How do you make the perfect Christmas show? It’s easy really, you just take an old classic, put it in a truly awesome and appropriate setting, add an amazingly talented cast and suddenly you have Antic Disposition’s production of A Christmas Carol at Middle Temple Hall.
Let’s be honest, we all know the story. Evil moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge (David Burt) is in his cold, miserable counting house on Christmas Eve with only his Clerk, Bob Cratchit (David Hunter) for company when in rushes his nephew Fred (Alex Hopper) to wish him the joy of the season. After a bit of an altercation, Scrooge sends Fred away and shuts up shop for the night. When Scrooge returns to his home, he has a vision of his deceased partner Jacob Marley (Chris Courtenay). Later that night, the vision becomes a reality as Jacob visits Ebenezer and basically warns him to change his ways or else. In an attempt to help his former partner, Marley has arranged for Scrooge to be visited that night by three more spirits – The Ghost of Christmas Past (Katie Lovell), The Ghost of Christmas Present (David Anthony) and a third ghost whose details we won’t go into here.
Over the course of these visitations, Scrooge meets friends, including his old flame Belle (Victoria Hope), learns more about the Cratchit family – Bob, His wife (Andrea Sadler) and their children Martha (Kerry Loosemore), Peter (Dean Riley) and Tiny Tim (Harley Gallacher or Leo Mann) – and hopefully gets a better understanding of the true meaning of Christmas from his ghostly guides. Not to give anything away but the ending involves a giant turkey as big as the boy (Archie Stevens or Miles Roughly) sent to go and buy him.
This is the second version of A Christmas Carol I have seen recently and is the best live version I have ever seen. Every single aspect of this production was perfect right from the start. The adaptation by Ben Horslen & John Risebero has taken Charles Dickens’ original story and treated it with a real respect, ensuring that all of the elements of the original are in the final show as well as adding some marvelous touches – for example the use of well-loved Christmas Carols with more appropriate words – of their own. I loved every aspect of the story and even felt the same chills I had as a child when reading about the visit of the final ghost once more.
John Risebero’s set is not overly complicated but manages to convey every place required to tell the story. Taking place in the round, Directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero use every available inch of the performance space and even when the female characters are wearing those large Victorian hooped skirts, it never seems crowded and still retains a wonderfully intimate atmosphere. The music by Musical Director Christopher Peake was lovely and the four piece band really delivered a lovely accompaniment to the story.
Turning to the actors and I have to give full praise to David Burt who, from the moment he walks on and glares at the carol singers, is the definitive Mr Scrooge. David’s acting is so realistic. At one point, Scrooge was standing near me discussing the fate of Tiny Tim with the Ghost of Christmas Present and, as he turned round, there were tears in his eyes – which had the effect of starting me off again. The rest of the cast are equally as good. As well as their featured roles mentioned in the above paragraphs, they all played a variety of other characters and, for me the best example of this was when the Ghost of Christmas Present took Scrooge around the country to see how Christmas was celebrated in places as diverse as a lighthouse and a mine.
I know we are not really meant to talk about the theatre we see shows in but I have to say Middle Temple Hall was a perfect venue for this show. There is such a wonderful air of history and theatre about the place, even the walk from the auditorium to the bar was amazing.
I’m not sure what more I can say about this production of A Christmas Carol, apart from, to me it is the perfect Christmas show for young and old. No matter how jaded and fed up you may be with the whole holiday season, this production will not only lift you up but fill you with the warm glow of Christmas. I truly believe that this version of A Christmas Carol is now the definitive one – even eclipsing ‘The Muppet’s Christmas Carol’ – and I am already thinking about going to see it next Christmas.
Normally after a show, I will discuss it with my companion but in this case, as soon as it finished and the cast took their well deserved curtain calls, he turned to me and said ‘five stars’ and I am not going to argue with him. In fact, I’m going to end this review by raising a glass of mulled wine and wishing everyone reading this a wonderful Christmas. in the words of Tiny Tim, ‘God bless us everyone!’
by Terry Eastham, 24 December 2015