Scene 1 – The Palace Gates
The curtains rise to reveal the outside of the palace. In front of the palace gates is a throng of royal fans, held back by a rope cordon. As a series of Princesses and their escorts from different countries arrive and are ushered into the palace, the onlookers cheer, wave and take photos – all hopeful for an autograph. It is apparent by the guests’ attire that they are arriving for a special occasion.
The Unsuitable Girlfriend is among those who arrive for the ball, and as she enters she takes the private secretary aside and pushes the bribe/money back into his hand. It is clear she will not be paid-off.
Scene 2 – The Royal Ball
A second curtain is drawn which brings us into the inside of the palace. As the guests stand to one side the Prince and the Queen enter the room – the Queen is striking as the only person in red, amidst a sea of black evening wear.
The Unsuitable Girlfriend is eager to dance with the Prince, but the Private Secretary intervenes. The Prince, believing that she did take the Private Secretary’s bribe money outside the seedy club is also dismissive of her, and doesn’t want to engage her in conversation. The Unsuitable Girlfriend is clearly frustrated but won’t give up easily.
A fanfare of trumpets herald the arrival of a mysterious male figure in black leather trousers, shirt and coat. Looking inscrutably like the Prince’s Swan, the shaken Prince surveys him closely. He appears to put everyone, including the Queen, under an intoxicating spell with his intrigue and brazen behaviour.
Passionate duets follow between the Stranger and the Hungarian, German and Romanian Princesses. The Spanish and Italian Princess then take turns in leading high-energy group dances.
Tensions between the Prince and the Stranger rising dramatically when the Stranger begins to leads the Queen in an impassioned duet until, during a frenzy of partnered turns, the Prince manages to take the Queen’s place. A pas de deux between the two men begins – referred to within the show as ‘the tango’. The music is melancholic but the duet is full of the physical and sexual tension synonymous with the sensual Argentinian ballroom dance, that first rose to popularity in the early 1900s.
Just as the interplay between them grows more intense the Stranger disappears from the Prince’s clasp. Doubting himself once more, the Prince appears to question his own soundness of mind.
As guests drift back into view, the Stranger appears one final time. Dipping his thumb into a nearby ashtray he draws an ashen line down his forehead and nose - instantly reminiscent of the mark of the Swan.
The Prince’s anguish is tempered briefly, before the Queen reappears and embarks on yet another duet with the Stranger. As though mocked by all those around him, the Prince flees the ballroom.
A rousing competition dance starts up with the women, followed by the men, showing off their dancing prowess. The Prince returns looking harried and angry. When the Stranger attempts to kiss the Queen, the Prince loses all restraint and a furious argument breaks out. He challenges the Stranger, who appears to deny having ever known the Prince.
Confused and angry the prince draws a gun from his pocket and aims at his mother, but it is the Private Secretary who shoots first. However, it is the Unsuitable Girlfriend who has rushed to the Prince’s side who is killed in error.
Cast out of the palace, the dismayed Queen is comforted by the Stranger, whilst the guests crowd around the now lifeless body of the Unsuitable Girlfriend.
The Prince's Bedroom
The Prince is dressed in white pyjamas, and bars cover his bedroom window. The Queen, also wearing white, enters the room. She is followed by the Private Secretary and a long-line of women in nurse-like uniforms who all have the same facial features and hair-dos as the Queen.
The stark white outfits and walls are reminiscent of an asylum; and the Prince is subjected to a series of sinister ‘treatments’.
With the Prince in bed, and in a deep sleep, the nurses and Private Secretary take their leave. The Queen takes a short moment alone with the Prince, very briefly touching his hand.
As the Prince slumbers on, swans begin to emerge. First from under his bed, then from all around it. As their movements grow more fervent the Prince sits up in bed. Eyes closed, he reaches an arm out in front of him; as though dreaming.
A sudden beat of the drum, and the swans vanish. The Prince sits bolt upright in bed, clearly shaken. He searches under the bed to no avail and begins an agitated solo, reenacting his night visions. As his hysteria grows the Swan – exhausted and unsteady on his feet - materialises from the very centre of the Prince’s bed.
The Prince climbs back on the bed and nestles under the protective wing of the Swan. Almost immediately, the rest of the swans re-emerge and it is clear they have arrived as aggressors. Sensing their threat, the Swan attempts to move the Prince to safety at the head of the bed, but it is soon consumed and the Prince is set upon.
Summoning his remaining strength, the Swan chases them away and tries desperately to raise the limp body of the Prince. He has lost all hope, when the Prince unexpectedly regains consciousness. The Swan lifts him into a nurturing embrace.
Once again, the swans return, and whilst the Swan tries fervently to keep them at bay it is impossible. He is dragged onto the bed and viciously attacked; whilst the Prince watches on in horror.
Almost as quickly as they appeared the swans disappear into the blackness and the Prince collapses face down on his bed. The Queen, presumably having heard a commotion, rushes in to find the Prince unresponsive. As she falls to the floor in grief, an image of the Swan holding the Prince in his arms once again unveils itself above the bed.
The battle, whether real or ‘of the mind’, is now over.