What About Dick?
A Comedy for Comedians
By Eric Idle
with Music and Lyrics by John Du Prez and Eric Idle
The play is narrated by a Piano (Eric Idle) which tells the story of Dick (Russell Brand) the undergraduate nephew of Aunt Maggie (Tracey Ullman) an amateur dipsomaniac and fan of The American Happy Boy, a new gadget which helps relieve female hysteria.
In a flashback Sergeant Ken Russell (Jim Piddock) of The Royal Scots Gays, a cross-dressing British regiment sent to guard the back passage to India, tells the story of a mysterious Piano found by Lord Darling (Tim Curry) on patrol in Shagistan in 1898 following the invention of a little rubber toy by Deepak Rushdie Obi Ben Kingsley (Eddie Izzard), which he predicts will make males sexually redundant and the Hudson Rubber Company a fortune.
On the eve of Drag Night, the head of the British Rubber Company is found murdered and partially chewed. During the Ball the British are attacked and massacred by the Shagnasties, leaving only three survivors: Deepak, the Piano and Sgt Russell who has been entrusted with a last request from Lord Darling, but who, in the violent confusion of the battle, has lost his memory and forgotten what he promised.
Meanwhile in England in 1910 the Reverend Whoopsie (Tim Curry) finds the very same Piano on a beach in Norfolk and decides to give it to The Working Classes, whom he adores. Next night a very handsome working class boy, Leonard Bastard, (Russell Brand) though a useless pianist, wins the piano, much to the annoyance of Dick’s cousin Helena (Sophie Winkleman), who steals the Piano by diverting the delivery cart to Kensington.
Pursued by Lennie and Enid (Tracey Ullman) his awful wedded wife, The Bastards demand the return of the Piano. Enid recognises Henry Hudson (Eddie Izzard), a married Rubber Ware Salesman whom Helena’s sister Emma (Jane Leeves) is in love with. In an unfortunate scene Enid reveals she is an Ass Reader, and in a touching duet with Lennie, they sing of the great benefits of Ass-trology.
The Police arrive in the person of Inspector McGuffin (Billy Connolly) a virtually incomprehensible Scottish sleuth, who demands the return of the Piano. As a favour to Emma, Henry Hudson hides the Piano by sending it to Trevor Howard’s End, his country cottage in Norfolk, and offering Leonard Bastard a job in his accountancy department. He invites Emma for the weekend but next day she is surprised on the train by Whoopsie, Aunt Maggie, Helena and Dick who have all come along to chaperone her. Despite this, Emma is intimate with Mr Hudson, but sadly they are interrupted by his wife dying loudly, something we learn she does every day.
The visitors pass an idyllic afternoon in the countryside, Mr. Hudson poisoning rats, Helena playing the Piano while the others take walks and look at the farm machinery, until Dick is discovered missing. Still absent at Dinner time they wonder whether to call the Police when Inspector McGuffin arrives accusing Helena of stealing the Piano. Leonard Bastard arrives in the nick of time to say he has given Helena the Piano in gratitude for the job she has arranged. In a Scottish musical interlude Inspector McGuffin sings an incomprehensible Scottish ballad about a Lonely Trout, before being asked to get on with it. He reveals that Dick has been attacked in the woods and is in a coma and cannot speak. He may remain in his coma for months. Whoopsie says there is only one thing to do: they must all go to Italy at once….
After a song about Italia! they arrive in Florence at the Pensione Berlusconi to be welcomed by Signor Berlusconi (Eddie Izzard) who gives them a room with no view and is extremely rude to the Piano movers (Jim Piddock and Eric Idle). Helena is excited by the arrival of her Piano, and the sudden appearance of Leonard Bastard, who has walked all the way to Italy to see her. Shockingly they begin to play a duet, a married man of the working classes playing unchaperoned Beethoven in public with a young unmarried middle class girl, to the scandal and chagrin of Whoopsie and Aunt Maggie. Obviously they must all come home at once.
Meanwhile Hudson reveals to Emma that his wife is really dead, accidentally poisoned by rat poison, the Rubber Company is bankrupt thanks to Leonard Bastard speculating against the price of rubber, and he must leave immediately to become a Butler in the West Country. Since he has given her an Emotion, Emma (Jane Leeves) decides to join him as a Housekeeper.
Dick recovers his memory when it is learned that Aunt Maggie is his mother by Lord Darling, and they hasten to find the Ass Reader, only to find too late she has been murdered by the Houndsditch Mutilator.
At Darling Hall, Lord Darling announces to Hudson, now his Butler, that there is to be a Nazi Party that weekend. The Countess von Kunst (Tracey Ullman) arrives and demands a Piano. Hudson is surprised by the sudden arrival of the Piano, and the appearance of Deepak and the others. The Countess is about to sing a Nazi song when Inspector McGuffin arrives to arrest Hudson for mass murder. Emma is pregnant, the Butler is hanged, Lennie and Helena are married and have lots of little Bastards while the Piano is bought by Elton John and plays on his greatest hit, which in conclusion they now all sing. So the play ends, if not well, at least finally…