A Christmas Hard Day’s Knight

Adapted for the Christmas Season. Gareth wants to be somebody, but now he wishes he would have been a little more specific. Jester helps him get a job in the kitchen under the tutelage of Kay the Cook. Lady Evelyn (she puts the “mean” in “demean”) comes to Camelot to enlist some knights to rescue her sister who is held captive by three evil knights. Gareth, disguised as a kitchen knave, convinces the King to allow him to take the quest. Lady Evelyn is not pleased. The journey proves to be a hard day—with some difficult knights—but don’t be fooled by appearances.

Cast size: 5 Males, 5-7 Females, Extras M/F

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CHARACTERS

 JESTER (M) a ridiculous fool of the Court. (Yes, it’s a compliment.)

SIR GARETH/GARTH (M) youngest child of King Lot, eager to prove himself on his own terms.

KING ARTHUR (M) famed king of Camelot.

QUEEN GUINEVERE (F) famed queen of Camelot.

COOK KAY (F) in charge of the kitchen and castle security; runs a fashion business on the side.

LADY EVELYN (F) a perfectly pleasant lady . . . until she opens her mouth.

LADY #1 (F) a woman who seeks a boon; can double as Lady #3.

LADY #2 (F) a woman who seeks a boon; can double as Black Knight.

LADY #3 (F) a woman who seeks a goon.

RED KNIGHT (M) known for his strength.

GREEN KNIGHT (M) known for his evil cunning.

BLACK KNIGHT/LADY EVENOR (F) has never been defeated in battle; turns out to be Evenor.

EXTRAS (M/F) courtiers, servants, and pages.

SAMPLE PAGES

FANFARE AND WELCOME

(When the guests have been seated, another BRASS FANFARE will signal all entertainers to clear the hall.  Lights up on main stage. Enter JESTER.)

JESTER:
Welcome good lords and ladies fair!
The Christmas spirit’s in the air!
(Enter GARETH, dressed as a commoner.)
The hall is warm; the meat is plenty.
The year is Fourteen Hundred Twenty.
(To GARETH.) What have we here? A weary traveler come in from the cold? By all that is good in this season, you are welcome here.

GARETH: Wes hale, good Jester. I’m wondering if you might help me.

JESTER: Why, yes, good sir. What can I do for you?

GARETH:  “Good sir?”  No need for such an honorific.  I am a commoner, just as you are.

JESTER:  A commoner?  Really?

GARETH:  Do not my humble clothes and manner attest to such?

JESTER:  Well . . .

GARETH: I am seeking employment, actually. May I ask if the castle requires the services of a scullion?

JESTER: A scullion?

GARETH: A kitchen knave? (Blank look from JESTER.) A dishwasher?

JESTER: Ah, right you are. Why didn’t you just say so? (Looks over GARETH.) Are you sure you want to work in the kitchen?

GARETH: Yes. Why do you ask?

JESTER: Well, your attire implies your station, but your hands are fair. They don’t look used to hard work. Besides, you sound . . . noble.

GARETH: (Exasperated.) Is it really that obvious? Mother was right. I can’t pull this off.

JESTER: Um, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

GARETH: Can you keep a secret?

JESTER: Oooh. I love secrets!

GARETH: But can you keep one?

JESTER: I do believe I’ve kept one.  Once.  Tell me your troubles.

GARETH: My name is Gareth, son of King Lot of Orkney.

JESTER: Hold it.  King Lot?  I thought he only had two sons, Gawain and Mordred.

GARETH:  My father makes the same mistake.  Even he forgets about me most of the time.

JESTER:  So you’re a prince!

GARETH: Not so loud! I don’t want anyone to know.

JESTER: And why not?

GARETH: I want to prove my worth.

JESTER: Um, you don’t have to. You were born with worth.

GARETH: You don’t understand. You don’t know what it’s like.

JESTER: Wealth, power, and privilege? Yep. I do not know what that is like.

GARETH: I meant living in the shadow of such well-known brothers. First, there’s Gawain the typical over-achieving first born. He’s beheaded giants, rescued damsels, and was captain of the chess club.

JESTER: He’s quite the guy.

GARETH: Then there’s Mordred, the typical trouble-making second born.  He tried to kill King Arthur, conquer Camelot, and regularly runs with scissors.

JESTER: He’s a bad egg, for sure.

GARETH: So, I’m having trouble making a name for myself. And to top it off, I’m the baby of the family. My mother is having some trouble cutting the apron strings.

JESTER: So . . . you’re trading the apron strings for an apron?

GARETH: I told Mother that I didn’t need her name or connections.

JESTER: Bad move.  Everything’s about networking these days.  It’s how you get linked in.

GARETH: I say that you don’t need a coat-of-arms to prove your worth. I believe that the Court of King Arthur can recognize nobility even if I appear as a commoner. So, I can’t reveal my name, and I must work my way up from the bottom to prove my worth.

JESTER: That’s your plan?

GARETH takes the name GARTH and begins working in the kitchen for Kay the Cook. . . .

 KAY: (In the manner of a drill sergeant.) You call this clean, kitchen boy? I told you to make this pot shine the top of a monk’s head! Did you say something, scullery boy?

GARETH: (Shocked.) No, nothing.

KAY: And don’t think you’re getting off for Christmas vacation.

GARETH: I didn’t think that—

KAY: Are you too good for this work?  Do you want to go home to mommy?

GARETH: Of course not.

(JESTER enters and observes.)

KAY: This is just the beginning.  This is nothing.  By the end of my training, you’ll know what hard work is.  You’ll feel the sting of smoke in your eyes as you sweat over the kitchen fire.  Your bones will ache from carrying water up and down the castle steps 50 times a day.  You’ll wear grease and dirt as a second skin. Do you understand me?

GARETH: Yes, ma’am.

KAY: I can’t hear you!

GARETH: (Straightens up and says loudly.) Yes, ma’am!

KAY: I’ll teach you to work, boy. (Shoves cooking pot at GARETH.) Now scrub this again! (Exits.)

JESTER: (Pause.) It’s been a year, Garth.  How’s the training going?

GARETH: I had no idea.

JESTER: I should have warned you that working for cousin Kay is anything but o-kay. (Laughs at his own joke.) Get it? O-kay? (GARETH stares at him.) You’re looking . . . (Looks closer.) You’re looking really tired.

GARETH: I am.  Jester, I just had no idea.  I always thought the kitchen knaves were a bit lazy, the way they shuffled around the castle.  But the truth is that they are so, so exhausted.

JESTER: Well, just remember that when you become famous and reinstated to the privileged class. (Looks at GARETH’s hands.) Well, your hands finally look like someone of low station.

GARETH: I certainly feel pretty low.

JESTER: Then your plan is working.

(EVELYN enters, looking around. GARETH is smitten.)

GARETH: Who is she?

JESTER: (Turns to see EVELYN.) Oh. That’s Lady Evelyn of Essex. I didn’t know she was here tonight. Quick, run! (Starts to exit.)

 GARETH:  (Grabs JESTER and holds him in place.)  Why?

JESTER:  Last year, Lady Evelyn and I were both standing under the mistletoe.  All I did was lean in, just a tiny bit, hoping for a kiss.

GARETH:  And?

JESTER:  She round-house kicked me.  Talk about your missile toe.

GARETH: But she’s beautiful.

JESTER: Yes, she is. Until she opens her—

EVELYN: (Aggravated.) You! Jester! Where is the King?

JESTER: Mouth.

EVELYN: You’d think he would have the common courtesy to greet me.

JESTER:  Courtesy is not so common, it seems.

EVELYN:  What was that, Jester?

GARETH: (Bows and reaches to kiss her hand.)  A pleasure to meet –

EVELYN:  (Snatches her hand away.)  Unhand me, boy!

JESTER:  Watch her center of gravity.  If her hips shift, duck!

EVELYN:  What did you say about my hips?

GARETH:  The Jester was merely commenting on your grace.

EVELYN: I wasn’t talking to you, kitchen knave. I was talking to this ridiculous Jester!

JESTER: Ridiculous? (To himself.) Is that a compliment?

EVELYN: What a fool!

JESTER: Still unclear.  You see, in this context fool is description of my position here in the castle and—

EVELYN: And I’m still waiting for a servant to fetch the King, you buffoon.

JESTER:  Again, that can be taken as a professional title.

EVELYN: (Starts to shift her stance.)  One more word out of you, and I’ll—

JESTER:  (Cowers.)  Oh, no!  The missile toe!

EVELYN:  (Looks up.)  Where?

GARETH: I can take you to the King, milady.

EVELYN: Escorted by a scullion? I’d expect a footman or a steward, but certainly not you!

JESTER: I can go find—

EVELYN: Oh, never mind. I’ll find the way myself. Ridiculous! (Pushes past and exits.)

JESTER: (To GARETH.) Seriously, is buffoon a compliment?

GARETH: I don’t think so.

JESTER: (Sarcastically.) Well, maybe she’ll run into the King disguised as a commoner, and he can lecture her on how she treats people of lower station.

GARETH: Is she always so hard on people?

JESTER:  She’s like a Christmas tree.

GARETH:  Huh?

JESTER:  Always needling people.

GARETH:  That was horrible.

JESTER:  Thank you.

GARETH: Well, when I’m a knight, I hope I can serve her well.

JESTER: And if you serve her, you’ll have a hard day, knight. (Exits with GARETH.)

It is the Christmas season and the day that KING ARTHUR grants boons. GARTH asks for and is granted the quest with LADY EVELYN. She’s not too happy about it.

(Lights down on Royal Table. EVELYN & GARETH enter through the audience.)

EVELYN: (Turns to GARETH.)  Why are you following me, you low-bred lout? (Stops at AUDIENCE table and speaks to a WOMAN.)  Lady, do you desire an extra kitchen knave for your castle? (Improv with answer.)  Ah, you already have a kitchen knave–this gentleman beside you, perhaps? (Points to MAN next to the WOMAN.)  Sure, this knave (Points to GARETH.) may look strange, but you know how it is when men dress themselves.  (Takes a long look at the MAN beside.) Obviously, you know what I mean.  (Beat.) Let me ask again: can you use one more oddly-dressed pot scrubber?

GARETH: (To WOMAN.)  Lady, forgive me, but I am not free to accept your kind offer at this time.  I have a quest to fulfill for the Lady Evelyn. And I am bound to my word.

EVELYN: (Throws up her hands and walks toward the stage.)  Gaahh!  I never asked for you to fulfill this quest!

GARETH: (Quickly pulls out a business card and hands it to MAN.) Here. If you’d like some help knowing how to dress, this woman can help you. She’s in charge of the kitchen and castle security, but she runs a fashion business on the side. It’s called “Noble Eye for the Common Guy.” I think she can help you. Just ask for Kay.

EVELYN: (Enters stage.) Well, here we are at the Castle Perilous. (To GARETH.) Garth, get over here!

GARETH: (Catches up to EVELYN.) I’m here, milady.

EVELYN: Why are you spending time talking to the riff-raff?

GARETH: I was helping him, milady. You commented on his poor choice of clothes, so I put him in touch with a friend who could help him.  It is the Christmas season.

EVELYN: (Looks back at the MAN.)  I hope your friend is a miracle worker.

GARETH: (Looks at man again.)  I think it’s best if we keep our expectations a bit lower. (Beat.) So, tell me about the Red Knight.

EVELYN: He is known for his strength.  So, after he crushes you, perhaps I can reason with him.

GARETH defeats the Red Knight, then faces the Green Knight . . .

GREEN KNIGHT:  (To EVELYN.)  What sort of a trick is this, Lady Evelyn?

EVELYN: (Rolls her eyes.) He has some boon that King Arthur felt he had to grant him, so I got stuck with him.

GREEN KNIGHT: I see. (Looks where RED KNIGHT exited.) So, how did you get past my brother?

EVELYN: Amazingly, this kitchen knave has bested your brother.

GREEN KNIGHT: Let me get this straight.  This . . . scullery boy passed the test of the Red Knight?

EVELYN: I’m as shocked as you are.

GREEN KNIGHT: If you have bested the Red Knight, then you must possess great strength.  (Thinks for a moment.)  Ah, but I’ll wager that you are no match for my wit.  In order to get past me, you will have to . . . answer a riddle.

EVELYN:  Answer a riddle?  Really?

GREEN KNIGHT: (Points to a FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER.)  Lady, would you please stand?  (Improvise if FEMALE is reluctant to stand.)

EVELYN: But, answering a riddle isn’t dangerous at all.

GARETH: Seriously, what’s the worst that can happen?

GREEN KNIGHT: Here’s the riddle: what would you buy this woman for Christmas?  (Beat.)  You should know that this is the infamous Black Widow.  (Smiles.)

EVELYN:  (Gasps.)  The woman who has had five husbands?

GREEN KNIGHT:  The same.  The first husband bought her a new broom for Christmas.

EVELYN: The second bought her a mop.

GREEN KNIGHT:  The third bought her an apron.

EVELYN:  The fourth bought her a cooking pot.

GREEN KNIGHT:  Let’s just say that those gifts were poor choices.  But the fifth: he bought her –

GREEN KNIGHT / EVELYN:  A thigh-master!

GREEN KNIGHT:  And she is notorious for her violent temper.  All of her dearly-departed husbands departed on Christmas.

EVELYN:  Talk about your ghost of Christmas presents.  (To GARETH.) Garth, this is clearly a trap! Maybe we should leave while we still can.

GARETH: I have given my oath, Lady Evelyn. If I give up, it would bring dishonor to your name.

EVELYN: (Shocked.) Dishonor . . . to my name?

GREEN KNIGHT:  Well, Garth?  What is your answer?

GARETH:  To help with her funeral costs, I would buy the lovely Lady (Dramatic pause.) a subscription to a cremation service.

GREEN KNIGHT:  (Looks to FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER.) She appears to be pleased. (To GARETH.) Which cremation service?

GARETH:  Match.com.

GREEN KNIGHT: (Looks to FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER.) She’s smiling! Garth, I think you’ve hit upon the perfect gift!

EVELYN:  (Excited.) Oh, well done!

GREEN KNIGHT:  Our thanks to you, Lady Black Widow.  (Leads audience in applause as she sits.  To GARETH.)  You have bested my wit. Truly your tact with women must be the stuff of legend.

GARETH:  Perhaps one day.

GREEN KNIGHT:  Well, you have defeated me, kitchen knave. I am yours to command.

GARETH:  Then, give me your word that you will go at once to Camelot and give an account to King Arthur.

GREEN KNIGHT: It will be as you say.

GARETH: Then you must submit yourself to the tutelage of Kay.