A CHRISTMAS CAROL
by Charles Dickens adapted by Neil Duffield.
Royal and Derngate (Royal auditorium) Guildhall Road NN1 1DP To 6 January 2013.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 December.
Visually alert production makes this distinctive.
As was said years ago, productions of Dickens measure how the Victorian age is regarded. David Lean’s Oliver Twist came in the post-war surge of a new society, and showed Victorian London as a dangerous, dirty place.
By the 1980s, with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher hailing ‘Victorian values’ Christine Edzard’s Little Dorrit showed a cleaner outline.
Gary Sefton’s staging of Neil Duffield’s A Christmas Carol adaptation makes clear where nowadays stands. Michael Taylor’s set builds tottering mountains of ledgers and suitcases, the records of money and transactions being the very ground where people walk or climb.
Faces emerge from suitcase lids; people might as well be property for money-man Ebenezer Scrooge, to have the lid closed on them if inconvenient. And as values are awry, Scrooge sits on high but in a shop below street-level. Up above, by the door sits his clerk Bob Cratchit, centre stage, with a bird’s-eye view of his desk, his quill pen sent flying when the door opens on a chill winter wind, his arm reaching to grasp it again.
Overall, it’s a twisted, incongruous world, as screwed-up as Scrooge, and only moving to some semblance of natural space, based on the floor, as the four Ghosts start taking control of Scrooge’s life.
It’s reinforced, helpfully or over-obviously, by references to the New Dickensianism of this latest Age of Austerity. Shelter’s 2012 headlines of the number of children in Britain without a home this Christmas can hardly be ignored as the cheery Ghosts of Christmasses Past and Present give way to the huge silent shroud of a totem-pole that comes to define the future, and the chill misery of the childhood representatives of hunger and want.
There is cheer in the visions, and hope while people like the Cratchits survive as a family. There are Christmas carols and falling snow, to go with, but not gloss over, the newly relevant warnings of what happens to a society that becomes solely about individual acquisition.
The various elements don’t entirely fuse into a seamless hole, but this production takes its subject seriously, with a vigorous visual inventiveness.
Fred/Aladdin/Broker 2/Chorus: Eric Kofi Abrefa
Mrs Cratchit/Lady 1/Ghost 1/Beth/Charwoman/Chorus: Kate Graham.
Scrooge: Sam Graham.
Bob Cratchit/Mrs Fezziwig/Servant/Topper/Chorus: Greg Haiste.
Belle/Lady 2/Kathleen/Chorus: Emerald O’Hanrahan.
Young Scrooge/Broker 1/Chorus: David Osmond.
Jacob Marley/Mr Fezziwig/Aladdin’s Genie/Ghost 2/Old Joe/Chorus: Andy Williams.
Tiny Tim: Bobby Joynes/Logan Marty/Brodie Evans.
Child 3: Roman O’Hora/Cameron Hill/Oliver Evans.
Tom: Harry Murray/Cameron Hill/Oliver Evans.
Boy Scrooge: Roman O’Hora/Reece Drage/Sam Newby.
Turkey Boy: Harry Murray/Reece Drage/Sam Newby.
Peter/Harry: Jarzinho Rapoz/Jonny Cook/Ollie Steer.
Urchin: Sienna Chamberlain/Alina Maries-Reim/ Charlotte O’Looney.
Little Fan/Child 2: Ellie Thomson/Gabriella Teriaca/Bella Festa.
Janet/Child 1: Madison Lack/Jenna-Mae White/Crystal Reilly.
Martha: Izzy Elias/Lois Drage/Miranda Spencer-Pearson.
Director: Gary Sefton.
Designer: Michael Taylor.
Lighting: Richard Godin.
Sound: Helen Atkinson.
Musical Arranger/Musical Director: Tom Kelly.
Choreographer: Alexandra Worrall.
Aerial consultant: Joe White.
Dance captain: Kate Graham.