When a flamboyant, over-confident talking cat arrives at their home while their mother is out, two children find themselves in a madcap chaos of magical, tongue-twisting mess. A rollercoaster to read and a joy to listen to – this book fires imagination and a lifelong love of language. Like all the very best books should.
Best for: Ages 3–7
In a nutshell: Prejudice under the spotlight
Characters: Lord Canterville, Mr Otis, Mrs Otis, Virginia, James, Lewis, Clark, (Lewis and Clark are twins), Mrs Umney and Sir Simon (the ghost).
(Outside Canterville Castle there is a sign for sale which Lord Canterville is taking down.)
Scene 1: Canterville Castle
Lord Canterville: Well, it looks like we have a deal, Mr Otis. The castle is yours.
Mr Otis: Thank you, Lord Canterville. I’m sure my family will be very happy here. (They shake hands.)
Lord Canterville: (Looks at him hesitantly.) Perhaps, I should mention that Canterville Castle is haunted by a ghost. (Ghost walks in behind them. They don’t see the ghost but the audience does.)
Mr. Otis: I don’t believe in ghosts, Lord Canterville, so I’m sure I have nothing to be frightened of. (They exit the stage.)
(Mr and Mrs Otis and their four children, Virginia, James, Lewis and Clark, enter. They are greeted by an old woman dressed in an apron.)
Mrs Umney: Welcome, I’m Mrs Umney the housekeeper. Please, come in. There is tea in the library. (There is a table and two chairs on the left side of the stage. Mr and Mrs Otis sit on them and Mrs Umney serves them tea.)
Virginia: It is so exciting.
James: I know, let’s explore. (The four children run around the stage. They mime opening and closing doors.)
Lewis: Look what’s that? (He picks a note up from the floor.)
Clark: It’s a note.
Virginia: Let me see.
James: If a child enters the secret room and stays until dead of night.
Lewis: Then at last Sir Simon can sleep in his tomb and at Canterville all will be alright.
Clark: What does that mean?
(Meanwhile in the library Mrs Otis is inspecting the ground carefully.)
Mrs Otis: I’m terribly sorry, Mrs Umney. I think I spilled something on your carpet.
Mrs Umney: That’s not tea, it is blood.
Mr Otis: We must get rid of it. (The children all come in and inspect the blood stain on the carpet.)
Mrs Umney: I’m afraid that is impossible. That is the blood of Lady Eleanor Canterville. She was murdered by her husband Sir Simon Canterville 500 years ago. Then, Sir Simon disappeared and his body has never been found. They say his spirit haunts the house.
Lewis: I’ll get rid of it. (He rubs it.)
Clark: Look it’s gone.
(Then there is thunder and lightning and Mrs Umney faints. Lights go out. When the lights come back on, the blood stain is back.)
Mr Otis: Maybe the house is haunted after all.
Scene 2: Night in the Castle
(Mr and Mrs Otis are asleep in bed. There is a strange ratting noise and it was getting louder and louder. Mr Otis gets up and puts on his slippers and dressing gown. He opens the door and there in front is the ghost in chains.)
Mr Otis: Oh, you must be Sir Simon.
Sir Simon: (Nods.) Yes I am. (He rattles his chains really loudly.)
Mr. Otis: Here, take this bottle of oil (he hands the bottle to the ghost) and oil your chains. They are making too much noise. I can’t sleep.
(Sir Simon throws the bottle on the ground and runs away and starts to make haunting noise.)
(The two twins come on stage rubbing their eyes.)
Lewis: What’s going on?
Clark: Who is making all that noise? (They stop and share at the ghost.)
Lewis: It’s the ghost.
Clark: Here, throw your pillow at him to scare him (They throw the pillows and run off stage.)
Sir Simon: Well, I never. I have been scaring people for nearly 500 years and I have never been treated like this. Don’t worry, I will get my revenge.
Scene 3: The Next Morning.
(Family are sitting at the table for breakfast.)
Mrs Otis: Children, you mustn’t be frightened of the ghost.
Mr. Otis: Well, he didn’t look very scary to me. (Sir Simon comes out from the other side of the stage and stares at the family.)
Sir Simon: I will exact my revenge on those pesky children.
(The following is all done through mime. The children dress up as ghosts and scare Sir Simon. They hold a piece of string and trip him up. They put oil on the floor and he slips. They run off laughing. This can be done with music in the background.)
Sir Simon: I’ll stop those children once and for all. I’ll appear as my most terrifying characters Reckless Rupert. Reckless Rupert always scares people. (He tiptoes into the children’s room and a bucket of water is thrown on him. The children laugh and he goes off dejected.)
Lewis: We haven’t seen the ghost for ages.
Clark: I think maybe we scared in off for good.
(They exit the stage.)
(Ghost comes in and sits on a chair. He is crying. Virginia walks in.)
Virginia: Why are you crying, Sir Simon? (She puts her arm around his shoulder to comfort him.)
Sir Simon: Because your brothers keep playing nasty tricks on me.
Virginia: They would stop if you behaved yourself.
Sir Simon: But I’m a ghost. I have to rattle my chains and moan and groan and walk around at night.
Virginia: You have been wicked. You murdered your wife. It’s wrong to kill people.
Sir Simon: I know but her brother captured me and starved me to death.
Virginia: You poor ghost.
Sir Simon: Please help me. I’m so unhappy and so very tired.
Virginia: Have you not slept?
Sir Simon: I haven’t slept for 500 years.
Virginia: I don’t know how I can help.
Sir Simon: You could. Do you remember the note you found?
Virginia: (Takes it out of her pocket and reads it.) But I don’t know what it means.
Sir Simon: It means that you must come with me to my chamber and pray for me.
Virginia: That sound easy enough.
Sir Simon: No person has ever entered the chamber and come out alive.
Virginia: I’ll come with you.
(Off they go and disappear.)
(Mrs Otis and the other children come on stage looking for Virginia.)
Mrs Otis: Where is she?
Mr Otis: I’m getting worried.
(Then they hear a crash and she comes out of the secret chamber.)
Mrs Otis: Where have you been?
Virginia: I’ve been with the ghost. He knows he has been wicked and he is very sorry for everything. He gave me this box of jewels. (They all look at the expensive jewels.)
Final scene: At the Graveyard
(There is a gravestone that’s says “Sir Simon Canterville RIP.” The whole family, Mrs. Umney and Lord Canterville all walk in and bow their heads in respect.)
Lord Canterville: Finally he is at peace.
Virginia: He is happy at last.
Communication drama games have a vital role to play in the ESL classroom. These activities help the learners to speak with and listen to other learners. The purpose of the following activities is for the students to find information, break down barriers and talk about themselves in a relaxed manner. The language areas that are practiced in this section are questions, conditionals, past and present simple tenses, past and present continuous tenses, there is/there are, expressions for giving opinions and negotiating.
Game: The Dog Show
Level: Pre-Intermediate +
Other benefits: This activity allows the students to practice forming questions and responding in an appropriate manner.
Minimum number of participants: 2
Resources needed: Clear space.
Instructions: This is a communication activity where the students must use their imagination. This is an opportunity for the students to use mime, providing a chance to use the “teacher in role” drama technique. Get each student to imagine that they are a dog owner. They must each mime interacting with their dog. Once they have done this and gotten used to the size of their dog, get them to imagine they are competing in a dog show. The teacher takes on the role as a judge of the show. She/he interviews each of the dog owners individually and asks them the following questions:
• What type of dog is it?
• Where did you get him from?
• What type of personality does he have?
• What dog tricks can he do? Can you show us?
• Why should you dog win the show?
The judge/teacher can decide at the end of the activity who wins the show. The winner/winners can take a photo at the end with their dogs. This is a still image (see Drama Techniques section).
Level: Pre-intermediate +
Other benefits: This game focuses on question formation as well as practising communicating in a spontaneous manner.
Minimum number of participants: 6
Resources needed: Clear space.
Instructions: Explain what an alibi means. Create a crime scene scenario. Divide the class into groups of 4 or 5. Get one group to be the suspects and send them out of the room to get their story straight. While the suspects are getting their story straight, get the other group to be the investigators. They must compile a series of questions. After the students are finished preparing their questions, invite the suspects back and the interrogation begins. Each group interviews each suspect and then they compare notes and decide whose story didn’t match up; they must come to a consensus on who they will officially accuse.
• Bank robbery
Extension: More advanced students could hold a trial in which each group is assigned different roles.
Game: If I Were an Animal
Other benefits: The language focus of this game is to practice the conditional tense.
Minimum number of participants: 4
Resources needed: Clear space.
Instructions: Everyone sits in a circle and one by one each student says, “If I were an animal, I would be a ______” and then states a reason.
For example, “If I were an animal, I would be a lion because a lion is big and strong.”
Then you could go around the circle again using the following:
• If I were a car, I would be ………
• If I were a kitchen utensil, I would be …….
• If I were a sport, I would be …….
• If I were a country, I would be …….
• If I were a hobby, I would be….
• If I were a flower, I would be …….
• If I were an item of clothing, I would be…….
• If I were a body part, I would be…….
For more Esl Drama ideas click on the link below.