A Christmas Carol was, for the most part, a Christmas treat. The complimentary mulled wine and mince pies offered upon arrival were just the beginnings of a highly enjoyable evening. Scott’s self-penned, revamped script was a pleasure to hear, even if her direction occasionally missed the mark, serving comedy with just the right touch of morality appropriate for this time of year.

***

Catriona Scott’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, in collaboration with Lifespring, was an interesting interpretation of an old and highly favoured classic. Set in St. Andrews and playing up to the difficult fight for overpriced accommodation which is, unfortunately, all-too-real, Scott’s female Scrooge, disillusioned by her failed lesbian relationship, wallows life away in her money-grabbing estate agency. The production dealt with innovative themes and, whilst I would not place Scott’s adaptation in the canon beside the Muppets, the script’s modernisation was a wonderful touch and the, generally light-hearted, production was a fitting end to a semester of varied theatre.

10484198_10152636363504221_3525010241924918162_n

The calibre of acting was varied, though the ensemble members who committed to the characters they had crafted shone. Special mention must be given to Nick Kinsman’s Fred Scrooge and Matthew Colley’s Robert Cratchit, who provided much of the comic refreshment and displayed excellent stage presence. Sarah Pollock, our leading lady, did not disappoint. She gave a consummate, assured performance as the surly ‘Elizabeth’ Scrooge, conveying a broad range of emotions as her character developed; gradually softening as the second act progressed and the cautionary nature of the ghostly apparitions began to take effect.

I found the characterisations of the ghosts themselves to be somewhat perplexing. However, this may have been more to do with the direction. In the opening scenes, Michael Shanks, as Jacob Marley, knowingly, and rather humorously, alluded to the fact he “didn’t have the budget for a smoke machine,” so I forgave his somewhat stark entrance backed by minimal lighting. When the minimalist direction continued throughout the visitations of Christmas Past and Present, distinguished from their ordinary costumes by masquerade masks alone, I wondered if the modern, pedestrian adaptation simply decided to play down the supernatural elements – which would have been fine. However, by the time Future came on stage, dressed in an eerily white gimp mask and a forensic costume, the smoke machine did appear; dramatic pauses escalated and the intense, ghostly atmosphere I’d been expecting finally arrived. This was largely due to the highly stylised, Egyptian hieroglyphic-esque performance Shanks’ Future gave; pointing and lunging across the stage. With more attention to costume and makeup, this may have pervaded throughout. I would like to stress that the issue was not the mundane characterisations of the earlier spectres, but rather the polar distance between them and the last. Generally, then, I personally found the production to be a little bit confused; constantly treading between slick and silly. If anything though, the cast and crew seemed highly aware of this – which, I suppose, is some redemption. The space itself, at least, was used very well.

Despite a few technical shortcomings, such as the strange interplay between the gold and cyan spotlights and the complete lack of spotlight during one of the newsreader scenes, the use of sound was, for lack of a better word, sound. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman’ was excellently used as a refrain throughout; played in rock, live flute and the classical version. Issues in dialogue projection were largely made up for by a variety of expressive and nuanced tones which competed well with the notoriously difficult acoustics of Venue One.

A Christmas Carol was, for the most part, a Christmas treat. The complimentary mulled wine and mince pies offered upon arrival were just the beginnings of a highly enjoyable evening. Scott’s self-penned, revamped script was a pleasure to hear, even if her direction occasionally missed the mark, serving comedy with just the right touch of morality appropriate for this time of year. I look forward to hearing more from her, inevitably, very soon.

Photo credited to Mermaids and the A Christmas Carol team.