With the winter holidays approaching, theatres are hard at work on their final productions of 2021. I’m taking a look at theatres putting on different versions of A Christmas Carol, a popular selection for the holidays. Reading Rep Theatre in the U.K. is hosting a world premiere of a new adaptation by local-born playwright Beth Flintoff that begins previews on December 3. Following a December 8 opening, A Christmas Carol will run through December 31.
Reading Rep’s Artistic Director, Paul Stacey, directs a talented cast including Beth Eyre, Dave Fishley, Samuel Kyi, Rose McPhilemy, and Rick Romero. The family-friendly production is part of the Reading Rep: Reborn season, which is the first season for the new state-of-the-art theatre. Reading Rep completed the facility in 2021 after raising £1 million during the coronavirus pandemic.
In Flintoff’s adaptation, Ebenezer Scrooge is a boss at Huntley and Palmers, the world-famous biscuit company in Reading. Can the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future help Scrooge get into the joy of the season?
I spoke with actor Samuel Kyi about the new production. Kyi portrays Fred, Young Scrooge, Prisoner, and Alfred Palmer. His theatre credits include After the Storm (Watford Pumphouse). He has appeared on television in iBoy, Faire Trade, and Create Not Hate – That’s Not Me; and on film in Virtually There and HBK: The Prequel.
Which Charles Dickens stories do you like reading?
A Christmas Carol is my favorite one because I was introduced to it very early, around age six.
Do you have a favorite film adaptation?
It’s between Mickey Mouse and the Muppets. I’m leaning towards Muppets.
If you were like an Ebenezer Scrooge, how many ghosts would it take for you to change your ways?
Probably five. [Laughs]
What is it like for you getting to perform in a brand new space?
It’s great. It’s a good size. The set looks amazing. It’s going to be the first Christmas production for the theatre. I think everyone will really enjoy it.
What does it feel like to be back for in-person shows?
It feels great. Theatre has been closed down for a long time. Before this, it was a lot of self-tapes for film and TV. No one was in the room. Even for this [production], I auditioned via self-tape. It wasn’t an in-person audition. The rehearsal process has been in person. It was weird at first because it’s been such a long time. I’ve missed it, but after [some time] I’m feeling in my element now.
What’s your approach to playing multiple characters in this production?
The thing with playing all these characters is that I have to make it different. For [each one], I have to find a different voice, accent, and physicality. I have to make sure the audiences know each character. It’s been fun to experiment, seeing what works and what doesn’t work, and what I will keep or lose for each character. Now we’ve got it down and we’re getting into more detail.
Do you have to do a lot of quick changes?
I have so many costume changes. The costume department has been working with me to make sure that I am happy with the costumes. We’ve made sure it’s easy for me with space between each character for time to change.
What do you like about Beth’s script?
It’s based in Reading, which is well known for biscuits. There’s an area called Coley, which back in the day was very poverty stricken. It was a bad place to go to. That’s where Young Scrooge grew up. It’s about taking a classic [story] and making it relatable to local people. I think [Beth] has done a great job with that.
Do you have a favorite biscuit?
Fox’s White Chocolate. It’s white chocolate biscuit with a hole in it.
Thinking back to when you’ve watched it with family and friends, why do you think A Christmas Carol has stood the test of time?
Many reasons! It’s fun and enjoyable. There are loads of wacky characters. It’s relatable because there’s always that one uncle, family member, or person that doesn’t like Christmas. [For them,] Christmas is so boring and horrible. Then you have the younger ones who go, “Christmas is fun! Come on!”
You have the task of trying to convince your uncle that Christmas is fun. You get them to join in. Because it’s a Christmas [story], every year around Christmas it’ll be revisited and played. It’s a timeless story that is never going to be outdated.
For the schedule and tickets, please visit the Reading Rep Theatre website.