Hawkes Bay Opera House, Hastings

22/11/2012 - 22/11/2012

Old St Paul's, Wellington

21/11/2012 - 21/11/2012

Graham Young Youth Theatre, Tauranga Boys’ College, Tauranga

24/11/2012 - 24/11/2012

Middleton Grange School Performing Arts Centre, Christchurch

16/11/2012 - 16/11/2012

Oamaru Opera House, Oamaru

17/11/2012 - 17/11/2012

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

26/11/2012 - 26/11/2012

Picton Little Theatre,

19/11/2012 - 19/11/2012

Production Details

Phil Zachariah will be Charles Dickens in a one-man show for eight one-night stands in venues throughout the country from 18 – 28 November.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, a stunning recreation of the readings with which Dickens toured the world will be presented in eight cities around New Zealand. Phil Zachariah and director James Adler (the founder of An Eagle’s Nest Theatre) have worked directly from the original prompt copy and eyewitness accounts to create a performance that truly channels the spirit of Dickens.

Ebenezer Scrooge may be the greediest man in England. He has no charity or sympathy for anyone and takes great joy in avoiding social engagements. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is haunted by a vision of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley.  Marley warns that his greed will cause him nothing but misery in the afterlife, and that his salvation depends on heeding the lessons of three ghosts that will come his way. That night, as Scrooge ventures forth with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, he begins to see that it’s never too late to make a change.

“One of the most engaging, powerful and suspenseful nights of theatrical story-telling.” (

In recent years the phenomena that is Mr Dickens just keeps on growing. In 2011 Mr Dickens (aka Phil Zachariah) made his premier European tour and in 2012, a more extensive worldwide tour is taking place. 

Phil began in applied physics, but eventually made the logical transition to theatre. When he graduated from the National Theatre in Melbourne in 1979, he was already working in theatre-in-education: writing, acting, composing & directing, much of it in partnership with his opera singer brother, Evan. Along the way he also attended workshops with Stephen Berkoff who invited him to perform in London.

In the 80s, he also performed with the Victoria State Opera Schools Tour, Ars Nova early music group, and as a storyteller with the Folkloric Theatre Company. Later, he spent 3 years in an astronomy show with the CSIRO Double Helix touring troupe.

In recent years, he’s appeared in a swag of productions, including Sleuth (Andrew Wyke), Freedom of the City (The Judge), Hamlet (Claudius & Polonius), Romeo & Juliet (The Nurse) and most recently he has he has appeared in two stage productions: Cosi (Henry) and Macbeth (Duncan & Porter).

In the world of radio he has been George Bernard Shaw in Shaw; The Music Critic for 3MBS, and as both Shaw & John Ruskin in a series on critics for the Sunday Arts program on Radio National. 

When young, Phil & his brother were taken by their mother, Vida, to see the great Emlyn Williams present the Dickens Readings. After Phil became theatrically entangled, his mother, a great fan of Dickens, suggested that he should perform them. In 2003 En Route’s Adrian D’Aprano decided that the time had come and with James Adler as the logical choice as director, her vision has been realised. 

In November it can be seen in Christchurch, Oamaru (featured in its Heritage Festival), Picton, Wellington, Hastings, Tauranga, Auckland, Whangarei.

“I would urge anyone who has the rare opportunity to see this show…to do so…whatever the day of the year and whatever continent you’re in!” (Paris 2012).

This is a joint tour between An Eagle Nest, Capital Theatre Productions and Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand.

“Don’t be a Scrooge – reconnect with family and friends and fall in love with the original Christmas story as you’ve never experienced it before.”

Duration: 75 minutes (no interval) – unless otherwise stated

Christchurch performance:
Middleton Grange School Hall
Date & Time:
Friday 16 November 2012 7.30pm
Adults $30 | Seniors $20 | Students $10 + $1.50 booking fee 
Door sales will also be available

Oamaru performance:
Oamaru Opera House
Date & Time:
Saturday 17 November 2012 7.30pm
Tickets: TicketDirect 
Adult $49.90 | Seniors/Students $42.00 | Children $20.00
Family Package only available over the counter: $110.00
pkg Adult (2 adults), pkg Child (2 Children), extra child $10.00
Victorian Supper will be savoury & sweet scones with Whitestone Cheese Boards and Tea & Coffee

Picton performance:
Picton Little Theatre, Box Office or Take Note
Date & Time: Monday 19 November 2012 7.30pm
Non-Members: $25 | Members $20 | Students $15

Wellington performance:
Old St Pauls, Mulgrave Street
Date & Time:
Wednesday 21 November 2012 7.30pm
Tickets: | Door sales will also be available
Adults $30 | Seniors $20 | Students $10 + $1.50 booking fee

Hawke’s Bay performance:
Hawke’s Bay Opera House  
Date & Time:
Thursday 22 November 2012, 7.30pm
Tickets: 0800Ticketek
Adults $36 | Seniors & Students $32 | Groups (10+) $32 | Encore Club $26 | Service fees apply
Duration: 90 minutes (incl 15 minute interval) 

Tauranga performance:
Graham Young Youth Theatre, Tauranga Boys’ College
Date & Time:
Saturday 24 November 2012 7.30pm
Tickets: Baycourt
$20 Adults | $15 Seniors | $10 Students | Door Sales available from 7.00pm

Auckland performance:
Maidment Studio Theatre  
Date & Time:
Monday 26 November 2012 7.30pm
Tickets: Maidment Box Office  
Adults $35 | Seniors & Students $25
Duration: 90 minutes (incl 15 minute interval)

Whangarei performance:
Forum North
Date & Time:
Wednesday 28 November 2012 7.30pm
Tickets: Ticketek  
Adults $35 | Seniors $25 | Students $15 – Booking fee will apply | Door sales will also be available

More matter, less art?

Review by John Smythe 22nd Nov 2012

Do we all know the story? Scrooge has, after all, given his name to mean-spirited, misanthropic miserliness for the past 169 years.

On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge was mean to people in the street, his clerk (Bob Cratchit), his nephew, gentlemen collecting for charity and carol singers. At home alone in bed he was visited by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley, in the metaphorical chains he’d forged for himself. Three visitations followed, from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, allowing Scrooge to recall where he had been, see where it had got him and foresee where he would end up.

Scrooge awoke, a transformed man, and set about celebrating Christmas Day by making it a joy for the Cratchits (anonymously) and his Nephew’s family, who welcomed him into their home.  

The title of this Eagle’s Nest Theatre production (from Australia) tells us Charles Dickens is presenting his own work in performance. To paraphrase A Christmas Carol’s opening sentence, about Jacob Marley, “Charles Dickens was dead: to begin with.” Phil Zachariah brings him alive in much the same way that the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come manifested those who were, are now and may be in the future.

As the Eagle’s Nest website states, they “have worked directly from the original prompt copy and eyewitness accounts to create a performance that truly channels the spirit of Dickens.”

Their typo-riddled programme note also reveals that Zachariah and director James Adler have explored the idea that the Narrator is “in some ways like a part of Scrooge, who having been redeemed now sustains his redemption by telling his story to others.” Not that they expect us to necessarily get that, but it has informed their approach.

The show’s success has been such, since it opened in 2003, that it now plays annually at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre. Its current New Zealand tour (click here for details) follows a season in Shanghai, while The Netherlands, Germany and Shanghai await.

The wide range of venues may well mean the tone of each performance varies but I assume the default mode is, as presented at Old St Pauls last night, one of Victorian theatricality. We are asked to marvel, as the author’s own audiences did, at the performer’s ability to act the part of each and every character with “a different voice, a different style, a different face” (Cambridge Independent Press, 1859).

And well we might. Zachariah and Adler do deliver an impressive demonstration of Victorian theatricality. But I cannot say I was drawn into the story or moved to examine my own value system – although I do objectively recognise that Scrooge’s initial lack of empathy for those less fortunate does remain part of our social fabric today.

The lack of immediacy and subjective involvement may have something to do with the past tense prose text being adhered to. I suppose it is too sacrosanct for them to change, e.g. by committing fully to making the narrator Scrooge himself, in the first person, and having him recreate his experiences in imagined ‘present action’. Yet such shifts are basic when adapting prose works for performance.

Nevertheless Phil Zachariah is impressively adept at adopting physical and vocal characteristics even if, sometimes, I can’t see the story for the acting. Is that what happened to sister Nan coming to take him home from boarding school or was that bit cut? And making Bob Cratchit all toothless and hyperactive – a wacky characterisation – somehow robs their story of its poignancy.

Theatre has come a long way in the last-century-and-a-half (although it was four centuries ago that Shakespeare had Gertrude calling for “more matter, less art”). I am not sure that simply recreating the Victorian mode is the most effective way of bringing A Christmas Carol to new generations.

Charles Dickens is reputed to have changed social attitudes with this story, which was published a decade before he ‘performed’ it. Given that today’s ‘market forces’ directly reflect the ‘laissez faire’ policies that encouraged the sociopathic attitudes he exposes, I see the challenge of remounting this story now as being to likewise confront prevailing value systems and aim for a similar impact.  

But given the difference between my response and that of Lindsay Clark in Christchurch (see link below), it may well be that Old St Paul’s, magnificent in so many ways, is just not conducive to a live performance that seeks to draw us into a subjective, life-changing experience. 


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Brought to convincing life with warmth and skill

Review by Lindsay Clark 16th Nov 2012

It is a great pity that this splendidly crafted piece seems to have arrived unheralded and will be gone before word of mouth can do it justice. Those happy few who found their way to the venue enjoyed a generous and masterly incarnation of the great novelist, reproducing the readings which Dickens himself once took on tour to the world. His glorious blend of humanity, wit and impeccable showmanship are all given a thorough airing in the classic account of the miser whose cold heart was first cracked and then restored to joy by a series of supernatural yuletide encounters.

Director James Adler could hardly have asked for a better likeness or more expressive actor than Phil Zachariah in this solo tour de force. Physically and vocally he creates the Dickensian world in a beautifully paced piece of story theatre which is nothing short of brilliant. For a start, the director/actor team have struck an intelligent balance between relishing the rich language and bringing it to convincing stage life. The familiar story is given fresh impact.

The actor himself is able to project the colourful range of characters, sometimes in dialogue with each other, effortlessly. The stage at Middleton Grange is wide and deep, but such is the amplitude of this performance that it is always filled by the energy and implication of word and action. 

Thus a crabbed and shrunken Scrooge is confronted by the towering spectre of his erstwhile partner, Jacob Marley, complete with the dragging chains forged by a misspent life. The Spirit of Christmas Past creates scenes of Scrooge’s lonely childhood, failed romance and anti-social ways as an apprentice, before we are in the presence of the expansive embrace of Christmas Present, Scrooge’s nephew and the multitudinous Cratchits, including the blissfully sentimental sketch of the youngest, crippled, Tiny Tim.

And so on to the revelations of the spirit who reveals the future – unless Scrooge mends his ways. His unkind words have all been shown in a different light and Scrooge at last allows himself to be lit up with the simple joy of wishing others well. 

As a much loved classic as well as a Victorian period piece, this story is always worth retelling. When it is handled with the warmth and skill of this touring production it becomes in addition a must see piece of theatre. 


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