A Christmas Carol: An Interview with Helena Payne

To celebrate tonight’s opening of A Christmas Carol, we sat down with the show’s writer, Helena Payne, to discuss all things Dickens. From the inspiration behind her enchanting adaptation, to the festive surprises that lay in store, keep reading to find out more.

Can you tell us more about what audiences can expect from A Christmas Carol?

Our audiences can expect a fresh take on a familiar tale, bold storytelling, phenomenal music, and extraordinary puppetry. You will also get to witness some incredible performances from world-class artists that will leave you breathless.

What inspired you to create a South West retelling?

This is what we do! Our creative inspiration comes from the sublime landscapes that surround us and the rich cultural heritage of the South West.

Every time we approach a story we think about how we can root it in a sense of place and time so it resonates most acutely with the audiences who will enjoy it and the artists who make it. Look out for references to places in Taunton that you might know and some other famous landmarks from the region.

Could you describe the creative process behind developing this version?

It always starts with re-reading the source text several times, and then a conversation about the themes of the story that we are most drawn to. This process was slightly unusual as we worked together to create a structure and then filled it in—offering each other feedback on our work and then incorporating Scott, the Director’s, suggestions.

Even though we are using the framing device of a storybook, there is nothing two dimensional about the performances you will see on stage. This production focuses on the relationship between Scrooge and his little sister Fan, and we explore whether this loss is the catalyst for his descent into misanthropy and bitterness.

Tell us more about the staging and set design!

Since we are exploring this story through the limitless imagination of a young girl as she travels from Taunton to London, this retelling won’t look like any you’ve seen before! Look out for when Charles Dickens’ world collides with that of our contemporary heroine.

A Christmas Carol is known for its deep moral and social themes. How do you address these?

We still live in a world rife with poverty, inequality, and greed, pain, grief, and isolation. Theatre is a space where we can question our audience, and ourselves, and ask what sort of society do we want to live in. We have explored parallels between a modern family and the families we meet in Dickens’ tale, but hope you might find a common humanity with those who share the two hours’ traffic of our stage.

Remember, age isn’t always a marker of acrimony and youth isn’t always joyful.

Can you tell us about the musical elements and how they enhance the storytelling?

Music has the power to move us all and take us to a deeper emotional level. All our music is original and has been composed specifically for this production to amplify each moment, and to give every member of the audience something to hum on the way home!

It contains recurring motifs and festive characteristics appropriate for such a production. How many Christmas carol melodies can you hear sneaking their way into the score?

What makes this production of A Christmas Carol particularly special?

What makes this production special is the incredible team who’ve come together to write, direct, design, light, compose, stage manage, and perform this piece.

A Christmas Carol runs until 30 December. To book tickets, please click here.

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