Olivier Award winner John Dagleish played Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s lowly clerk, in the Old Vic’s renowned production of A Christmas Carol in its original run in 2017 and again last year when it was streamed during lockdown.
He has returned to the character taking the title role in the live premiere of Alexander Knott’s Dickensian spin-off Cratchit, now running at London’s Park Theatre until 8 January 2022. He told us more about the character and his journey. Time to get booking!
As a hard frost descends on London Town, Bob Cratchit gets his own visit from the spirits of Christmastime. Catapulted forward through the years, the poorly paid clerk is shown a bleak vision of the future world: inequality and strife perpetuate, while the gap between the 1% and everyone else grows wider.
Cratchit is a darker look at Dickens’ tale of redemption, a call to arms against injustice and rallying cry for solidarity and fortitude.
What are your earliest memories of A Christmas Carol?
I think I have a vague memory of my dad reading a beautifully illustrated version to us as kids and a little later the Muppet Christmas Carol became my favourite Christmas film.
You’ve said the story is part of our ‘collective consciousness’. Why do you think that is?
It’s the definition of a redemption story. Even if you have never read the book or seen a movie version there have been countless spin-offs and references to it through TV and film, Scrooged with Bill Murray being a particular favourite of mine. I also think we all have our own film version depending on what age you are. Alastair Sim or Albert Finney or Patrick Stewart or Michael Caine surrounded by muppets.
You previously played Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic. What were your highlights from that experience?
Being part of that original production with Matthew Warchus directing us, Jack Thorne’s wonderful adaptation and Chris Nightingale’s music in that beautiful auditorium will always be one of the highlights of my career.
How has the Old Vic experience helped you prepare for this production?
It certainly gave me the broad version of the character. This play was a brilliant opportunity to get under his skin a bit more. How does he behave when not in service of Scrooge? I think we all act a little different when we think nobody’s watching.
How would you describe Bob in a nutshell?
Burdened by the weight of his responsibilities without an outlet to express himself… until now.
How does Bob’s journey differ in Cratchit to what we’re used to?
Bob is taken on a journey into the future and shown that, despite the hardships of the world, eventually all will come good.
Cratchit (then called December) originally premiered online during lockdown. How was lockdown for you? How do you feel about performing again in front of live audiences?
It’s wonderful being back in front of a real audience again. You just can’t get that interaction without them in the room. I returned to the Old Vic Christmas Carol last year, but we were in that beautiful auditorium without an audience. Nothing more telling of the times than that big empty room. I think it was so needed at the time, to be able to get into people’s living rooms across the world with it, but it will never have the same buzz as a live performance to a physical audience.
What is the charity connection with Cratchit? How important is that to you?
Hugely important! Hackney Night Shelter does amazing work, particularly at this time of year. It was one of the reasons I took the job in the first place aside from Alexander Knott’s incredible script. I’m looking forward to seeing how much we’ve raised, but as performers, we don’t have a lot to do with that side of things.
Why should audiences see Cratchit?
Cratchit is a great show of storytelling. Scary at times, funny in places and downright bonkers in others with a story that resolves into something more familiar and heartwarming for Christmas.