Writing Wellington: Twenty Years of Victoria University Writing Fellows
Scene from 'Vagabonds' — Scene 2: Wellington Wharf—1863
Scene from 'Vagabonds'
Scene 2: Wellington Wharf—1863
Sound of a ship's horn. An English PORTER enters, carrying a large theatrical trunk and a basket. Behind him, in full sail, is the actress, MRS ADELAIDE FOLEY—an elegant woman in her mid fifties. A newspaper billboard reads, 'Escaped Convict. Whipped Sea Captain. Resighted in Manukau.'PORTER
Do you require a horse and cart Ma'am?ADELAIDE
I do indeed. And could you recommend a decent hotel? Something capacious. Last time I stayed here, I ended up in either an opium den or a brothel! In any case it was inconsolably small!PORTER
There's the Thistle Inn, Ma'am. Just opposite the public stocks, but that's not especially commodious. I would personally recommend The Empire Hotel, up on Willis Street, Dicky Dwyer's place. Reading room, billiard room, nicer class of clientele.ADELAIDE
Dicky's sounds divine! And could you also direct me to the portrait gallery of a Mr Richard Swan? We have some business together.PORTER
Ah! Now that's easy Ma'am. Mr Swan has premises over on Clay Point. Just a stone's throw away from the hotel.ADELAIDE
Have you any more baggage Ma'am?ADELAIDE
I have an entire wardrobe, Sir. Not to mention a couple of infuriatingly late performers, who've managed to get themselves lost on a gangplank. Thank God I can see one of them now. The other one's probably fallen in the drink! Do come and see our performance. Royal Olympic Theatre, behind the Ship Hotel. One week only.PORTER
I don't approve of theatricals Ma'am. Devillism enacted onstage. This settlement has had a constant stream of vagabond vaudevillians passing through it of late, creating all manner of licentious behaviour! What with liquor being passed around the pit and foul-mouthed debauchery, it's become offensive to ladies and gentlemen of the first quality.ADELAIDE
My good man, let me inform you that my company could not be described as vaudevillian. We have enacted our theatricals before the Queen herself! Not to mention the Princess Royal. We perform Shakespeare, the most beautiful language in the world. I sing opera, superbly well I might add. And in addition, we delight with a small menagerie of animals. Everything, Sir, from the wild and ferocious Bengal leopard, to the twelfth wonder of the world, the Double-Headed Goat! So you see, Sir, it is manifestly absurd that you should find The Foley Theatrical Company threatening! Rather you should be fighting for a good seat!PORTER
Forgive me, Madam. Heaven implore us. I had not recognised you. I most humbly beg your pardon, Mrs Foley.
ADELAIDE smiles charmingly.ADELAIDE
My dear Mrs Foley, I have seen you perform on two marvellous occasions, and each time you added considerable class to our young colony.
ADELAIDE smiles charmingly.ADELAIDE
How kind. Now run along and help that leading man of mine off the gangplank. He looks as if he's about to fall over his wig box!PORTER
Pleasure, Mrs Foley. Truly a pleasure.ADELAIDE
I'm so glad.
CAMERON CARRUTHERS, a handsome actor in his forties, struggles on with several small cases.ADELAIDE
Good God, Cameron, you look as if you're about to expire!CAMERON
Concerts in the colonies, Adelaide, are not my idea of a capital time. Bloody idiot I was to be talked into this. And if I never saw the SS Stormbird again, I'd be damn grateful. Ghastly crossing and the digs are downright common!ADELAIDE
Come, come, where's your sense of adventure?CAMERON
Back in England with a weekly repertory and a decent bit of Yorkshire pud! Good God, look at that landscape. Not a soul alive and hedged in by hills. Bottom of the bloody world!
The Porter relieves CAMERON of his bags.CAMERON
Don't know what's happened to Kathryn. Last time I saw her, she was surrounded by six randy sailors.ADELAIDE
That's a fine predicament to leave your fiancée in! You might at least have acted the gentleman and fought them off.CAMERON
Kathryn's more than capable of shoving them overboard.ADELAIDE
And don't think I didn't see you eyeing up a young colonial thing yourself.CAMERON
Adelaide, Adelaide, you don't miss a trick do you? I was admiring her hair.ADELAIDE
You were admiring her bosom.
CAMERON smiles charmingly.CAMERON
And I'm admiring yours now.ADELAIDE
You never change do you?CAMERON
Would you want me to?
She smiles despite herself.ADELAIDE
He taps his pockets.CAMERON
Where'd I put that damn flask?
He pulls out a whisky flask and takes a swig.ADELAIDE
That's your trouble, Cameron. Too much spirit and not enough pluck!CAMERON
You do go on, Adelaide.ADELAIDE
Precious little good it does.CAMERON
Ah, here she is.
KATHRYN enters. She is a beautiful woman in her late thirties. Her clothes have a look of fashion, theatricality and flair.ADELAIDE
Kathryn, where have you been? We're forever waiting, it's maddening.
KATHRYN looks around, delighted.KATHRYN
Oh, what light! What exquisite light! We have arrived in heaven surely!CAMERON
Kathryn, your brain is sodden from that cheerless little boat ride. What nautical nonsense! Mind you, after that turbulent tossing, any bit of land would be a blessing. Talk about tempests!KATHRYN
'When the shore is won at last, who can remember the billows past!'CAMERON
No use quoting Swinburne at me. It was a horrid little hulk and I hope I never have to see it again.KATHRYN
Oh, Cammy, how can you be so cruelly ungrateful to that virtuous vessel? That gallant little barque that bore us here. She rose against the salt like a lioness protecting her young. You really are a philistine.CAMERON
Yes, but a very charming one.ADELAIDE
Perhaps we could attempt to meet Mr Swan before midnight.CAMERON
Yes, and I do hope he's not another vapid, talent-free, vanity queen who can't act his way out of a paper bag.ADELAIDE
Cameron darling, every support actor I've ever had can act. Eventually.CAMERON
I rest my case!ADELAIDE
Shall we go?CAMERON
Yes, let us depart this shapeless shore.KATHRYN
Farewell then, thou dark and deep blue ocean. Ta-ta my tireless little tugboat. Parting is such sorrow, sorrow. God I'm absolutely starving. What are we waiting for?
She smiles delightfully at CAMERON and ADELAIDE who walk off. The PORTER is left to pick up a mountain of luggage. KATHRYN picks up a couple of small bags. She stops at the newspaper stand and reads the headlines of The Independent.KATHRYN
Oh look, how exciting! 'Escaped Convict. Whipped Sea Captain. Resighted at Manukau!' How very dramatic!PORTER
Yes, they've been looking for that felon for a long time, Miss. Very depraved piece of work. Murderer, thief, prostitute. You name it! They say she's been hiding out among the Maoris, and apparently she actually stripped the Captain and whipped his bare . . . his bare . . . He can't quite say the word.
KATHRYN can't help but find this amusing.KATHRYN
Yes, she stripped him of his clothes and then she used them to outfit herself.KATHRYN
How very Shakespearian!
She smiles charmingly and exits. The PORTER is left standing there with a mountain of luggage. He calls after her.PORTER
Oh, Miss! Are there any seats left for tonight's performance?