What the Dickens! Since when has A Christmas Carol had rattling chickens, a ghost called Terry, a mum with a walnut for a head and a peg bag as a home?
Well, since writer Nick Lane got hold of it and adapted it as A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol for the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
He is joined in the enterprise by artistic director Paul Robinson and composer Simon Slater – who complete the triumvirate behind last year’s festive hit Pinocchio.
For my money A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol reaches new heights.
It is warm, inventive, hilarious and utterly bonkers – though Lane has included a couple of Dickens’ lines word for word – just to remind the audience of the basis of the story and give them something to cling to as they are taken on a crazy ride through Victorian Scarborough.
The conceit is: the four employees of Scrooge’s household welcome the audience into his home on Boxing Day – the day after his transformation from miser to merry-maker.
They then set about telling the story of how his change of character came about – delighting in telling the audience “there’s ghosts in it”.
Four actors – Joey Hickman, Alicia Mckenzie, Anne-Marie Piazza and Elliott Rennie – play the members of the household – and then all the characters from Tiny Tim to the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Their versatility – they sing and play musical instruments – is jaw dropping.
This results in some hilarious scenes – particularly the Cratchit’s Christmas dinner when the four have to fill the stage with at least 12 characters. How they do it would spoil the surprise.
As would going into too much other detail.
A big part of the season is surprise – and there’s nothing worse than taking a peek at presents before Christmas Day.
The music by Slater is first rate – a large helping of musical hall, a smidgen of ragtime and a sprinkling of something Jack Brel-esque.
It is not merely an add on to the show but an intrinsic part of it.
Neither is putting Scarborough in the title merely a way of selling it to the locals. This is Scarborough to its core.
Street names, Christmas traditions, local rivalries and its rich and famous are all in there.
This is not a pantomime – but there is plenty of opportunity for audience participation including a ‘it’s behind you’ – plenty of whistling, making ghostly noises and a sing-along.
The children were in thrall to what was going on – to such an extent that one youngster said: “Can we stay?”
On the surface, A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol does not owe a lot to Dickens – but in its heart, where it matters, it owes everything. Without banging you on the head with a heavy object, it celebrates kindness, generosity, childhood and Christmas.
It looks great – the costumes and set – are brilliant, it sounds great and is like a great big, warm hug.
Never mind ‘bah humbug!’ this is a Quality Street chocolate.
A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol runs until Sunday December 31. It is on: December 10 at 10am and 1pm; December 15 at 10am; December 16 at 2pm and 5.30pm; December 18 to December 21 at 10am; December 22 at 7pm; December 23 and 24 at 2pm; December 26 at 5.30pm; December 27 at 2pm and 5.30pm; December 28 at 2pm; December 29 at 2pm and 5.30pm; December 30 at 2pm and 7pm and December 31 at 2pm.
Tickets: 01723 370541 or via the website: www.sjt.uk.com