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A Christmas Carol

Dundee Rep
Four stars

“Let them die,” says Scrooge about the beggars proffering their hands outside his well-insulated front door at the start of Dundee Rep's Christmas show. “Decrease the excess population.”

Charles Dickens' emotionally stunted miser hates the poor and the disabled, and imposes working conditions that would give latter day sweat-shop owners a run for their very dirty money. With a CV that resembles that of any latter-day fat cat you'd care to name, one could be forgiven for thinking the setting of Andrew Panton's seasonal production might have been updated in Neil Duffield's stage adaptation. As it is, there's very little need in a production which casts Scrooge as a woman, played with a magnificent sense of self-loathing by Ann Louise Ross.

Before that, we're ushered into designer Richard Evans' multiple layered Dickensian terrain by the nine-strong cast singing and playing a series of Christmas carols. They begin by parading through the audience with a sense of rambunctious glee, playing instruments as they go. Music is key to the momentum of the action, with Claire McKenzie's folk-tinged score lending a lush accompaniment to Scrooge's belated getting of wisdom.

As Scrooge is gradually forced to face up to her demons, Ross gradually reveals a damaged and more vulnerable side to the broken-hearted career girl who channelled all her energies into making money. There is fine support too from the Rep Ensemble, including an avuncular Lewis Howden as Fezziwig and Ewan Donaldson as Bob Cratchitt. Eleanor House and Hannah Pauley similarly excel, both making their professional debut as part of the Rep's Graduate Scheme. As a flaming gravestone rises up to make clear to Scrooge where she'll end up, for all the show's warmth, this is a plea for the rich to wake up to what's on their doorstep, whatever the century.

The Herald, December 11th 2017

ends

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