Tag Archives: Ed Lewis

Christmas Carol – A Fairy Tale

★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

Christmas Carol - A Fairy Tale

Christmas Carol – A Fairy Tale

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 5th December 2019

★★★★

 

“The magical combination of Christmas Carol and Wilton’s Music Hall makes this the ideal Christmas show”

 

A Christmas Carol is an extremely popular festive tale first told by Charles Dickens in 1843 (and best told by the Muppets in 1992). Piers Torday’s interpretation, which replaces Ebenezer Scrooge with his younger sister Fan, is a worthy edition to this canon, and a refreshing take on an old classic.

This alternate universe Christmas Carol has much in common with the original. Fan is a cold-hearted moneylender who, on Christmas Eve, is visited by three spirits in a plea to make her change her ways. But Fan, being female, has a different life to Ebenezer (who, in this story, dies young, much like Fan Scrooge does in the original). Whilst her brother is sent away to school, she keeps house for their alcoholic father. Fulfilling employment is soon cut short, and work gives way for marriage to Jacob Marley. When Marley dies, Fan, angered by the way patriarchal society has reduced her to nothing more than her husband’s property, takes over his business and runs it with a ruthlessness that makes her the richest (and most hated) woman in London.

Torday uses Fan to explore how Victorian women were shaped by social constraints. What would Scrooge have been like had he been female? The conclusion seems to be that he would have been just as tough, if not tougher. Fan’s complaint that her husband, by law, owned both her and her property is just a small glimpse into the laws and customs that held Victorian women back. When young Fan asks her brother what she will be when they grow up, his response – ‘a music teacher… or a governess, or a wife… it doesn’t matter, really’ – is a clear disappointment for such an intelligent and tenacious girl. This makes her more likeable than Ebenezer was in the original, easier to connect with. And, although this theme is sometimes handled clumsily, it is nonetheless engaging.

Above all, however, this show is a lot of fun. The script is silly and witty; it has the feeling of a panto without actually being one. The cast is faultless. Each actor excels in multiple roles, ranging from humans to spirits to animals. Sally Dexter’s performance as Scrooge is, by turns, humorous and heart-breaking: she clearly projects Torday’s message about Victorian women in an emotive and persuasive manner. Yana Penrose, playing Meagre the Cat, also deserves special mention for guiding us through the story as a puppeteer/narrator.

The fun, festive aspect of the show is accelerated by the space of Wilton’s Music Hall, which is used to great effect. The multiple set changes are smooth and impressive, whilst the Christmas decorations in the final scene make the conclusion all the more heart-warming.

The magical combination of Christmas Carol and Wilton’s Music Hall makes this the ideal Christmas show. And, whilst I am willing to die on the hill that the Muppets did it best, Christmas Carol comes pretty damn close.

 

Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography by  Nobby Clark

 


Christmas Carol – A Fairy Tale

Wilton’s Music Hall until 4th January

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Shape Of the Pain | ★★★★★ | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Sweet Science Of Bruising | ★★★★ | June 2019
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story | ★★★★★ | September 2019
This Is Not Right | ★★★★ | October 2019
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★★ | November 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Canterville Ghost

★★★★

Unicorn Theatre

The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost

 Unicorn Theatre

Reviewed – 20th November 2019

★★★★

 

“this spirited show in London Bridge is going to bring a smile to a good many people’s faces over the next few weeks”

 

Oscar Wilde’s 1887 short story is given a 21st century makeover at one of the capital’s leading theatres for young audiences.

Diplomat Hiram Otis is posted to England with his rabble family. They rent an old Gothic mansion that turns out to have a resident ghost, one Sir Simon Canterville. Attempts to spook the Otis’s by Sir Simon are ignored by the streetwise New Yorkers and this ghost who has been looking for a resting place for over three hundred years is in utter despair, until baby of the family Virginia, takes him seriously, listens to him and helps solve the riddle that will allow him to rest in peace.

This tale is presented with the aid of illusion and magic, Sir Simon having his head under his arm, objects appearing and disappearing, flying furniture and even a body being sawn in half. A simple set (Rosie Elnile) consisting of a blood stained carpet, two large tables and a model house symbolising the mansion are all utilised to the maximum and moved about with an impressive slickness. Lighting (Prema Mehta) is immensely impressive, the windows in the model house all lighting up and the illusions neatly disguised.

This is a highly amusing adaptation, every neatly constructed line seems to contain no words with less than six syllables and the characterisations are pitched perfectly for a young audience, with the humour appreciated greatly by the children, without it being childish. This is a thoughtfully directed piece by Justin Audibert, a huge amount of energy has been injected into the play and so much of the action is delivered with a real flourish.

All the cast are strong, the twin boys, played by girls (Rose-Marie Christian & Mae Munuo) always in unison, Nathaniel Wade enthusiastically playing elder son Washington who is inventing a hat containing an umbrella and Safiyya Ingar charming as green fingered Virginia. Maple syrup loving Dad (Nana Amoo-Gottfried) and interior designed obsessed Mum (Beth Cordingly) are spot on with their relationship and handling of their slightly troublesome offspring. Paul McEwan has a ball playing Sir Simon, I was concerned that the way he slurs a lot of his lines could make it difficult for youngsters, who are hanging on his every word, to decipher what he’s saying. Annie Fitzmaurice as the Scottish housemaid is a positive delight, it was like lifting Private Frazer from Dad’s Army into a female body, all doom, gloom and threats of varicose veins, she was hilarious.

The pace slackened a little in the second act, but the packed audience, consisting mainly of children, absolutely loved it. The young lad sitting next to me rushed back from the interval and announced that he couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.

With Unicorn’s magic and a ghost, I think that this spirited show in London Bridge is going to bring a smile to a good many people’s faces over the next few weeks and is perfect material for all the family.

 

Reviewed by Chris White

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


The Canterville Ghost

 Unicorn Theatre until 5th January

 

Chris White’s last ten reviews:
Citysong | ★★★★ | Soho Theatre | June 2019
Little Light | ★★★ | The Tower Theatre | June 2019
Feel The Love | ★★★★ | Chickenshed Theatre | July 2019
Parenthood | ★★★½ | The Space | July 2019
Form | ★★★★★ | Camden People’s Theatre | August 2019
Title Of Show | ★★★ | Moors Bar | August 2019
A Great Big Sigh | ★★★ | Hen & Chickens Theatre | September 2019
Moth Hunting | ★★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | September 2019
Chasing Ghosts | ★★★½ | Etcetera Theatre | October 2019
Some Like It Hip Hop | ★★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | October 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews