Friday, 29 December 2017

REVIEW: A Christmas Carol at Middle Temple Hall

No other piece of British literature, tale or urban legend sums up the spirit of the festive season like Charles Dickens's masterpiece novella A Christmas Carol. I went to see this production from Antic Disposition at the Middle Temple Hall on Christmas eve and it has immediately become the cherry on top of my theatrical year.

The venue itself was known to Dickens, who considered pursuing a career as a barrister and had access to the Hall for over 15 years. In those times, the building was already 300 years old and the writer describes its beauty in a chapter of Barnaby Rudge. If this wasn't a good enough reason to pay it a visit, within these very walls, William Shakespeare offered the premiere of his Twelfth Night, and the table where all members sign when they're called to the bar is made of the hatch-cover of Sir Francis Drake legendary ship The Golden Hind.

Surrounded by this magical atmosphere, directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero create an unforgettable experience, dense with the scent of mulled wine coming from Bar Humbug, and sparkling with a cast of stars, led by stage veteran David Burt as Ebenezer Scrooge.

In Burt's hands, the role gains life, his resentment drastically becoming fear, before leading unexpectedly to a regenerated hope. Thanks to the U-shaped sitting area, audiences can share this transition from a close distance, witnessing each tear and grimace evoked by the Christmas spirits. The actor's receptiveness towards his surrounding allows him to connect directly with the spectators, whether to look at them in the eye for an instant or charismatically involve them in his journey.

Nick Barstow's musical support pays tribute to Tchaikovsky's glorious Christmas celebrations, as well as Verdi's Requiem choral pieces, impressively sung in Latin. Many cast members are both skilled musicians and singers, in a close-knit structure where each of them is called to play multiple roles.

Great attention to detail is also given to the costume design, with period clothes and props that seem to come directly from the Victorian era.

A flavoursome addition of old-school stage tricks helps to complete the ultimate festive treat for theatre lovers and Christmas enthusiast alike, who'd be committing a terrible mistake if they were to miss this unique delight hidden on the cusp of the City of London.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★★
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