King Arthur and the Challenge: Lyrics

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Real men

ARTHUR:I'm Arthur, I'm the King of all the people round about.
And if you don't know who I am,
you'd better just watch out!  I'm a
ALL:Real man, Real man,
ARTHUR:I'm the one on top.  I'm a
ALL:Real man, Real man,
ARTHUR:Pick a fight with me and down you drop!
LANCELOT:I'm Lancelot, I prance a lot upon my noble steed.
I charge around the country
till I'm very tired indeed.  I'm a
ALL:Real man, Real man,
LANCELOT:I don't mind the pain.  I'm a
ALL:Real man, Real man,
LANCELOT:Wash me down and off I go again!
ALL:We are the Knights of the Round Table.
That's what the girls adore.
We'd keep the peace if we were able,
But since we're not, we keep the war.
During the fanfare some of the Knights fight while others cheer them on.  Merlin enters, making mystic passes over a crystal ball.
MERLIN:I'm Merlin, I'm a wizard and I spend my time indoors.
I hate the thought of riding and I never fight in wars.
ALL:Weird man, Weird man.
MERLIN:That's what people say.
ALL:Weird man, Weird man.
MERLIN:Just because I won't go out and play.
Merlin shakes his head dismissively and exits, studying the crystal ball.
ALL:So now you've heard about us and we eagerly confess
That you may call upon us if you're ever in distress,
'cos we're Real men, Real men, ready for a quest.
Yes we're Real men, Real men.
If you need a hero, we're the best.
We are the Knights of the Round Table.
That's what the girls adore.
We'd keep the peace if we were able,
But since we're not, we keep the war.
Again during the fanfare some of the Knights fight while others cheer them on.
Yes we're real men, real men.  We don't need a brain,
'cos we're Real men, Real men.
If you like we'll sing it all again!  (shouted) Real men!

What can we do?

LADIES:It's enough to make you scream but what can we do?
What can we do? Nothing.
When the men go hunting in the woods all day,
Don't they know we need a holiday?
We'd be happy to rest a moment or two,
but what can we do?
GUINEVERE:Every time I complain — in my sweetest tone
that the castle's cold and it's draughty
I am told that the cold is a healthy breeze:
It's just one of life's little joys.
He doesn't care that I could freeze
While he's out playing games with the boys.
Then he talks for hours about the fights he's won,
And he goes through every battle blow by blow.
But he never asks what I have done,
'cos he doesn't want to know.
VIVIEN:Now my dad was afraid I would turn out bad,
so he locked me up in his castle.
When a knight came along and he rescued me,
I thought I'd be happy for life.
But just as soon as we were wed,
He forgot what is due to a wife.
For he says his mission is to rescue maids,
And I think he's up to number fifty-three.
Then his passion cools and quickly fades,
and he never thinks of me.
HILDEGARD:You can see by the way that they look at me
that they think I'm just an old woman.
Now my husband is dead, I'm a nobody.
My face is as lined as a map.
But I can still remember them,
When they played with their toys on my lap.
Yes I taught them plenty in their childhood days,
And they came to me when they were feeling sad.
Such a pity it's a passing phase.  Yes it really is too bad.

Morgan le Fay

MORGAN LE FAY:My name is Morgan le Fay.
You're lucky to meet me today.
You just need a shot at improving your lot,
and I know I can show you the way.  (Evil laugh)
I'm a woman who understands men,
and the little games they play.
If they ever try to cross me,
they're no match for Morgan le Fay!
I'm the master, and they are the slaves.
I'm the one who makes the rules.
I see them as they really are —
Just a sorry bunch of fools.
Now I wouldn't like to give the impression that I
don't like men.  They're fun for a while.
With their strong right arms and their naïve charms,
They just make me smile.  (Sweet sigh) Aaaaah.
But I'm the one in charge of my destiny,
Not my current man.
I use them when I need them.
That's just the way I am.
She's a woman who understands men,
and the little games they play.
If they ever try to cross her,
they're no match for Morgan le Fay!
She's the master, and they are the slaves.
She's the one who makes the rules.
She sees them as they really are:
Just a sorry bunch of fools.
MORGAN LE FAY:When the men find out that I'm a magician
They're afraid of me.  And so they should be!
It's a real disgrace when they have to face
A woman like me.  (Sexy growl) Grrrrrr.
So clear the way for somebody willing to
fight for her beliefs.
If someone tries to stop me,
They won't get much relief.
MORGAN LE FAY:So get out of my way.  I'm Morgan le Fay!

The Challenge

KNIGHTS:We're back from the hunt and the boar is dead.
He packed a terrible punch.
We knew you'd be wanting to see his head,
and now we're ready for lunch.
And after you've fed us and cleared it away,
there's trappings and banners for you to prepare.
We're having a session of jousting today,
and we know you'd love to be there.
LADIES:But stay my lords before you leave
this cold and draughty hall.
Prepare yourselves that you may hear
our challenge to you all.
KNIGHTS:A challenge?
LADIES:Yes a challenge.
KNIGHTS:A challenge?
LADIES:You heard!
The knights are taken aback, and mutter amongst themselves.
TENOR SOLO:We like a challenge.
KNIGHTS:Yes we do.
BASS SOLO:But we prefer our lunch.
ALL:That's true.
LADIES:We're tired of jousting every day,
And there's something new we would like to see.
Something that will make us say
"That's the kind of man for me."
KNIGHTS:Jousting was always good enough before.
LADIES:But not any more!
They now sing their verses together.
GUINEVERE:My lords, we have no skill with words
for what we wish to say.
So here is one to speak for us.  Her name —
Guinevere steps aside to reveal Morgan le Fay who strikes a cool pose.
MORGAN LE FAY:(spoken) Morgan le Fay.
ARTHUR:Morgan le Fay, you were banished from my kingdom.
Why have you appeared at my door?
GUINEVERE:I see you know her.
ARTHUR:Know her?
MORGAN LE FAY:I'm his sister!
ARTHUR:(spoken) Half sister.  (sung) Banished before I met you.
MORGAN LE FAY:(melodramatic) Oh how cruel, my little brother,
Sending me so far away.
Will you bear the shame for ever?
(matter-of fact) But that's not why I am here today.
Once I've had my say I'll be on my way.
Do you accept the challenge?
ARTHUR:But what exactly do we have to do?
KNIGHTS:Yes what exactly do we have to do?
MORGAN LE FAY:Oh no, you must accept before I tell you.
ARTHUR:It's a trick!  Why should I trust you?
KNIGHTS:It's a trick!  Why should we trust her?
MORGAN LE FAY:Surely you trust your wives and your daughters.
She gestures to the Ladies, who repeat:
LADIES:Surely you trust your wives and your daughters.
MORGAN LE FAY:And these are tasks that they would gladly do.
LADIES:Yes these are tasks that we would gladly do.
ARTHUR:All right, I accept the challenge!
He gestures to the Knights, who sing:
KNIGHTS:That's right, we accept the challenge!
A fanfare as Morgan le Fay takes command.
MORGAN LE FAY:The challenge is in three stages,
With elimination at each stage.
The first is flower arranging.
The next is ballroom dancing.
The final feature of your trial
is cooking in the French style.
Consternation among the knights.
KNIGHTS:No!  It's ridiculous!  We won't do it!  It's absurd!
MORGAN LE FAY:But you are knights and you gave your word,
And we know that knights never break their word.
You must accept the challenge!
LADIES:You must accept the challenge!
ARTHUR:I never expected a thing like this,
No not so much as a hunch.
The message is clear and I greatly fear
That we won't get any lunch.
But surely if women can do all these things
It shouldn't be much of a problem for men.
We know we're the best at whatever we do.
It's been proved again and again.
GUINEVERE:My lords, you have no need to fear
If your hearts are pure and your wits are clear.
Soon the contest will begin.
Strive, and may the best man win.
ARTHUR:I must be best because I am the king.
MORGAN LE FAY:(blows a raspberry) That don't mean a thing!
They now sing their verses together.

I have a heart

GARETH:I have a heart so full of loving.
Pardon me, my lady.
Though I fear that you are far above
such a common love.
My love is strong and violent.
Too long have I been silent.
Now I must speak, although I fear for your reply.
I have a heart that gives me courage.
Pardon me, my lady.
Every time I see your face I feel nothing else is real.
Give me some words of kindness.
If I could cure your blindness
You would be mine, my love, till all the seas run dry.
What can I say to make you change your view of me?
I am waiting for your answer,
Though I fear what that will be.
LINNET:I have a heart that's cold and bitter.
Too proud for feelings such as yours.
You're too young to know what love is.
I've been hurt before.
Go off and find some silly young girl
who will swoon at your protestations.
I'm not the one you're looking for,
though I vow I admire your patience.
BOTH:What can I say to make you change your view of me?
GARETH:I am waiting for your answer.
LINNET:And you know what that will be.

Speed, Bonny Boat

Speed, bonny boat, like a leaf on the ocean.
Onward we float, though the wind is at rest.
Travelling faster than ships with a sail.
This is the magic that I like the best.
No wrongs to right.  No men to fight.
I can leave all my plans packed safely away.
Here in my boat life is remote.
Save it all for a new day.
Groups of people move across upstage as the boat rushes past them, some pointing in amazement, some waving.  The final group are wearing kilts.  These sing the CHORUS as a counter-melody to Morgan le Fay's verses.
No-one may see this side of me
Till the fighting is done, and I can be free.
When will it cease? Will I find peace
at the end of my journey?
People I see waving at me
may desire to be free, but they don't know how.
Why should I care? Just let them stare.
I'm at peace with the world now.


ALL:We are the finest nation, and for your information
There isn't anywhere like Scotland.
From its mountains and its glens to its rivers and its fens,
We can see there's no better place to be.
This is our land for ever; who cares about the weather
When we are living here in Scotland?
There's a place for every man with his family and clan.
Where we're safe, and we're happy, and we're free.
MACDONALD:I'm the chief of the clan: MacDonald is muh name,
And ye ken I wad nivvor let ye doon.
But if we had a king ye'd nivvor speak tae him:
He wad stay safely hidden in some distant toon.
ALL:We cope with rain and blizzards.
We don't need knights and wizards.
Let's hope they never come to Scotland.
Independence is our theme;
you can keep your king and queen;
We are proud that MacDonald is our name.
MACDONALD:And now to put those haughty
English ladies all to shame,
Bring on the dancing girls!
Six (or more) dancing girls enter to riotous approval.  They dance a highland fling, followed by a Scottish Country Dance.

Marching men

JAMES:There's a sound in the air
that will make your courage rise
And you know you're a winner when in everybody's eyes
There's the same kind of look,
for the sound will never fail
To excite and encourage every stout-hearted male.
It's the sound of marching men.
You can tell by the swell that you'll never stand alone.
All your friends have found a home.
You must march with them now,
or you'll never march again.
MEN:(repeat these four lines.)
They all start marching in the chorus — Quang is the last to join in and someone has to nudge him a couple of times.
MacDonald gets very uncomfortable at all this talk of fighting and tries to calm things down, singing in a conspiratorial tone.
MACDONALD:But there's more to a war
than the strength of honest hearts.
There are things to consider
when you go to foreign parts.
If you take lots of care
you may catch them in a snare.
But you'll find there's another
kind of sound needed there.
(low) It's the sound
MEN:(low) It's the sound
MACDONALD:of creeping men.
MEN:(loud) Creeping men!
MacDonald frantically hushes them and gradually they stop marching — again someone has to nudge Quang who is the last to realise.  Rossalyn re-enters and listens with horror.
MACDONALD:Not a word must be heard; not a lantern must be used.
All our foes
MEN:(low) All our foes
MACDONALD:will be confused.
MEN:(loud) We're confused!
MACDONALD:You must creep while they sleep,
or you'll never creep again.
ROSSALYN:Stay!  You cannot leave us here, all alone.
We all depend on you.
Who will protect and feed us?
Must we weep in our sleep?
Must we wake full of fear
and far from the arms we hold so dear?
WOMEN & CHILDREN:(repeat this)
MORGAN LE FAY:You women are pathetic and I won't let you forget it!
This is your chance to show the men what you can do!
Don't be scared, all on your own.
This is your opportunity.
Now's the time to prove your worth.
Then you can be free.
MACDONALD:I still don't think it's a good idea.
MORGAN LE FAY:Would you lose your prize through your childish fear?
JAMES:The men are ready.  We must go.
ROSSALYN:Far from the ones who need you so.
JAMES:Let's go!
MACDONALD:Wait a bit.
ROSSALYN:Don't go!
MORGAN LE FAY:If you stay here, I'll never speak to you again!
MACDONALD:All right!
MORGAN LE FAY:That's the stuff.
JAMES:Let's go!
ROSSALYN:Leaving us?
JAMES, MACDONALD, MORGAN LE FAY:Let's go!  Let's go!  Let's go!
ROSSALYN:Don't go!  Don't go!  Don't go!
All three parts are now sung simultaneously:
MEN:It's the sound of marching men, etc.
WOMEN & CHILDREN:Stay!  You cannot leave us here, all alone, etc.
MORGAN LE FAY:You women are pathetic, etc.
Morgan le Fay and the men march off to their ship (through the auditorium?) led by the Champion Piper.

She's our ship

JAMES:She's our ship, and we're her crew men.
SCOTSMEN:Trust her!  Don't falter.
JAMES:Still, we don't know what to do
when faced with tidal water.
We don't like the stormy weather.
SCOTSMEN:Hold on, and be quick.
JAMES:That's the time to say our prayers
and hope that we're not seasick.
SCOTSMEN:(staggering towards stage left)
First the wind blows from the sea.
(staggering towards stage right)
Next the wind blows from the land.
(staggering everywhere)
Then it blows both ways at once,
and we can hardly stand.
Pass the buckets!  Man the pumps!
Form a human chain.
If the ship goes down in this, she won't come up again.
JAMES:I can see a big wave coming.
SCOTSMEN:That's it!  We'll get hit!
JAMES:Everyone hang on to something, or you will regret it.
The Scotsmen look around in panic, then cling on to each other.  As the wave goes up they stagger upstage; as it comes down they stagger downstage.
JAMES:Here's the next: it's even stronger.
SCOTSMEN:That's worse!  That's much worse!
We can't stand it any longer, being in a cloudburst!
The second wave goes up, then down, then up again, then down; the Scotsmen do likewise.
JAMES:That's the last; we're out of danger.
SCOTSMEN:That's fine.  About time!
JAMES:Post a man to give us warning; We'll be safe till morning.
SCOTSMEN:Now's the time to get some rest.
That's the thing that we do best.
Time to sleep if there's a chance,
or time to have a dance.

End of the day

MACDONALD:It's the end of the day.  She is here by my side,
but I feel that my life is adrift on the tide.
I had no wish to roam, And I tried to be firm.
Now my ship takes me far away from my home.
I fear I may never return.
MORGAN LE FAY:It's the end of the day, And the night is at hand.
I am here with a stranger I don't understand.
I appeal to his pride.  He responds like a man.
He could really go far with me by his side.
But things are not going to plan.
She moves towards MacDonald to hear what he is singing.
MACDONALD:Though I know that my men never flinch from the foe,
I have taken a vow to protect them somehow.
It's the one reassurance that I have to give.
Morgan moves away again, not willing to let him hear what she is singing.
MORGAN LE FAY:And his men will be there to support him, I know.
I've had lots of admirers but where are they now?
Is it time to be changing the way that I live?
They look at each other, smile cautiously, move together and put their arms round each other.
BOTH:It's the end of the day.  It's a break from the past.
It's a time to forget all out problems at last.
Till the morning is here, we can rest for a while.
By the light of the stars that shine up above,
We find we are falling in love.

Good King

ARTHUR:I thought I was a good king.  Tried to do the right thing.
Tried to rule the country well.
I thought the people liked me, treated me politely,
as far as I could tell.
I thought my knights were splendid,
country well defended,
Following where I would lead.
I thought my wife adored me, like a fairy story:
A happy man indeed.
But everything has changed.  People acting strange
don't know what's going on, so they're scared.
Knights who should be prancing practising their dancing,
Stopping when they see I'm there.
And my wife was so loving and supportive.
She was just what a wife ought to be.
Now she's cold and distant, and I greatly fear
that this is the real Guinevere.
If I am not the victor Guinevere may leave me.
What on earth will I do then?
She's always been beside me.  Never thought that I'd be
left on my own again.
And no-one will respect me.  People will reject me,
knowing I can't cook or dance.
If I can't rule the nation, after abdication,
I'd have to move to France!  (shudders.)
And if this is the end, can I just pretend
my sister is the one I should blame?
Why would all the ladies listen to her words
if they had never felt the same?
And I look at the servants in my castle
as they cook, make the beds, sweep the floor,
And I wish that I could be the same as them,
and no kind of king any more.
He starts to walk offstage, then turns back to deliver his final line
I always thought that I was a good king.

Never intended

LINNET:I never intended to take things so far.
He's the wrong kind of person in so many ways.
He's clever and gentle, and he could go far.
All he needs is the right kind of woman.
Whenever I wondered what life had in store,
I would run to my mother, but all she would say
was: "Marriage and children that's what we are for".
And I thought: "I'm the wrong kind of woman".
Men who would court me said I was haughty.
I found them loutish and quick to annoy.
Now they all fear me.  No-one comes near me,
except this impetuous boy.
And maybe, just maybe, he could be the one
who will end all my heartache and make me complete.
If only he wasn't so dreadfully young,
and if I was the right kind of woman.

To win a woman's love

GUINEVERE:To win a woman's love isn't hard to do.
If only you knew.
I trusted that your heart was true when I met you.
You seemed a perfect knight, and a king as well.
A magical spell.
And I was far too young to tell how we would jell.
You told me I was beautiful, and I believed you.
Gave me a rose.  Made me feel shy.
I don't suppose that I should blame you.
You were as trapped as I.
You brought me home with you.
You promised to be true
as long as the stars shone above.
And I would have told anyone who asked me then
that's how to win a woman's love.
ARTHUR:I seem to be the man you were looking for.
GUINEVERE:But wait.  There's more.
To break a woman's heart isn't hard to do.
If only you knew.
How very soon the questions start:
can dreams come true?
I learnt to play my part as your serving maid,
so proudly displayed.
No hope to lead a different life: I was your wife.
And what about the love that was to last forever?
Where did it go? How can we say?
All we can do is fan the embers,
watching them fade away.
And what do people know, who see us there on show,
together, yet so far apart?
I would have to tell anyone who asks me now:
That's how to break a woman's heart.
And now their lines overlap.
ARTHUR:I never understood.
GUINEVERE:This isn't any good.
ARTHUR:Why didn't you explain?
GUINEVERE:It would have been in vain.
ARTHUR:Whatever you want, let's make a start.
GUINEVERE:I don't know where to start.
And the only thing you have learnt in all these years,
is how to break a woman's heart.
ARTHUR:Or the only thing that I will know
is how to break a woman's heart.

Man and Wife

VIVIEN:Man and wife!  Man and wife!
Your possession to gladden your life?
Why not woman and husband?
WOMEN:It doesn't sound right.
VIVIEN:You're such a delight!
Why do men all assume
they're the ones who are calling the tune,
just because they are stronger?
ESCANOR:I must disagree.
VIVIEN:Explain it to me.
ESCANOR:(thinking hard)
Men are the natural leaders.
At hand to protect our ladies.
VIVIEN:Protect us from what?
ESCANOR:Other men.
VIVIEN:(spoken) Yeah, right!
ESCANOR:Men go out hunting to feed you.
Exposed to all kinds of dangers.
VIVIEN:But who has to cook all the meat that you eat?
We're in danger of dying from boredom!
ESCANOR:You're obsessed about being oppressed.
VIVIEN:Give it a rest!
He tries to embrace her; she pulls away.
ESCANOR:You're depressed about being caressed
by one of the best.
VIVIEN:Surely you jest!
ESCANOR:Man and wife!  Man and wife!
Bound together to weather the strife.
It's the natural order.
VIVIEN:Like living in trees?
ESCANOR:Be serious please.
Men can ride far and wide,
building cities in which you can hide.
VIVIEN:We build children to fill them.
ESCANOR:For that you need men.
VIVIEN:Well, now and again!
ESCANOR:Why must you suddenly question
the way we have lived for ever?
VIVIEN:It hasn't been sudden at all.
I never thought we could change things,
till Morgan le Fay explained things.
But now that I see how the future could be,
I just want to make sure that it happens!
ESCANOR:Why don't you come to your senses?
You know you can never change things.
BOTH:Down through the centuries,
VIVIEN:(together) will it always be man and wife?
ESCANOR:(together) it will always be man and wife!

Good King — reprise

ARTHUR:I thought I was a good king.  Every season would bring
challengers who sought my throne.
I always had to meet them, fight them and defeat them
to call my throne my own.
But now the world is changing.
Must I do the same thing?
Are there other paths to try?
If I can find a way back, who are they to say that
the loser has to die?
This man is just a tool, treated like a fool,
and I know where the blame really lies.
What if I forgive him? Challenge him to live,
and struggle for a different prize?
If our men can agree to live in friendship
for as long as the stars shine above,
There may still be fighting, but it's one small step
to peace in the lands that we love.
And maybe they will think I'm a good king now!

There comes a time

ARTHUR:There comes a time to put aside
the life that I have been living.
Time for forgiving.  Time for a change.
There's more to life than war and strife.
I have a wife to consider.
She's not like me.  That seems so strange.
When I know she's happy, I can feel inside
something even more important than my manly pride.
To know that she is proud of me
is like the first sign of daybreak.
Maybe that's all it takes.
GUINEVERE:(coming forward to stand beside him)
There comes a time to count our gain
and not complain at the slowness.
Have we made progress? I know we have.
Just look at them: they're only men
and they will never be perfect.
No more are we, as you can see.
If we work together, we can find a way.
We don't need to go on fighting like Morgan le Fay.
It's not much fun to be a nun
or go back home to my father.
Arthur, I love you so.
ALL:Every story has an ending.
Some are sad and full of guilt.
Life is very short; why should we be caught
In a trap that we have built?
There comes a time to redefine
the rules that we need to live by:
Give my feelings a chance.
LINNET:There comes a time to change my mind
and look at what I am losing
Choosing a lifetime all on my own.
The other men that I knew then
Had made me think things were hopeless.
But I was wrong.  You came along.
GARETH:Even though I'm young now, I am here to stay.
Every day I'm getting older: my hair's almost grey!
BOTH:Now life is fair.  Let people stare.
Why should we care if they do so?
Gareth / Linnet, I love you so.
During this the knights and ladies have started to mingle, so that by the last line they are in couples rather than two separate groups.
ALL:When we look into the future, using Merlin's crystal ball
Though it may be strange, we can see that change
is a challenge to us all.
So we must learn which way to turn
To travel on and be fearless.
Dearest, I love you so.
The Scots come back carrying food and drink, ready to party.
SCOTSMEN:There comes a time to drink and dine,
and give up all of the fighting.
The women here are exciting
But we've got women at home.
The service here is excellent,
there's even flowers in the bedroom.
(getting slower)
But we'd get soft if we stayed too long.
We need a challenge, right or wrong.
We're better off where we belong:
Scotland, we love you so!
ALL:There comes a time to draw the line,
and hope that things will recover.
Let's live in peace with each other
And never think about war.
We'll try to live in harmony
and never mention the challenge.
LADIES:(getting slower)
We've made our point and we've had our say.
MEN:And life's a challenge anyway.
ALL:Tomorrow is another day.
That's all that we can say.