Tag Archives: A Christmas Carol

A story about perseverance, team work and a banana

Christmas time means the return of the world famous Banana Game.

The Banana game features in my version of “A Christmas Carol“.  For those of you unfamiliar with the game its all innocent silliness: players compete in pairs with the aim being to consume a banana as quickly as possible.  The only rules are that the person eating the banana cannot see or touch the banana and that the feeder must stay behind their partner during the game (in essence they become their partner’s hands).  A variation of the game would be to blindfold the feeders but when the players are 5 up the game is already pretty crazy.

On this particular occasion as the audience was made up of a single class, the contest pitted two boys against two girls in a junior school battle of the sexes.  Everything had gone as normal in the build up.  As the task had been explained, the players had giggled and the audience booed and cheered to show their support.

“Ready?  3, 2, 1 Go”.

So the game begins.  On one side of the room the girls locate their banana, remove the peel and begin to eat it, taking a steady, early lead.  On the other side of the room are the boys.  Their feeder is complaining that he can’t peel a banana (he is at least seven years old so this is a little surprising).  He stands waving the fruit in the air unable (or unwilling) to comprehend how he might begin to peel the banana declaring that “he can’t do it”.

The eating player on the girl’s team munches on, her tiny cheeks filled with chunks of undigested banana whilst her partner waits to feed her more.  On the boy’s side of the room “I can’t” has become “I won’t even try”.  Somehow the banana has been partially peeled but the boy has fed his partner the banana peel!

The female eater is a dot of a child.  The banana is clearly more than she can possibly eat but she is focussed and continues doggedly even when told that her team is winning by a country mile, without any complaint.  Frustrated by his partner’s tantrum, the male eater is trying to cheat, using his hands and biting at large chunks of banana.  The crowd let the girls know this and they pick up the pace.  The dot of a child is choking back banana for the sake of the game, for the sake of her team mate and for the audience.  The game is stopped when she can take no more.  The girls are victorious in every sense of the word.

Reading this back it seems a strange story to tell.  The reason I have decided to share this story is because in this silliest of games the girls demonstrated admirable perseverance and a great team ethic.  It was a refreshing reminder of why I love my work and what learning should be about.  I am in no doubt that with these qualities my winners will go far in this world.

My question is this: which team would you have liked to have been playing for and how would you reacted when faced with the challenge of working in a team?

Remember: Determination is not just for Christmas.

NB: No children were significantly harmed in the name of entertainment.  The little girl, although slightly stunned by her experience, was laughing and enjoying herself within moments of the game ending.

A Guide to Guidance: how can you be sure a story is suitable?

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Whenever I take a booking or ask for feedback on my work, suitability is mentioned.  For each of my stories I have suggested the age or level the audience should be at in order to watch it.  You did read that correctly, I said suggested.

Most recently I have been presenting “Private Peaceful” as part of the Cityread 2014.  My brief was to work with young readers in public spaces (lots of libraries!).  Michael Morpurgo’s story is quite rightly, not pitched at younger young readers but I know from experience of working in public spaces to expect very young audiences.  I therefore devised a piece which could be accessible to an audience of young people aged 7 plus.  This was challenging as I did not want to compromise the language or the tone of the original in my work.  In my interpretation I remove elements of the story which are too disturbing for a young audience or too difficult to do justice in a 40 minute presentation (the shooting of Bertha, Molly and the baby).  Similarly, I say that my version of “A Christmas Carol” can be enjoyed by audiences of young people aged 4 plus.  I don’t deviate from Dickens’ story or his language and in places my ghost story can be scary but I include elements of slapstick, pantomime and colourful, comic characters to entertain the very youngest audience members.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.The truth is that when I say a piece is suitable for a particular age or level I am making a broad statement.  If I am liaising with a school directly it is much easier to advise them on a story to choose for their children.  Here my statement on suitability is definitely “this story is suitable for a person of the stated age or level”.  When I work In public environments I have less control over who will be watching.  I can put a statement of suitability on my literature or speak to the audience briefly before the presentation begins but my statement is more ambiguous, “a person of this age or level can access this story in some way”.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be like this but in the end I don’t know the audience who will watch my work.  When I work in schools, a child who is particularly sensitive will respond to my work differently compared to one who is bomb proof.  During the school holidays a parent will not be able to leave one child in order to monitor their sibling so I often present stories I deem inappropriate to very young children.  Saying this, I have had two year olds howling with laughter at Dracula because of my presentation style and teenagers who have disrupted my stories because they weren’t prepared to engage with my work.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.There are risks when booking or attending stories for children but many pitfalls can be avoided with insight into the work.  Just because it says its suitable for a seven year old doesn’t mean its not Michael Morpurgo.  Just because it says its suitable for four year olds doesn’t mean that its not Charles Dickens.  A statement of suitability is to say you can rather than you should watch.  It is for adults to exercise their discretion in choosing an appropriate story for their audience.