Tag: Wilton’s Music Hall

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)

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

 

Box of Delights is “Best Christmas Show in town!”

The Box of Delights has been re-opened at Wilton’s Music Hall for another year, and the response has been extraordinary.

Attitude have called it “the best Christmas show in London” in their five star review, and the production was also one of The Observer’s ‘Top Christmas Shows of 2018’, describing it as a “cultural highlight.”

In fact, we’ve had a clean sweep of festive show critical picks:

“Classic” THE TIMES

“Crammed with enchantment” SUNDAY TIMES

“Critical success” GUARDIAN GUIDE

“Famed adaptation” EVE STANDARD

& critics choice in THE TELEGRAPH and INDEPENDENT!

So what are you waiting for?

The wolves are running, if you can stand their bite…. book today!

The Box is Back!

Watch out, because those wolves are running again…

It is with splendiferous pleasure that I announce that, following our sold out, critically acclaimed four star run at Wilton’s Music Hall last year, my adaptation of  John Masefield’s The Box Of Delights is back by popular demand for a limited run of 45 performances.

Based on the much–loved and critically acclaimed festive children’s classic by Poet Laureate John Masefield, a direct forerunner to Narnia and Harry Potter, known to many through the legendary BBC adaptation. You can now experience the enthralling wonder of Masefield’s world for yourself, from flying cars to fiery phoenixes.

Once upon a time, there were two great sorcerers, Ramon Lulli and Arnold of Todi. To decide who was the most powerful, they made a wager. Who could invent the most incredible magical power, never seen before?

After a year, Ramon returned with an elixir, which would grant the drinker eternal life. But then Arnold revealed his invention .
A box of his own invention. A mysterious and wondrous Box of Delights, with dark powers.
Before Ramon could respond, Arnold disappeared, taking his Box with him.
Now centuries later, a boy on a train travelling home for the holidays, is about to be drawn into an ancient magical struggle, that will see him fighting not just for his life, but to save Christmas itself.
Watch out, Kay Harker, for the wolves are running…

The Box of Delights – world premiere announced

‘John Masefield’s The Box of Delights is one of the true classics. It has all the magic, adventure, threat, enchantment & excitement of the best tales for children of all ages. I remember wriggling with pleasure when I first read it and I couldn’t be more excited that such a talented team is bringing it to life for a new generation – and at Wilton’s – wonderful!’ 

STEPHEN FRY

I am delighted to tell you that Wilton’s Music Hall (the oldest music hall in the world), has invited me to adapt the former Poet Laureate John Masefields’ Christmas classic, The Box of Delights, for the international stage premiere this festive season. (30th December 2017 – 6th January 2018).

I grew up on this story, both in book form and the wonderful BBC TV adaptation, and it has been a thrill to bring it to life for a whole new audience. Full of enchanting stage magic, here is a reminder of why this is one of the best Christmas tales ever…

Kay Harker is on the train home from school for the holidays. But this Christmas will be different. His parents are dead, and the wolves are running… He meets an aged magician, Cole Hawlings, who charges him with protecting his wondrous Box of Delights, a device of great power. But when the old man mysteriously disappears, Kay faces the fight of his life to protect the Box, and with it, the people he loves. For Cole’s nemesis, the wicked sorcerer Abner Brown will stop at nothing to get his hands on the Box. 

For me, The Box of Delights is a magical and festive adventure like no other in which one boy must enlist the help of the heroes of the past, to defeat the evil in his present. The very future of Christmas itself depends upon him… 

I’m very excited to be working with an incredible team. The show will be directed by Justin Audibert (Royal Shakespeare Company; National Theatre), designed by Tom Piper (Olivier-Award winning and designer of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red poppy installation at the Tower of London), with movement direction from Simon Pittman. Lighting is by Anna Watson, sound and music by Ed Lewis, and video by Nina Dunn.

Tickets are now on sale, with some limited but special offers for schools and group bookings still available.

It’s going to be a magical winter – hope to see you there!