THE Guild of Misrule has two immersive shows running in York this week.

While the party to end all parties, The Great Gatsby, continues rolling out its American pizzazz at the Theatre @41Monkgate, a very English tale of ghouls, ghosts and festive cheer, with parlour games, Christmas songs, spirited trickery, a sumptuous two-course feast and potent potion, opens at the York Mansion House, St Helen’s Square, tonight.

Alexander Flanagan Wright’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol will be performed by Al Barclay and Jack Whitam, alumni of Sprite Productions’ much-missed outdoor Shakespeare summer seasons at Ripley Castle, near Harrogate.

Directed by the Donmar Warehouse’s new resident assistant director, Tom Bellerby, Barclay and Whitam link up for a fourth time to perform this show about Christmas spirit, caring for those we love and having a damn good knees-up, while warming the heart of the bah-humbugging miser, everyone’s favourite festive misanthrope, Ebenezer Scrooge.

“We did it for two Christmases at the Arts Theatre in London, then we moved to a customised space in a warehouse in Bishopgate, Shoreditch, last Christmas,” says Al, who previously played Scrooge in Wright’s immersive show in the Counting Room at the Guildhall, York, in 2014.

John Holt-Roberts, who now fronts Hyde Family Jam, winners of the 2018 York Culture Award for Outstanding Busker, played opposite him that year as Marley, by the way.

“I remember Jack and I rehearsing our Christmas Carol with Tom at The Fleeting Arms [the regrettably short-lived pop-up arts centre in Gillygate] at the same Alex and The Guild of Misrule were making The Great Gatsby there,” says Al.

York Press:

Al Barclay's Scrooge and Jack Whitam's Marley in The Guild of Misrule's A Christmas Carol 

“Coming back to York again this year feels like the natural home for our show and Jack and I have been commenting on how much happier we are to be in Yorkshire.

“And working with Jack is a homecoming too; it’s virtually impossible to work regularly with an actor by chance, so we have an almost telepathic partnership.

“Right now too, A Christmas Carol seems more and more pertinent to perform, with the rise in food banks in particular.”

Al loves these immersive shows. “You sit with people who can very quickly become your friends on the night – and it’s glorious to play Scrooge every day, with the huge fun of being horrible each show but also the delight in knowing that Scrooge will change from being someone isolated and terrified of himself and the world into someone who embraces the world,” he says. “The message is, you can always get beyond those circumstances to connect with people.”

Jack Whitam performed in such Sprite shows as Twelfth Night, As You Like It and The Tempest (on an island on the Ripley Castle lake), as well as playing Horatio in The Factory’s ad-hoc Hamlet in the grounds. “I remember people suddenly appearing on the castle turrets that night,” he says.

Now he is back on Yorkshire soil once more, renewing his partnership with Al under Tom Bellerby’s direction. “It requires synchronicity between us,” he says. “The audiences are different each night and wc use them so much in the show that it requires negotiating how we act towards each other, so it’s good to work with an actor you trust. Al and I have developed a shorthand between us, which js really important, and it helps that we’re all very good friends.

“So we’re delighted that Tom has found time in his busy schedule, now he’s at the Donmar Warehouse, to re-direct the show and get it back up to speed. It’s a different process in rehearsal each year, looking at the script again, reviewing what worked well last year and how we can push it to the next level this time.”

Al and Jack open in York tonight after performing at Theatre Deli in Sheffield from November 30 to December 16.

“Doing A Christmas Carol in the north is a real treat as audiences are much more willing to get involved and have fun,” says Jack.

The Guild of Misrule presents A Christmas Carol, Mansion House, St Helen’s Square, York, December 18 to 23, 7.30pm; running time, two hours. Box office: 01904 623568 or at