A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens, adapted by Danielle Pearson
The Watermill Theatre Company
The Watermill Theatre Newbury

Pete Ashmore and Tilly-Mae Millbrook Credit: Pamela Raith photography
Pete Ashmore Credit: Pamela Raith Photography
Pete Ashmore and Tilly-Mae Millbrook Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

The festive season has started and a what a joy to experience live theatre following the lockdown with the Watermill’s highly impressive production of A Christmas Carol splendidly adapted by Danielle Pearson.

This classic tale is inventively directed by Georgie Straight who creates some wonderful magical touches. It is imaginatively performed by two highly talented actor-musicians who skilfully play a variety of instruments and have woven a variety of Christmas carols and seasonal songs into the story which they sing beautifully.

They are both superb storytellers. Tilly-Mae Millbrook is the delightful narrator of this haunting, moralistic ghost story who cleverly plays many of the other characters, using just a different accent, a hat, a scarf, or a change of costume to create all of them and they are totally convincing.

Pete Ashmore gives an outstanding powerful performance as the bitter, bad-tempered Scrooge whose life is about to change forever. He is visited by his long-dead business partner, Jacob Marley, who pleads with Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late and also to expect some ghostly visitations when the church bell strikes one in the morning.

He encounters the Ghost of Christmas Past mysteriously created from a lamp who reminds him of his childhood days at school, his apprenticeship to Mr Fezziwig and his extraordinary Christmas parties and of happier times as a youth.

His second visitation is the Ghost of Christmas Present who takes him to the home of his long-suffering clerk Bob Cratchit and his poor family including his disabled son Tiny Tim, imaginatively created by using just a crutch and hat and the magic of theatre.

More frightening is the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come when Scrooge learns of his awful fate. It is this visit that finally persuades him to change his ways and he is given second chance to make amends, eventually finding happiness by being kind to others.

Isobel Nicolson’s atmospheric set with dark grey brick walls with washing hanging on lines and old gas lights creates Dickens’s squalid London. Look out for the shadow puppets and some ingenious projections.

There are beautifully designed costumes by Emily Barratt together with Harry Armytage’s evocative lighting and Tom Marshall’s sound design. This is a true Christmas treat.

A visit to the Watermill to see this captivating production should definitely be on your Christmas wish list.

Reviewer: Robin Strapp