Nelle Lee, actor, A Christmas Carol

It is a time when humankind need to step back and ask themselves, am I doing enough?

The curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge and his tale of redemption is a story that’s as synonymous with Christmas as Rudolph’s call up to lead Santa’s sleigh. The Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol is getting a brand-new stage adaptation from the team at shake & stir theatre co, and it’s set to be a brilliant interpretation of the timeless story. We caught up with shake & stir’s Nelle Lee, who not only adapted the story for stage but is also starring in the production, to find out what we can expect when we catch A Christmas Carol at QPAC from Friday December 7 to Thursday December 20.

Take us back to the start of your acting days – where did you first catch the acting bug?
I have loved performing for as long as I can remember. I started ballet classes when I was very young and I was a gumnut baby as part of an Expo 88 celebration. I have my high school drama teacher to thank for nurturing and guiding my love for acting into a potential career. It’s one of the main reasons I love working with young people today as co-artistic director of shake & stir theatre co, you could spark something in them that might just be enough to flair into a serious passion.

At what point did you find your knack for not only acting, but also producing compelling theatre?
When Nick, Ross and I met back in 2006 we just clicked. Our skills complement each other both on and off the stage. I think every actor needs a certain amount of entrepreneurial skill to forge a successful career. All three of us have always been interested in the full development of a show, from the writing, creating, through to the production and marketing. As we developed as a company, we have also developed as artists and producers. 

Few people out there would be unfamiliar with the tale of A Christmas Carol. What was it about this Charles Dickens classic that you thought would make for a great adaptation?
Where do I start? Dickens has written a story which, I think, ticks so many of the right boxes for a theatrical adaptation. The novel itself is super short, yet he still manages to paint a full and vivid world in which the characters are both hilarious and heart breaking. He strikes a brilliant balance of suspense with the supernatural elements, and the gratifying warmth of what people cherish on Christmas Day. 

Not only are you responsible for adapting A Christmas Carol for the production, but you’ll also be performing on stage as Mrs Cratchit. Are there any benefits to having dual responsibilities for a production such as this?
Ha! Yes, it has its advantages. Such as, I know most of my dialogue before I get to rehearsals! Sometimes it’s hard when you are so familiar with the story and love all the characters so much you think every line is vital. I am very lucky to work closely with our director and dramaturg, Michael Futcher, who is an absolute gun at guiding me in arching the essential story.

What can audiences expect from the show? We’ve heard word regarding a visual feast …
I have no doubt the show will be visually spectacular; however, I really believe the star of this show will be the story itself. That said, Eugene Gilfedder as Scrooge is incredible. He takes us on the journey of this miserable old miser as he discovers his true meaning of Christmas, and I believe the audience will be with him at every turn of the way.

What is it about the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge that makes the story relevant to audiences more than 150 years after its first publication?
It’s a story about humanity, and I think Dickens was very careful in how inclusive he was with his target audience. Sure, there are some Christian Christmas carols and certain phrases of the era – but other than that he manages to keep it fairly neutral when it comes to the meaning of Christmas. It is a time when humankind need to step back and ask themselves, am I doing enough? As Marley laments in the first part of the novel, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.”

As one of the artistic directors of shake & stir theatre co, what is your approach to curating the company’s various productions?
We each have a selection of shows we are gunning for at any particular time and there are a number of elements that come into play when we select what we produce. The most important thing in my opinion, is passion – it has to be a project that we really believe in and a story we want to tell.

We’re only a few weeks away from the festive season – what’s your favourite thing about the Christmas period?
It sounds totally cliche, but spending time with my family is what I look forward to the most. I have a very large immediate family and we very rarely manage to have us all there in one spot, so Christmas is usually at least one full day of celebrating together. I also really love baked ham – I didn’t want to put that first up, but it has to be said. 😉 

Finally, is there anything you’re secretly hoping to receive as a Christmas present this year?
 I’ve been told I’m a very difficult person to buy for, so keeping with that – not really. For years I’ve asked for a pony, it’s never happened though.

You can catch A Christmas Carol at QPAC from Friday December 7 to Thursday December 20. Get your tickets here before they disappear like the Ghost of Christmas Past.


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