Theatre Review: A Christmas Carol @ Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford
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This production of Dickens’ beloved classic, adapted by David Edgar, breathes new life into the story in the first half, but its raucous energy slumps slightly in the second. For the second year running, Edgar has brought A Christmas Carol to the RSC stage, and it’s clear to see why popular demand revived the production. The play is brimming with jubilance and vigour, with sleek, effortless movement through scenes and an impressively talented cast.
Photo by Manuel Harlan (c) RSCSorrow and Joy The play is certainly a tear-jerker, sometimes in unexpected ways. There are scenes which will likely draw out a few tears of sorrow (looking at you, Tiny Tim), but likewise, there are moments so full of exuberant, life-affirming elation that you may shed a tear of joy, too. A scene in which the audience are invited to observe Scrooge’s time with his mentor, Mr. Fezziwig, is a prime example of such joy. The cast’s hearty singing and dancing is a testament to both their own talent and to the talent of the choreographers, and it is incredibly difficult to not crack a smile, spellbound, at the organised chaos of such an energetic and spontaneous performance. Similarly, Aden Gillett, playing Scrooge, carries the weight of such a well-known character on strong, competent shoulders, and his transformation from lonely curmudgeon to your favourite grandparent is as believable as it is heart-wrenching. The line between campy brilliance and heartfelt moral message is expertly toed by director Rachel Kavanaugh and her team of creatives. History and Fiction Particularly magical is the decision to insert Charles Dickens (Joseph Timms) and his friend, John Forster (Beruce Khan), into the production, so that the audience joins them on their journey to craft the story in front of their very eyes. The presence of historical figures helps both to foreground the socio-political message of the story, and to bring the text to life on stage as they arrange and rearrange the narrative according to their views on how it should pan out. The boundaries between history and fiction are blurred by bringing the author into the story, and the doubling of Dickens as Young Scrooge only emphasises the genius of the decision. The audience is frequently reminded of Dickens’ own experiences with hardship, poverty, and loneliness in his early childhood, and the empathy that Dickens feels for his characters is effectively contagious.
Photo by Manuel Harlan (c) RSC
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