Writer: Charles Dickens
Adapter: Neil Duffield
Director: Gary Sefton
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
Charles Dickens, whose bicentenary was celebrated recently, penned one of the most famous and certainly best-loved Christmas stories of all time, A Christmas Carol. The tale has been turned into numerous theatre productions and films with even a superb Muppet film version. Tonight the old Victorian Royal Theatre saw a new telling of the story, adapted by Neil Duffield, and what a magical production!
The story of the miserly and mean Scrooge with his night-time visitations from the ghosts of Jacob Marley, Christmas Past, Present and Future is familiar to most people. It is a timeless classic from the master of social comment who allows himself to be more sentimental than usual, especially where Tiny Tim is concerned. Nonetheless, audiences can never fail to be moved by this a heart-warming tale. No “bah humbugs” at the end of this
If they were giving out awards on this show the prize would surely go to the set design, by Michael Taylor, which really does become as much a part of the story-telling as the narrators and the characters. One is immediately struck by it as the curtain lifts, with the ramshackle array of old trunks, boxes, desks and cobwebs, not forgetting the nooks, crannies and doors that abound. The audience never knows where someone is going to appear from next as the story progresses, which really adds to the fun and the thrill of the piece. Hands coming up from the floor, people disappearing and faces popping out of pictures, cupboards …. oh! and stairs made from boxes and trunks. A veritable Health and Safety nightmare, they’d say these days. All this is enhanced by Richard Godin’s clever and effective use of lighting and sound design by Helen Atkinson.
The talented cast, and there are only seven of them in all, are all spot on, each member taking on several rôles, with the exception of Scrooge, played by Sam Graham. His portrayal is just the right mix of the mean and miserly with the naïve, childish and at times very funny. Indeed the director, Gary Sefton, has definitely brought out the humour in the text. It is often forgotten that Dickens had a very wry, often satirical sense of humour.
Andy Williams gives us a wonderful Jacob Marley in shackles and does not overdo it. His Mr Fezziwig is full of life, as he should be, but Williams saves the best for the second ghost. Brilliant. Kate Graham in the rôle of Mrs Cratchit is very believable and she makes a beautiful and serene first ghost. Greg Haiste does a superb job as Bob Cratchit, the silly Topper and the gender switch to the almost pantomime dame character of Mrs Fezziwig. Eric Kofi Abrefa is nicely understated as Fred and Aladdin. All in the chorus are very good with some lovely singing that really sets the scene putting you in the Christmas mood. Mention must also be made of the children in the chorus, who all do very well, in particular to our Tiny Tim at this performance. Alexandra Worrall’s choreography adds to the flow and pace of the piece and effects like the snow flying and much more made for a truly fabulous show in the real sense of the word. At the end of this performance, the majority of the audience was on its feet for a standing ovation. Well deserved. A super family Christmas treat not to be missed.
Runs until 6 January 2013
Picture: Robert Day