Thursday, 10 November 2022

REVIEW: The RSC's A Christmas Carol at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

A time-honoured Dickens novel adapted once more into another classic Christmas show... Is it possible to keep a story fresh and invigorating when it has been done repeatedly in the last century? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes! The Royal Shakespeare Company have once more showcased a masterclass of traditional theatre - displaying the perfect balance of heart-tugging sentiment and pure family comedy.

Based on Charles Dickens’ 1843 sell out Novella, A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean miser and ruthless loan-shark who loans money to poverty-stricken families he knows cannot pay back – a cruel routine to harvest debts at an ample rate. The tale pans out over Christmas Eve right through to Boxing Day. Scrooge is visited by the spirit of his former business partner Jacob Marley, in an attempt to warn him of the heartless existence he is living and that three spirits will be visiting him throughout the night, in an attempt to relieve him of his desolate future. The ghosts of past, present and future force him to relive key events in his life that have made him this way, show him how he is perceived by his peers and what his inevitable fate will be if he continues living his life in selfishness and greed.

Firstly, one must acknowledge the set itself – a celebration of a Victorian-era winter, jubilant garlands and light fixtures, vintage doorways and desks, perfectly displayed parlour rooms and old-fashioned kitchens – all brought to eerie life with stunningly gloomy lighting by Tim Mitchell. Despite being the start of November, the auditorium transported the audience back to a traditional Victorian Christmas, the festive warmth washing over us like a wave.

As a politically motivated playwright, David Edgar churns a brilliant subtext of mirrored social and political issues – using Dickens himself as a narrator, feeding us the story-writing process of A Christmas Carol, whilst simultaneously reflecting on his own childhood poverty struggles. Edgar’s version takes a jab at current political affairs, unifying an entire auditorium of spectators in laughter and ironic chuckles.

This performance came with a plethora of illusions, from ghostly appearances to a rapid transformation one must only compare to the jump factor of A Woman in Black.

Adrian Edmondson’s Scrooge, was utterly delicious; an amalgamation of every idea this literary character has ever created. He is the epitome of the timeless persona, Ebenezer Scrooge. Edmondson embodied the faultless blend of miserable and intolerable, relatable and sarcastic – integrated together with admirable comic timing.

A word has to be saved for the children of this show. Not only bringing utter joy and heart-warming presence to the stage but demonstrating the importance of diversity of all proportions in a company. This production presents each Tiny Tim with such grace and realism to the role, each child having their own disability. At this performance, Gracie Coates took to the stage. Her cheeky, light-up-the-room smile and adorable singing had our hearts melting instantly.

Theatres of the UK have Christmas shows in abundance this year but the RSC has once again set the standard for a family-friendly, joyous version of A Christmas Carol.

Review by Esther Neville

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls, J32 | Price of Ticket: £77.50

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