There are a number of festive productions popular at Christmas time. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a favourite, and with good cause. Its message of festive cheer and hope at the expense of parsimony and gloom is evergreen, its allure demonstrated by an almost full Monday night house.
Although the theatre is located within the anonymous Intu shopping centre, the auditorium and facilities are fabulous. This show boasts an intricate and imposing set, dominated by a giant clock face, echoing Derby’s clock making heritage, ready to herald the ghosts and spirits of Christmas past, present and future. A revolving walkway keeps things moving on ground level, and above, an elevated walkway provides for split level balcony performance.
Ebeneezer Scrooge is the, at first cold, then warm, beating heart of what unfolds. Although written 170 years ago, the sentiments and debate resonate today, indeed an opening rant could easily have been mistaken for an Ian Duncan-Smith speech. Jim Barclay as Scrooge revels in moving from Victorian curmudgeon to philanthropist in a script well adapted by Neil Duffield. Director Sarah Brigham does not shy away from poverty, offering beggars and orphans, equally she knows how to put on a set piece which is pleasing to the eye and ear including song and dance, particularly in the feast scene.
A talented ensemble cast sing and play musical accompaniment on stage. Musical Director Adam Howell has arranged several of the traditional, familiar carols which pepper the show with original, pleasing harmonies, the highlight of which is “In the Bleak Mid-Winter”. Local children, in three teams, ably support their adult, professional counterparts. This night’s performance was played by Team A, from whom` Freya Youngman stood out. Daniel Willis is an engaging Bob Cratchit, the fragrant Kate Robson-Stuart is a delight as his wife. The chain-laden ghost ( by Christopher Price) is the most striking of the spirits, straining against his shackles as he foretells doom.
At two hours, the show leaps along at a lively pace with something for everyone. The social commentary is faithful to Dickens’ vision in the novel, the script is humorous and witty, the Victorian sense of Christmas, both in spirit and stage presentation, will delight children in a family friendly production.
Charity and overseas aid have come under much media scrutiny recently in an era of financial austerity, Dicken’s reminder that it is our humanity which binds us together and can make us great is as pertinent now as it has ever been. “A Christmas Carol” runs until Sunday 4th January.