes. . .
ESTER Iíll get it Hope.
She goes over and tops up the colonelís glass. Some talk quietly amongst themselves.
ESTER (looking at Stanley who hasnít said anything yet.) What do you think Stan, youíre sitting there very quiet?
STANLEY What, oh ay, I donít have much to say on anything really, I donít take to books, too many words if you ask me, prefer a good radio show myself.
TRUDY Will it be about your work in volunteering and fund raising Hope, or will it be more personal?
HOPE A little of both I suppose.
TRUDY So youíll be writing about your bitter separation from Jack then?
Everyone stops in stunned silence.
HOPE (Obviously very uncomfortable) I. .Iím not sure about that, I havenít made a decision on that yet.
ESTER (Breaking the ice) Hopeís lived such an interesting life, sheís got enough to fill three volumes if she likes.
COLIN God, I hope not, trilogies completely lose me halfway through the second book.
COLONEL You get lost reading the newspaper Colin.
TRUDY Donít call him Coin!.
COLONEL What would you prefer then, Fred?
TRUDY Councillor, have some respect.
COLIN Itís alright Trudy. .
TRUDY Shut up! My husband has worked very hard to get where he is today.
COLONEL (To Emily) And if I was where he was today Iíd be on the next ship out of here.
TRUDY If thatís a reference to. .
ESTER Excuse me, can we stop this childish bickering! Hope has gone to a lot of trouble today to invite us over and tell us all about her new book.
COLIN Then why doesnít she get on with it.
COLONEL Awfully sorry Hope, please continue.
They look at Trudy.
TRUDY (Looking surprised) What, I didnít do anything.
HOPE One thing that might interest you about the book is Ö. You are all to be featured in it.
TRUDY Well thatís very kind of you dear, Iíve never been featured in a book before.
COLONEL (Confidentially to Emily) Not true, Godzilla!
TRUDY I heard that Colonel. .
DENNIS When you say weíre to be featured, in what way exactly?
HOPE Well, that can vary. . .
COLIN And what about WHAT you write about us?
Everyone looks at her.
ESTER (Interjecting) Why are you asking Councillor, is there something that Hope might include in her book that makes you nervous?
COLIN Well, of course not, but if someoneís going to write stuff about me in their book then I think Iíd jolly well like to know what it is.
DENNIS Here, here.
DENNIS Yes, well, Iíve got nothing to hide either but Iím a private man, I keep myself to myself, I donít pry into other peoples business and I donít like people prying into mine.
TRUDY Will there be photographs?
HOPE Yes, there will be some photographs.
TRUDY Iím not sure I like the idea of you exposing me to the world like that.
COLONEL A bit old for a centrefold arenít you Trude?
TRUDY Actually Colonel, Iím not. I have been told on more than one occasion that I have the body of a twenty five year old.
COLONEL Well, youíd better give it back Maíam, youíre wrinkling it.
TRUDY (To her husband) Are you listening to this. Do you care?
COLIN Yes. .well. . .ignore him.
TRUDY Thatís always the way with you isnít it, bury your head and pretend it didnít happen.
HOPE If there were photographs included in the book they will be of Little Compton. If I were to use a photograph of anybody I would ask permission before including it of course. As for what I write, I havenít made a final decision about that yet.
ESTER If you want to find out what Hope has written about you, youíll have to buy the book.
COLIN But itíll be too late then.
COLONEL I say, isnít that a little unorthodox?
ESTER Absolutely not! Look at all of the celebrities and stars who have biographies written about them, do you think they have any say as to whatís written?
DENNIS No, and look at the trouble it causes, that book about Rudolf Valentino for instance. . .
Everyone agrees and expresses their concerns amongst themselves.
ALL They say he was a drunk/Iím not sure about this/sheís got a nerve/what if we were to write a book about her/who knows what sheíll write about, etc. .
HOPE Listen, the main composition of my book will be my involvement strictly in the context as a volunteer and fund-raiser, youíve all been involved with me in these activities. For instance, Trudy, you have hosted the annual bake sale since itís early beginnings, I can hardly write an article on that without mentioning all the hard work and dedication you have given to the cause now can I?
TRUDY (Talking to everyone) People did say this yearís was the best yet, and my scones stole the show.
COLONEL Pity someone didnít steal the scones before we tried them.
HOPE Er. . and Stanley, you run the youth cricket club with me every summer come rain or shine.
STANLEY I donít know about this year Hope, the old joints have seen better days.
HOPE Oh, you say that every year. Colonel, the pig roast, Emily, far more fund raising than I can think of here and the rest of you all involved in helping run the community.
COLONEL If I could interject here, what about the Councillor, I donít remember him doing much in the way of fund raising or volunteering in the last few years?
COLIN I beg your pardon. . .
HOPE Thatís not fair Colonel. Colinís role as Councillor is a very demanding position and who was it that used to run the annual athletic showdown against Hampton Hill?
COLIN Fifteen years, never missed a year!
HOPE And the interesting thing about that is,. . .
Hope goes over to her desk and retrieves a box.
HOPE (CONTíD) I came across this box the other day, it contains memorabilia from the annual athletic showdown.
ALL Oh, how interesting/whatís in there/etc. .
HOPE As you all know, my job was to officiate the races. (Taking out a whistle) Hereís the famous whistle. (blows it) still works. .. (bringing out a roll of tape) The tape, a few winning ribbons. . and here was my. . . (goes to bring out something else but is interrupted)
TRUDY (Beaming) And we all know who broke the tape in thirty-nine, the last time the cross-country race was run.
They all look at Colin and clap and pat him on the shoulder with words of encouragement.
ALL Councillor/what a race/first time we won it/Iíll never forget that day/etc. .
COLIN (Modest, but loving it) Ladies and gentlemen please. . .it was a long, long time ago.
HOPE Thatís right, our very own Town Councillor, who was just plain Colin to us back then, won the ten mile cross-country race. . .
TRUDY (Cutting her off again) In the best time ever recorded no less. (she gives him a kiss)
Hope closes the box.
HOPE So, to go back to what I was saying about the book. . .
TRUDY (Standing) Hope, I think I speak for everyone here when I say go ahead and write your book, include me in it as much as you deem necessary to captivate your readers and put me down for. . . . . Iíll get back to you on how many copies, Iím sure Iíll need several. (looking at Colin) Colin!
Colin gets up and helps his wife with her coat. The others get up to leave also.
EMILY Iím kind of excited, Iíve never had anything written about me before.
COLONEL Actually maíam, thatís not completely true, but there again, you probably wouldnít know about that.
EMILY Know about what?
COLONEL (Opening the door to the apartment) Whatís written about you on the door in the menís change room.
EMILY (She smiles) Oh that.
COLONEL Isnít she a Sunday school teacher?
ESTER Only on Sundayís
They all exit.
ALL Bye Hope/see you soon/thanks for the tea/etc. . .
Ester closes the door.
HOPE That went better than anticipated.
ESTER (Suspiciously) Hm mm. Considering. . .
HOPE Considering what?
ESTER Considering you were not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Handing her a glass of sherry.
HOPE Weíre not in court Ester dear.
ESTER Not yet youíre not, but you write about some of those things you told me about earlier and you might just end up there. Articles on volunteering and fund-raising indeed, you had them fooled.
HOPE Not really, like I told you, I donít know what Iím going to write about yet. But itíll be interesting to see how all this plays out in the next few months.
They clink glasses.