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A Christmas Carol

WHALE, Edinburgh
3 stars
The first snows of winter have fallen on the Friday night streets of Wester Hailes by the time Mike Maran’s portable story-telling take on the ultimate Victorian Christmas tale is midway through. As theatrical magic goes, it’s hard to beat, but Maran makes a charmingly infectious stab at it with his unique blend of Caledonian chattiness and avuncular intimacy. Not for Maran the BBC posh frock department’s lavish heritage industry approach in Patrick Sandford’s bijou production. Rather, ghosts of past, present and future are conjured up in a manner that can relay a tale of a money-grabbing banker that captures the story’s essence without ever over-egging contemporary themes.

Nevertheless, there’s something of The Secret Millionaire in Maran’s Scrooge, as he observes the poverty around him before turning philanthropist. There are even more chilling pointers when a yet to be converted Scrooge suggests that the disabled Tiny Tim be allowed to die, a sentiment which at least two Tory MPs have condoned in the last few days in their condemnation of the welfare state. Running at just over an hour, Maran’s approach is no political tract, however, and is more parlour room entertainment than anything.

Dedicated to the late Alison Stephens, who composed the play’s music, a humanitarian streak runs throughout the piece, even if it still needs to bed in awhile. With Maran and silent collaborator Norman Chalmers at the helm, this shouldn’t be too serious a matter. Chalmers somewhat heroically adapts Stephens’ original mandolin score for concertina, whistles and thumb piano, adding atmospheric textures to an already low-key soundscape of skittering mice and icy London winds that permeate the journey home.

The Herald, November 29th 2010

ends

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