He's just 23-years-old but Alex Watkins has already written and directed one stage play and is about to see his second work performed on the stage of Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre.
The young playwright, who lives in Bradley, was invited to put together a festive production for Huddersfield Thespians and has adapted Charles Dickens’ classic tale of redemption, A Christmas Carol.
It is, says Alex, one of his favourite stories. “I have read it, listened to it and watched it many times, to the point where I can almost recite the whole book,” he added.
A former pupil of North Halifax Grammar School, Alex has always loved the theatre and was for many years a student at Oscars Theatre Academy in Huddersfield. While in the sixth form at school he wrote and directed a play called Legally Blonde: The Trials of la Modern Goldilocks, which was performed by Year Seven pupils.
With the Thespians he has acted in productions of the John Godber play Happy Families and the Sandi Toksvig drama Bully Boy, which was produced earlier this year.
After studying drama and creative writing at Kingston University, Alex has returned to Huddersfield to seek work and would like a future in the theatre. He writes constantly, producing short stories and dramatic work.
Alex has set A Christmas Carol in modern times and given it a minimalist set. Actors will play all the different ages of their characters. While Dickens was writing at a time when poverty and homelessness were rife in newly-industrialised England, Alex says the theme is just as valid and important today. “I have focussed on unemployment and homelessness and at the beginning of the play the charity workers that come to see Scrooge are representatives of Shelter. We will be putting out donation boxes for Shelter in the theatre.”
But Dickens fans need not fear that the young writer has taken too many liberties with the tale. As Alex says: “because I love the story so much I have tried to stay as faithful to it as possible in a modern setting. I have kept the idea of the spirit of Christmas and giving and helping your fellow man.”
However, two of Dickens’ male characters, Marley and Scrooge’s nephew Fred, will be played by female actors. The key character Bob Cratchit is to be played by his father Alistair Cheetham. “I will be in the strange position of directing my dad,” said Alex, “and my cousin Amy Harrop is helping out with sound and music.” So it will be something of a family affair.
The cast also includes Derek Smith as Scrooge, Isobel Crossley, Lynne Whitaker, Lucinda Herbert and Ben Schofield as the Ghost of Christmas Past.
A Christmas Carol opens on Tuesday, December 9, and runs until Saturday, December 13. It’s the perfect warm-up to the festive season.
Tickets are £12 from 01484 430528 or www.thelbt.org