A CHRISTMAS CAROL: Charles Dickens, Adapted, Bryony Lavery; music and lyrics Jason Carr
Birmingham Rep Theatre
Runs: 2 hrs, one interval, till 04 01 14
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 03 12 13
A great joy of an adaptation
Bryony Lavery has a great gift as a story-teller in her dramas. In this adaptation she takes one of the most famous stories from our past and creates an exciting theatrical story with it. This CHRISTMAS CAROL couldn’t be more clearly about learning to love humanity – it is not about meanness, nor wickedness but about joy and the importance of it. More than this, it’s about the simple, but profound, joy to be found with others.
Lavery brings to the fore in her story a band of ghostly citizens; they are angry with Scrooge and are determined to bring him to a better, more fulfilled life. In many ways, the ghosts are us, ground down by the greed and cruelty, by the lack of feeling, in those above us, who rule us or employ us. The story is realised as a marvellous event in the theatre too; so there are theatrical delights aplenty.
Although this is a dark tale, it is a tale of redemption; rest assured, you will go out feeling better than you did when you went it. Lavery avoids sugary sentimentality, but can still enable the team to tug at heart-strings; there are many moments of what might best be described as significant sentiment.
The ghostly citizens drive the action. ‘Let the doors be locked,’ they cry. And ‘Let fog enter through the keyholes’, ‘Let a bell toll’. This is theatrical storytelling of the highest quality.
Jo Servi creates a touchingly human Scrooge, someone worth saving. There’s a young Ghost of Christmas Past, in Guy Lewis’s performance, not full of foreboding but of joy in the happiness that had been part of Scrooge’s life. Roddy Peters’s Nephew adds much delight too.
But this is an ensemble piece, strong acting and singing all round (terrific music and lyrics from Jason Carr). It is deftly managed in Tessa Walker’s hands within Ti Green’s economic settings. As the production gets into its stride it will be helped if the emotional journey can keep ratcheting up in the second half to the end. And it would be excellent if the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come could have some additional lighting so that the details of this marvellous, eerie, construction could be better picked out – at the moment it appears a bit flat, which is a shame.
When I saw the production 4 years ago, I described it as a great joy. It’s remained a great joy in my memory, ever since; now it’s a fresh great joy.
(Note: This is the cast at the reviewed performance; illness had required changes from the published cast list.)
Scrooge: Jo Servi
Bob Cratchit / Ghost of Christmas Past: Guy Lewis
Nephew Fred / Dobber / Boy Scrooge 3: Roddy Peters
Mrs Cratchit / Mrs Dibber / Ash: Tania Mathurin
Ghost of Christmas Present / Mrs Dabchick / Stone: Angela Wynter
Marilyn / Sovereign: Christina Bennington
Carolyn / Belle / Penney: Bethan Mary-James
Valerine / Mrs Fezziwig / Fiver / Mrs Joe: Joanna Lee Martin
Fan / Martha Cratchit / Young Wife: Francesca Zoutewelle
Topper / Mr Fezziwig / Goode / Groat / Silver / Pound / Old Joe: Paul Ryan
Peter Cratchity / Dick Wikins / Goose Boy / Young Husband / Boy Scrooge 2: Iddon Jones
Jacob Marley / Emmeline / Better / Shilling / Antimony: Mark Akinfolarin
Director: Tessa Walker
Designer: Ti Green
Musical Director: Tim Jackson
Lighting Designer: Mark Doubleday
Sound Designer: Rick Walsh
Movement Director: Anna Morrissey
Casting Director: Polly Jerrold
Assistant Director: Scott Le Crass
Assistant Musical Director: Alex Beetschen
Magic Consultant: Richard Pinner