The King's New Palace - A play


Once upon a time in a land not that far away...

QUEEN: King, I'm getting properly narked here. This palace is rubbish: the rain is pouring in, the west wall is in ruins, the servants hate it and it costs an effing fortune to run. Can you please get your finger out and sort it?

KING: I know, I know my dear. I'll ring the palace vendors now.

The next day...

KING: Look here my man I need a new palace.

PALACE VENDOR: Excellent Your Majesty, may I say what splendid raiments Your Majesty is wearing today? [King looks impatient] Presumably Your Majesty will be seeking a fine, gold-encrusted palace with multiple turrets and the latest drawbridge?

KING: Look, Mate. I'm skint. I just need a palace.

PALACE VENDOR: Of course Sir, we will design you an excellent palace that will meet all of your needs and, of course, your budget.

Six months later...

PALACE VENDOR: The design for your new palace Your Majesty...

KING: Thank God. Looks great. When can you build it?

PALACE VENDOR: Excellent Sir; I'll have our planning team on the case immediately.

KING: Incidentally, how much did this design cost me?

PALACE VENDOR: Ah Sir, you will be very pleased to know, only slightly more than the very modest proportion of your dwindling fortune that we estimated 6 months ago Sir. [King sighs]

PALACE VENDOR: [Through the gap in the closing drawbridge] By the way Sir, would you like your palace building with our Royal Cumulus™ foundations?

KING: I really don't care; I just want a bloody palace. Now hoppit!

PALACE VENDOR: Of course Sir. [Resigned look creeps across King's face as the dilapidated drawbridge bangs shut]

Three months later...

PALACE VENDOR: We have looked at the design Your Majesty and, because of the innovative nature of some of the cutting-edge money-saving features, we recommend that - whilst we get on with the foundations of the new palace - we run a pilot project: a gatehouse of a similar design to ensure that these new features are fully honed to meet your needs. Should have it done in a trice.

KING: Have you ever built a palace like this before?

PALACE VENDOR: As you know Sir, we are well established builders of palaces, you can trust us to do an excellent job. [King sighs]

Six months later...

KING: I see the gatehouse is not finished.

PALACE VENDOR: Many of the critical features of the gatehouse are now almost complete Your Majesty. Just some tweaking here and there.

KING: You have got to be 'aving a giraffe: it doesn't even have a bleedin' roof!

PALACE VENDOR: One or two minor delays Sir, but you'll be pleased to know that we are not wasting time: construction of your new palace on the hill is well under way.

KING: But surely the point of building the gatehouse was... [King tails off realising that he is committed and has no way out without considerable loss of royal face]


A year later, still in the old palace

KING: Morning Dear [Tentatively - Queen looks thunderous]

QUEEN: Look here mush, we are still in this manking old dump. And, because legal action against the palace vendors is stuck with our equally useless lawyers, we are utterly potless. The rain is still pouring in, the west wall is still in ruins and the east wall is now not looking much better, the servants have mostly buggered off and it costs even more of an effing fortune to run. Fix it or you're flying solo from now on. Capiche?

KING: I know, I know my dear. I'll ring the other palace vendor now.

QUEEN: What?! [incandescent by this stage] Don't you dare touch that dial! For god's sake, man up will you! Do something different! [The King thinks for a while, steels himself and issues a command]

A week later every engineer, builder, architect, tradesman, labourer in the land gather at the palace

KING: Right you lot, I need a new palace.

An animated discussion ensues amongst the assembly, after some time a lowly serf steps forward...

SERF: King?

KING: What is it?

SERF: Er... I was thinking... do you actually need a palace Sir?

KING: Look here pal, get wise or your swede will be on the palace railings before you can say axe.

SERF: I am being serious Sir. What do you really want... in the long term I mean?

KING: [King takes off crown and scratches head] Well, I suppose that I need somewhere comfortable to live for me and my family, a bit royal but not too expensive.

SERF: And what is the big problem right now?

KING: If I am honest, I'd just like the rain to stop coming into the royal bed chamber.

More animated discussion and some of the tradesmen begin to look at the palace

The next day...

QUEEN: Blimey that tarpaulin bloke was nippy.

KING: Indeed, and a nice touch to put up one with the royal crest on. Temporary, but it looks quite swanky in a funny kind of way and it only cost us two groats and a bag of wheat.

[Knock on door]

SERF: We've had an idea Your Majesty. Whilst Terry was putting up the tarpaulin he found that actually your walls aren't in bad nick at all. Mick the Mason reckons that we could salvage some of the stones from the west wall and fix you up with a pretty decent Royal Apartment.

KING: Here we bloody go. How much? How long?

SERF: Well, I've had a chat with the boys and we will do what we can in a month for 400 groats. Reckon we should have two rooms ready by then.

KING: OK that's quick but just two rooms?

SERF: We don't know exactly what's going to happen, but doing something quickly should give you somewhere comfortable to live and allow us to learn what's what. Also, if things go wrong, it won't be too much of a disaster.

KING: Alright, give it a go. But remember what I said about your head and the palace railings

A month later...

QUEEN: Whoohoo Kingy! Those chaps have done what they said. Two rooms done. They've put in some of that insulation the peasants have been using: I've not the faintest what it is but the place is as cosy as you like. And they've installed some of that stuff they call plumbing. Must have cost a fortune.

KING: Er... no. Exactly what they said: 400 groats. Actually, I bunged them an extra 50 for their trouble and asked them to get on and build the other rooms.

Three months later...

QUEEN: Darling, I'm well chuffed: Royal Apartment done. Tarpaulin replaced with a proper roof. Even had some dosh left over to get some of those soft furnishings. Doesn't much look like a palace but, like you asked, we have somewhere comfortable to live, it's looking quite kingly and surprisingly the privy purse is left with more than just a few bits of fluff and an old bus ticket in it.

KING: Not only that my dear: now all these builder chappies have been working here for a while they understand what we need better and are getting familiar with the place. They seem to be getting on well together and are coming up with all sorts of sensible ideas.

And so things carried on. The builders developed the buildings adding more features. After a year or so the place was even beginning to look quite splendid. A new kind of palace. Although it wasn't what the King and Queen would have imagined building, it was just what they wanted: comfortable, royal in a contemporary sort of way and cheap to run; even the servants enjoyed working there.

And, cutting a long fairy story short, they all lived happily ever after. (Apart, that is, from the palace vendors).

Written for a lark over my Sunday morning coffee. It's about the current situation with government IT. It contains some wild simplifications and dreadfully unfair lampooning; but over to you to decide how wild and how unfair.