A CHRISTMAS CAROL
by Charles Dickens, dramatised by John Mortimer
by Charles Dickens, dramatised by John Mortimer
Photo: Vicki Holland
Tue 4 - Sat 8 December 2018 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton NN1 3NL
CAST & CREW
Ebenezer Scrooge Tristan Baxter Smith
Bob Cratchit Ian Bradley
Fred Tom Morath
Two Portly Gentlemen Kevin Pinks, Owen Warr
Tiny Tim Bayley Minney
Jacob Marley's Ghost Martin Williams
Mrs Cratchit Beverley Webster
Peter Cratchit Cameron Minney
Martha Cratchit Isobel Roberts
Belinda Cratchit Megan Roberts
Young Cratchit Lewis Minney
The Spirit of Christmas Past Jan Stoppani
Framfolk Serena Charters, Kevin Pinks, Owen Warr, Beverley Webster
Child Scrooge Lewis Minney
Ali Baba Aaron MacKenzie
Morigana Ruth Sherry
Robinson Crusoe Roger Toone
Fan Megan Roberts
Headmaster Craig Macpherson
Farmfolk Maggie Holland, Kevin Pinks, Owen Warr, Beverley Webster
Fezziwig Adrian Wyman
Young Adult Scrooge Tom Morath
Dick Wilkins Aaron MacKenzie
Miss Fezziwigs Amy Blackwood, Serena Charters, Ruth Sherry
Housemaid Ingrid Heymann
Baker Craig Macpherson
Cook Di Wyman
Milkman Roger Toone
Girl from Next Door Isobel Roberts
Prentice Boy Cameron Minney
Belle Serena Charters
Belle's Husband Craig Macpherson
Belle's Daughter Ruth Sherry
Henrietta Megan Roberts
The Spirit of Christmas Present Ste Applegate
Fred's Wife Amy Blackwood
Miss Rosie Sheila Jenkins
Topper Aaron MacKenzie
Fred's Maid Ingrid Heymann
Ignorance Bayley Minney
Want Megan Roberts
The Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come Cameron Minney
First Businessman Owen Warr
Second Businessman Martin Williams
Third Businessman Craig Macpherson
Fourth Businessman Kevin Pinks
First Important Man Martin Williams
Second Important Man Aaron MacKenzie
Man in Scrooge's Corner Adrian Wyman
Old Joe Roger Toone
Charwoman Di Wyman
Mrs Dilber Maggie Holland
Undertaker's Man Craig Macpherson
Boy in Street Lewis Minney
Poulter's Man Adrian Wyman
Chrous Leader Doreen Wright
Chorus Jo Nutt
Fezziwig's musician Margaret Bignall
Director Rob Kendall
Stage Manager Clare Brittain
Lighting/Sound Design Megan Lucas, Philip Welsh
Costume Pam Mann
Wardrobe David Pardoe, Clare Brittain
Makeup for Scrooge & Marley Sidonie McDowell
Set Rob Kendall
Musician Margaret Bignall
Properties Rob Kendall
Programme Design Megan Lucas
Poster Design Tamsyn Payne
Hospitality Manager Maggie Holland
Box Office Manager Sue Howes
Booking Manager Elizabeth Allan
Once upon a time on a Friday evening in December, I made my way to a beautiful old church in the town of Northampton. Once inside I was delighted to find a company of players performing with festive glee the magical tale of A Christmas Carol - what a Dickensian delight!
Once warmed by mulled wine and satiated by a mince pie I took my place in the audience and watched the tale unfold.
Straight away I was pleased to see such a large ensemble (comprising the young, the not quite as young, Masque stalwarts and fresh faced newbies) all dressed in beautiful and authentic looking costumes (courtesy of Clare Brittain), and singing their hearts out.
Up until this night, I hadn’t really started to feel ‘Christmassy’ but the carols, the bah humbugs, the ghosts and the super cute Cratchit children changed all that.
Rob Kendall (the director) is to be congratulated both for his choice of play (and the RSC adaptation), and for bringing together a great cast. I felt that they had all worked together really hard to bring this tale alive, and to tell the story with both clarity and an emotional punch.
l thought the ensemble narration was really effective and it was great to hear a range of different voices. As with all large amateur casts, some players were perhaps more confident and experienced than others, but no-one let the ensemble down and l think it is a strength of Masque to be such an inclusive and welcoming community theatre group.
If I have to make special mentions, I was impressed by Tom Morath (again - after watching Hamlet in warmer times), who played the role of ‘Fred’ with excellent energy, clarity and stage presence — the scene in his house when he was hosting a Christmas party was a particular highlight.
Similarly energetic and engaging was Ruth Simone Sherry, who I believe played a number of roles. Beverley Webster as ‘Mrs Cratchit’ was excellent, as always, and the children were fab — ‘Tiny Tim‘ was perfectly cast and performed well as the emotional heart of the piece.
I also really enjoyed the performances of Tristan Baxter-Smith's ‘Scrooge’, Ian Bradley as ‘Bob Cratchit' and Jan Stoppani, Ste Applegate, Cameron Minney and my sometimes theatrical husband, Martin Williams as the three Spirits of Christmas and ‘Jacob Marley’ respectively. They all had very different characterisations and were engaging throughout.
I do have to re-iterate though that this was a strong ensemble cast and there were no weak links. I loved the chosen adaptation, the Christmassy vibes, the wonderful ensemble storytelling and the authentic costumes.
Rob Kendall did a great job of directing and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was a lovely atmospheric and fitting venue.
I think that perhaps there could have been more variety in the choice of Carols to sing in the scene changes (and perhaps more rehearsal of these to ensure that everyone was singing in the same time and with the same confidence in pitch), and that sometimes the pace and energy dropped slightly, but these are very small niggles in an otherwise wonderfully festive performance (and that's not just the mulled wine talking!)
And so this tale too must end and in the words of Tiny Tim ‘God bless us, everyone!’
if nothing else, most of us have heard this quotation somewhere in our lives and perhaps even know that it was Dickens’s Scrooge that uttered it in A Christmas Carol (though many of our younger members only know it from The Muppets version).
If you’ve not read the story, even if who’ve not read a novel since leaving school, I strongly recommend it as a pre-Christmas treat!
The dramatised version Masque are performing is the adaptation made by John Mortimer for the RSC in 1994, and who, in fact, are performing a new adaptation in Stratford this season. Masque and Masque Youth Theatre also performed the Mortimer version in 2004 under the direction of Ursula Wright, also at Holy Seps and with Les Necus as Scrooge. (I’ve got some of that same cast in this production too!)
Journey of self-discovery
Originally, I had intended writing my own adaptation of the story as I’d already adapted Dickens’s Great Expectations (2010) and Nicholas Nickleby (2012) for Masque to perform and me to direct, at Holy Seps.
However, Mortimer’s dramatic devise of creating a chorus to comment on and ‘tell’ the story as well as the three Spirits who take Scrooge on his journey of self-discovery, I found difficult to surpass.
So chorus, Scrooge, the Cratchits, Tiny Tim et al are all given their full voice to be heard in the ‘round’ of Holy Seps.
Cast of 30
I was slightly overwhelmed when 35 people auditioned for the roles. Thankfully not everyone wanted to play Scrooge. After looking at availability and so on, I settled on a cast of 30, including five children.
For this production, Scrooge is Tristan Baxter-Smith, last seen as Stanhope in Journey’s End (2017) and Ian Bradley is Bob Cratchitt (Hamlet, 2018) with Beverley Webster (Madam Bovary, 2018) as Mrs. Cratchitt supported by ‘her’ children, well actually the real children of Clara Minney and Flic Roberts.
Tom Morath (Hamlet, 2018) plays Fred, Scrooge’s nephew who encourages his uncle to share a Merry Christmas. It's Fred who elicits the first ‘Bah Humbug’ from Scrooge before the old man’s transformation. And in the same way, all of us are encouraged to be joyful at Christmas.
Masque Theatre's production is directed by Masque member Rob Kendall, whose shows for the group include Hamlet (2018), The Bacchae (2018), Henry V (2016), The Importance of Being Earnest (2016), The Lion in Winter (2015), Becket (2014), Troilus and Cressida (2014), Margot (2013), Nicholas Nickleby (2012), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (2012), Romeo and Juliet (2011) and (2001), Great Expectations (2010) The Cherry Orchard (2010), A Midsummer Night's Dream (2009), Trainspotting (2008), Mother Courage And Her Children (2007), Twelfth Night (2005), Bent (2004), Hell Cab (2004), Murder in the Cathedral (2002), A View From The Bridge (2002), Entertaining Mr Sloane (2000), East (1998), A Streetcar Named Desire (1997) and Antony and Cleopatra (1996)