This year’s Christmas show at Theatre by the Lake is the most-loved festive tale of all.

The Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol is given a special twist in Partick Barlow’s version, which includes plenty of laughs among the melodrama and ghostly goings-on with Ebenezer Scrooge.

Darren Lawrence plays the unlovely old skinflint and says he is far more than just a load of old humbug.

“He’s a real man, not a stereotype; he’s not just slightly unpleasant – he’s deeply unpleasant, nasty, but he mustn’t become a pantomime villain,” he explains.

“The version of Dickens’ story by Patrick Barlow that we are using explores what has happened to him to make him the way he is. It’s a brilliant adaptation and it’s not afraid to be political, saying that people in poverty need help, not to be left with no support.

“I absolutely love the Scrooge Patrick has created. I really do. If he didn’t get redeemed, he’d be impossible to like.

“As it is, I feel sorry for him and have loads of sympathy for him.”

But don’t get the impression that the theatre’s 20th anniversary Christmas production is some kind of grim Victorian psycho-drama - the show is packed with traditional carols and is full of fun and laughter.

Barlow’s adaptation, says Darren, captures all the humour and the pathos of Dickens’ novella.

As Scrooge, Darren almost never leaves the stage; but the other four actors in the show play 30 characters between them, not to mention various narrators, carol singers, debtors, spirits, skaters, ghostly helpers and even bits of furniture. They also provide all the music.

Darren grew up in the steel town of Port Talbot and made his first stage appearance at five when he played a green imp at school and later Jack Frost in Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant.

In his teens, he played many roles with West Glamorgan’s vibrant youth theatre and has much praise for a local authority that was not afraid to value and invest in the arts.

At 17, he was accepted by the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

Early in his career, he appeared in Dennis Potter’s 1993 Channel 4 drama Lipstick on your Collar.

His career now involves much directing as well as acting,but he has fond memories of the National Theatre Wales production of The Passion staged on the streets of Port Talbot in 2011 when Michael Sheen played Christ and Darren a local man named Alfie.

“It was life-changing for us and for the town, because it’s a very depressed, poor place. The steelworks used to employ 40,000 people when I was at school; now it’s fewer than 4,000.”

The Welsh links continued four years later when Darren appeared in the Channel 4 series Cucumber, written by Swansea-born Russell T Davies (famous for Queer as Folk and Dr Who), whom he met during his youth theatre days.

Scrooge’s story will have unfolded almost 70 times by the time the final curtain falls in mid-January and Darren will relish every minute.

“Acting is seductive. Yes, you are doing the same thing every night but to different people and telling great stories. The effect of theatre on a large group of people is a profound experience,” he says.

n A Christmas Carol runs at Theatre by the Lake from November 22 until January 11. For tickets, go to or call 017687 74411.