Writer: Neil Bartlett
Director: Gus Miller
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
Alongside turkey and mince pies, Charles Dickens’ tale of a miserly old Christmas hater getting his comeuppance has established itself as a permanent fixture in our seasonal celebrations. The story, also a clarion call for a more caring society, may well be over- familiar, but it can still stand up to re-telling when presented with as much freshness as in Metal Rabbit’s version of Neil Bartlett’s adaptation.
Here is a classic example of less being more – small space, no sets, makeshift props, just six actors and bucketfuls of imagination adding up to 80 minutes of theatre magic.
Bartlett’s script is faithful to the original without being conventional and it has a timeless flavour, being neither rooted in the Victorian era nor completely modern. A black top hat worn by Scrooge at the beginning and long johns worn by him later are the only suggestions of times past and, for the rest, it is warm Winter jumpers, overcoats and scarves.
Alexander McMorran’s Scrooge is not the grotesque villain so often seen. By under-playing the character, the actor makes him someone we may all know, possibly a blinkered workaholic who finds himself alone and unfulfilled. He is surrounded by five carollers singing modified versions of traditional Christmas songs, each stepping forward to play other characters in the story. Cat Gerrard, Elizabeth Grace-Williams, James Mack, Liam Mansfield and Rhiannon Neads form an ensemble that is expressive, enthusiastic and energetic.
Director Gus Miller’s production flows, seemingly effortlessly, using movement, vocal sounds and very effective lighting (designed by Matt Leventhall) to bring scenes alive and compensate for the absence of special effects. The ghostly visitations are made more chilling by being played in semi-darkness, with spotlights or hand-held torches and lamps picking out the faces of the characters.
It says a great deal for the durability of Dickens’ creation that yet another dramatisation of the story can send a shiver down the spine, put a smile on the face and bring a tear to the eye. This production realises all of that potential, doing so in some considerable style, and only a real you know who could fail to enjoy it.
Runs until 3rd January