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A Christmas Carol – Albany Theatre, Coventry

Reviewer: Mattie Bagnall

Writer: Charles Dickens

Director: Kevin Shaw

A Christmas Carol may well be nearly two centuries old, but this timeless classic continues to find its way onto playbills up and down the country. The theatre industry is dominated by the ever-popular pantomime at this time of year, but to find a niche in the market, The Albany has re-energised Dickens’ famous novel for the second year running to provide an alternative night out at the theatre for all to enjoy.

“Merry Christmas! What right do you have to be merry?” Not just the thoughts of those questioning their work colleagues for erecting their Christmas trees in October, but the ever so familiar thoughts of Ebeneezer Scrooge. Paul Nolan brings much-needed energy to a demanding role as he is permanently glued to the stage on Scrooge’s rollercoaster journey of lost hope and bitterness to jubilant redemption. Nolan is a Coventry stalwart, and this production is another where local audiences will be impressed with the professionalism he brings in his portrayal of the intimidating Scrooge.

Director Kevin Shaw has opted for efficiency with the use of a small ensemble of six actors playing multiple roles in addition to the almost ever-present Scrooge. This could lead to the risk of character relationships being diminished but there is enough subtlety in the character changes to make the distinctions clear and effective. The only drawback involves the audience not being able to appreciate Scrooge’s reactions to his past as he steps into the role himself. There are some powerful moments within the story where carols are sung to capture the emotions; more opportunities for this could be found as it adds a new dynamic and the cast demonstrated strong vocals.

Cerys Lee-Jones does an excellent job in balancing sharp wit and the strictness of an old-fashioned headmistress in her role as Ghost of Christmas Past, and there are some clever artificial changes made to the voice of Jacob Marley’s ghost to add extra ferociousness and intimidation to Aidan Cutler’s well-portrayed part. The whole ensemble is used in a creative way in this scene to bring extra physicality to the movement of Marley’s shackled spirit.

The scenic design by Trudy Rees Marklew is creative and forward-thinking, especially the fascinating creation used to portray the final spirit. The Albany may not have the same resources or space as some other venues, but this doesn’t impact the creation of a set which captures your imagination the moment you enter the auditorium. The lighting design complements it well, allowing the audience to immerse themselves in the bitterly cold Victorian winter.

A Christmas Carol at the Albany Theatre will provide a stimulating evening out at the theatre for the whole family to enjoy a timeless classic. The creative thinking behind much of this production should be appreciated. An important mention must be made of the opportunities the theatre provides for its local community which were highlighted on its gala night. Come down and support a local theatre which brings with it a ton of character, creativity and – as even Ebeneezer Scrooge would admit – a lot of festive spirit.

Runs Until 26 December 2022

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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