Mark: I felt that Christmas Carol had a message that it was still very important for everyone had a go at understanding if you like. It' s about humanity, I mean it' s set around a Christian Christmas and really it follows a humanitarian tale. It' s about someone who' s given a second chance and I think we all like the idea of having a second chance. But ultimately it' s about redemption through helping other people.
Interviewer: And what were the influences and inspirations that made you decide to set the production in South Africa?
Mark: I first went to South Africa eight years ago to do a theatre production and I fell in love with the country. And it seemed to me that the difference in wealth in South Africa was similar to the difference in wealth that existed in 19th-century London when Dickens was writing. You have a huge disparity from people who are terribly rich to people who are very poor. And so that helped us get into the story quite easily. Also that he wrote the story after he' d been down a mine and seen children working and the mines South Africa are still way behind the rest of the world in terms of health and safety issues and there are a lot of similarities.
Interviewer: To pursue that a bit, Dickens wrote Christmas Carol as a serial criticism of child poverty, so how relevant is that today?
Mark: Very relevant to us in South Africa, extremely so. Especially with the AIDS epidemic which is taking out a whole generation and so unfortunately children are often having to be brought up by their grandparents because both parents die. So it leaves a huge legacy of poverty, it isn' t just the people who are dying but the generation that' s left who are going to miss their parents which is a major problem in South Africa. And the number of orphans is growing day by day, and so its a very serious and very real issue in South Africa.
Interviewer: There' s one scene in the play which is a very powerful scene where the actors symbolically drop the baby, I wonder if you could talk about that scene.
Mark: We tried to, we looked for something, it' s difficult because you have to be very careful that you don' t appear to preach an audience otherwise they' re going to switch off. So we tried to find a theatrical metaphor for, in the original book Dicken' s about the ghosts all around a mother and a child. The ghosts of people who haven' t helped other people on earth, they' re all around this mother and child who are sitting on the street, and they can' t help her and so we looked, and we just extracted some statistics and the frightening fact it that a child dies every five seconds through want or disease. So it was important for the audience to understand that and that that was part of the background of the story.
Interviewer: You' ve transposed the gender of some of the characters, what was your intention in doing that?
Mark: I think partly to show it' s a universal condition, that you can be unsentimental and brutal even if you' re a woman, in the same way you can if you' re a man. But I suppose the most important reason for doing it was that in Victorian London a white male was the dominant figure, and fast in South Africa the black female is becoming the dominant figure. So if you like it was transposing the power structure, where the power is in fact.
Interviewer: Although Tiny Tim' s transposition of gender has a completely...
Mark: ...has a completely different message. We wanted to preserve the similarity of sex between Tiny Tim and Scrooge. So once we decided to change Scrooge, we changed Tiny Tim.