It’s been a mere three years since The Lyceum last staged An Edinburgh Christmas Carol. However, it is easy to see why the accompanying lifetime of chaos has encouraged artistic director David Greig to return so soon to their ‘most popular Christmas show ever’. This Scots-inflected festive favourite must have seemed like a safe bet in a time of considerable uncertainty.
And so it most definitely proves. An Edinburgh Christmas Carol is a crowd-pleasing production, as jokes about the Bank of Scotland and Edinburgh Council combine with much-loved characters and nifty staging to create a joyful romp for adults and children alike. The Scottish tweaks to the script (Bob Cratchit becomes Rab, Lang Syne is the Spirit of Christmas Past) and the addition of a sub-plot involving Greyfriars Bobby work smoothly and give the play an enjoyable local flavour and relevance.
While 2022 was never shaping up to be a brilliant year, surely nobody at The Lyceum could have predicted just how relevant a show about poverty and generosity would prove come Christmas. What was a rather throwaway scene in the 2019 production between a firewood seller and a destitute mother takes on a far weightier meaning in today’s context of fuel poverty and the cost of living crisis. The messages of compassion and generosity that suffuse the play (and the original story) are ones we should all – especially those in power – pay more heed to.
As, indeed, does Crawford Logan’s Scrooge, who goes on the traditional character arc from a miser with a love of calling in debts and sending people to poorhouses to one of the most generous men in Edinburgh. The rest of the ensemble cast shift between the story’s familiar characters (and some new ones invented for this production) with ease and energy.
Steven McNicoll turns in his usual consummate, crowd-pleasing performance as Nouadays (a Father Christmas-like Spirit of Christmas Present), Fezziwig (a vision in orange and green tartan trews) and a number of other characters. Nicola Roy brings a raucous energy to a number of parts – her Rose’s withering putdowns of husband Charlie (Charlie West) being a much-enjoyed highlight.
Not everything is perfect. The set lacks some of the dynamism of the Lyceum’s best, and not all of the slapstick lands successfully. However, when the staging works well it is incredibly effective, and the use of puppets to portray Tiny Tim and Greyfriars Bobby is especially well-done. The ghost of Jacob Marley is suitably spooky and alarming, while the appearances of the three spirits of Christmas never failed to elicit a reaction. Taqi Nazeer’s Ayont (The Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come) provokes a real thrill of horror around the auditorium upon his arrival on stage.
Regardless of any minor quibbles, the final magical touch is guaranteed to send the whole audience out into the winter’s evening babbling with excitement. It would take a real Scrooge to not be uplifted by An Edinburgh Christmas Carol, and the audience is bound to be moved by its message of generosity, kindness and compassion.