The Arts theatre has announced that a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol by Susie McKenna and Steve Edis will play this November over the festive period, with Gareth Hale leading the cast as literature’s most famous miser Ebenezer Scrooge.
Joining Hale in the cast – between them playing over 30 characters – are Simon Lipkin, Rebecca Thornhill and Michael Matus, with the voices of Matthew White and Sharon D Clarke and puppeteers Brian Herring and Erin Lister. The production will be presented as the first in a five-year initiative between Tiny Tim Productions and the Arts theatre which aims to offer Christmas entertainment to family audiences. To enhance the experience, the foyer of the venue will be transformed into a Victorian experience offering Dickensian treats.
McKenna and Edis’s musical version of the classic festive tale tells the story of Christmas-hating Sidney and his nephew Danny. Accidentally locked in a theatre, the pair find themselves forced to perform A Christmas Carol in front of a packed audience with only the help of two out-of-work actors, the resident theatre cat and a mouse suffering from stage fright. But this is no ordinary night at the theatre and with a healthy sprinkling of festival charm and a little help from the audience, Dickens’s story is retold as we watch Scrooge rediscover his love of life, mankind and Christmas.
McKenna, writer and director of the production, and Steve Edis, composer and arranger, regularly work together on Christmas productions at the Hackney Empire, where McKenna is Associate Director. As well as the 10 pantomimes she has written for the venue, the most recent being Mother Goose starring Clive Rowe, she is currently directing Caribbean musical Once On This Island. Outside of the East London venue, her theatre credits include directing One Night Stand at the New End theatre and King’s Head theatre, and performing in West End shows Chicago, Ragtime and Cats. Her collaborator Edis has composed music for productions including Cyrano De Bergerac at the Chichester Festival Theatre, King Lear and The Seagull for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and for shows at the National Theatre including The Royal Hunt Of The Sun and The Coast Of Utopia. As a musical arranger his credits include The Entertainer and Cinderella for the Old Vic and work at Regent Park’s Open Air theatre.
Hale is well known for being one half of comedy duo Hale and Pace, for which he is currently in Australia on their eighth national tour. On stage Hale has toured in John Godber’s Bouncers and in Trevor Nunn’s production of My Fair Lady as Alfred P Doolittle. His television credits include a long-standing role in Channel 5’s soap opera Family Affairs and ITV’s hospital drama The Royal.
Amongst Thornhill’s theatre credits are numerous West End shows including Les Misérables, Chicago, Mary Poppins and The Full Monty. In 2001 she was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for her performance in Singin’ In The Rain at the National Theatre. Her most recent role was in the UK touring production of The Witches Of Eastwick, starring alongside Marti Pellow.
Having played Nicky and Trekkie Monster in the original West End cast of Avenue Q, Lipkin’s credits also include Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the New End theatre and numerous pantomime roles in shows including Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. Earlier this year he appeared in Austentatious at the Landor theatre and as William Hewitt in the UK tour of Footloose.
Matus is currently appearing in Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Oklahoma!, having previously played Izzy in New London theatre musical Imagine This. He has also appeared at the Shakespeare’s Globe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Timon Of Athens, as well as The Canterbury Tales and The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe for the RSC.
Appearing as the voice of Bentolina the theatre cat, Clarke appeared in McKenna’s production of Mother Goose last Christmas at the Hackney Empire. She has also been seen in West End musicals including Chicago, We Will Rock You and The Lion King. She is perhaps best known to the public for her role in BBC drama Holby City and as a judge on the reality talent show The Last Choir Standing.
As the voice of Charlie the frightened mouse, White’s West End credits include Ragtime, The Phantom Of The Opera, Chicago and Les Misérables. On screen he has been seen in television shows including Law And Order UK, Dr Who and Judge John Deed. White and Clarke’s puppets will be designed by Scott Brooker who, alongside theatre work for shows including Dick Whittington, Mother Goose and Cinderella at the Hackney Empire, was head puppet-maker for Spitting Image and spent eight years working in association with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
A Christmas Carol runs at the Arts theatre from 11 November (press night 25 November) and is booking until 10 January.