Writer Fraser Logue introduces Rocket Theatre Company’s adaptation of the classic novel ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens.
Yes, pour the mulled wine and put on your gaudiest jumpers! On behalf of student theatre, I am officially declaring it Christmas! Christmas however is a problematic time for writers. In our time of festive cheer, it seems that complex cliffhangers are prohibited and tragic endings are swept under the carpet. Because it’s Christmas! How could we possibly engage with sadness and the greyness of life at this time?
‘A Christmas Carol’, which Dickens published a mere six days before Christmas Day 1843, makes a good effort against this trend giving a no holds barred treatment of social mobility in 19th Century England. Yet like every Christmas bestseller, the plot attenuates quickly as we approach the end. The old miserable banker, Ebenezer Scrooge, is resolved to change after a night of bad sleep. And to change how? It’s not too clear in the novella, perhaps just to cheer up a little? And what about Tiny Tim? Does being in the mere presence of a smiling rich man save the boy from death? Stop asking difficult questions and eat your pudding!
If I’m honest I think it’s the ghosts that ruin it. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts, but I’m not very fond of their appearance in Christmas Carol either…
For one, they reduce the story to the old ‘it was all a dream’ stock plot. Dickens excels when his writing focuses on human realities but Dickens’ separation of the past, present and future in Christmas Carol gives us three pictures of human life rather than one continuous one. When the Ghost of Christmas Future shows Scrooge that Tiny Tim will die, and he does in fact live, we are on the one hand thrilled to have the beloved character return to us. However, we are also being denied a real picture of death. Something which is final and which has to be accepted and processed. These are the real human stories Dickens tells so well in, for example, ‘Great Expectations’.
What really annoys me is the seeming infallibility of the ghosts’ lessons. Social class, charity and isolation are complicated and subtle political issues. To think that there exists one, let alone three, voices of absolute truth that can provide us with a recipe for happiness and moral uprightness is to me (who believes in God no less!) a ludicrous idea. It leads to the greatest issue in Dickens’ novella: Scrooge’s imperfect transformation. Scrooge is a complicated character who converts to being a nice and docile gentleman with paper thin characterisation all for the sake of a clear happy ending.
And so our adaptation is a no-ghost show with no past, no present and no future. Instead we are greeted by some very human characters: a nurse, a doctor, and a minister whose lessons we might wish to take with a pinch of salt. Of course, we still follow Scrooge and his development from a man with a difficult past but this time to a man with an equally difficult future.
Oh and before I forget – remember that mulled wine I promised you earlier? Be sure to have a glass at the interval. Indeed the Christmas spirit of the original still remains at the heart of our show with an incredibly talented cast and production team ready to spread festive cheer enough for all.
A Christmas Carol is performing 7pm, 5th, 6th, 7th December in Saltwell Hall, Stephenson College.
By Fraser Logue