As we enter December, it’s time for theatres around the country to put on their best Santa hat and their best family-friendly festive treat. For the Citizens Theatre, that means the return of their hugely popular production of A Christmas Carol, this year being performed at the Tramway. Taking a traditional approach with the script and design, the challenge was to be fun and engaging for the young ones without the flashing lights and tinsel of Panto or a more modern take on Dickens’ classic novel.
It pays off though, and this production is an absolute marvel. Weaving in puppetry, sing-alongs, and some ingenious directorial touches from Dominic Hill, it achieves that fine balance between being energetic and being mature. The ensemble are marvellously fluid, and though there were a couple of stumbled lines here and there they are well coordinated enough that they remain individually entertaining in their roles and still come together when they need to. The script is as dense as ever it was but performed in such a characterful way, with so much of the story told visually, that the audience is never bogged down by it. Rather, the text is elevated in a way that few productions (theatre, film, radio, what have you) are able to achieve.
Where the show really shines though is through its captivating design. Rachael Canning’s set, costumes and puppets are detailed and imaginative, the stage-dominating Ghost of Christmas Future standing out as a highlight – among many spectacular moments – and eliciting screams from its young audience. At times they run the risk of being a little too good, with the chilling ghost of Jacob Marley sure to scare a few younger audience members. Even so, don’t let you put that off from going to see puppets that will fill even the most cynical of scrooges with awe.
Speaking of, Benny Young is exactly the Scrooge you would want for an A Christmas Carol like this; hilariously grouchy and later full of wonder and redemption. It’s straightforward, sure, but like the rest of the performance, it acts as an earnest and theatrical reimagining of the much-loved Christmas treasure.