As you know, every year I write a play to be performed at my Christmas party.
This year I have written an adaptation of the story, by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
Now, Dickens is a renowned writer - although not in the same league as the great playwright Sir Ernest Wiseman, of course.
However, there are a number of aspects to the story that have always troubled me. To me, it seems somewhat over-critical of the role of an entrepreneur in society. It fails to highlight the gainful employment that Mister Scooge offers to his clerks, for instance.
In rewriting it for the stage, therefore, I have taken the opportunity to make a number of improvements to the text. The character of Scrooge has been replaced with myself and I humbly hope that I might set a better example to the populace of Homeward.
There is a long standing custom that Hateman and his tribe are invited to Homeward for the Christmas festivities. I even decided that they could take some of the roles in this little theatrical. Sigismund Hateman is playing a major role - that of Bob Scratchit. I am beginning to regret this. We had our first rehearsal today and as you can see they have a tendency to deviate from the script as written:
ACT ONE: SOME ANNOYING VISITORS
EXTERIOR: A street in Homeward.
Narrator: It is Christmas Eve and one of the worst winter mornings that Homeward has ever known. A thick later of snow carpets the drawbridge, the frozen moat and the streets of Homeward. Uncle is on his way to his office.
Beaver Hateman: There goes Mr Humbug of Homeward!
Hitmouse: Old Unc, he loves his money cos he finks it makes him all-powerful!
Beaver Hateman: Yeah he is notorious for his under-handed deeds. Charging extortionate rents for his dark and draughty apartments!
A Small Dwarf: I beg to differ! Why my apartment is lovely – fully centrally heated and only 6d a week!
Hitmouse sticks a skewer in the dwarfs leg and he squeals in pain and runs away.
Hitmouse: Huh! typical example of the proletariat - tugging his forelock to Unc! He is exploited and clings tightly to his right to remain in that state!
Uncle: You are ad-libbing – please stick to my script!
INTERIOR: Uncle’s Office
Uncle: Good morning, Old Monkey.
Old Monkey: Good morning, Sir. May I introduce a new worker we have taken on? His name is Bob Scratchit.
A rather lumpen figure in a blue sackcloth suit shuffles forward, scratching under his armpit.
Bob Scratchit: Mornin’ Unc!
Old Monkey: You really must learn some better manners if you are to continue working here – Mister Uncle if you please!
Bob Scratchit: (in a snide voice) Sorry, Mister Uncle.
He shuffles back to his desk scratching his bottom.
Uncle: (sotto voice) Does he have to scratch like that all the time?
Old Monkey: I fear so, Sir.
Uncle: Make a note to give him some of Gleamhound’s itching powder as a Xmas present. All his preparations work backwards so that should cure the problem.
Old Monkey: Alonzo S Whitebeard is waiting to see you, Sir.
Narrator: Alonzo is a great miser. He has a silver sixpence as big as a millstone. It’s two feet thick, and almost six feet high. At night he sits and looks at it.
Uncle: Oh dear, what does that old skinflint want.
The Old Monkey ushers in Whitebeard, who is in tears.
Old Monkey: I believe Mister Whitebeard wishes to complain about Christmas, Sir!
Alonzo: Sir, I want you to cancel this ridiculous annual event – it is costing me a fortune and it’s a load of humbug!
Uncle: What right have you to be dismal? You're rich enough.
Alonzo: Not for very long at this rate – all these bloomin’ people expecting to be given presents and eating me out of house and home!
Uncle: Christmas is a time for goodwill and charity. In that spirit, here is a giant hamper of food – as for presents, there is no need for extravagance. It is the thought that counts.
Alonzo: Oh thank you, Sir for your wise words. You are not only a shrewd businessman but a kind one to boot! I have had a brilliant thought! I have a box full of unsold diaries from last year that I got cheap. They only need all the dates altering and then they would make perfect gifts.
Narrator: As Alonzo staggered away under the weight of the huge hamper, the King of the Badgers paid a call on Uncle.
Old Monkey: The King of the Badgers is here to see you, Sir.
Uncle: Oh dear, I imagine that he will be needing to borrow some money, again!
Old Monkey: I fear so, Sir.
Enter the King of the Badgers:
King of the Badgers: Uncle, good fellow, a Merry Christmas to you!
Uncle: Uh, Yes, indeed.
King of the Badgers: A wonderful time of year, but as you know a somewhat expensive time. One’s subjects do expect one to make a bit of an effort – parties, gifts and such like! I find myself somewhat embarrassed for funds and I wondered it might be at all possible for you to arrange a small loan? Of a temporary nature, of course!
Uncle: Like the last one you mean?
King of Badgers: Well, I thought you might put it on the slate so to speak?
Uncle: I shall be more than happy to make a gift to the Badgertown Home for Fallen Badgers – say, a thousand hampers?
King of the Badgers: (plaintively) Well, er, that is very kind, Sir, but a bit of ready cash would be rather useful, too?
Uncle: I have a suggestion. As you know, I gave rather a lot of money to you to help prop up the Badgertown Rock Bank. I am somewhat perturbed that they, apparently, intend to pay themselves a rather large bonus this year – despite the fact that I have not been repaid. I suggest that you charge them a large windfall tax on these bonuses, thereby enlarging your coffers considerably!
King of the Badgers: Oh what a splendid idea, Sir! Thank you, so much, for sharing your inestimable wisdom!
Narrator: The King of the Badgers went on his way basking in the generosity of the great elephant. Now, it is customary on Christmas Eve for well-meaning gentleman to call upon businesses to collect donations for the poor and homeless. Here are Hateman and Hitmouse - attempting to raise money for a so-called good cause!
Hateman and Hitmouse burst through the door with a begging bowl:
Hateman: Oi Unc, enough of your propaganda! some of us is endeavouring to raise a fund for the poor and homeless of Badfort – what can we put you down for?
Uncle: Nothing – and that stuff about propaganda is not in my script!
Hateman: Nothing! You old skinflint – you would have us all in the poorhouse you miserable capitalist!
Uncle: I know exactly how the money will be spent – barrels of Black Tom for your so-called People’s Palace! I have no intention of making a bunch of anarchists merry this Christmas!
Hateman: Have a heart – it is Christmas!
Uncle: As usual you are invited to my annual party – but Christmas is no excuse to pick an elephant’s pocket!
Hateman: I can’t fink of a better time – Christmas, nowt but a celebration of consumerism! What more fitting illustration of the Marxist theory of surplus value, which in the capitalist system is generated by labour!
Uncle: That is not in the script!!!
Hateman: Wot, not in your piece of blatant self-aggrandisement you mean!
Uncle: Enough! We will resume rehearsals next week! And I expect you to stick to the script and stop all this ad-libbing!