The Threat of Extinction

Keith joined The Elders drama group at the Theatre by the Lake in autumn 2019. His first show should have been ‘Under Pressure’, a revue show on climate change. A tough challenge.

As luck would have it, the performance dates were right on the time when the UK went into Lockdown with corona virus. No

one knows when it might be staged!

The following songs and sketches are items Keith wrote for the show. The first two sketches and a song were chosen by the Director.

THREAT OF EXTINCTION (sounds of penguins honking)
Two actors dressed as penguins waddle on.

P1 Any signs yet?

P2  Nah!

P1 How long’s she been gone?

P2 A month I think. This cold numbs your brain

P1 Too right. Mine’s been away two months. I’m going bonkers!

P1 Me too. (looks up) Here, look out! (shouts) Skuas!!

P2 Quick, close up!(they huddle together). One, two…(they lift their heads and shout)


P2  Shove orfff..shove orff..shove orff!!!

P2 They’re a menace, they are..(pause) how’s your egg?

P1 (looking down) It’s OK. Yours?

P2 (looking down) Yep. (pause) It’s hard work innit?

P1 Sure is. Wish the blinking fish were close to shore,like they used to be.

P2 That’s climate change, that is.

P1  Whaddya mean?

P2 Well, it means the sea is getting warmer, and the fish are moving further out.

P1 So…the girls have to swim further out to find them. Is that it?

P2 That’s right. Which means we have longer to look after these eggs, and the chicks when they come.

P1 It’s a beggar

P2 (pause) Alfie the albatross told me he had lost his chick. The wind blew so strong the nest was turned over.

P1 Poor old Alfie. They might not have another one. (both sigh)

P2  It’s not just us that’s affected. It’s  everything. The whole colony has less room ‘cos the ice is melting too. That’s why we’re so crowded.

P1 (angry)What I want to know is, whose fault is it? Whose responsible?

P2  Well…(looks round) Have you seen them?

P1 Who? (wildly) Frigate birds!!

P2  Nah..(looks round again)…Humans!

P1(loudly) Humans!!

P2  Shhh!! They might hear us. They’re back again with their cameras and stuff.

P1 (quietly) What’s it got to do with them?

P2. They’re to blame. I heard them. There’s an old man called At-ten-Berra, who seems to be in charge. He does most of the talking. Into a sort of tube with fur on.

P1 Gerraway! What’s he say?

P2  Well, he’s really worried .’cos the humans have been burning so much fossil fuel they’ve caused the planet to heat up. That’s why the ice is melting, and he says it is heating up faster here than anywhere else. Hence, less ice, less space, less fish for us.

P1 Blimey! So what are they going to do about it,if they caused it?

P2 He says they haven’t much time. As things are getting worse. The idiots are burning down the old forests, and polluting the air as well. And the weather is getting worse. Floods and fires all over the place. Humans are leaving their homes ‘cos of drought and famine.

P1 That’s criminal that is! They should be ashamed of themselves. Why can’t they live simply like us?

P2 You’re right. (pause) Oh, no, I have just had a horrible thought!

P1 What?

P2 That’s why they’re here.

P1 Who, this At-ten-Berra guy and the others…?

P2  (horrified) All their colonies are dying out. They are threatened with…EXTINCTION! They want to come..and LIVE HERE!!!  (the penguins quickly waddle off)


Scene: Donald Trump’s bedroom. He is in bed when the phone rings. Sleepily he picks it up.

(an actor [Voice] on the opposite side of the stage speaks into a phone)

Pres.   Yeah?

Voice  (urgent)  Mr President, Mr President,sir!

Pres.   Know what time it is? I was fast asleep!

Voice  Yessir, This is top security,sir. CIA,and FBI

Pres.   OK. What is it now?

Voice  (pause) I don’t know how to put this ,sir.

Pres.   Goddammit,you woke me up, and don’t know what to say!!

Voice  (panic) Mr President,sir…the White House…it’s gone!

Pres.    (out of bed) Whaddya mean,it’s gone?

Voice  It’s gone, sir. Submerged.

Pres.    Submerged! You mean… covered with water?

Voice  Yessir. Just an hour ago. The floods rose…and the roof disappeared.

Pres.    Hell’s bells!   My golf clubs were in there!

Voice   The navy got everyone out, sir. The evacuation was successful.

Pres.    What about my special chair ? My photo with Vladimir Pootin?

My friggin golf bag!

Voice   I don’t know ,sir. I was only told about the people.

Pres.    Oh, great!

Voice   Your staff are on their way ,sir, in a navy destroyer. They should be with you in four to six hours.

Pres.    There’s no room!  We are full up with Generals, Republican Senators and their wives, movie stars, the Russian Ambassador and his staff, baseball teams, my personal hairdresser. Everyone’s packed in here. We’re running out of burgers!

Voice   No problem ,sir. We have located a ski village near you in the Rockies with plenty of room, and the navy are bringing fresh supplies of food and drink. W should soon have you back in business ,sir.

Pres.    Back in business? ! Trump Tower has gone. My golf courses are all lakes. There’s no reality TV, My damned Tweet account don’t work, and say I’m OK!!

Voice   Mr President, sir. People need to hear you. The radio still works. We need you to give everyone some hope. A message to hang onto,sir.

Pres.   (pause) Yeah, you’re right. Sure thing. I’ll get onto that soon as I can. Ring you back.

(throws phone down)

Why didn’t someone tell me the friggin seas was goin crazy? I should have been WARNED!

(he climbs back into bed and pulls the duvet over his head)   Black out.


(Tune in audio clip. The singer comes on dressed as a water bottle)

I’m a plastic water bottle
as you can all see,
when you’re feeling thirsty
you will all come to me.

You need me, you need me
whoever you are,
your friendly companion,
you’re travelling star.

In glistening long rows
I sit on the shelf,
in Tesco and Asda, and
Iceland as well.

I’m in every rucksack,
I travel by train,
in all the big cities
they know me by name.

You’ll find me on beaches
and high in the fells;
I fill up the dustbins
in all the hotels.

I’m a very tough customer
hard to destroy.
I’ll sit there for years
next to old plastic toys.

If you want to escape me
and cut down the waste;
stop buying me cheaply
and drinking in haste.

Don’t lose me, in the ocean
I think it’s a shame,
if the fish are all dying
and I get the blame.

Collect me, collect me,
I’m worth quite a bit.
I can turn myself into
the chair where you sit.

Further Sketches and songs not in the show


To bring the reality of climate change home, I set a couple of  sketches in Keswick after catastrophic floods all over Britain.


ES   (Monologue)

(The desk at Keswick Tourist Information office. A receptionist takes a phone call.

Receptionist: (listens growing more agitated)

No, we can’t! Listen! Listen! We’re full as it is. You can’t send more… Listen (cuts into voice at other end)

No….every hotel, every B&B,every holiday flat, even the cinema is taken. We have people camped out in the Moot Hall…yes!  Three more coaches arrived at midnight last night…

I’m telling you the truth. We had to send them down to the Theatre, but that’s nearly full as well.

NO, I am not making it up! You must understand. We are full up to bursting with people from Great Yarmouth,.Brighton..Southend..Lowestoft. Yes, all the coastal towns have gine under. And there’s lots inland too. You name ’em, we’ve got ’em. They’re refugees from the flooding. We need more tents, more blankets,more food, medicines… more everything.

(holds phone away from ear ). Look, it’s no good shouting at me… I know it’s desperate. We’re desperate too…

Someone should have worked out plans years ago when we had the time. No one thought it would happen…well you might, but not the Government!.  And they are in charge. (listens)

Tell you what to do…listen…listen… tell you what to do. Get onto them.

I have the address here, somewhere, on a piece of paper … hang on a moment (looks for paper)

Are you there? Right. Contact this address:

Department of Populaton Evacuation (DOPE for short), Room Z, Business as Usual Centre,

Salford Quays,ME2 RU1.  It’s an old barge moored on the Canal…sorry there’s no email address

Too easy. It says they are open from 10am to 3pm Monday to Friday…They should be open now.

Right…yes…goodbye. (puts phone down) And the best of luck.

(Looks out front wearily)  Right, whose next?

Black out.

(tune : John Peel)

Did you hear this bird
when you last walked by,
did you see this bird
flying in the sky?
A lesser spotted woodpecker
drilling high,
when you walked in the
woods in the morning.

No, he was not there
when I last walked free,
no, he was not there
on his usual tree.
He is the rarest bird
you will never see,
when you walk in the
woods in the morning.

There are 67 more on
the danger list,
willow tits and curlew
sorely missed.
Oh, we must do more
to protect the tits
when we walk in the
woods in the morning.

The pied flycatcher
is nearly gone,
the turtle dove, he’s
almost lost his song.
Oh, the harrier’s not
hunting all day long,
when we walk in the
woods in the morning.

Our children do not know,
never get to hear,
the nightingale song,
so beautiful and clear.
Oh, we must protect the birds
both far and near,
when we walk in the
woods in the evening.

(a poem for Greta Thunberg)

All you bright
shining men
in your air

Look beyond the
bullet proof
cars that

See the people
in the streets
to stop you

Young and old
holding hands
to heal the

Put your money
into wind
water turbines
and solar

Close oil wells
abandon coal
cut diesel and

Plant more trees
travel less
eat food

All you bright
shining men
listen to me

Stop your wars
killing people;
turn weapons
of death into

What is school?
learning how
to stop the

Young and old
holding hands
to heal the

Only if you
feel the pain
of others
will you


(A Water Board hut, with a small table and two chairs,one behind the table occupied by the senior official, Fraser, wearing a high viz jacket. His hard hat on the table.  Baxter enters , a new recruit, in hard  hat and high viz jacket).

Fraser    Ah, Baxter, Did you get down to the town bridge?

Baxter   (nervous) Yes, sir, but things are a bit tricky, I came back as quick as I could.

Fraser    How do you mean ,tricky?

Baxter   (taking hat off) Well, Mr Fraser it’s like this… the bridge isn’t there any more!

Fraser.    Not there!

Baxter    No,sir, It’s gone. Vanished in the flood. There’s a bit of road our side, and bit on the other side, with a bus right on the edge!

Fraser    Good God! Was anybody hurt? (he stands) Where are the people on the bus?

Baxter    No, they had all got out, and were standing looking at the river.

Fraser    So, what did you do?

Baxter   I asked a lady if she had seen it go.

Fraser    I meant.. did you call for backup?

Baxter   I asked an old man standing there if he had seen it.

Fraser   Baxter! We are responsible for the safety of the town. Did you ring the police, the fire brigade?

Baxter   No, sir. I dropped my phone in the water and it went too!

Fraser   Baxter! We’d better ring from here (picks up phone on desk-no reply). It’s dead!

Baxter  I think the line is down. Everything else is.

Fraser   Right come on (puts hard hat on). Whihc bridge wasit?

Baxter  Well, both actually

Fraser   Both! That means we are cut off

Baxter   Yes, I forgot to tell you the water was rising outside as I came in

Fraser   What! (looks outside) Baxter!!  We’re moving. Get the lifebelts quick!!

Black out