Monday, 8 December 2014

A Christmas Carol

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Five stars
Don't be fooled by the pasty-faced jug-band who strike up a jaunty
version of Silent Night as a curtain-raiser to Dominic Hill's seasonal
look at Charles' Dickens' festive classic. Aside from an audience
sing-along to The Twelve Days of Christmas and Ebeneezer Scrooge's
closing conversion, that's pretty much as cheery as things get.

Such over-riding solemnity is by no means to the show's detriment,
however, as Hill and his creative team take full advantage of Neil
Bartlett's marvellously pared-down script. Fused throughout with an
epigrammatic musicality that allows for much playfulness, it allows an
inherent theatricality to burst onto the stage with an ensemble cast of
eight led by a pop-eyed Cliff Burnett as the old miser himself.

From the off, even the quill-scratching labours of Scrooge's employees
are choreographed to perfection by movement directors Benedicte Seierup
and Lucien MacDougall before things veer into more metaphysical waters.
The Ghost of Christmas Past is a disturbing looking puppet of a child
with a lamp for a face; restless spirits swirl around the auditorium's
upper echelons like manic kites in motion; and a first glimpse at the
Ghost of Things To Come's looming presence at the end of the first act
is a truly scary portent of the future.

This grotesque display of gothic victoriana is forebodingly pulsed by
Nikola Kodjabashia's percussion-heavy live score, while Rachael
Canning's black as night design work is given extra edge by her
accompanying puppet work. Hill has his cast navigate their way through
Bartlett's superior script with occasional flashes of levity that serve
to heighten the intensity of what is probably the darkest feelgood show
in town.

The Herald, December 8th 2014


ends

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