Writer: Charles Dickens
Adaptor & Director: Alex Clifton
As with most of the year, theatres up and down the country have fallen victim to Coronavirus restrictions and find themselves dark this festive season. Luckily, Chester falls into tier 2 restrictions which means the people of Cheshire have the delight to visit this spirited 80minute production which managed to pack in plenty of surprises in its sprightly running time.
Storyhouse’s Artistic Director Alex Clifton has not only adapted but also directed this year’s production which sees Dickens’ (arguably) most popular tale brought to the stage in a fresh yet faithful production that puts storytelling and the novel’s socialist values firmly at its heart – which works incredibly well in this gender-blind production.
With a cast of eight professional actors and three young members from Storyhouse’s youth theatre, the vast array of characters are brought energetically and vividly to life. Anton Cross is a delightful Bob Cratchit and is supported brilliantly by Jess Dives as his long-suffering wife. Norah Lopez Holden, Stephanie Hockley and Yana Penrose bring delight by the buckets in a vast array of characters. Matthew Ganley holds plenty of weight as the hauntingly dark Marley but really shows an abundance of light as Mrs. Fezziwig. Seren Vickers is hilarious as a welsh Ghost of Christmas Present and youth theatre member Ben Nelson holds his own comfortably on stage as the Ghost of Christmas Past – likewise, Niamh Byrne-O’Brien and Teddy Tindle have by all accounts a strong future ahead of them if their performances here are anything to go by.
No matter how strong the ensemble, A Christmas Carol lives and dies by the performance of the central character of Scrooge. Well, this production has nothing to worry about here as Natalie Grady provides one of the most original interpretations of the miser this reviewer has seen. Grady finds a brilliant balance that combines a sense of mockery and menace, that is both playful and engaging allowing this to be a truly family-friendly production.
Played out on a simple set design by Jessica Curtis and with atmospheric lighting design by Prema Mehta, the focus is firmly on the storytelling. Clifton litters his production with splashes of political Punk-rock disguised as upbeat skiffle songs that feel incredibly timely. Alongside some sharp modern references, Clifton really hits home just how political our current climate really is and how far we still have to go to ensure we treat everyone with fairness and equality.
A Christmas Carol is a winner in every sense from the first-rate production on stage to the brilliant social distancing inside to how the staff ensured everyone felt safe attending. Bravo Storyhouse, Bravo!
Runs until 17 January 2021