Awaking Beauty: Concept

Within the Ayckbourn Archive, there is an early concept for the plot of Awaking Beauty. It is reproduced on this page and demonstrates how close to the final play, Alan's initial idea was. Although there are occasional fine-tuning (the witch becomes Carabosse, the Pig becomes the Pigcutter amongst several small changes), the through-plot and action mirrors very closely what the playwright wrote in the actual script. The major change is the play's title is not mentioned and the document is instead titled 'Witchy'.

This is a children’s musical play for adults.

It starts with the Storyteller (one of the Chorus, who will through the action rotate or share this role) in traditional storyteller’s costume about to relate the end of
The Sleeping Beauty. Welcome back. Giving the audience the impression that they’ve missed the first half.

The Prince is hacking his way through the undergrowth to exciting (if traditional) underscore cursing and swearing and he cuts himself on the brambles in a definitely un-traditional manner. As he does this, the Witch appears enjoying the sight of yet another suitor cutting himself to death. She cackles. A sound we are to hear a lot more of, before our story is told.

This time the Prince makes it to the castle, though. Beauty appears, asleep on her bed where she has lain for 100 years. The Prince awakens her with a kiss. They embrace. The Witch watches them, at first disgusted by this sentimental scene, then intrigued as the story continues past its ‘happily ever after’ usual fade out, as the couple start to get undressed and prepare to get down to it. Before they do so, the Princess excuses herself. After 100 years she’s in urgent need of the bathroom. The Prince is alone. The Witch, in a fit of spite, decides to take the Beauty’s place, planning only to reveal her true identity once they have made love. Imagine the Prince’s face when he discovers who he has been making love with. She fixes the bathroom lock so that Beauty is trapped inside and, disguising herself as Beauty, she makes love to the Prince. Afterwards, before she can reveal her true identity. The Prince falls asleep, leaving the Witch, like so many women before her, to lie awake alone in the dark.

But something magic has happened to the witch - not just traditional witch’s magic, though - this time real magic. She has fallen in love. But now she is in a dilemma. The sleeping Prince, who she suspects has also fallen in love, (at least that’s what he told her just before he nodded off). But is he in love with the Princess or someone who he thinks is the princess, not with her, the Witch? And the Witch, like any woman, wants to be loved for herself (warts and all).

Maybe, reasons the Witch, when the Prince awakes he’ll see through her ugly exterior to the real beauty inside. Poor Witch, how little she knows about men. She wakes the Prince. He sees her and screams in shock. He jumps out of bed with the sheet round him and grabs his sword determined to kill the monster he has discovered sleeping beside him. The Witch tries to reassure him. He refuses to be wooed. She reminds him of the night of passion they have both shared. He refuses to believe her. She reminds him of the vows of love he made to her in the dark. He denies he made any. In despair, her heart on the point of breaking, she resorts to pleading. Finally when she realises he will have none of her, she resorts to magic again. She casts a spell so he falls in love with her as she is, although in his eyes she has reverted to the image of Beauty. The Prince succumbs to this mixture of magic and illusion. And they both, concludes the story teller, lived happily for some time.

We move forward several years. The storyteller has changed to a more modern image. The Witch and the Prince now live together in her castle. In reality a damp filthy cave with dripping walls and a vile stench but, because of the spell the Prince is still under, it all appears sweetness and light to him. He is blissfully happy. The only other resident is the Witch’s familiar, the Pig. In reality a woodcutter who was secretly in love with her and whom she bewitched for trying to eat her house (it was meant for luring children). The Prince, in his rose coloured world, sees not a pig but a stallion.

For the Witch, though, their relationship is less than satisfactory. She finds the Prince to be a virtual zombie with no free will at all. He doesn’t, concludes the Witch, really and truly love her at all. She is fast learning about love in that no-one can be forced to love someone no matter how strong the spell. She questions the Prince about the depth of his love for her. His answers are unconvincing. Gone is the dashing fiery lover she first fell in love with. In his place a docile sponge. The Witch resolves to take drastic action. She seeks help.

She visits the Chief of all Witches and Wizards. This incredibly wise Wizard advises her that if she really has fallen in love, it is a spell she cannot fight. She must surrender to it and try to win the Prince by honest means. This entails giving up all her magic powers and becoming an ordinary mortal. The Witch, despite his warnings of the consequences, reluctantly agrees. He takes away her powers, telling her she will only regain them when her heart finally melts. The Wizard watches her leave, a mysterious look on his face. He has plans for the Witch, it seems.

Now reduced to sad ugly mortality, the Witch returns home to find the Prince staring in horror at his now un-enchanted surroundings. He sees the Witch, as her normal ugly self and reacts as before. She tries to restrain him by magic, but he rushes out leaving her alone with just the pig, who has not, for some reason, changed back to his former woodcutter’s form. He pleads with the Witch to change him back declaring that he loves her but she scorns him. She won’t agree even if she could. Later, she says, when my heart has been melted by love I might consider releasing you but for now you must remain here. For the Witch has determined to win the Prince’s heart by fair means, but first, she must do something about herself and her own appearance. She stares in the mirror, usually a reliable guide to her beauty but deprived of its magic, it shatters. She lifts a rock and gathers her hoard of gold which she had been saving for a rainy day. Brushing the Pig’s protests aside, the Witch sets off to the City.

The Witch arrives in town. She is shunned by the townsfolk as she is so unattractive. She seeks an appointment with the image consultant. She sits in the waiting room. With her green face and pointed nose and even more pointed hat she is an incongruous figure. The consultant is appalled. Yes, she says, she can help, but it will cost a fortune. All the Witch’s gold. There follows a sequence with plastic surgeons, skin specialists, speech therapists (she must lose that awful unattractive laugh!) hair stylists, makeover experts to advise on clothes. The hat is the last thing she relinquishes.

During this we cut away to the Prince who has, in the meantime, found Beauty - the love of his life - blissfully married her and the happy couple are now expecting their first child.

We also visit the Pig, who is rediscovering his former woodcutting skills and is busily transforming the Witch’s cave, chopping down forest trees and building knotty pine fitted units and fitted wood panelling. A bit of a DIY man is the Pig.

The Witch in the meantime is transformed into a stunning Beauty. Thanks to all the standard beauty ‘magic’ products. Not exactly
au naturelle perhaps, indeed an expressionless, botoxed, stiff limbed clockwork doll. But indoubtedly beautiful. Men, declare the beauticians, will swarm all over her, she is now truly irresistible. Indeed when the Witch steps out people, especially the men, do turn to stare at her admiringly thanks to her perfect features, svelte figure and large breasts. The Witch has only one man in mind, though, and sets out to find the Prince, who now lives with his wife in a modest home in the suburbs. He now has several children and is rather tubby. He is more or less living happily ever after, though it does get a bit boring at weekends when he and his wife find themselves together, both home from work. The Prince has the signs of a 7 year itch.

The Witch contrives to seduce the Prince away from this domestic paradise. She meets the Prince ‘accidentally’ at his work place. He totally fails to recognise her and predictably he falls for her. They start an affair but the Witch soon finds herself an ‘other woman’, which wasn’t at all what she had in mind. Moreover she soon finds the Prince is also growing unhappy, torn between two women. The Witch decides to tackle the wife and visits the Prince’s home. Mrs Prince is, of course Beauty, now older and, like her husband, slightly dumpier and surrounded by children. She is nonetheless still attractive, gentle and natural. Beauty doesn’t recognise the Witch either. The Witch, posing as an apple marketing board consultant, has come initially with the intention of doing Beauty harm. She is researching and has brought samples (the old ways are the best and, of course, no magic required!) The Witch dissembles at first but soon realises how much Beauty loves her husband and how unhappy she is becoming, sensing she is losing him to another. She pours her heart out to the Witch. The Witch recognises that this is indeed true love and that she has no place here. As the Prince arrives back through the front door ('I’m home, dear!') the Witch leaves quietly by the back door before the wife can introduce her to her husband. The Witch watches secretly through the window as the couple make up their differences and resolve to live happily ever after.

She returns home, sad and powerless. The Pig is still there waiting for her to admire his handiwork and waiting eagerly to be changed back as she had promised he would be. She says she can’t. She has failed to find true love. She bursts into tears. The Pig watches amazed. The Witch discovers that her tears, the first she has ever shed, are a sign that her heart has melted. The Pig transforms to his original self. The transformation is not that spectacular, not much of an improvement at all, they both agree on that. The Woodcutter declares he’s still in love with her despite the changes in her appearance and he will go to the city and try to to improve his image, too, in order that she might fall in love with him. Don’t bother says the Witch, I will learn to love you as you are. They both also live happily ever after.

The End.

The Prince
The Witch
The Pig, formerly a Woodcutter, the Witch’s familiar and secretly in love with her.

The All Singing, All Dancing Chorus of 6 – playing Storytellers, Brambles, Beauticians, Wizards, Villagers etc. and whatever else comes along. Also providing incidental music, songs & sound effects.
Also double as:-
Beauticians, Wizards, Image Consultants etc.



Maybe the principals shouldn’t sing at all but when the underscore is evident, they speak in verse? The verses would in general be written first and the music set to echo them rhythmically, a la Rex Harrison.

There will be songs but they will be sung by the chorus, either as solos or in groups. The songs will often reflect the thoughts of the characters. The music will have words only when the live action is mute and vice versa.

Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Do not reproduce without permission.