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Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Rose Theatre

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's adaptation is fun and family-friendly festive fare

A Christmas Carol - Rose Theatre


A Christmas Carol - Rose TheatreIt's always a hard task to 'put a spin' on a story as traditional and well known as Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's adaptation gives us a female Scrooge, 'Charlie' Dickens as a magical narrator and a school of cold and hungry children, run by Scrooge's nephew and his wife, who help create a story to teach the miserly Scrooge a lesson.

Overall, it works: touchingly, Scrooge is bitter from the death of both a brother and his sister Fan, rather than direct mistreatment by his father. However, the premise of Scrooge being a benefactor to a school, however tightly she controls the purse-strings, seems an unlikely action for the character. The tale of the rich getting richer, while the poor continue to suffer has very obvious parallels with today: Scrooge admitting that "people like me have messed things up" gets the biggest laugh of the night. Lloyd Malcolm keeps the story set in Dickens' times, which makes references to the Cratchits donating to a food bank, calling Marley "grouchy" and making events into "teachable moments" jar slightly.

As an introduction to Dickens, the production is accessible and very entertaining, with the message of redemption and kindness coming through. Although Scrooge passing control of her business over to the children at the end may be stretching it slightly.

Penny Layden begins suitably gruff as Scrooge, forced down a path to redemption through the directions of the children she has left in the cold. There is real joy in her realisation that it's not too late to change, demonstrated by a gleeful amount of bouncing on her bed. Killian Macardle and Natasha Magigi make a likeable Mr and Mrs Cratchit and Lizzie Winkler has great fun with The Ghost Of Christmas Present, dressed up as a Pierrot doll.

Elexi Walker plays Dickens as a magician-type figure, continually blowing chalk dust around the stage. Walker is bright, breezy and ready to question and explain at every turn.

On press night, the Rose Youth Theatre's Blue Cast were on fine form, tackling Olivia Shouler's energetic choreography with aplomb. Notable performances included Lily Rowell as the questioning Maud and Luke Groarke as the affable Jojo.

Eamonn O'Dwyer's original songs give a lot of energy and vibrancy to the show; "Tock Tick" being a particularly catchy track. Frankie Bradshaw's set pitches us straight into Victorian London, with soot-stained hanging washing and gas-lit lampposts flickering at the side of the stage. A large clock towers above the stage, projecting Josh Pharo's creative videos of ghostly faces, London landmarks and anarchic clock faces.

Bradshaw's costumes are nicely detailed; special mention must go to Jacob Towey, Elliot Shepherd, Ellie Searle who created the ghostly, floating apparition of The Ghost of Christmas Future and must have had arms of steel to hold up the fabric so consistently.

Age guidance for the production is 5+, which seems a little young for the graphic moment when Scrooge's brother falls through an icy lake, the very unsettling voice of The Ghost Of Christmas Future and a small amount of unnecessary swearing. However, this is a fun and very festive show, with plenty for both children and grown ups to enjoy.

A Christmas Carol is at the Rose Theatre until 2 January 2023

Photo Credit: Marc Douet


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