Writer: Charles Dickens
Adapter: Laura Turner
Director: Antony Law
Chapterhouse Theatre Company are currently touring a production of Charles Dickens’ festive favourite A Christmas Carol to smaller and sometimes less conventional venues across the country, with a couple of stops in Sheffield’s beautiful Cathedral. This traditional, Victorian dress production fits perfectly in the stunning, echoey venue. The show remains faithful to the source material (at times some updates to the language may not have gone amiss) and one cannot help but remember why this Christmas story has become so beloved.
Antony Law directs the production and he does a fine job in creating a production that can move venue every night. Despite only having a cast of seven, all parts of the story are told (even parts that are often omitted in other adaptations) and the audience are transported to a multitude of locations despite the simple set and small stage area. The set design looks like it has come from someone who had ambitious ideas for A Christmas Carol but not quite enough space to execute them properly. The stage often felt cramped as all the set pieces remained on stage at all times, which didn’t always seem necessary. The Christmas carols that were dotted throughout the show, under the direction of Choirmaster Christopher Brook, were lovely and added some extra festive sparkle to the play but some of the original music from Richard Main seems a little too modern for the tone of this production.
The cast of seven were strong and all gave good performances. A couple of extra cast members may not have gone amiss as some of the multiroling did get a touch confusing and some of the crowd scenes, such as Fezziwig’s Christmas ball, felt a little empty. Nevertheless there were many great performances that must be credited.
Troy Chessman leads the cast in the iconic role of Ebenezer Scrooge. He is much younger than many who have previously played this role, but Chessman still brought a lot of intensity (at times slightly too much) to the role. The moments of breakthrough we see dotted throughout the play were truly moving to watch.
Aidan Valentine is fantastic as Fred, Scrooge’s nephew and polar opposite. He was brought a great youthful energy to the piece as both Fred and Peter Cratchit, although he didn’t quite reach the levels of coldness he needed to in some moments as Young Scrooge. Rory Moncaster shows his excellent varied ability as an actor playing the roles of both Bob Cratchit and Scrooge’s Father.
Jerome Dowling and Nicola Rainford play the ghost characters brilliantly. Rainford brings a refreshing warmth to the Ghost of Christmas Past – a interpretation of the role often not seen. Dowling’s performance as Jacob Marley is passionate and full of pain, he is wonderfully energetic and merry as the Ghost of Christmas Present and he is quite solemn as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. None of the ghosts feel scary or intimidating in this production – they all feel like they mean well. However once Dowling reached his third ghost character, one realised the cast really should have been slightly bigger.
Chapterhouse Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol is touring the country with this lovely festive production and it is refreshing to see the original story presented as it was written and not heavily adapted or musicalized. This would be a lovely pre-Christmas evening out for families of all ages, but be quick as tickets are selling very quickly.
Reviewed on 26th November 2022.