By John McNeil
A Christmas Play for All Year Round.
An Easter sequel to this play, entitled "Next Day in the Garden of Good and Evil", may also be found at the Dramatix site. The two could be combined into a single play tracing the story of redemption from creation to Easter.
When the animals disobey the Gardener, their park is ruined. It takes a Child to begin the healing process. This parable is an attempt to put the Christmas story into context with the Fall, and the need for a Saviour.
Animals (if possible, there should be at least one of each, but numbers (and types) can be modified to suit):
NOTE: In the play as written, all the dialogue is carried by the two Narrators, and the other characters mime/act as directed in the script. However, where appropriate depending on the age/ability of children playing the animals, some dialogue could be spoken by them.
N1: Once upon a time...
N2: ...as all good stories start...
N1: ...there was a garden.
N2: A garden?
N1: A garden.
N2: Just a garden!?
N1: Not just a garden. A garden (heavy emphasis).
N2: Enlighten me.
N1: As far as the eye could see it spread...
N2: (peers with hand above eyes, then takes out telescope and scans) Wow! That big.
N1: Big in every sense. Big trees that reached for the sky...
N2: (stands on tiptoe, hands up) I'm reaching, I'm reaching.
N1: Big lawns between them...
N2: (Pushes imaginary mower around in circle) Vrrrmmmmm.
N1: (Sighs, shakes head) No. No mowers.
N2: Who cut the grass then?
N1: The animals ate it. But we'll get to them in a minute. There were big lakes...
N2: I can't swim!
N1: ...and some little streams feeding them.
N2: Ahhh! I can paddle.
N1: And best of all, in this garden, the weather was like spring all year round.
N2: Sounds perfect.
N1: It was perfect. Except for one thing...
N2: Oh, don't spoil it.
N1: ...the animals.
N2: You went and spoilt it.
N1: You know about the animals?
N2: No, but I can just tell from your tone of voice.
N1: The garden had once been filled with all kinds of animals, all very happy together.
(As the animals are named, they enter, make some appropriate sound or movement, then freeze. NOTE: At this stage, the animals are friends with each other. The Narrators may have to slow down or pause to allow time for the entrances.)
N1: Yes, horses. And sheep.
N2: Ahhh, I love fluffy wee lambs.
N1: Their cousins, the goats...
N2: As in acting the...
N1: Monkeys, and hyeenas...
N2: Bet they're good for a laugh.
N1: ...proud lions, elephants...
N2: It's a good job this is a big park.
N1: ...and even down to the smallest creatures, like moles, and mice.
N2: Hey, you know what you get if you cross an elephant with a mouse?
N1: (Resignedly) No, what do you get if you cross an elephant with a mouse?
N2: Thumping great holes in your skirting boards!
N1: (Rolls eyes, continues) And not forgetting the birds, like the eagles and the peacocks.
N2: And all these were roaming around together? I don't believe it! Someone's going to get eaten.
N1: But that's the wonderful thing. This was a perfect garden, created by a wise and loving Gardener. And he brought the animals to it and said to them, "This is my garden. But I have made it for you." (The animals start moving around, nodding to each other, playing quietly, etc. N2 walks among them, perhaps stroking fur, having a pretend ride, etc) "Explore it, enjoy it, enjoy each other, be happy here." And so they did. They laughed at each other's jokes, looked after each other, and shared their food.
N2: (takes an imaginary fruit from an animal) Thank you. (Eats) Yumm!
N1: Not that sharing food was any difficulty. The Gardener had given them all kinds of good things to eat: Fruit, vegetables, fresh grass, honey. "Eat anything you like," he said. "Except there's one thing you must not eat. In the centre of the garden is the largest tree of all. You must not eat the fruit on this tree. It belongs to me alone. If you eat it, you will destroy yourselves and the garden."
N2: Oh dear! (To animals) Hey, listen to what the Gardener says. Don't eat the fruit of that tree. (The animals don't take much notice.)
N1: As there was plenty to eat anyway, and the fruit of that tree was high up, the animals were happy to leave it alone, and life went on very nicely.
N2: This is great! I wish all zoos were like this.
N1: If it were like this, it wouldn't be a zoo.
N2: (Points to animals around him/her, and ticks off an imaginary list) So we've got a lion...a horse...a sheep...a hyeena, a low eena...just kidding...a neagle...a mice..some mouses ...whatever...(runs out of fingers, looks at foot, sits down and starts to take off shoe to count on toes, gives up) oh and lots of other things. Well, now we know who's zoo. (Returns to former position.)
N2: See, I knew you'd go and spoil it.
N1: Sadly, they did it all themselves.
N2: Did what?
N1: Listen, and I'll tell you. One day, the Lion was walking in the garden near the big tree in the middle, when he stopped, and looked down, puzzled. A fruit was lying on the ground...a kind he had not noticed before. He looked up, and realised it must have fallen off the tree. The lion had just had lunch, and he wasn't hungary, so he began to push the fruit to one side. Then he stopped. "I wonder what it does taste like?" he said. But he half-remembered something the Gardener had said about not eating the fruit, so he shrugged his shoulders, and started to walk on. He'd only taken a step, when he heard a voice. "Psst," the voice said. "Try a bite." The Lion looked round, and there was a Monkey, holding one of the fruit in his hand and chewing a bite. "It's good," said the Monkey...
N2: And with his mouth full, I bet.
N1: "...Try it." "How did you get that?" said the Lion. "I climbed the tree," replied the Monkey. "But didn't the Gardener say something about not eating these fruit?" asked the Lion. "He just wants to keep them all for himself, because they are so delicious," replied the Monkey. "But it's been a good season, so there's plenty for everyone. He won't miss a couple. Besides, if we eat this fruit, then we'll be just like him. Wouldn't you like to be clever like that?"
N2: That's a tricky sort of argument! Just like a Monkey.
N1: The Lion thought for a moment, then said, "Perhaps you're right." So he took a bit of the fruit on the ground.
N2: (Draws breath) Then what happened?
N1: At first, nothing much. Except the Lion went over to the Monkey, knocked him over, and took his piece of fruit, too. "Don't take my last piece of fruit," wailed the Monkey. "I need more. More! More!" And he spun round in a circle, desparate for a piece of fruit.
N2: Look, the Lion's going back to the other animals. Now what'll happen.
N1: The Lion stood up in front of everyone, and roared at them. "Now hear this. From now on, I'm the boss in this garden. You will do as I say." "Oh yeah," said the Eagle. "I spied with my eagle eye, a Lion eating a certain fruit. And if you want any more, you'll have to pay me for it, because only I can fly to the highest branches to pick it."
N2: This is getting nasty.
N1: Very nasty. Before long, all the animals were fighting, or hiding so they wouldn't get hurt. And as they fought, they didn't notice the garden starting to dry up. The rain stopped coming, plants and trees began to shrivel, soon food was in short supply. Only the strongest and fastest could get enough to eat. The garden was disappearing around them, but they had stopped caring about anything except themselves. Not only did the strongest get the food, but they tied up the other animals so they could not get to it. (Lion and Elephant use rope totie up sheep and goats. Someone else puts a chain round the neck of the Monkey.)
N2: Oh dear, where is the Gardener when we need him?
N1: The Gardener did indeed come. "Stop!" he shouted. (At this, all animals freeze.) "What have you done to my garden?" he cried. "Look at what you have become!" (As the Gardener points out each animal, the animal acts the appointed part, while the others stay still.)
N1: "Monkey, you took the first bite, and now you cannot get enough. You are addicted to the fruit," said the Gardener.
"Lion, you could have used your strenth to help others. Now you have become a bully."
"I see herds of nerds. Once you were horses, now you are dumb asses. You have forgotten what you were made to be."
"The hyeenas have become proud and arrogant ...skites... loudmouths."
"You eagles...once you soared to the heavens, now you have become vultures, picking over the bones of the sheep and goats. They have become poor, bullied, and starved while you got rich at their expense."
"My poor mole. You had no weapons for the fight, so you hid in the earth, and you have become blind and sick."
"And my little mice. The smallest of my creatures, you now scratch around the dry grass to try and find enough to live on."
N2: What did the animals do when they heard this?
N1: The sad thing is that they did not hear him. The garden had been dry for so long now, they had forgotten there was a Gardener, and they were so busy with their own concerns they did not have ears for anyone else. (The animals start to go about their own business, quietly.)
N2: So that's it, then!? End of story. How sad.
N1: No! The Gardener had a plan. He would send someone special to bring healing to the garden. (Enter Child) One day a young Child came into the garden.
N2: A Child?
N1: Yes. The animals weren't too sure what to make of this newcomer. Was the Child going to want their food? Was it going to try and become boss? But the Child did none of these things. Instead, it went up to each animal in turn, and simply hugged it. (Child does so.) Sometimes the Child would cry with the animal, sometimes it would wipe away the animal's own tears. It touched the Mole's eyes, and suddenly the Mole could see again. It gently unwrapped the ropes that held the Sheep and the Goats captive, and even the chain from the poor addicted Monkey. And all the while it did this, the Child told the animals about the Gardener, about how much he loved them, and how one day the Garden would be made new again.
N2: This was a special Child.
N1: Very special.
N2: Let me guess, let me guess!
N1: Go on, then.
N2: It was the Gardener's own Child!
N1: You've got it in one.
N2: And so they all lived happily ever after!?
N1: Not quite, I'm afraid. Many loved and believed the Child, and asked how they could get to know the Gardener again. But many were jealous, and still did not want to hear. So they....but that's another story.
N2: Oh no, you can't stop now.
N1: Tell you what. Let me give you an invitation. Come back and hear the rest at Easter.
© John McNeil 1998
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 8024, New Zealand.