The Riding Officer

Back in 2010 I entered a script into The Sitcom Trials, with the finals taking place at The Lass O’Gowrie in Manchester. This was my first complete (well, ten minutes of it) comedy script and was performed on the night. Sadly it didn’t win, but I learned a great deal from it.

Based on the barely-known job of the Riding Officers of the North Yorkshire coast in the 18th century, the script reads and sounds a bit like Blackadder. I don’t quite think that can be helped, and while the script didn’t win, it raised a few laughs.

So that’s a nice consolation. Here is an audio of the performance:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Hope it gives you a chuckle…

You can also read the first chunk of the script below.

The Riding Officer

Recently commissioned as the new riding officer, Edgar Rice Paper arrives back in his home town to discover that he is now persona non grata.

More ironic in his appointment is the fact that he is no longer the unsuccessful son of a legendary smuggler; he is now the hated son of a legendary smuggler, set for a life of struggling to perform his new job in a town of hate.

Cast

Edgar Rice Paper – ridiculously named son of the legendary smuggler Mulberry Rice Paper. Slightly pompous, intelligent but totally innocent and trusting of almost all, having been mollycoddled by his mother.

Eric Tha’Knows – his best, and only, friend. More aware of what is going on in the village.

Mrs Dry – fishwife, neighbour, regular supplier of tea and butties (also unknown to Edgar, co-ordinator of many smuggling operations)

Lord Carshalton – local duke, landowner, magistrate and very often the receiver of smuggled goods, despite being in charge of also sentencing smugglers and acting as Edgar’s local CO.

Introduction

History rarely tells the truth. The romanticism of Mr Charlotte Bronte and his tales of love and deceit in the North Yorkshire moors during the late 18th century reveal little of the truth of the time.

Rather than being a distant backwater surrounded by poverty, coastal areas of Gods Own County were more affluent than London. This was due to an economy built on smuggling – cigarettes, alcohol, clothing and drugs were shipped from the continent and sold.

Robin Hood’s Bay was a hive of smugglers – modern estimates suggest every citizen was involved.

All but one: The Riding Officer, a man with the thankless and futile task of preventing smuggling.

In a town full of smugglers, The Riding Officer is a loan voice in a sea of corruption. A hero, charged with claiming or destroying contraband or demanding duty is paid in the name of the glorious King…

Setting

Action takes place within Edgar Rice Paper’s abode – a wood-panelled old, unkempt house. With stairs to the back and a main entrance beside the stairs, a kitchen also exists to the back. Main action takes place around the fire and the driftwood desk, where there are seats. A safe or cabinet exists behind the desk.

SCENE 1 INT. OFFICE
18

th

 century, ramshackle, gloomy wood and brick office, lit by oil lamps and featuring a drab desk with quills, ink, stamps, wax and a pipe. Candles will suffice.
EDGAR dances/prances around the room, apparently serenading a small box in his hand.
FX: We hear the sound of hooves echoes from outside, pre-empting the door opening)
EDGAR
Oh Edwina, Edwina, Edwina! I'll sweep you off your feet you enchanting woman!
He gets on one knee and offers the box to thin air
EDGAR
Happy birthday, Edwina!
Eric enters on cue
ERIC
No, sir. It's me, Eric. Frankly I'm baffled you thought otherwise.
I'm not even a blonde, Edgar!
Like a flash, EDGAR is sat back in his chair, feet up on the desk; he holds a document, pretending to read it
EDGAR
Hmm? Oh, it's you. Did you get it?
ERIC
I certainly did - freshly printed in Whitby this morning sir!
ERIC wields a newspaper
EDGAR
Pass it here, let me see! Well look at that, they splashed out on an etching of me!
ERIC
That's Carshalton, Edgar
EDGAR
Eh?
ERIC
The picture, it's of Lord Carshalton. You don't get one until your sacked or killed.
Now pass it here - it sounds better read aloud:
"Local jaws dropped this week when Edgar Rice Paper, of the Robin Hood's Bay parish, was appointed Chief Riding Officer for the Whitby to Scarborough coast.
"Despite his privileged schooling, Rice Paper's appointment has been described in London as 'a threat' given his ties to notorious businessman Mulberry Rice Paper. Lord Carshalton of Whitby has meanwhile given assurances that Rice Paper will be a success in the control of smuggling operations on the North Riding coast."
EDGAR
Well, not too bad. I didn't expect a newspaper report, to be honest.
ERIC
Not such a positive one, anyway. Especially not after you assaulted that journalist! What were you thinking?
EDGAR
You know fine well that McDonald character impugned my good character. And I didn't assault him, I was doing my job.
ERIC
Well at least we know now that bringing a kilt into England isn't smuggling.
At least, not when it's worn.
EDGAR
So, what about the other matter - did you find him?
ERIC
I certainly did.
EDGAR
Yes, I thought I could hear the clop-clop of hooves; although I did wonder if it was Mrs Dry next door exercising her right to wear clogs.
ERIC
She never does that on a Friday. And only when they're freshly smuggl - imported, I mean.
No, I found your horse - however unfortunately I was unable to reach him before he bolted.
EDGAR
What?
ERIC
As a result, I was forced - as your deputy - to seize an alternative in the name of the crown, and set off in pursuit.
EDGAR
(Sitting up in chair)
Really? I'm impressed, you've genuinely surprised me. So he's outside?
ERIC
...while in pursuit, I subsequently discovered that when trying to calm and retrieve a thoroughbred stallion given to your senior officer as a birthday present, you probably shouldn't try and catch him on the back of a mule.
EDGAR
On his feet, pacing, anxious
WHAT?! You chased after my horse - the one YOU lost - on a donkey?
Why exactly do you think he's called "Lightning"?
ERIC
I assumed he liked the rain.
EDGAR
Damn it Eric! My second day on the job, you've lost my horse and the village hates us! Not only that but you've confused the fact that I got this job on my birthday - the horse comes with the job!
ERIC
I did think that it was rather strange that Lord Carshalton should give the son of a smuggler a horse. Then again I thought it strange that the son of a smuggler as notorious as your father should be given a job as a riding officer at all.
Some people have suggested something... underhand taking place.
EDGAR
Have they? Have they indeed? Well I'll show them.
I'm sick and tired of being laughed at and discarded by this bloody village. Just because I wasn't considered good enough to sit on a boat all night when I was 14 doesn't mean I couldn't be a smuggler.
ERIC
Well, you were sea-sick, as I recall...
EDGAR
The fact that I was a bit poorly is hardly the point is it?
I was 14!
ERIC
More than a bit, to be fair...
EDGAR
Now listen! I'll show them. I'll have this town cleaned up, and then the whole country will know and fear the name Edgar Rice Paper!
He thumps the desk; it collapses.
EDGAR
Do you think our meagre budget would stretch to a desk not built from driftwood?
ERIC
Not really, sir, no.
EDGAR
Well find me something, at least. I'm going to have a bit of paperwork to get through tomorrow, Eric.
ERIC
Really, sir?
EDGAR
Waves an official-looking sheet of paper
Absolutely! I've received notice here of an impending delivery of a selection of highly sort after, illicit French lithographs, featuring the nude forms of a string of notorious Parisienne harlots, from Suzanne du Suc to Analise Anale.
ERIC
Bloody hell!
EDGAR
Indeed - it's filthy stuff, and according to these instructions direct from London, we're to intercept this evening!
Ext FX:
MRS DRY
Coo-eeee!
EDGAR
Ah. The clogless Mrs Dry is outside, Eric. Let her in, there's a good chap.
Eric lets the visitor in
MRS DRY
Oh hello there young Mr Rice Paper. How are things today? Caught any smugglers?
ERIC smirks. EDGAR notices this.
EDGAR
Sadly, Mrs Dry, we've barely managed to catch a horse, isn't that right Eric?
ERIC
Yes, sir.
I'll stick some tea on, sir.
EDGAR
So Mrs Dry, to what do I owe this most rare of pleasures?
MRS DRY
Well, I heard a rumour that there's bit of an operation on tonight...
EDGAR
A rumour? Really? I find that hard to believe. I took receipt of the orders directly at the post office.
MRS DRY
Something to do with France, was it?
EDGAR
Well, that's a turn up! Is nothing private around here?
MRS DRY
So it's true then! Well you'll have your work cut out won't you, stopping that lot and attending Lord Carshalton's daughter's birthday party.
EDGAR
Penny drops
You're absolutely right... yes, we'll manage it though, Mrs Dry, don't you worry.
MRS DRY
Anyway, my cousin Henry has been making sausages, and I had a few left over so I thought you might like to try them?
EDGAR
Really? That's smashing!
ERIC returns from preparing the teas
MRS DRY
Yes, they're fresh off the grill - a little spicy, I'm told, but certainly not the worst sausages you'll taste this side of Berlin - I mean Birmingham!
MRS DRY offers the sausages. EDGAR and ERIC take one each.
ERIC
Delicious!
EDGAR
Do you know, I've never tasted a sausage like this? What did you say it was called?
MRS DRY
Bratw- um Bradford Best. Our Heiny, lives in Bradford, you see.
EDGAR
"Heiny"?
Bit of a strange name, isn't it? Sounds almost... German?
MRS DRY
Um...It's short for hindquarters. He's a butcher, see, forever playing with pigs trotters as a boy, you know. We all knew he'd end up as a butcher, what with his dad and his brothers.
EDGAR
Oh, so a family of butchers?
MRS DRY
You might say that, yes.
EDGAR
Well, pass on our compliments, Mrs Dry, your cousin makes possibly the finest sausages I've ever tasted!
Eric steps up with the teas.
Well I hope you'll join us for a cup of tea. It's from the batch that you dropped off earlier this week. Very relaxing, I think you'll agree.
MRS DRY
Oh yes, that's one of my favourites!
(Takes cup.)
So, young Edwina Carshalton, eh, Mr Rice Paper! Have you got her a birthday gift?
EDGAR
Ah, just a small something I made myself.
ERIC
With my help!
EDGAR
...ably assisted by my good friend here. I'm not certain she'll be entirely happy to see me after the last time we met, but certainly since I got this job she's seemed more interested.
MRS DRY
That's cause you've got prospects now, in't'it? No longer a smuggler like the rest of 'em... not that you were actually a smuggler as we all know on account of your trouble, but ours is not to reason why.
Funny though that Lord Carshalton should be happy to hire a riding officer with such an aversion to water, though, don't you think?
EDGAR
Never crossed my mind. He evidently wanted the best man for the job. Well, second best, after what happened to old Fruity.
ERIC
Oh dear.
EDGAR
What's that?
ERIC
Oh, I always get sad when I hear about what happened to old Fruity. Always brings a tear to my eyes.
EDGAR
Given that Fruity was hurled off a cliff by a bucking mule after stopping for a piss, I suspect he had a few more tears in his eyes.
Notices something on his desk.
Ah.
Anyway, Mrs Dry - I'm afraid I do have some work to be pressing on with before tonight's operation, so if you wouldn't mind, you will have to excuse me.
EDGAR sits. MRS DRY remains.
EDGAR
So if you wouldn't mind...?
MRS DRY
Don't mind me, love
EDGAR
This is of course top secret work Eric and I are undertaking, both in respect to my position as Riding Officer and as a guest of Miss Edwina Carshalton this evening.
MRS DRY
Oh you know me, Edgar, I'll be the soul of discretion.
EDGAR
Even so, I would prefer it if it you made your way.
MRS DRY
Well I'm still drinking my tea, dear.
EDGAR is now quite angry, and stands
EDGAR
Just take the bloody cup and piss off!!
MRS DRY
Well there's no need to be so rude, you only had to say.
MRS DRY flounces out indignantly
EDGAR
That woman!
Taking a seat, EDGAR draws up a brief list.
Right. Eric, we've got 3 hours to formulate a plan to position ourselves both on the beach for the receipt of the aforementioned illicit French lithographs, make it to Lord Carshalton manor house, and retrieve Lightning...
ERIC
Taking the initiative, ERIC pulls up a chair, opens map
Right then. I thought if we could cover these two key observation points...
EDGAR
So off you go and retrieve him!
ERIC
Right you are sir...
ERIC leaves, sheepishly
EDGAR
EDGAR speaks to himself. He's like that.
This evening will go down as my first success against the smugglers - plus I get to spend time with the delightful Edwina Carshalton.
What could go wrong?
TO BE CONTINUED!
(overleaf)
SCENE 2: Int: Office, night.
The door swings open; Edgar stumbles in, clutching a bottle of whiskey.
EDGAR
Edwina... no, don't go... load of rubbish... bloody smugglers I'll get 'em!
He sits at his desk, still mumbling, as ERIC enters the room from the other side.
ERIC
Good evening, sir?
EDGAR
Sausages!
ERIC
Sir? Are you alright? Should I get you a glass of
ERIC notices the bottle. Luckily he is reliably equipped with several skills.
... oh.
Cup of tea, sir?
EDGAR
Why not? I might as well. It might even help me forget.
ERIC
Knowing Mrs Dry it probably will...
So do you want to tell me about it sir?
EDGAR
Oh Eric, it was a disaster. It started off so well!
I intercepted the landing at the beach, saw off three masked smugglers - whose builds seemed quite familiar, I must add - and even ventured into the water to retrieve the lithographs.
ERIC
Sounds like a successful evening, to be honest.
EDGAR
And up to that point, it was. In fact I'd venture to claim success up to and including the point where I failed to notice that the box of lithographs was by astronomical coincidence of exactly the same design we'd been working on for Miss Carshalton.
ERIC
No!
EDGAR
Yes... and the same size.
The resulting embarrassment and fracas can only be described as "life threatening" - suffice to say any designs I might have had on Edwina have been clearly discouraged.
FX Ext: knock at the door
Who on earth could that be at this time?
ERIC
Goes to door, answers - it is LORD CARSHALTON
My lord!
CARSHALTON
Is Rice Paper here?
EDGAR hears the voice, and reacts badly
ERIC
Indeed, my lord, come on in
EDGAR
EDGAR stumbles to his feet
LORD CARSHALTON! Shhh!
Sorry, Lord Carshalton. Apologies, my lord, I'm a little drunk. Couldn't quite bring myself to accept my earlier mistake; got pissed instead.
CARSHALTON
Nevermind, nevermind. I'm sure we'll be able to sort something out.
EDGAR
Eh?
CARSHALTON
Oh don't you worry about Edwina, such a needlessly sensitive thing most the time, but then aren't all women, heh heh heh?
CARSHALTON has a smug, condescending laugh
No I was visiting merely to put your mind at rest.
EDGAR
At rest, sir?
CARSHALTON
Indeed, Rice Paper! You've performed sterling work in intercepting this shipment, and your expedience in shipping material as illicit as this direct to the local magistrate - i.e. me - will be relayed to our masters in London!
EDGAR
So... everything is alright?
CARSHALTON
Alright? Of course! I knew you were the man for the job!
Now you must both excuse me, I have another appointment to keep.
CARSHALTON leaves.
EDGAR is shocked jaw dropped
EDGAR
Did I just dream that?
ERIC
I think, Edgar, that perhaps we both did.
EDGAR
His face was etched with demonic rage just an hour ago... and then he comes and tells me everything is alright!
EDGAR returns to usual seat/desk
Well, that certainly sobered me up.
EDGAR pours another drink
Good to know the lithographs are safely put away...
ERIC
...in Lord Carshalton's study, presumably...
EDGAR
Eric, you don't seriously believe that Lord Carshalton has taken the smuggled goods as his own possessions do you? You heard him yourself; he's making a report to London!
ERIC
Just a thought - after all, he did seem very grateful just now... and in a very good mood too. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he's off home to enjoy those lithographs, what with Lady Carshalton being less than comely...
EDGAR
Well, you have a point there. Although I think you compliment her unnecessarily. Fearsome, I would say.
Still, she gave birth to a handsome girl in Edwina
ERIC
True... but of course, you know how they say you should look at a girl's mother to see how she will look when she's older...?
EDGAR
Oh.
Yes.
Ah.
EDGAR opens his drawer
Good job I kept one of those lithographs, isn't it?
ERIC and EDGAR scramble to look
ERIC
What's this one called?
EDGAR
Philipa Fellation, it says here...?

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