Dir. Dominic Hill, Citizens, 29th November ‘14 – 3rd January ‘15
As the audience settle into their seats, the small cast of The Citizens Theatre’s latest production of A Christmas Carol, subtly assemble to form a folk band, performing under the intricate silhouette of the London skyline hung above them. Slowly the audience, adults and children alike, begin to sing along as the performers play old nativity hymns starting with Away in a Manger and finishing with Silent Night. This wholesome ambience welcomes the audience before the (somewhat humorous) tension of Scrooge’s Christmas contempt begins, the script remaining faithful to Dickens’ original text.
The predominantly shadow grey palette of Rachel Canning’s beautiful set establishes the mood of Scrooge’s ill humoured office environment as the narrative begins and this bleak, Victorian atmosphere is sustained throughout. Scenes of contrasting bright colour lie in the costumes and character of John O’Mahony’s pompous Mr Fezziwig and John Kielty’s amusing Ghost of Christmas Present. Yet the most mesmerizing aspects of this performance can be found in the enlarged, metallic moon hung across the stage as Scrooge trudges home on Christmas Eve night and the ceiling-high figure of the Ghost of Christmas Future made from metal scaffolding and tattered black drapes, unfolding before Scrooge and the audience in a bizarrely graceful manner.
Cliff Burnett delights as Ebenezer Scrooge, maintaining more than a touch of the unnerving charisma which won him praise for his darkly eccentric Polonius in The Citizens’ Hamlet earlier this year. Indeed, those familiar with director Dominic Hill’s previous projects at The Citizens may find themselves playing the game of spot the similarities as, once again, actors take to various musical instruments and microphones to provide the eerie sound effects to the ghostly tale and the back, brick wall is stripped bare. Here, Scrooge is never alone. Even as he awaits the arrival of his next spiritual visitor and contemplates the unlikelihood of his situation, off stage actors taunt him with creeks and squeaks which play with his jittery senses and provoke laughter from the younger members of the audience.
As Christmas draws ever closer and Glasgow’s theatre scene delivers its annual variety of flashy family performances, A Christmas Carol offers a unique, authentically old-fashioned alternative to the slapstick humour of the pantomime stage. Whether you’re taking children or simply fancy an evening of Dickensian Christmas comfort, this is a performance that will ignite your inner festive spirit – and probably put you in the mood for a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie!
[Tara Fitzpatrick – @TFitzpatrick25]