[LISTENED TO: December 29, 2013] A Christmas Carol
After enjoying the play of A Christmas Carol, we decided that since we were on a longish trip for Christmas, that we’d listen to the audiobook and see what was different. The kids were certainly less engaged than a more kid-friendly book, and that’s understandable—the language is pretty opaque from time to time. But I was pleased at how they were able to tell where we were in the story (as compared to the place) most of the time.
I felt that the play was different, so i was listening for them. I don’t know anything about the adaptor of the play and his choices to change things—I don’t even know if the version we saw is a standardized version of the play (I feel like next year we should see it somewhere else for comparison). But there were more than a few things that were changed.
Naturally some of the more far-flung locations were not included, and that makes sense. The play did a great job of keeping the major scenes and either combining or ignoring the extra ones. But there were a few things that were quite different and which are a little harder to explain.
I mentioned in the play review that there is a music box in the play which is not a part of the book. And, indeed, that whole sequence where Ebeneezer Scrooge’s sister meets him at school is different. In the book he is allowed to go back home because his father’s not drunk anymore. Whereas in the play he is not allowed to go back home because his father is still in the drunk tank. So she gives him a music box, which has great resonance later in the play. No such item is given in the story.
The charity seeker is male in the book but was changed to two very funny women in the play—no real change except that they are much funnier.
One of the biggest changes is that in the play Scrooge had a “maid.” I found this to be a little disconcerting in the play. Not because I remembered whether he had one or not, it just seemed that he was such a tightfisted money grubber that it was hard to imagine he would pay someone to make his meals. In the book he does not have a maid. The character plays a couple of interesting roles in the play—she is the one who finds him and tells him what day it is (instead of the classic “looking out the window” scene in the book) and she is also the one who steals his bed curtains to sell them in the “future” dream sequence. In the book it is not started who that person is.
Whether it was Patrick Stewart’s delivery (which is amazing) or the fact that the full text of Dickens is a lot darker than the play’s version, I found the book to reach muck darker depths than the play did. Perhaps it was just sitting in the car with only Stewart voice, perhaps it was that the ghost of Christmas yet to come stays with us a little longer, or perhaps each of the dream sequences is a little longer and a little more harsh. But whatever the case, I was chilled more by the story than the play.
On the other hand, the ending was even more moving than in the play. (Okay, they were equally moving–that music box is powerful). But even without the music box, Scrooge is very generous and becomes a “second father” to Tiny Tim (something that could not have worked without a narrator). And of course, the book ends with Tiny Tim saying “God bless us all, everyone.” I’m a little surprised that the play didn’t have him say it at the end, but that’s totally fine.
The play’s music and dancing (which the audio book does not have) was a huge boon to the story and made it much more fun (and the play compressed that that is where Ebeneezer met the love of his life, where their meeting is not as dramatic in the book). But Stewart did include all manner of sound effects (church bells and laughter) that I have to assume were improvs and not in the actual text. They were fun (as was Stewart’s breadth of accents—although the kids thought his Tiny Tim was silly sounding). Regardless, Patrick Stewart brings the story to life. And I was moved to tears at the end of the reading as well.
The kids, for the record, liked the play better.