Writer: Charles Dickens
Director: Kevin Shaw
There’s nothing Scrooge-like about the exciting things happening at the Albany Theatre as it opens itsdoors to this year’s Christmas production with ambitious plans for expansion and redevelopment of the site to make it more than ever a focus of the community. Newly-appointed Artistic Director Kevin Shaw has his hands on the tiller of both the theatre and this production, as The Albany presents its own adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
The Dickens story is well-known as Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by spirits who take him on a magical journey in an attempt to make him change his ways. Centre stage is Coventry veteran Paul Nolan as Scrooge. Hardly off stage throughout the whole play, Nolan gives us a very physical performance as he transforms himself from a sprightly young man, a man experiencing the joys of friendship and celebration as he parties at Fezziwig’s, through to the wizened old miser that everyone recognises. Nolan shares the stage with an ensemble cast of six more actors working hard to cover the range of roles. Joe Darke is Bob Cratchit, stoical and upbeat despite the way he is treated. As his wife we have Lizzie Wofford, her sharp and outspoken Mrs Cratchit contrasting well with her portrayal of a disappointed Belle Fezziwig.
The cheery characters in the play are covered by Robin Johnson as Fred and Mr Fezziwig, and Sam Yetunde as Mrs Fezziwig and the Ghost of Christmas Present, with Pushpinder Chani as Marley, Dick Wilkings and Peter Cratchit and Ambika Sharma playing Martha Cratchit and the Ghost of Christmas Past. The small cast and number of roles, large and small, that have to be covered means that pretty much everyone is playing multiple smaller roles too, though there is never any doubt about who they are when they are on stage.
The space at the Albany is not vast and this has necessitated some inventive set design by Dan Tilley with small inset pieces appearing and disappearing behind flaps in the main scenery piece. It’s not easy to create the impression of a variety of different Victorian settings on a stage this size, but Tilley has had a fair stab at it. The downside is that some of the action takes place a long way back and, in the case of Scrooge’s room, high up which makes the dialogue tricky to hear sometimes. Tilley is also responsible for the excellent lighting design, gloomy and atmospheric when necessary yet contrasting with the cheerier and brighter scenes. There’s an audible gasp from the audience when the final spirit appears, as though from nowhere.
The often-unaccompanied on-stage music (directed by Joe Darke) creates a festive backdrop to this seasonal classic, and the early start and short running time make this production an ideal family-friendly alternative to a traditional pantomime.
Runs until 26 December 2021