A Christmas Carol,  by Charles Dickens, adapted by Benedict Hardie & Anne-Louise Sarks | Directed by Anne-Louise Sarks

Belvoir | Belvoir Upstairs Theatre | Until 24 December

The novella A Christmas Carol was penned by Charles Dickens to tackle the issue of poverty and the growing underclass of impoverished people produced by the Industrial Revolution.

The story, as most know, centres upon the character of Ebenezer Scrooge (Robert Menzies), a callous and calculating businessman who is changed overnight because of the visitations of three spectral characters who lay out his life before him on Christmas Eve. Menzies is excellent as the miser horrified by the visions of his past, his present and his future existence and plausibly and skilfully he avoids cliché and caricature as he conveys a convincing epiphany.

His performance is contrasted effectively by Steve Roger’s positive and generous presence as his employee Bob Cratchit. The scenes at the Cratchit home dramatically diverge with the ghostly visits where the parlour games provide an opportunity for song and impromptu revelation of skills by a most impressive cast, including Peter Carroll as a lovable and enjoyably eccentric elder, Ivan Donato, Eden Falk, Urshual Yovich and Miranda Tapsell as Tiny Tim.

As the Ghost of Christmas Present Kate Box is the very personification of cheerfulness, dressed as a yellow artificial Christmas tree, she infectiously sprinkles the world with joy and goodwill leaving magical dust wherever she treads.

Benedict Hardie and Anne-Louise Sarks’ adaption perfectly captures the essence and message of the original as well as the contemporary resonances in 90 minutes, ensuring a younger audience is able to easily make the distance.  This impedes a little on character development, but the experienced cast signal their characters with impressive expertise.

They are more than ably supported by Michael Hankin’s simple but super-functional set design epitomised by sprinkling snow, Benjamin Cisterne’s radical mood-altering lighting design, and Stefan Gregory’s atmospheric and, where necessary, chilling sound design.  It is of course at its core a ghost story and the Ghost of Christmas Future, created by this talented special effects team, is suitably imposing and terrifying.

In 1843 Dickens’ original idea was to publish a political pamphlet entitled An Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child but his gift for storytelling, thankfully, won out.

I think the afterglow of this timely theatrical production, with its ever essential message that we have to live in the past, present and future, will see me nicely through the silly season.  Merry Christmas one and all!

All images: Brett Boardman