Scene 1 Mrs. Murdstone’s Orphanage For Girls Song 1: Orphans

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Scene 1 Mrs. Murdstone’s Orphanage For Girls

Song 1: Orphans

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 rough,

she’s tough,

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: Hello, Olivia.

Olivia: Hello.

An orphan: Come and sit down, and tell us all about yourself.

Olivia joins them.

Olivia: Nothing much to tell, really. I’ve just come from the St. Francis Convent.

An orphan: What was it like?

Olivia: Terrible. The nuns were so strict; they never allowed us any fun.

An orphan: Well, I warn you, Olivia, you’ll think of it as heaven compared to this place.

Olivia: Oh, I can’t believe that. The Mother Superior ruled us with a rod of iron. Talk about a tyrant.

An orphan: Your Mother Superior is a pussycat compared with Mrs. Murdstone.

An orphan: She’s horrible.

An orphan: She’s cruel.

An orphan: She has the foulest temper.

An orphan: Why, if we even so much as cough when we’re supposed to be silent, we get punished.

An orphan: Where is your convent, Olivia?

Olivia: Just outside Stockport.

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.

An orphan: Every day, except Sunday, sew and sew.

All Orphans: Sew and sew.

Olivia: What do you sew?

An orphan: Old clothes, which Mrs. Murdstone sells on for a profit.

An orphan: And mailbags – they’re the worst of all, they tear your fingers to shreds.

Olivia: Sounds like Mrs. Murdstone is a right so-and so. (The girls titter)

An orphan: Don’t let her hear you say that, or she’ll have you sewing double-time.

Olivia: But I’m useless at sewing. The Nuns tried to teach me, but I kept making mistakes. I once sewed up the bottom of Mother Superior’s habit so badly she couldn’t get into it. (Orphans laugh)

An orphan: Well, you’d better learn fast, otherwise you’re in big trouble.

Enter Mrs. MURDSTONE, with DICKEN.

Mrs. M: Did I hear someone mention trouble? I hope none of you are thinking of causing any, for, as you know, my punishment is swift and terrible. What do you say, Dicken?

Dicken: Donkeys. (Orphans titter)

Mrs. M: Did I give you permission to snigger? (Go silent, cowed) Dicken, explain yourself. What have donkeys got to do with discipline?

Dicken: It’s just that anyone would have to be a donkey to make trouble.

Mrs. M: Not quite the way I’d express it, but I take your point, and so, I trust, do all of you young ladies. I also hope you girls have explained the strict standards I expect to Olivia.

An orphan: Yes, Mrs. Murdstone.

Mrs. M: And, now, it’s time for breakfast. (All groan) I thought you’d be pleased. Dicken, start serving your culinary masterpiece!

Dicken: (Totally baffled) Duh... do what?

Mrs. M: Dish out the gruel, man! Orphans – line up – and enjoy!

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