First performed by Windsor Players of Edinburgh. December 1974
Winner of the SCDA playwriting competition
24 Productions in the UK
Published by Brown, Son & Ferguson
Characters (4m 3f)
Tam Borthwick: An Undertaker Maggie Borthwick: His wife Jock: Tam's apprentice William Borthwick: Tam's brother, also an Undertaker Isa Borthwick: William's wife Betty: William's maidservant Herbert Purves: An Officer of the Sheriff Court
The Setting: Tam Borthwick's Funeral Parlour Period - 1896
Running Time: 40 minutes
In Victorian Edinburgh, two brothers run rival funeral parlours in the same street. While William Borthwick runs a successful business, his brother, Tam, is heavily in debt and is reduced to hunting for prospective customers at the local hospital.
A partnership would seem a sensible arrangement, but the men prefer to squabble, much to the dismay of their wives, who have been, unknown to their husbands, good friends for some time. Despite stern warnings, the women have continued their clandestine meetings.
During one eventful morning, the women have met at Tam’s parlour, where Tam’s apprentice has also been entertaining William’s maid in secret. When Tam returns earlier than expected, a game of hide and seek ensues, featuring some very unusual hiding places.
The chaos is further complicated by a visit from William – who has come to gloat at his brother’s misfortune. To add to Tam’s woes, an officer from the sheriff court arrives in pursuit of long outstanding debts.
A triumphant William offers to buy Tam’s parlour at half his previous offer, but fate plays a sudden hand that reverses the fortunes of the brothers. Now Tam has the only funeral parlour in the street, but the two wives are determined to have the last word.
This S.C.D.A. Playwriting Competition winning play offers, not surprisingly considering the setting, many opportunities for black comedy.