Hans, The Witch and the Gobbin - the story

 

A synopsis of the play Hans, The Witch and The Gobbin by Alan Cullen

(spoiler alert!)

Prologue, A Royal Park

A medical student, named Hans arrives in The Royal Park to enjoy a picnic lunch. A gobbin*, named Gob, being really hungry wins a share of that lunch by telling Hans about the strange illness of the nearby Princess Alicia.  The best doctors can't find a cure or cause of her condition and the curious Hans wants to see for himself. Gob conjures up a glimpse of the patient, who appears confused and vague, whilst also happening to be just the type that the young and romantic Hans finds enchanting. He insists he can help, so Gob gets him to The Palace where the next act starts.

Act 1, The Palace

A worried King Rufus dicates royal decrees to his scribe, Scratch, who struggles to keep up. Two royal physicians, Castor and Senna argue possible diagnosis then agree neither have the foggiest.

Hans arrives and suggests complete memory loss, caused by bewitching. The King clearly banned all witches a while back so that shouldn’t be possible. Scratch tells them about his aunt, Mrs Hypatia Crabtree, a professional and dedicated witch-finder who uses the gentle practice of dowsing to locate and uncover any witches ignoring the Royal ban. Mrs Crabtree is summoned.

Left alone with the Princess and now really worried for their jobs, royal physicians Senna and Castor don't like all this focusing pulling from unqualified quackery. As they agree a cunning plan is required, they spot her condition change. Suddenly, sitting up and alert, the Princess hears something and in through a window comes Daisy Crowfoot. Unmistakably a witch and a restless and eccentric one at that.

Daisy sings her witchy ditties and the Princess asks where have all her memories gone? The witch then produces a magic box. (It's actually a magic snuff box she's encouraged to sniff, so that may need re-consideration 50 years on. Let's say for now it's magic is activated through smelling what's inside.) This starts the sound of an ethereal voice offering the witch a catch-up on the all the juicy royal gossip about Mrs Crabtree coming to find her.  In her hurry to leave, she forgets the box. The two physicians have been watching and spotting the box left behind, Castor puts it in his pocket. Mrs Crabtree arrives in full confidence, complete with dowsing stick, which soon draws her towards Castor.

As Mrs Crabtree's shows off her technique Castor manages to sneak it into Senna's pocket, who then gets it unseen into Hans's pocket.  The forbidden magic item is located and suspicion turns to Hans. Hypatia Crabtree always gets her witch.

Hans protests his innocence and the King is inclined to agree. The doctors suggest Hans open the box to see if he's witchy enough to make magic. Inside the lid are instructions to sniff (or smell), which Hans does.

The same voice is back, gossiping about Mrs Crabtree being on the right track to find her witch. The King orders it closed, congratulates Mrs Crabtree and orders Hans arrested. Then he reconsiders - after all the memories are still lost and Hans could help find them. That's it then - but hang on, where's the Princess gone?

Mrs Crabtree leaves, dowsing way followed by the King and her nephew, Scratch. The physicians turn on Hans. If they can't cure the Princess they can't pay their bills. Realising he'd been framed Hans struggles to keep hold of the box but they overpower him, just as who should be back, but Gob the gobbin looking very hungry.

Act 2, scene 1, the Forest

Daisy the witch is in The Forest hotly pursued by Mrs Crabtree, King Rufus and Scratch. She hides herself.

King Rufus is getting  cross that the dowsing hasn't worked yet. As they argue Daisy works her magic and they all begin to forget themselves. The Princess joins them and is unrecognized by her father.

Unable to remember why she's there, Mrs Crabtree leaves. Daisy comes out of her hiding place only to be asked by the king if she can tell him who he is and just where he's meant to be. Her response confuses him even more so the King wanders off and witch leaves. Hans arrives. Finally he gets to meets the princess properly and of course, they get on really, really well.

They realise they're lost when a swineherd, Sylvester arrives. He's ostentatiously dressed for someone who herds pigs and trails two pink ribbons behind, using ribbons to lead two pigs, Hank and Hunk who wear lace collars. Sylvester hasn't heard of King Rufus or the princess. He and the pigs serve the Queen of the Forest. He tells the young couple where Daisy the witch can be found. They leave and Sylvester takes the pigs off to where the Queen of the Forest is waiting.

Daisy comes out from her hiding place and, as those pursuing her head toward her home, she casts a spell to bring the cottage to her. The house appears and she goes off to find wood for the fire. Castor and Senna enter, still worried about their jobs. As they argue they spot some little bottles containing the stolen memories. Daisy returns and swiftly steals their memories too. She convinces them they're her servants and puts them to work making her some onion soup.

Act 2, scene 2, another part of the forest

Hans and the princess are discussing the lost memories when Sylvester catches up with them. Daisy's house isn't where it should be anymore. Its simply vanished.  Hans persuades Sylvester to take him to the Queen of the Forest to see if she can help.

Act 2, scene 3, the Queen's Forest Grotto

As Hans looks at a throne, surrounded on either side by statues. He hears ethereal voices off, singing conflicting messages about the Queen. Turn back! She's cruel! She's kind! She's beautiful! She's ugly!

The Queen arrives and tells the bewildered young man, that the princess is safe for now (she knows everything), but those seeking help from the Queen must first be prepared to risk their lives. She tells him the statues by the throne are those, who failed her challenge now turned into stone. Hans agrees to take that risk.

The challenge lies beneath the golden mask the queen wears.  Underneath, is she plain or beautiful? The voices off can't agree. Hans goes with beautiful. She knew he'd say that then lifts the mask so he might see why he’s failed the task. Hans calls out for princess Alicia as he feels himself turning to stone.

Act 3, scene 1, the forest

Sylvester is crocheting lace collars and the princess is dancing while they wait for Hans to return. They talk about the Queen and what may lie beneath the mask.  It seems he had meant to warn Hans about the whole turning to stone thing, but forgot. Now the princess is really worried and goes in search of Hans.

Hank and Hunk arrive, skipping, using their ribbon leads as rope. Sylvester gets cross. They're supposed to be in bed so he starts taking them back away when the king arrives, shortly followed by Mrs Crabtree, then Scratch. Their memories still lost, they have no idea who they are or where they should be. Sylvester doesn’t know either but Hank and Hunk do, and as their oinks can be understood by Sylvester, they explain who these bemused people are. The swineherd translates and points them in the direction of the palace.

Act 3, scene 2, the Queen's Forest Grotto

Hans is as still as stone and the queen is gone when the princess arrives, accompanied by the voices off who both beckon her nearer and warn. Princess Alicia shakes Hans awake and tells him she doesn't think the Queen really has the power to turn people into stone. The Queen arrives and isn’t happy.  Princess Alicia confronts her, saying she doesn't need to see under her mask because underneath she's probably neither plain nor beautiful - just ordinary looking.

The Queen is at first upset, but then grateful as she realises accepting her ordinariness means she can be free from having to wear a mask. To thank the Princess she whispers a secret to Alicia, telling her what Daisy the witch fears most of all.

Act 3, scene 3, the Forest

Castor and Senna are sweeping the forest floor, discussing how annoying it is to lose one's memory. Going through their pockets for clues to the forgotten, they find the magic box. They following the instructions under the lid and the box announces the story so far. The doctors realise they've been helping the King's enemy. Daisy and her cottage reappear and chases them with a broom as they run for it. The commotion alerts Hans and the princess, who find the cottage. Seeing no one is home, they sneak inside.

Daisy comes back, locks them in the cottage and leaves. Sylvester comes back and, with help from Hank and Hunk he sets the pair free. Inside are lots of bottles marked with people's names and they realise they've finally found the stolen memories!

With guidance from the pigs, the princess opens and smells the contents of the bottle bearing her name. Her full memory returns.

A bemused Mrs Crabtree soon joins them, still searching for her own identity. They find her bottle and the witch-finder is soon back in business. Her dowsing isn't working but she has another plan. Together they manage to trap the witch inside her own cottage, convincing her she's been poisoned. They promise to provide the antidote if she promises not to practice witchcraft in the kingdom again.

Daisy agrees, saying she’ll turn the cottage into a tea shop, just as the King and Scratch arrive, grateful to find that the whole situation has been resolved.

The Queen of the Forest returns to invite them all back to her grotto for a celebratory meal. Castor and Senna come out from hiding, and who should reappear just as food is mentioned? Gob the gobbin, still looking hungry. Hans invites Gob to join them and they all live happily ever after.

 

The end.

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