Review: A Christmas Carol by Plays To See

Antic Disposition’s A Christmas Carol takes place in the atmospheric Middle Temple Hall, which dates back to the sixteenth century, and which Dickens himself attended as a law student from 1839. The Hall, which is usually used as a dining room, might seem a surprising choice for a venue, but it lends itself beautifully to theatre. The audience is seated around the stage area, making for an intimate production where actors and audience are in close contact throughout.

The production team has done well, making clever use of a space not designed for sophisticated theatrical effects: lights are used throughout the show to convey various impressions, and there is excellent use of sound effects. Given the small cast and limited possibility for special effects, characters often end up acting without other actors or props for support, but all acquit themselves well. Only a few props are used, but to great effect, evoking a sense of scene without crowding the stage.

This version of the story is a musical, taking the tunes of popular Christmas carols but adapting the lyrics to fit with the subject matter of the play; this is nicely in keeping with the theme of the tale, and is executed well. The singing from all actors is impressive, and the acting excellent all round: especially David Burt’s Scrooge, whose initial grumpiness is worn away to reveal a gruff tenderness; David Hunter as the admirably cheerful Bob Cratchitt; and Harley Gallacher as his enchanting son, Tiny Tim.

In such a striking setting, the darker elements of the story are inevitably drawn out, and moments of genuine dread and sorrow are achieved; however, the actors are skilful, and also provide a lot of comedy, creating a balance of emotions throughout the production. Through a combination of excellent acting, clever writing, and magnificent setting, this is an interpretation of A Christmas Carol to warm the heart and get anyone – even Ebeneezer Scrooge – in the Christmas spirit.

★★★★

by Nicola Watkinson – Plays To See, 24 December 2015

A Christmas Treat – not to be missed

UKTHEATRE.NET reviews A Christmas Carol:

The splendour of Middle Temple Hall quite takes your breath away.  The tranquillity and beauty of this magnificent space inspired Dickens in his writing and is certainly the perfect setting for his well loved novel, ‘A Christmas Carol’. Leave behind the bustle of the streets of London and be transported back in time to share the experiences of Scrooge, the Cratchits and the citizens of the streets of 19th Century London.

We are asked at the onset: ‘What reason do you have to be miserable?’  Hear hear to that! Leave all negativity outside the door and immerse yourself in this charming production. To the sounds of the four musicians, the soaring voices of the brilliant ensemble and the clanking of ghostly chains, this is a veritable treat.

Chris Courtenay as the ghost of Jacob Marley

The atmosphere is magical. The faces of the children in the audience bore testament to the wonder of the ghosts of Marley and of Christmas Past, Present and Future; adults smiled and gloried in the delight of the singing, delivered so beautifully by this well voiced cast. We almost had to be held back from jumping up and joining in the carols that were interspersed through the various scenes. If only all carols could be sung so sweetly and with such perfect harmonies, all would be welcome at our front door. And of course, who could not be moved by the sight of the future yet to come, the sadness of Tiny Tim and the poor of London. ‘Bah Humbug’ – certainly not!

David Burt with the cast of A Christmas Carol

David Burt’s Scrooge is inspired and we do not doubt his character as it shifts through its many changes. The Cratchits played by Andrea Sadler, Dean Riley, Kerry Loosemore, David Hunter and Leo Mann welcome us into their home to share their joy and their sadness. The versatility of the ensemble, playing a variety of roles, complements and contributes to this joyous spectacle. This is a production not to be missed.

David Hunter as Bob Cratchit and Leo Mann as Tiny Tim

Antic Disposition has set the tone perfectly. The staging is perfect and the intimacy of the hall befits the Victorian setting. The acoustics lend themselves to providing the echoing quality integral to this wondrous tale. ‘A Christmas Carol’ is is a wonderful production for adults and children alike. It will leave you recognising the treasure of your own families and the pity of the poverty that still exists on London streets today.

If you can, grab a ticket. It is well worth it. And of course this would not be a review without those magical words of Tiny Tim:

“A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!”

review by Elaine Pinkus at UKTHEATRE.NET

Review: A Christmas Carol at Middle Temple Hall

It’s where Shakespeare debuted Twelfth Night, and fellow literary legend and author of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, studied law, but so spectacular is Middle Temple Hall that it doesn’t even need to mention these credentials to be considered a breathtaking venue; rather, its Elizabethan magnificence speaks for itself, heraldic stained glass windows and wooden panelling towering over visitors, arches bearing the weight of a history impregnated into the oak. Much more than just a beautiful hall, as a theatrical venue it’s currently playing host to Antic Disposition’s very special adaptation of A Christmas Carol, with a production of a startlingly high quality not often reached in fringe theatre.

A Christmas Carol
Scott Rylander

This stage adaptation by Antic Disposition founders Ben Horslen and John Risebero of the perennial festive favourite puts the “carols” into A Christmas Carol, familiar festive melodies floating through air already rich with the scent of mulled wine and mince pies. Delivered by a multi-talented cast of actor-singers including David Burt as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, David Hunter as his hard-up clerk Bob Cratchit and Victoria Hope as former fiancée Belle, John Risebero’s lyrics set to centuries-old Christmas carols serve the triple purpose of feeling exceptionally Christmassy, furthering the story, and bringing the atmosphere of Victorian London alive onstage.

Amongst the gloom of the Dickensian capital lives and works a character so ubiquitous that his name has passed into the English lexicon: Scrooge. The play follows the tale of the misanthropist money lender as he’s visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and in the process is forced to confront the reality of how his decisions touch the other people around him. A message just as relevant today, in a post-banking-crisis United Kingdom, as it ever was, Dickens’ unforgettable characters are brought unmistakeably to life in a production which, like the novella it’s based on, champions family values, and showcases the power of hope and redemption.

That’s not to say it’s perfect; the ghost costumes are a bit theme-park-haunted-house-esque, and with speakers used for sound effects and music to back the live 4-piece band, there seems to be a strange tension between what’s being played live and what isn’t, possibly due to the disparity in volume that has the sound effects significantly louder and un-mic’ed cast voices struggling to compete. But, really, the biggest challenge for this production won’t be anything in the writing or execution; it’ll be in the timing, since in opening just a couple of days before Christmas, it has inevitably missed much of the window for Christmas audiences.

Yet it’s a show that deserves, in every way, to do well. With all the ingredients of a successful Christmas show, and rejecting the temptation to indulge in gratuitous innuendo and awkwardly forced audience participation, it nevertheless appeals to adults and children alike. David Burt’s delightfully miserable depiction of Scrooge would in itself be reason enough to buy a ticket, but when presented in such a magnificent location, as part of such a crescendo of festivity, it has to be one of the most exciting shows in London this Christmas.

★★★★

by Ginger Hibiscus

Henry V in France

Chris is composer and musical director for Antic Disposition’s production of Henry V.

Marking both the company’s 10th anniversary and the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, award-winning British theatre company Antic Disposition bring Shakespeare’s most stirring history play to Périgord and Quercy in a bold new production.

England’s idealistic army marches to war, certain of a swift and glorious victory. France proudly rallies to defend her borders from invasion. But as nations clash, it is the common soldiers who pay the ultimate price in the bloody mud of the battlefield.

Performed in English “in this best garden of the world, our fertile France”, Henry V is an accessible and fast-paced evening of entertainment, celebrating the complex historical relationship between our two nations – from the Hundred Years War to the Entente Cordiale.

Chess the Musical

Chris is excited to be revisiting this musical after the success of the Union Theatre production in 2013.

This time Chris will be working with 3rd year students at the University of Cumbria and director Tim McArthur.

Performances: Thursday 28th – Saturday 30th May at the Stanwix Theatre.

Peter Pan

Stunning production shots of Peter Pan by Manuel Harlan. Congratulations to all involved in this magical production.

Peter Pan

Chris is delighted to be returning to Watford Palace Theatre this Easter as composer / musical director for Peter Pan.

Join Peter, Wendy, John and Michael on a magical adventure to Neverland, filled with lost boys, fractious fairies, swashbuckling pirates, mermaids and a ticking crocodile. J M Barrie’s classic tale of the boy who never grew up is brought vividly to life by some of the County’s most talented young performers, in this faithful stage adaptation by Olivier award-winning writer Mike Kenny (The Railway Children – National Railway Museum and Waterloo Station).

Watford Palace Theatre presents a Hertfordhsire County Youth Theatre Production 3 – 4 April, 2015

Director: James Williams
Designer: Helen Coyston