All stand ALL: Orphans, orphans, orphans, orphans,
shut up in an orphanage day and night. Orphans, orphans, orphans, orphans,
working hard as slaves, do you think that’s right? Orphans, orphans, orphans, orphans,
nobody to listen to our plight. All: Mrs. Murdstone is in charge.
she’s ever so large.
she treats us like we were dirt.
she’s like a sergeant-major in a skirt!
orphans, orphans, orphans, orphans,
shut up in an orphanage day and night.
All: Orphans, orphans, orphans, orphans,
no-one cares about you when you’re out of sight!
It’s not right! After applause, all the orphans start to chatter. Enter Mrs. MURDSTONE,
An orphan: It’s Mrs. Murdstone! (The orphans scream) Mrs. M: Silence when you scream! (All fall silent) You need discipline – rigid discipline, iron discipline; and I, Mrs. Murdstone will apply that discipline. So answer when I speak to you. Good morning, children.
The Orphans: (Cowed) Good morning, Mrs. Murdstone.
Mrs. M: I trust you’re all ready for another day’s hard work?
The orphans groan.
Mrs. M: Silence when you groan! Let me repeat the rules of this establishment. You will not chatter, talk or gossip, except in the times stipulated in the regulations. Which are – to remind you - two minute’s chatter every hour, and after your work is finished for the day, you may have half an hour’s riotous and childish behaviour – for which I will take great pleasure in punishing you.
I know it’s breakfast time, but today, we have a new orphan joining us. (She calls into the wings) Step this way, if you please, young lady. (Enter OLIVIA)
This is Olivia. I will delay breakfast by a few minutes while you get acquainted. You may talk with her till I return – but don’t expect treats like this every day! (She exits)
An orphan: Why did you leave it, and come here to Manchester?
Olivia: I didn’t leave. The nuns threw me out. I kept misbehaving.
An orphan: What did you do?
Olivia: I flicked ink pellets at the Sisters when their backs were turned. (The orphans giggle). I drew a moustache on a picture of the Order’s founder. (More giggles) And I burped after meals. (More giggles)
An orphan: Well, you won’t burp after meals here. You’ll more likely throw up.
Olivia: Why, what are they like?
An orphan: They’re the same every day.
An orphan: Breakfast, dinner and tea, it’s the same revolting swill. It’s…it’s… (She struggles to describe it)…yucky!
An orphan: It’s garbage!
All Orphans: It’s slop!
Olivia: Why do you put up with it?
An orphan: What else can we do? Nowhere else we can go. No parents.
An orphan: No relations.
An orphan: Some of us remember our parents.
An orphan: Most of us don’t.
An orphan: Do you remember yours, Olivia?
Olivia: No. I think they died in an accident when I was a baby. But look… (She takes a locket from around her neck) this might be my mother... (The girls gather round to look)
An orphan: She’s very like you.
An orphan: She must be your mother.
Olivia: Perhaps she is – but I’ll never know.
An orphan: You mustn’t let Mrs. Murdstone see that. She’ll take it off you.
Olivia: She wouldn’t dare!
An orphan: She would – and she does. She takes all our trinkets off us.
An orphan: She says when we’re old enough to leave she’ll give us them back, unless we’ve misbehaved.
An orphan: And of course, she always finds some way we’ve misbehaved, even when we haven’t.
An orphan: So no-one ever gets them back.
An orphan: Then she sells them.
Olivia: Well, she’s not having mine. (She puts the locket in her pocket)
An orphan: We were just like you, Olivia, when we first arrived. We had spirit; we had hopes.
An orphan: They soon get dashed.
Olivia: Is it that bad?
An orphan: You wouldn’t believe it. You know what we do, for fourteen hours a day? We sew.