Exeter Northcott and Creative Cow collaborate to adapt Charles Dickens’ festive classic, A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge, literature’s most famous miser, despises Christmas and those who celebrate it. However, on Christmas Eve he is visited by supernatural beings who seek to show him the true festive spirit and the error of his ways.
A much-adapted piece of work by one of the most renowned English writers, the story requires a unique retelling, which this play, unfortunately, does not offer. Relying on heavy use of narration as the prose is lifted from the original book, the story is transferred to the stage, rather than translated.
A Christmas Carol is an enjoyable and charming play, although messy and clumsy at times. At one point, The Ghost of Christmas Present (Darren Lake) breaks into a random musical number. While it displays Lake’s impressive vocal skills, it’s unexpected and doesn’t belong in the play. The script mentions a boy singing at Scrooge’s door, yet the audience sees the boy sing into his face. The second act is much stronger; the comic timing is better and the storytelling flows more easily.
The cast is strong, with all but Derek Frood playing a range of roles. Lake brings a unique touch to each character’s voice and Séan Aydon disappears and reappears as someone completely different. Frood plays Scrooge almost perfectly, embodying Scrooge’s distinctive grumpiness without overdoing the character. However, a major problem is that the same actor plays almost every female role. Katherine Senior plays Fan the sister, Mrs Fezziwig, Mrs Cratchit, Belle, the niece and numerous smaller roles – including younger characters for which she adopts a higher voice, which breaks the immersion. Senior is a strong actor, but it becomes ridiculous to see her constantly on stage, in scene after scene, in slightly different costumes.
The play’s use of live music is wonderful as the singing and violin playing creates a traditional Christmas feel. Also, the child performers are delightful, impressively comfortable and confident on stage. They bring the energy and childish joy surrounding the festive season.
There’s nothing like a ghost story to make one feel cosy and the play reproduces the chilly spookiness well, although the ominous music that accompanies the spirits’ appearances becomes overpowering and overdone. A highlight is the looming puppet for the Ghost of Christmas Future – constructed from gauzy black fabric, it’s eerily human.
Despite its flaws, A Christmas Carol has a charming atmosphere and is a pleasant play to watch with the family to get into the Christmas spirit.
Runs until 3 January 2016| Image: Farrows Creative