The Lyceum’s original production of An Edinburgh Christmas Carol has the potential to be a truly amazing piece of seasonal theatre. It presents the audience with a stunning adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novella, with hilarious pantomime lines like ‘Why don’t you slip into something more comfortable . . .like a coma. At the same time, however, choice additional subplots like the one surrounding Greyfriars’ Bobby turn this seasonal show into a production that ultimately fails to deliver.
As a stage adaptation of Dickens, An Edinburgh Christmas Carol is unparalleled when it sticks to the author’s original scenarios and dialogues. In these moments, it is positively magical, with brilliant realisations of the characters, elaborate and imaginative set design and impeccable stage craft and magic. Veteran character player, Crawford Logan, portrays a wonderful Ebenezer Scrooge, reminiscent of Alistair Sim in the classic 1951 film version. The use of puppetry alongside the live players is also seamlessly incorporated, with the decision to feature a marionette for Tiny Tim in place of a child actor proving to be a novel and welcome change.
However, the original storyline is watered down by jarring pantomimic scenes and unsympathetic knockabout comedy. Perhaps the most jarring parts are the sequences featuring Greyfriars’ Bobby. Despite excellent puppetry from Edie Edmundson as the eponymous hound, the scenes verge on the puerile, as a mustachioed Dog Catcher – who comes across like something straight out of bad television cartoon – chases Bobby through the kirkyard.
Worse, when Dickens’ story becomes dark towards the end of the play, and the wonderfully spine-chilling Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come appears, director Tony Cownie – no doubt fearful of complaints from irate parents of distressed five-year-olds – starts pulling his punches. Every time the story veers towards it natural (and much-needed) darkness, he breaks the tension with inappropriate comic relief – thereby spoiling the effectiveness of what would otherwise be a stunning production.
It is honestly no fun to be the resident Grinch, raining on the parade of what must have been months of work for the company. Nevertheless, this production simply tries to straddle three camps at once and, sadly, misses the mark on all counts.