Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Gus Miller: A Christmas Carol

By | Published on Thursday 4 December 2014


I told you to expect more Christmassy Q&As as we progress towards the 25 Dec, and here is the latest, focusing on Neil Bartlett’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ immortal story ‘A Christmas Carol’, soon to be staged at Old Red Lion theatre by Metal Rabbit Productions.

It sounds like an intriguing version, using only Dickens’ words and Victorian Christmas carols, while a cast of six take on all the roles. I love Dickens, and I love ‘A Christmas Carol’, so I sent a few quick questions over to director Gus Miller.

CM: Most will know the story explored in ‘A Christmas Carol’, of course, but can you tell us something about the playwright’s approach in this particular adaptation?
GM: Neil Bartlett has written a really playful adaptation which inventively uses only Dickens’ words and Victorian Christmas carols. The result is as varied in style and atmosphere as the book and is so open-ended and theatrical that it encourages us to be really creative in our production.

CM: It’s a tale which continues to enthral, and there have been myriad versions of it on film and stage over the years. What do you think is the secret of its enduring appeal?
GM: There are very few people in this country who don’t have a soft spot for the story and that’s no surprise – it has a long history of making people reassess their social responsibility and is largely responsible for many of the Christmas traditions we hold dear. Scrooge’s transformation is totally universal and remains a joy to watch.

CM: Do you think the story’s themes have a relevance for modern audiences? Will they relate to serious themes, or just get caught up in the Christmassiness of it?
GM: Dickens wrote the novel as an alternative to an essay called ‘An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child’ – he had a point to make and he chose to make it in a story that would capture people’s hearts. Now, with inequality at its worst-ever peak, the message about giving and the important things in life is as vital as ever and the story it’s packed in is just as varied and satisfying.

CM: Can you tell us something about the cast? Do they play multiple characters? How easy is it for a small cast to convey a story like this, given how many people pop up in the story?
GM: Our ensemble never leave the stage, so they are constantly playing with Scrooge, as characters or not – pushing, teasing and sometimes scaring him into his big change. It’s an enormous challenge but we’re lucky enough to have a cast who are on the balls of their feet enough to keep up!

CM: Which is your favourite ghost?
GM: I couldn’t possibly say! What’s brilliant is how different they are and how they work together to warn, soften, wake up and terrify Scrooge into one of the biggest transformations in literature.

CM: A lot of people, like Scrooge, hate Christmas. How do you feel about it?
GM: I bloody love it. It’s very easy to forget about its magic as you grow up, but this year especially I can’t possibly – I’ve been getting the spirit before even the shops did!

‘A Christmas Carol’ by Neil Bartlett is on from 10 Dec to 3 Jan at Old Red Lion theatre. See the venue website for more info and tickets.

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