Play Reading in English – A Christmas Carol by John Mortimer


HK English Speaking Union
  • Mon 15-12-2014 7:15 PM - 2 h

Colette Artbar

Free admission


'Once upon a time - of all the good days of the year, on Christmas Eve - Scrooge sits busy in his counting-house'. This is the story of the miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, whose partner Jacob Marley has just died and whose already parsimonious existence is narrowed to the point of bitter misanthropy and downright meanness by his solitude and money-worship. He blatantly exploits his wage-slave clerk, the long-suffering Bob Cratchit, whose small son, Tim, is crippled but remains cheerful, and he has no regard for or sympathy with unprofitable Christmas sentiments such as goodwill to all men, which he dismisses as 'humbug'.

The story which became one of author Charles Dickens most popular works is a Christmas parable that has long endured and inevitably been adapted into various media. However, John Mortimer, creator of the fictional barrister Rumpole of the Bailey and author of popular plays, such as The Dock Brief and A Voyage Round My Father produced arguably the best version in the Royal Shakespeare Company production in the early 1990s, in its ensemble cast portraying city life in all its variety.

The play is not unlike another popular adaptation of the Dickens novel The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, one of the author's earliest literary efforts. It combines the characteristics of the skinflint of that novel, Ralph Nickleby, with the philanthropist businessmen, the Cheeryble twins, in a single persona, namely Scrooge himself. The latter experiences an epiphany in the supernatural events of the play, coming face-to-face with the ghost of his deceased partner who warns him of the consequences of his hard-hearted and calculating attitude to life. He also meets the spirits of Christmas past, present and future personified, and gradually learns a lesson that is more valuable than all the money he has accumulated. Thus, unlike Nicholas's cold-hearted Uncle Ralph, Scrooge finds that it is not too late to repent of his ways, and that redemption is still possible for him.

There is an obvious message in the play for today's 'greed-is-good', neoliberal-capitalist countries, and looking closer to home, we can detect more than a hint of Scrooge's initial 'bah-humbug!' response to poverty and misery in the recent statement to the New York Times by the Hong Kong Chief Executive, C.Y. Leung which manifested contemptuous indifference to the rights, aspirations and living standards of poorer Hong Kong citizens. Mortimer's play and the story on which it is based continue to say something to us, because it is more than a 19th century fable, but an allegory for any society in any age about the universal human spirit of generosity and the need to preserve it.


Play reading will be conducted in English.

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