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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


Quiz – 4 Stars



Noël Coward Theatre

Reviewed – 11th April 2018


“a compelling presentation, full of sleight of hand that is often as manipulative as the subject matter itself”


Performance and presentation has become such a prominent part of public life now, that reality has become subjective. ‘Constructed reality’, as a phrase, is relatively new and didn’t exist at the time of the scandal of the “coughing major”, the events of which form the backbone to James Graham’s newest West End play, “Quiz”. But even though the phrase had yet to be coined, the trial of Charles and Diana Ingram accused of cheating on ITV’s ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ was still described by those who were there as ‘pure theatre’.

Graham’s stunning play truly reflects this. It is a whirlwind account of the drama that unfolded in both the courtrooms and the television studios, brilliantly highlighting the fact that the two are becoming more and more indistinguishable. The production, directed by Daniel Evans, is inspired and ingeniously constructed, using knockabout comedy to pinpoint the harsh truths of the false world we find ourselves living in. Robert Jones’ set combines the courtroom and the game show as cleverly as Graham’s writing, and even the audience are given a handheld device to pass judgement on the accused. It’s 50:50 – guilty or not guilty. As simple as that.

Although it isn’t quite so simple. We get to decide twice: at the interval and at the very end, and each time the verdict is different. The first act concentrates on the prosecution while the second act presents the same set of events from a different camera angle, inviting – or perhaps cajoling – us into rooting for the Ingrams. It is a disquietingly manipulative device, but we accept it.

The multi-tasking cast feast on their roles, relishing the vibrant array of characters they are depicting; from QC to Quizmaster (Keir Charles, for one, hilariously and perfectly capturing the tones and mannerisms of Chris Tarrant); contestant to conspirator, police officer to army general, among many others. We are also given a potted history of light entertainment, and how ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’, in particular, morphed into a global phenomenon. Far from being expositional it is all quite eye-opening.

But the focal point is the question mark that hangs over Charles Ingram winning the million-pound jackpot. We all know the historical reality of the guilty verdict but Gavin Spokes, as Charles Ingram, has to make us believe in him. And the beauty of his performance allows us to do just that. Assisted by Sarah Woodward’s impassioned defence lawyer, we are driven to reject the reality and overturn the judgement. We are asked to choose a “more entertaining lie over a less extraordinary truth”.

But all the time we are reminded that this is theatre. As thought provoking as it is, it is utterly entertaining, insightful and immersive. It is a compelling presentation, full of sleight of hand that is often as manipulative as the subject matter itself, constantly toying with our perceptions of truth. But amid the mire of differing perspectives, one verdict is absolutely clear – “Quiz” is a sure-fire hit.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson



Noël Coward Theatre until 16th June


Interview with Keir Charles


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