Imogen Tink explores the history behind one of Birmingham's most well-renowned theatresWritten by Imogen Tink on 19th May 2017
Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Crescent Theatre
'Marley was dead: to begin with...' Culture critic Ruth Horsburgh reviews the Crescent Theatre's heartwarming production of one of our best loved festive tales
A classic Christmas story which has been enjoyed by generations, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a much-loved story of the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge. In Dickens’ own words, Scrooge is ‘a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!’ In this tale, the cynical ‘humbug’, Scrooge, is visited by three spirits, from his past, present and future. These visitations lead to bleak revelations and ominous insights into his self-interested behaviour, causing Scrooge to reconsider not only his lack of festive spirit, but his approach to life and to those around him.
At the Crescent Theatre, we were treated to a festive Victorian spectacle. Performed and brought to life by unpaid actors and production volunteers, this adaption of Dicken’s popular tale had a homely feel, imbued with the performers’ love of the theatre. They were led by the excellent Andrew Lowrie, who portrayed the transformation of Scrooge with skill, making the audience jump as he slammed doors and money jars, to making them laugh with his new-found, child-like love for Christmas. Tony Daniels’ Bob Cratchitt was endearing and acted as a good contrast to the initially hostile Scrooge. The fettered ghost of Scrooge’s business partner, Marley, was memorably performed by Chris Collett, whose wails and warnings to Scrooge reverberated throughout the theatre. The spirits were eerily realised, with unnerving glares and mischievous cackles aplenty as they showed Scrooge the horrible reality and implications of his selfish behaviour if he did not change his ways.
“As Dickens said, ‘there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.’
But everybody in the company played their part, or indeed parts, with several actors doubling up on roles. From Mrs Fezziwig (a fantastic example of Dickens’ use of unusual surnames!) to Tiny Tim, the whole company gave a strong performance. The director, Alan K. Marshall, ensured the narrative and time-lapse of the events was clear and easy to follow. The fun dance sequences, particularly the one where we saw a young Scrooge fall in love, brought additional merriment to proceedings. Scenes including a ridiculous conversation between typically Dickensian caricatured Victorian gentlemen sniffing snuff, and another involving grotty launderesses and a pawn broker, spluttering and spitting as they tried to profit from Scrooge’s valuable belongings, were amongst the best comic interludes. These humorous episodes brought a lightness of tone to counter the darker side of Scrooge’s story. As Dickens said, ‘there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.’
“Lighting and special effects helped to create an uneasy atmosphere as ghostly projections appeared and smoke-filled the stage, conveying the gloominess of Victorian London
The ingenious set, including a rotating house and a trap door, allowed for seamless transitions from scene to scene and spirit to spirit. The traditional costumes brought the Victorian setting to life, with pretty gowns and smart waistcoats for the middle-class characters, to the rags and caps for the more down-trodden of the characters. Lighting and special effects helped to create an uneasy atmosphere as ghostly projections appeared and smoke-filled the stage, conveying the gloominess of Victorian London. The use of Christmas carols throughout to accompany the action was enjoyable, I couldn’t help but hum along! All of these elements contributed to a well-thought out and heart-warming production.
A timeless reminder of the importance of family and generosity to others, this is a thoroughly enjoyable festive family treat.
For more information, please visit: http://www.crescent-theatre.co.uk/theatre-event/?EventID=68131