A Christmas Carol – Albany Theatre

As this show will have finished its run long before our next printed edition comes out at the end of January, we are providing an online only review now.

Described in the programme as “the perfect family-friendly alternative to a traditional panto” A Christmas Carol, is directed by Kevin Shaw, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Albany Theatre, is on till 26 December.

The story needs little introduction, but this tale of Christmas conversion from miserliness to merriment is just what we need at the moment. The cast consists of just seven actors, interchanging roles by the simple but effective use of additional accessories, such as a bonnet, apron or cloak, and portraying the whole range of characters between them. They also act as narrators, and an additional audience as they are all, for the most part, ever present on the stage, sometimes sitting at the side and providing additional reactions to the action.

The paucity of actors is perhaps a little stretched when Ebenezer Scrooge is taken to his own earlier life by the Ghost of Christmas past, and ends up not just spectating these scenes, but joining in as a representation of his own younger self. This provided an interesting different perspective, seeing how immersed Scrooge was in these scenes, but making it harder to portray current day Scrooge’s immediate reactions to his reviewing of parts of his life.

The portentous spirits are heralded by striking effects and vivid lighting to great effect, marking out their otherworldliness and Scrooge’s fear of them. The final ghost is particularly dramatic. The appearance of Marley’s chained ghost is reinforced, not only by bulges and distortions in the wall behind him, but by the other actors creating an impressive web of chains across the forestage, symbolising the burden Marley bears and hopes to prevent Scrooge from enduring.

The gripping action is interspersed with harmonised carols and the occasional dance, sometimes underlining the emotiveness and sometimes adding a spark of festive cheer. Scrooge’s final transformation from gloomy meanness to jubilant generosity is joyous, leaving the audience enveloped in seasonal warmth, heightened, rather than diminished, by any imitation snow.