DICK WHITTINGTON

A BRITISH-STYLE PANTOMIME FOR ESL STUDENTS


Script

Introduction

I wrote this pantomime with the intention of getting my Japanese base school's English club to perform it at the school culture festival (so the English used is very simple), but unfortunately they weren't having it. I thought it was a pity to let my efforts go to waste, so maybe someone else can make use of it...

If you think you might be able to use it, please help yourself to a copy and mail me (using the link below) to let me know know what you hope to do with it.

This page contains background information and an explanation of the plot. Click here to go straight to the script.

What is a pantomime?

A pantomime is a uniquely British form of theatre entertainment, usually performed around New Year. Usually it tells a fairy tale, but in the case of Dick Whittington there is some truth to the story. Some of the most popular stories are "Cinderella", "Aladdin", "Dick Whittington", and "Jack and the Beanstalk".

A traditional pantomime always has certain elements:
- a story where good triumphs over evil
- jokes (most of them very old!) and slapstick comedy
- song and dance
- a pantomime dame, usually a middle-aged man dressed in a ridiculous woman's costume
- a principal boy, the hero of the pantomime, usually played by a woman
- a very nasty villain
- audience participation

Plot synopsis

Dick Whittington, a poor boy from Gloucestershire, goes to London to seek his fortune, but he can't find a job. Dejected, he turns round to go home. On the way he meets a cat, which he calls Tommy, and before he's gone very far, he hears the church bells of London calling him back - they seem to be saying "Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London!"

He returns to London and meets Alice Fitzwarren, the daughter of a rich merchant, who gets him a job working in her father's shop. Tommy the cat makes friends with Sarah the cook (and the pantomime dame), by catching rats and mice in the kitchen.

The villain of the story is King Rat. One night, he organizes a burglary at the Fitzwarrens' house, when he locks Tommy in the kitchen and steals a valuable necklace belonging to Alice. The next day the theft is discovered, and Dick is blamed. He's sacked from his job and runs away to sea, with his cat. Alice and Sarah follow him, because Alice doesn't believe that he has stolen the necklace. King Rat is on the same ship, going to sell the necklace overseas and check on his rat kingdom in Japan (of course you can substitute any country you like here).

The rats are a very serious problem in Japan, and there are no cats there. Tommy immediately starts catching rats, and finally catches King Rat. The necklace is recovered, and the emperor is so delighted to get rid of the rats that he gives half of his fortune to Dick.

Dick, Tommy, Alice and Sarah return to London, and Alice tells her father the whole story. Dick and Alice get married, and Dick later becomes Lord Mayor of London.

The true story

Richard Whittington was a rich merchant and philanthropist, who came from a wealthy family in Gloucestershire. He was born sometime round 1350, and he did marry Alice Fitzwarren. He became Lord Mayor of London three times (in 1397, 1406 and 1419) before his death in 1423. There is no evidence that he ever had a cat! Rats are probably included as the villains in the story because they carried the Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, so they caused a lot of fear.

History of the pantomime

The story of Dick Whittington has been performed as a play since around 1605. It was first performed as a pantomime in 1814.

The cast

Dick Whittington - speaks lots of English
Tommy the cat - lots of acting, but only says "Meow" or "Me? How?"
Alice Fitzwarren - speaks lots of English
Mr. Fitzwarren - speaks English
Sarah the cook (the pantomime dame) - speaks English
King Rat (the villain) - speaks a lot, in either Japanese or English
Narrator - Japanese explanations.
Emperor of Japan - speaks Japanese
Captain Pugwash - speaks English
2-3 other rats
A servant for the Emperor
Townspeople in London
Optional extras: ship's crew, members of the Emperor's court.

Notes

This pantomime was written with Japanese schoolchildren in mind, but of course you can tailor it to whatever nationality/language you like.
1. Slapstick comedy should be no problem, but verbal jokes are likely to be difficult.
2. Simple songs in English, or maybe one or two in Japanese.
3. Audience participation can take several forms, for example:
- Actors arguing with the audience: "Oh yes it is!" / "Oh no it isn't!" etc.). This could be difficult with Japanese students, but it might work if it's explained in Japanese first and someone holds up a big prompt card.
- Audience shouting out warnings to the characters on stage - "He's behind you!"
- Sing-songs or shouting competitions between the two halves of the audience, usually at the end of the show
4. A narrator can give a summary of the action in Japanese every so often, and explain audience participation etc.

THE SCENES

Prologue
Narrator (in Japanese) explains what a pantomime is, and asks for audience participation. Then s/he sets the scene for the beginning of the story.

Scene 1: a market in London
Characters: Dick, Tommy the cat, Alice, market traders / shoppers
Opening song & dance.
Dick and Tommy meet Alice, who promises Dick a job in her father's shop.

Scene 2: Mr. Fitzwarren's house & shop
Characters: Dick, Tommy, Alice, Mr. Fitzwarren, Sarah the cook, 2-3 rats
Sarah the cook is trying to catch rats, and getting very frustrated. (Slapstick)
Dick meets Mr. Fitzwarren and is given a job (and a bed) in the shop. Tommy starts catching rats and Sarah thinks he's wonderful!

Scene 3: an alley outside the house
Characters: King Rat, 1 other rat
King Rat wants to get rid of the cat, so he plots a burglary to frame Dick and get him thrown out.
Alice has gone to visit a friend in the country so her room is empty tonight.

Scene 4: the house at night
Characters: Dick, Tommy, King Rat, 1 other rat
The rats sneak into the house and wait until Tommy is in the kitchen, then they lock him in.
Then they steal a very valuable necklace and a less valuable bracelet from Alice's room, leaving the drawers open. They go into Dick's room and hide the bracelet under his bed. Dick wakes up but the rats hide so he doesn't see them.

Scene 5: the house, next morning
Characters: Dick, Tommy, Sarah, Mr. Fitzwarren, King Rat
Sarah finds the drawer open and jewellery missing, and tells Mr. F. The bracelet is found in Dick's room and he is thrown out, with the cat.
Dick decides to run away to sea.
King Rat, watching from outside, is triumphant.

Scene 6: The ship
Characters: Dick, Tommy, Captain Pugwash, King Rat, Alice, Sarah
King Rat sneaks on board the ship with the necklace. He's going to sell the necklace and visit his rat kingdom in Japan.
Dick speaks to the captain and arranges to work his passage, then he & Tommy board the ship.
In the meantime, Alice has just got home and she doesn't believe that Dick has stolen the necklace, so she and Sarah come running after him. They board the ship just as it's leaving.
Sarah fancies the captain ("Ooh, isn't he handsome?") so she tries to chat him up (comedy).
Song: I am sailing

Scene 7: Japan - the emperor's palace
Characters: Emperor, King Rat, 2-3 other rats, Dick, Tommy, Alice, Sarah, a servant
The Emperor sits on his throne, tearing his hair out, with rats running around eating everything.
King Rat joins them.
Dick, Tommy, Alice and Sarah are wandering around, marvelling at this strange place ("Can you understand the people here?" "Look, they bow to each other all the time!") and not knowing where to go. Suddenly the cat runs off towards the palace, and the others chase him. When they find him, he's catching rats in the palace. When all the other rats are dead, Tommy chases King Rat off the stage and round the hall, with everyone shouting encouragement (Emperor: "Ganbare!"; others: "Come on Tommy! You can do it!"). Finally, King Rat is caught and the necklace is found. The Emperor is so happy that he gives half of his fortune to Dick.
Dick is now rich so he asks Alice to marry him, and she says yes.

Scene 8: Mr. Fitzwarren's house
Characters: Dick, Tommy, Alice, Sarah, Mr. Fitzwarren, Captain Pugwash
Alice tells Mr. F. the story, and shows him the necklace. Mr. F. is happy for his daughter to marry Dick.
Sarah the cook introduces her fiancé, Captain Pugwash, to Mr. Fitzwarren.
Song: If you're happy and you know it (competition between two halves of audience).

Epilogue
Narrator ends the story, and tells the true story of Richard Whittington.


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© Lynne Donaldson
This page last edited 18th October 2002