A Christmas Carol
This evening the GCSE English Literature students had the wonderful experience of witnessing a live performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Mumford Theatre, Cambridge with their teacher, Krystian Mazurkiewicz and Head of GCSE, Chris Young. This educational visit had two purposes: to give the students the opportunity to experience this landmark text in the Victorian tradition of storytelling but also to help them explore some of the novel’s key themes through the medium of theatre.
The students had been preparing for the visit for a number of weeks in their lessons, reading, analysing, annotating and writing critical essays on some of the novel’s key themes and ideas. We are all aware of the simple allegory presented within this heart-warming Christmas novella but the study of the novel goes deeper into the context of the time in Victorian London with its mass poverty of the ‘hungry forties’ a direct consequence of the industrial revolution. We have studied the social impacts and used these as the basis for engaging with the novel itself, not to mention the personal connections with Dicken’s own family situation and subsequent privation.
This particular performance is special as it takes us back to the ‘storytelling’ traditions of Victorian literature and the author’s own connections to public performances. This novel was after all the first of such performances that Charles Dickens gave of his own work. He enacted it over 150 times and the effect on the public was phenomenal. “The success was most wonderful and prodigious – perfectly overwhelming and astounding altogether!” he said after the first night. This unique opportunity allowed the class to experience what it must have been like to be in the audience as Dickens delivered the heart and soul of his Christian message.
Actor John O’Connor faithfully recreated Dickens’s famous performance of his best-loved ghost story and provided the students with seasonal treat in the spirit of Christmas past, present and future. The trip really added value to the students’ studies and brought a completely fresh perspective on an old classic. Theatre trips such as this one add value to the varied curriculum and create a real buzz before and after the event.
Chris, Head of GCSE, commented: “It was a fantastic evening that transported us back to Victorian Christmas and the tradition of storytelling. The actor was superb holding the audience for the full hour and a half with minimal props and no other actors! I’m sure this will help with students being able to use context and evidence form the novella in their answers. A great experience.”
Student comments included: “I enjoyed the play because it was fun to do something outside of school even though it was directly related to what we are doing in class. Despite being tired after a hard day of study, I really did enjoy the fact that the actor remembered the novel, but was able to add a few extra changes to bring it to life.” (Nicole)
“I really enjoyed the production and thought the whole thing was extremely enjoyable. There were several high points of the show including the part where the ghost of Christmas present came in. Another part that was my favourite part was when Marley’s ghost arrived and the part just before when Scrooge arrived home as I believe this part was performed very well.
Overall I think the production of “A Christmas Carol” was the best I’ve seen and I would certainly recommend this to others that they might see it and better understand the story." (Ryan).
"A fantastically well-conceived performance that gave plenty of scope for comedy, and the exceptional one-man cast did full justice to the Christmas narrative. The ‘play within a play' concept worked fantastically well with the self-consciousness knowing on stage that allowed us to be fully immersed in the emotion of the story. It had everything from redemption to goodwill whilst retaining perfectly its ghostly power to thrill" (Krystian)
All in all, it was a great trip which the students thoroughly enjoyed.