Theatre review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Old Red Lion Theatre
Metal Rabbit is at the Old Red Lion Theatre this December with the perennially popular festive show “A Christmas Carol”, adapted by Neil Bartlett. Director Gus Miller stages a worthwhile production with Alexander McMorran as Ebenezer Scrooge plus an ensemble of five, slipping into various roles throughout the one-hour performance
We all know A Christmas Carol by heart. The story line is not a surprise and most people find themselves ticking an imaginary list of Christmas ghost appearances. Not because it’s boring (the story is much-loved), but because it’s an annual routine.
Well, not with this version. Miller plays with the setting and uses its full potential. The staging is border-minimalistic with an empty centre and everyday items spread in the background.
Though the props do not change, a landscape of moods is created by simply changing the lighting and playing with shadows. As the Old Red Lion Theatre is a very cosy space, this is very effective. The chaos at the back, which made the room seem cold and unfriendly a minute ago, suddenly changes into a lively family home. The same goes for the more ominous scenes, where the audience is plunged into pitch-black darkness with the cast.
That and some small extras make the play stand out from former Christmas Carol stagings. For example, one has to admire the idea of using a recording device to emphasise Scrooge’s character development throughout the play. By first recording one of his rants about the poor and replaying it towards the end, the Christmas scoundrel is effectively reminded of the errors of his ways.
However, the play uses more senses than sight to create a Christmas feel. The carols accompanying the plot from start to end show that the actors had good vocal training and even carolling grumps might find themselves enjoying the beautiful voices. At some point the audience finds themselves surrounded by a mist of Christmas spice scent that smells like a feast.
Even though Miller sticks to the original plot, this is a fresh interpretation – not childish, but suitable for children. There are some intense scenes with Alexander McMorran towards the end. Unlike usual productions of A Christmas Carol, he does not watch as the dead body is robbed, he is the dead body. While Scrooge is questioning who that poor soul might be, he is stripped down to his underwear himself.
Even though we already know how the play ends, the cast manages to make it exciting through some thoughtful extras that are sure to make this year’s show a special occasion.
You can catch A Christmas Carol at the Old Red Lion Theatre until January 3. Tickets for £14 (Concession £12.50)