BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Immersive/LDN
The third offering of the newly opened Immersive LDN has become a festive classic over the years. Alexander Wright's adaptation of A Christmas Carol is known to appear at a different location every year; Scrooge's Parlour has relocated to the lower ground floor of the venue (which is also hosting their other talk of the town - The Great Gatsby - whose faint noises you can hear in the distance if you pay enough attention).
Patrons are welcomed by one Mr Scroggins, who doubles as doorman and emcee-of-sorts with his drawl, and soon meet their hosts. Tom Bellerby directs Alexander Barclay and Jack Whitam as Ebenezer Scrooge and his deceased business partner Jacob Marley in this crafty and compact refurbishment of Charles Dickens's novella.
The evening sees two acts divided by a scrumptious dinner catered by Flavourology. The food is, as expected, exquisite. Sadly, the staged parts hold a striking dramatic difference in their development, to the point where the second half almost feels like a separate piece while the first act is generally stagnant and rather repetitive.
The duo shares astonishing chemistry and their charisma draws the crowd in during the scripted scenes, making it seamless for them to join in singing carols and ringing bells. This is the extent of agency the audience has in the production. The "immersive" bit essentially only relates to the fact that the show isn't frontal but mainly traverse, and that the action happens around the participants once the benches are pushed towards the middle for the meal.
However, the company have more than a few tricks up their sleeves and succeed in delivering the most climatic points through entrancing storytelling. Art director Cait Corkery transforms the thin cellar into a bleak room warmed up by candles and fairy lights. Books scatter the shelves and a huge blackboard holds the (hilarious) names of Scrooge's debtors, and a large makeshift bed serves as a centrepiece for most of it.
The lethargic narrative progression of the kick-off thankfully doesn't last too long, and the more they approaches the main course of the night, the more the material tightens up to bloom into a truly entertaining dining experience. Co-creators Wright and Bellerby curate a convivial and joyful atmosphere that finally comes into itself when they fully embrace the ghoulish Victorian undertones of the other side of Dickens's medal.
All in all, this Carol is still magical, and Barclay and Whitam's synergy mixed with Flavourology's own spin on traditional Christmas delicacies and a line-up of surprises make it a valued contribution to this year's festive theatrical spread.