The Victorians gave us many of the elements of our Christmas; carols, crackers, cards and of course Charles Dickens. Dickens’ tale of reformation and humanity has been warming cockles and melting hearts for over one hundred and fifty years and has been interpreted in every medium available, but its simple message has made it a favourite with every generation.
There’s something charmingly old fashioned about this production at the Lyceum. The performers taking multiple roles, playing instruments as well as helping to move sets and props, gives it the feel of one of those touring school shows that used to teach us how to cross roads or avoid strangers. The live music works particularly well, adding colour and tone rather than turning the show into a full blown musical.
As a character, Ebeneezer Scrooge is a little like Hamlet; as long as you give the crowd the hits, there’s plenty of room for interpretation. Christopher Fairbank’s penny-pincher is like a Jack Russell terrier, snapping at the heels of anyone who tries to get close to him and in his transformation and reformation he’s so puppy-like in his excitement that it’s a wonder nobody hits him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.
Director Andrew Panton has kept things simple – and clearly some of this is to do with budget, but it also allows his multi-talented cast to be more a part of this production than they would in a traditional retelling. Neil Duffield’s adaptation has some great wit to it and allows the story to move at real pace – handy when a large proportion of the audience are under ten – however his attempts to shoehorn contemporary political resonances into the story are unnecessary and distracting. The success of Dickens’ story is that its message continues to be relevant today and it doesn’t need gilding.
This is clearly a show aimed at a family audience. With song, story dance, fake snow and tinsel it wallows in Christmas spirit and unless you are a complete humbug you should walk out with some yule fuel for your tank.