A play, based on ‘Salt’ by Arthur Ransome
written by Johnstonebridge Primary School
We wrote this play after reading ‘Salt’, a short story by Arthur Ransome.
The script is based on the first part of the story.
SALT - Scene 1
(In a big house near the sea, in Russia, in the 1830s)
Story teller: Once upon a time there were three brothers, and their father was a wealthy merchant who sent his ships far over the seas to different countries, here and there, in Asia, Africa, Europe and America. The names of the eldest two brothers don’t matter, but the youngest of them all was called Ivan the Ninny. The reason he was called this nickname was, he was always doing pathetic and irresponsible things. Here is an example of how he got that name:
Ivan’s mother: Ivan, your father and I are going out and we won’t be back by the time you come back from school. Have you got your keys?
Ivan :( Impatiently) Yes mother.
Ivan’s mother: You’d better have because I am not coming back from an important meeting about business with the Tzar to come and let you into the house.
Ivan:(cheekily) Ok, mother, I heard you the first time.
Ivan’s mother: Enough of your cheek young man - now go to school!
(Ivan leaves the house and charges towards the school gates)
Story teller: Seven hours later Ivan returned home; the sky was grey and it looked like it was going to rain.
Ivan: (rooting through his bag and mumbling) Where is my key?
(Ivan looks though the kitchen window and there on the table is his door key.)
Ivan: Oh sugar! I left my key on the table.
I will have to find my mother.
(He runs off to find his mother)
Story teller: After a few hours searching, Ivan eventually found his mother at the butchers in the town.
Ivan: Hello mother, I have a slight dilemma…. I left my key at home and I can’t get into the house.
Ivan’s mother: (annoyed and frustrated) Oh, Ivan, I told you in the morning to get your key ready!
Ivan: Oh sorry mother I thought you said, ‘ Did you have your breakfast?’
Ivan’s mother: (sighing) Oh, Ivan, you really are a ninny! What will your father say about this, young man?
Ivan: (mumbling) I know I’m a bit of a ninny!
Story teller: Ivan’s mother went back and told his father what had happened, and the rest of the family started to call Ivan a ‘ninny’. Another scenario is when….
One afternoon Ivan’s mother was shopping and his father was at sea with his brothers, when there was a loud knock at the door.
Ivan: I’m coming! (Ivan scurries to the door.
He opens the door and is caught by surprise by a charity collector)
Charity collector :( in a deep voice) Hello sir, can you please help the old retired sailor men by giving something that is no use to you anymore?
Ivan: Hold on a minute. Why do the old sailor men need it?
Charity collector: Because in the big war with the French, in 1811, a lot of sailors lost their lives and jobs and are still being affected twenty years later.
Ivan: OK, that sounds like a good cause. (He scampers away in search of something but all he can find is a bag of gold coins.)
Charity Collector: Oh! That is way too much, sir.
Ivan: It’s no problem! My father and brothers are wealthy merchants and you deserve it.
Charity Collector: (excitedly) Oh well, thank you sir!
Ivan: It’s a pleasure!
Charity Collector: What is your name, young man?
Ivan: My name is ‘Ivan’, but sometimes people call me ‘Ivan the Ninny’.
Charity Collector: Ivan, you’ll never be a ninny to the sailormen, because you will change their lives. Would you like to come and have dinner with us? Any time you like!
Ivan: (pleased) Ok, I’ll look forward to that!
Charity Collector: Well, I hope to see you soon, bye Ivan.
(Actors freeze on stage)
Story teller: Ivan was very proud of himself. However, when his mother and father came back from the town and found out what Ivan had done they were furious!
Ivan: So now you know why I got called a ‘ninny’.
Story Teller: Ivan grew up. After a few years he decided he was fed up of his nickname, and wanted to be a merchant like his brothers. He needed a ship to go out and sail the seas. So he decided to ask his parents for help.
Ivan: Father! Where are you?
Father: In the kitchen!
(Ivan goes to the kitchen.)
Ivan: May I have a ship to sail the seas?
Mother: Oh Ivan, I don’t think you are responsible enough now, maybe in a few years.
Ivan: I really think I am trustworthy enough now, just give me a chance.
Mother: Right enough, you haven’t done anything silly in the past few months.
Father: Have you forgotten that he gave all our wealth to the charity for old sailors?
Mother: But that was about seven years ago. He hasn’t done anything as silly as that since.
Father: Ok, you have got a point
Ivan: (excitedly) I feel ready for a ship.
Father: OK, but I cannot give you my best ship. In fact the one I’ll give you is not in great condition. It’s enough to keep you safe but I fear the sails may tear if you experience stormy weather.
Ivan: Give me any one you like. And sailor men.
Father: I’m afraid I will have to give you a poor cargo but this is your chance to prove you’re not a ninny. You have only got one shot, so make it count!
Ivan: Thank you so much father! I‘ll make you proud, I swear!
Father: I hope you do, boy. I hope you do
(Other actors freeze on stage and Ivan steps forward to speak.)
Ivan: Finally, I’ve got my chance to prove myself. I’ll show my parents that I’m not a ninny! My friends, the old sailors will help me.
Story teller: So that evening Ivan sailed off into the sunset with a cargo full of rags and a crew of ancient old sailor men, like the ninny he was.
The end. By Rachel, Kieran, Campbell.
SALT - Scene 2
Story Teller: The fourth day after Ivan and the sailor men set sail in the deep blue sea, there came a great storm of wind. The ancient old men tried their best with the old ship but couldn’t do anything to repair it.
(One of the sailors, while trying to mend the sails, is washed overboard by a giant wave.)
Peter: (shouts loudly) MAN OVERBOARD!
Archie: OH NO! The main sail is tearing! These stupid old sails are no good!
Ivan: Someone help Tom with the man overboard!
(Several sailors struggle to save their crewmate.)
Tom: I have nearly got him! I need help hoisting him up!
Harry: Ok, 1… 2…..3…. heave!
(They pull the nearly drowned sailor onto the deck and collapse, exhaustedly)
Archie: (in despair) Oh no! This ship isn’t going to last much longer, it’s going to break up!
Sailormen: (shout) Abandon ship!
Ivan: NO! I see an island! Quick turn towards it!
Peter: We can’t, the storm is too strong!
Tom: We have to try!
Ivan: Turn the wheel!
(They struggle to turn the wheel and steer the ship to safety.)
Tom: We are nearly there!
Ivan: One more pull on the sail! We’re here! WOO HOO!
(They all fall to the ground¸ exhausted. The men slowly stare at the wrecked sails of the ship, floating away, and notice a hole in the ship’s side.).
Ivan: Is everybody OK?
(They all nod) Good work, men, you’ve done an excellent job.
Right, I am going to go and explore this island while you lot fix the sails and ship with all the old things you can find!
Archie: What are we going to use to fix it?
Ivan: The old rags we’ve got in the cargo hold.
Harry: (horrified) What, these old sheets and curtains?
Harry: But the ship will look stupid!
Tom: What choice do we have?
Archie: He is right we could be stranded out here for ages!
Ivan: I agree with Archie! Now do we have an agreement?
Sailors: (in a groaning voice) Aye, aye, captain.
Ivan: Right, I am going to look for something that we can use for the ship.
(Ivan strides off into the island.)
Tom: My dad was like Ivan.
Harry: What, a ninny?
Tom: No, he always wanted to get out of hard work.
Storyteller: Ivan walked for an hour towards the middle of the island. He started to get tired and thirsty.
Ivan: Uh….. I am so thirsty! Oh! Some snow! (he stuffs some in his mouth) Cough! Cough! Uh, yuck (he tries to get the salt out of his mouth) Yuck, salt!
(Ivan walks up the smallish mountain where the salt is lying.)
Ivan: Now I really need a drink! (Sees a cave in the mountain) Maybe there is some water in there!
Story Teller: Ivan stupidly walks into the small cave, then suddenly he slips and goes tumbling down to the bottom of the deep, dark cave. It is also cold and wet).
(Back at the ship, some time later. The sailors have finished mending the sails, and are waiting for Ivan.))
Tom: Where is Ivan?
Archie: He has probably fallen asleep.
Harry: (worried voice) Maybe we should look for him!
(The sailors start looking for Ivan in the island).
Archie: (shouting) Ivan! Where are you?
Tom: Hey, look... tracks! He must have gone this way.
(The sailor men start following the tracks and soon they end up at the salt mountain.)
Tom: Look the tracks lead up the mountain!
Archie: Let’s go then!
(The sailor men walk up the salt mountain a bit, then suddenly Harry spots something).
Harry: Hey look! A salt cave! Maybe Ivan is down there!
(The sailor men carefully stumble down the salt cave until they find Ivan who is knocked out!).
Tom: Look, here he is! (crouching over and shaking Ivan’s shoulder)Wake up, Ivan!
Harry: (Shaking his head) What a ninny!
(The sailor men carry Ivan back to the ship).
Harry: Get a bucket of water!
Harry: So we can chuck it over his head.
Archie: Ok. Tom! Go and get a bucket of water!
Tom: (handing it to Archie) Here you go.
Harry: Thank you. (Harry chucks the bucket of water over Ivan)
Ivan (groaning): Where am I? Please can you help me up?
(The sailor men help Ivan up).
Ivan (confused) How did I get on the ship?
Tom: We carried you down here. You’d fallen into a salt cave!
Ivan: That’s right, I remember. But, hang on! I’ve just had a great idea! Where is the cave? We must load the ship, NOW!
Ivan: NOW! We can make our fortune with this salt!
Harry: (puzzled) But Ivan, who’s going to buy this salt?
Ivan: Don’t waste time. Let’s load up the ship and get going!
(When the sailors are far away from Ivan)
Harry: He can be really bossy sometimes!
Archie: And dumb!
(hours later when the sailor men have loaded fifty tons of salt)
Sailors: Right, captain, that’s all of it. If we put any more in the ship will sink.
Ivan: Thank you men, now let’s set sail! Good job with the sails, by the way.
Archie: Thanks be to God. Now, let’s pray that we have a safe journey home.
(The sailors thank the lord and set off into the sunset ).
SALT - Scene 3
Story Teller: After many days of sailing they came to a little old town with giant towers and beautiful churches, with a quiet little harbour.
Ivan: Look! There’s a harbour up ahead!
Peter: Let’s go there then.
Ivan: Sail the ship into the port and drop the anchor!
Sailor: Yes sir, right away!
Ivan: I’m going to sell some salt!
Archie: Good luck captain!
(Ivan strides into the town with a bag of salt)
Ivan: Salt for sale! Get your good Russian salt here! Makes dull food tasty!
Villager: What’s salt? That stuff is no good to us! What do you mean it will make dull food taste better? That is just dust from the streets.
Ivan: (To the audience) What! You have never tasted salt before? (upset and frustrated) Well, I guess no one in the town is going to buy my salt; I will have to go to the main man, the Tzar!
(Ivan walks into the palace with his bag of salt)
Guard: (sternly) Halt! Where do you think you’re going?
Ivan: I am a merchant, and I want to give the Tzar an opportunity to buy some of my precious cargo.
Guard: Oh, well the Tzar is always interested in valuable items. Servant!
(a servant runs forward)
Guard: Take this man to the Tzar!
Servant: Yes sir!
(Scampers off to find the Tzar, with Ivan following on behind)
(Tzar’s throne room)
Servant: (bows down) Sire, here is a merchant with some valuable items for sale. We thought he would be of interest to you
Tzar: Thank you Tomas, you can go now. What is your name, boy?
Ivan: (bows down to the ground) My name, sire, is Ivan and I , great lord, am a Russian merchant, and in this bag is some of my merchandise. I beg your leave to trade with your subjects in this town.
Tzar: (rubbing hands together thinking it is something valuable) Let me see what’s in the bag!
(Ivan takes a handful of salt and shows it to the Tzar)
Tzar: (disappointedly)What is this?
Ivan: (nervously) Good Russian salt, lord!
Tzar: ( furiously) WHAT? That stuff is just white dust! My men have no need to trade with you! You must be a ninny!
Ivan: (embarrassed) It’s not just white dust: it’s good quality Russian salt!
Tzar: (angrily) Don’t you dare speak to me like that! Get out right now!
Ivan: (about to cry) Yes your greatness, sorry for wasting your time, sire.
Tzar: (angrily) Guards! Get this ninny out of here NOW!
(Ivan bows while the guards escort him out of the palace)
Ivan: (to the audience) I’m not a ninny! What am I going to do? I have no money in my pockets and nobody will buy my salt… but, hang on, I have one more trick up my sleeve.
Storyteller: So Ivan crept round to the back door of the palace, making sure that no guards could see him, and put his head round the kitchen door.
(He sees a busy kitchen, with lots of cooks, and scullions preparing the Tzar’s dinner.)
Ivan: (Pretending that he is about to faint) I am very tired; may I come in and rest for a little while?
Cook: You may come in but you must sit there and not even put your little finger in the way, for we are the Tzar’s cooks and we are in the middle of preparing his dinner!
(One of the cooks pulls out a little stool and places it down for Ivan to sit on)
Head Cook: Everyone! Fetch the silver platters.
(One by one the cooks, scullions and servants scuttle out to get the silver platters. When they have all disappeared, Ivan tastes some of the dishes. The first dish, leaves him with a wondering look, the second, a puzzled look, the third, an expression of disgust crosses his face.)
Ivan: There’s no salt on this food! How revolting! It makes me feel sick to think of all the blandness of that food. I shall put a pinch of salt in every dish.
(Ivan goes from pot to pot dropping just enough salt in for every dish)
Ivan: There, all done!
(Ivan runs back and sits on the stool)
Ivan; Phew, just in time, they’re all coming back!
Head cook: Get the dishes ready and pass them to the waiters!
Servant: Yes cook!
(The servants get the dishes ready and pass them to the waiters. The waiters then enter the dining room and pass the dishes out to the Tzar, his wife and family)
Tzar: (After tasting the soup, he raises his eyebrows in amazement) This soup is very good today!
Tzaritza: (excitedly) I’ve never known soup so good!
Princess: (amazed) This is the best soup I have ever tasted in my whole life!
Tzar: Have we got a new cook in the kitchen?
Servant: No, sir. Not as far as I know.
Tzaritza: There must be a new recipe; we would know if there was a new cook because someone would have told us!
Princess: Yum! This is delicious. What’s next?
Tzar: This is very nice!
Tzaritza: Yum! There must be a new recipe!
Waiter: No, not as far as I’ve heard.
Tzar: Well, is there a new cook?
Waiter: No, sire, when I went down to fetch the dishes I didn’t see any new faces.
Princess: Maybe there are some new ingredients.
Waiter: I don’t know, maybe there is, though.
Tzar: What’s for dessert?
Waiter: Sticky toffee pudding!
Tzaritza: Mmm! Sounds delicious.
Tzar: That’s the greatest dish ever!
SALT - Scene 4
Tzar: Call the cooks!
Servant: Yes, Sir! Right away sir!
(he bustles off to call the cooks, who wipe their hands and arrive, worriedly, in the Tzar’s dining room)
Cook 1: (Whispering) I wonder what this is for. I hope we’re not losing our jobs.
Cook 2: (Whispering) Me too. I need the money to keep my house.
Cook 3: Maybe it’s that pie you made yesterday. I told you it wasn’t up to scratch!
Cook 2: (Angrily) My pie was perfectly fine, thank you very much. It must have been your cake!
Cook 1: Stop fighting you two, we don’t know he’s going to fire us.
Cook 2: Well, why else would he call on us at this time of day?
Tzar: SILENCE! I am not going to fire you, but I must know, why these dishes taste different?
Cook 2: We don’t know. We put nothing unusual in them, your greatness.
Tzar: Then why do they taste different?
Cook 1: We do not know sir.
Tzar: Call the scullions!
Servant: Of course your greatness.
(So the servant hurries off, ushering the cooks with him. He comes in a few minutes later with the scullions. They all bow)
Tzar: What did you do to the dishes that you have never done before?
All scullions except 1: Nothing your greatness.
Scullion 1: (Bowing) please your greatness. Please, great lord.There is usually none in the kitchen but ourselves, but today there was a young Russian merchant, who sat on a stool in the corner, and said he was tired.
Tzar: Call the merchant!
(So the servant brings Ivan, and he bows before the Tzar.
He stands up)
Tzar: Did you do something to our dishes?
Ivan: I put a pinch of good Russian salt in every one of them.
Tzar: Show it to me!
(Ivan shows him the bag of salt)
Tzar: Is that the white dust you showed me this morning?
Ivan: Nothing but that.
Tzar: Have you got any more of it?
Ivan: I have a little ship in the harbour, laden with nothing else.
Tzar: It is the most wonderful dust in the world, and I will buy every grain of it you have. What do you want for it?
Ivan: We will put the salt into bags and for every bag I give you, you must give me three bags of the same weight - one of gold, one of silver and one of precious stones. Cheaper than that, I could not possibly sell, your greatness.
Tzar: Agreed. And a cheap price too, for a dust so full of magic, that makes dull dishes tasty, and tasty dishes so good, that there’s no looking away from them.
(Ivan goes back to the ship in triumph)
Ivan: Men! I’ve managed to sell all our salt!
Sailorman 1: Well done, Ivan! How much did you get for it?
Ivan: For every bag of salt, we got three bags of the same weight, one of gold, one of silver and one of precious stones! We’re going to be rich!
Sailorman 1: Let’s take the salt to the Tzar.
(They go to the Tzar’s palace, and are shown in by a servant)
Tzar: Oh, the salt. Your gold, silver and precious stones are ready to be sorted, as I did not know how much was to be in a bag.
Narrator: So the old sailormen bent their backs again over bags of gold, silver and precious stones. Just before they left, the Princess came and stopped them.
Princess: May I see your little ship, merchant, before you leave?
Ivan: Of course! And my name’s Ivan.
Princess: Nice to meet you, Ivan.
Ivan: Come aboard!
(So the sailormen help the princess on board the ship)
Princess: May I see the sails?
Ivan: Men. Please raise the sails.
Peter: Yes, Captain!
(As the patchwork sails are raised the princess laughs delightedly)
Princess: What pretty sails! I’ve never seen a ship like this before!
Peter: (embarrassed) Well, at least they got us here safely, and we’ll now be able to buy new ones.
Princess: Why doesn’t the ship move when the sails are up?
Ivan: The anchor holds her.
Princess: Please let me see the anchor.
Ivan: Haul up the anchor, my friends, and show it to the princess.
(the sailormen haul up the anchor)
Ivan: Oh no! The ship’s moving away from the harbour! Please men. Help me get the anchor back in the water.
Tom: Our backs are too sore, heaving those heavy bags of salt around. I’m sorry Ivan.
Ivan: Well, this looks like we’ll have to leave it. I’m sorry.
Princess: What is my father going to say?
(So the princess sits down on a bag of jewels and starts crying, and won’t stop)
Story Teller: Ivan the Ninny took her hands and comforted her, and told her of the wonders of the sea that he would show her, and the wonders of the land. Then they agreed to marry each other, so they danced and clapped their hands, and ran around the ship.