Thursday December 18, 2008 in charles dickens | theatre
Every Christmas we try to seek out a memorable theatre trip. For the second year running, the award goes to the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. Last year they staged a superb production of Alice Through the Looking Glass. This year they turned their attention to A Christmas Carol.
The Tobacco Factory has a small central stage area, flanked on all sides by the audience. Performances are not exactly interactive, although the actors are nevertheless aware of the close proximity of viewers surrounding them. This intimacy suits Dickens’ classic very well.
Andy Burden’s adaptation stars the excellent Chris Bianchi as Scrooge. Also worth mentioning is Felix Hayes, doubling up in a number of roles although most memorably as The Ghost of Christmas Now. Perhaps a role that Brian Blessed was born to play, although Hayes is suitably larger than life (or death) and booming magnificently. This version takes a few liberties with the text. There’s references to Bristol and to Brunel, and Burden, although perhaps wisely, omits the ignorance and want episode. It doesn’t descend into pantomime but it is heavy on humour, with Bianchi garbed in his nightcap and being dragged around the stage on a huge bed by the spectres of Christmas Eve. Even Jacob Marley’s appearance is played mostly for laughs. But when the scares do come, such as the visitation of the silent Ghost of Christmas to Come – dark hooded and stealthily setting out the graves for Scrooge’s final resting place – they’re handled superbly.
Importantly, Dickens’ enduring message isn’t spoilt at all, perhaps even spreading to the very young members of the audience. An excellent festive feast. A Christmas Carol runs until January 18th.