Review: A Christmas Carol

The play began on an interesting foot when all the audience members realised that we would have to all stand and watch the play unfold around us, rather than taking the traditional ‘back seat view’

York Drama Society’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ proved to be both entertaining and confusing. The play began on an interesting foot when all the audience members realised that we would have to all stand and watch the play unfold around us, rather than taking the traditional ‘back seat view’. This proved to be an effective way to keep the audience involved in the play and, despite a slightly tired back by the end of the show, did lend itself to an increased feeling of audience involvement. I won’t bore readers by giving a blow-by-blow account of the story because it is so well known, but in a sentence: Scrooge (John Welch) is an old man who is so grumpy that he ends up being visited by three spirits around Christmas time; these spirits manage to convince him to change his ways and, after they leave, he expresses his new found good character and joviality by showing unabashed kindness and warmth to the people whom he had previously treated with disdain.

Kate Stephenson (The Director) created a slightly different Scrooge from the man I’d been expecting: rather than an obnoxious grumpy old man, this Scrooge offered more of a cold and calculating presence who preferred to deliver an intelligent insult than respond with banal rudeness. It made for an interesting watch, even if it came as a surprise. I would have preferred to see a Scrooge that began as an unambiguously nasty character, as opposed to someone whom I felt may have been quite a nice guy at heart but just happened to be having a really bad day, though perhaps that is my bias. Welch did a good job of expressing the dark intelligence of a grumpy man, but did little to convince me that he was actually a man so horrible that he required a visitation from three different spirits in order that he would radically change his ways.

they brought a heart-warmingly straight forward innocence to the stage that would charm any audience

The supporting cast were, by and large, excellent. Deserving a special mention are Marff Pothen and Harry Ward for their characters Rose and Bob Cratchit respectively; these two characters bringing the play to life, as they brought a heart-warmingly straight forward innocence to the stage that would charm any audience. At numerous points during the play, the actors demonstrated their vocal prowess, bursting spontaneously into song, and at one point even started dancing and managed, somehow, to drag a number of unsuspecting audience members into the furore! Overall, Stephenson succeeded in creating a colourful and fulfilling atmosphere that made for an entertaining watch.

However, I said at the beginning that the play also left me feeling confused. Here’s why: the story line, as I have always understood it, is that scrooge has been grumpy and disrespectful for years, and everyone he comes into contact with is used to his obnoxious behaviour. Despite this, it was almost a matter of seconds before Scrooge’s character changed from religious rudeness to child-like enchantment. Not only that, but the people who, so we are led to believe, Scrooge has been treading dreadfully for years seem if not unsurprised by Scrooge’s mountainous character shift then, at least, unrealistically unquestioning of his new demeanour. Within little time at all, the people that had despised Scrooge for his rudeness have entirely forgiven him and are under the spell of his newfound charm. While the rest of the play was acted with a dramatic realism that drew in the audience, I would have liked to see a more believable character shift from Scrooge, and I would have appreciated seeing Scrooge’s new friends take at least a moment or two more to question the authenticity of his new found warmth before accepting him with open arms.

Nonetheless, this was a very enjoyable play. It was well acted, especially well sung, and succeeded in painting an expressive and evocative picture that drew the audience into one of Christmas’s most magical stories.

 

Reviewer – Thomas Tozer

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