This week, an hilarious re-telling of Jonah with a gospel message. Great for a youth-group drama, a holiday club, Messy Church, All-Age Worship, outreach event, or school play.
It is divided into 6 scenes, so that you can split it easily for an act of worship, but the action runs continuously, so you can just go straight through if you prefer.
There are two main characters, Jonah-Man and Narr(ator), plus cameos of God, sailors and King. Narr can have a script on a lectern or clipboard to assist with lines and provide prompts for Jonah-Man.
You will need some basic props, which Narr keeps in a box and hands out as required. Jonah-Man has various small costuming items (eg sweatband, hoodie, headphones). The script provides enough ‘business’ between the action for Jonah-Man to change accessories offstage if needed.
Note for US readers: ‘pants’ means underwear, not trousers. It is also a colloquial expression for ‘rubbish’.
Jonah-Man, the Pants Prophet
- Jonah-Man – Bit of a twit, wears (baggy) underpants over his trousers.
- Narrator – Has a script and large box of props which he gives out when needed.
- God – Uses a megaphone (or traffic cone) to enhance voice. Can be a person with a mic offstage.
- Sailors – Comic ‘foreign’, eg sombrero and Mexican accent or cork hat and Aussie accent. Adjust lines to fit.
- King of Nineveh – Wears crown, has a posh English accent.
Narr: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to an evening of thrilling theatrical thespianism. Our performance is the newly-discovered Shakespearean masterpiece, chronicling the life of the noble prophet Jonah. Presenting … [consulting notes] … ummn Jonah-Man, the Pants Prophet?
[Jonah-Man enters, in ‘Superman’ pose and does a couple of circuits]
Narr: Who are you supposed to be?
J-M: I’m being Jonah, like you said, and [indicating pants] obviously, he’s some kind of super-prophet! [more Superman-ing] Faster than a speeding text message, more powerful than an email in block capitals, able to leap tall Skypes in a single bound. [hero pose] Jonah-Man, the Pants Prophet!
Narr: Ummn, I’m not sure it’s that kind of pants. Do you know much about Jonah?
J-M: Not really. Wasn’t he the guy from Wales? [messing around, twanging the elastic]
Narr: Errr, not quite. And he wasn’t a super-prophet. In fact he wasn’t even average. Will you please take those silly pants off!
J-M: All right, all right. Don’t get your knickers in a noodle!
Narr: It’s not pants as in ‘pants’, it’s pants as in ‘not very good’.
J-M: Ummm? [struggling with pants]
Narr: Jonah was a pretty rubbish prophet.
J-M: Ummmn? [still struggling]
Narr: He only said five words.
J-M: Five words? And he got a book out of that? It must be an even shorter book than ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Donald Trump’! [amend for context]
Narr: Well Jonah’s book is full of wit and wisdom. And in many ways Jonah is a lot like us. Shall we take a look?
J-M: Sure. [exits, still struggling with pants]
Narr: Jonah the prophet, was a man of God. A wonderful, godly man of God. A wonderful, godly, holy, man of God. A wonderful, go … oh will you hurry up back there?
J-M: Hang on, I’m still getting changed. OK, ready now.
[Jonah-Man enters, with sweatband and starts limbering up]
[God enters if using on-stage character]
God: Hey Jonah!
J-M: Is that you God?
God: I have a job for you.
J-M: Awesome! I am sooooo ready for this. Oh yes! Just rarin’ to go. You tell me what you want Lord, I am your man!
God: I want you to give a message to the people of Nineveh.
J-M: Oh yes, I’m champin’ at the bit. Just rarin’ to go. Buzzin’ and … [stops limbering] sorry, where did you say?
God: I want you to give a message to the people of Nineveh.
J-M: All-righty then! [looking at watch] Well just look at the time! Wouldn’t you know it? I’ve just remembered that I have this very important … thing … that I have to do. Right now. In totally the opposite direction. Who’d have guessed? [sets off, jogging round the church]
J-M: [grumbling to self while jogging] The people of Nineveh? Huh! They’re a load of stinkers. Why does God want me to give a message to them? If I do that they might stop being stinkers and God will be all merciful and nice. But they deserve to get zapped. I’m not going to do anything to help them. [exits]
Narr: So Jonah legged it in the opposite direction. He ran all the way to a travel agent to book a ticket with EasyJet. But because jets had not been invented yet, he had to settle for EasyBoat. He booked a ticket for a lovely, relaxing cruise holiday to [insert nationality of sailors].
[J-M enters with folding chair and small suitcase containing swimming aids, relaxes on chair]
Narr: And fell asleep
J-M: [snores loudly]
Narr: Sadly, it wasn’t smooth sailing. [sailors sway] A huge storm came up and the sailors were terrified.
Sai: We’re terrified! [in dreadful accent, add relevant markers, eg ‘gringo’, ‘zut alors!’]
Narr: But Jonah slept
J-M: [snores loudly]
Narr: So the sailors prayed.
Sai: [sung] In nomine Patris, Aaaa-men.
Narr: And Jonah slept
J-M: [snores loudly]
Narr: And the sailors prayed.
Sai: [sung] et filii et spiritus sancti, Aaaa-men.
Narr: And Jonah slept
J-M: [snores loudly]
Narr: And the sailors finally got fed up.
Sai: Hey [gringo / cobber / Eeengleeesh] why are you sleeping? Can you see we are about to sink? Get up and pray!
J-M: Ummn, well …
Sai: Is there a problem? You do believe in God, don’t you?
J-M: Of course! Actually, I deliver messages for him – I’m a prophet. [hero pose] Jonah-Man, the Pants Prophet!
Sai: The what?
J-M: The Pants Prophet! [awkward silence] It’s nothing to do with knickers. It’s a bit of an embarrassing name, really. It means I’m not very good at it. Apparently some people think I’m not good at propheting. But I think that’s unfair.
[all in one breath] I mean, I’m only running away from God and not doing what he told me because I don’t want to deliver the message he told me to give to the people of Nineveh because they’re real stinkers and they deserve to get zapped and so that’s why I’m here and I don’t want to pray because I’m not really talking to God at the moment.
Sai: And you don’t know why you’re called the Pants Prophet?
Narr: The sailors decided they would find out who had caused the storm. They would do this by drawing lots.
[Narr gives sailors pencils and paper and all start drawing stick men]
Narr: So they drew lots, and lots, and lots … of pictures of Jonah [hold up pictures] It looks like the storm is your fault, Jonah.
J-M: Oh no, that’s dreadful. I mean, that’s really awful. I’m terribly upset. [sniff, sniff]
Sai: Now, now. Don’t cry. I’m sure your god is not that cross with you. You can always say sorry.
J-M: No, it’s not that. It’s these pictures. My nose is not so big … and this one makes me look cross-eyed!
Sai: Look. This god you’re running away from, he wouldn’t be the top boss God Almighty, would he, by any chance?
J-M: [nervously laughing] Well, yes, as it happens, now you mention it. The God who made land and sea. Yes, that’s the one.
Sai: Sooooo, you’re trying to escape from the God who made the sea … by running away to sea?
J-M: Er, yes?
Sai: And you can’t see the problem with that?
J-M: Er, Nope?
Sai: For a prophet, you’re a bit of a loss, aren’t you? Well, what are you going to do about the storm?
J-M: I guess you’ll just have to chuck me in the sea. That should fix it.
Sai: Chuck you in the sea? In the deep, deep, inky-blue sea?
J-M: Yup. It’s the only way.
Sai: We can’t do that. We’ll throw the cargo overboard instead.
Narr: So they threw overboard their barrels of deep, deep inky-blue ink, [sailors mime], several boxes of deep, deep inky-blue jeans (skinny fit, high waist), and all their supplies of deep, deep, inky-blue no-added-sugar blueberry juice, but it was no good.
J-M: Told you it wouldn’t work. You’ll have to throw me into the deep, deep, inky-blue sea.
Sai: OK. [taking hold of Jonah] Indigo! [throw Jonah ‘overboard’, throw Jonah’s suitcase after him, sailors exit]
[Jonah opens suitcase while in ‘water’ and starts putting on water wings / goggles / flippers]
Narr: So Jonah sank down, down, down, into the watery depths. The billows closed over him and the seaweed tangled round his head. All the waves and breakers … Jonah, what do you think you are doing?
J-M: I’m, errr, I’m not very good at swimming. I need my floaties. [Narr shakes head sternly, Jonah removes swimming things] Oh alright then. Just get a move on will you. and tell the lifeboat to hurry up.
Narr: So Jonah sank down into the watery depths. The billows closed over … hang on, lifeboat?
J-M: Yeah, the lifeboat that’s going to rescue me and [in Welsh accent] take me to Wales – the land of my fathers, look you. Cwm Rhondda, Llangollen, Llanfairpwll… Llanfairpwllgwyn…
Narr: Yes, carry on.
J-M: Llanfairpwllgwyn …gil … isticexpialidocious
[or ‘Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch’ if you can manage it!]
Narr: [sigh] And the Lord God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah.
Narr: The Lord God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah.
J-M: Woah there! I never signed up for this! I don’t want to get swallowed by some slimy great sea monster – I want to go on holiday to Wales, like it says in the Bible – Jonah and the … [light dawns] oh, whale. Not Wales.
Narr: Not Wales. You really don’t know much about the story of Jonah, do you?
J-M: No. Look, we’re not really going to do this bit, are we? I mean, you keep getting things out of that box of yours. You haven’t got an actual whale in there, have you? Cos I’ll happily do this part as a narrator voice-over. What would I do inside a whale, anyway?
Narr: Well, you write a poem.
J-M: I write a poem? I run away from God, find the only storm for miles around, get chucked into the sea by some sailors with a very bad line in puns and less-than-flattering artistic skills, I lose my holiday to Llanfair-whatever, get swallowed by a whale and now I have to write a poem about it? Could this get any worse?
Narr: [nervous laugh] Funny you should ask that. Do you want to know how you get out of the whale?
J-M: I don’t think so, no.
Narr: After three days he sicks you out on to the beach – blerghhh!
J-M: Oh no. That’s disgusting.
J-M: Please stop. You’re making me feel ill.
J-M: OK, I’ve got the message
God: But the people of Nineveh haven’t.
J-M: What? Who said that?
God: It’s me. God. You remember that message I told you to give to the people of Nineveh …?
J-M: Oh yes. Just about to do that, right now, Mr God, sir, your honour, Padre, boss, your lordship, El Capitano, your holiness, your most excellent dude-ness …
God: Just get on with it Jonah. [Jonah backs out, bowing]
God: Honestly, it’s like herding cats sometimes. It’s just as well I love the little twerp. Anyway, I’d better be off. I need to take Michael to the vet.
Narr: Michael? The archangel?
God: No, Michael’s the whale – got terrible indigestion. I think he ate something that disagreed with me! [exits]
Narr: So Jonah got on with it. Sort of. [Jonah enters in hoodie as described] He trudged to Nineveh like a sulky teenager: hands in pockets, hoodie up, earphones on, and a face like thunder.
Narr: He raised his voice in lofty decree and proclaimed the word of the almighty.
J-M: [mumbling inaudibly] You’re all a load of stinkers and God is going to zap you!
King: [in posh English accent] I’m sorry, I didn’t quite hear that.
J-M: [still inaudible] You’re all a load of stinkers and God is going to zap you!
King: No, still not catching it.
J-M: [shouting] You’re all a load of stinkers and God is going to zap you!
God: [offstage] Jonah. That’s not what I told you to say.
J-M: I’m paraphrasing.
God: Do you want to try again?
J-M: [sulkily] God says, ‘Forty days and everything will change.’ [to God] Happy?
[Jonah exits, God exits]
Narr: [reading from Bible] ‘And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.’
King: What, even me?
Narr: Yes, especially you!
King: But I don’t like sackcloth. It’s rough and itchy and it’s such an ugly colour.
Narr: This is nothing to do with fashion. It’s a way of showing that you are really sorry for the things you’ve done wrong and you want God to forgive you.
King: By wearing sackcloth?
Narr: It’s just what people did then. Go along with it. Anyway, you do even more. Look here. [from Bible] ‘When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.’
King: That sounds a bit extreme. Couldn’t I just … oh … not polish my shoes for a few days, or give up chocolate?
Narr: You sit. In. Ashes. And then you have a proclamation made: ‘All people and animals shall be covered with sackcloth.‘
King: What, I make a proclamation that the animals have to wear sackcloth too?
Narr: You said it.
King: So the cows have to wear sackcloth? [Narr nods] And the horses, and the sheep? [Narr nods] And I have to make a little sackcloth doggy jacket for Spot? What about my pet chicken, Feathers McGraw? [Narr still nods]
Oh, we’re just getting silly now!
Narr: It depends how serious you are about saying sorry to God.
King: Oh well, I suppose we can do that. It’s going to be darned fiddly getting Feathers to wear sackcloth pyjamas though. [King exits, thinking out loud] I wonder if blu-tak would help …
Narr: So the king of Nineveh, and all the people, and all the animals wore sackcloth to show they were sorry. And God had a little chuckle at the chicken, and forgave them.
And they all lived happily ever after … Except for Jonah.
J-M: I knew it! I knew it! God’s doing his ‘gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love’ thing again.
God: Is there a problem, Jonah?
J-M: A problem? You bet there’s a problem. Forgiving them, just like that? What are you playing at?
God: It’s what I do, for…
J-M: [interrupting] Those Ninevites are stinkers. They don’t deserve your mercy!
God: True, but neither do …
J-M: I don’t want people like them worshipping you!
God: That’s my busin …
J-M: They’ll be dreadful. They’ll run 100 miles the other way before doing what you tell them. They’re rubbish at praying and even worse at obeying. They don’t care about others. They’ve got no mercy. They’re sulky and rude and arrogant and mean. I bet they can’t even swim very well.
God: Remind you of anyone?
J-M: But … but … well, they’re just not good enough for you.
God: And you are?
J-M: Yes … mostly … I mean, sometimes … occasionally … a bit … OK, I admit it. I mess all the time. I’ve just done it again. I really blew it. I know I did. Why ever do you keep giving me another chance? I don’t deserve it.
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Jonah 3:1-5, 10 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photograph – with thanks to Prof Ronald Davis of Stanford University, photographed in aid of ME research as part of the ‘undies-on-the-outside’ campaign. Visit https://www.omf.ngo/tag/undies-on-the-outside/