November felt rather early for a seasonal redemption story and Christmas merrymaking and yet the timing couldn’t have been more apt as we awaited the Chancellor’s mid-winter financial statement. The miserly protagonist Scrooge responds to requests for support for poor children ‘’are there no prisons, shelters or workhouses?’’ whilst the nation’s foodbanks prepare for a cold and bitter winter, the moral of this story is a bitter pill not swallowed.
A suitably saccharine Tiny Tim sings with empty lungs to help feed his family. A sick irony here on the week that the government announced it will no longer fund life-enhancing and life-lengthening medication for children born with cystic fibrosis. Life mirrors art in a cruelty.
Almost pantomime and ongoing breaking of the fourth wall, this was a very different version of Dickens’ classic story of the moneylender Scrooge who is transformed from “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint… secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster” to generosity and a personification of the Christmas spirit through his encounter with the ghosts who hold up a mirror to his life in a wake up call.
Directed by Anna Dobson, this was an uplifting version of Dickens’ classic story, adapted by Karen Louise Hebden, with song and dance throughout.
The wooden set, a simpler version of an Elizabethan round, provided floor and gallery space for the large cast, who literally crowd the stage which was at times too busy and with so much movement some words were lost to the back of the stage. The string musicians were an understated but definitive boon as the music lifted the performance and the emotions.
There was more humour in the ghosts than fear. Jacob Marley rattled his chains, the Ghost of Christmas Past came as a druid and the larger than life Ghost of Christmas Present, a Green Man clearly enjoyed his presence as he waved his lighted horn of plenty as he might cheer a pint of ale before the grim reaper with his red eyes appeared as the Ghost of Christmas Future, moving his long-nailed hands and proving less is more.
Particularly enjoyable was the caricature of Scrooge’s bed-curtain stealing maid in a prelude to what might come if he doesn’t change his miserly ways; reminiscent of a cackling Liz Smith, and a reminder she is no longer with us.
Community is redemption
The greatest takeaway came from the enjoyment and energy of the cast. It didn’t matter that Scrooge tripped over his lines or that lines were lost to movement and projection.The imperfection was the perfection. This was about community, people and togetherness with each other. Community is redemption.