A winter ghost story? Bah humbug!
It’s Christmas Eve. As the cold, bleak night draws in, the penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge is confronted by the spirit of his former business partner, Jacob Marley. Bound in chains as punishment for a lifetime of greed, the unearthly figure explains it isn’t too late for Scrooge to change his miserly ways in order to escape the same fate. But first he’ll have to face three more eerie encounters…
Mark Gatiss’ spine-tingling adaptation is faithful to the heart and spirit of Charles Dickens’ much-loved festive ghost story – with an emphasis on the ghostly.
Production Shots – Taken by Martin Ogden
Number9 – John Waterhouse
StageStruck – Rick Bowen
THIS is a story I know backwards and yet the redemption of one of one of our most famous skinflints still captures my imagination.
Jonathan Black gives the performance of his amateur acting career to date as Scrooge, a man obsessed with making money and oblivious to the plight of the poor around him.
Black is ultimately convincing as a man whose money making ways are most memorably challenged by three festive spirits.
Barry Purves’ production also captivated a large group of young people in the Garrick audience on opening night and will hopefully convince them to look beyond a screen for their entertainment.
The supernatural encounters the central character encounters are also genuinely scary and I also really liked the way in which the production uses music to heighten the tension and provide a stirring seasonal climax to a hugely enjoyable evening out.
Even the real life Scrooges watching this are sure to be won over and turned into fans of the impending seasonal to be cheerful thanks to the consistently creative Purves and his backstage team.
Scrooge’s encounters with the supernatural are also genuinely scary.
But this production of A Christmas Carol isn’t just the Jonathan Black/Barry Purves show. There’s so much more to enjoy, like the performance of the supporting cast.
Now here’s the bad news – the production is a complete sell out. If you hear of any returns snap them up.
You certainly won’t be disappointed. This is the best Christmas present Altrincham Garrick could possibly give us theatregoers.
North West End UK – Hannah Wilde
The Christmas season is well and truly on now, with Altrincham Garrick’s performance of A Christmas Carol kicking off the festive roster.
This production had flashes of theatrical excellence, but sadly there were a number of areas that just didn’t capture the audience in the way director Barry J C Purves would perhaps have wanted.
The lead antagonist, Jonathan Black as Ebenezer Scrooge, gave a fantastically nuanced and well-delivered performance – the audience really bought into him in the first act as the well-known miser who struck fear into the heart of the people of Victorian London, yet in the second act you could really believe his redemption after seeing the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
Given the supernatural nature of the story, it was a difficult narrative to portray onstage – however, director Purves and his team did put on a good show. The iconic scene where the knocker transforms into Jacob Marley’s face left a lot to be desired, but other areas (like the costume developed for the Ghost of Christmas Present, as well as the ghostly lighting and sound effects used to portray the paranormal) did give the performance more credence. That said, from a technical standpoint I do think the lead characters (Scrooge, Cratchit, Jacob Marley and Tom) would have benefitted immensely from the use of onstage microphones to keep the narrative on track.
There were some areas of the show that can’t be overlooked – the stylised sequence at the Cratchit dinner table which involved some form of interpretive movement with napkins was disturbingly jarring and didn’t fit in with the overall tone and style of the piece, while the creative decision to cut to the interval just after the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Present was equally jarring, leaving the audience (and myself) confused and a little disorientated.
However, many of the elements of the show were very good – the period costumes were a great addition to set the scene, the staging was simple yet hauntingly effective, and every cast member delivered their parts with gusto and panache. Of note was the show’s finale, which saw the unexpected arrival of the full Altrincham Garrick Show Choir (led by Choir Master Dan McDwyer) to finish out the show with Victorian classic carol “O Come All Ye Faithful” – a fitting end to its namesake show, A Christmas Carol.
All in all, although this particular Christmas Carol failed to hit all the notes, it was a very nice harmonious piece that left the audience feeling festive and fulfilled.
A Christmas Carol is playing at The Altrincham Garrick Playhouse from Monday 20th to Saturday 25th November 2023 and is sold out, check daily for returns.
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