We’ve seen the story a thousand times before but there’s something affirming about watching redemption and reinvention, wrapped in a Christmas bow of hope that never really gets tired. Benedict Hardie and Anne-Louise Sarks have appropriated the Christmas classic from Charles Dickens and given it a new (old) outing on the Belvoir stage and filled the stage stocking with an enjoyable piece of harmless theatre for young and old.
Directed by Sarks and performed by a more than able cast, ‘A Christmas Carol’ is that practical and reliable gift you get that may not have been at the top of your wish list but never-the-less, it is not unwelcome to see a play that requires nothing more of you than to sit back, embrace the sentimentality, listen to a few carols, watch the trickery of the stage serve its narrative master and then leave with a smile on your face.
Starting with Ebenezer Scrooge (Robert Menzies) hunched over his desk on Christmas Eve, whilst Bob Cratchit (Steve Rodgers) sits quietly and tidies up after all the unwelcome visitors who face the wrath of Scrooge’s lack of cheer and compassion, the scene is set. That night Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old business partner Marley (Peter Carroll) before being supernaturally thrust into Christmas past (Ivan Donato), present (Kate Box) and future (Miranda Tapsell), and the rest, you know.
This is a family friendly tale and there are lovely moments of staging and design. Mel Page’s costumes give the play a sense of fun, especially with the Ghost of Christmas Present, Kate Box, who captured the joy of the role in her tinsel glory. Michael Hankin’s set used the devices of the raised floor to create traps and hidey holes to emerge and disappear and try to create an element of surprise. Stefan Gregory also tries to give it an edge of terror in his sound design, as the voices of the ghosts bounce around the stage.
There’s a chance for the audience to laugh at the play’s mischievousness with the buckets of snow and wayward apples and other times when we are moved by its heart and warmth, especially with Tiny Tim (Miranda Tapsell).
You could do much worse than seeing ‘A Christmas Carol’. It’s exactly what you’d expect and kids will love it. For a more discerning audience member, you may be left wanting a bit more out of your money as it's a tinsel piece of fluff (bah humbug) but at least, it will leave you feeling good about the world for a little moment in time.