running until 3 January
The festive theatre season has well and truly started – pantos are booing and hissing everywhere you look, while Elf: The Musical is showing us the magic (ahem) of a rather more consumerist Christmas in the West End. In Kingston-upon-Thames, the Rose Theatre is presenting a rather more warm-hearted festive production, with their charming presentation of Dickensian classic A Christmas Carol.
It really is a show for all the family: Ciaran McConville’s adaptation contains beautiful, lyrical narration that the adults will enjoy, and there are enough ghostly special effects, music and dancing to keep the younger audience members engrossed. The familiar tale is set in its original Victorian setting with all the trimmings – lovely period costumes, live music and imposing sets fill the heights of the Rose Theatre’s stage. Set and projection designer Timothy Bird exquisitely manages the shifts in location during the ghostly visitations; while there are a few moments where video projections become a little cheesy – the arrival of Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Past spring to mind – on the whole they are effective in whisking us from London streets to rural snowscape to cosy Christmas party.
As Scrooge, Martin Ball is suitably miserly, with an added dry sense of humour that gets several laughs even in his grouchiness. Tomm Coles’s Bob Cratchit is touching in his portrayal, while Anne-Marie Piazza stands out with her enthusiasm and charm as the down-to-earth, jocular Mrs Cratchit. The members of the Rose Youth Theatre company also excel, from the endearing Ava Mae Emery (Fan) and Elliot Shepherd (Tiny Tim), to mature performances from Jake Kenny-Byrne (young Scrooge) and Maddie Lynes (Miss Dilber).
The ghosts also stand out, not just thanks to the projections and special effects, but to their extravagant costuming and individuality. As the Ghost of Christmas Present, Paul Hawkyard channels Brian Blessed in his flamboyant get-up that appears to take inspiration from the Green Man mythology. In complete contrast, costume designer Peter Todd has gone haute couture for the Ghost of Christmas Future (Katie Devey) with a striking, Alexander McQueen-esque ensemble that adds fitting eeriness to the darkest spirit of the three.
Eamonn O’Dwyer’s music adds an additional layer of hearty festive cheer, with blends of familiar carols performed with gorgeous harmonies. A Christmas Carol is heart-warming and delightful, creating an enchanting experience that avoids both Dickens’s overly-moralistic tone and the saccharine mawkishness that it could so easily fall into. A wonderful achievement by McConville and this talented cast, this is worth a visit for Christmas lovers of all ages.
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