When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, The Old Vic was a new theatre, not 30 years old and in a working class suburb, which offered affordable entertainment to local audiences.
Dickens was a passionate and vocal advocate for social reform. He was inspired to write A Christmas Carol after visiting a Ragged School, a charitable organisation providing education to disadvantaged children in one of London’s most destitute areas. Today, the organisation responsible for Dickens’ Ragged School runs a charity called Field Lane. They provide help and a safe environment for vulnerable families, and personalised support and services for adults with learning and physical disabilities.
Dickens knew, and articulated brilliantly, that we are better, happier people when we take part in life and look beyond our own surroundings. Part of Scrooge’s tragedy is that he is the last to understand just how poor and isolated he has made himself, having rejected every hand held out to him. A joy in humanity in both its meanings – community and compassion – is in the DNA of Dickens’ book.
The Old Vic itself is a charity which strongly believes in the healing and uplifting power of theatre. We are actively engaged in encouraging an audience from all backgrounds and of all ages, both through the work we present and through our spirit and policy of accessibility. We are reliant on the good will and generous support of others to survive. But we should all of us heed Dickens’ call to look beyond our own four walls. Inspired by his work, we are proud to be raising money for Field Lane at every performance of A Christmas Carol.