Country Girl

 

Sigalit Hart plays Lizzie London Roundhouse

Sigalit Hart plays Lizzie in the the London Roundhouse production of Country Girl – Photo: Gideon Hart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crackly Edwardian gramophone music sets the scene as scullery maid, Lizzie, enters her circumscribed basement world and tells us that she’s a country girl at heart and doesn’t like the dust of London where she has been sent, at age 14, after her mother’s death. She tells us how her mother – also in service and aged 14 – gave birth to her on the kitchen table at the start of the new century. Unusually, she was allowed to keep her baby and Lizzie has inherited her world but stands at the threshold of a new one.

Now it is New Year, 1914: “They say there’s goin’ to be a war. That’ll be excitin’…” but the war will bring change to Lizzie’s life in ways she cannot begin to comprehend at the start of 1914. In one sense, Lizzie’s story could be interpreted as a metaphor for the changing relationship and balance of power between the classes as a result of WWI. “There’s a war on – people got to clean their own boots.” But Lizzie poignantly clings to one pair of boots in particular and the end of the play finds her still in the basement but it is her choice now.

Country Girl combines a range of song, music and verse to subtly provide texture and feeling – a backdrop which allows the illiterate and uneducated Lizzie to fill in the gaps in her emotional life that she doesn’t have words to describe.

 

Here’s the first few pages of Lunch Girls. If you would like to read more please send us an email and we will be happy to email back a full rehearsal script.

 

 

COUNTRY GIRL

 

Music Cue fades up

And lights follow semi lit basement feel

 

1914

 

I’m a country girl

I don’t like London

It’s too high, it’s too deep, it’s too big, it’s too wide

Nowhere to hide

 

And the air’s full of dust

You can’t breathe,

But you must

If you don’t – then you die

 

I’d like to fly…

 

           Way from here –

           London… Bye, bye…

           

Cos I was born in the country

When I were born – My mum were fourteen

Like I am now

An’ she was in service

Like I am now

 

She tol’ me

I…Was a bit of a surprise

 

I believed her…

 

Bells were ringin’ in

The new century

 

At that moment…

I arrives…

 

A midnight’s child

 

Couldn’ believe their eyes

They all stood an’ stared…

The butler and the cook

An’ the maids from upstairs

And the footman,

 and the pantry boy

 

They all thought – Bit of a laugh

her not knowin’…

 

It were all so sudden…

 

She were scared…

           

Doctor delivered I on the kitchen table

Ohh, he said – She’s a pretty thing

But a bit of a disgrace

Yes a bit of a disgrace…

 

In this ever so respectable place

 

 

Most girls would’ve been sent away

but they…

didn’t do that…

 

The mistress said my mom could stay

 

And she could keep me…

 

That was nice

 

 

And so me – I got brought up by the servants

In the servants’ hall

By the cook and the butler

An’ the maids an’ all

 

Life were a wonder,

Joyful –

They all spoiled I…

 

Sometimes I went to market with my mum

She’d say to the market people,  I’s

her little sister

I said why am I

your little sister Mama, why?

 

But she wouldn’t explain to I

 

 

My mum grew to a ravin’ beauty

Like a fairy princess

She had golden hair and big blue eyes

Then suddenly she ups

and dies…

 

That’s when I got sent away

I didn’t know the whys

And wherefore

 

Mistress just said:

They couldn’t keep me anymore

 

 

So they found me a position here

In this house – in London

Turned me out of door

 

Now

I cleans the boots and shoes

Don’ even know who’s

they are…

 

I see them walkin’ pas’ the pavement light

up there

No, they don’ never come down the stair

 

So now that’s my life

Blackin’ and brownin’ and dubbin’

And white…

 

All passin’ by

 

Long coats n’ furs an’ soldiers with spurs

 

Me, I jus’ polish an’ clean

                                   

            Piano Bells

Now it’s New Year

Piano Bells

Bells are ringin’ again

Piano Bells

Nineteen fourteen

Piano Bells

They say there’s goin’ to be a war…

            Boing

That’ll be excitin’…

            Boing

That’ll be excitin’…

            Boing

That’ll be excitin’…

Boing

 

A more mystical lighting state

 

She was a princess of the sea

She was an Island next to me

She took me on a ride           

There was a market in the town

And I held on to her gown

She took me everywhere

Some call it childish to think of you as I do Mama

Some call it childish to think of you at all

 

1915 Fade to new lighting state

 

I saw Master Edward this morning

Edward, the son

 

From the country house

 

Where I’d lived with me mum

 

I were so surprised

 

‘e came in to my basement

with ‘is boots

to be cleaned

‘olding them in ‘is ‘and

‘e was…

 

I nearly died

 

I couldn’t make out

Why ‘ad ‘e brought ‘em ‘isself?

 

Stead o’sending one of the servants

 

Or leaving ‘em,

like the others,

on the scullery shelf?

 

‘E came into the basement an’ suddenly

I’ ears this voice:

 

“Hello Lizzie”

       ‘e said

“You’re zacly li’ your mother

like she was”

 

Then ‘is face went red.

‘e sort o’ stammered…

 

“I’m so sorry she’s dead”

 

 

My heart stopped  ‘Cos

For a minute

I thought I was back

in the old house again

My face also was red

 

I said:           

“I aren’t so pretty as me ma”

An ‘e said:

“Oh you are Lizzie, yes you are”

 

Then ‘e drops the boots in front of I

An’ ‘e sort of fled

 

I were surprised ‘e’d come

 

I asked cook about ‘im

She said ‘e’d come up to London to

go for a soldier

The boots as ‘e’d left me to clean were

‘is officers boots

 

When I done they

I started to cry…

I don’ know why

 

An’ I took the boots upstairs –

Though I weren’t allowed to do that –

But I did

 

LIghts come up, brighter

 

See, I wanted to give them to ‘im meself

I thought p’raps he’d talk to me about my ma

P’raps…

And the old house

 

They were all so shocked when I went upstairs

They didn’ know what to do

An’ Tom the butler shouted at I

 

But the mistress said “Leave ‘er Tom”

 

Then again, I started to cry:

 

I said: I did’n mean no harm

I only wanted a few words about

The old house

An’ my ma

 

An the mistress said “I’m sorry Lizzie – he’s gone…

He’s gone to the war”

So I ran to the door

 

I cried out:

 

“You’ve left yer boots!”

 

It upset Tom most

‘e shouted

“Get down the basement Lizzie –

Back to your post”

 

But mistress gave ‘im a funny sign

She didn’ mind.

She said:

“’e’s gone…

but – p’raps he’ll come back

 

when he remembers

what he’s left behind”

 

‘e never did come back

Not then an’ not ever

 

I held on to ‘is boots

Polished ‘em every day…

 

‘e must ‘ave been killed in a first attack

No-one tol’ me

I only knew ‘cos suddenly they all wore black

 

Lights begin to fade to previous semi lit state

 

An’ they sighed

 

An’ they cried

 

Cos ‘e’d died

 

An’ me?

I jus’ kep polishin’

An’ polishin’

 

An’

then things

began to ‘appen

 

An’ then things began

 

to ‘appen

 

They said it didn’t last a long time

They say there wasn’t pain it was fine

Now all the young men come home again

I keep searching for your eyes in every one of them

But you wanted to fight so they took you to task

Caught up in a clumsy blast

Chasing after glory too fast

I don’t even know why I think of you as I do Mama

I don’t even know why I think of you at all

 

1916

 

They’d all said it’d all be over

In six months

 

Six months

 

Tha’s what they said

What they kep’ on sayin’

 

One big push

 

One big push

One big push

An’ the war’ ens over

 

One big ooosh…

An’ we all fall down

 

Now it’s a couple of years gone by

An there’s millions…

Fallen down

 

Millions dead

 

Millions an millions an millions an millions

 

All heroes

 

That’s what they say

 

Make me laugh that

How can you be hero when you’re dead?

 

S’pose master Edward’s

one of them

 

I still think of ‘im

Sometimes;

dream of ‘im sometimes

 

All about ‘im

 

An thinkin’

 

An sometimes I jus’ wonders an sighs

Heroes

S’what they want you to believe

P’raps they’re tellin’ lies

 

See I miss ‘im

 

I miss him

An I miss me mom

Don’ care about this silly war

Don’ care about heroes

 

Jus’ an ache in my heart

 

Sorry my mom died

 

She was hero

 

No – she couldn’ be hero

she were a girl

 

But sorry ‘e died

Master Edward

 

‘e was hero

 

Millions who sighs

Jus’ another hero

            Millions who cries

Jus’ one hero

Millions who dies

 

Why couldn’t ‘e ‘ave

Stayed alive?

 

Me I still kep on to ‘is boots

Didn’ ast

Jus kep ‘em

 

I don’t know what’s happened around

I don’t know the people in this town

So I get on with the work I’m given

I don’t know what’s happened around

All I know’s I miss your dressing gown and all of the things I would do with you

 

Just after… you know…

Tom came down basement

Looked a bit queer

 

Bit odd

 

Scary

 

Said:

“They young master’s boots Liz?”

Kep’ shaking’ ‘is ‘ead

 

Me I jus nodded

An ‘e stoo’ there noddin’ too

“It’s a great sadness”

 

Then ‘e pushes this newspaper

Front o’ me eyes

‘e says “look; ‘ave you read?”

 

It ‘ad a big black band. All round

 

“‘S’all in there Lizzie

Our glorious glorious dead”

 

He said “Edward’s name’s in there

An’ ‘ow it ‘appened”

‘E showed me

 

‘E said:

 a shell exploded

One of ours not one of theirs

Jus’ as gun was bein’ loaded

Tha’s ‘ow ‘e came to be dead

 

Thas’s ‘ow they all got killed

on an instant

 

Blown to pieces

they were.

 

 

Little pieces

 

little pieces

 

“‘E did’nt suffer; Edward”

                        Tom said

 

An he’ eld up the paper fron’ o’ me eyes

I kept shakin’ my head

 

“I got ‘is boots”

            was all I said

 

Tom said:  You can keep the paper

I shook my head

 

I toll ‘im

Sorry Tom

I never

Been taught

To read

So’s no need…

 

 

I’ll jus keep on to the boots

Just ‘is boots

 

Glory glory Hallelujah

Glory glory Hallelujah

And his soul goes marching on

 

Glory glory Hallelujah

Glory glory Hallelujah

And his soul goes marching on

 

 1917

 

 

Arter that

Strange things began to ‘appen

 

Strange
Odd

Spooky things started to ‘appen

 

Strange

Weird

Peculiar sort of things

 

Mysterious…

 

I felt like I was being

Watched…

 

all the time

spied on.

All day

Overseen

 

All of them.

 

Looked at.

The missus,

Tom,

Cook,

The footmen

 

Seemed like

They were goin’ round and round

In a big circle

Round me

Seein’ as what I was doin’

But pr’tendin’ they weren’t

 

Tho’ I weren’t don’ nothin’ wrong

‘cept for the boots

 

Mebbe I shouldna kep’ on to the boots…

But I wanted those boots

 

Specially Tom

And the missus

An’ they stopped sendin’ boots down

For being’ cleaned

 

I thought mebbe they was

afraid

I’d pinch everybody’s boots!

 

So I ast Tom

Where’s me work Tom?

They aint sendin’ me work down

An’ ‘e says “Well never you mind Lizzie

If the boots ent there

You can’t clean ‘em

Can you?”

 

An’ I said

“Tom – I got to ‘ave boots to clean

or I’ll lose me position”

He said “Hush Lizzie…

            Hush…

It’ll be alright”

 

An ‘e musta said somethin’ to the missus

Cos that night

she come down as well

 

An’ I said missus –

I ain t got  no work

I don’ wanna be sen’ away

 

She said

“Hush Lizzie”

Jus’ like Tom

 

She says “There’s a war on

People got to learn to clean their own boots”

 

Then she almos’ said somethin’ else –

An’ I thought she was ‘bout to send me away

An’ I cried then,

I did

 

I fell down on me knees

I said “Missus please

Let me stay

Don’ send me away…

 

An then she did something which made I gasp

It were so…

So strange

 

I s’pose

That’s when things began to change

 

Soft plaintive guitar

 

‘cos she came down on her knees

An she put ‘er arms around I

 

Me I were sobbin’ my ‘eart out

An’ then ‘er

The missus

 

That was it

She started to cry

 

She were so straight

And tall

And strong

An’ ‘er eyes were the steely sort

 

They weren’t the sort of eyes

that cries

An’ she ‘eld I

Swingin’ backwards and forwards

rockin’

Rockabye

 

Like a baby

 

An she says to me

‘e was all we ‘ad Lizzie

Now ‘e’s gone

It’s all gone.

 

An ‘e was the one

 

Our lives are done

 

 And she gives this big sigh

“Wasn’t right that ‘e should die…”

 

An’ we both sat there on the floor

O’ my basement

For a long time…

 

We was both in tears

 

Then suddenly Tom appears

 

‘e says “Tea is served in the drawin’ room milady”

 

An’ the missus takes me by the hand

I says “No, no missus”

She says “Yes”

…An’ we both go upstairs…

 

Losing my connection

With your face in my mind

And the things that you said, when you put me to bed

 

1918

 

 

I ‘adnt never bin on the drawin’ room floor

 

There was a marble staircase

…Big oak door

 

An’ I,  in me boot-room pinafore!

 

I was scared

Tremblin’ like a leaf

My mouth was dry – an my scalp felt tight

My blood drained out, an my skin went white

Missus said: “Lizzie, don’ take fright

I promise, my dear – it’ll be alright”

 

‘My dear’!

 

But there were a man there

dressed in one of them magistrate’s suits

 

wiv a high stiff collar

an’ a watch an ’chain

an’ a red face

an’ little glasses

an’ papers…

 

An’ I thought – I know wha’s goin’ to ‘appen

They’re ‘avin’ me up for stealin’ them boots!

 

I shouted “They’re mine!  They’re mine!

Them boots – they’re mine!”

 

Master Edward –  left ‘em behind for I

So’s I can polish ‘em

An’ still remember ‘im”

 

I could’n ‘elp it

                I started to cry

 

Cos why?

Why was I there?

 

Tom came in wiv a trolley an tea

Kep’ is back to them an’ smiled an’

winked at me

 

He whispered “Lizzie, sit down on that chair”

An ‘e took my arm , and showed me where

 

But I was cryin’ so much I couldn’ see

My ‘ands were shaking; so I spilled the tea

 

I couldn’ ‘elp it

 

Suddenly they were all on their knees round me

 

Missus said “Lizzie we wan’ you to ‘ave the boots

Edward wanted you to have them

 

He loved you Lizzie

You were special to him

An’ so was your mom”

 

Me mom? Me  mom?

 

Missus kep’ lookin’

Right in my eyes

‘n she took my ‘ands an’ she cries and cries

She says “Edward – ‘e was my only son

My only child; the only one”

 

It were weird –

Didn’t wanna stay there

Wanted to get back to me basement

Couldn’t see

What had all this to do with me?

 

Tom said “Drink up yer tea Lizzie

have your tea”

 

‘Magistrate’ says “Lizzie, I have this duty to fulfil

Before Edward died – he made a will

I drew it up, and it’s properly signed

Now all that happens – it has to be read

Do you want to do that?”

 

I shook me head

 

‘e looked quite strict –

But I think ‘e was kind

‘e said: “Wills are things people leave behind

 

‘e said Edward told ‘im; him an’ your mom

They’d sort of grewed up together

 

In the country house…

                        They went a bit wild

 

“They loved each other Lizzie”

Loved  each other?

He said “Lizzie

 – You are Edward’s child”

 

Well that was a shock

 

Didn’t know what to say

I stood up an’ felt dizzy

…an’ fainted away

 

Well, the missus was sobbin’

As I came round

Cryin’ her ‘eart out

She said:
”I’m so happy Lizzie

For me, for both of us,

 

I lost my son

And you lost your mother

 

But Lizzie now we’ve found each other

 

There’s something of Edward remaining

Lizzie – he still lives in you”

 

I didn’ believe ‘er

No, I didn’ believe ‘er

 

I said “Why didn’ ‘e tell me

When ‘e was alive?

When I was cleaning ‘is boots?

Why didn’ ‘e say something?

Before me mom died…”

 

 

 

They were all starin’ at me

They were quite surprised

I could see it in their upset eyes…

 

See I loved me mom

 An’ I’d ‘ave liked a dad

But seem‘s like Edward was the one I’d never had…

 

Didn’ make no difference leaving me all ‘is money

‘Cos that’s what ‘e’d done in ‘is will

 

The missus said “Don’t reject me Lizzie

You’re my granddaughter. You’re all I have

Our connection:  It’s all in these papers”

 

But my ‘ead was in a whirl

She tried to hug and kiss me

But I jus’ couldn’ do it all so sudden

 

Go from cleanin’ the boots

 

To bein’ her girl…

 

I couln’ help it, see

I’d lost me mom

Now I’d lost me dad

But like I say

the one I’d lost

I’d never had

 

Also… I’d lost me…

 

I didn’ know who I was s’pposed to be!

 

Losing my connection

With your face in my mind

And the things that you said, when you put me to bed

I only know how much I’m falling apart

So I just polish up

As I close down my heart

 

                                   

 

That were all a few years ago

 

At the end of the war

We went to see Edward’s grave

 

“Your father’s grave”, she said

 

Though I couldn’ properly think of ‘im like that

 

 

She cried and cried

She wanted me also to cry

 

I tried…

 

Soon after. She died

 

She died of a broken heart

 

I regretted it then

 

I felt so sorry for the things I hadn’ done

 

It’s just,,,

I couldn’ love her instead of me mom.

Though she said she loved me…

in place of her son

 

She left me everything

Everything

 

But there’s too many memories

Now it’s just… wasted space

Just me…

 

Soon

I’m getting’ rid of this place… 

 soon…

 

Still spend

most of me time…

 

In this basement boot room…

 

Music Cue comes up

 

 

Lights fade out to black

 

 

 

 

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