After an eventful beginning to the season, Reading Rep theatre company got off to a fantastic start on Tuesday 14, just ten days after their planned start date due to an unfortunate Covid out-break within the cast.

 As you enter the newly renovated space, a fire is crackling, the hot chocolate is brewing, and there is a ghost (or two) ready to tell you a story…

The adaption creates a dynamic collaboration between the old and the new. Ebenezer Scrooge is the miserable boss of Huntley and Palmers, Reading's world-famous biscuit company. With a little help from Christmas Past, Present and Future, will he be able to feel the festive joy this year? You are sure to step back in time with your favourite characters and enjoy the whimsy and wonder of this yuletide production, drawn from the cobbled streets of Reading. 

Despite the nerves and apprehension of beginning the run without the fall back of previews, the work that Reading Rep have created this year has been superb.

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Beth Eyre (writer) and Paul Stacey (director) has adapted the classic Charles Dickens tale, ‘A Christmas Carol’ to be both relatable and timely to both Reading and the modern age.

Speaking to Dave Fishley who plays Scrooge in the original adaption this year he said: “They have done a brilliant job at situating the play in Reading and using those emblematic historic like Huntley and Palmer and Coley. I think all those things situate the play beautifully. Why not situate it in Reading.”

 The original story is very characteristically anchored to the ‘counting house’ which for the kids in the audience could mean anything to them. Beth has created a way to keep the story historically accurate and yet still makes it fun and relatable to the younger generation.

Rick Roberto, who plays ‘Hopkins’ in the production has been working with the company since its inception in 2012. He said: “It gives you that straddle between fantasy and reality that Reading audiences can relate to immediately with all of these reference points.”

“It’s quite nice that scrooge is an incredibly measly old so and so with his profiteering. He’s still doing something that’s producing something fun that kids can relate to.”

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Within this adaption, Beth plays with gender roles in some interesting character twists and turns.

“She brings home some of the themes quite nicely and interestingly because it’s not just someone treating someone badly in a workplace, it’s also a man treating a woman badly in a workplace and all of the things that a woman has to deal with like childcare and being afraid of getting sacked because she has to look after her child.”

One might actually say that the universal themes seem to resonate a lot more in the modern sphere than they might have done in the 1800’s.

The state-of-the-art venue boosts a charming courtyard perfect for Covid friendly intervals and houses a 13-foot light-up Christmas tree. Robust COVID measures have also been put in place including a ticketless system and hand-sanitising units throughout the theatre.

After the chaos of the Covid-19 lockdown of theatres the actors have said that it was exhilarating to get back into the rehearsing room and onstage.

If you want to experience a wonderful alternative to the classic Christmas panto, then Reading Rep are one to watch this season.

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