Notes for performance:
The setting is a small meeting. The three characters could sit
around a table, providing they remain audible and visible.
Or they could just stand holding clipboards.
BERNARD: Ladies and gentlemen. We are PRATS. What are we?
ABBY+SAM: (together) PRATS!
BERNARD: And who are PRATS?
ABBY+SAM: (together) The Poverty Radical-Action Task-Squad!
BERNARD: Exactly. And the question we must face is this. Why is so little radical action being taken against poverty?
ABBY: Thatís a very good question, sir.
BERNARD: And what is the answer?
ABBY: Perhaps people donít know what radical action to take?
BERNARD: Nonsense, Abby. There are dozens of ways to act against poverty. Support charities. Give generously. Write to your MP. Attend rallies. Consume less. Change your attitudes. Help to change the attitudes of society. Become a volunteer in a charity shop or a soup kitchen for the homeless. Shall I go on?
BERNARD: Raise awareness. Pressurise governments. Buy fairly traded goods. Encourage others to buy fairly traded goods. Spend as much on helping others as you spend on some luxury item for yourself. Set up a standing order to a charity. Thereís no shortage of things to do. So why is it that too few people are doing anything to combat poverty?
SAM: Lack of motivation, sir. People donít really have enough impetus. Mostly they are content to leave things as they are.
BERNARD: Good point, Sam. So what can PRATS do about it?
SAM: Well, sir, (showing Bible) Iíve brought along a Bible to see if it might inspire us.
ABBY: A Bible? How is that going to help us tackle poverty?
SAM: There are hundreds of passages in here which urge people to care about widows and orphans and to help those who are poor. One of the stories Jesus told is all about motivating people to get off their backsides and do something before itís too late. I thought we could learn from the same techniques Jesus used.
BERNARD: I have to say Iím not convinced, Sam, but carry on. Youíve got me curious.
SAM: OK, Jesus told a story about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had it all Ė expensive clothes, huge house, food and drink flowing freely. But there was a homeless man huddled right by his front gate Ė starving, wretched, sunk as low as a person can sink.
ABBY: The point being?
SAM: The point being that poverty is closer to home than we imagine. Those whose lives are ruined by poverty, hunger and disease are our neighbours whether we like it or not. We canít just shut the gate against them and act as if they didnít exist.
BERNARD: Thatís a fair comment, Sam, but itís nothing new.
ABBY: Right. That technique has been around for years. Showing rich and poor side by side to highlight the contrast and stir peopleís consciences.
SAM: Which is why Jesus doesnít stop there. In fact, thatís only the beginning of the story. The next thing to happen is that both of them die. The poor man ends up in eternal bliss. The rich man in eternal torment. Now itís the rich man who has to look up enviously at all the blessings the other is getting.
BERNARD: Hold on a moment. Are you seriously saying Jesus taught that poor people go to heaven and rich people go to hell?
SAM: Of course not. This is just a story. Itís not a description of what the after-life is like. Jesus is saying that there are terrible consequences to ignoring poverty. In life the poor man was desperate for a few crumbs from the rich manís table. In the after-life, the rich man is the desperate one. He longs for the poor man to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his parched tongue. But itís too late. There is a gulf between the two worlds.
ABBY: So the message is to take action on poverty before itís too late. Perhaps Jesus had some worthwhile ideas after all.
BERNARD: But people today are not going to be motivated by the possibility of suffering horribly after they die.
ABBY: No, but there are terrible consequences in this world too if we donít do something to tackle poverty.
SAM: Like what?
ABBY: Well, the world is a bad enough place as it is, what with all the wars and terrorism. Does anyone seriously think that a widening gap between rich and poor is going to improve matters? If we shut ourselves away in our comfortable homes at the expense of the poor, then it may give us the illusion of security for a while. But it will only add to the level of distrust and hatred and division in the world, and sooner or later that is going to lead to catastrophic suffering and violence for rich and poor alike. We simply canít afford NOT to take action against poverty. Our long-term survival depends on it.
BERNARD: Whoíd have thought it Ė the Bible has inspired us after all. Thank you, Sam and thank you, Abby.
SAM: Thereís a bit more, sir.
BERNARD: More what?
SAM: The story isnít quite finished yet. Thereís more. The rich man realises itís too late for him, but he asks for permission to go back and warn his brothers. Permission is refused on the basis that it would be pointless. If his brothers werenít going to pay attention to all the warnings they already been given, then even a voice from beyond the grave wouldnít change their attitudes.
ABBY: Thatís not true. I once read about this rich man who was mean and miserly, but when the ghost of his dead business partner warned him of the torment to come, he changed and became generous and friendly.
BERNARD: Yes, I remember reading about that too. The rich man had a poor clerk working for him and when he realised the error of his ways, he bought him a huge turkey for his Christmas dinner. Or was it a goose?
SAM: It was a Christmas Carol, sir. A book by Charles Dickens. An uplifting story, but only a story.
BERNARD: Still, it ends better than Jesusís story. Jesus says that people are so set in their ways that they arenít going to change even if someone rises from the dead and comes back to warn them. Itís a very pessimistic way to finish a story.
SAM: Reverse psychology, sir. Tell people that thereís no way they are ever going to change and they will do their best to prove you wrong.
ABBY: So what are you suggesting? a) We remind people that poverty is all around us, b) we warn people of the terrible consequences of ignoring the poor and c) we inform them that they have consistently failed to act in the past and they are never going to change in the future however dramatically they are challenged.... ?
SAM: Something like that.
BERNARD: And you think that a story will convince people to get off their backsides and do something?
SAM: I think that was the whole point of Jesusís story. Itís certainly the whole point of this sketch.
ABBY: What sketch?
SAM: This one. Weíre not really PRATS are we? Weíre three people sitting [or standing] at the front of the church trying to wake the congregation up to the desperate need for action against the scandal of poverty.
BERNARD: And do you think what weíve said will make the slightest difference?
SAM: Nah Ė theyíve heard it all before. No-one here is actually going to DO anything.
(They all exit)
*ABBY: (pausing as she leaves to address congregation directly) Of course, you could prove us wrong...
[* This last line is optional. The sketch probably packs more of a punch without it.]