The Circus of Life

By John McNeil

Summary

A satire on the rat race.

Characters

Ringmaster
Juggling Duo (Jerome and Jane)
Kerry the Courageous
Boss the Barbarous
Cyril the Company Climber
2 Attendants

Setting

A circus big top

Props

Ringmaster's outfit (optional)
Whip
2 suitcases
Small balls
Large ball
Large cardboard box
Small box
3-4 swords
Lion's mask

Script

SFX:
Circus noises, circus band

Ringmaster:
(Who could, if desired, be a voice over the speaker system for the whole performance.) Step right up, step right up. This way to the fabulous Circus of Life. Come one, come all, and see the most amazing sights in the universe. And the most amazing thing of all is, that entrance is free. That's right folks, you don't pay a cent to get in. You pay to get out, but the cost of that is up to you. So step this way.

That's right, lady; thank you, sir; you're most welcome, young fellow-me-lad. Are we all in, now? Great! Then let the show begin!

SFX
Drum roll

Ringmaster:
Ladeeeeez and G-E-N-T-L-E-M-E-N, Boys and Girls. Welcome to the fabulous Circus of Life. Tonight, here in our own Big Top, right before your very eyes, a fabulous array of acts has been assembled for your delight and delectation. Jest with our jaunty jugglers...cry with our cavorting clowns...marvel at our magnificent magicians...give a bravo to our brave balancers....and hold your breath at our handsome high-fliers. All this and more before the night is out.

But to start, let's give a big round of applause to our juggling duo, Jerome and his wife Jane.

SFX:
Drum roll

(Enter Jerome and Jane, looking very depressed. They are dressed in ordinary clothes, not costume, and each is carrying a carton or suitcase. When they reach centre stage they stand side by side, at about arms length apart. They each put down their containers. Jerome bends down, opens the carton or suitcase, and takes out a large ball. It has the word 'mortgage' written or taped to it. He holds it up for inspection.)

Jerome:
Mortgage! (Tosses the ball sideways to Jane. She staggers a bit, then tosses it back.)

Jane:
(Bends down and takes out a smaller ball, which she tosses to Jerome.) Housekeeping!

Jerome:
(Juggles the balls briefly, badly, and tosses them back to Jane. Then takes another ball from his container, tosses it to Jane. She can barely hold them.) Kids' school fees!

Jane:
(She tosses two of the balls back to Jerome before picking a final ball out of her container.) Doctor's bills!

Jerome:
(Tosses one his balls to Jane.) New car!

(They face each other. The balls pass back and forwards, some inevitably being dropped, as they cry out alternately with increasing frustration):

Holiday! School uniforms!
Income tax! Washing machine repairs!
Insurances! Prescription charges!

Jane:
(Can't take any more. She picks up as many balls as she can and throws them violently at Jerome.) You juggle these bloody things. I'm going home to mother!

(She storms off, followed hopelessly by Jerome.)

SFX: Drum roll

Ringmaster:
There you are, folks. Even if they went under, they sure tried hard. But that's the Circus of Life. And now let's have a big welcome for our escape artist, Kerry the Kourageous, who will defy the swords and spears of outrageous fortune in the Cabparadise of Death.

SFX:
Drum roll (sustained quietly during the following)

(Enter Kerry - can be male or female - preferably in costume this time, eg leotards. Assistants bring on either a large cardboard box of the type used to pack refrigerators, or several lengths of plain newsprint. If newsprint, Kerry stands on the ends, and the remainder of the paper is raised above his/her head, to form a paper curtain on three sides.

(Enter 3-4 people, each carrying a thin sword. They circle the 'cabparadise' containing Kerry. As they do so, they in turn thrust a sword into the sides of the 'cabparadise', exclaiming loudly one of the following):
I always said you were a no-hoper!
Dole-bludger. Why don't you go and get a job!
I knew you'd never amount to anything!
You're too fat and lazy to get out of bed in the morning!
You'd lose your head if it wasn't screwed on!
Where were you when they were handing out brains!

(Those circling Kerry exit. The drum roll comes to a quick climax.)

Ringmaster:
And now, let us see how Kerry evaded the swords of death. Assistants! Unlock the Cage of Death!

(Assistants remove the case or screen, to reveal Kerry standing pierced by the swords. S/he crumples to the floor. The assistants carry him/off.)

Ringmaster:
Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles in the Circus of Life. But on with the show. No circus is complete without its animal act. And tonight, Ladeez and Genteelmen, Boys and Girls, we present for your entertainment Boss the Barborous and his performing lion, Cyril the Company Climber.

(Enter Boss, carrying a box and whip, and Cyril, who is dressed in suit and tie, and trailing a brief case. He could be wearing a lion's head or mask. Cyril is on all fours.

(Boss puts the box down in the middle of the stage, then cracks his whip over Cyril, who cowers.)

Boss:
First stage on the company ladder. The job interview. Allez oop! (Cracks the whip again, and Cyril rears up on knees in begging position, briefcase in his mouth. He holds the position.)

Boss:
You're hired. (Cyril drops back to all fours. Boss cracks his whip.) Now, negotiating the Employment Contract. Allez Oop! (Cracks his whip, and Cyril rolls over, waggling feet in the air, before rolling back to all fours.)

For our next trick, overtime without pay. (Cracks whip. A large ball is rolled from the wings to Cyril, who attempts unsuccessfully to balance it on his head while in the begging position. The Boss cracks him on the head with the whip.)

Boss:
We're going to have to do better than that with our next trick, Cyril, if you want promotion. (Cracks his whip.) Now, for our finale, higher productivity with fewer resources. We'll call it, 'working smarter, not harder'. Allez oop! (Cracks his whip.)

(Cyril crawls to the box, attempts to leap over it, baulks, goes back a couple of paces, races up, jumps and sprawls over the box, exhausted.)

Boss:
A good try, Cyril, but we're having to downsize, anyway. You've just been made redundant.

(Exit Boss. Cyril is too shattered to move. Attendants have to cart him off. As they do so, Ringmaster brings the show to a close. Circus music comes up under him as he speaks.)

Ringmaster:
That ends the first half of our grand production, ladeeez and gennelmen, boys and girls. Ice cream, popcorn and drinks will be on sale around the Big Top during interval, and then hurry back to your seats as we bring you further marvels in the CIRCUS OF LIFE!

 

© John McNeil 1997
All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed.
He may be contacted at soulcommunication@paradise.net.nz
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 2, New Zealand.