It is the feast scene. Mrs Miggins, pre-prop cupboard incarceration, decided that the feast scene should be set up with real food for the performers to eat whilst performing because, she reasoned, it would save time faffing around organising an after-show party when all she would want to do would be lock up, forget the whole hideous affair, and get back to normal as soon as possible, preferably with a soak in a bubble bath with a glass of hot fizzy Ribena, a slice of stollen and the lastest bonkbuster, 'Fifty Shades of Ginger.'
Therefore, the feast scene is taking slightly longer to perform than one would normally expect, mostly because of all the tea-time chit chat.
'This pie is rather tasty,
It's delicious on my tongue
And now I'd like a little sweet -
Would you pass a chocolate bun?'
Thus spaketh Idle Jack aka Mrs Poo. And the Genie of the Pants aka Primrose, who conjured up the whole feast, obliges by throwing, underarm and therefore non-violently, a chocolate bun down the full length of the table.
However, and unfortunately, at the critical point of catching, Dick/Richard/ Ptolemy chooses to expostulate about string theory by flinging wide his wing and thus bats the aforesaid chocolate bun off its original trajectory and into the wings where King Rat, aka the Phantomime in cunning disguise, is waiting with the primary rodents to attack the feast and, more importantly, Dick.
Well! It is one of those slow motion moments that you know you can do nothing to change so, for some bizarre reason you deal with it by closing your eyes and pulling a cringy face.
The Phantomime is a phantom on the edge. To give him his due he has been patiently waiting for his cue because he does have a sense of fair play and wants to give Ptolemy a fighting chance before he brains him into oblivion and sweeps Mrs Pumphrey off her feet.
But being dinged by a chocolate bun is like releasing the greyhound from the trap.
'Let the dog see the rabbit!' shouts the Phantomime, scattering the primary rodents hither and thither like skittles at a bowling alley. He leaps from the wings and onto the feasting table to much shrieking surprise from the cast.
'Wait for your cue!' shouts Mrs Bennet. 'Tango Pete - what are you doing?'
From up in the Phantomime's box a voice shouts down, 'That's not Tango Pete! That's the Phantomime!'
'How do you know?' shouts Mrs Bennet, above the hubbub and fracas taking over the stage.
'Because,' shouts Tango Pete, standing up and flinging back his hatty cloaky disguise,'it's me! Look! And he...' and he points his wing at the faux King Rat running amok on stage, 'is a King Rat imposter!'
The audience gasps! Several, who have been sitting on the edges of their seats, fall off. Some, who have been hiding behind sofas, climb inside their sofas.
'FOOLS!!!' shouts the Phantomime, for yea verily 'tis he. 'Do you think your stupid little show will keep me from being with my beloved?'
'Who's that then?' whispers Mrs Pumphrey, who is rather disappointed the feast has come to an abrupt halt before she can get to the meringue kisses.
'You, you fool,' hisses back Mrs Slocombe.
'Oh,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'She's not your beloved!' shouts Tango Pete from the box. 'She's my beloved!'
'Am I?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'To be honest, I rather thought I was your beloved,' and she turns and looks at Ptolemy Pheasant who is backing away from an advancing Phantomime.
'Me?' he says. 'Nah, our kid. I was just 'avin' a laff. Bit of a theatrical fling. Get it?'
Mrs Pumphrey looks momentarily shocked, then formidably livid.
'What do you mean 'theatrical fling?' And why have you gone all Scouse? I thought you were trained by the RSC?' she says.
'Yea,' says Ptolemy Pheasant. 'The Runcorn School of Catering.' And he shrugs his shoulders, or at least the part of his body where shoulders would be if pheasants had shoulders.
'Scoundrel! Mountebank!! Jackanapes!!!' shrieks Tango Pete, who is trying to climb over the edge of the box in order to reach the stage before he realises he is a bit high up.
'Oooh,' he says. 'It's a bit high up here, isn't it?'
'You fool!' shouts Mrs Bennet. 'You're a cockerel! You can fly!! Fly, you fool!!!'
'Oh yes!' shouts back Tango Pete. 'Of course!' And he stands on the edge of the box and launches himself into the air above the audience.
It's like Peter Pan meets Chicken Run! Tango Pete swoops onto the stage just as the Phantomime grabs Ptolemy Pheasant in an wing lock.
'Ouch! Ouch!!' shouts Ptolemy. 'Eh...leggo, will ya! I'm not after yer lass...'
And he manages a bit of a pathetic squirm just as Tango Pete lands a punch on his beak.
'Take that you...you...cad!' shouts Tango Pete. There is a scuffle as various members of the cast try to get between Tango Pete and Ptolemy - and in the confusion, the Phantomime grabs Mrs Pumphrey by the wing and drags her to the opposite side of the stage.
'Come with me, my love,' he coos. 'And together we shall rule the world!'
'Well,' says Mrs Pumphrey, deciding for the sake of decency that she ought to put up a bit of a fight, 'I don't quite see how THAT is going to work....' and then, as an after-thought, she shouts, 'Hayelp! Hayelp!!' in the style of Penelope Pitstop.
And when her delicate cry elicits no response she tries again.
'OI!!! I am being hen-knapped here!'
The stage falls silent and all faces turn just in time to see the Phantomime fling Mrs Pumphrey over his shoulder (no mean feat, I can tell you) and dash off stage towards the ladder that leads to the catwalk above the stage and in turn to a further ladder towards the roof.
'He's taking her onto the roof!' shouts Mrs Poo, who loves a good drama.
'But it's snowing up there!' shouts Mrs Slocombe. 'It's minus 5 degrees. They'll freeze!'
And so, as the Phantomime's evil 'mwahahahahahahaha!' leaves the building along with Mrs Pumphrey yelling, 'Put me down NOW!' and Tango Pete yelling, 'Gloria, hold on! I'm coming to save you!' and Ptolemy making coward noises as he exits stage right, pursued by a primary rodent mob, the rest of the cast and the audience dash from the warmth of the auditorium into the snow storm outside to watch the drama unfold on the roof like extreme origami.