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Bah, humbug? How Dickens changed the Christmas narrative forever


Adapting Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol for the stage six years ago has turned into a yuletide tradition for one Brisbane-based theatre company

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It’s the show that best sums up the Christmas spirit. I’m not talking about your hokey Christmas pageants and concerts.

Nope, the true spirit of Christmas can be seen – and felt – in the Concert Hall at QPAC from December 8 when shake & stir theatre co reprise their acclaimed production of A Christmas Carol, a stage adaptation of the novella by Charles Dickens.

If you’ve read the book or seen the film The Man Who Invented Christmas, you’ll understand just how seminal a role Dickens had in reviving the celebration of Christmas in the mid-19th century and making it count.

Dickens’ novella is a heart-warming ghost story of sorts. First published in 1843 it tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and spirits representing the past, present and future.

After their visits (scary and hugely entertaining visits in this production) Scrooge becomes a kinder, gentler man. His redemption is moving and enshrines the very essence of the Christmas spirit. It works as a secular story or as a Christian allegory. In both cases it promotes love and compassion above material wealth, which is worth keeping in mind at a time when materialism rules.

shake & stir are putting on their stage adaptation, helmed by masterful Brisbane director Michael Futcher, for the sixth year in a row … the fifth at QPAC, now in a new venue moving from the Playhouse to the Concert Hall.

Ross Balbuziente, shake & stir’s artistic director, says it has become a Christmas tradition and a much loved one.

“Since its premiere in 2018, this heart-warming story has captivated the hearts of over 115,000 people,” Balbuziente says.

“Now, in 2023, its sentiment resonates more profoundly than ever, reminding us of the enduring themes of love, forgiveness and generosity that make the holiday season truly magical.  This production has become a festive tradition for many, and for us, as a company – we love getting into the Christmas spirit with our audience.”

The cast of the production is virtually unchanged these past six years and includes Will Carseldine, Eugene Gilfedder, Nelle Lee and, among others, Bryan Probets.

Gilfedder, arguably our greatest living thespian, is Scrooge. He was born to play this role and considers it something of a sacred duty.

“It’s wonderful to be doing it again,” Gilfedder says. “It’s very satisfying, And it’s a privilege. The wonderful thing about the novella by Dickens is that it became so popular that people were reawakened to the whole spirit of Christmas. Dickens’ works are full of compassion.”

It was the time of the Industrial Revolution and those “dark satanic mills” that William Blake wrote about. There was poverty amid wealth and progress, which relates the story to today.

In case you have forgotten, the story takes place on Christmas Eve when, deeply entrenched in his own misery (misery he’s happy to pass on to his close employee Bon Cratchit), Scrooge receives a visit from four ghosts who whisk him away on a journey through Christmases past, present and future.

Along the way he revisits fragments of his life and is faced with a number of choices. Redemption is his for the taking but is Scrooge capable of changing his ways before it is too late?

You probably know the answer but that doesn’t dim the power and joy of this story. And Gilfedder is nothing short of brilliant in the role he was born to play.

This production features live music and some yuletide carolling, innovative video design, lavish costumes and, of course, snow.

I don’t want it to sound too worthy, though. It also has light-hearted moments. Gilfedder says one of the things he loves about doing the role is “hearing children’s laughter”. “That’s a sustaining memory,” he says.

Gilfedder, who has been busy recently on the set of the film How to Make Gravy (he plays one of the main character’s brothers) says that under the expert guidance of Futcher he and the cast try to make A Christmas Carol fresh each year.  They come to it with renewed enthusiasm.

Following its runs at QPAC, the production will travel to Canberra Theatre Centre as a follow-up to last year’s sold-out season in the national capital.

A Christmas Carol, Concert Hall, QPAC, December 8-14  

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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