First published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol, about the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, returns to Melbourne to delight audiences at the Comedy Theatre, this holiday season.
This smash-hit Old Vic production of Dickens’ immortal classic of a reformed man (a version by jack Thorne) is furnished with all the old familiar characters, including the ailing Tiny Tim, and the woefully poor but sincere Mrs. Cratchit.
Actor Stephanie Lambourn was first involved in the Old Vic production of A Christmas Carol two years ago as part of the San Francisco cast and last year when the production first came to Australia at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne.
“Performing the production in Melbourne last year was the first time I had performed in Australia in about fifteen years,” says Lambourn who has spent much time training and performing in the UK and performing in the USA. “I’m originally from Brisbane and my family now all call Victoria home, so it was extremely special to finally be able to share this story with Australian audiences and of course to do so at home with my family in the audience.
Lambourn plays the character of Emily Cratchit, better known as Tiny Tim’s Mum, as well as understudying both the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present.
“All three women, in fact all the women in Jack Thorne’s script are strong, fearless, passionate with strong points of view, ” says Lambourn who has a very soft spot for Mrs Cratchit having played her for the last couple of years.
“Dickens’ describes her as ‘dressed but poorly in a twice-turned gown but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence’. The Cratchit family represent the hard-working poor, determined to make the very best out of their situation in life. Emily Cratchit is a woman, who wants the very best for her family. She brings on a pitiful goose for the Christmas dinner, but still takes pride in preparing the meal for her family. I think there are many who can identify and love the earnestness of this woman.”
A Christmas Carol is set in Victorian England and thematically reveals much of Dickens’ own concerns about the treatment of the poor. Lambourn says it is a story of redemption, social injustice, forgiveness, family and of course love. “The political climate around the world is so very divisive at the moment and wealth inequality is growing more rapidly,” says Lambourn. “We all have a Scrooge within us: capable of ignoring problematic and uncomfortable situations and at the same time, all have a capacity for immense generosity. It is a very human story, and one which I believe will always be relevant.”
The story has undergone a number of incarnations since its first publication in 1843 and its long relationship with audiences and readers has made it a literary classic. Lambourn believes this is because a story of redemption and hope is a very powerful story. “I believe there is a character in the story for everyone to identify with and also be challenged by. I think we all wish to be the very best versions of ourselves at Christmas, and this story is a yearly reminder of that wish. As Fred says, ‘I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.'”
This edition by Thorne pays homage to Dickens’ novella by including much of the original text. Lambourn reveals that there are some exciting and unexpected additions and viewpoints, which she believes offer a greater insight into the character of Scrooge.
Lambourn says rehearsal is always her favourite part of performing. “It doesn’t get better than having the opportunity for endless exploration and discovery. Many of the ensemble cast have returned this year and getting to create the show again with friends and new colleagues has been a great gift. Returning to this show, with the same creatives feels like coming home.”
As an actor Lambourn is drawn to characters who have strong inner worlds. She reveals that she was quite shy in her youth and suspects that is why she strongly identifies with these kinds of characters. “In my 20’s I was cast a lot in ingénue parts – a lot of broken hearted, falling in and out of love etc In the last five years, I have been cast in a lot of strong, fearless “unlike able” characters and I have loved it. I’ve learned so much about myself playing these roles and have found an inner strength and resilience that I didn’t know I had.”
And what better voice than Lambourn’s could be used to encourage audiences to spend their holiday season with Dickens’ uplifting, A Christmas Carol.
“I had the opportunity to watch our final dress rehearsal as I had a minor ankle sprain and felt that it would be better to rest ahead of our first preview. Despite this being the third year that I have acted in this production, I have never actually watched the show from an audience perspective. It ended up being quite an emotional experience. To see how all the technical elements come together was simply incredible. There is a reason this Old Vic production won 5 Tony awards. We are blessed to have a Scrooge (this year played by Owen Teale) whose generosity and passion for this story is infectious. I have been involved in and also have seen many other versions/productions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ on stage and of course on film. The Old Vic adaptation conceived by Matthew Warchus, written by Jack Thorne is complex, joyous, immersive and deeply moving. The collective experience of theatre is like nothing else. I consider it a very great honour to share Christmas with Melbourne audiences.”
Playing until January 7