A CHRISTMAS CAROL
by Charles Dickens adapted by Timothy Knapman, Richard Kidd, Conor McReynolds lyrics by Timothy Knapman..
The North Wall South Parade OX2 7NN To 7 January 2012.
12pm 24 Dec.
1pm 31 Dec.
2.30pm 19, 20, 22, 23, 26-30 Dec, 2, 7 Jan.
7.30pm 19-23, 26-30 Dec, 2-7 Jan.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 766266.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 December.
Imaginative theatricality makes for a well-played Carol.
Say what you like about Ebenezer Scrooge and you probably won’t say very much. Yet he has many followers. We no longer suggest decreasing the surplus population by people dying – just sending them back where they came from. We shudder at Ebenezer’s rejection of charity collectors, but scorn benefit ‘scroungers’. His famous “humbug” is effectively repeated by everyone who decries Christmas as a marketing opportunity wrapped in tinsel about peace on earth.
While they have allowed some humour, and even the occasional luxury of a local reference, the adapters of Creation Theatre Company’s version have, with one important exception, turned Dickens’ tale into a piece of cogent, imaginative theatre.
The exception is the man himself. Noel White does everything that might be expected of him. But Scrooge, often saying little, then becoming enthusiastically childlike, doesn’t translate easily to the stag, leaving White to fill the gaps with fussiness.
Otherwise, the show is brilliantly done. A huge broken wheel of a clock backs the stage (the North Wall turned into a three-sided thrust space); its huge hands shift as time chimes-out, while other cogged-wheels evoke the industrial England of financier Scrooge.
Chains hang from the ceiling, suggesting both industry and the bondage of James Burton’s black eye-rimmed Marley (like a spectre from Greek Tragedy), countered only briefly by the festive paper-chains of the Fezziwigs. Frequent Christmas carols shift into words about Scrooge, often as the cast move the freestanding door and neutral blocks which create the furnishings.
Such scene-shifting propels the piece and make believable transitions between Scrooge’s dream and waking realities. The Ghosts’ entries are neatly characterised – Christmas Past especially, surprising Scrooge as his bed-sheets shift. The adaptation holds back the identity of the corpse in the Christmas future scenes, its black, faceless Spirit creating a mood strangely intensified by bouncy sung rhythms from a cackling tower of scornful financiers.
James Bolt crisply shows a younger Scrooge torn between accounts and affection, but it’s the overall ensemble of Charlotte Conquest’s physically inventive production, with its industrial background and sense of Scrooge undergoing a psychological process, which make this show distinctive.
Scrooge: Noel White.
Fred/Mrs Fezziwig/Georg: John Addison.
Bob Cratchit/Young Scrooge/Topper: James Bolt.
Marley/Ghost of Christmas Present/Mr Fezziwig: James Burton.
Emily Cratchit/Ghost of Christmas Past/Mrs Dilber: Caroline Devlin.
Belle/Elizabeth/Caroline: Anna Glynn.
Tiny Tim: Bonnie Coughlan/Joseph Stewart/Sam Wallis.
Martha Cratchit: Christabel Cane/Lola Fabian-Hirst/Freya Peritz.
Community Ensemble: Heather Dunmore, Rebecca Tudor, Kate Spanchak, Yvonne Sanderson, Chloe Gathern, Becki Reed, Christine Doubleday, Jane Hedges, Colin Macrae, Amanda George, Tracy Selig, Harriet Mainds, Jo Freer, Maria Ilker, Sheila Alcraft, Orla Gilson.
Director: Charlotte Conquest.
Designers: Neil Irish, Sarah Bacon.
Lighting: Ashley Bale
Sound: Matt Eaton.
Composer: Alex Silverman.
Musical Director: Matt Winkworth.
Movement: Vanessa Cook.
Assistant lighting: Laura Choules.