TIMOTHY Blundell knows he faces a challenge in playing the role of miser Scrooge in A Christmas Carol because the character’s name is often applied to cold-hearted, tight-fisted and greedy men.
At the same time, however, he has grasped the opportunity to portray the original Scrooge from Charles Dickens’s novel because it will show people how someone whose life is steeped in misery can learn to be a more understanding human being.
A Christmas Carol, adapted by David Holman from one of Dickens’s shortest and most popular works, is being staged by Hunter Region Drama School at Newcastle’s Civic Playhouse for a short season from December 5.
The production’s timing is not only appropriate with the approach of Christmas, but it also gives the staging team and audiences the chance to celebrate the still popular writings of Charles Dickens as the 200th anniversary of the year of his birth draws to an end.
Director Victor Emeljanow said A Christmas Carol was second only to David Copperfield in the popularity of Dickens’s novels.
Playwright David Holman had used much of the book’s dialogue verbatim in adapting it for the stage, he noted.
Holman is an English writer who worked in Australia for much of the 1980s and ’90s.
While in this country he wrote two works that continue to be widely popular with children, No Worries and Small Poppies, as well as an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s 1835 short story Diary of a Madman in which actor Geoffrey Rush toured the world to great acclaim.
Holman was a drama research fellow at the University of Newcastle in the late 1980s when Victor Emeljanow was professor of drama.
The Newcastle production of his adaptation of A Christmas Carol is the Australian premiere and Holman is reportedly pleased that the city in which he worked and lived for several months has honoured him in that way.
As Ebenezer Scrooge, Timothy Blundell is on stage for all but about 10 seconds of the 90-minute play. It’s his second marathon role this year after playing the deformed title character in The Elephant Man.
The story begins on Christmas Eve in 19th century London, with Scrooge dismissing the Christmas greetings of his underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit (played by Simon Morgan). He likewise rejects with a “Bah, humbug” the invitation of nephew Fred Scrooge (Luke Quinn) to come to his Christmas dinner.
During the night, Scrooge is visited in his sleep first by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley (Michael Smythe), who tries to persuade him to be a kinder soul, then by the ghosts of Christmas Past (Shane Bransdon), Christmas Present (Patrick Campbell) and Christmas Yet to Come (Adam Grossenbacher).
Christmas Past takes him through his early life, Christmas Present shows how the Cratchit family and others are celebrating Christmas, and Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge the fate that awaits him unless he changes his ways.
His dreams take him to places including the Cratchit home, where disabled son Tiny Tim (Sonny Carpenter) enriches the family’s life.
The production has a cast of 50, with 34 playing various characters, and 16 choristers who sing Christmas carols at appropriate points in the story. Other principal roles are played by Linden Mullard, Claire Thomas, Iain Atchison, David Owens and Suzanne Bancroft.
A Christmas Carol can be seen at the Civic Playhouse nightly from Wednesday, December 5, to Saturday, December 8, at 7.30pm, plus 2pm matinees on the Saturday and Sunday, December 9. Tickets: $25. Bookings: Civic Ticketek, 49291977.