A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The Bridge Theatre, Potters Field, London SE1 to 16 January 2021. 4****. William Russell

There is a plethora of productions of A Christmas Carol this year,a glut even, none, however, are going to be like this version directed by Nicholas Hytner which lights up the stage and reminds the audience just what it is live theatre can offer that all the streaming shows in the world cannot. A cast of three play all the parts, well not quite all – Tiny Tim turns out to be a puppet – and display versatility that would astonish except one expects it of them and their director.
It is basically a reading of the story Dickens wrote which takes place on the permanent set – a collection of screens onto which images can be projected – designed by Bunny Christie. Add a pile of boxes, a safe and the occasional prop and things duly take wing. Beale anchors the whole thing, delivering a Scrooge worth saving and when he plays someone else lights up the stage – his plump maiden lady sister conjured up with a brisk pulling aside of his morning coat is a particular joy. But the others do the same, wit Figueiredo creating a splendidly funny Indian Ghost of Christmas Present,a goodness, gracious me version of an Indian Guru which would be hopelessly wrong from most anybody, although not everybody, else. Ferran shines as Cratchitt in particular.
Beale holds it all together as his Scrooge slowly changes from miser to benevolent employer. The carol has been sung in all sorts of ways from being a musical to a one man show but this version is inspired. The set is exploited in all sorts of ways as things are projected in to it and when the tale is told and the house is enclosed in fairy lights enchantment is everywhere.

Simon Russell Beale
Patsy Ferran
Eben Figueiredo.

Director: Nicholas Hytner.
Set Design: Bunny Christie.
Lighting Design: Jon Clark.
Sound Design: Gareth Fry.
Videos: Luke Halls & Zakk Hein.
Composer: Grant Aldiss.
Choreography: James Cousins.

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