Thursday, 15 December 2011

National Theatre Scotland's A Christmas Carol

This production of A Christmas Carol by National Theatre Scotland uses a combination of puppets and live action. It looks rather menacing from this trailer:

Audiences of 90 are seated right in Scrooge's counting house for the show, which runs at Film City, Glasgow, until December 31, 2011.

Below, an enlightening interview with writer and director Graham McLaren and other cast and crew members about their approach to adapting Dickens's story for modern theatre audiences:

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Watch A Christmas Carol (1971)

Twenty years after he portrayed the definitive Scrooge on screen, Alastair Sim returned to the role, albeit in voice only, for this animated version of A Christmas Carol. Michael Hordern also returned, as the ghost of Jacob Marley.

The short TV film, which runs for 25 minutes, was directed by Canadian animator Richard Williams and shown in the US on ABC on Tuesday, December 21, 1971. It was given a theatrical release the following year and received the 1972 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. I believe it's the only version of Dickens's book to win an Oscar, although the British musical Scrooge (1970) was nominated in four categories.

The film is a delight, condensing the story perfectly, so as to retain the absolutely essential elements, including a very sinister atmosphere and a keen sense of the social injustices that concerned Dickens. Compare it with the somewhat disappointing 1954 TV version of A Christmas Carol, starring Basil Rathbone, which has a similar length, to see what a difference this makes.

Chuck Jones, the late animator most fondly remembered for the Warner Bros Loony Tunes cartoons, produced the film, and a few well-known British thesps round out the cast of voices, including Sir Michael Redgrave (Narrator), Diana Quick (Ghost of Christmas Past) and Carry On actress Joan Sims (Mrs Cratchit).

Watch A Christmas Carol (1971) below:

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Scene from ACT Theatre's A Christmas Carol

I really enjoyed this scene from Seattle's ACT Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol. The adaptation is by American dramatist and ACT founder Gregory A Falls (1922-1999), and the show is now in its 36th year. I'm not familiar with the full play, but this excerpt, showing Ebenezer Scrooge's visitation from the Spirit of Christmas Past, is delightful. It even features Ali Baba and Robinson Crusoe from Charles Dickens's original story (which you can read online here). Actor David Pichette seems to have just the right liveliness and presence as Scrooge, and Sylvie Davidson's ghost is beautifully balletic.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Review: The Annotated Christmas Carol

The Annotated Christmas Carol: A Christmas Carol in Prose. Charles Dickens (author), Michael Patrick Hearn (editor/annotator), John Leech (illustrations)

Literary scholar (and renowned L Frank Baum expert) Michael Patrick Hearn has painstakingly researched the world of Dickens and Ebenezer Scrooge for this definitive commentary on A Christmas Carol. The notes, in columns parallel to the text of the novella itself, are fascinating in their detail, shedding light on every aspect of the story, its language, and its social and historical context.

It's preceded by a lengthy introduction providing the background on how Dickens came to write it and why. Hearn supplements his essay with plenty of snippets of contemporary material, including quotes, illustrations and artefacts from Dickens's time.

Things you'll learn from this must-have volume: from Dickens's description of the Spirit of Christmas Past, Scrooge is undoubtedly looking at his dip (candle); the Spirit of Christmas Present is none other than Father Christmas, the traditional festive figure of English folklore, rather than the later "Santa Claus" of American myth. Want to know more? Buy The Annotated Christmas Carol from