To provide a sense of the rich variety of versions, we selected our readings from three different adaptations from different historical periods. To see what the Carol looked like at the turn of the century, we chose Richard Ganthony’s A Message from Mars, a somewhat freer adaptation that proved to be a popular play through the 1920s. Giving us a Martian messenger in place of ghostly visitors, Ganthony’s play is a sort of sci-fi reimagining of A Christmas Carol. The final scene, in which the transformed man opens hi home to those who have lost everything in a devastating fire at a boarding house brought to mind the recent Grenfell Tower fire, a sobering association that reinforced our sense of Dickens’s continuing relevance.
The second selection was taken from Christopher Durang’s 2005 parody, Mrs Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge, which humorously considers how A Christmas Carol might look if Mrs Cratchit were a modern American mom—stressed out, somewhat angry, and well and truly over this whole Christmas thing. The particular section chosen focused on the play’s unexpected—if apt—invocation of Clarence, the good-doing angel of It’s a Wonderful Life. Clarence and Marley disagree on the most effective means of effecting the wayward individual’s transformation, reminding us of the rich adaptive potential embedded within A Christmas Carol.
The reading ended with Edward Stirling’s 1844 Past, Present, and Future, the first ever dramatization of A Christmas Carol. Stirling’s play represents a very faithful rendering of the text, and as the capstone to this trans-historical romp across much freer appropriations, provided a comforting closure with Tiny Tim’s “God bless us every one!” refrain.
The reading was a lively end to an intellectually rich day. Greg and his crew--Stephen Crane, David Fielder, Rebecca Mondadori, Katy Stephens, and Angus Wright—brought our day to a entertaining and engaging close.