When Charles Dickens wrote and published A Christmas Carol in 1838 the holiday was not the huge commercial enterprise it has now become. In fact, most of the items we associate with Christmas were not even part of the Victorian festival. Prince Albert is credited with popularising the custom of Christmas trees, but he didn't marry Queen Victoria and become part of the Royal Family until February 1840, and it would be another six years before Tom Smith invented Christmas crackers. I hope you're beginning to get the picture.
Dickens's story of the miser who is haunted by three ghosts, comes to his senses, helps the poor Cratchit family and turns into a man who 'knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge' is practically part of our folklore. The writer may have devised the story as a way to make some quick money, but it is shot through with his social concerns and the beliefs that people should become more altruistic and take care of those less fortunate than they are. The novella became a success in its own lifetime, was staged as a play, became the most popular of all Dickens's works when he performed them in public, and even encouraged the Queen of Norway to send presents to crippled London children (like Tiny Tim in the story) in the early twentieth century.
A Christmas Carol continues to be read in book form and revived on film and on the stage and is now an integral part of our own Christmases. You may recall Alastair Sim's iconic interpretation of Scrooge in the 1953 film of the book, or Patrick Stewart's updating of the character in 1999. Alternatively you may have seen musical or animated adaptations, or even the film starring the Muppets. The story speaks to all generations and all tastes.
Remaining with a puppet theme, A Christmas Carol is seeing a new revival this festive season. Tim Carroll, who has directed two extremely successful versions of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Richard III, productions that have transferred from Shakespeare's Globe to London's West End, is bringing a musical puppetry interpretation to the Waterloo East Theatre. The event has been adapted, and will be performed by, Dominic Gerrard. It promises to 'transport you through Scrooge's life as he journeys out, one bleak Christmas night, with the ghosts that have been sent to reclaim him …'
The production will run at the Waterloo East Theatre between 3 and 15 December. Performances will last for 70 minutes and start at 7.30pm every day except Sunday. It will then move on to the V&A Museum for performances at 3pm on 9 and 16 December before finishing its run (appropriately) at the Dickens House Museum at 48 Doughty Street between 19 and 22 December and 27 and 29 December at 6.30pm. It is suitable for all ages from nine upwards.