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Q&A: Humbug! Jersey-born actor returns home...as Scrooge

Q&A: Humbug! Jersey-born actor returns home...as Scrooge

Monday 20 December 2021

Q&A: Humbug! Jersey-born actor returns home...as Scrooge

Monday 20 December 2021


An actor from Jersey has returned to the island for the first time since training with an immersive show in which he dons the slippers and robe of an illustrious Christmas character.

Al Barclay is playing Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol' at L'Auberge du Nord until Boxing Day.

Raised in Jersey and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Al has enjoyed several screen appearances in 'The Crown' and Luc Besson's 'The Lady' among others.

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Pictured: Al stars as Ebenezer Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol'. (Becky Lee)

Alongside this work, he has also experimented with 'The Factory' and 'Tim Carroll', which led him to immersive theatre.

His latest performance - his first in Jersey since he trained as an actor - sees him becoming Ebenezer Scrooge in a joyous riot during which the audience plays in turn the ghosts of Scrooge's past and his dinner guests.

For the show, the Auberge's outbuilding has been turned into Scrooge's parlour, with the audience circling the 'stage'. Under the direction of Jack Whitam, an impeccable Marley, who swings between jolliness and anger with ease, spectators taunt Scrooge, sing, shout, play games and most of all laugh.

With a sumptuous Christmas dinner slotted in between two acts and a rousing rendition of 'Fairytyale of New York', the result is a wondrously entertaining evening that should bring out the festive spirit in even the coldest of hearts.

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Pictured: Jack Whitam is an impeccable Marley and excellent audience conductor. (Becky Lee)

With only a week of performances left to go, Express asked Al a few questions about his performance...

How do you step into the slippers of an illustrious character like Scrooge?

The first time I played Scrooge, almost a decade ago, I felt way too young, so I sought points of contact in my past that connected with the big turning points of his past. I was single at the time and had lost both my parents young.

Scrooge feels like a character with great depth who has fixated on one thing in order to protect himself from multiple sources of pain. Belle puts her finger on it when she tells him he fears the world.

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Pictured: "The first time I played Scrooge, almost a decade ago, I felt way too young," Al said. (Becky Lee)

Now I have grey in my beard and every time I return to the slippers I find more contact with him, even though I'm no longer single.

We have all had times when things have felt insurmountable, even if just for a moment. The lesson from Ebenezer is that it doesn't matter how deep you've dug, there's always light if you look for it.  

How do you keep your interpretation fresh so that people recognise the character but still feel they are seeing him for the first time? 

There's an archetype around Scrooge that makes him so recognisable and accessible for an actor to embody. We've been given this wonderful word: "Humbug". It's like the opposite of Santa's "Ho ho ho".

I remember understanding that if I could crack the "humbug" I would have an easy route into the character. Like an accent prompt, there's now enough weight in the word for me that I can use it to very quickly put on Scrooge like a familiar coat. As I change and grow, so my Scrooge deepens, but the humbug at his centre is always recognisable.

Was playing ‘A Christmas Carol ‘at home in front of ‘familiar’ faces different to previous performances?

Being in Jersey has allowed me to feel closer to the ghosts of my parents, buried up at St. Clement.

I have been able to invite some of my remaining family and it has been wonderful to connect to my past here and to be able to share my work so close to where I grew up. 

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Pictured: "I love to meet the different individuals as Scrooge during the dinner section," Al said. (Becky Lee)

The colours just feel right here in the place where I was born. I've missed it.

What is your favourite aspect of an immersive show like ‘A Christmas Carol’?

I love to meet the different individuals as Scrooge during the dinner section. It can never be the same twice, as the audience is always different. There are always surprisingly beautiful and powerful interactions.

The joy of immersive theatre is that if you remain open as an actor, the audience will bring you unexpected joy that can only deepen the world you are building that night. 

When was the last time you were in Jersey and how did you feel coming back?

I came over in September for an artist's residency with the Jersey ArtHouse, staying at Grève de Lecq barracks. We swam in the sea every day and made strange and beautiful works of art on the beach and in the hills.

It was the first time my work had brought me back to the island and it paved the way for me to welcome the chance of Christmas Carol here.

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Pictured: Al said he hoped to come back to Jersey with another show. (Becky Lee)

Do you plan on coming back next year with another show? 

Based on my experience with Carol so far, I'm hoping to be bringing my work back home much more frequently. I was away for far too long. I'm so happy to be here in Jersey this Christmas. Perhaps a summer show next.

GALLERY...

(Photos courtesy of Becky Lee)

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