This week I finished a project I've been chipping away at for some months. Even though it isn't a song (yet) I thought I might celebrate this milestone by sharing it here.
So... drrrrum rrrrrrolll....it's the plot of a light opera - Polly. The Polly who famously put the kettle on. And there are two things to tell you about before we get to the plot itself.
Firstly, this came about because years ago, on my 30th birthday my mother gave me a school assignment of mine she had kept. It was an SATB setting of the nursery rhyme Polly Put the Kettle On and if I remember rightly we sang it through that night. I turned it into a whole opera and it was my first work writing in art music since school. We produced it here for an Adelaide Fringe and it was quite successful and good fun. As a first effort on both the book and music, there was room to grow.
Fast forward however many years - maybe 12? - and the second thing to tell you is that this year, whilst on tour with The Mikado I was inspired to rewrite the piece. I've started with the plot and it's taken months of thought, reading, talking to family and friends, rethinking to shape it so far. I've been profoundly influenced by the mighty work Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
I am giving myself a few weeks gestation, and then the work begins of writing the dialogue and lyrics the characters will each say. I have a beloved book of ancient taoist poetry - I might start there for inspiration for the taoist philosopher character. I suspect there will be spoken dialogue which might technically mean this piece will eventually become musical theatre. I would like the action to take place amongst the audience - and have the audience join in, musically and dramatically.
I'm also sharing this here if you have any feedback. Please feel welcome to leave a comment.
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen may I introduce to you the much revised much anticipated, long time brewing Polly....
Teapot - A splendid floral teapot
Dishwasher - scruffy hippy type
Old Bones - an ill kempt and cantankerous old teapot
Polly - A nervous tea-maker
Earl - Wealthy middle aged businessman. Runs the tearooms
Suki - A lively young waitress and songwriter
Picander - charming young narcissist. coffee fanatic with poetic ambitions and lovely hair that swooshes
Spoon Polishers/Tea Drinkers/Coffee Enthusiasts - triple role played by the audience who sit cabaret style amongst the action
Set in Earl’s lavish but oppressively pompous Tea Rooms - divided into three areas - the kitchen, the front of house and Earl's office. The spoon polishers sit in the front of house in cabaret style
Our story begins with the spoon polishers sitting keenly in place, ready for their afternoon's work. The dishwasher - a surfer Taoist poet type - walks amongst them, distributing spoons. He says something tells him it's going to be a particularly good day in the tearooms.
Polly enters, distracted. She is rummaging around on the floor and doesn't hear the dishwasher's first (or second) greeting. "Hey Polly. What are you looking for?" he calls out, finally loudly enough for her to hear.
"Oh Dishy. Sorry. I didn't mean... It's great to see you...um... yeah. A button fell off my glove and rolled in here. I need to find it and sew it back on. Where did i ...? I'm sure it was...oh hang on. Here it is. I'll just..." Polly sits and sings as she sews the button on.
Finished, Polly warmly hugs the Dishwasher. "How does that look? Will it do? I hope he doesn't notice...I've tried to make sure it looks exactly the same."
"You know you don't have to wear those gloves. You could just take them off."
"Don't start, Dishy! Hey - how's that poem going? Did you work on it?"
"Yeah. There's more to come. Gotta wait for the mist to drift in from the river you know?"
"sure. sure. I want to hear it when it's finished. Ooh we could hang it here on the wall? Or... no. It's not my place to...Oh the spoon polishers - here already? Great. Great." Polly turns and greets a few spoon polishers, admiring and encouraging their work.
The splendid teapot enters with a pirouette and a bow. (Because this a singing role, the teapot is performed not by a ceramic teapot but by a lyric tenor in a teapot costume - you could imagine his comely legs in gold tights extending under his lovely, painted, and rotund pot-belly.) Everyone applauds and admires his hand painted flowers in summer blues and yellows and pinks, and his delicate, crenellated gold trim. The teapot sees Polly and the dishwasher and squeals in delight. The dishwasher welcomes the teapot with a robust slap on the back, which unbalances the teapot who is after all delicately hand painted. Polly, laughing, helps the teapot find his balance. The teapot brings the news that Earl is interviewing Suki.
"Earl's interviewing Suki now? oh." Polly nervously straightens her apron and smooths down her hair with her hand.
"And ... here they come."
"Dishy are you sure this is OK?" Polly holds out her gloved hands. Instead of inspecting them, the dishwasher gives Polly a high 5 (is it a high 10 if it's both hands?) and walks off.
Earl is impeccably groomed with a straight back and a slight limp. He carries a cane. Suki is a bright young woman who you would find perusing biographies in a second hand book shop. He has hired Suki, and hopes she won’t be like so many past staff, unable to perform their work to his exacting standards. “Some say I am cruel ,” Earl laughs, “but we are here for one thing - the satisfaction of my customers - and I know what is required to achieve that.”
Earl introduces Suki to the spoon polishers. Earl picks a spoon from one polisher and points out a missed smudge. The poor spoon polisher shrinks into his chair.
"And here is my splendid teapot. He has been the official teapot here for 20 years."
"How do you do Suki. Very lovely to meet you." The teapot warmly kisses Suki's hand.
"And this is Polly, the teamaker. Polly’s mother died when Polly was an infant and I have single handedly overseen her education. There was a Grandmother who made tea and darned socks I suppose. But twenty years ago, Grandmother died. Polly took over but Polly has an unfortunate little problem - her tea is not up to the standard I require. Not La Destina flavour. Polly I'll leave Suki with you. Try to train her correctly."
This is the moment for a chorus, beginning as a duet as Polly shows Suki how to lay out the tables. The floral teapot contributes his dulcet tenor voice as he polishes his tummy. Earl of course is a bass (or a baritone with a decent snarl) and completes the quartet as he strolls imperiously amongst them, checking everything and pointing out mistakes for the women to correct. The spoon polishers join the chorus. In the second verse The teapot has a line or two that there isn’t any need for Earl to be so fussy - his flowers are pretty and Polly makes quite lovely tea in him. His voice is drowned out by Earl. who insists that if they are to ever achieve the elusive La Destina flavour, they will need to be absolutely fastidious. The song finishes. Earl orders the teapot to come with him and they retire to Earl’s office.
Polly and Suki busy themselves, with Polly helping Suki prepare for afternoon service. Polly finds Suki an apron and cap and so on. As they work, Suki asks about La Destina.
Polly pauses and smiles. “It’s the elusive magic flavour of the perfect cup of tea - when for the moment you drink the entire world is suspended and your senses are overwhelmed by the flavour.”
“Have you ever tasted that?”
Polly says yes, that her Grandmother made La Destina tea. Using the ancient Polly teapot.
“Can you make it?”asks Suki.
Polly shakes her head sadly. “I tried making tea in Grammy's teapot. But it was the opposite of La Destina. The flavour was so bitter no one could drink it. Thankfully Earl had his splendid teapot and when I made tea with him it was fine. Not La Destina, but fine. I owe Earl everything, Without him, I don’t know what would have happened to me... and I think you're ready. You look great. You may have noticed Earl is very particular and requires everything to be just so, so do it exactly this way every day." Polly holds up a mirror for Suki, who is quite pleased with her Tearooms makeover. "Come to the kitchen and meet the dishwasher. You'll like him."
A curtain hangs between the kitchen and the front of house. As the women approach, the dishwasher moves the curtain back and warmly shakes hands with Suki. The dishwasher introduces Suki to Old Bones - Grandmother’s neglected old teapot who sits in the corner of the kitchen, dirty and mad, muttering to herself and complaining about the cold.
The Dishwasher is as unphased by the mad old teapot as he is by most things. He hands Suki a cup of tea and invites her to sit down, reassuring her that Old Bones won’t bite. He offers Polly a cup of tea, but she refuses - she wants to keep her gloves pristine. He shakes his head at her. The Dishwasher asks Suki how she is finding her first day at Polly’s? “I thought this was Earl’s tearooms,” Suki interrupts, confused. "Dishy, you mustn't..." Polly interjects nervously. Old Bones snorts and mutters something probably highly profane but thankfully unintelligible. The Dishwasher starts to say more but is cut short by the arrival of Earl and the splendid teapot.
“Polly.” snaps Earl. "It's time to make sure you are ready." Polly stands to attention as Earl slowly circles her.
"And the gloves." Polly obliges and holds out her hands as Earl inspects them.
"Other side." Polly turns her palms over.
"mmm." Earl gives the slightest nod. Polly exhales. and Old Bones creeps over, squawking like a crow.
Earl tells the “filthy old bag of bones” to shut up. To Polly he says, “I don’t know why you insist on keeping the disgusting old pot. Throw her out on the street and stop her stinking up the kitchen. Your grandmother isn't here to care any more.” At this Bones hisses and spits like an old cat and The Dishwasher walks towards her calmly telling Earl, “Now is not the time to be rattling Bones.”
“I’m cold,” complains Old Bones. “I know.” placates the dishwasher, putting his arm around her and steering her back to her chair. “Soon enough. Soon enough.”
Earl snorts in disgust and reminds Polly that without him and his teapot she would be at the mercy of these fools. He pulls the kitchen curtain across. “How many times do I have to tell you to leave this curtain down? Who keeps doing this? None of my guests want to see the goings on in this kitchen.” He says to Suki, “See what I have to deal with?” and leaves.
For a moment the kitchen is obscured from view, and then the dishwasher pulls the curtain back.
“Right," says The Dishwasher. "Better get to it. Polly - go well today my friend. And you (he turns to Suki with a grin) look like you could dry dishes better than the afternoon sunshine.” The Dishwasher throws a teatowel to Suki and they head to the waiting pile of dirty dishes.
Polly sighs deeply and begins to make tea in the splendid teapot. As she works, she pours her heart out in song. How weary she is of her frustration, no matter what she tries she can’t make La Destina tea. Polly knows people sing about her wonderful teamaking, but she is a fraud. Earl is right. She doesn’t deserve the Polly name. She finishes and spins the teapot around 3 times, (never a pleasant experience for the teapot) and helps him into his splendid steeping jacket and lid.
"Now just sit here calmly til I fetch you. You don't want to get excited while you're steeping. You know how you can get, Teapot." Polly pats the teapot on his splendid tummy, who giggles contentedly. "Thank you Polly. I feel pretty warm now."
"Sit calmly and just wait."
The service gong sounds, and Polly and Suki depart.
But what's this? A stranger arrives in the kitchen. A tall and appealing stranger too. With particularly lovely hair that swooshes so. He says he is Suki's friend - Picander - and he's dropped in to invite her to the coffee house - to the poetry night he hosts. He puts a flyer on the table, smiles and swooshes his hair. Of course everyone's welcome Picander announces.
The Dishwasher explains that Picander has just missed her and he will let her know. If she goes, he might just come along.
“Well I can’t leave - I’ve got no coat,” grumbles Old Bones in a rare lucid moment.
The Splendid Teapot wonders if, considering how lovely he looks, he might be good at poetry . Particularly since he's steeping which he says always makes him a little hot and steamy. “Why, yes you are,” notices Picander. “Maybe you can help me? I want to finish my new poem for tonight.” This seems a reasonable proposition to both parties.
Old Bones seems to drift to sleep as Picander and the splendid teapot begin work on Picander’s poem. It starts badly, Picander’s poetry is awful and the teapot’s suggestions are equally awful.
As this dismal poetry writing attempt progresses, the teapot looks to the dishwasher, with a delighted confession. "Well I can't write poetry after all. My prettiness really is only skin deep." He giggles contentedly and the dishwasher agrees. He dries his hands, walks over to the teapot and whispers vastly superior text in his ear. “ Ooh. thank you! that’s so much better!” says the Splendid Teapot and repeats the lines to Picander, clearly enjoying the delighted response of the handsome man. The teapot relays the lines with increasing flourish and theatricality.
In this way, they finish the poem and it is lovely. Oh joy! The Dishwasher slaps the splendid teapot on the back (again!) and returns to his dishes.
“Wow. what a great team we make, Splendid Teapot,” Picander enthuses reading over his new poem. If the Splendid Teapots blushes at this, it only makes him prettier. “Hey - I’ve got an idea. I want you to come with me, we can write more poetry for tonight. There’s another teapot here. Earl can manage.”
Oh dear. The Splendid Teapot is quite alarmed by this proposal. He tells the dishwasher he can’t possibly leave Earl, can he? - what should he do? And he's steeping - he gets hot and bothered when he's steeping and can't think straight. He's likely to do something rash. But, but Earl. The dishwasher responds that the teapot should go with the flow. He points out that Earl takes the teapot for granted and it might do Earl good to learn how much the teapot means to him. Back and forth they go. The dishwasher pointing out how the teapot will just be gone one night, and Earl will be fine. It will make him treat the teapot with more respect. The teapot titilated with this scandelous, seductive idea.
Picander interrupts. "Look. I want you to come with me. This is the best poem I've ever written. I want more like this."
The teapot succumbs. He allows himself to be taken by Picander as long as Picander promises to be very careful with the teapot’s beautiful flowers.
Picander leaves, muse in hand. Picander sings that he and the teapot are doing what has to done. The poem must be written.
Old Bones mumbles. The Dishwasher returns to his dishes. He announces to the spoon polishers that their work is done, it is time they left and made space for the teadrinkers.
(spoon polishers put their polishing cloths into their laps as serviettes and make costume adjustments to become tea drinkers. When the costume change is complete, the tea drinkers assume a rather haughty upper class air)
Our attention now turns to the front of house where Polly and Suki assist Earl in welcoming the teadrinkers. Earl is in his element - suave, charming, gliding through the tables, a handshake here, a friendly touch on the shoulder there. Such largesse. Such panache. The tea drinkers respond with a song of thirsty anticipation. The song climaxes with Earl sending Polly to the kitchen to fetch the teapot where the tea has been steeping and brewing to perfection.
Alas and Alack.
Polly returns empty handed. The colour drained from her face.
The Teapot is gone!
Earl runs as fast as his limp allows to the kitchen vainly looking for the teapot.
He turns on Polly and accuses her of ruining things again. Why does she ruin everything she touches? She is an insult to the Polly name. At this, Old Bones starts laughing at Earl which incenses him further. He explodes in anger
“We can’t have a teahouse without a teapot. Not that filthy bag of bones, but an actual lovely teapot. Polly I hold you personally responsible. The teapot is your job. And to make matters worse you let him go while he’s steeping. He’s not safe out there.”
"But Earl. I left him to steep like I always do, the way you taught me and was as careful as ever. I did the best I could. I don't know what could have happened. Just let me try to find...or maybe Bones, or no, or..." Polly pleads.
“You will find him. Polly. Or the teahouse is ruined. For both of us.” Earl turns and marches off to his office.
Poor Polly. She looks absolutely crestfallen and perhaps drops into a chair or onto her knees or just drops her demeanour. Certainly something drops.
The Dishwasher reassures her. “He can’t fire you Polly. He can’t fire you from your own tearooms.”
“What?” says Suki.
“These rooms aren’t Earl’s - they are owned by Polly. Back when old Gram-Polly died Earl and Polly made an agreement. Earl would oversee the tearooms just until Polly perfected her teamaking. And then Earl was to step back, so Polly could take her rightful place.”
“But I’ve never been able to make La Destina tea so Earl has stayed custodian,” sobs Polly. “What am I going to do? I don't even know where to start looking for Teapot.”
At this, The dishwasher picks up the poetry night flyer. “The teapot's here. At the coffee house. Picander seems to think the teapot can help him with his poetry.”
"I can't go to the coffee house, I don't know how to get there. I don't know anything about coffee. I'm just going to leave forever. I'm just going to walk away and..." Polly looks around desperately, unable to complete her sentence.
"I can take you. I know the way. Don't worry - coffee's easy!" says Suki.
"Well...." Polly sighs deeply.
"What else can you do?" Dishy hands her the flyer.
Polly stares at her gloves. Her hands are shaking. "I don't want to walk away, My whole life is here. Everything....OK. I'll got to the coffee house. I'll find The Teapot and bring him back."
The women leave.
In front of the kitchen, Earl paces in agitation. He lowers the kitchen curtain again. The reality of his situation is sinking in - that he has fired his teamaker and lost his splendid teapot. Earl is acutely aware that he is nothing without either of them. Just expensive cuff-links and a charming smile - certainly not enough to successfully run the tearooms.
Old Bones appears at the doorway to the kitchen, mocking him. “Your beautiful teapot has run off with the young poet, Picander. Quite good looking he was too, his swooshy hair. They’ve gone to the coffee house. Tonight your teapot might discover he prefers the taste of coffee.” She cackles like an old witch.
Earl goes to strike her but then says she isn’t worth the effort and that he has more important things to do. He heads to his office and changes into beatnik clothes, singing that he doesn’t know how he will get his teapot back but that he will do what he has to as he always does. (From off stage this sentiment is echoed as Polly, Picander, Suki and the Teapot join the song.)
He finishes his ensemble with disguise glasses, and races off.
The dishwasher appears from behind the kitchen curtain with bongos under his arm. He tells the audience that since there was no afternoon tea, there are no dishes to wash so he might head to the coffee house. He invites the audience to join him, instructing them to be groovy and don their sunglasses and berets.
A beatknik coffee house with a stage area and an open mic/whiteboard. Possibly the orchestral musicians sit on the stage as a ‘house band’. This is set amongst the audience who are now coffee drinkers,
After some coffee based hollering we are welcomed by Picander. He thanks everyone for coming to hear his poetry, and reassures everyone that they will get to hear his magnificent new poem. And that at poetry night everyone gets a turn at the mic.
Polly approaches Picander to say before the poetry starts, she's just there to collect the splendid Teapot. If he would kindly give it to her, she could be on her way. Picander waves her off, assuring her he will give it to her after his poem and insists that she really must stay and listen and enjoy herself!
"For crying out loud, I just need the teapot. He's right there. I'll take him and be on my way."
"Yeah but I want him for my poetry. Everyone's here to listen to my poems, and he's my muse. Look, tell you what, I promise I'll hand him over as soon as my poem's done."
To Polly’s frustration Picander announces someone else must performs first - because a headline act doesn’t go first - and introduces Suki.
Suki is caught unaware. She has only just arrived and is still in her work clothes.
"I'm not ready." says Suki.
"You can do it. Let me help you." Polly helps Suki convert her outfit to beatnik songstress, and Suki walks to the mic as someone hands her a guitar. Her song is written from the point of view of a cup of coffee who waited for cream, rather than settling for milk. It turns out the coffee never regretted its decision. Suki is ably accompanied by the Dishwasher’s bongos. The song ends to rapturous applause.
Picander invites the next poet up and the Dishwasher takes his turn at the mic. He sings a rather steamy song about how happy the cream was when it finally found a special cup of coffee to fill up. The dishwasher is also received with delight and applause.
Perhaps this adulation of others gets to Picander - he suddenly announces it's time for coffee. Polly refuses the proffered cup and reminds him she just wants to pick up the teapot so she can get back to the tearooms.
"Thing is, I want him for my poem. He inspires me. What's the great rush? Tea time is finished. The teapot's no use at the teahouse tonight anyway."
"But i need to..."
"Polly - face it. You have been kicked out. You're free. You might as well take your time. Try some coffee. It's good."
"Earl what? You're in the coffee house now. And it's poetry night. Earl nothing. Just have one sip."
"alright. hand it over then." Polly takes a perfunctory sip and is hit with a rush. "ooh." She sits, a little dazed.
"wow. that is good. So different ... so earthy. ooh...it makes my heart beat faster."
"oh yeah. Coffee'll do that. My poem is about how coffee makes me feel."
"ooh," Polly takes another sip. "Well I would very much like to hear it."
Picander bows chivalrously at Polly, grabs the splendid teapot and takes his place at the mic.
Picander’s first poem (with interpretative dance from the splendid teapot who is STILL steeping) is the lovely poem written earlier in the kitchen. It is very well received, especially by Polly who has become quite coffee affected and dreamy. As he takes his bows, Picander graciously announces he will do a second poem and sidles up to the teapot, expectantly. The teapot shrugs, and looks around for help from The Dishwasher. Unfortunately for the splendid teapot, the Dishwasher and Suki have become rather - er - distracted with each other, and the Dishwasher pays no heed to the poor splendid teapot and his hand painted flowers.
You will remember Picander is under the impression that the splendid teapot is his muse. He shakes the teapot in an attempt to dislodge some verse. This is most unnerving for the splendid teapot. "Ok Teapot ." Teapot eggs himself on. "You're just going to have to try. It's up to you now." He dictates to Picander a rather silly and stilted ballad ‘Once a Coffee Pot. ahoy ahow awho” in which the protagonist is a delightful coffee pot who makes coffee with a perfectly lovely flavour. But the coffee pot’s owner - Pearl - is a cruel and controlling mistress who is only interested in enforcing her will and doesn’t let the coffee pot have any fun. "oh dear. I'm really not a poet, I'm really just a teapot." The teapot shrugs apologetically to Picander.
The strange song ends and the audience applause is hardly enthusiastic. Picander says that's enough poetry for him for tonight, and Polly can take the teapot away now - he's done.
"But as you say there's no hurry. Maybe I'll have another cup of coffee first... and hear some more poetry. Who's got another poem?"
"No take him. I don't want him now. He's dried up."
"Actually I'm still full. And I'm starting to feel quite uncomfortable."
Polly drains the last of her coffee cup. "well...in a bit-"
"I'll take him. right now. thank you," the disguised Earl wrests the teapot from them and marches to the performance spot.
He introduces himself as um Surl. Holding tightly to the Teapot and seeming to sing directly to it, Earl sings his song. On the theme of - The old song Hollow Vessels Make The Most Noise - is not an instruction manual but a warning. Pretty but empty vessels can learn to keep their mouths shut.
Indeed! The teapot doesn’t care for this and responds with taunting and raspberry blowing. He would like to let Surl know that at the moment he is not empty but full. Perhaps an evening of poetry has loosened Earl’s self control, perhaps the lusty taste of fresh coffee has gone to his head? And the teapot has been steeping for a very long time now. Whatever it is, their argument grows more heated. The two taunt each other until the teapot confesses, "I'm going to start leaking. I can't steep any more or I'll burst, I need to pour right now," and runs off. Earl runs after him - as fast as his limp allows. "Teapot wait. Teapot." From off stage we hear a long, loud sigh of relief from the teapot that slowly fades into the distance.
“Is that part of the poem?" says Picander. "Has he finished? Is that it? um. Whose turn is it now?" The dishwasher and Suki emerge from their -er- distraction with tossled hair and clothing, to tell Picander that Polly hasn’t had a turn sharing a poem. With relief, Picander gestures for Polly to come to the mic.
Polly sighs deeply. She explains that she isn’t a poet and just came to the coffee house to collect the splendid Teapot but now he's run off again. But since she's drunk the coffee it doesn't seem so important. “You must have something you want to share,” insists Picander. “Everyone has something."
Polly says she isn't a poet but a teamaker. Well sort of a teamaker. But not really. No she really is a teamaker but not... Well - her Grammy made tea to La Destina standard. Polly sadly explains that despite her heritage when she made tea in her Grandmother's teapot it was undrinkably bitter, and she is a failure and a fraud.
Picander responds, confused. “oh yeah. Everyone knows about the Pollys. But that doesn’t feel right. If you are a Polly, you must be able to make La Destina tea. I can’t understand it, there must be a mistake.”
"Look I'll show you. I'll make tea right now. Maybe coffee people will have some ideas on what I could do...Now where's...Oh drat, the teapot ran off again I need to go after him.”
“Wait,” interrupts the dishwasher. “Polly you could make tea in your own teapot.”
"What? I don't have a teapot."
"Yes you do. The one Gram-Polly left you. Your ancestral teapot."
“But Dishy that flavour is so awful. But maybe... Then you can taste it..."
The dishwasher stands up and announces with such certainty everyone feels compelled to obey, “We have waited long enough. Everyone follow me. (addressing the audience) we will take leave of the coffee drinkers and meet the tea drinkers who have been waiting all this time at the tearooms." The dishwasher leads the way, followed by Picander, Suki and Polly. The audience have a costume change back to tea drinkers' garb.
Back in the tearooms
In the tearoom kitchen, we find Old Bones sleeping. The dishwasher gently wakes her and tells Suki to find a bucket and sponge from under his sink. The dishwasher begins to clean and groom the old teapot.
Picander addresses her. "I want to know why the tea Polly makes with you is so bitter, when it is fine in Earl’s teapot."
Old Bones snorts. “Picander first of all your poetry is dreadful. DREADFUL. It is all “I want”. But good poetry is written in “I am”. Secondly Polly’s tea isn’t fine in Earl’s teapot. It is flavourless drivel. And it is just the pretty flowers on the teapot combined with Earl’s bluster and carry-on that fool the teadrinkers into thinking it’s good.”
“So I can’t even make good tea in Earl’s teapot?” Polly asks Old Bones.
“Of course you can’t. You never could. It will always be weak and flavourless.”
The Dishwasher finishes cleaning Old Bones, and brushes her hair. The lid he puts on her head is like a crown. She is quite a different figure now - fierce and powerful.
She addresses Polly. “Your Grandmother wasn't the first Polly. She came from a long, long line of Pollys. I am an ancient and proud teapot, Bone China. And I have been passed down this line, from Polly to Polly. When a Polly makes tea here, in Polly’s tea rooms my flavour is at it should be - La Destina.” Bone China points a gnarled finger at Polly. “ But YOU have never once made tea under those circumstances. YOU gave the tearooms away before you ever touched me. And so my flavour for you is bitter, as bitter as I can make it.”
"I come from an ancient line? And...so... if the tearooms were mine, I could brew...La Destina tea?” Asks Polly very timidly.
“Do you doubt me?” Bone China roars at Polly.
Poor Polly is overcome. She falls to her knees in front of Bone China and asks what she needs to do to become a La Destina teamaker.
“If you want to make La Destina tea, you must do three things. Firstly you must take off those gloves.” says Bone China. Polly slowly, nervously unbuttons and peels off her gloves. I'm sure you'll agree - such a moment requires a song.
The Dishwasher takes them from her and throws them in the dishwater.
“Secondly you must bring me my cosy. I have been cold long enough.”
Everyone searches for Bone China’s cosy. Polly is distracted by feeling the texture of items in the tearooms directly on her skin. Polly reaches the divide between the kitchen and the front of house and as her hands touch the curtain she recalls something - perhaps a childhood memory perhaps ancient Polly knowledge. Slowly she unhooks the curtain from its fastening and folds it into a shawl shape.
“So you found it. My cosy. Put it on, put it on.” Polly wraps the shawl around her and she looks snug and content..
“Thirdly you must reclaim the tearooms as your own and take your rightful place. Look.” Bone China points to the "Earl's" sign on the wall. With help from everyone, Polly removes the sign to discover a dusty "Polly's" sign underneath. The Dishwasher hands Polly a cloth and she wipes the sign clean. While Polly cleans, the dishwasher, Picander and Suki change the signage on the teadrinkers’ tables from Earl’s to Polly’s, and enlisting the teadrinkers' help, remove other oppressive and fussy furnishing.
“Now you are ready to become a true Polly. Now you are ready to make tea in me.” The old teapot sits. The Dishwasher, Suki and Picander gather round.
With shaking hands Polly begins to make tea.
At that moment Earl storms in. “What is going on here? Where is the kitchen curtain? Well well!! You’ve had your little charade, now it is time to get back to business. Polly put the curtain back up and put your gloves back on. THE TEADRINKERS ARE HERE. MY CUSTOMERS ARE SEEING THIS. This is absolutely not on.”
Suki boldly ignores him and hands tea cups out.
“Polly you know what happens if you use Old Bones for tea. Why are you being so foolish?”
Polly looks to Bone China for guidance. The ancient teapot touches Polly on the hand. "Polly you know what to do." Polly slowly, nervously, but with determination pours a cup of her tea, approaches Earl and hands it to him.
“Drink this. What do you taste?” she asks, almost inaudibly.
Expecting a laughably awful flavour Earl drinks...and falls back into a chair. The colour drains from his face as he whispers “la Destina”.
Curious, everyone else drinks. LA DESTINA LA DESTINA they shout joyously and surround Polly.
Polly begins nervously, “And now that I have made La Destina,” she swallows but goes on, “our deal is complete. I no longer require your custodian services and,” has Polly actually begun to smile? “Earl, I release you. You are free to go.”
Earl visibly crumples. “What can I do now? I have lost my teamaker. I have lost my tearooms. All the years I poured into this place. All my work to make my place in the world. To keep everything JUST SO. And what have I got now? Nothing. I have nothing. I gave everything I had. I took so much care over every little detail and it has all crumbled. Dust in my hands."
At this moment the teapot arrives in fabulous travelling clothes, with a suitcase and a large folded umbrella. Earl looks at his faithful, beautiful teapot. “Are you leaving now? I don’t deserve you, old friend. Leave me. You are too beautiful for me, you should be free to make your way - not trapped with a man who has nothing. Go Go lovely teapot.”
“What? Why? I know my flavour was never La Destina. That’s not why your teadrinkers came to these tearooms. They came for you Earl. Your charm. Your intoxicating charisma. Look at us. I am beautiful, you are suave and that is enough to do a lot of things. It has been enough to keep the tearooms going successfully for 20 years even though the tea wasn’t great. What couldn’t we do together? Come with me. We can go anywhere, do anything. The world is our oyster.”
The Teapot puts out his hand and with uncharacteristic sheepishness Earl takes it. The teapot hands him the umbrella. "This is for you - you can use it as a walking stick and it might come in handy when i get leaky." Off they walk arm in arm, the teapot excitedly talking about what they could get up to.
The Dishwasher approaches Polly and Suki. He has his apron over his arm and announces he is leaving - that his work is done.
"I have a gift for you both. For you Suki, afternoon sunshine, a note book to write down your beautiful songs." Suki takes the gift and hugs him.
"For you, Pol." The dishwasher hands Polly his now completed poem, framed. Polly reads the beautiful text tearfully. I needn't recount the lengthy work here word for word, suffice to say it features Polly, Suki and the movements of a kettle on and off. Polly says she doesn’t know what she will do without him. The dishwasher responds that she will be fine and that he has found the perfect replacement. He tenderly puts his apron on Suki. Polly wipes her tears, embraces her friend and hangs the poem on the wall next to her Polly's sign.
Our attention turns to Picander. His beautiful hair has been put back into an industrious pony tail and he is writing his new poem under the brutal but brilliant editorialship of Old Bones. Is she the sort of editor who would box a young poet around the ears for poor meter?
Picander finishes and stands to read the poem to the audience. - it is a final song (much improved from his previous efforts) and wishes everyone good fortune, good poetry and tea of true La Destina quality.
Everyone joins the final chorus - a resounding chorale of the Dishwasher's Polly poem.