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New Era Players - A Christmas Carol

29th November to 9th December 2017.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Seasonal tale well told

New Era Players deliver Dickens' timely Christmas message

New Era Players: A Christmas Carol, at New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from November 29 to Saturday, December 2 and December 5 to 9

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the quintessential seasonal story. In this version adapted by John Mortimer, New Era Players have entered into the spirit of Victorian England with gusto and strong ensemble playing.

Stephen Bennett is truly impressive as the old miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who hates everything to do with Christmas and refuses to donate money to help the poor and needy. He perfectly captures Scrooge's character.

He is also reluctant to give his underpaid clerk Bob Cratchit (Neil Dewdney) Christmas Day off, lamenting the fact that he will need to pay him.

As Scrooge trudges his way home to his meagre abode, he is visited by his dead partner of some seven years, Marley (Brian Harrington), festooned in chains, who warns him that he has one chance to change his ways or he will face a similar fate. He will be visited by three spirits and must heed their message.

Janet Bennett is splendid as the ghost of Christmas Past, who takes Scrooge on a journey back to his childhood – a time of innocence, but unhappy schooldays.

We meet the ebullient Mr Fezziwig (Narayan Hendrickx) and his jolly wife, delightfully played by Marian Hatfull, and a young Ebenezer (Paddy Lintin), together with apprentice Peter (Ronan Hatfull), at a Christmas party, which is energetically performed and great fun with dancing, carols and games.

Andy Kempe creates a jovial Christmas Present, guiding Scrooge through the streets of London and visiting Cratchit's family as they celebrate the Christmas meal. Rose Spillane sings well as the ill Tiny Tim, who the Spirit tells Scrooge will die unless events can be changed.

Finally, the menacing Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come brings the horrific consequences of Scrooge's life, showing him his lonely death. When Scrooge wakes up the following morning, he is a reformed man, having seen the errors of his ways.

He sends a huge turkey to the Cratchits and gives him a pay rise, makes an anonymous large gift to the poor and accepts his nephew Fred's (David Tute) invitation to Christmas dinner.

There is so much to enjoy in director Lisa Harrington's touching and assured production, from the ensemble story-telling to the splendid costumes (Maddy Winter).

All 27 members of the company (too many to name) are to be congratulated on creating such an enjoyable and vibrant production.

A perfect start to the Christmas season.