Author: piers

Adapting Christmas Carol

Sally Dexter as Scrooge

When Charles Dickens published his ‘little Christmas book’ in 1843, it took just six weeks for the first adaptation to reach the stage. It played in London for more than forty nights before transferring to New York. In the year of publication alone, there were nine separate theatrical adaptations, including the first-ever musical version. Dickens himself was famous for his own public readings of the story, giving over 127 such recitals in England and America. And the process of retelling has continued for 176 years. From stage to screen, cartoon to musical, from the RSC to the Muppets, there are nearly thirty published adaptations of A Christmas Carol, and dozens more are written every Christmas. There was even a mime version by Marcel Marceau in 1973.

So why another? Well, whilst the tale has been retold for puppets and toys, and Scrooge performed by men young and old, the central role has remained resolutely masculine. What happens when we re-examine this classic fairy tale from a woman’s perspective, and reimagine the complex central character? And why?

The book is, at heart, a story about injustice. Dickens was horrified by the desperate destitution, especially in children, that he witnessed on his many legendary walks through industrial London. He initially drafted a political pamphlet in reply to an 1843 parliamentary report on working-class child poverty. But the Carol made his point more plangently.

Christmas Carol: A Fairy Tale | Want (Chisara Agor), Meagre (Yana Penrose), Ignorance (Joseph Hardy) | Wilton’s Music Hall, 2019 (photo by Nobby Clark)

Yet he was also no saint. It is perhaps telling that Catherine, his long-suffering wife (who was also a writer), titled her sole publication What Shall We Have for Dinner? She endured twelve pregnancies, bearing him ten children. These took their toll on her body, about which Dickens was privately offensive, and on her mind. Catherine was afflicted by what appears to have been severe post-natal depression, and Dickens responded by first taking up with a young actress, Ellen Ternan, then trying to persuade a doctor that his wife was insane, and should be put away in an asylum so he could continue his philandering unhindered.

Charles Dickens’s daughter Katey said that her father never understood women, and some of his excessively sentimentalised young female characters, like Little Nell in the Old Curiosity Shop, or the long parade of unattractive or damaged older women, such as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, do not offer a very compelling counterargument to this analysis. But he was also a product of his age, a time of unstinting male power that frequently marginalised the voices of the poor, the indebted, the weak, the vulnerable – and women of all classes.

Christmas Carol: A Fairy Tale | Sally Dexter as Scrooge | Wilton’s Music Hall, 2019 (photo by Nobby Clark)

Christmas Carol is set in an intensely patriarchal society. The most powerful member of it, Queen Victoria, may have been a woman, but she also thought her own sex ‘poor and feeble’, and called for suffragists to be whipped. Her female subjects were expected to put ‘home and hearth’ before all else (often including any education and professional advancement). When she married, the rights of a woman were legally given to her husband. He took control of her property, earnings and money. If he wished to spend her money on his business or his debts, he did not require her consent. In exchange for this, she took his name. And until the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, divorce allowing remarriage was only possible by the passage of a private act through the Houses of Parliament.

Early nineteenth-century daughters, like the Fan Scrooge that Dickens imagines, were meant to get in line behind their brothers, like Ebenezer. In Dickens’s version, Fan dies early, leaving Ebenezer distraught.

But what if it had been the other way around? What if Fan Scrooge had tried to make her way in a man’s world of power and profit? What would have happened to Fan then?

Dickens wrote this enduring and uplifting story to try to heal the divisions of his own age. He yearned to create ‘a better common understanding among those whose interests are identical and who depend upon each other’. He wanted, in other words, to bring all people together, at a precious time of year, united in a love of the common good. And so do we. Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one.

Christmas Carol: A Fairy Tale | Want (Chisara Agor), Ignorance (Joseph Hardy) and the Fezziwigs (Yana Penrose & Edward Harrison) | Wilton’s Music Hall, 2019 (photo by Nobby Clark)

Christmas Carol – Schools Drawing Competition

Sally Dexter as Scrooge in Christmas Carol photo credit Nobby Clarl

To celebrate the forthcoming Wilton’s Music Hall production of my new play Christmas Carol – a fairy tale they are running a drawing competition for Key Stage 2 (Years 3 – 6). We would like you to draw or paint a picture of what you imagine one of the ghosts look like who visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

The winning entry will be printed on the front cover of the Christmas Carol – a fairy tale programme for the duration of the production’s run at Wilton’s, 29th November – 4th January.

The winner will also receive four tickets to see a performance of their choice of Christmas Carol – a fairy tale, subject to availability.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

  • Make a picture of what you think one of the ghosts look like who visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve.
  • Use any materials, techniques or processes (for example drawing, painting, printmaking, textiles, photography, computer aided design, collage, montage) to make your piece, as long as the entry is two dimensional.
  • The entry must be no bigger than A4 and should include your name.
  • Entries will be judged on originality and creativity, boldness and impact. JUDGES WILL INCLUDE: me and members of
    Christmas Carol – a fairy tale company.
  • SUBMIT WORK TO: Christmas Carol – a fairy tale Competition, Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB using this entry form
  • CLOSING DATE: Friday 15th November at 12.00 (midday). We will not be able to return submitted work.

Sally Dexter to star as Scrooge in Christmas Carol

I’m delighted to announce that the role of the first ever female  Scrooge on the London stage in my forthcoming retelling of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol will be the award winning star of stage and screen, Sally Dexter.

Sally is known for her appearances in some of our most loved West End productions, including Oliver! and Billy Elliot The Musical. She won an Olivier Award for her performance in Dalliance at the National Theatre and currently plays Faith Dingle in Emmerdale.

She will be joined by Chisara Agor (The Wizard of Oz at Birmingham Rep),Joseph Hardy (The Cherry Orchard at Bristol Old Vic and Manchester Royal Exchange) and Edward Harrison (Wolf Hall, Broadway).

Completing the cast are Brendan Hooper (The Importance of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville Theatre), Ruth Ollman (Still Alice, UK tour) and Yana Penrose (How Love is Spelt at Southwark Playhouse).

The show is designed by Tom Piper and directed by Stephanie Street.

Come and join in the magic as spellbinding magic, haunting music, and petrifying puppets are brought to life on the unique stage of Wilton’s Music Hall.

Paul Torday Prize 2020 open for entries!

Paul Torday published his first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen aged 60. The family have decided to set up this new prize in Torday’s honour, celebrating first novels by authors aged 60 or over.

The winner will receive £1,000, with a set of Paul Torday’s collected works. Runners-up will receive one specially selected Paul Torday novel with a commemorative book plate.

Entry to the 2020 prize is now open.
The deadline for entries is 30 November 2019 at 5pm (GMT).

Enter Now

Important Information

  • Submissions must have been first published in the UK and Republic of Ireland between 1 September 2018 and 31 August 2019
  • Submissions must be in English and must not be a translation
  • Submissions must be the author’s first published full length fiction work, but they can have had works published of other lengths or other genres in the past
  • Applicants must be aged 60 or over at the date of first print publication of the novel and must be living at the date of submission
  • The prize does not accept books that are only available in e-format or that are self-published or where the author has contributed or paid for the costs of publishing.
  • Submissions must be made by the print publisher

Scrooge – as you’ve never seen her before!

God bless us all! My adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is coming to Wilton’s Music Hall in London this festive season…

1838, London. Jacob Marley is dead. And so is Ebenezer Scrooge…

In our story, Ebenezer died young, but his sister Fan married Marley and, as his widow, has now inherited his moneylending business.

She rapidly becomes notorious as the most monstrous miser ever known, a legendary misanthrope, lonely, and despised by all who cross her path.

Seven years later, on Christmas Eve, Fan Scrooge will be haunted by three spirits.

They want her to change. But will she?

This Christmas, rediscover a classic British fairy tale. Refreshed and relevant for the 21st century, this traditional story inspired by the politics of nineteenth century London comes to life in the true Dickensian atmosphere of the world’s oldest surviving music hall, Wilton’s Music Hall.

Brought to you by the team that gave you the sellout The Box of Delights, expect spellbinding magic, haunting music, and petrifying puppets in this triumphant retelling.

The first ever female Scrooge on the English stage.
 

Things are going to be different. Very different…

Stephanie Street is a writer, director and performer. Her most recent acting credits include James Graham’s Quiz, Chichester Festival Theatre and West End, and critically acclaimed performances at the National Theatre in Behind the Beautiful Foreverand Nightwatchman.

Age recommendation: 7+

Creative Team
Writer – Piers Torday
Director – Stephanie Street
Designer – Tom Piper
Lighting Designer – Katharine Williams
Composer and Sound Designer – Ed Lewis
Puppetry Designer – Jo Lakin
Casting Director – Gabrielle Dawes

 

Winner of the FIRST Paul Torday Memorial Prize announced

Congratulations to Anne Youngson, winner of the inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize, for her wonderful book Meet Me At The Museum, and to runner up Norma MacMaster for the haunting Silence Under A Stone.

The inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize is awarded to a first novel by a writer over 60. Prize fund £1,000 plus a set of the collected works of British writer Paul Torday, who himself only published his first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at the age of 60.

PAUL TORDAY MEMORIAL PRIZE WINNER:
ANNE YOUNGSON FOR MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM AWARDED £1,00

Anne Youngson, 70, worked for many years in senior management in the car industry before embarking on a creative career as a writer. She has supported many charities in governance roles, including Chair of the Writers in Prison Network, which provided residencies in prisons for writers. She lives in Oxfordshire and is married with two children and three grandchildren to date. Meet Me at the Museum is her debut novel. Anne lives in Oxfordshire.

Anita Sethi, Paul Torday Memorial Prize Judge says:

I loved this engrossing story of friendship and family – it fascinates both in the form of its excellent use of the epistolary, and in its content as it explores actual human archaeology and the archaeology of the human heart.

PAUL TORDAY MEMORIAL PRIZE RUNNER-UP: NORMA MACMASTER FOR SILENCE UNDER A STONE (DOUBLEDAY IRELAND) Age at publication: 81

Norma MacMaster was born and reared in County Cavan before continuing her studies in Derry, Dublin, Belfast and Montreal. She was a secondary school teacher and counsellor in Ireland and Canada and was ordained a minister of the Church of Ireland in 2004. A contributor to Sunday Miscellany on RTE Radio 1, she is the author of a memoir, Over My Shoulder. She and her late husband have one daughter. Norma lives by the sea in North County Dublin and wrote Silence Under A Stone ‘a bit now and a bit then’, typing with two fingers in her attic. It is her first novel. Norma was born in Cavan and lives in Dublin.

Kate Mosse, Paul Torday Memorial Prize Judge says:

A beautiful, subtle, elegant novel! A story of closed communities, of the schisms of religion, of fear, and faith, of anger and being unable to forgive, this is a beautifully written and very moving story.

The awards were given out by Jackie Kay at the The Society of AuthorsAwards Party in Southwark Cathedral, introduced by Philip Pullman, where £100,000 of prize money was given out in total.

Shortlist for inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize

Paul Torday shortlist 2019

The shortlist for the inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize was announced today by The Society of Authors.

It will be awarded to a first novel by a writer over 60. Prize fund £1,000 plus a set of the collected works of British writer Paul Torday, who himself only published his first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at the age of 60. Judged by Mark Lawson, Kate Mosse and Anita Sethi.

  • Sealskin by Su Bristow (Orenda Books)
  • Walking Wounded by Sheila Llewellyn (Sceptre)
  • Silence Under a Stone by Norma MacMaster (Doubleday Ireland)
  • The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (Two Roads)
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (Zaffre)
  • Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (Doubleday)

Commenting, the Paul Torday Memorial Prize judges said:

This inaugural shortlist vitally reminds us that writing is a job with no mandatory starting date, demonstrated through excellent historical fiction alive with time and period, magical explorations of landscape and love, a devastating story about the hidden consequences of the brutality of wars, and an exploration of the archaeology of the human heart.

The winner will be announced at The Society of Authors Awards Party on Monday 17th June at Southwark Cathedral.

Lost Magician wins Teach Primary Award 2019

Delighted to announce that The Lost Magician has won the Teach Primary Book Award 2019 (KS2)

The runner up was Our Castle by The Sea , by Lucy Strange, and the other shortlisted titles were Unexpected Twist by Michael Rosen, The Whispers by Greg Howard, The Train to Impossible Places by PG Bell and Boy 87 by Ele Fountain.

One of the judges, Dan Freedman, praised the book’s “magical storytelling”

I’m thrilled the book has been honoured amongst such wonderful stories and look forward to more readers, in and outside the classroom, discovering the world of Folio.

Castle is People’s Book Prize finalist!

There May Be A Castle paperback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completely astonished and thrilled to announce that There May Be A Castle is now a finalist for the People’s Book Prize 2018/19.

Thank you to all who have voted and supported the book so far, it means the world, for this story is very personal and dear to me.

If you felt able to continue that support, it would be wonderful. Public voting opens here on the 1st April, and you have until the 30th to vote, and the winner will be announced at a gala ceremony at the Stationer’s Hall on the 8th May.

Fingers crossed!