The Emperor’s New Loft Insulation … A Pantomime in 15 Minutes

Poster for Pantomime in Stroud – Source: Author

Cast 

Narrators 1 and 2: Honest, decent, a bit naïve.

Smart Alec: An intelligent child, who asks awkward questions.

Chancellor: Classic panto villain

The Emperor: Also a villain, but a jovial, matey sort of villain. Party animal.

Other parts only have a few lines including Police Officer and an old lady who is Rapunzel in her old age. They could be taken by members of the Chorus.

The Chorus are under a spell which causes them to think the Emperor is wonderful, their best mate etc. However, they wake up at the end. The Chorus also play the scary trees in the forest scene.

Costumes

Not a lot required. Narrators need hi-vis jacket as does the Emperor at one point. He could also have a crown. Chancellor could have a black cape for melodramatic effect. Alec has a baseball cap and maybe wears shorts? Rapunzel huddles in a blanket.

Props

Handbell or similar to attract a crowd. Copy of the Daily Mail (sorry!). Two signs, one saying “JOKE” and the other saying “LATIN JOKE”. Goody bags. Bag of Gummi Bears with only 3 bears in it. Pack of ginger biscuits. Blanket and picnic basket. Policeman’s helmet.

Scene One – Anytown

(Narrators one and two enter wearing hi-vis jackets. They could perhaps ring a bell to attract attention. Chorus and Smart Alec can gather to encourage an audience to form.)

Narr 1: Once upon a time there was an emperor who had six children.

Narr 2: Seven children.

Narr 1:  I thought he had six?

Narr 2: This is a fairy tale and the answer is always seven. Snow White and the seven dwarfs; seven at one blow; seven league boots…

Narr 1:  What about Goldilocks and the THREE bears?

Narr 2: Good point. But I’m sure he has more than three. So he must have seven.

Narr 1:  I think you might be having some trouble with your sums….

Narr 2:  I know! Let’s ask the audience.

Narr 1: Good plan! (to audience) How many children does the Emperor have?

(Audience shout out answers. Smart Alec emerges from the audience.)

Alec: I know! Pick me! I know the answer because I am a child, and free from adult hypocrisy.

Narr 2:  That’s handy. Good thing you were here. How many children DOES  the Emperor have?

Alec: All of them.

Narr 1:  Just what we need, a Smart Alec.

Alec: Yes, that’s me. See (points to script) “Smart Alec”. It’s a figure of speech, you see. When I say the Emperor has all the children, I mean it’s the Emperor’s DUTY to see that ALL the children in the land get enough to eat and a roof over their heads and a proper education.

Narr 2: (astonished) Is it?

Alec: Yes. Otherwise, what is the point of having an Emperor?

Narr 1: That is a very good question.

(Chancellor rushes in.)

Chancellor:  No! No! It’s a terrible question! Start asking questions like that  and who knows what could happen?! Earthquakes! Hurricanes! Our whole society could be swept away!

Alec: Who are you, Thomasz Schafernaker?

Chancellor: I am the Lord Chancellor at your service.

Narr 2: Ah, you might be able to help us, then.

Chancellor: I’m not here to help you.

Narr 1: You said you were at our service.

Chancellor: It’s a figure of speech. That’s not what it means.

Narr 2: Well, what DOES it mean?

Alec: If you’re not here to serve the general public, what is the point of a Lord Chancellor?

Chancellor: There you go again asking dangerous questions. (to audience) You know what’s wrong with this country? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with this country! We’ve got too many children!

Alec: (encouraging audience to respond) Oh, no we haven’t!

Chancellor: Oh, yes we have!

Alec and audience: Oh, no we haven’t!

Chancellor: Oh yes we have. And I can prove it because I’m VERY GOOD at sums. That’s why I’m Chancellor. If we didn’t have to spend £3 billion on improving schools….

Narr 1: I thought we needed to spend £15 billion?

Chancellor: This is a Fairy Tale and the answer is always Three! Three Billy Goats Gruff; Goldilocks and the Three Bears; Three wishes…. AS I was saying before I was SO rudely interrupted, if we didn’t  have to spend £3 billion on the children that you idle, worthless peasants keep having, we could keep it for – I mean – we could spend it on our hard-working, deserving OLD people who naturally vote for us. (He pats the narrators on the shoulder encouragingly)

Alec: But you wouldn’t, would you? You’d keep it for you and your rich mates.

Chancellor:  Shut up, kid, I’m taking a real dislike to you.

SONG: The problem is little kids (TUNE: Thank heavens for little girls).

Chancellor:

The problem … is little kids. For little kids need feeding every day.

The problem … is little kids. They grow up in the most expensive way.

We’d save cash if we didn’t have to school ’em.

They’d also grow up dumb so we could always fool ’em.

The problem … is little kids

Alec:              

Need food and shoes and clothing – and need education too.

Chancellor:

Without them there’d be more cash for you.

Narr 1 & 2: (hopefully) More cash for us? Really?

Chancellor:  Of course. I’m your friend and I have your best interests at heart.

Narr 1: Perhaps you could answer a question for us?

Chancellor: (evasively) That depends…

Narr 2: We just want to know how many children the Emperor has.

Chancellor: I can do better than that! I can take you to SEE the Emperor.

Narr 1: But nobody’s seen him for… ages.

Narr 2: We thought he was in a faraway land.

Chancellor: He’s the Emperor! He has an Empire; he needs to travel a lot. But I can take you to see him. It’ll be a great photo opportunity. Just climb aboard this magic carpet. (He unfolds a copy of the Daily Mail.)

Narr 1: Is it really magic?

Chancellor: Oh yes, it’s unbelievable. (He spreads the Daily Mail on the ground. Narr I &  2 stand on it. Alec doesn’t.)

Alec: It’s not moving, you’re not going anywhere. What do you think you’re doing?

Narr 1 & 2: Shut up, kid, you ask too many questions. (To Alec) You see? People have had enough of experts – and of reality. They want fantasy and razzamatazz and entertainment. And who can do that better than our glorious Emperor?

Scene Two – The Palace

Enter Emperor and Chorus 

SONG: to the tune of A whole new world“.

Emperor:

I can put on a show.

Shining, shimmering, splendid.

Alec:

Tell me people, now when did you last put your brains in gear?

Emperor:

I’m your mate from the pub.

Jolly, feckless and charming,

And when things get alarming then of course I’ll disappear.

A Brave New World!

Where everyone is in their place.

No one can tell me no, or where to go,

The Ayes will always have it.

A Brave New World!

And I’m its Emperor and King.

It all belongs to me, the BBC,

Alec:

You can’t get back to where you want to be.

Chorus:

We’re all fans of his show.

We all think he’s fantastic!

Crazy, careless, bombastic but at least he makes us smile.

He’s our mate from the pub.

We’ll all drink and keep playing.

Though we’re not sure who’s paying, we’ll ignore that for a while.

A Brave New World!

Alec:

You’ve got no petrol for your cars.

No fund for social care

Chorus:

It’s gone somewhere…

We know we paid our taxes.

A Brave New World!

The Emperor will see us through (turning to Emperor)

Though there’s no Christmas feast, we know at least

That now we’re in a Brave New World with you!

We trust you, Emperor to get us through…

Chancellor: Your Highness! I’ve brought you these honest, hard-working citizens so that  you can have your photo – I mean, so that you can listen to their concerns.

Emperor: Ooh, do I get to dress up?

Chancellor: Of course!

Emperor: Oh, goody! I love dressing up! (dons hi-vis jacket) Look: I’m a man of the people!

Narr 1 & 2: So you are!

Narr 1: We were wanting to ask you a question?

Emperor: Is it Wednesday? I only answer questions on a Wednesday.

Chancellor: (taking him aside) No, no Sire. Wednesday is when you DON’T answer questions.

Emperor: Oh yes, I get that mixed up sometimes. (to Narr 1) What did you want to know?

Narr 1: We were wondering how many children you had?

Emperor: Who cares?

Narr 2: We were rather hoping you did.

Emperor: I’ll tell you what. (Impressively, looking round at Chorus) I’ve got twice as many children as I had when I had half as many! Hey? How’s that?

(Chancellor holds up a sign saying “JOKE”. Chorus laugh.)

Emperor: I’ve got another one, I’ve got another one. Ask me again.

Narr 2: How many children do you have?

Emperor: Well, what I always say is: “E unum pluribus.” Get it? Get it? “E unum  pluribus.”

(Chancellor holds up a sign saying “LATIN JOKE”. Chorus laugh.)

Alec:                      You’re only laughing because you want everyone to think you’re clever enough to
have done Latin. But you don’t understand it, do you? I mean, what did he actually
SAY?

Chorus:                Shut up, kid, you ask too many questions.

Emperor:             Now then, it’s party time. Goody bags for everyone! Who wants one?

Chorus:                Me! Me! Me!

Chorus 1:             I want 37 billion.

Chorus 2:             I want 29 billion.

Chorus 3:             I want 50 billion.

Chorus 4:             I want a peerage.

Emperor:             Ah. That’s a bit much. Not sure I can afford that.

Chancellor:         (aside to Emperor)
No, no Sire. That’s all right. If you give him a peerage, he pays YOU.

Emperor:             Oh, that’s good then.

(Chorus continues to demand – and get – goody bags until there are none left for Narrs 1 & 2 and Alec, who are at the end of the queue.)

Emperor:     Sorry, run out! No magic money tree.

Narr 1:          Um…. we were sort of hoping for our State Pension?

Narr 2:          Sometime…… you know……… when you’re not too busy…..

Chancellor: We can’t possibly afford it, Sire.

Emperor: Sorry about that. Never mind. Have some sweets. (He hands them a nearly-empty bag of Gummi Bears. Exit Emperor. Chancellor lurks in the background with Chorus.)

Alec:    (to Narrs 1 & 2) What did you get?

Narr 1: Some Gummi Bears.

Narr 2: But there are only 3 left in the packet.

Alec:      At least that’s one each. (They eat the Gummi Bears.)

Alec:      So, is this the palace, then?

Narr 1: Yes.

Alec:      Why is it so cold?

Chorus: Shhhhh!

Alec:      Why?

Chorus: Shut up, kid, you ask too many questions.

Chancellor: Repeat after me: “It is not cold in here.”

Chorus:         It is not cold in here.

Chancellor: “There is no energy crisis.”

Chorus:         There is no energy crisis.

Chancellor: “It’s lovely and warm in here.”

Chorus:         It’s lovely and warm in here.

Song: to the tune of “Baby it’s cold outside

Chorus:
We’re cosy and warm –

Alec:       
It’s freezing cold in here!

Chorus:
There’s no perfect storm –

Alec:       
It’s death to the old in here!

Chorus:
The price has gone up – but we don’t care.

Alec:       
You’ve got no storage, the cupboard’s bare.
You ought to worry…

Chorus:
Nonsense! There’s no hurry.

Alec:     
Combat Climate Change!

Chorus:
We think you’re rather strange. You know…

Chorus:
The Emperor’s in charge.

Alec:     
That’s why it’s cold in here!

Narr 1: Maybe Smart Alec is right. It IS a bit chilly.

Narr 2:(looking up) I think I’ve spotted the problem. The palace has no roof!

(Chorus all look up and gasp.)

Narr 1: We must tell the Emperor at once!

Alec:      What do we want?

Chorus: Loft insulation!

Alec:      When do we want it?

Chorus: Now!

Alec:      What do we want?

Chorus: Loft insulation!

Alec:      When do we want it?

Chorus: Now!

Narr 1: (getting carried away) No taxation without insulation!

All:         Hooray!

(Chancellor gives one of the Chorus a policeman’s helmet and he “enters” as Police Officer)

Police :          I’m going to have to arrest you all for being really, really annoying.

Narr 1 & 2: But we’re freezing to death!

Police:           Well, isn’t that annoying? The Emperor doesn’t want all you common  people freezing to death in public. Go away and freeze somewhere quietly where he doesn’t have to see you.

(Enter Emperor)

Emperor:      What’s all this noise?

Police:            It’s the common people freezing to death, Sire.

Narr 1:            Please Sire, it’s very cold in here.

Narr 2:           You haven’t got a roof!

Alec:               You’re a roofless dictator!

Emperor:      Don’t be ridiculous! I’m a jolly, friendly chappie.
                        And it’s lovely and warm in here. And there is no energy crisis.

Chancellor: I can explain everything. I know it LOOKS as if there’s no roof, but that’s all part of the magic.

Emperor:      The magic? Oh yes, yes of course. The magic.

Chancellor: What you’re seeing up there may LOOK like sky…. clouds and so forth…..  But it’s really the Emperor’s New Loft Insulation! It’s invisible! He’s having it installed specially in every house in the land, and it’s all free! It’ll keep you warm and cosy and cut down your energy bills. Naturally he started with his own palace as a pilot scheme, but he’ll be replacing your roofs very, very soon. We’ve set a target date, so it’s as good as done. Say thank you to our kind Emperor.

Chorus:                Thank you, kind Emperor.

Emperor:             Think nothing of it.

Alec:                      I DON’T think much of it. If it’s magic loft insulation, why doesn’t it work?
                             Why is it so cold in here?

Chorus:                Shut up, kid, you ask too many questions.

Chancellor: Here’s your problem, right here. How can you afford to heat your houses when you’ve got all these pesky children eating you out of house and home?

Alec:               There’s only one of me! And I don’t eat much. And if you don’t feed me, I’ll  die!

Chancellor: (to Narrs 1 & 2) You’d still have a whole Gummi Bear between you if you  hadn’t had to share with this – child! Get rid of the kid and you get rid of the  problem.

Narr 1 & 2: But…. how?

Chancellor: You heard what he said: “If you don’t feed me, I’ll die.” There you go.  Problem solved.

Narr 1:          (uncertain) It seems a bit harsh not to feed him…..

Narr 2:           But he’s not OUR child. Not our responsibility.

Narr 1:          Whose child are you, anyway?

Alec: (Addressing the Chorus) I’m YOUR child. And yours, and yours and yours.
Haven’t you heard it takes a village to raise a child? You’re my village and I’m your child.

Chancellor: I’ve never heard such nonsense. Take him to the forest and abandon him there.

(Scene change. Exit Emperor and Chancellor. Narrators seize Alec and drag him into the “forest” formed by the Chorus changing into trees. Rapunzel emerges from the Chorus and huddles in a blanket with her packet of ginger biscuits.)

Scene Three – The Forest

(Narrs 1 & 2 dump Alec and exit)

Alec:                      Don’t leave me here alone! These trees look really scary. And I’m starving.

Rapunzel:            You can have some of my ginger biscuits if you like.

Alec:                      Aargh! Who are you?

Rapunzel:            I’m Rapunzel. (she gives him a biscuit)

Alec:                      I thought Rapunzel lived in a tower.

(during this conversation the Chorus gradually assume sleeping poses)

Rapunzel:            (wistfully). I did when I was younger, but that was a long time ago. Now I live in this
                             little care home in the woods.

Alec:                      I don’t want to be rude when you’ve been so kind and saved my life with your ginger
                             biscuits, but…. It’s not much of a care home, is it? You’re freezing cold, for a start.

Rapunzel:            The Chancellor said I had to sell my tower to pay for my social care when I got old.
                             But you’re right, it isn’t much good….

Alec:                      It hasn’t got a roof.

Rapunzel:            It’s got a magic roof. Invisible. That’s what the Chancellor said, anyway. He said it
                             was the Emperor’s New Loft Insulation and I just had to believe in it and it would
                             keep me warm. Perhaps it’s something wrong with me, but I do seem to find it a bit
                             chilly. Still…. mustn’t grumble.

Alec:                      No! You SHOULD grumble. You should protest! You should stand up for your rights.

Rapunzel:            I’m old and I’m tired and I haven’t got the energy.

Alec:                      Well, I’m young and I’ve got lots of energy. I’ll stand up for your rights.

Rapunzel:            But you’re only a child. And there’s only one of you.

Alec: I don’t believe I’m the only one who cares.
I believe there are others out there who do.

Song to the tune of “Somewhere out there.

Alec: 

 Somewhere out there, are folk who’ve seen the light.  
 Who can see injustice, and want to put it right.
Somewhere out there, someone’s saying a prayer,
That we’ll care for each other in that big somewhere out there.

(during the next verse, the Chorus gradually awaken and look around, puzzled.)

Alec and Rapunzel:

And even though we feel alone, we know that isn’t true.
We know that we have friends out there, it’s not just me and you.
And though there’s no election until 2024, 
We have the power to be the difference that we’re looking for!
Somewhere out there, are people with a heart.
Why not come and join us? We’re not there yet,
But we’ve made – a start!

Rapunzel:    Someone’s coming! Hide! (she gathers Alec under her blanket)

(enter Narrs 1 & 2 carrying a picnic basket and a blanket)

Narr 1: Smart Alec! Smart Alec, are you there?

Narr 2: We couldn’t sleep for worrying about you. We’ve brought you some food and a blanket.
               It’s not much but it’s all we’ve got.

Narr 1: He’s not answering. Perhaps he’s dead! He’s dead and it’s all our fault!

Alec:      (emerging from Rapunzel’s blanket)
              I’m here. I’m not dead.
              I just couldn’t say anything for a minute because I was so choked up by your kindness.
              I  KNEW there were some kind-hearted people out there.

Narr 2: We’re sorry we abandoned you, Alec.

Alec: It wasn’t your fault. It was that wicked Chancellor and his so-called magic.  Anyway, this is my
new friend Rapunzel. She hasn’t got a decent house to live in because the Chancellor made her
sell her tower to pay for her social care.

Rapunzel:     And then I didn’t get any social care.

Narr 2:          Well, we’ll look after you. You can come and live with us.

(Chorus come forward.)

Narr 1:                  Hello. What are you all doing out here in the forest?

Chorus 1:             It’s very strange. It’s as if we’ve all been under a spell. And then we heard someone
                             singing. And now we’ve woken up and we don’t quite know where we are.

Alec:                      You’re at the start. The start of something special. The start of a society where
                             people care about the poor and the old and the weak and the hungry and the
                             children. And where they care about the planet and the environment too.

Narr 2:                 Well – obviously! If you’re going to care about the people, you’ve got to care about
                             the planet they live on and the air they breathe and the water they drink…

Chorus 1:             Is there going to be a happy ending?

Alec:                      There can be. If you all help to make it happen.

Song to the tune of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses“.

Alec, Rapunzel, Narrators:

                         You had a dream… a dream about us, maybe?

              We’ll make it come true – baby.           

They think that we’re beat, but hey –

ALL:    

We can fight! We can win!

You can join us and we can begin.

Starting here, starting now,

Because all of you guys, you’re the voters!

Face your fears, use your brains,

You’ve got nothing to lose but your chains.

We’ve got friends, we’ve got plans,

Because all of you guys, you’re the voters.

You can do it – all you need is a hand.

We can do it – our team is gonna see to it.

Get on board! Join the crew!

‘Cos the person we’re missing is you!

You’ll be swell, you’ll go far.

We can tell, you’re a star.

And we’re not gonna stop till we win through!

Because all of us, guys, we’re the voters, that’s me and that’s you!

The End.


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