Twenty lovesick maidens are gathered outside Castle Bunthorne. A year ago they were smart, worldly young ladies, engaged to the officers of the 35th Dragoon Guards; but since that time they have encountered Reginald Bunthorne, a poet of the most aesthetic type and, falling madly in love with him, have rejected their fiancees. Now they subscribe whole heartedly to Bunthorne's artistic ideals, and live only for him. Bunthorne himself, however, is in love with Patience, the village milkmaid, while she claims that she has never been in love, although she cherished the memory of a little boy she played with as a child.
The officers of the 35th Dragoon Guards arrive on the scene, and are dismayed to find their lady-loves so changed, having always been convinced that their soldierly bearing and handsome uniforms should guarantee success in love. They suspect that Bunthorne is not all he seems, a view which is confirmed when Bunthorne confides to patience that his poetic ways are a sham, and pleads with her to accept his suit. She rejects him, puzzled by his talk of love, but is soon persuaded by Lady Angela that love is a noble emotion which everyone has a duty to feel. Patience resolves to find a lover, and is surprised by the entry of Archibald Grosvenor, who is revealed as her childhood playmate. He too is now a poet, and one so handsome that every woman he meets adores him. They renew their love, but find a new difficulty: Patience's theory of love says that it must be unselfish, and her love for such a perfect specimen as Grosvenor cannot be so. He may love her, but she may not love him in return, and they sadly part.
Heartbroken by Patience's rejection of him, Bunthorne now decides that he will marry one of his maidens. The lucky bride is to be chosen by a lottery, and the maidens joyfully lead Bunthorne and his solicitor in a dance, to the horror of the officers. Just as the lots are about to be drawn, Patience calls a halt; she will demonstrate her capacity for unselfish love by marrying Bunthorne. The disappointed maidens revert to their former loves, until Grosvenor appears. On discovering that he is aesthetic, the maidens transfer their devotion to him, and the first act ends with their following the hapless Grosvenor away from the castle.
Alone among the maidens, Lady Jane has remained faithful to Bunthorne but has to concede that the passing years have wreaked havoc with her youthful charms. Grosvenor's heart still belongs to Patience, and he explains to the maidens that their pursuit of him is hopeless, while Patience, though engaged to Bunthorne, makes it clear that her preference is still for her childhood sweetheart. In the meantime, the Dragoons decide that, in a last-ditch attempt to regain the favours of their fiancees, they will ape the manners of the poets. This they do, with some success - but which of the ladies will win the Duke, with a thousand a day? How can Patience be released from her dutiful engagement to Bunthorne? And finally, who on earth will be Bunthorne's Bride?
|Colonel Calverley||David MacTier|
|Major Mugatatroyd||Chris Bailward|
|Lieut. the Duke of Dunstable||Andrew Armstrong|
|Reginald Bunthorne||Geoff Allan|
|Archibald Grosvenor||Simon Wills|
|Mr Bunthorne's Solicitor||Anthony Holbrook|
|The Lady Angela||Susan Wales|
|The Lady Saphir||Janet Allan|
|The Lady Ella||Samantha Brook|
|The Lady Jane||Scilla Copper|