Tony Cownie brings Charles Dickens' famous story to the city of its birth
- Gareth K Vile
- 28 November 2019
Lyceum's seasonal show An Edinburgh Christmas Carol features a guest appearance from the city's best-loved Victorian – Greyfriars Bobby
Tony Cownie had a long-running association with the Lyceum. 'My first ever professional job was at the Lyceum in a Christmas show in 1985/86,' he recalls. 'Since then I've appeared in many productions and directed around 30 so it's a real home from home.' For 2019, Cownie takes a familiar tale and twists it by going back to its genesis. Charles Dickens, while visiting Edinburgh on a reading tour, is said to have seen a tombstone of one Ebenezer Scroggie, who would inspire the name of the protagonist of the much-loved Christmas staple.
Having become a staple Yuletide story, A Christmas Carol has an open-hearted vision of Christmas that both pays respect to its religious roots and looks forward to a more secular celebration of goodwill.
Delving into the Victorian festive season, Cownie introduces an intriguing historical detail. 'Christmas wasn't officially a time for celebration in Scotland. It was frankly against the law to do so,' he points out. 'That didn't stop people though. There was a definite sense of rebelliousness about it – Scrooge wasn't the only curmudgeon putting a damper on the festivities!'
The Lyceum's Christmas production is traditionally a step away from pantomime, connecting with the theatre's year-round productions. This includes an active engagement with the local community, expressed this year by the recruitment of a carol choir, who are part of the play's anarchic reclamation of the season.
'This tight knit group of rebellious Carol singers defies the council ban and are constantly harassed by an irate policeman,' Cownie explains. But it is not only the puritanical elements of the East Coast's past that are being introduced to Scrooge's tale of redemption: Scotland's 'best-loved Victorian' Greyfriars Bobby turns up. 'He lives in Greyfriars Kirkyard which is right opposite Scrooge's shop,' Cownie concludes. 'What does he get up to? Well... you'll just have to come along and find out!'
Lyceum, Edinburgh, Thu 28 Nov 2019–Sat 4 Jan 2020.