Jan Coo and the River - Verse Play

Jan Coo and the River

A verse play by pupils at Boasley Cross, Hatherleigh and Northlew primary schools
(based on the Dartmoor myth and created during workshops with MED Theatre, March-April 2011)
Prologue: The Gorge – Jan growing up


Enter Gorge


Gorge:  I’m the gorge of the Dart.

         I’ve been here for thousands of years

        And I’m the wisest of all there has been.

        My trees are twisted and turned, 

        All dressed in moss they keep me company 

        All the time, even in winter 

        When they are shivering and bare

        They still are my friends forever. 


        Some terrible things happened here at the river. 

        I’ve seen a young boy called Jan Coo

        Who plays here splashing below me. 

        I’ve heard the waves splashing against the boulders:

        It’s so loud you can’t hear the sheep bleating. 

        As Jan Coo was growing older you could see

        Then something terrible happened

        And this is how it goes…


Scene 1: By the river


Enter Jan and River


Gorge: I wonder, I wonder what they will play today? 


Jan and River play


Jan:        You are my best friend,

        I will never leave you. 


Jacob’s footsteps are heard and he stumbles on stage


Jacob: I’m lost, I’m looking

        For Rowbrook Farm. 

        Do you think you could help me?


Jan:        What’s your name?

        I’d be delighted to help. 


They start walking off together


Wind: I feel bad weather, 

        You’d better go inside. (Blows and giggles)


River: Come back, come back!

        You said you would never leave me. 


Boulders:(Whispering to each other) Jan shouldn’t have done that,

         We’ve seen it all before,

         The last time it happened

         It didn’t turn out well at all. 


Gorge rolls eyes and sighs

Exit all characters


Scene 2: At the farm


Enter Jacob, Jan, Farm-hand 1 and 2


Jan:     I am tired of shovelling 

        All this soil.

        It’s like digging a never-ending 

        Pool in a river. 


Farm-hand 1: It’s really windy,

         I just can’t bear it,

         It’s like a terrible whirlwind 

         In the middle of the sea. 


River: Jan Coo, Jan Coo, Jan Coo. 


Jan:      Did you hear that? 

        That’s my name!


Farm-hand 1&2: Stop playing your tricks, Jan Coo.


Jan tries to run away


Jacob:  Come back Jan,

        We’re working really hard.


Jan comes back to the farm


Wind: You’ve forgotten River…

        How you played with her in your youth,

        You built dams with the sticks 

        And stones of her bed.


Exit all characters


Scene 3: Field on the farm
Already on stage: Jan Coo and Jacob


Jacob:    This is hard work

        Lifting the boulders. 


They wipe their brows with a handkerchief


Jan:          Oh no! We’ve squashed

         The beautiful flowers!


Wind:       Let’s have some fun here!

         I’ll twirl and whirl

         Some leaves around like a whirlpool.


Wind spins leaves around


River: (from offstage, spookily) Jan Coo, Jan Coo, Jan Coo.  


Jan drops his boulder in shock


Jacob:      Ouch! Be careful Jan Coo!

          Where are you off to?


Jan:      I’m off to the river 

          To meet my old friend. 


Wind:        Jan Coo is starting 

          To climb the wall 

          And running off towards 

          The bubbling river. 

          Run faster! 

          Run faster Jan!


Jacob stops Jan


Jacob:     I’ve caught you Jan,

         Where are you off to? 


Jan and Jacob go back to work, exit



Scene 4: By the river and gorge


Enter Wind and River, they whisper, planning how to get Jan to the river.

Wind:       I’ve just seen Jan

         Is on his own, 

         Let’s try now. 

         He has been saying nasty things

         About you to Jacob.


River:      Great idea.

         I will swallow him up

         Like a shark eating fish

         In the water so dark. 


Wind starts dancing around River


River:      Stop dancing around me
                 You’re making me hiccup.

Wind:       How boring it is
                 To be so still and quiet.
                 I feel sorry for you
                 Stuck in this trench.
         I’m as free as the birds
                 Flying around in the sky. 

Wind sniggers
River thinks again of the plan to take revenge on Jan Coo
River:     I forgive you
        For making me hiccup. 
        I will call Jan Coo,
        Three times in a row
        I say his name.
        You can carry it on to him
        Like a good boy,
        There there there,
        And do it now. 
Wind goes off stage
Exit River 

Scene 5: Field
Enter Jan and Sheep and Lamb. Enter Gorge watching.
Jan:       Come on little lad,
      Let’s get you suckling,
      Your tail is wiggling
      Like a worm.
Lamb jumps
     Calm down now, 
     You are going to embarrass your Mum. 
     That’s it, that’s it.
     I am sure you feel better now. 
Sheep: Ba ba ba.
Enter Wind
Wind:   I am going to make you shiver, sheep!
Gorge: The lamb ran to his mum in fear as
     The wind glided like owl down his spine.
     Jan tried to calm down the lamb, 
     After a while it worked but 
     The distant sound of laughter of the wind 
     Echoed like giant footsteps.
Wind is hiding behind a tree, holding in his laughter, which escapes occasionally
River: (Offstage) Jan Coo, Jan Coo, Jan Coo.
Wind: (Whispered) Jan Coo, Jan Coo, Jan Coo. 
Jan looks around seeing no-one is there to stop him, follows the voice. 


Exit all
Scene 6: At the river
Enter boulders and River, arguing. 
Boulder 1: You’re truly evil, River. 
Boulder 2: You’ve bashed us with your waves for decades. 
River:      Oh shut up, Boulders.
        I’m only having a bit of fun. 
Jan Coo enters. River and boulders go quiet suddenly. 
Jan:   I heard my name being called,
        Was it you, River? Was it you? 
River: (Smiling slyly) Jan Coo, come closer, my dear child.
        It’s been a long time. 
Boulder 3: Don’t do it, Jan!
Boulder 2: No, don’t fall for it, Jan. 
Boulder 1: Don’t listen to the evil river
                 Step on us, step on us!
Wind enters and hides behind a tree, trying to hold in his laughter

Jan Coo wades into the water and disappears from the stage 

Search party walks across stage (farm-hands and Jacob and extra characters)
Searchers: Jan where are you?
         Jan, Jan Jan!
They all call
Distant laughter from the Wind. The search party exit. 

Scene 7: At the river, same place
Three boulders already on from previous scene. Enter Jan. this time trying to get away from the River. Enter Gorge.
All Boulders: Step on me, Jan Coo.
        Step on me, Jan Coo.
        Step on me, Jan Coo.
Boulder 1: Jan Coo, Jan Coo,
        Two more to go. 
Gorge:  Jan steps on the first boulder. 
Boulder 2: Come on, come on!
        Jan Coo, Jan Coo,
        One more to go. 
Jan steps on the second
Boulder 3: Jan Coo, Jan Coo,
        One more step to go.
River settled and relaxed
Jan:        Help me, help me,
       Hear my cries.
River: Come to me, remember
        All the fun times we use to have.
Gorge: Jan Coo was torn and didn’t know which way to go. 
        Then he cautiously jumped to the last boulder. 
River:      I’m coming to get you, get you, Jan Coo.
        All this time I’ve been left on my own 
        As lonely as a solitary leaf that has fallen from a tree.
        My tears of sorrow have flooded the river banks. 
Wave of the river (made up of actors) engulfs Jan. 
Search party walks across stage (farm-hands and Jacob and extra characters)
Searchers: Jan where are you?
        Jan, Jan Jan!
They all call, then exit.