This early in December I’m still a bit bah humbug about Christmas so I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to book tickets for A Christmas Carol on 2nd December but I’m so pleased I did.
The play starts with Charles Dickens and his friend and editor, John Forster discussing a tract Dickens has written on the iniquities of child labour. Forster is telling Dickens that sugar-coated pills work better as a way to bring social injustices to people’s attention at Christmas. So, begins the telling of the famous story.
I thought Phil Davis was an excellent Scrooge and, as he travelled back in time with the Ghost of Christmas Past, I loved the was he and younger versions of Scrooge interchanged with each other.
The plot moved along at a good pace without being too fast and bits of the story that often get missed out, like the Fezziwigs, got included. There was also time to add in extra bits about the horrible plight of child labourers.
I thought the costumes were amazing; Jacob Marley’s ghost was particularly effective and I loved the garish, exuberant checks worn by most of the men in the cast.
The set overall was effective; it created an impression of the edges of poverty in London. However, it didn’t quite hang together for me. The towering backdrop of the warehouse front distracted from the human sized props on the stage, especially during the complicated door sequences in Mr Scrooge’s office. It could almost have done with the top half being covered to focus the viewpoint on the stage. And the doors got in the way of the action a bit. I understand, from the gentleman sitting next to us, that how the scenery is used has already changed from the beginning of the week. I suspect it will change again before the end of the run.
Another part I’m not sure about is the section with Ignorance and Want. I know that the book was written, in part, as a response to child labour. Perhaps, in our current society, rather than highlighting child labour, the focus could have been directed at child poverty or poverty in general to remind people that although we live in a different world there are still social injustices to be fought.
There was plenty of light and shade in the production – the dark parts of Scrooge’s story interwoven with humour, song and dancing – which dissolved some of my bah humbug feeling and has left me humming Christmas Carols. And, of course, the story has the required happy ending.
Would I go and see it again? Yes; although I wouldn’t rush back or make a special journey, if I find myself in Stratford and it is still showing I will go again.