CentralDramaReview

A Christmas Carol – The Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham

Reviewer: Skylar Mabry

Writer: Charles Dickens

Director: Mark Webster

A Christmas Carol is a classic tale originally written by Charles Dickens. Taking place on Christmas Eve, the gruff and greedy Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, and three Christmas spirits. They work together to show him Christmas across the years, in an effort to convince him to become a kinder, more generous and loving man. This story has been told many times, and in many different ways. This year’s production at The Blue Orange is easily recognised as A Christmas Carol and proves to be a dutiful representation.

This hole-in-the-wall black box theatre is cosily decorated for the holiday season, and as the lights dim and the play begins with a soothing rendition of Silent Night, there is a festive feeling in the air. However, it’s soon dashed away by Scrooge’s signature “Bah! Humbug.”

This play relies heavily on Dickens’ original text, so four of the five actors are tasked with narrating and multi-rolling as all the various characters Scrooge encounters. They do an admirable job with this hefty Dickensian text plus costume changes, singing, and some moments of artistic physicality. The company works hard to tell this story and to keep up with so many small details. There are moments of stilted staging but also beautiful moments when the cast’s voices unite in song.

The technical design is kept to a minimum, and the set has been left as bare as possible, while still effective. There is an air of Brecht to this production, with lots of fourth wall breaks and actors changing costume onstage, although this feels more like a necessity than an artistic choice. The only sound in the show is created by the performers. This has a simplicity which is effective a few times, such as when Marley’s ghost appears or during the many Christmas carols dotted throughout but leaves an awkward silence in others.

The only character not played outright is Tiny Tim. He is brought to life as a slightly haunting puppet and voiced by Jasmine Arden-Brown. As the lynchpin to Scrooge’s eventual turn to goodness, Tiny Tim is very important. Despite his doll-like appearance, he works magic and turns Scrooge’s “Bah! Humbug,” into “Merry Christmas!”

This story has stood the test of time, and it’s easy to see why. Even today, we can all benefit from the reminder to take this holiday season to appreciate what we have, to be generous to others, and to share our joy with those we love. This production may not be the fanciest thing you’ll see this Christmas, but it is a simple, yet cheerful way to spend time with family and friends.

Runs until 24 December 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

A Dickensian Christmas

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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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