The first time I did Christmas Carol, five years ago, Scrooge’s debt board only had three names on it, written in chalk on crepe paper taped over a pub blackboard. That was in Manchester. We had built into an old “Hooters” restaurant. We had hessian closing off the roof, chandeliers made out of polystyrene, and lots of good will. It was glorious. As part of the spirit of Christmas Yet to Come I had to instinctively understand that there was something under the crepe paper next to my great big chair, and tear it off to reveal “RIP Ebenezer Scrooge.” It was a cognitive leap that required me to park my rational faculties. Scrooge, for a moment, was magically psychic. Fine if the audience get it, and they did.
Since then we’ve rolled this beautiful show around going hi tech to low tech and back again. We’ve done it in a pub, a West End theatre, a village hall in Rochdale, a warehouse in Shoreditch, and the room in York’s Guildhall where the £200,000 Scottish ransom for Charles the First was counted in 1647. This year we’ll be back in York for a week in an equally historic room that we have to treat with respect. But first, we are in a custom space at Theatre Deli Sheffield, where we can build what we want.
We have made something that already pleases us. It’s really exciting, even if lots of our surfaces and dressing has been aggressively eaten by other shows. I guess I can do without Ebenezer’s creepy bird. We can make this show in a pub with nothing but a board and some paper. Everything else is just noise. Still it’s good to try and make nice noise. We wouldn’t be us if we didn’t.
This is the first year the show has been in Sheffield. The first few weeks look like small houses, as we are not known here and Christmas is still a long way off. But I can say with confidence that it’s going to be a glorious show.
This little Christmas job is the only gig I’ve done for which I get repeatedly stopped on the street. Funny considering the audience is necessarily small because of catering. But often someone leaps out of my day and tells me wonders like “We were on a first date at your show and now we’re married.” Or “You’re Scrooge aren’t you! That was our first night living in London and we both went home so happy to have moved to this city. You welcomed us to London. Thank you.”
Or the more frequent “Can you tell us where and when so we can book again with our family? We have X number of guaranteed ticket sales.” “No. I can’t. I’m sorry. It’s completely random and there’s no website.” People stumble on it, love it, and come back if they can work out how. There are few enough seats that it’s a treasure hunt.
We had a guy propose once during a show- (he had given us advance warning and the producer laid on a choir for him to sing with, projections of their life together and loads of confetti cannons.) I’ll never forget it. We sat her in Scrooge’s Power Chair to play a game. She blindfolded herself and he came and sang to her there. She thought she was just going to be playing a game but thankfully it wasn’t an unpleasant surprise for her. She said yes. They came back the next year to actually follow the show. We gave them free tickets. His line: “I couldn’t focus for the first half for nerves,” her line: “I couldn’t focus for the second half for nerves…” Sweet.
It’s coming together slowly… Bed now.