Summary: A humorous play in which animals in the manger discuss the arrival of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.
Style: Light-hearted. Duration: 20min
Actors: 11+ M/F
MAIN CHARACTERS (In order of appearance)
Rooster (Obsessive about his morning wakeup call but says little else)
Dog (Uncultured and homeless but smart and streetwise)
Duck (Deaf and says little but tends to repeat the same word)
Cow (A bit slow on the uptake, honest salt-of-the-earth type)
Pig (Sleepy, slow, simple, obsessed with food)
Cat (Superior, contemptuous, selfish and snobby)
Donkey (Laconic, dependable but rather lack-lustre figure)
Sheep (Alternative, hippy type, complete with long locks, beads)
Three mice: (Very young and cheeky)
NON-SPEAKING CHARACTERS (Can also be cardboard figure or dolls)
Wise man one
Wise man two
Wise man three
Note: All five stable scenes take place in the same set. The main characters are placed on a higher level overlooking the manger area where the traditional nativity scene is played out by mime only. Ideally cat should be placed a little bit higher than the others. All the main characters can be behind a partition in the stable, looking over the manger scene.
(Cow, pig, dog, duck and rooster are snoozing in the rear of the stable.)
Rooster : (Suddenly getting up) And the top of the morning to yoo-hoo-hoo. (At this all the others start waking up annoyed)
Dog: Will you shut up! It’s eight o’clock at night. Get your act together.
Duck : What? What? What? What?
Pig: (snoring loudly)
Dog : Now look. You’ve woken the duck.
Rooster : I didn’t wake her. She’s deaf. And no-one could wake him!
Pig : (snoring loudly)
Dog : Well just go back to sleep then. I’ve had a hard day.
Cow : At least you get out and about ‘round the town an’ all. It gets boring having to stay in here all day, you know. Nothing ever happens here. There’s no excitement in life for an ordinary brown cow in Bethlehem.
Dog : Oh what a sad case. Then again you could be happy and ignorant like our sleepy friend.
Pig : Pig? Who called pig? Is it time for breakfast?
Dog : No sleepy, it’s tea time tomorrow and you’ve already missed it.
Pig : Oh. Oh.
Rooster : You’re cruel. You’ll give him nightmares thinking he’s missed his breakfast.
Pig : O I did miss it!
Cow : No you didn’t. Don’t worry. Go back to sleep.
Mouse 1 (entering the set): C’mon guys, they’re going back to sleep.
Mouse 2 (entering the set after him) : It should be safe.
Mouse 3 (following the others, then turning back) : Oh no it’s not! Look who’s coming! (All three mice turn back and exit quickly)
Cat (enters and sits above the others): Oh the shame. Oh the indignity. Put out ! I’ve been put out! Just because they’re full tonight, and I can’t even share my room because some silly guest gets asthma.
Dog : I fink I feel a wheeze comin’ on meself.
Cat : But to have to stoop so low as to have to cohabit with the likes of you - creatures. And you (turning to dog) a blow-in who doesn’t even belong here!
Dog : Oh how the mighty is fallen. Fall a little lower an’ I’ll nip ya toffy little silver tail!
Cow : What’s so bad about us? We might be just plain simple folk, but we lead an honest life.
Dog : Speak fa yaself. But she’s right – snotty whiskers. An’ she’s a decent sort ‘erself. She come from good stock and a stable ‘ome. Not like me. I grew up in the gutter, I did. An’ then I run away.
Cat : Down the drain, too, I’d say.
Dog : Well at least I ain’t afraid of water like you. Can’t even get a proper wash – licking yourself all the time. No wonder you’re so stuck up.
Cat : As if you ever had a wash. You’re so full of fleas they’ll probably hijack you next !
Cow : O come on, let’s have some peace here, you two. So, Cat, why is the inn full tonight? That doesn’t happen very often, does it?
Cat : How am I supposed to know? The humans are such silly creatures….
Dog : They’re counting the census. That’s why there’s so many. They’re counting the census.
Cat : Counting the senses? How ridiculous ! Everyone knows that cats have six. The rest of you have, what, five. Well, Duck has four.
Duck: One. One. One. One.
Pig : (snores loudly)
Cat: All right, one then. And Curly here – not much sense full stop, I’d say. More like just – smell.
Dog : No, fur-brain. The Census is counting themselves. Like a big round-up, to see how many there are.
Cat : Obviously a few too many.
Cow : I wish I’d never asked. Can we get some sleep?
(All the characters are asleep again until …a door creaks open, and… the three mice peer out into the set)
Mouse 1 : Surely it’s safe now.
Mouse 2 : Let’s run for the house. Quick!
Rooster : Sooooomething’s happening !
Mouse 3 : Oh no! (The three mice disappear)
Cow : No it isn’t. It’s still only ten o’clock.
Pig : (snores loudly)
Cat : Such incredibly inconsiderate behaviour !
Dog (as donkey enters the scene): Ay ay. Look ‘ere. See what the cat’s too lazy to drag in. It’s a four-on-the-floor all terrain vehicle. What’s up Big Ears?
Donkey : Got any room back here? I’m dead beat. Been a long way.
Cow : Where’ you from?
Duck : From. From. From. From.
Donkey : Came down from Nazareth over the last few days.
Dog : Nazreth? Where’s that, bro?
Cat : Oh come now. Didn’t you learn anything at dog school?
Donkey : Up north. It’s a way. Specially with a woman on your back. And a big one. She’s about due I reckon.
Dog : Is she ‘aving a litter?
Cat : For what – toilet training?
Donkey : Well actually, she’s having it here, I reckon. We stopped for the night.
Cow : I don’t think you’ll be stopping long. They’re full up at this inn.
Dog : Or so we ‘ear. Sounds like a good excuse to me. For getting thrown out - like the scraps.
Pig (waking suddenly): Scraps! Who said scraps? Where? What have they thrown out?
Cat : I think it’s a question of who. They’re putting people out now. See, I told you so! And it would appear they are coming in here.
(Mary and Joseph come into the foreground manger area, put the things they are carrying down and sit on the floor looking exhausted.)
Cow : In my stall? People? (Pause. Looks.) She’ s right you know. Looks like they’re going to settle in here. I hope they don’t mind the cobwebs.
Dog : They’d better be careful where they step. This place ain’t bin cleaned for a while, ‘as it?
Cat : Well humans may not have a very acute sense of smell, but we cats are very sensitive. If it weren’t for the unseemly lateness of the hour, I would be making my way to alternative lodgings.
Cow : Here comes some clean straw now. They’ll like that, I suppose. It has such a good sweet smell about it.
Donkey : What about me? I’m famished.
Dog: Well you two ‘ave a good ole’ sniff, ‘cos I’m turnin’ in.
(All the animals are asleep. Mary and Joseph are watching the baby in the manger. Then the sound of a baby crying….)
Rooster : (Confused) Uh. Uh. Cocker. Er. Cocker. Duddle. Um. What was that? Is it?
Cat : No, it isn’t. It’s only midnight and a baby has just been born. A perfectly ordinary thing to happen. And you have to go and wake all the animals.
Pig : (snores loudly)
Rooster : He’s still asleep.
Mouse 1 (Peering out) : OK guys. Let’s go.
Mouse 2 : (Moving out cautiously) Quick ! Before they all wake up.
Duck : Quack. Quack. (Mouse 3 enters then turns)
Mouse 3 : Oh no! Not her. Quick. Where’s the hole?
Duck : Quack. Quack.
Cat : No. I don’t think they’ll be calling one of those.
Dog (Rubbing his eyes): Cor. Look ! She’s only ‘ad one ! One solitary puppy. Poor thing.
Cow : A new calf. I never had a calf. It must be a great feeling.
Donkey : I suppose I’ll have to carry both of them back to Nazareth somehow - mother and foal.
Cat : Puppy. Calf. Foal. Indeed. Well it certainly isn’t a kitten. It’s just a human baby. Nothing special at all.
Cow : I’ve never seen one of them before. And it got born in my stable. And it’s lying in my manger. Maybe I could help feed it or something?
Dog : Don’t get ya’ hopes up. They got their own milk an’ they don’t eat straw.
Cat : That’s all you know. Humans regularly drink cow’s milk. In fact, they seem to like it. I’ll admit, I myself rather like milk.
Pig : (waking up) Where’s the milk? Where’s the cereal? Oh….. Uh……What’s for breakfast?
Dog : Bacon and eggs.
Rooster: That’s obscene! How could anyone eat eggs? Don’t mind him. You just go back to sleep.
Cow : I wonder if it’s a boy or a girl. Can anyone see any pink or blue?
Dog : Blimey, didn’t your muvva give you a little talk or nuffing?
Donkey : I did hear some talk about names on the way down, but I’ve forgotten.
Cat : Neddy? Eeyore? Gladys perhaps? Does it matter?
Cow : Well I’d like to know. It’s not every day that a baby gets born in here. And unless I get to meet the right bull somehow, it probably won’t happen again. So it’s a very special baby to me.
Dog : You talk bull all day. Surely that’s got to count for something.
Donkey : She’s right, you know. I carried that woman a long way from home to have that baby here. There must be some special reason.
Dog : Didn’t they just come down to be counted, like the rest?
Donkey : Yes. But I heard them talking as if there was something else very important about it.
Cow : Maybe we’ll find out in the morning.
(The animals are woken by the sound of a sheep baaing)
Rooster : It must be time to get u – up.
Dog : Oh no it’s no – ot, noodle top.
Cat : For goodness’ sake can’t somebody get that bird a clock?
Duck : Clock. Clock. Clock. Clock.
Pig : (snores loudly)
(The shepherds enter the manger area and look at the baby)
Dog : Someone’s coming. I can smell something. Smells like …
Cow : Grass. It smells like – fresh grass.
Sheep (enters) : You got it. I chew it all the time. Keeps the breath fresh.
Donkey : I like juicy fruit.
Rooster : I chew wrigglies.
Pig : (snores loudly)
Cat : Judging from the smell of his breath he doesn’t bother.
Dog : ‘An I like mutton legs ! (menacingly at Sheep)
Sheep : Stay cool brother. Say, what’s going down here?
Cow : We’ve just had a little one born.
Sheep : Say, who’s the lucky ewe?
Cow : Who, me?
Dog : Nah. Ewes are sheep.
Cow/Donkey/Rooster (Looking at each other in astonishment) : No we’re not !
Sheep : Who said sheep are silly?
Dog/Cat : I did.
Cat (Looking at dog, horrified) But I’ve changed my view.
Dog : Anyhow, Curly Locks, what brings you to town so late at night.? Even the pub’s closed.
Sheep : We came here to see the lamb, er, baby. That is, the shepherds came. They said I could come too. I’m curious.
(Three mice peer out from the side)
Cat : Take my advice, don’t be too curious. It’s a trap! (Three mice quickly disappear!)
Dog : What about the others? Didn’t they all follow?
Cow : How did you know about the baby?
Sheep : You’d never believe it. We were in our paddock outside of the town a few hours ago getting ready for bed. Suddenly there’s these almighty great lights in the sky, and these people up there too, singing. It was like having the grand final of “Palestinian Idol” live in the paddock. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I thought maybe I’d eaten some silly grass, but that tastes awful, and the shepherds don’t let us eat it; they say that’s very naughty.
Cow : What happens to sheep that do?
Sheep : They get stoned.
Donkey : But what about the baby? How did you know about the baby?
Sheep : Hang loose, brother, I’m getting to that. These people in the sky said there was a special baby born in the town tonight. He would save his people from their sins.
Cow : What are sins?
Donkey : I don’t really know.
Dog : They’re probably fleas. What do you reckon, pussy? Aren’t you a flealine?
Cat : I’ll try to ignore your vulgarity. I must confess I’m not familiar with the term ‘sins’, but whatever they are, cats don’t have them.
Cow : I would still like to know why you came with your shepherds to see the baby.
Sheep : Well the people in the sky said the baby was the “Lamb of God”. So God was obviously pretty important, and she was having a lamb. How could I stay away? (Pause) So you guys live here?
Cow : I do. This is my place.
Cat : I most certainly do not !
Dog : I …er…
Cat : He’s - homeless.
Donkey : I brought the baby’s mother and father here from Nazareth.
Sheep : Sweet. Well I might just doss down here for a while if you don’t mind. Looks like the shepherds’ll be here for a while.
(All the animals are dozing quietly until …)
Rooster : It must be ti-ime. Yes it i-is. I can see it. (Startled) Oh grief, what’s that?
Dog : Don’t tell me after all those false alarms he’s afraid of the sun !
Rooster : (Sounding terrified) No! No! There! There!
Donkey : What is it?
Cat : The silly bird is clearly terrified.
Cow : Somebody will have to look. What about you, duck?
Duck : Uh. Uh. Uh. Uh.
Dog : She knows what happens to Peking Duck.
Cow : Well I’ll have a look then. (Peers outside the stable) …. Have a look at this. I’ve never seen an animal like them before. What are they? (All the others peer out as well)
Donkey : I’ve seen them on the road. I think they’re called ‘camels’.
Cat : They are known as “ships of the desert”.
Dog : Yeh. They’ve even got two funnels.
Cow : They’ve got men on top and they’re folding up to let them off.
Donkey : Oooh. I couldn’t do that. How painful !
Dog : This place is turning into a regular zoo. Next thing we’ll have people paying to get in.
(Wise men approach the foreground manger area in file carrying gifts)
Cat : Just for once there may be a grain of sense in what you are saying. That first human is carrying something bright yellow and very heavy. And he’s coming in here. If I’m not mistaken, and that’s pretty certain not to be the case, these men are very important, and very rich. I must find out when they’re leaving, because when they are, they’re going to have a - little - extra - company. (Exits)
Sheep : I’m not real sure what’s going on. But if that baby’s the Lamb of God, he’s not going to get much grass ‘round here. I think I’ll go back to the paddock. Hope the shepherds aren’t going to be long. (Exits)
Dog : I gotta think about breakfast. Wonder if these blokes brought an esky or anything. I might go for a sniff around the camels. On the other hand, seeing it’s obviously such a special occasion, a bit of duck or chook would make a tasty meal. (Chases duck and rooster out.)
Duck : (Exits) Quick. Quick. Quick. Quick.
Rooster : (Exits) Wait for me - ee.
Pig : (waking up) Hang on. What’s happening? Are we going out for breakfast? Have I missed something? (Exits)
(Three mice enter the set cautiously)
Mouse 1: C’mon. They’re all leaving.
Mouse 2 : Yeah. Should be safe now
Mouse 3 : We’ve got to get to work boys. (All exit other side)
Donkey : I’ll have to stick around until my passengers are ready to leave. It’s a bit hard to say how long that’s going to be. But I suppose I can wait.
Cow : I’m glad you’re staying. I don’t understand what this is all about. But yesterday I was bored because nothing ever happened to me. And in one night all that turned around. A very, very special baby has been born in my stable and he’s asleep in my manger. All these people and strange creatures have come to see him. It’s like getting a really great present. So I’m just going to stay here and watch, because this has got to be pretty good.
NARRATOR : And there we have it. The animals in the story were a bit like us. Christmas finds us all in our own little worlds, like their stable, with our own little priorities, like their next meal. Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in what we have to do, or what we’re hoping for, that we don’t even catch a glimpse of the wonderful reality behind Christmas: that love of God broke through the barrier between life and eternity in the form of a baby, that love from God breaks through in our lives all the time in many ways, often going unnoticed, yet offering such possibilities. If we are too focussed on what we are going to get out of Christmas we will probably miss the point and hurry away again. But if we are prepared to watch, and wonder, like the simple cow in the story, love will find a way in our little world and perhaps the wider world through us.
© Copyright John Steele, all rights reserved. The script may not be reproduced, translated or copied in any medium, including books, CDs and on the Internet, without written permission of the author.