Review: A Christmas Carol, Theatre Delicatessen

“You will be haunted Ebenezer, three times”

In what is the penultimate production that will take place at Theatre Delicatessen’s temporary home at the former headquarters of Uzbekistan Airways before it is converted into apartments (what else…), this interpretation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, adapted by Pete Wrench, is a co-production between .dash and tacit theatre.

On arrival, steaming mugs of mulled wine and mince pies welcome you into the offices of Scrooge & Marley’s Financial Solutions, although care should taken when taking your seat as the two additional rows that span the length of the room on the right hand side offer quite limited views. On the one hand, I’m pleased that so many tickets have been sold that this additional seating is necessary but on the other, the view, especially from those seats nearer the front, is so restricted as the stage in Scrooge’s office is so narrow and deep that much was missed as this was where we ended up.

Dickens’ tale has been modernised somewhat, references to the DWP and the current deficit abound and Bob Cratchit’s role in the office is to keep pedalling a bike which generates the electricity for the organisation. But much of the language used is quite faithful to the original text, creating a strange tension between the traditional and the innovative which is never quite resolved due to the lack of a clear creative vision for this production.

The innovation of having Marley appear on a bank of old TVs in the office was highly effective but I couldn’t quite see the connection within this interpretation: just why did Scrooge have so many screens in his office as he works in Financial Solutions rather than in the surveillance business and the ghostly images that appeared intermittently throughout the rest of the show were too indistinct to really make an impact. It would have been nice to have seen more use of video technology given its initial effectiveness and how it would have brought more originality to the storytelling.

Tom Daplyn’s Scrooge is excellent at the miserly curmudgeon, relishing in the grumpiness and anger that drives him, which makes it all the more surprising that this production has him come to his grand realisation practically after the first visitation, rendering the second and third somewhat redundant. Jonathon Saunders works hard as all three ghosts, his Christmas Yet To Come being the most effective with its stilts and long sweeping black cloak creating a sinister figure; Jonathan Wittaker is an appealing Bob and the most handsome, bequiffed Tom Ross-Williams does well as Scrooge’s nephew Fred. But in this awkward playing space, too much is lost with Scrooge’s back turned to us for too long at crucial moments, too many characters sat on a level with the audience and so swallowed up in the crowd and despite being trailed as a promenade production, there was little use of the space other than up front save for entrances and exits.

I did like much of the design aesthetic, with its mix of the modern and the Victorian and creatively, with its sound, lighting and video, this promised to be an intriguing evening. But without an equally inventive approach to the text and the way it is presented, or for that matter adequate attention to the needs of its audience, this Christmas Carol has missed a trick in order to make it stand out from the crowd.

Running time: 90 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: free cast sheet available
Booking until 24th December
Note: avoid sitting on the right hand side!!

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