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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Haymarket - A Christmas Carol

5th December 2008 to 3rd January 2009.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Mean streets

A Christmas Carol, at The Haymarket, Basingstoke, until January 3

Surely the best-loved Christmas story of all time, Dickens' famous tale of Scrooge and the three ghosts was brought to The Haymarket in a lively production adapted and directed by Richard Williams.

Michael Roberts was a suitably dour and shrivelled wreck of a man as Scrooge throughout the first half, but you could almost see the actor transform physically, as well as psychologically, as the tale progressed.

Faced with the dilemma of how to bring a brilliant and literate text to life on stage, Williams opted for a chorus of Victorian citizens, vagabonds and scruffy children to act as narrators, voicing Dickens' carefully constructed narrative, as the actors played out the action.

It worked very well, even if the chorus sometimes got in the way. Andrew Price was a convincing Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's longsuffering clerk, and Philip Benjamin did well as the old fellow's nephew. Jo Castleton took on two roles, Mrs Cratchit and Mrs Fezziwig, and the rest of the parts were divided between the cast, who were all convincing, either as actors or in the brief interludes where less well known carols, arranged by Stephen McNeff, were sung by the chorus of characters.

Director Williams was keen to retain most of Dickens' wonderful descriptions and this led him to the actors frequently quoting directly from the novel.

If anything was missing it was, I suppose, a Victorian setting and I would like to have seen back-projection for the souls in torment scene, flying around carrying their heavy chains. One or two moveable flats depicting places, and a little more furniture and certainly a four-poster bed for Scrooge would have been welcome, too. Remember where the ghost moves the curtain back to reveal a terrified Scrooge cowering in his bed? Perhaps I ask too much though, in these days of frugal budgets when we are all feeling the draught.

As to the direction and the acting, it was first rate throughout and I'm a long-term Scroogeophile. Don't just take my word though - here's what my fellow reviewer had to say: "A Christmas Carol is a super family treat. It's really different from other Christmas pantomimes. I enjoyed this play a lot for its clever way of making the tale come to life. You will be swept away on an adventure with Scrooge as he is haunted by three spirits to try to change his evil ways. A Christmas Carol is a fantastic show and I highly recommend it."

I'll leave the final words with Tiny Tim who said "God bless us every one".