I didn’t feel a bit festive until I visited the Royal & Derngate on Friday night for a magical retelling of Dickens’ Yuletide ghost story, A Christmas Carol.
The wonderfully ornate and atmospheric Victorian Royal Theatre was the perfect setting for a story written just 40 years before the original venue was built. The compact stage was stuffed, floor to ceiling, with a superbly designed set (take a bow Michael Taylor) that was as eccentric as some of Boz’s grotesque line drawings that illustrated Dickens’ stories.
Characters entered via a succession of wardrobes and fireplaces and picked their way carefully down stacks of books staggered into makeshift staircases. Everything was dressed in layers of cobwebs and pounds of dust.
But there was nothing dusty about this production. It was a Christmas treat from start to finish.
The redemptive story of how miser Ebeneezer Scrooge discovers the meaning of Christmas can be a little scary for young ones but director Gary Sefton ensured that there were plenty of laughs throughout to diffuse ghostly nightmares.
Sam Graham’s dour Scrooge could have been a double for old Albert Steptoe. His lean frame emphasised his parsimonious attitude to relationships and generosity.
But after a night when he is visited by three ghosts it’s not only his demeanour that changes. Out go the drab black and grey uniform of a lonely workaholic to be replaced by an outfit of sartorial elegance that won applause from the first night crowd.
There were plenty of applause too for the production’s special effects. It’s amazing what can be done with an old sheet, a flying harness and a few trap doors.
Actor Andy Williams excelled as various ghosts (no jokes about typecasting. He gave a spirited performance but fell short of serenading us with Moon River).
The hard working Williams was tremendous fun – firstly as the long dead Jacob Marley and later as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He also came up with a scene-stealing Mr Fezziwig and squeezed in a couple of other cameos throughout.
A Christmas Carol comes up with a corker of a finale that saw faces young and old beam with delight.
A tremendous family show and a perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit. It worked for me. Merry Christmas everyone.