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Taking risks: Theme park life

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To look at changing forms of rebellion and what is thought shocking and how, in the end, we need to have the strength to be true to ourselves

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and three readers. Rehearse sufficiently beforehand so the dialogue works smoothly.
  • Reader 1 could dress as an old-fashioned grandma and poke the leader with her umbrella at key points (optional).
  • Note that there is an option to include a discussion on the points raised towards the end included in the ‘Assembly’ below, so plan your time and so on if you would like to include this element.
  • Have available the song 'Plastic man' by The Kinks and the means to play it as the students arrive for the assembly or as they leave or both.


Leader Grandma will always tell you that  . . .

Reader 1 Things were different when I was a girl. Those were the good old days.

Leader Grandmas have always said that  . . .

Reader 1 (Turns to leader) It's all right for you, you young thing. When I was young, The Kinks were making their early hits.

Reader 2 When you were young, Cliff Richard was a lad.

Reader 3 When you were young, the Battle of Hastings was in the future!

Reader 1 Don't be cheeky! I do remember 1969, though, when The Kinks released ‘Plastic man’.

Reader 2 What about it?

Reader 1 It was banned from being played on BBC TV and radio.

Reader 2 Why?

Reader 1 Because it contained the word 'bum'.

Reader 3 So what?

Reader 1 'Bum' was thought of then as a rude word. Well, over the years, you see risky or banned things gradually become acceptable. Everybody says 'bum' now. More and more things are creeping in.

Reader 3 How do you mean?

Reader 1 'Bum' creeps in, then 'bloody' is OK, then the ‘F’ word starts to appear without the TV bleep over, to make things more realistic.

Reader 2 So what? We all know these words anyway. Listen in on any school bus and you'll hear them.

Reader 1 Exactly, which means that if you want to rebel or shock, you have to do more way out things. If swearing is OK, you have to do something more dramatic to be noticed, like getting boozed up.

Reader 2 Well, what's wrong with that?

Reader 1 That exactly makes my point. We're being brainwashed into behaviour by fashion and by having to dare one step further. So now if you want to rebel, swearing is OK, booze is OK, so you have to find something else to rebel with – drugs or, in some places where drugs are common, knives or guns.

Reader 3 I still don't get you.

Reader 1 Well, in my lifetime I've seen young people rebel.

Reader 3 Yeah, that's what they do. It's part of their job.

Reader 1 Naturally, but now the stakes are higher. 'Bum' was once a risky word, so you could rebel by using it. Then 'bloody' was a risky word, so you could rebel by using that. So now people have to go for more kicks than just risky words. They think they’re Mr or Ms Big getting trollied at parties. Where's it all going to end? That's what I want to know!


Grandma says, 'Where's it all going to end?' She thinks that we have to keep finding bigger acts of rebellion  . . .

Reader 1 (Interrupting leader.) Exactly, young woman/man. Life's like a theme park. Ever been to Alton Towers or Blackpool Pleasure Beach? Every year they have to build a bigger, more thrilling ride. If they don't, the customers look somewhere different. Life's a theme park, we're always looking for new thrills, to go one bit further.

Leader (Appearing to make an effort to wrest control back from Grandma.) But is it? Is life like that? Is she right? Are we mindless plastic people?

Here some discussion in pairs could take place and thoughts fed back to the group. To facilitate this, the leader could ask the pairs to discuss three questions briefly.

–  Is
swearing acceptable now, in all situations?

–  Is being drunk acceptable now, in all situations?

–  Are people looking for more and more daring things to do in order to rebel?

Reader 2
The worst thing about a theme park ride is that bit when the car's slowly moving off down the ramp or whatever and you know you can't get off  . . .

Reader 3 That's like take-off in an aeroplane, when you're racing down the runway and you know that’s it  . . .

Leader Life is like a theme park ride, when we're looking for thrills, but in lots of ways it's not a theme park ride. In life, if you're being led into behaviour you don't want to do or you know is wrong, you can get off, even though it isn't easy. As Shakespeare puts it in Hamlet  . . .

Reader 2 '. . .  to thine own self be true
And it must follow as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.'

Leader At a theme park, once the bar locks and the ride starts, you can't get off, but, in life, when you're being driven into something wrong, you can get out.

Reader 1 '. . .  to thine own self be true  . . .'

Pause and end.


'Plastic man' by The Kinks

Publication date: May 2014   (Vol.16 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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