Well! What's to be done? I'm just as confused as you are about Camilla's disappearence especially as there was an egg in the pod first thing this morning and it can't be a Primrose egg because she has stopped laying in order to moult. And, to make matters worse, and I kid you not, dear readers, I actually dreamt about the Phantomime last night! The sign of a genius writer's brain, or the sign of a mad woman? I'll let you decide. Either way I have no idea how this is going to pan out, but we'll soldier on and see what happens in the world commonly known as 'Winging It.'
So, it has all kicked off here. No Camilla, no Alice Fitzwarren. Mrs Miggins is holding out against the demands of the Phantomime and, having read the letter he sent a-fluttering from his box into the auditorium I don't blame her.
This is what he wants (and we all know what 'I want' gets, don't we?):
1) root vegetable crisps, Earl Grey tea and a slice of lemon meringue pie to be placed in his box every evening of the performance
2) a 'Myths 'n' Legends' colouring book with selection of fine liner colouring pens to keep him entertained during the interval
3) the audience to stay put at the end of the performance for a minimum of 15 minutes in order that he can vacate his box in secret, thus maintaining his air of mystical legend
4) a shi-tzu (???)
5) a foot spa
6) a new silk top hat and matching cane in case he decides to entertain the audience from his box with the song and dance routines of Fred and Ginger - with Mrs Pumphrey to take the role of Ginger, of course, even though Camilla would be more suitable because she actually IS ginger.
And that's it. Well, the printable demands anyway.
'I am NOT giving in,' says Mrs Miggins when the rest of the cast petition her in unison for the safe return of Camilla. 'Camilla is a resourceful hen - she will find a way to escape the Phantomime, if he ACTUALLY exists, that is, the fact of which I remain highly dubious.'
The voice of reason, Mrs Bennet, steps forward. 'I know one shouldn't give way to bullies of any kind,' she says. 'But, well, it's only a pantomime and Mrs Pumphrey is more than capable of playing the role of Alice. It's only one performance and then we can brick up the doors of the Trompe L'Oeil and never face this kind of trouble again.'
'Or we could cancel the performance altogether and rampage through the theatre like pirates until we find Camilla, then we can rescue her and beat up the Phantomime and run for the hills,' suggests Mrs Poo, who needs little excuse to cause a ruckus.
'No!' says Mrs Miggins.
Mrs Bennet sighs. 'My dear Laetitia,' she says. 'We are old friends, you and I. We are the original Malarkey hens. And so it pains me to do this but I am taking charge of this pantomime performance and you...' and she tips a nod to Mrs Poo and Mrs Slocombe, 'are going into the cupboard.'
And suddenly, Miggins finds herself rugby tackled to the ground by a mass of hens and bundled unceremoniously into the props cupboard. 'Don't worry!' shouts Mrs Bennet, as Mrs Miggins beats her wings against the locked door and sallies forth with some very unladylike expletives, 'we shall post pizza under the door. You won't starve. It's only for a couple of hours. And now,' and she turns to the cast who are torn between cheering and feeling a bit sorry for Mrs M, 'Mrs Pumphrey, you are Alice Fitzwarren. Are you up for it?'
Mrs Pumphrey nods. 'I'll say!' she says,'if 'up for it' means I can do some theatrical schmoozing with Ptolemy Pheasant aka Dick Whittington.'
'Schmooze away,' says Mrs Bennet.
'@!!**! **+@"!?!' shouts Mrs Miggins from inside the cupboard.
Mrs Bennet checks her watch. 'We have an hour until curtain up,' she says. 'I shall manage front of house and start letting the audience in. Mrs Slocombe, will you see to it that the demands of the Phantomime are met? He'll arrive in his box 10 minutes before curtain up and all must be ready if we are to see Camilla safe again amongst our flock.' (That's a hen flock, by the way, and not a religious flock, just in case you were wondering.)
'I don't think we have any root vegetable crisps,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'There's a bowl of pot pourri on the sideboard by the front door,' says Mrs Bennet. 'Give him that. He'll never notice.'
And so the cast of 'Puss 'n' Boots' springs to life in a scurry and a flurry and a hustle and a bustle and Mrs Miggins is left to fume in the props cupboard with a sunblush tomato and mozzarella pizza.
For, as all us theatrical-types know, 'The Show Must Go On!'
And up in the gods, the Phantomime looks down on the happenings below, rubs together his hands (well, oven mitts - he's been making mince pies and they're just about baked) and smiles. 'Ah,' he says, 'so at last insanity prevails. And Madame Pumphrey shall be the Alice to my Dick! Mwhahahahahahahaha...HA!'