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Interview: Kelsey Yuhara on Your Christmas Carol Experience at The Space

Later this week The Space near Mudchute will become home to Your Christmas Carol Experience. With only 10 audience members enterting at a time, the show will engage with their own stories, connections, and memories as they encounter the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

Ahead of the show opening, we spoke to the show's director, Kelsey Yuhara, to discuss the show's conception, how they've adapted the Charles Dickens classic, and what audience members can expect from the show.

Promo shot for Your Christmas Carol Experience

Photo: Phokal

Hi Kelsey. Thanks for chatting to us. Do you mind telling us a bit about yourself?

Sure! I am Kelsey Yuhara, a multi-disciplinary artist working in immersive and site-responsive performance, theatre and improvisation. I am performing regularly with Comediasians, CSI (Crime Scene Impro) and BATSU! London at the Underbelly Boulevard Theatre. 

Later this week Your Christmas Carol opens at The Space. Can you tell us what inspired the creation of the show?

I was taking a walk on a crisp autumn day and just talking about ideas. I was walking past a church nearby where I had thought vaguely, years ago before the pandemic, about collaborating on a walk-around Christmas Carol in various locations.  This year, however, I thought about what would happen if the story was mostly about the ghosts - because I love the idea of ghosts. The more I thought about it, the more enticing it was to dive in and imagine an experience where one would be encountering their own past, present and future spirits.

A Christmas Carol is a beloved festive tale, how are you planning on putting a unique spin on the story?

As a theatremaker, I'm probably the last person who others would think would want to adapt a traditional tale because I love new writing and contemporary projects.  This take on the classic tale though, is truly modern. There's no Scrooge. It's not taking place in Victorian times. None of the human characters you otherwise have come to associate with Christmas Carol feature either. I explained this to someone the other day and they asked "Well, is it even still A Christmas Carol?" And I feel, yes and no. The audience in this version are in the position of Scrooge and you'll encounter your versions of memories and 'ghosts'. I don't assume that everyone is a stereotypical miser, but I do think there is an element of Scrooge or Scrooge logic in all of us - which is why it's such an enduring tale. 

The themes and intentions of Dickens' original story I believe come through in this take - but you're going to experience them with many of your senses (except taste unless you stay for a mulled wine in the cafe afterwards!) - and also magic and your imagination!  Essentially, even though it is based on an enduring classic, it is a thoroughly modern take, and it is Your Christmas Carol Experience (emphasis on 'your' and 'experience'). This version, I should note, is also not for the passive watcher. There is, of course, some watching, but you'll be engaging too.

Promo shot for Your Christmas Carol Experience

Photo: Phokal

It's an intimate experience with only 10 audience members entering at a time - can you speak a little about how that allows you to craft a more engaging and immersive experience for guests?

I was thinking about why any audience would choose to go to a live performance (as opposed to watching A Christmas Carol on Disney +, which the 2019 miniseries I also, for the record, think is great). Ten is the number in this instance, that we can reasonably fit into some of the spaces we're using. The use of these smaller spaces is also a choice and an opportunity to play with each space as its own atmosphere and world. We want the past, present and future to feel distinct and by moving into different spaces, I feel like audiences will get that sensation of going on a journey.  There is also more close interaction with performers, where dissolving the fourth wall in this case, I hope will make audiences feel more immersed in the experience and a part of it.

Can you tell us a bit about the cast for the show?

The cast is a wonderful mix of talents all bringing different strengths in dance, puppetry, improvisation & immersive performance, physical theatre, magic & mentalism, clown, music and choir.  It's really, really exciting to have so many skills to draw on and enhance the experiences in each space.  They're all vibrant and proactive creators in their own right and it's an honour to be working with them on this show. We have the following cast performing for you in Your Christmas Carol Experience:

Time Keeper – Romer

Spirits of the Past – Yuxuan Liu, Noah Silverstone and Ashlee McIntosh

Lantern Bearer – Emma-May Uden

Spirit of the Present – Andrew Phoenix

Present Aide – Hannah Hawkins

Spirit of the Future – Mahalakshmi

Spirit of Now – Sofia Zaragoza

What are you hoping audiences will take away from the show?

I hope that, as always, we remember what we are grateful for during challenging and uncertain times; that in the depth of winter, there is a rebirth coming; to find new ones and remember to cherish the connections we hold dearest, and to reconnect with our own power over our destinies.

Looking forward to the new year, what projects do you have coming up?

Following this run, we would love to grow Your Christmas Carol Experience for the coming years. Lilli and I will continue to be working on Rain Weaver which is a devised production that we started last year. We'll be expanding the casting and hopefully take it to Edinburgh Fringe. There is also some new writing coming up that Lilli is producing and is excited about. At the moment, she is not allowed to disclose when and where but give TO a follow at @toentertainmentltd, and we will keep you posted.

Your Christmas Carol Experience runs at The Space near Mudchute on 21st and 22nd December. Find out more about the show here.


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