Lies, Lies & Propaganda are presenting A Christmas Carol at Kings Cross Theatre from 14 – 24 Dec, their modern take on the Charles Dickens tale looks set to liven things up in time for the silly season. Director Michael Dean has let me in on his experiences directing Melissa Lee Speyer’s adaptation and how to survive the holiday season, and how giving can be the best.
Joy – Zombies, songs and acid snow – oh my, it looks like a real trip. What would you want to add to that description for audiences?
Michael – If you love Christmas and want to see a great new version of the second-most-classic Christmas tale, this show is for you. If you hate Christmas and don’t know how anyone could be celebrating at a time like this, this show is also for you.
Joy – I love Melissa Lee Speyer’s writing. Has she created some Christmas magic with this adaptation?
Michael – Yeah, she’s amazing isn’t she? It’s been such a pleasure to work with her. A crazy idea would come up in rehearsals and, the next thing you knew, she’d come in with new pages where she’d turned that idea into a beautiful, funny, elegant piece of writing. And she writes for performance. I was upfront with her about the fact that I’m kind of suspicious of language – brilliant turns of phrase do not automatically make it a satisfying theatrical experience. But Melissa writes for performance – her words are fun to direct and fun to perform.
Joy – I always say that as Christmas is such a stressful time of year, spending enforced time with family (or in-laws) can be improved with alcohol. What are your tips to a relaxed Christmas?
Michael - Here are two great Egg Nog recipes from one of my favourite cocktailers – http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/2009/egg-nog/. There’s a classic version there, but in the spirit of our production of A Christmas Carol, I would recommend the second recipe: a unique spin on what you know, but still definitely Egg Nog.
In all seriousness though, I went dry for October one year to raise money for the homelessness charity Rough Edges. It was all going well until I went to a family gathering. I hadn’t understood before that how much pressure there is to drink, even at a relaxed and loving event like that one. There are a lot of non-drinkers out there, for various good reasons, and they’re going to need extra support during the festive season.
But my hot tip for a relatively relaxed Christmas? Remember it’s not for you, it’s for other people. When we’re young, Christmas is all about receiving – my presents, my food, etc. Some people never get past that stage, but those of us who grow up realise that Christmas is about giving, not receiving. Not just presents but time, attention, hospitality, love. That act of giving isn’t always going to be fun, but what can I say? I’m a director – I’m always going to be more interested in giving experiences to others, and less in what feelings I’m supposed to be having.
Joy – What is another classic that you would love to direct in the future?
Michael - I’d love to direct another Greek. Those plays have such reality-warping power and an unmatched ability to deal with the big questions of existence. Who wants to see a play about two middle-class people falling in love, when you can see a play about what it means to be human? I’ve also started looking at Indian literature – it’s both a way of exploring my heritage and a source of some amazing stories.
Joy – That sounds fantastic. What is next for you? Can you give us a preview of projects you’re working on for the new year?
Michael – Two projects from 2016 are triumphantly returning in 2018! John Harrison and I are directing the immersive experience Visiting Hours, on multiple levels of the Kings Cross Hotel, in February. If you missed it last year, definitely come and participate in the human testing of our new improved formula. And, Michael Cullen and I are taking his one-man show, The Best Corn Chip in the Universe, to Adelaide Fringe in Feb/March. And then I will rest, possibly forever.
Thank-you so much to Michael Dean, Melissa Lee Speyer and Lies, Lies & Propaganda for giving us a new twist on an old classic, for more information and tickets see: http://www.kingsxtheatre.com/a-christmas-carol