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A Christmas Carol – the modern pantomime

5:21, 13th December 2019

Mat Walters provides a one-off workshop that will make for some engaging Christmas themed exercises for KS3.

Learning Objective

To tell a modern version of A Christmas Carol using a variety of dramatic story-telling skills.

Preparation

Break down the plot of A Christmas Carol into key events with a modern twist. This could include:

  •  Multimillionaire miser Scrooge tours his Christmas decoration and toy factory. His workers ask for a Christmas break. He angrily shuts the factory
  • That night, watching TV, the television comes to life and tells him that three ghosts are coming to tell him to reopen the factory and save Christmas. Scrooge destroys his television in fear
  • The Ghost of Christmas Past arrives on a horse. It shows Scrooge his happy childhood Christmas – scenes of Christmas fun – Scrooge sucks the ghost up in a vacuum cleaner
  • The Ghost of Christmas Present arrives in a car. It takes Scrooge to a factory worker’s home where they are sharing one box of chocolates and have empty boxes for presents. It warns him that the third ghost is the most terrible.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Future arrives in a spaceship; it flies Scrooge to the jobcentre. Scrooge notices that in the queue is Father Christmas, his elves, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and other characters from Christmas and pantomimes. They blame Scrooge for the loss of Christmas. Scrooge is devastated. He reopens the factory and doubles everyone’s pay.

Activity One

Around the board, get the class to suggest ideas, characters or words they associate with pantomimes. Some suggestions might be:

  • It’s behind you’
  • ‘Oh yes it is. Oh no it isn’t’
  • Talking to the audience
  • Exaggerated characters
  •  Females playing males, and vice versa.
  • Get students to stand in a space on their own and, on the count of three, come up with an exaggerated frozen position that would clearly communicate to the audience the following characters/objects:
  • A money-obsessed miser/villain
  • A ghost
  • A horse.

Students should then create a moving image using arms and legs, such as a machine that makes Christmas toys.

This time, ask students to invent a sound or line of dialogue that their character/machine could say which is in keeping with their personality/job. Ask students to walk around the space, going into that character when told, delivering their line or sound as they walk.

Activity two 

Put a brief description of each scene on the board. For example: Scrooge tours his toy and decoration factory. Workers ask for holiday. He closes the factory in a rage.

In small groups, ask them to decide on a clear physical image and sound for the character of Scrooge that they can all quickly create. Students improvise the first scene quickly, making sure it last no longer than 60 seconds. Other group members should play workers and/or factory machines. At some point, the scene must include the lines ‘Oh yes it is. Oh no it isn’t’. Run the scenes through.

Activity three 

Students improvise the plot for scene two. They must use a different actor to play Scrooge, but it should be using the same physical position and style of voice. Again, 60 seconds in length. Other actors play the ghost and create the television.

They should work together to create eerie sounds and to show the ghost coming out of it. Encourage the use of slow motion during the television’s destruction to allow imaginative explosions. Rehearse and prepare. The scene must include one moment where a character talks directly to the audience.

Activity four

Students improvise scene three with a new Scrooge again. All students create the horse for the ghost to arrive on then go into the freeze frames of Scrooge’s early life, showing happy Christmas scenes – eating, playing with toys, games, etc. They should then form the vacuum cleaner with noises to get the ghost.

Activity five

Students improvise the final scene and then prepare all of their 60-second scenes ready for showing. The characters in the jobcentre queue can be any Christmas or pantomime related ones, but they must be exaggerated with a clear physicality and sound. The scene should finish with the line – spoken by the whole cast in chorus to the audience – ‘And a very merry Christmas to you all’. Polish scenes and then show.

Homework

Research the original A Christmas Carol story, using the film or written version.

This article originally appeared in the 2014 Spring 1 issue of Teaching Drama. To access older issues of Drama & Theatre (previously known as Teaching Drama) subscribe to the digital version of the magazine: http://bit.ly/2MWf9SK

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