The first rehearsal of my dramatic adaptation of 'A Christmas Carol' did not go particularly well. The Badfort Crowd persistently deviated from my script.
I cannot say that the second day has gone any better.
Act Two: The First of the Three Spirits
Exterior: The Entrance to the Great Hall of Homeward
Narrator: Uncle, returned home tired, as always, from a hard days labour. For his domain is vast and the responsibilities great. He makes his way up the steps but is suddenly transfixed by the giant knocker on the door. The knocker is fashioned in the likeness of Uncle himself but for an instance is transformed into the ugly visage of Hootman!
Hootman: Oi ! you can’t say that about me!
Uncle: Oh please hush, Hootman, and let the narrator continue the tale!
Narrator: It had a dismal light about it - like a Scob Fish in a dark pond. Its livid colour made it horrible. As Uncle looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was his knocker again.
Uncle: “Pooh, pooh! To many bananas for lunch!”
Narrator: Uncle sat by the fire drinking his usual bed-time drink, a bucket of cocoa, prepared, as always, with great care by the Old Monkey.
As Uncle warmed himself by the fire, all the bells of Homeward started to ring and he heard the clanking of chains.
Uncle then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.
Uncle: Oh drat – don’t tell me the ghosts have escaped from the Haunted Tower!
Narrator: Suddenly, a spectral figure came through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. The golden chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail.
Uncle: I know him; Hootman! -You are fettered, Tell me why?
Hootman: They are the chains I was bound in by capitalist exploitation. They portray the worker's connection to the capitalist. Conditions can improve for the worker through higher wages or a better working environment and can extend the chain. The worker may be happier and less stressed, but none the less he is still a slave to the capitalist. Your workers know that if they stick by you, the capitalist pachyderm, and follow your rules they will have the means to provide for themselves!
Uncle: This is Badfort propaganda and nonsense – it is not what I wrote! Please stick to the script about being a naughty rather than nice capitalist!
Hootman: O.K. Unc, whatever! - I forged these chains in life by my acts of greed. Three spirits will haunt you. Expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls One.
Uncle: Righto! I look forward to meeting them all!
Narrator: With that, the spirit of Hootman vanished into the darkness... leaving Uncle once again...alone in his room. Uncle soon nodded off but was awakened as the clock suddenly struck one o’clock.
The curtains of his bed were drawn aside and Uncle found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them.
It was a strange figure—like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium.
Uncle: Is that you Noddy Ninety? Wearing a white sheet?
Noddy Ninety: Yep, its me, Sir, only I am a ghost you see?
Uncle: Are you the Spirit whose coming was foretold to me?
Noddy Ninety: Yep, I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Uncle: Long Past?
Noddy Ninety: Nope. Your past.
Uncle: Fascinating, I am sure that this will be most enjoyable!
Noddy Ninety: Rise! and walk with me!
Narrator: Uncle rose: but finding that the Spirit made towards the window, clasped his robe in supplication.
Uncle: I am a rather well-built elephant – and I am no Dumbo so I cannot fly.
Noddy Ninety: Don’t worry I have borrowed your helicopter from Cowgill.
Narrator: Uncle and the Spirit fly off in the helicopter across land and back through time. They soon land on an open jungle road, with banana trees on either hand. Homeward had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it was to be seen. The darkness and the mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, hot, summer day.
Uncle: I was bred in this place. I was a calve here!
Noddy Ninety: You recollect the way?
Uncle: Remember it! I could walk it blindfold. This is the way to my old school.
Narrator: Uncle and the spirit soon arrive at a treetop schoolroom.
Noddy Ninety: The school is not quite deserted, A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still. He never goes home for Christmas.
Uncle: No, I always used to go to help out at the homeless shelter at Christmas – at a tender age I realised the importance of charity and good citizenship! Also, the Christmas holiday was a chance to get some extra work done, more time for reading and study. The only way to rise above my humble beginnings was by applying myself. Life is a golden opportunity and one must keep one’s nose to the grindstone.
Noddy Ninety: Yes, you are an example to us all, Sir.
Hateman: Pass the sick bag – this is just blatant propaganda!
Uncle: Be quiet Hateman! You are not in this scene!
Noddy Ninety: Let us see another Christmas!
Narrator: Uncle and the Spirit fly off in the helicopter again, but now travel forward again through time. They arrive in a snow covered quadrangle surrounded by ivy clad buildings
Uncle: My goodness! It is my old University!
Noddy Ninety: Indeed! And there you are – running as fast as the wind, your trunk filled with books!
Uncle: Oh, I must be very late!... for an exam I expect ? Oh dear, I know what you are going to show me!
Noddy Ninety: Yes, I am afraid so. An incident you would rather have been forgotten. You have spotted the bicycle leaning against the wall, if you just borrowed it you could get to your exam on time. You look around you, no one would see, after all, it would do no harm? You will return it to the exact same spot. You get on it and peddle away, but what is happening? It is buckling under your weight!
Hateman: Stop thief! Stop thief!
Uncle: Enough Hateman! That is not in the script! No one shouted “Stop Thief!” at all.
Hateman: I bloomin’ well would have if I’d been there!
Uncle: Oh Spirit, why have you shown me this ignominious act of mine?
Noddy Ninety: I have shown you this as a moral lesson to us all – even the great and the good may have at one time performed some act of which they are ashamed. However, it is always possible to make amends as you did….
Uncle: Oh yes, when I became rich and famous I sent a cheque for £2,000 to the owner of the bicycle. I also sent him six hundred casks of herrings, a thousand kegs of Turkish Delight and fifty-thousand first-grade cheeses!
Hateman: Yeah! And you made sure everyone knew about it!
Uncle: Be quiet Hateman! You are spoiling a poignant moment!
Narrator: Uncle and the Spirit fly off in the helicopter again, forward through time again. They are now in the busy thoroughfares of a city, where shadowy dwarfs pass and repass; where shadowy trains and trams battle for the way, and all the strife and tumult of a real city are. Tall skyscrapers loom above. It is plain enough, by the dressing of the shops, that here too, it is Christmas time again; but it is evening, and the streets are lighted up. A party is in full swing in a small apartment at the very top of one of the towers.
Noddy Ninety: Today is the day that you became a man of business.
Uncle: Why, it’s the Old Monkey! Bless his heart!
Noddy Ninety: That’s right! Your first Christmas at Homeward!
Young Old Monkey: What a splendid feast you have laid on, Sir!
Young Uncle: One must do one’s best!
A Young Dwarf: Bah humbug! – I have nothing to look forward to this Christmas! I have no home to go to. Got home this evening and found some great big hulking bloke in a sackcloth squatting in my flat! He told me to sling me hook – he said that somefink called the Badfort Revolutionary Front had commandeered it for the proletariat!
Young Uncle: That is terrible! You must inform the owner of Homeward, Wizard Blenkinsop, he is a very decent chap you know!
Young Old Monkey: Yes, but he is getting old, Sir, not so good at keeping track of the goings on in his vast domain.
Young Uncle: Don’t worry, Mister Dwarf, you can stay here for as long as you like – shall we say 6d a week rent?
A Young Dwarf: Oh splendid, how very kind of you Mister…?
Young Uncle: Just call me Uncle – one must do one’s best to help those in need and show good citizenship!
Noddy Ninety: Your first rental income!
Uncle: Yes, I have to admit it brings a small tear to my eye.
Narrator: The party continues, more dances, and there is a game of spigots, and songs, and then cake, and then a great piece of Roast, and a great piece of Boiled Ham, and mince-pies, and plenty of Koolvat.
Hateman: I must admit you know how to lay on a Christmas feast, Unc!
Uncle: Shush, you are not in this bit Beaver!
Narrator: Young Uncle and young Old Monkey talk in the corner…
Young Uncle: One day, Old Monkey, I shall own this castle and there will be no more trouble from the Badfort Crowd!
Young Old Monkey: If anyone can set the world to rights it will be you, Sir!
Hateman: hah, hah, hah
Noddy Ninety: Better get home then – you have another ghost to meet!
Uncle: I am really looking forward to it!
Narrator: They travel forward through time, back to the present and Uncle is left alone and exhausted in his bedchamber.
Well, that is where I decided to end our rehearsal for the day. I had had enough of the Badfort Crowd's interjections.
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