Next month the historic Middle Temple Hall once again plays host to Antic Disposition’s musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol. I caught up with actor David Burt, who reprises his role as the ill-tempered Scrooge, to find out more about this festive show.
How did you get into acting?
I happened to be born into an intensely theatrical family. Didn’t stand a chance really!
What can audiences expect from this adaptation of A Christmas Carol?
To be moved, entertained and hopefully given lots to discuss afterwards.
What attracted you to the role?
The chance to work in this magnificent environment and to test myself against one of the most universally recognised and iconic characters in English literature. Scrooge has been enacted a thousand ways in a thousand different productions. The challenge is to bring something new and unexpected to the proceedings and hope that if the great man were alive today, he would approve.
How is the production different from previous years?
There is always something different. Aside from the obvious things like new cast members and the various tweaks to music and dramatic style, each year seems to advance its own distinct personality and tone. That’s the exciting thing about returning to this particular production. It always seems newly minted and original.
Why do you think the story still appeals to audiences today?
Many of Dickens’ themes in A Christmas Carol are concerned with the deprivations of the poor, and the neglect and abuse of children, themes, sad to say, that are as painfully relevant now as they were at the height of his success. We no longer have the Poor Law and debtor’s prisons to contend with; yet now we are witnessing the proliferation of food banks, drug addiction, lack of social housing and an escalation of rough sleeping in one of the most wealthy economies in the world. Were Dickens alive today no doubt he’d be railing against these same social injustices. A Christmas Carol continues to prick at our consciences, yet manages, as does Shakespeare, to do so with an abiding understanding and love for humanity, warts and all.
What do you hope audiences take away from the production?
A feeling that they’ve seen the story told anew free of unnecessary tricks or sentiment. Mind you, Dickens was no stranger to sentiment, but beneath it all was his cast iron aspirations for social equality and change. Also Hope. Hope above all things. Music, laughter, and hope, plus an unshakable conviction that though many of his characters might have to jump through hoops of fire in order to achieve redemption, everything will surely turn out all right in the end.
In Scrooge’s case of course, with the help of a few ghosts!
A Christmas Carol plays at London’s Middle Temple Hall from 21 – 30 December.
Photo credit: Scott Rylander