Sunday, 27 December 2015

'A Christmas Carol' at the Noel Coward Theatre

'A Christmas Carol' is a *must* in the run-up to Christmas - read it, watch it or listen to it. For the last could of years I've attended a reading of the great book at Queen Elizabeth Hall but this year sees the production of a new stage version at the Noel Coward Theatre so I booked tickets to see it straight away. It's being sold on the back of Jim Broadbent as Mr Scrooge, with posters all over the place,  so a lot is riding on his shoulders.

The play is 'based on' rather than a full stage adaptation of the book, so there are bits  where I couldn't help but think 'this isn't in the book' or 'it doesn't happen like that'. That was a bit diverting at times and being too purist doesn't really add to the experience. Using puppets to show the Cratchets in their scenes saved in having lots of actors in a tight space but I didn't really like it. But then I learned to let go and go with the play as it unfolded in front of me, rather than with my memories of the book.

I like the stage setting of the front being decorated like a Victorian Christmas card and the main set being a big book that rotated to show different backgrounds to the scenes, which I thought was a lovely idea. It rather cut back on space on the stage that meant it felt a bit cramped at times, but it broadly worked. Having the puppeteers come on with spare legs to mimic the flying sequences was quite fun in a daft way, particularly when they were little baby legs for the Ghost of Christmas Present section.

It's a small cast but I particularly liked Samantha Spiro in her best Barbara Windsor impression for the Ghost of Christ has Present, slapping Scrooge around and chasing him with strobe lights taking us back to a reverse Benny Hill. I also liked Amelia Bullmore as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge's mother. And, of course, it was great to see Jim Broadbent on stage for the first time. He's been around for a long time but I hadn't seen him before, but he gave a lovely, warm performance that made me smile.

I'm pleased I saw this in the run-up to the big day - it's on for another few weeks so there's still time to see it. 

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