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A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens, adapted by Bryony Lavery, music and lyrics by Jason Carr
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
(2010)

A Christmas Carol production photo

We all know the story, almost as well as we know all the verses of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' or 'We Three Kings ovary and tar'. That is, most of us don't know it quite so well as we think we do. But we think we know the tune well enough, the overall thrust of the thing. Well, by and large, most of us probably don't. There are barbs and sharp edges in this Christmas cracker. Laughter and tears we remember, but there is cold anger here as well. Bryony Lavery has done a fine adaptation, with only a flimsy wrapping of post-modern sub sci fi flim-flammery. She had us all a bit lost to begin with, but, what the heck, we soon got used to it.

And there is no need to revise, to look up Fezziwig, Antimony, Groat, and Dabchick. This magnificent production tells the tale more or less as it is: a paradoxically shocking yet feel-good indictment of Victorian ignorance, greed and hypocrisy... with ghosts.

And what a show! The last couple of years I have found myself reporting the most ecstatic audience response I have ever witnessed in a West Yorkshire Playhouse theatre. Press Night for A Christmas Carol - it happened again. The curtain line-up was greeted with a howl of delight, from the school kids I sat near and the mass of the adult audience.

The show has a secret weapon. A star! I refer to set designer Colin Richmond. He has produced an exciting, entertaining, endlessly fascinating set which director Nikolai Foster, and his energetic, talented cast, exploit to the full.

A damp patch: I found the music a little bland and the lyrics rather flabby. So I find myself enthusing about the production and telling friends to go and see it for the story-telling, acting, wardrobe, but most of all the superb set!

Full house, by the way... so get on the 'phone and book.

Running to January 15th 2011

Reviewer: Ray Brown