‘A Christmas Carol’

Despite the mayhem of the past month or so, there has still been some time for shows, starting with the most recent – ‘A Christmas Carol‘. Christopher Fairbank (who I genuinely didn’t know was still acting, so bonus) plays the shrivel money-grabber, Ebenezer Scrooge.

Lyceum 2013
Lyceum 2013

I don’t know if it was because Christmas has been such a distant event for me, or because Scotland’s Christmas weather has returned to normal (wind and rain, what else), but this is possibly the least Christmassy (whatever that is) I’ve felt for a long time. It’s probably me.

A note on the weather – people seem to be under this delusion that since having two years of brutal snow storms, any other weather in December here is weird. The only truly weird thing is the significant lack of frost. Otherwise, we’re unlikely to see snow till January. That’s how it has always been, have you people no memories?

Back to the play.

A couple of days before seeing the show, the delightful news story in the Commons occurred like something out of a Grimms’ fairytale (either watch the debate in full, or read about it – neither are pleasant but that’s politics for you). It’s almost too incredulous to believe, and yet… However analytical you want to be about it, ‘A Christmas Carol‘ has always had a social undercurrent that, sadly, is yet to extinguish from our lives so many year on. You could feel the room curling their toes as Scrooge ‘bah’s his way through his speech of letting the poor and weak die, questioning if workhouses and prisons are no more, and other phrases that those in the know will remember. It is always an uncomfortable part of the story, but the fates could not have picked a more horribly perfect collision of reality and fiction.

It was a jolly piece, aesthetically pleasing (soap snow is a much better idea that confetti) but it did take a bit of time to warm up. There were four things that really stuck out for me from the production, the first being the use of actors as musicians, with the occasional soundtrack. I genuinely hope that this is returning trend, echoing the vaudeville days and putting greater demands on the talent of the actor. I mean learning an instrument is a joy anyway, but there is something magical about live music. Ok, I like music. Shush.

Two. The next was the Ghost of Christmas Present. I honestly could not get over how fabulous he looked. And I think he knew it.

Three. and Four. are to do with their use of projection, beginning with the surface it landed upon: chains. An idea clearly influenced by (or potentially nabbed, who knows) by the recent ‘Richard II‘ production. Chains really do work, but until it becomes as one with the plot, I’m still a little dubious about projection/media (says the person who’s final university project was completely technical, but the principle still remains).

Four. Lastly, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come was a projection, a sketch outline of a girl’s head and shoulders, watching the stage. It was alright. And then it was outstanding, if only for half a minute. The projection exploded with fire and morphed into a gravestone, before turning into Scrooge himself. My description doesn’t do the sequence justice, but it definitely moved that part of the story into a completely different territory.

Given that I’m rarely pleased by the majority of productions that come out of the Lyceum, this was a pleasant surprise. And the carol-medley at the end was delightful, although I think the cast enjoyed it more than the audience.


‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Lyceum


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