Reviving the Spirit of Dickens: A Trip to the Old Vic

Today’s post comes from Queens University of Charlotte student Katie Farrell, who studied English literature in London this past winter. Katie reminisces about her experiences in the United Kingdom and, in particular, a fantastic theater performance of “A Christmas Carol” the group attended.

Walking down the streets of London has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted to take the typical tourist photo of Big Ben and see the London Eye. What I never anticipated, though, was learning about the city through the eyes of authors writing generations before me.

I went to London with a group of 18 others from Queens University of Charlotte and we spent about nine days in the historic city. We ventured from Westminster Abbey to Bloomsbury Square to spots where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. We talked about the history of Shakespeare, the inspiration of Charles Dickens and how women like Virginia Woolf shaped the future of literature.

As a group, we learned to navigate the streets of London and travel via tube. We figured out that we may be a little bit louder than the average local, but I think it’s safe to say most of us learned to be okay with that. And, though I already knew it, I’ve brought back the knowledge that the amount of waste between our cultures can be very different. I also fell in love with being able to use public transportation to get where I needed to go. I’ve decided I don’t like being stuck using cars to get from place to place.

There were many moments on this trip where I just wanted to sit back for a moment and appreciate where I was. London is a beautiful city when you adjust to the number of tourists around you (and remember that you’re one, too). However, there is one moment that I want to remember for the rest of my life. And, I guess it makes sense, seeing as London is a huge theater location.

Before we embarked on our journey to London, my class was instructed to read many texts. One of these texts was “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. For most of us, this was a familiar story. We all know that Ebenezer Scrooge starts off as being one of the grumpiest men alive, but he is soon transformed into a man who loves Christmas and the people around him.

While we were in London, we had the opportunity to see “A Christmas Carol” performed at The Old Vic. I’ve always loved the theater; if I had the money to do so, I would see as many shows as I possibly could. So, when I found out that we were seeing two shows while in London, I was super excited.

This showing of “A Christmas Carol” exceeded any expectations that I could’ve set for it. When we went in to find our seats, I was first amazed by the beauty of The Old Vic. It was a tight fit, sure, but it was stunning to me. As an audience, we were able to interact with the show from the very start. Cast members were standing in the audience, handing out oranges and— if I remember correctly— mince pies. The smell of citrus was overwhelming as the seats around us filled up.

Later, we learned why those things were given to us. At the end of the show, those same cast members were back in the audience, tossing food down from the top floor to the stage where it was set up for Ebenezer and his new friends and family. By the end of it all, my peers and I had definitely shed a few tears.

It’s hard to put into words how this showing of “A Christmas Carol” made me feel. I was so happy to be in London, to see a show and then be overwhelmed by the actors who took part in it. At the end of it all, they took donations for charity to help those who aren’t able to feed themselves and their families, which warmed my heart.

As I said before, there are many moments where I was overwhelmed by what was going on around me, but seeing “A Christmas Carol” became one of my favorite experiences before the trip was even over.

~Katie Farrell, Queens University of London

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