Isobel McArthur‘s adaptation of Charles Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol is the perfect Christmas treat for audiences of all ages. Blending contemporary dialogue seamlessly with Dickens’ text, the all-singing, all-dancing cast drive the show with tireless gusto. One minute you are in an urban street scene – a scratch brass band of carollers bursting through the aisles, dispensing cheer to jaded passers-by – and in a moment, you are transported to Dickensian London and the miserable office of Ebenezer Scrooge. The story soon unfolds, switching between past and present as the cast play multiple characters, as well as providing background music and sound effects onstage.
Such a canonical work loved worldwide needs to be treated with care and respect; this is evident in McArthur’s terrific adaptation. Avoiding the cautionary Victorian approach, this production becomes a fable of our current social circumstances whilst retaining Dickens’ voice throughout.
Leading the cast as Scrooge is popular TV actor Colin McCredie, who we love and hate in equal measure. It is difficult to pick a standout performance from the magnificent seven supporting actors, for they all deserve recognition. Each actor has their moment: there’s Richard Colvin with his glorious voice, Rachel McAllister with her exuberant comic energy, and Florence Odumoso with her feisty moving moments and great banjo playing. Then there’s Samuel Pashby, an all-round musician and actor who can pull off wearing a bobble hat; Emilie Patry as a hilarious charity worker with a big drum; Felicity Sparks, piano-player extraordinaire and spoofy hostess and finally Ali Watt, whose shivers wonderfully as Bob Cratchit as well as playing a mean guitar. They all harmonise during the carol singing perfectly. Complementing this beautiful production is a cast of four young people who take the stage like pros in various roles.
The direction by Ben Occhipinti strikes the right balance between respecting tradition and depicting contemporary life. He feels at home with the Christmas genre and never lets the performance descend into pantomime land or preachy modern drama. The movement direction by Lesley Hutchison is mesmerising, fast-paced and light of foot. Special mention must also go to the set design by Anna Orton. Never before have dull modern street lights look so good, creating exciting visuals thanks to Rory Beaton‘s clever lighting design. There are many more Christmas surprises to be enjoyed in this production, the wonders inciting gasps from the audience.
Having watched a Christmas show every season for 50 years now, this is honestly the best of the best. You will love every minute of it.