Summary: The outcome of a famous court case results in a Biblical principle becoming law.
Style: Drama. Duration: 10min
Actors: 3F, 2M
Donna Hugh ( the plaintiff)
Minchella ( the waitress)
Stevenson (the defendant)
Narrator / Lord Atkin
Amy ( Donna’s friend )
Costumes : Scottish skirt or scarf, waitress apron, towel, black hat, judge’s wig.
Props : Factory trestle table, café table with cloth, broom, opaque beer bottles with caps, waiter’s tray, snail in one half-empty bottle, bottle brush, handkerchief, snail, sleeping bag or bed, bottle opener, court signs “Court of Sessions”, “Second Division” “House of Lords” ( which are placed in turn on court table ), placards with “Hurray”, “Boo”, “Yuk” (which are lifted at points marked in the script to prompt audience response ).
(Café with table front centre stage, factory with trestle and bottles stage rear left, bed or sleeping bag on floor stage rear right.)
NARRATOR : Once upon a time in bonny Scotland, not very long ago, about the time your grandparents were born, there lived a bonny wee lassie called Donna Hugh (H). (Donna enters and sweeps around the bed area of the stage ) She lived in a wee town called Paisley, not very far from the fair city of Glasgow, with her father Ralph. Donna had a part-time job in a shop, but they were very poor.
On the other side of town lived a filthy rich man called Stevenson (B), (enters and starts setting up bottles on trestle ) who made and sold fizzy drinks. Now Stevenson wisnae a Scot, but a penny-pinching foreigner (B). He spent a wee bit too much time thinking about how to save money, and a wee bit too little time thinking about how to improve his product. He was that mean he hired a blind man to clean his factory, at a quarter the usual cleaning rate (Y). The place was such a mess, if a bomb hit it would’ve been a real improvement. Stevenson became less and less careful about cleanliness. He didn’t have to worry because he sold his drinks in brown-coloured bottles so people couldn’t see what they were drinking (B). And they sold very well.
One of Stevenson’s regular customers was a woman called Minchella, (enters and cleans café table) who had a wee café in the town just around the corner from the shop where Donna worked. She didn’t like Stevenson much, but her customers were too poor to pay for better drinks from the big city.
( Characters now begin to mime the action described by the narrator)
One summer’s day, the sun was actually shining in the wee town of Paisley (H). Donna was feeling hot and bothered after working all afternoon in the shop. So her best friend Amy suggested they go around the corner to Minchella’s café, and she would buy Donna a drink (H). Donna sat down at a table while Amy ordered the drinks and then disappeared into the ladies, by herself. Minchella came to the table with two glasses and two bottles of ginger beer. She opened the bottle and poured half the contents into Donna’s glass. Donna was so thirsty she drank it all down quick as a wink. Minchella came back and slowly poured out the rest of the contents of the bottle into Donna’s glass. Then…. plop! Something fell out of the bottle with the last of the ginger beer. It didn’t look like ice. It was sort of… brown….and…..green. It looked like…it was… a snail ! (Y) It wisnae a fresh one neither, it was long gone by then, and it did na’ smell too good (Y).
Donna’s face went white. She felt really weak. She staggered to her feet and stumbled home clutching her tummy. When she got home she felt worse. She did na’ have any tea. She lay in bed calling her Daddy’s name all night. ( Donna : “Ralph… Hugh”)
Narrator as judge sits behind small table facing trestle table at opposite ends of which Donna and Stevenson appear and reappear for each appeal. At the first appearance the court sign is “Court of Sessions”.
NARRATOR : Donna’s Daddy got legal aid so Donna could sue the dirty Mr Stevenson for making her sick (H) But Stevenson’s clever lawyer said that Donna had not bought the ginger beer from him, so he didn’t have to give her a penny (B). Donna’s lawyer then took the case to the Court of Sessions (sign) where it was decided that Stevenson was responsible (H). Then Stevenson’s lawyer appealed to the Second Division Court (change sign ), and they decided that Stevenson did not have to pay (B).
Donna had one more chance, to appeal to the House of Lords in London (change sign). Surely she would get British justice there (H). Five judges in the House of Lords heard the case. Two decided that Donna should get nothing (B). But the other three said that Stevenson had to pay all Donna’s expenses…. And more (H).
This was a true story…. well…nearly all of it. Donna’s case became probably the most important civil case in British legal history. Lord Atkin said the law expected Stevenson to treat Donna as a good neighbour. This had never been heard before. The following word became famous :
“The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes, in law, you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer’s question ‘Who is my neighbour?’ receives a restricted reply. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be – persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions in question.”
DONNA : (puzzled) What does that mean?
NARRATOR: It means that everybody has to be careful so as not to hurt anyone likely to be affected by what they do. This includes children in the playground, other cyclists and motorists on the road, and people who use things we make. We all have lots of neighbours, not just the people next door. That’s the law.
© 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.