Court Scene [Witness in Coffin / Cardinal Richelieu]

(Scene: A Courtroom with a Judge sitting where a Judge sits, and a prisoner in the dock.)

Judge: Mr Larch, you heard the case for the prosecution. Is there anything you wish to say before I pass sentence?

Prisoner: Well... I'd just like to say, m'lud, I've got a family... a wife and six kids... and I hope very much you don't have to takeaway my freedom... because... well, because m'lud freedom is a state much prized within the realm of civilized society. (slips into Olivier impression) It is a bond wherewith the savage man may charm the outward hatchments of his soul, and soothe the troubled breast into a magnitude of quiet. It is most precious as a blessed balm, the saviour of princes, the harbinger of happiness, yea, the very stuff and pith of all we hold most dear. What frees the prisoner in his lonely cell, chained within the bondage of rude walls, far from the owl of Thebes? What fires and stirs the woodcock in his springe or wakes the drowsy apricot betides? What goddess doth the storm toss'd mariner offer her most tempestuous prayers to? Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!

Judge: It's only a bloody parking offence.

(Counsel walks into court.)

Counsel: I'm sorry I'm late m'lud I couldn't find a kosher car park. Er... don't bother to recap m'lud, I'll pick it up as we go along. Call Mrs Fiona Lewis.

(Mrs Lewis walks into the court and gets up into the witness box.)

Clerk of the Court: Call Mrs Fiona Lewis.

Mrs. Lewis: (taking bible) I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so anyway, I said to her, I said, they can't afford that on what he earns, I mean for a start the feathers get up your nose, I ask you, four and six a pound, and him with a wooden leg, I don't know how she puts up with it after all the trouble she's had with her you-know-what, anyway it was a white wedding much to everyone's surprise, of course they bought everything on the hire purchase, I think they ought to send them back where they came from, I mean you've got to be cruel to be kind so Mrs Harris said, so she said, she said, she said, the dead crab she said, she said. Well, her sister's gone to Rhodesia what with her womb and all, and her youngest, her youngest as thin as a filing cabinet, and the goldfish, the goldfish they've got whooping cough they keep spitting water all over their Bratbys, well, they do don't they, I mean you can't, can you, I mean they're not even married or anything, they're not even divorced, and he's in the KGB if you ask me, he says he's a tree surgeon but I don't like the sound of his liver, all that squeaking and banging every night till the small hours, his mother's been much better since she had her head off, yes she has, I said, don't you talk to me about bladders, I said...

(While Mrs. Lewis was talking Counsel was trying to interupt and ask questions. Eventually he gives up and she is pushed out of court still talking.)

Judge: Mr Bartlett, I fail to see the relevance of your last witness.

Counsel: My next witness will explain that if m'ludship will allow. I call the late Arthur Aldridge.

Clerk of the Court: The late Arthur Aidridge.

Judge: The late Arthur Aldridge?

Counsel: Yes m'lud.

(A coffin is brought into the court and laid across the witness box.)

Judge: Mr Bartlett, do you think there is any relevance in questioning the deceased?

Counsel: I beg your pardon m'lud.

Judge: Well, I mean, your witness is dead.

Counsel: Yes, m'lud. Er, ,well, er, virtually, m'lud.

Judge: He's not completely dead?

Counsel: No he's not completely dead m'lud. No. But he's not at all well.

Judge: But if he's not dead, what's he doing in a coffin?

Counsel: Oh, it's purely a precaution m'lud - if I may continue? Mr Aldridge, you were a... you are a stockbroker of xo Savundra Close, Wimbledon. (from the coffin comes a bang) Mr Aldridge...

Judge: What was that knock?

Counsel: It means 'yes' m'lud. One knock for 'yes', and two knocks for 'no'. If I may continue? Mr Aldridge, would it be fair to say that you are not at all well? (from the coffin comes a bang) In fact Mr Aldridge, not to put too fine a point on it, would you be prepared to say that you are, as it were, what is generally known as, in a manner of speaking, 'dead'? (silence, counsel listens;) Mr Aldridge I put it to you that you are dead. (silence) Ah ha!

Judge: Where is all this leading us?

Counsel: That will become apparent in one moment m'lud. (walking over to coffin) Mr Aldridge are you considering the question or are you just dead? (silence) I think I'd better take a look m'lud. (he opens the coffin and looks inside) No further questions m'lud.

Judge: What do you mean, no further questions? You can't just dump a dead body in my court and say 'no further questions'. I demand an explanation.

Counsel: There are no easy answers in this case m'lud.

Judge: I think you haven't got the slightest idea what this case is about.

Counsel: M'lud the strange, damnable, almost diabolic threads of this extraordinary tangled web of intrigue will shortly m'lud reveal a plot so fiendish, so infernal, so heinous ...

Judge: Mr Bartlett, your client has already pleaded guilty to the parking offence.

Counsel: Parking offence, schmarking offence, m'lud. We must leave no stone unturned. Call Cardinal Richelieu.

Judge: Oh, you're just trying to string this case out. Cardinal Richelieu?

Counsel: A character witness m'lud.

(Fanfare of trumpets. Cardinal Richelieu enters witness box in beautiful robes.)

Cardinal: 'Allo everyone, it's wonderful to be 'ere y'know, I just love your country. London is so beautiful at this time of year.

Counsel: Er, you are Cardinal Armand du Piessis de Richelieu, First Minister of Louis XIII?

Cardinal: Oui.

Counsel: Cardinal, would it be fair to say that you not only built up the centralized monarchy in France but also perpetuated the religious schism in Europe?

Cardinal: (modestly) That's what they say.

Counsel: Did you persecute the Huguenots?

Cardinal: Oui.

Counsel: And did you take even sterner measures against the great Catholic nobles who made common cause with foreign foes in defence of their feudal independence?

Cardinal: I sure did that thing.

Counsel: Cardinal. Are you acquainted with the defendant, Harold Larch?

Cardinal: Since I was so high (indicated how high).

Counsel: Speaking as a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, as First Minister of Louis XIII, and as one of the architects of the modern world already - would you say that Harold Larch was a man of good character?

Cardinal: Listen. Harry is a very wonderful human being.

Counsel: M'lud. In view of the impeccable nature of this character witness may I plead for clemency.

Judge: Oh but it's only thirty shillings.

(Enter Inspector Dim.)

Dim: Not so fast!

Prisoner: Why not?

Dim: (momentarily thrown) None of your smart answers ... you think you're so clever. Well, I'm Dim.

(A caption appears on the screen 'DIM OF THE YARD')

Everyone: (in unison) Dim! Consternation! Uproar!

Dim: Yes, and I've a few questions I'd like to ask Cardinal so-called Richelieu.

Cardinal: Bonjour Monsieur Dim.

Dim: So-called Cardinal, I put it to you that you died in December 1642.

Cardinal: That is correct.

Dim: Ah ha! He fell for my little trap.

(Court applauds and the Cardinal looks dismayed.)

Cardinal: Curse you Inspector Dim. You are too clever for us naughty people.

Dim: And furthermore I suggest that you are none other than Ron Higgins, professional Cardinal Richelieu impersonator.

Cardinal: It's a fair cop.

Counsel: My you're clever Dim. He'd certainly taken me in.

Dim: It's all in a day's work.

Judge: With a brilliant mind like yours, Dim, you could be something other than a policeman.

Dim: Yes.

Judge: What?

(Piano starts playing.)

Dim: (singing)
If I were not in the CID
Something else I'd like to be
If I were not in the CID
A window cleaner, me!
With a rub-a-dub-dub and a scrub-a-dub-dub
And a rub-a-dub all day long
With a rub-a-dub-dub and a scrub-a-dub-dub
I'd sing this merry song!

(Dim mimes window cleaning movements in a sort of a dance routine. The rest of the court sings the chorus again with him. When they finish counsel enthusiastically takes over but this time the court all sit and watch him as though he has gone completely mad.)

Counsel: (Singing)
If I were not before the bar
Something else I'd like to be
If I were not a barr-is-ter
An engine driver me!
With a chuffchuffchuff etc.

(He makes engine miming movements. A few seconds he sees that the rest of the court are staring at him in amazement and he loses momentum rapidly. After he stops a knight in armour walks up to the counsel and hits him with a raw chicken.)

Continue to the next sketch... Bicycle Repairman