In December 2015 I was lucky enough to work with Equapoise Theatre http://www.equapoisetheatre.co.uk and the Charles Dickens Museum http://dickensmuseum.com to help bring to life A Christmas Carol in the very rooms that once belonged to Charles Dickens.
I wrote three scenes, The Gravedigger – in the courtyard, A mother and Son – in the wash house and Belle – in the dressing room.
Below are the words given to George, the gravedigger.
SCENE ONE: THE GRAVEDIGGER
He’s leaning on a shovel, talking to the audience.
GEORGE: I’ve dug many a grave in my time. Man, woman, child. And there ain’t been one, until today, that I haven’t shed a little tear for. My Mrs says I’m a soft touch. Maybe I is. But I can’t help it. I think about them. Who they might have been. What they might have done, or not done. I think about their loved ones, left behind. Having to say goodbye.
Plus, it’s a very important job. Digging up the earth. The ground. Creating someone’s final resting place. I takes that very seriously.
He holds out his shovel.
This is my best and most faithful friend. Abigail. Ain’t she lovely?
He looks at it with pride.
Giving something a name, anything, makes it special. Could be a pet for instance. A toy. A stove. A beloved hat. As soon as you give that thing a name, it’s got meaning. A soul. It matters. Same with people. People are defined by their names. If I told you my name was Lord Billington of Mayfair square for instance, you’d laugh at me. You would. Even if I did say it in my most poshest of posh voices. Lord Billington of Mayfair square. Funny ain’t it? But when I tell you my name is really George, George Tilly, from the East End of London, you’ll smile at me, and think, he really is. He’s a George. A George Tilly, from the East End of London.
He speaks to an audience member. Improv. A suggestion:
What’s your name? (Response.) I would’ve guessed it without knowing a thing about you. Cos’ you look like a (name of audience member), don’t she/he? (To a lady) And you. I bet you’re a Rose. (She says no, hopefully) then your parents got it horribly wrong! Horribly wrong! He laughs. But it can also work the other way. You hear a name and just the sound of them letters, all mixing together, sends a chill running through your heart. Because attached to that name, is a thing, a person, so dark, so cold, so unfeeling that even the Christmas Robin, the jolliest and warmest of all creatures, will turn his head for fear of catching its eye and being turned to stone. A name like, Ebenezer Scrooge. Mr. Scrooge was a man who had everything, and shared nothing. He was a man with power, a gift, and he used it against the people, instead of for the people. He loved the things that can’t possibly love ya back. Money. Influence. The business of importance. He was a lonely, bitter man, with nothing in his soul but blackness.
I said I didn’t cry for this man. For this grave. But standing here now, talking to you, I feel the tears coming upon me. For I feel… pity. A sadness. This man, this creature, what was so unloved. So lost to the things that make us, us. Compassion. Kindness. Laughter. Silliness. I bet he never once in his life danced or made merry. He hated Christmas. And that says something. Hating Christmas. A time, no matter what you believe, where you can find something wonderful in it… It could be a day of rest. A day with loved ones. Or even just a day to be warm, cosy, sitting quiet with your thoughts. A day to be thankful. A day to give. Or, if you’re like me and the Mrs, a day to be fat, full, and bursting with sherry.
He laughs. A silence slowly falls over him.
No one attended his funeral. They laughed at his death. Celebrated it even. And that feels wrong. Even though he was the most unfeeling of gentlemen. It feels wrong to treat him the way he treated others. It makes my heart heavy, just thinking about it. There are tears, a sadness. They took all his belongings, passed them out. Strangers. There’s nothing of him left. Nothing that he’ll be remembered for. He’ll become a forgotten man.
Church bells begin to ring.
Well now, listen to them… It’s Christmas.
And in the name of Christmas, in the spirit of human kindness, would you share this moment with me? A moment of silence for poor old Mr. Scrooge. A man who doesn’t deserve it, but, even in death, needs our guidance to be a better man. Because by doing so, it reminds us to be better. To be kinder. To be softer. And to always remember, what is truly important when living…
Pause. He removes his hat and bows his head. A moment of silence.