Why A Christmas Carol is just perfect for our times

As Jack Lane says, it is astonishing that 177 years after it was written, A Christmas Carol is still spreading warmth and joy and love everywhere this Christmas.

A Christmas Carol comes to Horsham
A Christmas Carol comes to Horsham

“You see it cropping up everywhere and it is just remarkable”, says Jack who brings his own version to his beloved Capitol in Horsham this festive season (December 12-29).

The point is, as Jack says, that it is a story which has gained even more resonance this year as we head towards our first Christmas of the Covid era: “You do feel that what is happening now has amplified the story even more than ever. My concern has been mental health throughout all of this, and I know that this lockdown is having huge knock-on effects. We have just agreed with the Samaritans that we are going to be collecting for them after every performance.”

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Julie Walters, as patron of Horsham and Crawley Samaritans, has already lent her support to the venue, the production and the collection.

“I am sure that the Samaritans are working harder than they have ever had to before. It is hard for families struggling financially and it is hard for people when their relationships break down.”

And these are issues which link in very strongly with A Christmas Carol and its message of compassion: “You have got the downtrodden man versus the tyrant Scrooge, struggling to make ends meet and reliant on the generosity of the wealthy, which is again what we are asking for Christmas. We are asking people to support the Samaritans at this difficult time.

“It is about being thoughtful of those around us that are perhaps struggling. I spent the day with my nan yesterday. She is 90. I was around there checking and cleaning, and that’s what we all need to be doing more of, more than ever. We need to be checking in on each other, just a phone call, just to make sure that we are all alright.”

For Jack and the Capitol, it’s a case of the right show at the right time – a two-man version of Dickens’ classic which sees Jack share the stage with David Benson. David will be Scrooge; Jack will “dance around him” as all the other characters.

They did it in the studio at the Capitol last year: “If you had told me last year that we would be doing it this year on the main stage as the main Christmas show at the Capitol, I would never have believed it.”

But with its cast of two, plus an ASM and a technician, it is the perfect small-scale show with a big message: “We are going from a cast and crew for putting on a panto of 25-plus to just a four-man outfit. I am almost having survivor’s guilt here. We have lost so much employment for cast and crew. It is terrible. I am flattered and honoured to be doing this, but at the same time I do feel guilt for all the other people who just aren’t able to work at the moment.

“But I just want to keep the Capitol afloat. It is a fantastic venue, and the council have been fantastic at supporting it. Matthew (Effemey, operations manager at The Capitol) who is now running the shop is doing a fantastic job, and the venue is beautiful. I have loved the venue for 17 years, and I still do. It has got a big birthday next year, its 85th, and I am looking forward to celebrating it. It opened as the Ritz cinema in 1936, and hopefully it will be getting the 85th anniversary celebration it deserves.”