Christmas isn’t quite over in Stratford-Upon-Avon as the age-old festive tale A Christmas Carol continues to thrive into the new year. David Edgar’s adaptation is a beautifully crafted production with a moving message. The strong design engages the audience with its Victorian setting that is a visual feast for the eyes.
Dickens’ iconic tale is told through the eyes of the author himself, as the production opens with Dickens narrating his urge to make a change by telling a potent story about selflessness and empathy due to his furiousness about child labour. David Edgar returns to the RSC after his triumphant award-winning production of Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby to adapt the timeless tale, and it’s entirely compelling.
Phil Davis takes on the leading role of anti-Christmas and all round grump Ebenezer Scrooge which appears fitting for his previous acting credits as his performance is effortlessly sublime. He captures the anger of the bad-tempered soul superbly and his stage presence and wit is masterly. He has a distinct ability to occasionally break down the fourth wall and connect with the audience causing fits of laughter. It’s a tough role to take on as Scrooge develops throughout the story into a kinder man and the comparison in character is remarkable.
Narrating the story is Nicholas Bishop in the role of Charles Dickens alongside his editor Beruce Khan and they bring heaps of energy and character to the story as they weave us in and out of the scenes as Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Christmas past, present and future. Director Rachel Kavanaugh has cleverly combined chilling scenes enhanced by inventive lighting and special effects with humour, and the clever way these ghosts approach Scrooge brings out different elements of his character. Brigid Zengeni’s Ghost of Christmas Present is faultless as she brings sass and attitude to the role.
A huge focus is on the poor Cratchit family who are struggling to make ends meet to feed their family. Father of the house Bob Cratchit played by Gerard Carey really comes to life in the second act as he stands up to Mr Scrooge in a high-spirited and brilliantly funny way. Carey’s characterisation is first-rate and his sheer optimism and family values are heartwarming to watch.
Each scene transitions seamlessly, whether it’s from the bustling town to Scrooge’s empty home or Fred’s annual Christmas party to the humble house belonging to the Cratchits. The ensemble move naturally across the space moving the set with them which is slick and strong. However, due to cast illness, they were an ensemble member down, therefore, I believe someone from the backstage crew stepped in. You wouldn’t have noticed apart from the fact that they were wearing blacks, which I found rather odd as they’d have fit into the movement had they put a cloak and hat on her.
A Christmas Carol is a charming tale of festive cheer with a moving message about compassion that is playful, humorous and a fine display of first-rate acting. With the lavish set paired with live musical accompaniment and a carol or two, the production combines all the theatrical elements to create a show that is both thoughtful and a sheer delight.
A Christmas Carol is on at the RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon until the 4th of February, tickets and information can be found here.