The Elusive Tony Maloney by Bill Ayers from Arnold Bennett

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent

The most unlikely complications ensue, when a famous artist adopts the persona of his most likely dead valet, to escape his most unlikable, unwanted, unwelcome celebrity status

CHARACTERS eleven, ten with one doubling

TONY MALONEY 40s, Illustrious Painter, eccentric, would-be-hermit

EGBERT YOKE 40s, Tony's Valet with chequered past page

Dr DUNSNIPS 40s, self-importance doesn’t help him

Dr PRUDENCE 40, wayward, knows her stuff

JANET CANNOT 40, Marriage Applicant, wise, philosophical

RONNY MALONEY 40s, Tony's Cousin, City Auctioneer, axe to grind

OLGA VOLGA 40s, Marriage Applicant (may double with Mrs Egbert Yoke)

HONORIA 30s, dazzled by art not human nature, has high pitched giggle

Mrs BAGSHAW 50s, Art Collector, diplomatic

Mrs EGBERT YOKE 40s, Deserted wife with veil (may double with Olga)

LORD LANYARD 50s, Art Collector, dabbles in amusements

US rostrum the width of the set, one or two steps high doorway in rear flat/wall, masked behind by an appropriate sized flat, 1 metre DS parallel to the apron, for access L and R in two hotel scenes door R to off stage hall and front door, left open for faster exits and entrances SET floorplan end of play -

four seater (minimum three) sofa, for hiding three characters at the same time a table on its own, folded newspaper pre-set on it three chairs, none matching one easychair

A curtain on L wall, is pulled back/opened to one end of a curtain rod in apartment scenes, and drawn/closed in hotel scenes; ACT ONE scenes three and four, to look like a window


LIGHTS: FADE UP summer day

Egbert YOKE is reclining on sofa, dressed in a white, old fashioned neck-to-ankles night-gown/nightshirt and nightcap, with an old overcoat drawn over his legs A light purple dressing-gown is thrown across a chair

SOUND or NOISES OFF: Someone off R, closes the (unseen) front door

Enter Tony MALONEY door R hurriedly, wearing trousers and shirt sleeves

MALONEY: (Breathless) I don’t think anyone saw me.
Yoke tries to sit up, but his whole body resists, and he lies back

YOKE: (Feebly) Is that you?
As he speaks, Maloney drapes dressing-gown over Yoke, then dons Yoke’s old overcoat

MALONEY: At least, I hope they didn’t. I was rather quick.

YOKE: Rather quick.

MALONEY: I found a red lamp only three doors off.

YOKE: Found a --?

MALONEY: Yes, I did.

YOKE: Did you say --?

MALONEY: He'll be along in half a minute. What?

Yoke makes another attempt to sit up

YOKE: You say what, Argh.

MALONEY: Please, try to rest.

YOKE: Ah, say what’s wrong?

MALONEY: How could I say, when I don't know? I simply said there was a fellow-creature suffering, and would he come at once.

YOKE: To where?

MALONEY: I said ‘a hundred and twenty-six’, and ran off. Then he yelled out after me that he'd come instantly, and bring another doctor. I say, Yoke, I bet the entire street now knows that the celebrated ‘Me’ is here, and actually, you know, accessible, to them! I feel like a criminal already, dashed if I don't! (Walks about) I wish we'd gone to a hotel now.

YOKE: Did he hear?

MALONEY: No, why would he?

YOKE: One hundred and twenty-six?

MALONEY: I don’t know. He might be deaf.

YOKE: Locked up for years.

MALONEY: Oh, Tosh and such a lot of it. You make me sound like Miss Havisham.

YOKE: I wish I could laugh.

MALONEY: The idea of me as Miss Havisham?

YOKE: Locked up.

MALONEY: Keeps the vultures out.

YOKE: My mouth feels locked.

MALONEY: Now, what shall we do with you?

YOKE: I, did you know?


YOKE: I have had a go.

MALONEY: You have had a go?

YOKE: At it myself.

MALONEY: You have? Not to worry. And look here, old chap, there’s no call for that, it’s not really all over, you know; there is no cause for confessions.

YOKE: Talk, can’t. I feel like my --

MALONEY: Feel like my what?

YOKE: My jaw, um, locked up.

MALONEY: Locked up? Like the house. Really, Yoke, I am the one with the imagination. All you have to do, is what I tell you.

YOKE: I feel stiff.

MALONEY: I didn’t tell you to do that.

YOKE: I will never, um, paint.

MALONEY: Paint?!

YOKE: My masterpiece.

MALONEY: You had better pull yourself together, man, I am the painter. I am the Painter!

YOKE: Would you look, one or two?

MALONEY: You are becoming incoherent, I fear.

YOKE: Who is what?

MALONEY: You, my dear chap.

YOKE: Did someone call?

MALONEY: Just me. Well, now, do you think you could work your way, to get to the bed?

YOKE: Oh, not the bed!

MALONEY: Come now, no reason to let that upset you.

YOKE: But the bed!

MALONEY: Better there than here.

YOKE: But that is your bed!

MALONEY: Of course it is. (Genially bullying) Keep on in that tone, and you can work your way out the front door. Now then, try, before these doctors come.

SOUND: front door bell rings

YOKE: Too late. (Tries to get up) Excuse me, I’ll attend to --

MALONEY: (Restrains him) Confound you, stay put.
Exit Maloney door R Yoke sits up, tries to stand, but the rigidity is too much, and he falls back across the arm of the sofa, in a dramatic position, as if dead Enter Dr DUNSNIPS door R Enter Maloney door R

DUNSNIPS: (Sees Yoke) Good Grief! Too late! (Goes to Yoke, yells too loudly) Can you hear me?
Yoke sits up like a stiff, pop up toy and calls out

YOKE: Help!

DUNSNIPS: Ah, you are still with us. That’s a good start.
YOKE: Is it?

DUNSNIPS: Yes, time has more value when it seems like the end, as you would well know.

YOKE: Thank you, sir.

Yoke flops back and lies very still Dunsnips takes thermometer from his pocket, wipes it with marked respect

DUNSNIPS: Allow me, sir, to put this under your tongue for half a minute. I must say, you looked ‘a goner’ when I came in just now, and we can’t have that, can we?
YOKE: Can we?

DUNSNIPS: (Jolly) My jolly word no!
MALONEY: So glad to hear it.

DUNSNIPS: Of course. (Turns to Maloney, in low curt voice) When did this begin? You must have seen how far he had gone.

MALONEY: Just now. That is, he began to complain a few hours ago. We arrived in London this morning from Madrid. And there’s no call for you to make any inferences.

DUNSNIPS: I have no time for subtleties.

Dunsnips feels Yoke's arms and stomach, then takes Yoke's wrist and, looking at his watch, counts the pulse

MALONEY: You like to call a shovel a, ah, what do you call it?

DUNSNIPS: A spade. Mmm, he seems to be asleep. Does he do any exercise?

MALONEY: Never. Oh, other than answering the door. But, nobody calls here.

DUNSNIPS: His body is hard, strong like an athlete. (Reading thermometer) Temperature. Oh dear, oh dear. And his pulse. Oh, no, and weak. I must have some boiling water.

MALONEY: What for?

DUNSNIPS: What for?

MALONEY: He’s not in labour.

DUNSNIPS: Are you daft?

MALONEY: No, nothing wrong with my ears.

DUNSNIPS: Nothing right with any part of you, by the sound of it. No wonder this poor artistic soul is on the way out.

MALONEY: I say, do you talk like this about all your patients?

DUNSNIPS: (Exasperated) I’m talking about the effect of your servitude on your master, you dolt!
Dunsnips drops Yoke’s wrist, which stays in the air They both go to turn away, so they can both do a double take to look at suspended arm Then they both have cause to look at each other Maloney considers the situation, moves slowly, cautiously to push Yoke’s arm down Dunsnips realises he has behaved badly

DUNSNIPS: Er, I was, er, trying to explain that the boiling water was for a poultice. Now, where is the woman of the house?

MALONEY: Woman? Not here.

DUNSNIPS: Not one?! (Controlling his exasperation) Every house should have at least one. Is it any wonder the place has been shut up these many years. Never mind. I'll run round to the surgery and get my hypodermic. (To Yoke courteously) I shall be back at once, Mr

Maloney. And you! (To Maloney curtly) Keep your master well covered. I suppose you can do that?

Exit Dunsnips door R

MALONEY: Oh, Yoke, that poor fellow takes you for me; you, as the illustrious Tony Maloney. This is what comes of me rushing about in public, in shirt sleeves. Those rumours about this place always being closed and people having to guess who lives here. (Gesture of despair) I can't explain it to him. And, I wonder, yes, now I wonder, if this is a chance for me to be in-cog-nito? How I have dreamed of such bliss.

YOKE: (Stirring) Did you speak, sir?

MALONEY: It's all right. And you'll be infinitely better looked after because they think you are me. That’s why you will have two doctors. Also, as you, I shall be saved from the infernal curiosity of the public and the press.

YOKE: (Very weak) I was expecting a young lady to-night, sir.

MALONEY: Yoke, I've always suspected you were a bad lot. Now I know why you were so devilish anxious to put me to bed early. What am I to say to this young lady on your behalf?
Yoke is worse, too ill to answer

Enter Dunsnips door R, with large tumbler half-full of brandy

DUNSNIPS: You may say I've been quick. (As he bends down to Yoke, addressing Maloney) Get me a glass of clean cold water. (To Yoke) Now, please, Mr Maloney, I want you to drink a little brandy.
When Yoke makes no response, Dunsnips feels Yoke’s arm, and his stomach

DUNSNIPS: By Jove! (To Maloney dramatically) What have you done?!

MALONEY: Just a little chat.

DUNSNIPS: Are you up to no good? He’s grown so hard, so drastically all over, in the short time I was away. Drastic measures are called for.
Dunsnips pours some of the brandy down Yoke's throat Yoke splutters as a result, and one leg flies up at an angle

MALONEY: There! You think I did that?
Dunsnips, dumfounded, scratches his head, surveys Yoke from different angles

MALONEY: He never really cared much for alcohol.

DUNSNIPS: An artist who did not fancy a drop? That’s odd.

MALONEY: I hope the next doctor knows what he’s doing.
Dunsnips puts one hand on Yoke’s leg, but has to use both to force the leg down

MALONEY: (Indicating syringe) What are you giving him?

DUNSNIPS: I'm going to get some strychnine into him by injection.
Dunsnips shakes the syringe to make the injection, on the top side of the patient's forearm

MALONEY: Might I ask what's the matter with him?

DUNSNIPS: (Too quickly) Pneumonia is the matter.
NOISES OFF: Someone moving about in the hall

MALONEY: (Startled) Surely, that's someone in the hall.

DUNSNIPS: It's my colleague arriving with poultice and things, no need for you to attend. I left the door open on purpose for her.

MALONEY: Left the door open!

DUNSNIPS: Steady, you fool. (Calling) Come along, Prudence, this way. Where's the bedroom?

MALONEY: (Pointing to US) There's one there.
Maloney moves to door R, to check the front door Enter Dr PRUDENCE door R with poultice, lint, bandages They almost bump into each other

MALONEY: (Well pleased) Oh, I say, you’re a doctor?
Maloney moves slowly aside, and watches Prudence as he passes and exits door R

DUNSNIPS: (To Prudence) You found the antiphlogistine?


DUNSNIPS: We'll get him into bed now.
Enter Maloney door R

DUNSNIPS: (To Maloney) Bed ready?

MALONEY: Ready? Yes, I think he has made it up, he always does.

DUNSNIPS: (Startled) Does he make up his own bed?

MALONEY: (Perceiving mistake, resuming calm) Always. He insists, you see. He can be very … obstinate.

DUNSNIPS: A real eccentric artist, eh? Yes, all right. Now, we must get him to bed. Let’s see --
Dunsnips looks at Maloney, bites his lip

MALONEY: Can I do anything?

DUNSNIPS: (Indicating chair furthest away) You see that chair?
MALONEY: I see it.

DUNSNIPS: Go and sit on it. (To Prudence) All right.
Maloney moves, sits on closer chair Dunsnips and Prudence lift and carry the inanimate form of Yoke toward US bedroom They have to pass behind sofa, where they accidently drop him (Onto pre-set cushions etc)
NOISES OFF: Heavy thump (Supplied backstage as close as possible to body behind sofa)

DUNSNIPS: Argh! Damnit! My toe!
Dunsnips dances on one foot around to the front of the sofa, sits there holding his foot Prudence has stooped behind sofa to examine the patient

PRUDENCE: (Behind sofa) I don’t believe it.
Dunsnips rises, limps to behind the sofa Maloney rises from chair, hovers about uselessly, then sits on furthest chair

PRUDENCE: (Behind sofa) He can’t feel a thing. But he seems awake and, uh, not aware of anything.

DUNSNIPS: (Behind sofa) Impervious to pain. Do you think that perhaps artists really are different after all?

PRUDENCE: (Behind sofa) Not physically.

DUNSNIPS: (Behind sofa) We best not move him until we decide what to do next.
SOUND: Front door bell rings twice

Maloney pays no attention, then rises and sits on another chair Enter JANET Cannot door R Maloney sees her, jumps up, but is inarticulate, though favourably interested

JANET: (Smiling) I ‘ave rang twice.

MALONEY: The bell must be out of order.

JANET: I don't think it's the bell that's out of order.

MALONEY: Oh! You think I'm out of order.

JANET: Oh, no. (Looks to fourth wall) Well, this wall looks like a pickchars gallery.

MALONEY: Oh, just a few.
Janet steps back US, looking at fourth wall, in an attempt to find something nice to say Dunsnips and Prudence sit up to look at Janet over the sofa back, then look at each other They lower their eyes to the body of Yoke, and decide to lower themselves out of sight Maloney watches Janet’s reaction to his paintings

JANET: There’s one or two, well, very nice ones. That one with the cat, yes.

MALONEY: I have never painted a cat in my life.

JANET: Well, ‘ere’s a bit of fluff what snuck in. (Pause) You got a lot ‘ere and that’s a fact.

MALONEY: There are many more all over the world.

JANET: Fancy. That’s a long way from Putney. I don't know about that sort of thing.

MALONEY: What sort of thing?

JANET: Pickchar-paintin’. I mean real pickchars done by han’, with colourin’ in.

MALONEY: Ah, yes.

JANET: It struck me all of a sudden, while I was waitin’ at the door, that it might ‘ave been left open on purpose.

MALONEY: The front door? Open?! On purpose? What for?

JANET: Oh, for someone particular to step in without any fuss. So I stepped in.

MALONEY: Are you the young lady that Mr Yoke's expecting? (Starts toward door R)

JANET: (Stopping him) It's shut now. You don't want everybody walkin’ in, do you?

MALONEY: I don’t want anyone walking in. Absolutely not, nobody should walk in. Although (Looking at Janet with pleasure) So, you're the young lady; Mrs, Miss?

Script Finder

Male Roles:

Female Roles:

Browse Library

About Stageplays

Stageplays offers you the largest collection of Plays & Musicals in the world.

Based in the UK and the USA, we’ve been serving the online theatre community since the last century. We’re primarily a family-run business and several of us also work in professional theatre.

But we’re all passionate about theatre and we all work hard to share that passion with you and the world’s online community.

Subscribe to our theatre newsletter

We'll email you regular details of new plays and half-price special offers on a broad range of theatre titles.


We can deliver any play in print to any country in the world - and we ship from both the US and the UK.

© 2010 - 2024 Stageplays, Inc.