BWW REVIEW: A CHRISTMAS CAROL Presents A Contemporary Twist On Classic Dickens' Victorian Classic
Thursday 14th December 2017, KXT
Melissa Lee Speyer's adaptation of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a brilliant blend of 19th Century and 21st Century worlds. With Victorian language and contemporary concerns and a modern twist on the old-world aesthetic, Director Michael Dean delivers another stand out performance for Lies, Lies and Propaganda and bAKEHOUSE Theatre Co.
The traverse stage of the intimate KXT is kept simple with metal poles supporting the lighting gantry and inverse black Christmas trees, wound with ropes of LED lights whilst a panel of darkened mirroring features at the centre of the rear wall. A combination of simple props and mime presented by the ensemble help set the scenes of the well-known story. Costumes initially reflect the bleak Victorian times but there are hints to a gothic and steampunk contemporary twist on the old styles enabling the work to straddle the centuries as old eating habits and currency are referenced alongside modern issues like the environment, Centrelink and dodgy defence contracts.
Speyer and Dean have also turned the tables on the traditional roles of the story with women taking on many of the core male roles. Bobbie-Jean Henning is wonderful as she presents an alternate interpretation of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge in top hat and suit where her femininity is for the most part reduced save for her doll like face and long tied back lock, still presenting Scrooge as a man. She ensures that Scrooge's discovery of his humanity is conveyed without overplaying the role until the final moments when he seizes the opportunity to rewrite his future. Whilst Henning is the only performer to take on a single role, the central Scrooge, the ensemble of Aslam Abdus-samad, Dymphna Carew, Jacqueline Marriott, Monica Sayers, Bishanyia Vincent and Michael Yore morph between narrating the work as ghosts and taking on the other characters that range from the Cratchit family, Scrooge's nephew Fred and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
As with the spit time periods, the work is also presented across two sides of the globe with Australian references including backyard cricket in the heat of the Australian summertime Christmas and Play School (which did seem to limit the recognition for BWWSydney's New Zealand guest) and old English accents and references to winter snow. Speyer has presented a good balance of humour and underlying social commentary which proves that the greed and capitalism that Dickens' warned of is still prominent in contemporary society albeit driven by a new type of egomania that is reflects some of the world leaders even though Dean's Director's notes indicates he and Speyer had tried to present a broader view than a single world leader.
The work has a wonderful physicality as contemporary dance is used to convey the movement of spirits around the story and the mechanical formality of the future. Miles Elkington's compositions of new songs and an evocative soundscape adds an extra dimension to the work with ethereal sounds and an ominous atmosphere. The ensemble provide solid vocals to give voice to Elkington's inventive lyrics that turn this work into a crossover between traditional drama and musical theatre.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a though provoking, humorous and captivating reinterpretation of a classic work and a perfect piece for the season. Take the opportunity see a 'new' Australian work and up and coming young Australian performers in KXT's final production for 2017.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
KXT - Kings Cross
14-24 December 2017