Fictitious flood causes Dickens of scene in play

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At first glance, the Phoenix Players’ new production of A Christmas Carol may seem like a slightly belated look at the festive season.

But the amateur dramatics group is taking on a unique production of the Dickens classic, with its full title being The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of A Christmas Carol.

Written by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Junior, it’s part of a series by the authors and focuses on the ladies’ attempts to put on A Christmas Carol after their venue is flooded in December.

Explaining the concept behind the production, assistant director Pete Clarke says: ‘What happens is that the Guild were going to do A Christmas Carol at the normal time, but because of a flood it’s been put off.

‘So now, because they have all the props and everything ready, they are putting it on in May.

‘It’s a play within a play. We are putting on a play, and in that the women are putting on a production of A Christmas Carol.’

A comedic farce, the group wanted to put it on in celebration of Dickens’s bicentenary in the city of his birth.

Peter says: ‘We wanted it to have a kind of Dickens theme to it, even though it’s not a traditional work of his.

‘Everything that those women are trying to do is interlocked with their own private way of doing things. A women who has a clothing shop says at one point ‘‘what a lovely dress’’ and then starts advertising her shop.’

He adds: ‘On top of all this the stage manager Gordon, played by Kevin Cordell, is pretty much the only man in the play so has to play various parts.

‘But he’s not an actor and frustrates all the women when they are trying to act with him.’

The whole team behind the production have recently been into St Peter’s Theatre to fill the space with Christmas decorations.

Peter says: ‘It’s an absolute farce, a real comedy. I went online for the past couple of months and everyone is selling their Christmas decorations. I filled up my car hundreds of times and put them all in my garage until now.

‘There will be Christmas music when people walk in and there will be mince pies. I just picked up boxes of mince pies from Asda, which is a bit of an achievement in May!’

Irene Skelton plays Scrooge while Jeremy Fletcher is the director. It runs from May 9-12 at St Peters Theatre, Southsea.

n Tickets cost £5 on Wednesday, and £6 to £8 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from Southsea Box Office on (0845) 293 9350 or go to stpeterstheatre.webs.com.