In the shadow of the pantosphere’s merriment lies Dickensian Street, home to the formidable Aganeza Scrooge, a miser with a vendetta against Christmas cheer. Enter Kyle Gardiner, fresh from a triumphant Moorcroft tour, and the spirited soul behind Tiny Tim in The Tron Theatre’s uproarious take on Charles Dickens’ classic. As Aganeza endeavours to banish Christmas, Gardiner’s portrayal of the ever-cheerful Tiny Tim offers a beacon of hope.
Directed by Sally Reid, with Johnny McKnight’s witty script, Kenny Miller’s design, and Ross Brown’s musical magic, this family show promises a rollicking twist on “A Christmas Carol.” In this exclusive interview, Gardiner unveils the secrets of Dickensian Street, the transformative power of festive joy, and the enchantment woven by the creative team. Get ready for laughter, song, 90’s nostalgia, and some of the finest theatrical coughing fits in stage history. Opens on the 29th of November 2023!
Well Kyle, the Fringe seems only just past, and already the Christmas trees are going up
Aye, the decorations have been out for the past month, we’re used to them by now!
Well, now you’re in preparation for Aganeza Scrooge. If you were going to describe the show to someone in the street: What’s the show? Why should they come
The show is a new version of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, it’s Johnny McKnight’s reimagining. As soon as his name’s on it, you know exactly what you’re gonna get. It’s gonna be fast, magical, very, very funny, and very quick. Aganeza Scrooge ticks along quickly, and there’s a lot of different stuff going on: very colourful, brilliant, and just really good fun.
When you saw the script the first time you read it, you read your part. What was your reaction?
Well, I’ve got six parts, so it was ‘Ooft!”. But the main part for me is Tiny Tim which is such an iconic role in Dickens’s manuscript. I guess it was just pure excitement, to be honest. It’s something I’ve not really done before. There’s the accent, the challenge of that and Panto was always a difficult challenge, but it’s so much fun. It was pure excitement to get into it. Like I say, I have a lot of character, a lot of stuff to keep me busy, and I’m looking forward to getting into the meat of it!
Do you find yourself developing multiple personality disorder issues as you get used to them all?
You get lost in it completely! Absolutely. I’m trying to go about my life not speaking in a Cockney accent!
So, how are you finding this as an experience, being a part of this unique production at the Tron? It’s a very different way of making Christmas theatre.
I’ve done a few pantos before at other places in Scotland, but the Tron is unique. It’s not like traditional Panto, not even the ‘modern’ pantos. The multi-rolling thing is very common in this show, it’s very character acting. It’s very exciting, and Sally, the director, has been brilliant. It’s daunting at the beginning because you go into it wanting to know who all your characters are. That’s where Sally comes in…she really feels like she’s on your side and will help you get to where you need to be. She was in it 11 years ago when it first opened, she played Tiny Tim! So no pressure!
As you say, the Tron’s work always seems to bridge genres at Christmas. It really is for everyone, even if you’re not a big panto fan.
100% even down to the music being original music by Ross Brown – Aganeza Scrooge is a different theatrical experience. Like you say, it’s it’s about the story, it’s about the comedy, it’s about moments. It’s not about, you know, oh, he’s behind you! Even though that’s in it! It’s for everyone, it’s an amazing, accessible thing.
So obviously, Tiny Tim, that’s not a part you need to explain to most people. But, who is your Tiny Tim?
Tiny Tim, for me, I approached at the beginning as a very cheeky chappy, very tongue in cheek…it’s hard to explain it without sort of swinging an arm in front of myself and going into a Cockney accent! But you know, as time goes on, he’s so sweet and kind and lovable. There’s a really earnest relationship between him and his mother that goes through the centre of the whole play. I suppose that’s part of the reason why Scrooge goes through the transformation that she does is because, you know, of this appealing to the heartstrings.
And why do you think we keep doing Dickens? Why? Why do we keep coming back to Christmas Carol?
Because it’s one of the greatest stories of all time. Is one of his best stories. I mean, he was one of the greatest authors of all time. I know he did a lot of different Christmas stories, but we never really hear about them. Alot of them feel very similar to Christmas Carol and I suppose you know, when you’ve got something good, why change it? But it’s the essence of Christmas, isn’t it? It’s people going through hard times and coming together as a community and really giving in a selfless way, which is the point of the story I suppose.
How do you feel Aganeza Scrooge sets about reinventing the story? It’s billed as a ‘radical spin’!
How long have we got? There is a lot in it. For example, one of my characters is…let me get this right, West of Scotland ‘Stop Right Now-er’ 8 years on the trot champion. There’s a lot of 90s references going along in this and a lot of Spice Girls fun. There are a lot of characters that aren’t archetypical pantomime characters. These are just fully rounded, comical, colourful people and I suppose that’s what keeps it fresh. In the end it’s about Aganeza Scrooge. It’s not about the Scrooge that we know. It’s a different perspective on that and a different storyline because of that.
Would you say the gender flip changes the energy of the character and their story?
Hmmm…I don’t know if it feels different. Actually, I don’t think it does. I guess with it being a Panto there is a lighter feel than the original text. But I think the spirit of the book, the novel is there. Do you know what I mean? It’s the same story. It’s the proper Christmas spirit. That’s what we’re trying to encapsulate. I think the guys are doing a great job of it so far.
Where does this show rank amongst your favourite bookings in your career to date?
Yeah, it’s definitely up there. I’ve wanted to do the Tron panto for so, so long because of how unique it is. I’m trying to make the most of being here because it’s so much fun. It’s brilliant. It’s a brilliant room to be in. Everyone’s fantastic. Long may it continue.
Do you feel there’s a particularly Glaswegian approach to Christmas that comes across in Aganeza Scrooge?
Yeah, 100 percent! 100%! If you’ve ever seen anything from Johnny McKnight before you know the sort of spirit, the sense of humour, the banter that happens between the characters. It feels very, very much alive. Ticket sales are strong as far as I know, and I think part of the reason is people know they see themselves represented in that tongue-in-cheek Glaswegian banter on the stage. So the city definitely lives in the play.
Well we recently saw you in the National Theatre of Scotland’s tour of the Tron Theatre Company’s Moorcroft – it was fantastic, you were tremendous – it’s a big switch of tone!
Yeah, well for the last week of Moorcroft we were still on tour and it was coming into the rehearsals on Aganeza! So that was that was a complete switch in mindset.
Well both your characters have health challenges I suppose. (Spoilers: Kyle’s Moorcroft character does not survive to curtain call)
That’s right. That’s a very good point. They both cough a lot. I’m going to develop something myself!
Do you think that helped with booking the part?
Oh yeah! They went, ‘I know that cough, that cough can go somewhere else! I can feel it!’
And I think for Christmas theatre it’s just nice to be working, isn’t it? As we get towards the end of the year, it becomes almost Christmas or nothing.
Yeah, well it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but festive shows are the most probable thing for the theatre. So you know everywhere does it and it’s a relief, but also a moment of pride to do something as good as this! Something like the Tron’s Christmas work which is so unique, and fantastic.
Are there any moments in Aganeza Scrooge you find yourself looking forward to most?
I mean, the ‘Stop Right Now’ is pretty electric! We only rehearsed it for the first time yesterday. I was born in 97, right? So I just sort of missed it. Yeah, I’m showing my youth! So I had to learn all the dance moves and stuff. It’s really fun to lean into I tell you! It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Ok, the curtain falls on opening night, the bows have been taken. How do you want to send the audience home? How are they feeling?
That’s an interesting question! I think the obvious answer is to feel entertained. Definitely. Say it’s Christmas Eve and you’re going home, you’ve wrapped presents, you finished all the shopping, and now Santa’s on his way. You want that excitement to be there, especially for young people. But as well as that, it’s a show about family and love, coming together…community! That’s the important part of the Christmas spirit, and we really want people to feel that, and to feel enriched by it.
Well, you’re going to spend a lot of this Christmas season with the cast and crew of Aganeza Scrooge? Do you like them?
I have to say they’re amazing. But they are actually! They are incredible. It’s a great spirit, we’ve bonded very quickly. Moorcroft was 7 guys together, Aganeza has 6 characters, and all of them bar me are women! What a change in energy, I’m treating it like a Yoga Retreat to be honest. It’s really nice! Everyone is so kind. It feels like it’s going to be a really nice Christmas.
Any reunions at all, or all new colleagues to you?
Well, Katie Barnett, I’ve seen her in all sorts of great stuff. I saw her in My Doric Diary, and of course, she did The Wizard of Oz here last year: she was incredible! So funny. But just like Julie Wilson Nimmo, Louise McCarthy, Star Penders, Jamie Marie Leary, these are people I know of, I’ve met, but this is the first chance I’ve had to work with them. It’s good fun and makes a great room.
Lastly, What have you asked Santa for this year then Kyle?
I do have a list you know? The main problem is I always forget things I want for Christmas. So I’ve asked for a pair of Crocs. That’s it. A pair of Crocs which is very embarrassing to say. But I go through about 5 sets of slippers a year, so I’m hoping the Crocs will give me the longevity I need!