Antic Disposition’s atmospheric production is a ‘thoroughly stimulating experience’
WOS Rating: ★★★★
Middle Temple Hall and its environs is the definitive location to stage A Christmas Carol. The Dickensian streets of Temple give the impression that you’ve literally transported back to the time and place where Dickens penned many of his most beloved stories, including said novella.
The psychogeographic decision is a triumph for production company Antic Disposition, founded by director Ben Horslen and designer John Risebero, which prides itself for using site specific locations to stage works from Shakespeare and beyond. It’s a similar modus operandi to production company the Malachite Theatre, which has been using St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch to stage Shakespeare – made more relevant as the bard’s Lord Chamberlain’s Men once performed in the East London area.
A Christmas Carol is as versatile as they come. We’ve all seen classic TV productions – of the comic, severe, cartoon and Muppet variety – and there’s been some great staged one-man story-telling courtesy of acting giants Patrick Stewart and Simon Callow; now’s the opportunity to see it done with a full cast and music by Christopher Peake.
Some interesting musical variations of well-known Christmas carols from the outset nicely set the tone, but it’s only when Scrooge (David Burt) gets his ghostly visitations that things really kick off.
Just when you begin to doubt the capability of conveying the terror of the visions, Scrooge’s silhouetted and shackled late partner Jacob Marley (Chris Courtenay) comes into view. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Katie Lowell) shows us how Scrooge has become the man he is, with his obsession of money ruining the love and engagement with sweetheart Belle (Emma Whittaker).
Scrooge is then shown the poverty of the family of his clerk Bob Cratchit (Paul Tonkin) by the gregarious Ghost of Christmas Present (David Anthony) before seeing the fate of their crippled son Tiny Tim (Theo Williams) and, of course, his own.
It’s a thoroughly stimulating experience with keyboard and strings adding even more to the atmos, if that were possible. David Burt’s portrayal of the protagonist is masterful. He may look like an ageing heavy metaller but his unparalleled transformation from misanthrope to flamboyant philanthrope completely takes you by surprise. Not least when the audience are treated with a shower of chocolate money. Merry Christmas!
By Will Stone for WhatsOnStage