Interview: David Burt, A Christmas Carol

Antic Disposition’s critically acclaimed production of A Christmas Carol returns to Middle Temple Hall this festive season, with Olivier Award nominated star of the West End David Burt in the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Adapted for the stage by Antic Disposition’s artistic directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero, the show combines Charles Dickens’ classic tale with a score of original songs inspired by the carols of a traditional Victorian Christmas.

“It may sound strange but I feel quite affectionate towards the old grump. He’s like an old friend now!” says David, who’s returning to the role of Scrooge in this production for the third time. “People sometimes think of the character as a bit one dimensional, but for me there’s always something new to discover. Dickens describes him as being ‘as solitary as an oyster’ and you have to ask yourself what sort of experience can drive a person to shut themselves off from the rest of the world as completely as Scrooge has done. That’s really interesting!”

Photo credit: Scott Rylander

Over 170 years after it was written, A Christmas Carol remains one of the world’s best-loved festive stories. David believes this is largely due to its continuing relevance: “One of the most brilliant things about the story is the way it combines a celebration of Christmas with a cautionary tale about what happens if we don’t respect its message,” he explains. “The need for love, charity and understanding remains as strong today as when Dickens wrote the book in 1843.”

The return of A Christmas Carol marks the end of another successful year for Antic Disposition, whose recent productions include cathedral tours of Henry V and Richard III. “It’s such a friendly company, and several of the actors have been doing this show as long as I have, so getting back together is always fun,” says David.

Although this is the fourth outing for the show, which was previously performed in 2012, 2014 and 2015, this time around it’s been revised and expanded for performance by a cast of actor musicians. David believes it’s this musical aspect of the production that makes it stand out from the crowd. “This year there’s new music, and more of it – and this time the actors are playing instruments as well as the band. I think the music is what really lifts this version. It’s all played and sung live and really conjures up a Christmas atmosphere. Plus there are a couple of new bits of stage business this time that I won’t spoil for you!”

Photo credit: Scott Rylander

In addition, the show is performed once again in a unique and stunning venue – London’s Middle Temple Hall. “There’s a direct connection to Dickens, which makes it pretty special he trained there to be a barrister,” David explains. “But it’s also just such a beautiful building, steeped in history, it always feels quintessentially Christmassy here.

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