Home Arts & Culture REVIEW: A Christmas Carol (The Albany Theatre)

REVIEW: A Christmas Carol (The Albany Theatre)

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In an age of cynicism, the Albany Theatre’s new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ much-loved classic A Christmas Carol is a gladdening must-see that brings us all back to the true spirit of the season. Staged by award-winning Tread the Boards Theatre Company, it is heart-warming, blood-curdling, spine-tingling and tear-jerking by turns, with special effects aplenty and generous helpings of Christmas music to make sure the audience stays firmly under its spell.

In a script that remains impressively true to the resonant language of Dickens’ original, short narrative sections are used to stitch the action together and keep the plot moving – but not at the expense of spookily evocative detail. A reference to the church bell, for example, whose chimes on Christmas Eve vibrate ‘as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head’ deftly conjures up Victorian London in the grip of winter – reflected, of course, in Scrooge’s wintry heart.

The tale of Scrooge’s visitation by the spirits of Christmases Past, Present and Future, and his transformation from tight-fisted curmudgeon to big-hearted favourite uncle, is a perennial favourite. But coming in at just one hour forty minutes – including interval – the relatively short running-time of this production means the audience can appreciate the symmetry between the three well-wishers Scrooge frightens out of his office on Christmas Eve, and his three later visitors, who bring his harsh words back to haunt him.

Apart from fine performances by cast and children, one area that deserves special mention is lighting. The contrast between the icy blues and whites of misanthropic Scrooge, and the fireside yellows and oranges of his rekindling humanity, adds an extra dimension to the story’s meaning; while the singing of the Coventry Carol at Tiny Tim’s funeral brings the subtlest and most affecting touch of local colour.

Written in 1843, it’s easy to dismiss Dickens’ most famous Christmas creation as nothing more than nineteenth-century schmaltz. And it’s true that characters such as Tiny Tim’s do seem impossibly sweet to our knowing present-day palates. But the message of Marley’s ghost, and his clanking chain, is the same now as it was nearly two hundred years ago: you only have one life – so make sure you live it right.

A Christmas Carol, The Albany Theatre, Butts Road, Coventry CV1 3BH, until 2nd January 2017. £10 – £15 (£7 – £12 concessions).

The Albany Theatre's new adaptation of A Christmas Carol is a gladdening must-see that brings us all back to the true spirit of the season.
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