A Christmas Carol
Reviewed – 28th November 2018
“a rich mixture of captivating drama, music, dance and laughter”
Stepping into the Chickenshed Theatre foyer, one is greeted by animated warmth, a feeling which is projected on stage and also explains the deserved success of this first inclusive theatre company. The remarkable logistical feat of putting on ‘A Christmas Carol’ with four casts of 200 goes almost unnoticed as the place buzzes with impressively organised activity and we are swept along by the energy and enthusiasm.
Set in the 1930s, Dickens’ Victorian social issues are updated by a meagre benefits system, severe unemployment and women’s equality, as a background to the timeless story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and how he found himself capable of changing for the better. Writer and director, Lou Stein, brings together younger and older, veterans and newcomers, and produces a rich mixture of captivating drama, music, dance and laughter, tailor-made for the hundreds of Chickenshed members. The catchy collection of musical numbers by Dave Carey has rousing choruses and distinctive solos, giving opportunities for everyone to participate. A stylish, art deco set, designed by William Fricker, frames the show and his detailed costumes colour the characters. Beautifully imaginative lighting (Andrew Caddies) adds atmospheric touches, transporting us to the various times and places.
As well as working with remarkable coordination, the whole cast exudes immense discipline and composure; there is some fine singing and exciting choreography. The main roles are well defined and confidently portrayed, from Finn Walters’ stoic Bob Cratchit to the cool ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’ played by Michael Bossisse. But a big round of applause goes to Ashley Driver for a wonderful interpretation of Scrooge and his journey from misery to happiness.
Performing with such a supportive infrastructure opens a door to these children and young people. It allows them to gain confidence and discover new facets in themselves. Quite apart from being a wonderful and clever piece of entertainment, Chickenshed’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ has its own special quality which comes from a deep sense of being part of a community. It is worth the trip to the end of the Piccadilly line to experience one’s own irresistible Scrooge-like change of mood.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Ava de Souza
A Christmas Carol
Chickenshed Theatre until 5th January
Previously reviewed at this venue: