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Christmas Ghosts

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.

Chris Bianchi as Scrooge in 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.

When we still lived in Boston, we did the same, always trying to get to a play sometime around Christmas or New Years, but since moving we haven’t followed up on that tradition. Partly, I think, because theatre has a different feeling in Switzerland. But, there is a Shakespeare company in the canton and I’ve been meaning to try them – thanks for the inspiration!

verbivore    Friday December 19, 2008   

It was easier when we lived in London as we were spoilt for choice. Less to find out here in Bristol, although the Tobacco Factory always come up trumps.

The Book Tower    Friday December 19, 2008   

Why is it apropos to omit the ignorance and want part?

chartroose    Saturday December 20, 2008   

I just recall Dickens going a bit too far with this bit. Works perfectly fine without it.

The Book Tower    Saturday December 20, 2008   

I meant to add that I think that Dickens was unaware of his genius at times and spoilt it by over-icing the cake. A Christmas Carol works so well for me because it explores one of his favourite themes. This is the one about children being born into the world innocent and then corrupted and sickened by evil or circumstance (as opposed to the general Victorian idea that children were essentially born evil and then had to have good beaten into them).

Dickens has to bring back the good in Scrooge, as opposed to making a bad man good. His life and the paths he’s ended up taking have led him to what he is. Message: nobody is beyond redemption. I’ll need to reread the story as it’s been a couple of years, but I recall the ignorance and want part being the social side – almost the journalistic side – of Dickens showing through. It’s not needed and muddles things.

The Book Tower    Saturday December 20, 2008   

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