It has been 172 years since Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol, a novel about Ebenezer Scrooge, who thinks the festive and joyful arrival of Christmas in London is all “Humbug”. Ciaran McConville adapts this novel into a great play, complemented by live singing, live music, and effective audience interaction. With a large cast and elaborate set, including detachable doors and transforming tables, as well as a finely decorated stage with detailed and powerful projections, we follow the tale of a bitter old man. As the show begins, we see him scolding all for their Christmas spirit, including his ever faithful and positive nephew, those who work for him and even people on the streets of London.
The ghost of Scrooge’s late business partner visits and warns him of the three spirits that will also visit him that night. The spirits are of the present, past and future, taking Scrooge on a journey through his life with the intention of forcing a change of heart.
Peter Todd really captures the essence of the time in the piece with all dressed to the Victorian stitch, not a fault in appearance. Especially the unity between the narrative characters who carry the story. The organisation of costume is that of a high quality. It not only has unity within itself but unity with the piece, and it contributes very well with set, sound and lighting.
Timothy Bird does an impeccable job creating an atmosphere for the production using video projections throughout, all used to change the location, and the time period. Bird is able to explore the world, which Dickens describes through the movement of the clouds and several backdrops. We capture that essence of a bitter-sweet past and also the frailty of the future. The detailed drawings of London, including a slow moving sky, make the whole production easy for the audience to immerse themselves in. It’s these small details that really build on the tensions of the play and enforce a clear direction and collaboration within all departments of the production.
Although overdone and too choreographed at times, Katie Lowe and Eamonn O’Dwyer’s dance and musical score serves well as great entertainment. Performers also dance with the audience, mainly the younger audience members sitting closest to the stage. I also respect McConville’s choice to have performers exit and enter through the audience space, as it really allows tensions building up and keeping the audience challenged.
Humorous, yet full of surprises, the show is easy to follow even with the classical English text, thanks to the performers and their powerful characterisation and use of pace. It is a strong ensemble piece that audience members can easily relate to the characters and the world created due to the strong vocals, physicalisation, and buoyant energy applied throughout. Most notably, Paul Hawkyard who plays Fezziwig, Ghost of Christmas Present and Charity Gent, Tom Coles who plays Bob Caratchit and Martin Ball who plays Scrooge. The relationship between these characters is portrayed clearly, and they all have tremendous stage presence and energy that is always at a continuous high, without any questionable moments.
Apart from the continuous stage transitions that require a lot of stage hands to reshuffle props and set, which after a while may become somewhat irritating, the production is nothing less than enjoyable, a perfect start to the Christmas season. It is the perfect go see especially for families this Christmas.