A Christmas Carol, one of Charles Dickens’ most famous works, is about to be reimagined on stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company this winter. I spoke with its expert advisor, Professor John Bowen, to learn about the process of producing a theatrical production.
Lois Rushworth: How did and when you get involved in the project?
John Bowen: About a year or so ago, the playwright David Edgar, who did a famous adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, a long time ago for the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), was asked to do this adaptation of The Christmas Carol. I’ve known David since I was a student, and I had bumped into him. So, we started chatting – he came up to York, then I went down to him in Birmingham, and gradually we just had more and more conversations about it. He asked me to go to the RSC, where I met the director, and went to the first read-through in London with the actors – that was amazing. The director asked if I would be the expert advisor to the show, and if I would do a kind seminar for the actors. I talked about the history, the background of Dickens and the story. I’ve also written an introductory essay for the programme. Then I’m going down again to see the run through of the whole show. With David, we’ve emailed a lot, and he’s asked about Dickens, about his background, history, that kind of thing.
LR: How did you begin the process of expert advisor?
JB: David and I actually started talking at a party. And we had a couple of meetings that were very focussed. We had one meeting at the RSC in London for a whole day. David had an agenda of things he wanted to know, as he researches his plays very carefully. We had another meeting in York, where we worked through the text, and then I read the drafts through.
LR: Did you face any obstacles throughout the project?
JB: I thought it was a really happy, sunny experience. It made me see things in the play that I hadn’t seen before. I certainly started noticing the soundscape, all the noises. And a question was: where do you put the interval? That’s not a question when you read the novel, but when you’re staging it, which moment in the whole story is the interval? What do you want to send the audience out thinking about? Seeing it from that point of view was really exciting.
This exciting, festive, and electrifying production is on stage at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 27th November 2017- 4th February 2018.