“Come in! and know me better, man!”

Lenny Rush and Rhys Ifans in A Christmas Carol
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

As today is what’s traditionally known as the end of the Christmas season, I thought this would be a rather apt time to let you know how #MTBChristmasCarol2017 has gone. I’m still holding out a hope of seeing the RSC’s production, but that could be some time away; you’ll hear about that if it does end up happening!

On the whole, I’d say it’s been a pretty successful venture. Sadly Martin Prest’s one-man show was unable to go ahead in the end, so that was one knocked off my list, and Windsor Castle’s immersive production sold out before I had the chance to book a ticket. The Man Who Invented Christmas had a disappointingly narrow release, so I didn’t manage to see that either. Also, the only screening of The Muppet Christmas Carol I could actually make it to disappeared from the cinema’s website when I went to book that – though I absolutely made up for that by watching it on DVD multiple times (including Christmas Eve itself)…

The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s A Christmas Carol
Photo credit: Geraint Lewis

But let’s focus on what I did manage to do instead!

Kicking off my challenge was the Old Vic’s production, which I’ve seen four times (and by some bizarre providence I managed to see each actor playing Tiny Tim). I am hoping to try and return once more before the end of its run if I can, but I’ve at least fulfilled my main aims already! Check out the review if you’ve not already seen it. It was also brilliant to see Sunny alumnus John Dagleish as Bob Cratchit opposite Rhys Ifans as Scrooge.

Next up was my first experience of the Fitzrovia Radio Hour; I definitely want to see more of this company in the future! This production was in the same sort of region as Mischief Theatre, but in the radio play world – and the mishaps are intentional rather than continual bad luck… I also got to review this show whilst it was in Leicester Square’s Christmas Spiegeltent, and had a really fun afternoon of it.

NR 17-12-11 414.jpg
Photo credit: Nick Rutter

This then set me up rather marvellously for another different take on the story, with the London Musical Theatre Orchestra reviving their concert production of A Christmas Carol the Musical the next night. I was also on press duty for this one (in case you missed the review), and had a brilliantly fun time watching Robert Lindsay in a role he was born to play – with a massively talented cast joining him.

My next stop was ‘Dickens Day’; on my final Sunday in London before Christmas I was in the hands of the Charles Dickens Museum. This began with a Christmassy tour of the house by his housemaid, before heading out into the City for a walking tour of locations in A Christmas Carol itself. We all gathered outside the Royal Exchange, and then followed our guide (decked out in Victorian garb) around several other spots clustered around that area – some are specifically named in the novella (such as the Mansion House & Cornhill), whereas others are educated guesses, based on Dickens’ vivid descriptions and places he had previously included in his writing.

Royal Exchange

Annoyingly, all of the weekend’s horrible weather decided that Sunday was the ideal time to make its presence felt, so it was a rather rainy walk – though it didn’t dampen our spirits! (I’m not sorry.) It was wonderful to get the chance to follow in Scrooge’s footsteps and find many of London’s hidden streets & courts. Particularly chilling was the supposed location of the miser’s home, tucked away from the City’s hustle & bustle (a shapeshifting door knocker was easy to imagine while we were stood there). I also enjoyed a brief diversion to Leadenhall Market; I’d somehow never been there before, and it really is the most exquisite place. Our final stop brought us to St Peter’s Cornhill, which is thought to be where Scrooge’s gravestone was uncovered by the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come – another stop shut in away from the main road with a very ominous feeling about it.  A great afternoon that I think I might make a regular thing of.

My final event for that day was a performance of A Christmas Carol back at the museum. I had another opportunity to look around the house (there wasn’t time to look in too much detail during the morning’s tour), before heading into the boardroom for the show. This one put another inventive twist on the tale, being one man & his puppet! Dominic Gerrard was the man in question, taking all of the roles himself bar Scrooge, who he could then bring to life in puppet form. This is a clever idea, as early on it reinforces Scrooge as the outsider – and also makes conversations between characters easier to watch. From my perspective, it was a great bonus for #Puppets2017! A properly festive 70 minutes.

Public performances of ‘A Christmas Carol’

Well-known actor and Dickens biographer Simon Callow released an album version of his own one-man show, accompanied by The Brighouse and Rastrick Band. I was fortunate enough to get to review it, which meant I could re-live my trip to see him at the Arts Theatre in 2016.

Even once I got back to Somerset for my family Christmas there was still an opportunity to keep this going! The Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton put on a musical version – unbeknownst to me at time of booking, it was the very same musical as the LMTO performed in their concert! I was so chuffed to get to see a staged version, having had to use my imagination at the Lyceum, and another great incentive to go was to see Sunny Afternoon alumna Megan Leigh Mason as Mrs Cratchit/Emily.

A Christmas Carol (Antic Disposition)
Photo credit: Scott Rylander

One more theatre production awaited: Antic Disposition. Unfortunately the run started a few days after my long-planned journey to the West Country, so I had to settle for their penultimate day; it was the epitome of Victorian festive cheer! Middle Temple Hall was the location, chosen due to Dickens having studied law there for a while (it also happens to be where Twelfth Night was first performed in 1602), and the show itself was a beautiful concept. Presumably inspired by the title, the songs were set to the tunes of popular Christmas carols – a particular favourite of mine was the shift in mood given to God rest ye merry, gentlemen as it introduced Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Saving the silliest for last… Mischief Theatre returned to the BBC this Christmas to give us A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong! Not only did they write a slightly reworked & condensed version of the book, but all the usual slapstick and general stupidity was thrown in on top. Highlights for me were the range of inventive places for Bob Cratchit’s lines to be ‘hidden’, and the attempts to incapacitate whoever was playing Scrooge at the time. Another hit!

A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong
Photo credit: BBC

Well, on the whole I think this has been something of a success! December was basically full of A Christmas Carol, and it couldn’t have been a better way to get in the festive mood. Also an extra excuse to drink mulled wine on a regular basis… I hope you’ve enjoyed keeping up with #MTBChristmasCarol2017 – and if anything else comes up in the meantime, you will be the first to know!

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4 thoughts on ““Come in! and know me better, man!”

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