Saturday, 18 December 2010

A yuletide play that leaves one out in the cold

"A Christmas Carol" is a festive classic, a story known and loved the world over and a heart-warming tale of one man's moral awakening. What better time for director Rachel O' Riordan and the newly relocated Library Theatre Company to stage this story turned play than during the weeks leading up to Christmas?

However, the production leaves quite a bit to be desired. The choral singing in which the ensemble cast engages is certainly unique, if not a little out of tune. What is more, one never really connects with David Beames' Scrooge. Granted, from the offing, Beames does a great job of establishing Ebenezer's unforgiving meanness of spirit and incessant greed for money. The scene in which a pair of kindly Victorian philanthropists ask Mr Scrooge for some money for the poor is done with poignancy and a sardonic humour. Beames' deliverance of that famous line, "If they would rather die, they better do it, and decrease the surplus population" is powerful and stingingly evil to the ears. However, the transformation from money-counting-devil to Christmas-loving-angel is not really that convincing. Beames' reformed Scrooge lacks the conviction and believability that his unenlightened one possessed. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that one stops believing in anything Beames' Scrooge says after he is pulled up on a pair of all too visible stage wires in an act of "flying". 

Then there's the dancing. And the music. Maybe it's just me, but I've never thought anything of Dickens' works as a musical. Yes, there's "Oliver!" but I don't much care for that. However, this production is not a musical, it merely contains scenes of choreography and singing - would they would do away with all of it. The score is an oddly assembled medley of Christmas carols, sang by a cast with a very varied vocal range...and ability. Couple this with some of the most ridiculous "dancing" you've ever seen (at several points, the whole cast lift their arms up in the air and spin round like jewellery box ballerinas) and one is left with a very sour taste in the mouth.

The plays also lacks rhythm and pace. It is always a danger with such a well known story that the audience become bored, merely awaiting the next scene rather than concentrating on the present one. Sadly, O' Riordan's production is nothing special - it is what it is: a staging of one of Dickens' most well know (and overdone) works with nothing different or unique about it. It plods on and we lose interest rapidly. 

It does, however, have some good points. 

The set, a wood panelled wall with two curving staircases on either side and a Cathedral-like door at its centre, is beautifully imposing and overwhelming Gothic. This is very effective in strengthening the ghoulish feel of Dickens' masterpiece. 

The stand out performances come from Lisa Kerr's Belle, who pulls at the audiences hearts when she tells the young Scrooge that she is leaving him, and Kath Burlinson and Abigail McGibbon's philanthropists, who, though only brief parts, are real highlights of the play. The pair also give wonderfully eccentric ghosts, the former as Christmas present, the latter as Christmas past. 

In general, this production of "A Christmas Carol" is disappointing. Though it has some excellent aspects, the play overall is underwhelming, slow and, at times, quite poor. Personally, I think the Muppets did a much better job. 

Star rating out of 5 for "A Christmas Carol", Lowry:


Helen said...

Hi Sam! I've missed you .... hoping life is treating you well!

Verenda Harrt said...

I've been forced to read that book, it only took me a few hours. I don't remember and I don't want to remember most of it. To me the book was okay.

The Bug said...

We watched the Alistair Sims one last night - it remains my favorite one of all. He's just so delightfully grumpy & then so deliriously good. Too much fun.