by Charles Dickens adapted by Theresa Heskins.

New Victoria Theatre Etruria Road To 19 January 2013.
10.30am 12-14, 17-20 Dec, 8-11, 15-18 Jan.
2.15pm 12, 15, 18, 22, 24, 27-30 Dec, 2-5, 9, 12, 14, 19 Jan.
7.30pm 20, 21, 27-30 Dec, 2-5, 10-12, 18, 19 Jan.
Audio-described 9 Jan 2.15pm, 12 Jan.
Captioned 5 Jan 2.15pm, 14 Jan.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 December.

Seriously joyous triumph.
Evocatively as Dickens and Christmas go together, they don’t offer the same fantastic panoramas as Narnia or Wonderland, the two previous ports of call for director Theresa Heskins’ winter wonder-landings. Yet, by detail and colourful action she achieves a comparable piece of storytelling and theatrical fizz (or indeed Fezziwig).

Such details as the knocker on Scrooge’s front door momentarily seeming to take-on the features of his dead partner in moneymaking, Jacob Marley. No theatrical tricks here; just two actors holding portal ornamentation, one turning to show his face, before moving back to being an anonymous piece of human scenery.

That’s David Streames, whose contrast elsewhere between Marley’s agonised ghost, painfully dragging his chains from beneath the bed where Scrooge has lain secure, and young Ebenezer’s merry employer Fezziwig, celebrating Christmas on the firm’s time, is part of Heskins’ symphonic sweep.

There’s strong work which avoids the story’s glutinous and sententious propensities without becoming glib. Having Tiny Tim as a child-sized puppet marks out his positive expression and definite limp without the near-unavoidable element of parody a human actor would bring.

Key to the production is Paul Greenwood’s Scrooge. He is no mechanical villain, but someone who has worked himself into his current state. He neither ‘Bah Humbugs’ to excess (and clearly believes inwardly Christmas is a ‘humbug’) nor goes excessively cheery at the end. His moments of feeling excluded and of joy frustrated because others’ reality is only a vision for him are sharply moving.

Heskins creates a rich mix of haunting and haunted moments. The carol singer in whose face Scrooge slammed his door reappears silently in a subdued light as he recalls his action with a regretful pang. The very corporal cheer of Christmas Present’s Ghost – his laugh at one point seeming to chastise Scrooge in his exclusion – is contrasted by the three dangling death’s-heads swirling the stage of possible future Christmases.

Add music, with verses from carols and the entire show is a deeply moving, theatrically exhilarating experience, gripping without becoming over-horrific for 6+ (I’d guess) audience members. A joy for any season; a triumph at Christmas.

Belle/Caroline: Emily Butterfield.
Bob Cratchit: Matt Connor.
Young Scrooge/Topper: Mark Donald.
Ghost of Christmas Past/Martha Cratchit: Hannah Edwards.
Ebenezer Scrooge: Paul Greenwood.
Fred: Bryn Holding.
Ghost of Christmas Present/Dick Wilkins: Antony Jardine.
Sister: Alicia Marsden.
Merchant: Oliver Mawdsley.
Mrs Cratchit/Philanthropist: Loren O’Dair.
Mrs Dilber: Naomi Lee Shulke.
Jacob Marley/Mr Fezziwig: David Streames.
Young Company: Emily Ashmore, Sasha Frost, Maxwell Jeffries, Amber Johnson, Martha Keen, Quinn Kelsall, Georgia Philips, Maya Tudor/Georgia Copestick, Emily Ford, Alyx Furnival, Spike Machin, Sandhya Narayan, Elizabeth Nelson, Ava Ralph, Lauren Tagg/Caitlin Ball, Katherine Cannon, Rachel Cannon, Grace Clarke, Poppy Hawkes, Alexandria Laws, Kristian Morgan, Maddison Smith.

Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Laura Clarkson.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Choreographer: Beverley Edmunds.
Costume: Lis Evans.

2012-12-12 13:12:35

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