An amateur actor from Henlow is set to perform A Christmas Carol from memory at the weekend to raise money for church funds.

The Comet: Mat Jones during a dress rehearsal of A Christmas Carol at St Mary's Church in Henlow. Picture: Mat JonesMat Jones during a dress rehearsal of A Christmas Carol at St Mary's Church in Henlow. Picture: Mat Jones (Image: Archant)

Mat Jones has memorised all 11,425 words of the abridged version used by Charles Dickens himself for public performances.

He is set to perform in Henlow on Saturday and Meppershall the next day – after months of regular practice run-throughs.

Asked by the Comet how he had memorised the entire script, Mat said: “It’s pretty tricky.

“A Christmas Carol is usually read from the text, but I thought I’d have a go at doing it without – which seemed quite daunting.

“Usually it’s the professionals who do this. I’m pretty sure it’s the same text Sir Patrick Stewart has used in his one-man show.

Mat will perform without any props whatsoever apart from using the church lectern to represent Ebenezer Scrooge’s desk.

He said the hardest part of learning the whole script had been memorising the long lists of items Dickens often included in his works.

“You just have to work through and create a visualisation of it all in your mind,” he said.

“When Scrooge is checking through his house to see if anyone’s there, there’s a whole list of things he’s checking – so I imagine a visual list of all the things he’s looking for.

“It was difficult building up longer and longer run-throughs, as you worry that if you move on to a completely new part, feeling you’re making really good headway, you might forget other bits you learned already – you’re trying to cram so much in.

“I’ve worked through it week on week with a friend for about four or five months now. I wouldn’t say it was easy – it was difficult, a challenge. But hopefully that’ll make all the difference.”

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, publishing six days before Christmas, and sold out the initial print run of 6,000 copies by Christmas Eve.

He adapted the work for public readings in 1853, performing with nothing more than a reading desk, carpet and gas lights. He performed the story 127 times, doing so for the last time in March 1870 – three months before his death, aged 58.

Mat will perform at St Mary’s Church in Henlow at 5.30pm on Saturday, and at St Mary’s in Meppershall at 5.30pm on Sunday.

Entry to the performances is free, with no tickets. Donations to church funds will be welcome.