At a press conference held at Soho Square’s the House of St Barnabas – which Dickens used as model of London lodgings in A Tale of Two Cities and where the author is believed to have lived after breaking with his wife – Stewart performed an extract from the play and talked about why audiences should come see it.
“Why does London need another production of A Christmas Carol?” the actor asked before answering his own question. “It is a masterpiece. It is a great piece of literature and a great piece of storytelling... it has laughter, jollity, songs – even dancing, if my legs are up to it. There is also death, poverty, denial, unhappiness and profound sadness, but ultimately bright sunlight shines through it.”
When Stewart presented the piece at the West End’s Old Vic over the 1993/4 festive season, A Christmas Carol won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. He has also performed it extensively in the US, including multiple runs on Broadway, although he said at its original try-outs in LA “if it wasn’t for the crew of the Star Ship Enterprise (referring to the TV series which brought him international fame), there would have been nobody in the audience.” In 1999, he played Scrooge in a fully-cast US television adaptation of the Christmas classic.
In A Christmas Carol, which he adapted for the stage himself, Stewart plays the miserly old businessman as well as over 40 other characters including Jacob Marley, his dead business partner, and the spirits who visit Scrooge one night in an effort to help him reform his ways by Christmas morning.
Stewart explained: “There is no set at all, and just five poverty-stricken bits of furniture. It doesn’t have the effects that The Woman in White and Guys and Dolls have, but it does have real storytelling and imagination, and Dickens’ incredible language.”
Though he’s most famous internationally for his sci-fi screen roles, incuding X Men as well as Star Trek, Stewart is a classically trained actor and an honorary associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he’ll return next year as part of the year-long Complete Works festival (See News, 11 Jul 2005). He was most recently on stage in the West End in David Mamet two-hander A Life in the Theatre.
- by Caroline Ansdell