Dickens’ Christmas Carol on stage in England

This video says about itself:

Richard WilliamsA Christmas Carol

4 July 2006

Highlights from the little-seen animation based on original book illustrations. Some startling work from the man who would go on to do Roger Rabbit and The Thief and the Cobbler.

By Lynne Walsh in Britain:

The Dickens of a time

Wednesday 30th November 2016

LYNNE WALSH looks forward to a new production of A Christmas Carol which touches on its origins as a polemic against the 19th-century Poor Laws

HOW can it be that a novella — part polemic, part parable, with themes of poverty and inhumanity — will again enchant audiences this Christmas? There’ll be no shortage of adaptations of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, from London’s West End to amateur companies all over Britain.

The answer might lie in a production touring Kent and Essex, where an innovative staging promises not only Scrooge and his ghostly intruders but a mirage of the writer himself.

Its director Eric Richard — for 20 years Sergeant Bob Cryer in TV’s hugely successful The Bill — has approached the piece with a precision and care born of a lifetime in acting.

Working with him on the adaptation is actor and writer Ryan Philpott (Eastenders, Rosemary and Thyme), a self-confessed Dickens addict.

The first venue for the production from their Dickens Theatre Company is the old courthouse at Rochester’s 17th-century Guildhall Museum and we chat, appropriately, in the 17th-century Punch Tavern in London’s Fleet Street, so “Dickensian” that it’s tempting to order mead.

We have coffee.

Philpott cites the author’s visit to the Manchester Atheneum in 1843 as a pivotal moment in the genesis of A Christmas Carol.

“Dickens had come back from America and had his first flop. Martin Chuzzlewit hadn’t sold,” he explains. “He ended up owing his publishers money so he had to do something, quick.”

The fable had started its life as a pamphlet, with Dickens raging against the vile Poor Laws, the changes to the country’s benefits system which saw some claimants having to work on treadmills. Sounds somehow familiar.

Karl Marx later reflected that Victorian novelists, including Dickens, “issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together.”

So the polemic became a story, though not one designed to be performed. “It was written to be read aloud and Dickens himself read it many times,” says Richard.

“What we have in this piece is the author as narrator and, as the words come from his mouth, we create the action around him.

“There is a moment when you see Scrooge turn from being a young man, with the love of his life, Belle, into the monster that he becomes.”

Will audiences expect to exit into the wintry night with a rosy glow, even after the pitiful sight of the Cratchits’ near-destitution? I wonder.

“We have to pursue what Dickens wanted. He believed that we are born good and that if the circumstances can be created, we will remain good and can make a good society. He believed in redemption,” says Richard.

As well as the familiar redemptive tale, there is of course a love story, Philpott points out. “‘Another idol has displaced me,’” Belle says, as she sees how important money is. And what happens to Scrooge, according to Richard, is that “the demon is in the minutiae of knowing where the next penny is and the next.

“It takes over. As Marley says: ‘I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link… I girded it on of my own free will.’”

Both actors are clearly relishing this collaboration because, as Philpott enthuses, “it’s not just a dramatisation, the actors switch into narrator mood, too, so it’s real storytelling — that’s what we do.”

Runs from December 1-4 at Guildhall Museum, Rochester, box office: tickets.medway.gov.uk, and then from December 13-16 at Towngate Theatre, Basildon, box office: towngatetheatre.co.uk.

5 thoughts on “Dickens’ Christmas Carol on stage in England

  1. Pingback: British government brings Charles Dickens’ Christmas back | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  3. Pingback: Dickens’ Christmas Carol in English theatre | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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