Rural touring company This is My Theatre head out on their third successive tour of A Christmas Carol.
Artistic director Sarah Slator offers the show once again in a one-act adaptation with traditional carols for all to sing. They will be out on the road for a month with dates including: December 15, 4pm, The Guildhall, Chichester; December 16, 3pm and 7pm, St Wilfrid’s Church, Church Norton; and December 21, 7.30pm, St Peter’s Church, Preston Park, Brighton.
“This is our third year on the trot,” says Sarah, “and I think it is the simplicity of it that people love. People know the story, and there is also that thing that Christmas is a time to reflect on what you have done in the year. There is a part of Scrooge that people relate to, that idea that we all get swept along in our lives with other things, be it work or hobbies, and then Christmas comes along and it is a time to reflect and to give back to friends and family.
“People like that aspect of it, but also it is such a great story. I suppose it is the characters, the humour of it, the drama of it. It has got all those elements. And it is entertaining. You can sit back and just enjoy it – or enjoy it at a deeper level.”
The venues the company play are all part of the experience: “There is such history pretty much everywhere we go, but for me, the important thing is keeping the production as traditional as possible. We use as much as possible the original text and language that Dickens wrote. I have added a couple of scenes that weren’t in the original, just to help with the way we are telling the story, but primarily we are keeping it traditional.
“There are just five in the cast, and we have got Ethan Taylor back who was our Scrooge last year. I think he is a different Scrooge to what people expect. The characterisation is there. He starts as a miserable so and so and there is the same journey as he progresses through the story, but he is a young man. We usually expect an elderly gentleman to be Scrooge, but for me a younger man makes sense. He has got more time to change, and because he has got more time, there is more meaning to the change.”
With the range of venues on tour, flexibility is also key: “We create the general format for the show, but because we are taking it to such different places, we can vary it. Something might be happening in the aisle if we are in a church-type setting, or it could be within the audience if we are in more of a hall-type telling. We keep it traditional, but we play quite a lot with the space as we travel around.”
And inevitably, it changes from year to year: “I think it just happens naturally. We have some different cast members each time, and they automatically bring something new to it. The show just develops naturally as you do it more. Even if it is the same actors, it will always feel like they have got a slightly-different starting point each time after they have worked out what works and what doesn’t. I never look at my notes from the previous year. If I have the same idea the next year, then it must be because it is a good idea!”