The Battle of Life – a play based on the original novella by Charles Dickens.
When I started reading this novella, I was expecting a love story – but The Battle of Life is so much more. It is not just about romantic love but love of a much deeper kind – of sibling love – between two sisters. In sticking to my normal format of 15 characters in a play lasting around 30 minutes, I hope I have done justice both to the richness of the plot and to the wonderful characters I have met. This was the first ‘non-popular’ book of Dickens that I had read, and I enjoyed it way more than I had expected. This does beg the question – why is this piece of work not more popular? Why has it not received the same acclaim as Dickens’ other works? Is it because of its length – its relative brevity? This is the only conclusion I have been able to come up with – and I do so hope more people, through reading this version, may come to appreciate this particular story – may be put it up there with the others!
Cast of 15. Duration around 30 minutes
(Sound of music and laughter)
(Enter Dr Jeddler)
Narrator: Aha! And one of the jolliest gents you are ever likely to meet! Dr Jeddler, I was just commenting on The Battle of Life. No doubt you, as a philosopher, have something to say on the matter?
Dr Jeddler: (Laughing) Well, naturally, my good man! Though nothing too profound, you understand! I don’t take any of this stuff too seriously!
Narrator: You mean, the stuff of living?
(Enter Alfred, briefly)
Alfred: Oh, but you should!
(Aside to audience) I rather think Dr. Jeddler here may just change a little of that mindset of his during the course of this production!
Dr Jeddler: What’s that? Yes, I thought I heard music!
(Enter two musicians, and two sisters, Marion and Grace, dancing, without any inhibition)
(Narrator applauds loudly when the music stops and the girls fling themselves to the ground in exhaustion)
Narrator: Bravo! That was some display! Though all the better for not being a display, if you see what I mean!
Marion: (Laughing) Oh we were most certainly not dancing to an audience! (Spotting audience) Oops! No offence intended to present one!
Dr Jeddler: (Coughing) Ahem! You realise the earliness of the hour?
Grace: (Quickly) Oh but father! You haven’t forgotten what day it is?
Marion: Somebody’s birthday?
Dr Jeddler: Bah! It’s always somebody’s birthday! What a load of nonsense – another foolish exhibition in this thing called life!
(Marion pulls a face)
Dr Jeddler: Which isn’t to say we can’t celebrate the idea of this, this birthday malarkey!
(To Narrator) I wouldn’t want you to think I’m some kind of killjoy! It’s just, life is such a farce, the world such a gigantic practical joke.
Grace: (Taking his arm) Oh come along, father! Let’s just enjoy the day.
Narrator: (To audience) Something tells me this particular philosopher has a rather simplistic view of the world … but one on which he could, nevertheless, speak for hours. Let’s not allow him that freedom! Good for Grace!
These are also available in Readers Theater format.