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The Show
 
Christmas Carol
The Cast
The Story
The Adaptation
The Storyteller
The Show
The Comedy
Reviews
CVs

"Steve Nallon's Christmas Carol is like a great big box of chocolates: plenty of variety, each morsel a gentle delight, equally good on your own or sharing with friends and firm favourites regularly popping up"
Reviews Gate

"... how well it captures the atmosphere, flavour, and intention of the story -- despite a wicked send-up of all its characters and conventions."
The Stage

"[Nallon] draws in his audience with a spellbinding performance."
Warwickshire Evening Telegraph

"... an impressive impersonator... but it is not just the voices -- Nallon has the mannerisms of Robin Williams, Woody Allen, Anne Robinson or Cilla Black down to a tee."
Birmingham Evening Mail

"Nallon knows how to charm an audience and his Christmas Carol is not only a feel-good romp, but a triumph of talent over special effects."
The Metro

The Cast

In Steve Nallon's magical and inventive new one-man show, the impressionist, actor and comedian invites you to join him and his 'troupe of characters' in a unique and very contemporary telling of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. Using his vast array of voices, Steve has assembled one of the biggest stellar celebrity casts imaginable - including Robin Williams, The Flintstones, Woody Allen, Ozzy Osbourne, Alastair Sim, Frank Skinner, Dame Maggie Smith, David Beckham, Tony Blair, Patricia Routledge, Ann Widdecombe, Kenneth Williams, John Hurt, Alan Bennett, Sir Lawrence Olivier, and many, many more - to make this retelling of the most loved of all Christmas ghost stories truly an unforgettable, comic and joyous event.

 

Featuring

  • Robin Williams
  • Alastair Sim
  • Patricia Routledge
  • Jonathan Ross
  • Kermit the Frog
  • David Jason
  • Frank Skinner
  • John Hurt
  • The Chuckle Brothers
  • Sir Ian McKellen
  • David Dickenson
  • Mickey Mouse
  • Graham Norton
  • Ann Widdecombe
  • Woody Allen
  • Lord Olivier
  • Paul O'Grady
  • Tom Paulin
  • Lloyd Grossman
  • 'Father Ted'
  • David Frost
  • Peter Kay
  • Homer Simpson
  • Alan Bennett
  • David Beckham
  • Kenneth Williams
  • Baroness Thatcher
  • Sir John Gielgud
  • Cilla Black
  • Germaine Greer
  • Tony Blair
  • Penelope Keith
  • Julian Clary
  • Sir Derek Jacobi
  • James Mason
  • Julie Andrews
  • Chris Tarrant
  • 'The Flintstones'
  • Dame Maggie Smith
  • Wallace and Gromit
  • Anne Robinson

The Story

A Christmas Carol is one of best known stories in the world. It is the archetypal tale of the regeneration of the human spirit that touches all who come across it. A Christmas Carol, in the tradition of a winter's tale of old, is now part of the fabric of Christmas itself. The story, of course, centres on the solitary Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited one Christmas Eve by the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley. Scrooge is told that if the spirit within man doesn't walk forth among his fellow men in life "it is condemned to do so after death". Marley, the herald of the tale, then tells Scrooge that Scrooge has been given a chance to change his solitary ways. To this end, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future will haunt him over the Christmas season.

On Scrooge's magical journey, Scrooge sees what in life he has been blind to for so long. Confronted with images of his past, present and future Scrooge reaches a crisis point, yet by being allied and conjoined again with all aspects of his life that he had previously been unwilling to see,

Scrooge becomes a new man, reborn of himself or "quite a baby", as he excitedly notes. Now he can embrace the world instead of shy away from it.

A Christmas Carol, one of the world's great stories, holds out the equally great hope that each individual is capable of change at the deepest and most spiritual level by first seeing into themselves in order then to reach out to others. And Christmas time is the period of year of all the festivals in the Christian calendar which, because of the coming together of family and friends, offers the greatest opportunity for such human contact.

Adapting A Christmas Carol and the Character of Scrooge

There are so many riches in the Dickens story of A Christmas Carol that the adapter has any number of approaches and wealth of images to draw on for their individual focus. Scrooge's 'journey' can be presented as a magical fantasy or as simply a dream, and even as a very real nervous breakdown. And the thematic focus of individual adaptations of the story can range from the spiritual to the economic. In some versions the Cratchit family feature strongly as almost the lead characters and in others they have minor supporting roles. And in the original Dickens text there are so many insights into Scrooge's life and the lives of all the various characters that no one dramatised version could present them all.

It is often from one of these personal incidents presented in the Dickens original that the adapter finds the spine of their version of the story. In Steve Nallon's Christmas Carol that image is the boy Scrooge and his imaginative world of play.

On his visit to his boyhood school, Scrooge tells the Ghost of Christmas Past that he, the older Scrooge, can still conjure up in his mind all his favourite characters from his favourite childhood reading as if they were real flesh and blood. He can see in his mind's eye Ali Baba, Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday, just as he could when he was a boy. Here we see a man of real imagination yet, as Dickens tells us, not one of his colleagues would ever have considered there was anything of 'fancy' about Scrooge. The fascinating drama of the scene is that when the older Scrooge creates in his mind his boyhood friends, we are not seeing Scrooge as a boy but as the child reborn in the adult again able to see what a boy with 'fancy' could and can see. Once upon a time, Dickens shows us, this boy Scrooge had such a vivid imagination but somehow on his life's journey to adulthood fancy, play and pretending were all stamped out.

In Steve Nallon's Christmas Carol the dramatic and theatrical focus is on rekindling the imagination, hopes and yearning of "the dreamer who stopped dreaming", to borrow a phrase direct from this adaptation. 'Dreaming' here becomes not only one of the ways of explaining what is happening to Scrooge in the story but also an expression of his heart and mind that he has been missing out on all these years. In essence, Steve Nallon's Christmas Carol is saying that if you cut yourself off from this aspect of your life then it is likely that you will lose other human connections as well.

This adaptation represents a very personal perspective on the story and that is the need for the child always to imagine and play, and further the need for the grown-up child in the adult never quite to lose that child like level of 'fancy', to use the Dickens nineteenth-century expression.

The Storyteller

Charles Dickens is not just one of the great imaginative writers of all time he is also a superb storyteller. As a narrator, Dickens is second to none. The way he tells a story makes his audience, albeit in the privacy of their own armchairs, think they are sharing the tale with a group of friends. The famous phrase Dickens uses to describe the nearness of the Ghost of Christmas Past to Scrooge - as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in spirit at your elbow - brilliantly summing up the intimate style Dickens as the 'Narrator' creates for his audience. Dickens's deliberately conversational turns of phrase suggest a closeness that makes the event he is describing appear as if it is taking place there and then, right in front of you. It is dramatic narrative writing at its very best. But you'd expect that because Dickens was not just a writer of descriptive prose but also an actor and performer. Not surprisingly therefore his 'readings' of his work, especially of A Christmas Carol, became legendary theatrical events. Steve Nallon's Christmas Carol keeps many of the original narrator's unrivalled descriptions, but it is the 'casting' of his characters using famous celebrity impressions that a truly contemporary style is created. Dickens himself was said to be a clever mimic, so even this most individual of versions is in some ways simply following in the footsteps of its great originator.

The Show

Steve Nallon's Christmas Carol despite being based on one of the most frequently told stories in the world is nevertheless a unique theatrical presentation. One might even describe the show as 'post-modern'. Not only does it to mix high and low culture so that classical actors rub shoulders with game show hosts, the show is also very post-modern in that the style of theatrical presentation is constantly in flux. One minute the audience are expected to be mourners at a funeral, the next they are friends of Mrs Cratchit invited into her home for a Christmas gossip. In the future shadows of what will be for Scrooge if he does not change his way, the audience theatrically takes on the role of 'The Ghost of Christmas Future'. Some of the characters in the show know they are in 'a show' but others do not, which leads to comically theatrical exchanges when they appear in the same scene.

What makes Steve Nallon's Christmas Carol so different from the many adaptations of this story in the past is not just his brilliant character impressions but also their imaginative and theatrical contribution to the show.

Steve Nallon's Christmas Carol is intelligent, mature family entertainment. Although it has all the adult themes of loss and death found in the Dickens original and theatrically includes impressions such as Julian Clary, there is nothing that would disturb a child or indeed cause too much offence. The show is very much enjoyed by families with children as young as twelve or so (though a knowledge of the story is very useful for children before seeing this adaptation). Twelve year olds may not always recognize every member of the celebrity cast, but they certainly delight in the different voices and characterizations.

The Comedy

All the well-known characters of the story are played by famous contemporary celebrities of the present or iconic figures of the past. Some are actors but here are also politicians, television presenters, sports personalities and cartoon voices. And each 'performer' brings with them not just a recognizable persona that cleverly reflects the character they are playing, but also their own distinct theatrical style. Patricia Routledge as Mrs Cratchit is presented as if she is in an Alan Bennett monologue, talking to the audience as if they were one of her confidants. Robin Williams as Scrooge's nephew Fred delivers a eulogy to the audience as if he were doing one of his stand-up routines. Graham Norton at the Fezziwig Christmas party actually goes into the audience to play a game of 'Christmas Forfeits' as only Graham Norton could. The comedy of the show comes not just from a series of funny voices cleverly cast but an ever-changing theatrical style where the 'audience' changes its identity as often as the shape-shifting performer.

The Themes

Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol is one of the most loved stories of all time. And 'Time' and how we understand it is one of its major themes. In the story as told by Dickens, time collapses. The time Scrooge is away with Spirits is not as in most adaptations just one night but in fact, as Dickens makes clear, the whole Christmas season of twelve days, if not longer. The time Scrooge is away with the Spirits cannot be measured by minutes, hours and days. It is clear though that that is exactly how Scrooge does think of time, that is, as something that should and can only be measured by the ticking clocks and the chiming of bells on the hour, both heavily featured in the original narrative.

Fred, Scrooge's nephew, though offers Scrooge a different perspective. He sees Christmas time "as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time:

the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely." This view of time is more conceptual than literal. Part of the journey of Scrooge is to learn to think of time more in this way. So although Scrooge visits his time past, his time present and his time future, and is fundamentally changed by each of them, what really matters is that to be the complete 'Scrooge' he must live, as he says himself, "in the Past, the Present, and the Future". So when Scrooge says, "The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me" what he is really expressing is the need of mankind on his and her individual life journey to be at one with all aspects of their personal 'selves' and also in communion with all other 'selves', our "fellow-passengers to the grave", as Fred describes them. If this new thinking is achieved time will be always be measured by love and not by the numbers on a wall clock.

In some senses what Dickens is describing is almost a New Age spirituality and philosophy. In practice the legacy of Scrooge's redemption in the story is simply found in his willingness to greet and share a 'Merry Christmas' with all those he meets. The old Scrooge, of course, refused to do this and it damaged him. The new Scrooge, who lives for a while outside of time, sees all the connections of his life and of his life to others and so becomes a changed man. He becomes a man of the community in communion with his fellow souls. Doubtless he changed some of employment and financial practices along the way, but the focus throughout the Dickens original story, and Steve Nallon's adaptation, is for Scrooge to think and feel in a spiritual and communal sense about the true purpose of his time on this earth. To concentrate on asking, as some do, what exact changes did Scrooge make in his day to day business dealings misses the point of the story. What Scrooge learns from his experience is not just the need to connect to himself but to seek out humanity in all its manifestations and, as Dickens notes, he "found that everything could yield him pleasure". Scrooge gains not so much a moral, social or even religious conscience but more a new spiritual understanding. Dickens tell us Scrooge "knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge." That knowledge is a special way of seeing the world. And our place and time in it.

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Reviews

The most remarkable thing about Steve Nallon's hilarious one-man show at The Door, is how closely he has based the narrative on Charles Dickens's original and how well it captures the atmosphere, flavour intention of the story -- despite a wicked send-up of all its characters and conventions.

Nallon playing Alastair Sim playing Scrooge is as simple as it gets. The audience has also to get its head round Alan Bennett playing a charity collector or Nallon playing Mrs Cratchit in the persona of Patricia Routledge playing Hyacinth Bucket. No one is safe in this gleeful pageant of characters, from Germaine Greer to Delia Smith, Loyd Grossman to Jonathan Ross, Ann Widdecombe to David Beckham.

All he has to do is whip off one pair of glasses and substitute another as he switches seamlessly from character to character without losing the essence or the flow of the narrative. He roots the story on a simple set and punctuates the script with excursions into the audience to offer mince pies or to embarrass individuals. Music and sound from Richard Hammarton add period detail, fun and ghostliness in a glorious antidote to Christmas.

Pat Ashworth,
The Stage

Reviews

Star voices really make Carol Sing

A cast of leading names from the world of television, film and sport have come together for a festive special at the Birmingham Rep. If a production including David Beckham, Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Ian McKellen and Homer Simpson sounds too good to be true, that's because it is.

But their voices add an unusual twist to the classic Christmas Carol, performed by just one man -- Steve Nallon. Nallon is an impressionist as well as a skilled actor and narrator. The former member of the Spitting Image team draws in his audience with a spellbinding performance. If you are used to the full-blown Dickens extravaganza, this takes some getting your head round.

But, entertaining impressions aside, the show brings home the true meaning of the story and will certainly put you in a festive mood.

Jonathan Goode,
Warwickshire Evening Telegraph

Reviews

There's hope at Christmas

Christmas would not be Christmas with out a staging of Charles Dickens's famous story about the mean and selfish Ebenezer Scrooge.

But this is a Christmas Carol with a difference.

A one-man show, it comprises impersonator Steve Nallon narrating the story and acting everyone of the characters -- but each one in the guise of a famous person.

Nallon is an impressive impersonator -- one moment taking off David Beckham and the next Margaret Thatcher. And in a 90-minute show he works his way through a seemingly endless array of characters.

But it is not just the voices, Nallon has the mannerisms of Robin Williams, Woody Allen, Anne Robinson or Cilla Black down to tee. And he has placed them in their most appropriate parts. So Tony Blair is the young Scrooge, who gives up everything in order to earn money, Alastair Sim is his older self and Mickey Mouse is a young child spurned by Scrooge in the street.

Dame Maggie Smith is the Ghost of Christmas Past whose clipped voice and slightly admonishing tone shames Scrooge into realising where he has gone wrong. And Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket in the comedy Keeping up Appearances is the hearty Mrs Cratchit.

The intimate space of The Door, the second stage at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, means Nallon can easily connect with the audience -- and even involve them where necessary. And despite it sparse staging and lack of special effects, it retains that good will feel -- by the end Scrooge is redeemed and we all leave knowing there is hope at Christmas.

Diane Parkes,
Birmingham Evening Mail

Reviews

A delightful way to spend a couple of hours

Steve Nallon's Christmas Carol is like a great big box of chocolates: plenty of variety, each morsel a gentle delight, equally good on your own or sharing with friends and firm favourites regularly popping up. And of course you don't have to worry about the calories.

For those who don't remember, Nallon endeared himself to many of us as the voice of Margaret Thatcher in Spitting Image (though he did a great many other impressions too.)

In his one-man show, dressed in casual Victorian garb, he ambles through a telling of the seasonal favourite assisted by an amazing cast. Scrooge's nephew is played by Robin Williams, for instance:

Mrs Cratchit by Hyacinth Bucket while Del takes a moment out of Fools and Horses to create Bob Cratchit. There are more stars in this cast than people in Birmingham's new Bull Ring shopping centre. Ian McKellen pops in, as does Maggie Smith, Dame Edna Everage and Anne Robinson. Even Kermit, Homer Simpson and the Flintstones get in on the act. As does the Iron Lady herself.

Nallon moves swiftly from one to another: it's somewhat amazing that he remembers who he's supposed to be at any one time. And the whole is held together by an excellent portrayal of Alastair Sim -- and who's going to be watching that film again this year?

Great to see Nallon proving life exists after Maggie (I steer clear of all political comment) and a totally delightful couple of hours.

Rod Dungate,
Reviews Gate

Reviews

Making a favourable impression

Along with contemporaries such as Rory Bremner, Alistair McGowan and Steve Coogan, Steve Nallon's impressions helped forge a new era of satire on the TV series Spitting Image. Working at the old Central Television studios in Birmingham during the 1980s and 1990s, Nallon provided voices for puppets such as the Queen Mother and Alan Bennett -- and was particularly celebrated for his portrayal of Maggie Thatcher.

This good-natured one-man show taps into Nallon's extensive career, taking a diverse range of impressions and weaving them into Charles Dickens's classic A Christmas Carol. It's unfair -- given the huge 'cast' of characters and the need to switch between different voices at speed -- to expect perfection, and Nallon wisely saves his best impressions (such as Dame Maggie Smith, Kenneth Williams, Basil and Sybil Fawlty, Patricia Routledge and Alastair Sim) for the prominent points in the story.

Sometimes the lack of set and props can get in the way of the narrative, but it's difficult not to admire Nallon's unflagging energy and the show's mad, whirlwind invention. Nallon knows how to charm an audience and his Christmas Carol is not only a feel-good romp, but a triumph of talent over special effects.

Annette Rubery,
Metro

Reviews

Tightrope walk succeeds with wobbles

Steve Nallon is best known as the voice of Spitting Image's Margaret Thatcher, who makes a brief but chilling appearance in this famous denunciation of heartlessness.

But as a Birmingham-based performer you sense he is also a bit of a local institution, a status which this show seems likely to enhance. He holds the stage alone for nearly two hours, with only his considerable skill as a mimic for company.

The problem with doing a much-adapted classic with a conjured supporting cast including Alastair Sim, Maggie Smith and Robin Williams (these three in featured roles, with many more familiar voices making more fleeting appearances) is the same problem you find with all impressionists' acts. They tend to be a sequence of 'turns' with contrived links that can tend towards the excruciating.

Nallon's answer to this problem is to embrace it, often highlighting the cracks with horrific puns rather than trying to paper over them. "Look at me -- I'm corny!", he seems to be saying, making groaning part of the audience's pleasure.

The impressions themselves can be a little inconsistent, ranging from the almost recognisable (Father Ted, Trevor Brooking) to the almost uncanny (Kenneth Williams, Sir John Gielgud).

Just as the radio has better scenery, solo performances can often be remarkably successful in evoking atmosphere, but this is tricky when an early Victorian world has to embrace a gaggle of contemporary celebrities. At the end I thought Nallon had just about brought off this difficult balance, but the appeal of the show is very much that of watching someone walk a tightrope.

Terry Grimley,
The Birmingham Post

CVs & Acknowledgements

STEVE NALLON, Writer and Performer

 

TOBY FROW, Director

Directing credits include: A View From The Bridge (Birmingham Repertory Theatre & West Yorkshire Playhouse); Equal Partners, The Bill Cantor Story, The Hope, Two's Company, A Day Like Today, War Tony And The Great White Shark (all Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough); Peer Gynt (Battersea Arts Centre); Of Mice And Men (Southwark Playhouse); Blackberries (Orange Tree, The Room).

RICHARD HAMMARTON, Music Composition

Music composer on Dealer's Choice in 2003 for Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Richard recently wrote the music for Kombat at the National Theatre Studio, as well as writing, arranging and supervising the music for A Raisin In The Sun at the Young Vic. Outside of the theatre, Richard has written for TV in the shape of Sex 'n' Death, The Ship and a quiz show No Win No Fee for the BBC. Currently a Macleans toothpaste advert features his music. He also had a hand in the music for the ITV series Take Me, and several episodes of Silent Witness. Alongside composition, Richard has worked for composers John Harle, Carl Davis and Matthew Scott, and played cello for various TV shows and the National Theatre.

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