“Puppets and modern-day poignancy combine in Patrick Barlow’s high-spirited adaptation of Dickens.”

The Guardian

Directed by
Matt Frieacre

Production synopsis Mark the 150th Anniversary of the death of the great Charles Dickens with his most famous tale and the original Christmas ghost story.

A handful of actors create over twenty different characters on stage using music, puppetry, live sound effects, quick-fire costume changes and just a hint of pantomime.

This adaptation brings the timeless tale to life with all the wit, flair and theatrical invention expected of the playwright, Patrick Barlow (The 39 Steps, GWT 2019).

Recommended for all, big or small – whether you’re already full of the Christmas spirit, or in need of a little redemption!

Below you can watch an interview with director Matt Frieacre on this production. You can also watch Matt’s original pitch for A Christmas Carol from our 2020 “Lockdown Launch”. (Please note that this video displays the original 2020 production dates).

WHO THEY?

The playwright, Patrick Barlow, also known as Desmond Oliver Dingle – the founder, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the National Theatre of Brent – after writing episodes of Marple and Adrian Mole, made a name for himself by writing the Olivier Award winning and put-on-by-the-Whit-last-season play The 39 Steps.

The author, Charles Dickens, is also apparently quite well known and has written some other stories. He is often written about, usually played by, and looked a bit like Simon Callow.

WHAT DO?

Five actors and two euphemistically named ‘puppeteers’ bring every character of Dickens’ classic Christmas ghost story to life in an adaptation described by its agents as ‘highly theatrical’. One actor portrays the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who performs the iconic role surrounded by a whirlwind of energetic performers using costumes, wigs, puppets and props to create the world of a Dickensian London as Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas via the only consistently effective method – the threat of eternal damnation and a bunch of ghosts.

WHY?

Come and be part of one of the most beloved and well-known stories in English literature, at the perfect time of year to do it, and in the silliest way possible!

This play is a wonderful opportunity for a company of performers – not just actors – to workshop and create a unique piece of theatre. We have a script, and the italicised stage-suggestions of how it has been performed before, but (words aside) this piece is our oyster. It features (/requires) opportunities for accents, physical theatre, voiceover, puppetry, carol singing, dance, live music and sound effects across the genres of comedy, tragedy, horror, coarse acting, and just the teensiest frisson of pantomime. The fact the story is so well known means we owe it to the audience to create something truly special – and create it we will.

There are opportunities for actors, musicians, technicians, puppeteers, magicians, circus and stagehands all in creative roles on and off stage. If you’ve ever wanted to use your art on stage – this is the play to do it!

AUDITION INFORMATION

Unfortunately, we won’t have time to hear every actor play every character… As such each audition piece features Scrooge and a few others we’ll rotate auditionees through (of course, with different characterisations and accents each time!) If you would like to audition for Scrooge only, be prepared to read Scrooge in every piece during the audition. If you want to audition for the company, choose your favourite couple of characters and prepare them. In particular – the parts of the Spirits of Past and Present are slightly larger, so have their own dedicated pieces: have a look if you would like to be considered specifically for either of those. Also be prepared that you may be asked to read with the other pieces in others’ auditions, depending on numbers.

Characters

ACTOR TWO (M) – Accents used: Cockney, Received Pronunciation. Bob Cratchitt (40), Marley’s Ghost (your classic ‘wooo’ ghost), Young Scrooge (18), Very Young Scrooge (8), Peter Cratchitt (14), Katie Cratchitt (9) + Various Narrators, Carol Singers, Debtors, Spirits, Skaters, Street Urchins etc.

ACTOR THREE (F) – Accents used: Cockney, Received Pronunciation, Yorkshire, West Coast of Ireland, others. Mrs Lack (40), Lavinia Bentham (35), Mrs Grimes (60), Fran (18), Isabella (20), Ghost of Christmas Present (a Panto Dame, for lack of better description), Martha Cratchitt (16) + Various Narrators, Carol Singers, Debtors, Spirits, Skaters, Street Urchins etc.

ACTOR FOUR (F) – Accents used: Cockney, Received Pronunciation. Hermione Bentham (35), Ghost of Christmas Past (otherworldly inhuman spirit), Constance (30), Mrs Cratchitt (40), Mrs Scrooge (40) + Various Narrators, Carol Singers, Debtors, Spirits, Skaters, Street Urchins etc.

ACTOR FIVE (M) – Accents used: Cockney, Received Pronunciation, Yorkshire, Northern Irish
Frederick (35), Mr Grimes (60), Fezziwig (50), George (30), Kate Cratchitt (10), Abigail Cratchitt (10), Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Classic Grim Reapery figure) + Various Narrators, Carol Singers, Debtors, Spirits, Skaters, Street Urchins etc.

PUPPETEER ONE (F) – Tiny Tim, Various Children, Spirits, Phantoms etc. plus live ‘Foley’ style sound effects and scene and costume changes.

PUPPETEER TWO (M) – Various Children, Spirits, Phantoms etc. plus live ‘Foley’ style sound effects and scene and costume changes.

ACTOR ONE (M) EBENEZER SCROOGE (50-60) – he only actor not to multi-role. BIG part.
I’ve saved him until last as he does need a bit more discussion… I don’t yet know what kind of Scrooge I’m looking for. His dialogue is deliberately anachronistic, and Broadbent leant into this in full Panto villain mode from the get-go, clowning every line. I’m not sure. I am genuinely open to absolutely any and every interpretation – a pantomime villain, a tragic clown, a Michael Caine style straight-man treating everything with the utmost sincerity despite the muppets surrounding him, an abstract artist, a wry sarcastic modern Bill Murray-ish take, something completely new. Something which blends with the chaos or starkly contrasts it. A cheeky chappy, or the most serious emotive take on the character that’s ever been. I want to be impressed, and intrigued. If you’re a curmudgeonly old miser of a man who feels like your life has been practising for this part, get on that stage and method the crap out of it. If you’re a teenage girl just out of the Youth Group but you think you can see something in Scrooge you can build on and create a character I and the audience will truly believe, that’s equally welcome. And everything in between

The cast information is just an example based on how the play was originally performed. No part is beholden to gender or age, just the quality and energy of the performance and skills you bring to the piece. For your information, however, I have included whether the original performers were male or female and the original character distribution. Once cast, the number of actors (and accents thereof) is wont to change from these examples based on workshopping and capitalising on each performer’s strengths as well as the practicalities of costume and character changes when multi-roling.

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