It’s 175 years since the publication of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and next month sees the anniversary of a multi-media dramatisation of the story, performed by my brother Bill, myself and a few of our friends.
A small but select audience (mainly parents) gathered on the evening of Wednesday 4th January 1967 at our Club Room (the summerhouse at the top end of our garden) for the premier.
The performance went well, or so I wrote in my diary, but the scene change from Scrooge’s office to his house didn’t go as quickly as planned and our friend Hilary, who was providing the musical intervals, got through seven Days of Christmas.
It was worth the wait. We were so pleased with our Scrooge’s room set which incorporated the old cast iron fireplace in the corner of the summerhouse and a red horsehair-stuffed armchair which had been relegated there but which was probably getting on for the right period for the play. I recognise an old dressing gown as the basis for my brother’s Scrooge costume on the poster.
I played Jacob Marley but I didn’t need much in the way of ghoulish make-up; a raking spotlight shining from below was enough to create the ghostly effect.
For scenes such as the Cratchits’ house we built animated puppet scenes, inspired by the historic tableaux I’d admired in museums in France, with a sound track recorded by our in-house vocal talents, including my sister Linda and one of her friends, Mary. I think I still have the tape . . .
The Spirit of Christmas Past sported a real candle on his headgear, fashioned from an upturned brass bowl and he wore a large plastic bag sprayed with gold. I think that his headgear was part of a costume used in a previous production of Shakespeare’s Richard III (much abridged as it featured just the final scenes at the Battle of Bosworth).
A possible fire hazard? Ironically a decade or so the young actor who portrayed Christmas Past (and Bob Cratchit), our friend Richard – ‘Rag’ – worked for the Fire Service in California.