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Talkwood Productions' musical version of A Christmas Carol coming to Dartford and Tunbridge Wells

Stephen Emery as Ebeneezer Scrooge
Stephen Emery as Ebeneezer Scrooge

Everyone knows the story of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. But four friends did more than read the book – they decided to stage it as a musical. Among them is Josh Sills, who chatted to Kathryn Tye about the ambitious project.

Talkwood Productions’ musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol may be making its West End debut next month, but it has been anything but an overnight success.

It has been three years since a group of school friends first came up with the idea of putting together the show. Josh Sills, Tom Barton, Patrick Rufey and Steven Leask went their separate ways after attending sixth form together.

But their mutual passion for theatre saw them reunite in 2008 to form their own company, Talkwood Productions.

Josh, 27, said: “A few years after everyone had graduated we got back together. We were all working in theatre, and decided to have a go at doing something ourselves.

“We did adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Around the World in 80 Days, but then we decided to put on a Christmas production.

“We were trying to pick something that was an alternative to a pantomime that still had a nice magical, Christmas theme, and decided on A Christmas Carol.”

Josh Sills
Josh Sills

Charles Dickens’ classic novella famously tells the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a lonely old man who prefers money to people. On Christmas Eve he is visited first by the spirit of Jacob Marley, his former business partner, and then by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future who take him on a journey to show him the error of his ways.

Josh admits that his first introduction wasn’t Dickens’ book, but 1992 children’s film The Muppet Christmas Carol.

“I have to say I have watched several other film versions but I still think the best film version is the Muppets one. It captures the magic of it all and that was the way we wanted to go with our version of the story.

“We were trying to get a balance of something that is appealing to all ages and can be something everyone can enjoy.”

Josh is the show’s director, co-producer with Tom and co-writer with Steven, while Patrick composed the music and his sister Jessica Rufey wrote the lyrics.

Young actors in A Christmas Carol
Young actors in A Christmas Carol

The show was first performed at a 150-seat village hall in 2010 and ran for a week. But the audience loved it and as a result of its success, the company developed it and performed it again.

Last year they managed to get financial backing to take it on tour.

Stephen Emery as Ebeneezer Scrooge
Stephen Emery as Ebeneezer Scrooge

This year it is even bigger, visiting 13 regional venues including at Dartford and Tunbridge Wells, before finishing with a three-week run at London’s Charing Cross Theatre.

Josh said: “It is very exciting for us. Between us we have worked on lots of projects but this is something we initiated and put together ourselves.

“When we started out we were in the rain handing out flyers practically begging people to come along and buy tickets. All of that can be a little bit disheartening when you don’t make any money and you lose a little bit.

“It really has paid off for sticking with it. It is fantastic fun for all of us. We wouldn’t do it

Talkwood Productions’ A Christmas Carol will be at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre on Monday, December 2, and Tuesday, December 3. Tickets from £15. Call 01322 220000.

It will also be at Tunbridge Wells’ Assembly Hall Theatre on Sunday, December 8. Tickets £19.50. Call 01892 530613.

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