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Title: If Animals had Their Way
Author: Musette Morell
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Language: English
Date first posted: March 2016
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If Animals had Their Way

by

Musette Morell


Included in Plays for Children
Book One
Selected by the Department of Education;
with Foreword by L. F. Keller,
and Edited by Musette Musell.

Currawong Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd., Sydney

First Published 1947
Revised and Reprinted 1950



THE CHARACTERS.

MARGARET.
HER MOTHER.
JEMIMA her cat.
SIMBA her dog.
MR. PERKINS her canary.
CARLO the dog from next door.

Ballet of kittens and puppies.

THE TIME. The Present.

THE SCENE. Margaret's Bedroom

NOTES.

The verses in this play can be spoken or sung.

Most children enjoy playing animal roles: the wearing of masks seems to improve their miming as though the fact of the face being partly hidden inspired the body to greater eloquence.

During class-readrngs or if rehearsal begins with a discussion of animal characteristics, the actors will quickly realise the need to adopt a woofy voice for the Dog, a mieowy voice for the Cat, and a chirpy voice for Canary. Care must of course be taken that despite assumed voices each word is clearly articulated. For the ballet, the Puppies are boys, with tails attached to their suits, and with floppy or erect ears kept in place by an elastic band round the head. The kittens are girls. Each wears a different coloured ribbon around neck with large bow at back.

Masks for animals can be fashioned from wire and felt or velvet worn back of head so as to show the face. Costumes are simplified if cut to the all-in-one baby style of winter pyjamas—brown for Dog, and black for Cat—tails attached. Reduce width at the waist, otherwise the supposed animal skin will sag when the actor moves on all fours. It would he a simple matter to fit Canary's yellow suit with small wings attached to the shoulders with under tapes, a hand's-length from wing-tip, to tie around wrists.

Cage.

The oval front of this can he simply constructed out of cane. A door is not necessary. The cloth to cover cage has a short tape attached, which threads through the top of cage and is held in place by the Canary when the curtain rises. At the rightr moment the tape is released and the cloth drops to the floor.

Rain effects are achieved by hammering several nails through the bottom of a light wooden box. emptying in a handful of dried peas and then rhythmically swaying and half-rolling box to keep the peas in motion between the nails.

Lighting.

Ambers and blue are on at curtain rise. The blue could be a standing flood-lamp, so placed off stage as to shine through the window. During the action of the play most of the ambers are switched off from behind scenes to synchronise with the Mother touching a painted or imagined light-clip on the wall. If a dimmer is not available for the blackout, the curtain will need to be lowered for three seconds at the end of the Ballet. This will allow the animals to exit and a red light to be added to the amber, in order to give the effect of morning when the curtain rises again

If the lighting equipment is such that there can be no attempt at moonlight or even any change from evening light to daylight, a bedside lamp could be utilised to excuse the lack of transition. The lamp ought be attached to the head of the bed or stand on a small table on the off side of bed from audience. When leaving the room the Mother could say: "Good-night, don't forget to switch off the light!" Margaret then drop off to sleep and the lamp remains on until morning, when the Mother, entering, would turn it off.

Don't make the mistake of switching of all the ambers, as blue light unrelieved would turn the yellow Canary green and spread a sickly shade over the faces. The blue moonlight should the shine through the window directly on to the bed and the sleeping child. The rest of the stage is lit to show up the faces.

* * * * *

SCENE: MARGARET'S Bedroom. It is a pretty room, with double glass doors opening on to a verandah at centre back; a door to the hall-way at left and a window up right. A low single bed runs half way across one side of the room, its head against wall at right, its foot pointing towards the glass doors, but not touching them. It must be so placed as to leave plenty of space in the middle and front of stage for the actors to move about in. In left-hand corner is a large bird cage, covered by a cloth.

As the curtain rises, MARGARET, in pyjamas and slippers, is standing by the entrance to verandah saying good-night to her cat and dog, both of which are out of sight beyond the half-open doors. Dog barks off.

MARGARET: Good-night, you nice old doggie! (Cat mieows off.) And good-night, you nice old pussy.

MOTHER (calling from off left): Are you in bed yet, Margaret?

MARGARET: Not quite, Mother. I'm just saying good night to Simba and Jemima.

MOTHER: Well, close the door and pop into bed.

MARGARET (calls): Y-yes, Mother! (Speaks out door again.) I'm sorry, Simba, very sorry, but you'll have to step back and let me close the door.

Dog whines.

And you, too, Jemima.

Pitiful mieow.

Yes. I understand how you both feel about it. But you know you're not allowed in.

Mieow and whine off as before.

(Doubtfully.) Well—I'll ask. (Calls.) Mother, Simba's feet aren't a scrap dirty, and Jemima's been washing herself for the last half hour, could they...

MOTHER (entering): No, Margaret. It was raining today and the garden's muddy. I don't want them leaving their tracks all over the floor. Now shut the door.

She turns down bedclothes, shakes and smooths pillow, while she speaks.

MOTHER: An animal's place is outside.

MARGARET: But different animals seem to have different places. Now Mrs. Smith's dog is always inside.

MOTHER: Oh, that pampered little pom—

MARGARET (continuing): And then the dog next door is always in his kennel.

MOTHER: And always snapping and snarling.

MARGARET: That's because they always have him on the chain.

MOTHER: H'm, poor brute, never gets any exercise.

MARGARET: Yes, he's dreadfully unhappy.

Dog howls off.

MOTHER: There he is howling now.

MARGARET: No, that's our Simba howling. (Mournfully.) I'm afraid Simba is unhappy, too. (Opens door and looks out.)

MOTHER: Of course he's not, Margaret. Dear, dear, will you keep that door shut.

MARGARET: Yes, Mother. (Sighs.)

Dog barks off.

Good-night, Simba.

Cat mieows off.

Goodnight, Jemima.

She closes door, and crossing to bird cage, draws back one edge of the cloth covering it.

Good-night, Mr. Perkins.

MR. PERKINS (from within the cage): Cheep, cheep!

MOTHER. Had your bath, Margaret?

MARGARET (replacing cloth): Yes, Mother.

MOTHER: Brushed your teeth?

MARGARET (slipping off slippers): Yes!

MOTHER (turning back bed clothes): Well then—

MARGARET (as she springs into bed): Yes!!!!

MOTHER: That's right. Now you must pop off to sleep at once to-night; because to-morrow

MARGARET: Oh, yes, to-morrow you are taking me to—where is it you're taking me to?

MOTHER (sitting on edge of bed): I'll tell you. First of all you know this is a very special week. Do you know what they call it?

MARGARET: It's "Be Kind to Animals" week, isn't it?

MOTHER: Yes.

MARGARET: And is everyone kind to them this week?

MOTHER (laughing): I don't know. But they are holding a big exhibition in town, and that's where I'm taking you to-morrow.

MARGARET: Oh, Mum!!!! (yawns).

MOTHER: I can see someone yawning. Cuddle down and I'll tuck you up.

MARGARET: Will there be animals at the exhibition?

MOTHER: There'll be some, I suppose. And there'll be people to give lectures. Good-night.

MARGARET: Lectures?

MOTHER: Talks, you know. All about animals.

MARGARET: (drowsily): Oh, yes.

MOTHER: You're half asleep already. Goodnight.

MARGARET: Good-night. Mum, what will the talkers talk about when they talk about animals?

MOTHER: Oh—about how to feed them and look after them; and what they need and so on. Now good-night.

She hurriedly switches off light and closes the door. Soft moonlight shines through the window on to bed.

MARGARET: (slowly and drowsily): Good...night...

I wonder what animals do need...to make them happy.

Gramophone off plays few bars of lullaby music. As music fades away the door at back slowly opens and first SIMBA then JEMIMA creep in.

MARGARET (talking in her sleep): I...wonder...what...animals...do...need.

SIMBA (deep voice): Bow-wow, what we really need, Jemima, is someone who understands us.

JEMIMA: Mieow! Margaret understands us, Simba.

SIMBA: Woof! Margaret understands us—but what's the use of that? She's not boss in this house. She has to do what those two big ones tell her.

JEMIMA: If only they'd tell her the same thing each time. But they change quicker than the weather. One day we can come inside. The next day we must stay outside. No consistency, that's their trouble, no consistency.

SIMBA: Wow! When they do let us in, it's always on a nice fine day, when one wouldn't mind being in the garden, chasing a chicken or something. But immediately it rains, they shoo us out.

JEMIMA: It's just unfairness. that's what it is.

SIMBA: How can it be just unfairness? If it is just it can't be unfair, and if it's unfair it can't be just.

JEMIMA: Oh, well, I mean—no imagination—that's the trouble with those two big ones—no imagination.

SONG

NO IMAGINATION

(Jemima, Simba and Mr. Perkins.)

JEMIMA (sings):

No imagination
To put themselves in our situation,
Mieow! Mieow!
I'm a tame domestic cat,
Mieow! Mieow!
Now please keep your mind on that.
I'm a creature who likes comfort, to whom fire's a luxury,
But the comfort of their fireside is (sighs)—not to comfort me.
I'm put out flat—
I'm just the cat!

SIMBA (sings):

No imagination
To put themselves in our situation.
Bow! Wow!
I've been called a man's best friend
Bow! Wow!
And I'll serve him to the end;
I am loyal, I am patient, many hardships I've endured,
But for all my good be-ha-vi-our, pray what is my reward?
Chained to a log—
I'm just the dog.

MR. PERKINS (speaking): Cheep! Cheep! If someone would fold back this curtain from my cage I could a tale unfold.

Cloth drops from cage. revealing canary.

JEMIMA. Mieow! and a very juicy tail, too. (Smacks lips.) Yum! Yum! It would make a nice tasty meal for me!

MR. PERKINS: I wasn't referring to the tail of my body, but to the tail of my sorrows.

SIMBA. Woof! I didn't know canaries had sorrows. There in that cage you seem protected from everything.

JEMIMA. He's protected from me. Mieow!

MR PERKINS. Do you animals mean to say that you think I like being shut up in a cage. Huh! You're as bad as the humans. (Steps out of cage.)

MR. PERKINS (sings):

No imagination
To put yourselves in my situation,
Cheep! Cheep!
If you'd know my misery,
Cheep! Cheep!
A canary you should be.
I have wings were made for flying high among the golden stars.
But my wings must now lie idle, else be wounded by these bars.
I'm as you've heard—
A ca-ged bird!

MARGARET (waking up, very surprised): Why, how clever of you all to sing like that. I've never heard you before.

MR. PERKINS: Now don't say you haven't heard my voice before. It's the reason your Mother bought me. She tells her friends (mimicking): He's so happy—he sings all day long.

MARGARET: And you do, too, Mr. Perkins.

MR. PERKINS: But only to prevent myself crying. You just copse in here—come on, step inside this cage—

MARGARET gets out of bed and crosses to bird cage.

MARGARET: But I wouldn't have room to move. (Peeping in.) Well, I might be able to crawl around, but I'd never have room to run.

MR. PERKINS: Cheep—cheep! that's just my complaint. I can hop around, but I haven't room to fly. And you see my point—if you had to live in here—with everything you want outside—far beyond your reach—you'd have to sing—there'd be nothing else to do.

MARGARET: But you seem to do such lots of things, Mr. Perkins.

MR. PERKINS (argumentative): What things? Hop from one perch to the other, flit from the food bowl over to the water bowl, jump on to this bar and that and so on all over again! Just fussing about, never doing anything constructive—no nest to build—no wife to sit on eggs for me. Cheep—cheep—cheep! Now, your grandma has the right idea about us birds. She doesn't keep us in cages.

MARGARET: No, and she's built a bird bath on her lawn and always puts the crumbs out.

MR. PERKINS: Yes, and so all the birds of the neighbourhood flock to her garden, and she can enjoy their company without gaoling them up in an old cage.

MARGARET: Oh, dear, Mr. Perkins, I'll ask mother to buy a wife for you and then you could both build a sweet little nest and hatch out some pretty little eggs. MR. PERKINS: Cheep—cheep—cheep! You don't know what you're talking about. How many healthy fledglings are reared in cages—will you tell me that?

MARGARET: I—I don't know, Mr. Perkins.

MR. PERKINS (snappily): Why none at all. Or certainly none in cages of this size. Why, it's only six hops from one side to the other.

MARGARET: It is dreadfully small.

MR. PERKINS: Certainly no place to rear a family. Especially with that great lump of a black cat glaring greedily at one all day. Cheep—cheep!

JEMIMA: Mieow! I'm not greedy, but I'm hungry (pounces) for you.

MR PERKINS (hopping back): Cheep—cheep! I may make you hungry. But you make me lose my appetite.

JEMIMA (stalking him): Mieow!

MR. PERKINS (runs behind Margaret): Cheep—cheep! One look at her and I get nervous indigestion and go right off my seed.

MARGARET (leading him back to cage): Don't be nervous, Mr. Perkins. Jemima can't get you when you're in your cage.

MR. PERKINS: Oh, you think that do you? What about the day your Mother went shopping and forgot to take my cage down off the nail on the back wall And a big wind came up and blew it down, and this great ugly cat—

JEMIMA: Mieow! By my claws and whiskers, I nearly had you that day.

MARGARET: Oh, it was lucky I came home from school in time. Poor Mr. Perkins—you were ill for a whole week from fright.

MR. PERKINS. From nerves! Not from fright, from nerves? I'm not frightened of cats. But I'm nervous of them.

JEMIMA: Mieow!

MR. PERKINS: Oh! If I were free! I wouldn't be nervous if I were free, because then no cat could follow me. I'd fly to the highest tree. I'd fly higher; up to the stars, above the stars. Then, with wings spread I'd float upon the air, slide down the wind, nosedive and plane!

MARGARET: I've always thought how wonderful it would be to fly?

MR. PERKINS: It is! It is! I was greater than a king when I was free and then—then a hundred cats could stare at me.

JEMIMA: Mieow! I should think so. If a cat can look at a king, surely one can look at a canary. Oh—how—I'd—love—to—gobble—you up!

MR. PERKINS (fearfully): Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!

MARGARET: There, there, Mr. Perkins.

JEMIMA: Mieow! You're a coward. You always screech before you're hurt.

MR. PERKINS: But that's the time to screech—it's no good screeching afterwards—its too late then'. Oh! Simba, be a good dog and stop her staring at me!

SIMBA: Woof! Stop staring at him, Jemima. And stop prowling round his cage—you're like a cat on hot bricks!

MR. PERKINS: Cheep! Cheep! (Flutters.) Cheep! Cheep!

SIMBA: Well, Mr. Perkins, after all, the life you live is only a bird's life. (Sighs.) But I live a dog's life.

MARGARET (crossing to him): Darling Simba—are you unhappy, too?

SIMBA: Well, I'll show you what I've to put up with. (Gets chain from off stage.)

MARGARET: What do you mean, Simba?

SIMBA (rattling chain): This is what I mean. (Loops chain around her neck and holds both ends of it.)

MARGARET: (holding it): Oh! Oh! Why did you place this great chain around my neck?

SIMBA: I want you to know how it feels.

MARGARET: Oh, it makes me feel so—so restless. I want to leap in the air! And bark and howl at the moon.

SIMBA: I used to do that—but it doesn't do any good.

MARGARET: My throat is hot and dry—I must be thirsty.

SIMBA: Don't strain upon the chain like that—you'll only hurt your neck.

MARGARET: But the dish of water is out of my reach.

SIMBA: It usually is.

MARGARET: And I'm hot and want to lie down in the shade.

SIMBA: It's out of reach, too.

MARGARET (slowly): Well, now...now I feel sort of cowed and don't feel like leaping, or even barking or howling. If I did anything at all, I'd just make a little low whining sound.

SIMBA: H'm your spirit is being broken—that's what being chained up does for a dog—makes a cur of him.

MARGARET: Yes, I fell dog tired—and bored.

Cat mieows.

(Savagely.) Except when I see that cat walking about—then I'd like to dog her footsteps and (loudly) bite her!

SIMBA: That's because she's free—and you're not. Unhappiness makes us fellows very savage. Think of the chap next door.

MARGARET: That mongrel who's always snapping and snarling.

(Enter dog from next door.)

CARLO: That's it—give give a dog a bad name. You'd snap, too, if you were unhappy like me. And I'm getting distemper from always being in a temper. Well, now that you've seen what it's like to have a chain round your neck, I'll relieve you of it. (Removes chain from her neck.)

MARGARET: Oh, tank you, Carlo...Oh, I begin to feel myself again.

CARLO: Gives chain to SIMBA and lies down.

JEMIMA: Mieow! I wonder how you'd like to feel like me!

MARGARET (crossing to her): Why, I think you must feel rather nice, Jemima. They say cats are very lucky and have nine lives.

JEMIMA: Well, I've only one life, and I try to make it as happy as possible—though that's difficult enough in this place.

Sound of rain off.

Bless my fur and whiskers, its beginning to rain—Ugh. how I hate getting wet.

MARGARET: Yes, I can feel the drops on my face. And I feel a tiny bit cold. But it will be lovely and warm in the living roam by the big. cosy fire.

JEMIMA: For you. Not for me. Mieow! They won't let me by the fire—they won't let me inside at all.

MARGARET: Oh, darling Jemima, isn't there anywhere you can get out of the wet?

JEMIMA: Oh, yes. I squeeze myself up against the door on the back verandah. Or when the wind blows the rain in, I go under the house. But it's so dirty and dusty there and I detest dirt and dust—almost as much as I detest water.

Rain gradually ceases.

MARGARET: Perhaps if Mother and Daddy knew how much you love the fire they might let you in.

JEMIMA: Not they. And do you know why? Because they say I have fleas—fleas. I! the cleanest animal on earth. I, who spend half of every day washing myself. There may be fleas on Simba and Carlo.

SIMBA and CARLO: (indignantly): Woof!

JEMIMA: And fleas on Mr. Perkins—

MR. PERKINS (indignantly): Cheep—cheep!

JEMIMA: But there are no fleas on me.

SIMBA (deeply): No?

JEMIMA: No!

SIMBA: Then why are you scratching yourself?

JEMIMA: Eh?...Oh, well, if there is one, it's one of yours.

SIMBA: Woof! I don't deny I have fleas—Wow! but that's because they don't clean out my kennel regularly.

JEMIMA: Mieow! In the cats' heaven there aren't any fleas.

SIMBA: And in the dogs' heaven there aren't any fleas.

MARGARET gets into bed.

MARGARET: Oh, do tell me about your heavens. What is your heaven like, Jemima?

JEMIMA: Well...I've never seen it, of course, but...

SONG

IF WE HAVE A HEAVEN

(Jemima, Simba, Mr, Perkins and Carlo.)

JEMIMA (sings):

If we cats have a heaven it will be
A place of luxuree;
We will sleep beside the fire-side on cushions soft as silk,
And for breakfast we'll have locusts, yes, and oceans of fresh milk,
And for dinner and for tea there'll be fried fish and then a nice
Dish...of...mice!

SIMBA and CARLO:

If we dogs have a heaven, then I vow
'Twill be the greatest wow!
There'll be motorbikes and rabbits round the place for us to chase;
But of collars and of muzzles and of chains there'll be no trace.
There'll be bones as big as melons growing on the gi-ant trees,
And...no...fleas!

MR. PERKINS:

If we birds have a heaven, I declare
'Twill be high in the air:
There'll be lettuces and grass seed, there'll be lots of wiggly worms,
There'll be wogs, and little wogglets and all wriggly things that squirm,
There'll be fruits of every season there and, growing in big tubs,
Jui...cy...grubs!

Chorus:

MR. PERKINS: Cheep! Cheep!

JEMIMA: Mie—ow!

MR. PERKINS: Cheep! Cheep!

SIMBA: Bow! Wow!

ALL: If we creatures have a heaven it will be A place of luxuree.

MARGARET: Oh, what a lovely heaven you each would have.

JEMIMA: Yes; Mieow! If we cats had our way we'd have a grand time.

SIMBA: Bow-wow! And earth would be a grand place if we dogs had our way.

MR. PERKINS: Cheep-cheep! Well, I'm sure if we birds had our way, there'd be nothing to grumble at.

SONG

IF ANIMALS HAD THEIR WAY

(Jemima, Simba, Mr. Perkins and Carlo.)

TRIO: If animals had their way,
Oh, that would be the day;

JEMIMA: No little girls will pick up cats and squeeze them till they wail.

SIMBA: And boys will never tie tin-cans to any poor dog's tail.

MR. PERKINS: And humans will not cage us birds as though we were in gaol.

TRIO: Once animals have their way,
Once animals have their way...

Chorus:

TRIO. If animals had their way,
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
Oh, that will be the day,
When animals have their way.
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
Oh, that will be the day, When...
Animals have their way.

During the chorus a ballet of KITTENS and PUPPIES prance in, dance up and down and join in the singing. The KITTENS' tails are carried in their left paws, the PUPPIES' in their right paws. Chorus could be repeated and ballet featured as long as practical. During last lines of song, lights fade slowly out. In blackout, ANIMALS exit. Lights come slowly up, revealing MARGARET asleep in bed. Daylight.

MARGARET (clapping hands): Splendid! Splendid!

MOTHER (entering): What is splendid, sleepy head?

MARGARET: Er, eh?...eh?—what's—that?

MOTHER: You've been talking and clapping your hands in your sleep.

MARGARET: Sleep? Have I been asleep? What time is it?

MOTHER: Time to get up.

MARGARET: Oh! then it must be tomorrow.

MOTHER (laughing): I think you must be still asleep.

MARGARET: I mean it must be the day after last night—when you promised—

MOTHER: To take you to the exhibition.

MARGARET: And this is "Be Kind to Animals Week."

MOTHER: This is "Be Kind to Animals Week."

MARGARET: Oh, Mumsie, I know how to be kind to them. I know just what they like and don't like.

(Mother laughs indulgently.)

MARGARET: But I do. I do! They told me themselves. I can still remember what they said they'd do if animals had their way.

Tableau: MOTHER and MARGARET smiling at each other. Then MARGARET nods. ANIMALS are heard singing off stage as the lights slowly fade.

SONG

IF ANIMALS HAD THEIR WAY

(sing):

If animals had their way,
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
Oh, that will be the day,
When animals have their way.
Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
Oh, that will be the day,
When...
Animals have—their—way.

THE CURTAIN FALLS


THE END

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