What would Christmas be without a dose of Dickens? Probably a lot merrier! Although the theme of the novel is one of redemption, it is still a dark work and not the stuff of sleigh rides and jingle bells. This interpretation, however, has jollied it up but I fear that it has dropped down the crack between being a straight ghost story and a pantomime.
The play starts promisingly enough with several ghosts appearing in a ‘dark’ theatre where a ghost light has been kept burning through its closure, a topical touch. One of them begins to open the show, only to be told by the others that there is no audience so why bother. Bother they do though, and the piece begins.
I am sure that you are all aware of the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, the miser who doesn’t believe in Christmas as it interferes with the profit margin of his business, and then is subjected to a series of apparitions pointing out the error of his ways thus leading him to become more compassionate and caring. As a cautionary tale it can’t be faulted, but here we are not so much presented with the moral of the story as constantly beaten about the head with it.
As the play progressed and Scrooge began to see the error of his ways, things began to turn a little silly. I realise that this production is aimed at the 7+ audience but I can’t help but think that there would have been quite a few six-year-olds rolling their eyes at some of the antics.
In a novel twist – no Dickens pun intended – all of the actors accompany their dialogue with BSL gestures, rather than having a signer at the side of the stage do it for them. This did cause the flow to be a little staccato but it meant that you didn’t need to take your eyes off the action should your hearing be impaired. There were one or two extended scenes when the only means of communication was by sign language, neatly turning the tables and illustrating the problems that deaf audiences have with spoken dialogue.
On to the positives. The acting was very good by all concerned, and the use of a puppet to depict Tiny Tim was brilliant. To say that the facial expression on the doll was fixed, the range of emotions and the odd mischievous prank were conveyed superbly.
In order to cater to as wide an audience as possible, there is a separate audio described version which I also sampled and is a total shock to those of us who are not visually impaired so have never experienced this before. It turns the show into a kind of radio programme but it was done in a mixture of explicit descriptions and poetic language to reinforce the fact that it is a literary piece.
Along with your access to the stream, you get a programme to peruse. It is in the form of a newspaper from Sunday, 24th December 1843 and is entitled Yorkshire Evening Ghost – geddit? The price of the rag is shown as £4 which went someway to explaining why Scrooge was so keen on making as much money as possible! It also contains a recipe, crossword puzzle and a picture to colour. Just the thing for Christmas.
To book a ticket please go to:
A Christmas Carol: At Home
A basic ticket is £10 but there are options to pay more in order to help out the Playhouse in these difficult times. Performances, which last approximately 1 hour 45 minutes, are shown in time slots until 23rd December at 7.00pm. The show is available to be streamed for 48 hours after the slot you choose.
Feature photograph by Anthony Robling