There is something about the Rose Theatre that truly exudes charm. On arrival to watch the theatre’s new production of A Christmas Carol, I was enchanted by the warm greeting I received as I walked into a foyer filled with Christmas decorations and cheer; I was in the festive spirit before the show even began.
The theatre’s in-the-round layout felt suitable for the story about to be told; an open and welcoming setting for audiences as they relive a tale that is known and loved by so many. The front section of seating in the stalls was replaced by audiences sitting cross-legged, creating a real story telling atmosphere. Young cast members mingled with these audience members before the show and involved them in dance numbers, breaking down the barrier between those involved and those watching.
What I found truly great about the show was the way in which Director Ciaran McConville maintained the show’s classical elements and stayed true to Dickens’ novel, but also adapted it to feel modern and original.
The use of soundscape and music was, in my opinion, what made the show stand out. It created atmosphere and tension in moments where needed, but also a feeling of celebration and joy in other moments. Particular stand out musical numbers included the cast’s beautifully reflective silent night, in which the harmonies were perfectly executed, as well as the energetic folk–style numbers both at the very start of the show and in other scenes of celebration. Accompanied by the actor-musicians on-stage band and teamed with lots of dancing, ensured a feeling of excitement and jubilation for those watching.
Although the show had a very classic feel, what brought modernity to the piece was the use of set and projection by Designer Timothy Bird. Instead of frequent set changes, a large screen at the back of the stage had the setting projected onto it, be that Scrooges office, house or the various locations he is transported to by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. This enabled numerous setting changes and a frequent change of atmosphere, particularly in darker moments involving the ghosts, keeping the show exciting.
The inclusion of The Rose Theatre Youth Company was a wonderful addition, not only because it gives the young performers a chance to be involved with such a professional production, but also because they bring a great level of energy and spontaneity to the show. Teamed with the talented group of principal actors, the cast was very strong all round.
Martin Ball’s portrayal of the villainous miser Ebenezer Scrooge was everything you needed the character to be; very believable in his hatred towards anything remotely joyful, festive or that which involve spending money, but also likeable when he starts to change his ways after being visited by his dead business partner Jacob Marley and consequently the ghost of his Christmas past, present and future. Scrooge closes the show with the line; “I will honour Christmas and try to keep it in my heart all year”, leaving both children and adults feeling all warm and cozy inside.
A wonderful show to see this festive season.
A Christmas Carol is playing The Rose Theatre until 3 January. For more information and tickets, see the Rose Theatre website.