A Christmas Carol
IT’S been said before but Christmas is a time of repeats. But unlike the tedious re-runs and tired ideas we seem to get yearly on television, this return is entirely welcome and, thanks to a bit of freshening up, better than ever.
The tale of Scrooge and the ghosts is one deep in the DNA of our festive beings and this combination of reassuring tradition and top-notch RSC quality will have people from all over the region bringing the family for a show to remember.
Dickens’s Christmas is still one we aspire to. Its snow-sprinkled street scenes, roasting chestnuts and candlelight still set the standard. And there’s much of that to enjoy here. It’s a spectacle fit for any mantlepiece.
But Dickens had an eye, and a conscience, for the darker side of life too. Child exploitation, entrenched inequality, the crime just below the surface. All of that is here too complete with fitting references to the midlands’ own dark days of industrial poverty.
Even with a few years on the clock, this show is a fabulous watch. Making use of the huge space on offer there’s plenty of movement all beautifully choreographed. Great use is made of the stage trickery and the whole production oozes inventiveness.
Clipped to a family-friendly two hours, Rachel Kavanaugh’s slick, visually thrilling production never sags and retains energy and pace throughout.
Stephen Brimson Lewis’ design is a nod to the picture box perspectives a spectacle like this deserves. A wonderful wall of crowded windows offers a looming backdrop for the ghost-driven flight sequence. Falling snow, plenty of swags and pleasant urchins – picturesque and enchanting.
For the most part this is a company piece and there’s strength enough, particularly in the youngsters, to carry the day. But Dickens is known for his characters and there are plenty on show here.
Mitesh Soni shines as the downtrodden but dependable Bob Cratchit and Emma Pallant as his resourceful and determined wife. There are fine turns from all the ghosts and strong ensemble work throughout.
But this is a production which rests squarely on the shoulders of Scrooge and in Adrian Edmondson the RSC has found the perfect person to carry the baton forward. Relishing every nuance of miserly contrariness, through the discomfort and despair of realisation to the sunny uplands of generosity.
Edmondson has always enjoyed a perfectly-tuned sense of comedy and it’s on display here from start to fabulous finish.
David Edgar’s witty and enjoyable adaptation doesn’t omit any of Dickens’ comment on social failings and the need for political change – there’s even room for a topical joke which, given our current turnover in Downing Street may need refreshing as the run continues.
Hypocrisy and greed are exposed but not worn so heavily that this becomes a rant and loses its Christmas charm. It doesn’t need overplaying. Perhaps Scrooge’s redemption is enough. It’s a lesson as clear as when it was first unwrapped all those years ago.
Visit rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.