A Christmas Carol endures on stage despite Covid-19

In spite of restrictions, theatres continue to bring Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol to stages and screens this festive season, reports Mark Ludmon

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol UK Roundup 2020

From the moment that Charles Dickens wrote his ghost story A Christmas Carol, it was a hit. Not only did it crystallise many of the festive traditions that continue to this day but it was immediately adapted for the stage. Within three months of its publication in 1843 there were eight different versions being performed at London’s theatres and, 177 years later, its popularity is undiminished on the UK stage. Despite Covid-19 restrictions, there are new productions due to open this December, with social distancing, along with others streaming online.

Watermill Theatre A Christmas Carol
Watermill Theatre – A Christmas Carol rehearsal.

At The Watermill Theatre in Newbury, Berkshire, actor-musicians Pete Ashmore and Tilly-Mae Millbrook will perform all the parts and provide their own musical accompaniment in Danielle Pearson’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol. While Ashmore will play Ebenezer Scrooge, the pair will bring to life all the other characters. Directed by Georgie Staight, it runs from 3 December to 3 January. The theatre’s artistic and executive director Paul Hart sees it as a perfect way to welcome audiences back after the second lockdown. “I think we all need some Christmas joy more than ever and I’ve no doubt this production will deliver exactly that in a bold and innovative new version of this perennial favourite.”  WATERMILL THEATRE WEBSITE

Leeds Playhouse Christmas Carol
Leeds Playhouse – A Christmas Carol. Photo: Andrew Billington

The opening of A Christmas Carol at Leeds Playhouse has been postponed because of the city being placed in Tier 3 lockdown and it is now due to run from December 16 when it is hoped Leeds will move into Tier 2. Written by Deborah McAndrew and directed by Amy Leach, it is a new adaptation, with Jack Lord as Scrooge plus Stephen Collins, Nadia Nadarajah, Dan Parr, Tessa Parr, Lladel Bryant, Everal A Walsh and Lisa Howard. It is scheduled to run until 9 January. BOOK TICKETS

A Christmas Carol Dominion Theatre London
Rehearsals for A Christmas Carol with the London Musical Theatre Orchestra

Brian Conley plays Scrooge in a staged concert production of the musical of A Christmas Carol at London’s Dominion Theatre from 7 December to 2 January. With music from the 24-piece London Musical Theatre Orchestra, it will have a cast of over 50 including Jacqueline Jossa, Matt Jay-Willis, Lucie Jones, Sandra Marvin, Martyn Ellis, Rebecca Lock, Cedric Neal, Sam Oladeinde and Jeremy Secomb. The musical, which premiered in New York City in 1994, features a score by Alan Menken, best known for Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, Newsies, Sister Act and The Little Mermaid, with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, whose credits include musicals Anastasia, Ragtime, Once On This Island and Seussical, and a book by Mike Ockrent (Me and My Girl and Crazy for You).  BOOK TICKETS

A Christmas Carol Bridge Theatre

Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Eben Figueiredo come together on stage to tell A Christmas Carol at London’s Bridge Theatre from 3 December to 16 January. Adapted and directed by Nicholas Hytner, it will see the trio play all the parts, with music by Grant Olding. BOOK TICKETS

A Christmas Carol

After months of closure, the Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple, Devon, will reopen its doors on 17 December to present an updated version of A Christmas Carol. In a one-person show directed by Paul Jepson, Jason Merrells will portray Scrooge through the eyes of an NHS doctor battling the uncertainty and isolation of 2020. Stuart Shanks, director of venues for Selladoor Worldwide, operator of the Queen’s Theatre, adds: “A Christmas Carol has been purposefully produced to represent themes from the current day whilst bringing Charles Dickens classic story of Scrooge and his journey to life.” It runs for five performances to 19 December 2020. BOOK TICKETS

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

No worries about being indoors at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk: its new production of A Christmas Carol will be staged in the street against the backdrop of the 18th-century Angel Hotel. Adapted by the theatre’s artistic director Owen Calvert-Lyons with Ian Jarvis, it will use headphone technology so audiences can fully immerse themselves in Dickens’s world. Running from 11 to 24 December, it features Matthew Cavendish, Melissa Lowe, Rebecca Peyton, Howard Saddler and Paul Sandys. Calvert-Lyons says: “This is our country’s most iconic Christmas story and now feels like the perfect time to tell it. It is a story which celebrates the human condition, a story in which humanity and compassion triumph over greed and selfishness. It’s a story which reminds us why this time of year is so special and The Angel Hotel, where Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers, is the perfect backdrop for this powerful and enchanting Christmas story.”  BOOK TICKETS

A Christmas Carol Green Matthews

Covid-19 has curtailed a tour of A Christmas Carol In Concert by music and storytelling trio GreenMatthews but they will be popping up at the Albany Theatre in Coventry on 18 December (so long as the city moves into Tier 2). Alongside traditional carols, these modern-day balladeers use new lyrics and traditional English folk tunes to create a musical retelling of Dickens’s story. BOOK TICKETS

Nottingham Playhouse Mark Gattiss

Sadly some productions have had to be postponed, such as Nottingham Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story, adapted by and starring Mark Gatiss, which is now scheduled for autumn 2021 including a run at London’s Alexandra Palace Theatre. However, there are others that will still be available online.  BOOK TICKETS

Andrew Lincoln Old Vic In Camera

Andrew Lincoln stars as Scrooge in a production of Jack Thorne’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol at London’s Old Vic Theatre. It will be performed live at the theatre and streamed online from 12 to 24 December, with limited tickets per show. Directed by Matthew Warchus, the adaptation has been staged at the Old Vic, in Dublin and on Broadway since its premiere three Christmases ago. It will also feature Melissa Allan, Rosanna Bates, John Dagleish, Tim van Eyken, Sam Lathwood, Eugene McCoy, Myra McFadyen, Gloria Obianyo, Maria Omakinwa, Golda Rosheuvel, Michael Rouse, Clive Rowe and Sam Townsend.  BOOK TICKETS

A Christmas Carol Guildford Shakespeare Company
Penelope Keith and Brian Blessed will feature in a new online adaptation of A Christmas Carol in a co-production between the Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC) and London’s Jermyn Street Theatre. Adapted by Naylah Ahmed and directed by Natasha Rickman, it will also star Jim Findley as Scrooge alongside Paula James, Robin Morrissey and Lucy Pearson. It will be available to watch online from 17 to 27 December 2020, with only 88 tickets for each performance. GSC co-founder Matt Pinches says: “We’re so excited to be creating this special adaptation of Dickens’s enchanting story. Its themes of compassion and community have never been more important, and this innovative production will light up the hearts of all who see it.”  BOOK TICKETS

Lawrence Batley Theatre Christmas Carol

Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield has teamed up with Front Room Productions to create a new 40-minute online version of A Christmas Carol featuring the voice of Gyles Brandreth as Scrooge alongside a local community ensemble. Adapted and directed by Olivia Race, it tells the classic story using animation by award-winning artists and an original musical accompaniment. It will be available from 2 to 31 December. BOOK TICKETS

Polka Theatre Christmas Carol
Polka Theatre in London is closed until spring 2021 after a major refurbishment but that is not stopping it from giving us some festive family fun. Ian Nicholson and Sam Wilde, the team behind the viral lockdown hit I Want My Hat Back, have created a free 15-minute short film for ages four and upwards. Described as a visually imaginative and funny re-telling of A Christmas Carol, it is performed using a Cardboard Cabinet of Curiosities, accompanied by an original folk-style score. It will be available from 19 December 2020 for anyone who signs up to the Polka Theatre newsletter at polkatheatre.com. 

Some theatres and cinemas will be screening the new film version of A Christmas Carol which is performed by dancers with the voices of actors including Simon Russell Beale as Scrooge, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Carey Mulligan and Lesley Caron, with narration by Sian Philips. It is released in the UK on 4 December.

About Mark Ludmon 251 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre as well as hospitality and drinks after starting out on regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He has also been on the judging panel for the Olivier Awards. He can be found tweeting as @MarkLudmon and writing about theatre at https://markludmon.com.