As the panto season continues to drag its heels through January, the National Theatre of Scotland’s A Christmas Carol is but a distant memory – a beautifully gothic memory that will stay with its audience long after the final pantomime curtain closes, proving the importance and longevity of good storytelling.
Director and designer Graham McLaren is free to manipulate Gavin Glover’s puppet rework of Dickens’ most famous yuletide treat, which sees the selfish miser Ebenezer Scrooge haunted by three spirits on Christmas Eve, forcing him to confront the error of his ways before it is too late.
Set in Kirkcaldy’s Old Kirk, McLaren’s set is a claustrophobic box of tricks as the ghost puppets of Christmas past, present and future erupt from cupboards, wardrobes and antique lighting. Benny Young presents a twisted and tormented Scrooge, forever stuck in his ways with nothing but his accounts for company. His haunted visions are harrowing to watch as he becomes all too aware where he’s destined to end up. It’s the puppetry within this production which secures it as a piece of truly atmospheric theatre. With puppets manipulating puppets, a frighteningly realistic Yorkshire Christmas present and a giant, silent Grim Reaper McLaren reinvents this classic with a beautifully raw intensity. McLaren has successfully managed to bring a new power to Dickens’ original, reinforcing the themes of sickening poverty and greed with a combination of puppetry, high energy and a love for storytelling – not to mention everything down to Scrooge’s antique features and body language reflecting Victorian austerity.