A Christmas Carol Lyceum Theatre

Everyone has, I am sure, encountered at one time or another one particular individual in their life who can be best described as miserable, covetous, squeezing, mean-spirited, tight-fisted and grasping - but enough about my uncles… Let’s just instead explore the richly humanitarian world of Charles Dickens, and how his best-loved tale (a new production that has been cleverly adapted from the original by Neil Duffield) has been brought energetically and enthusiastically to Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum stage, with a joyous sense of the wonder of Christmas. Complete with a surprise at the end?? And going by the rapturous applause from Friday night’s audience, I am convinced that it will capture many a heart, and prompt many a tear, before the bells start ringing out for 2014! Simply put, this is a magically entertaining festive treat for the entire family.

Christopher Fairbank (looking uncannily like a cross between Peter Mullan & John Gibson!!) is ideally cast as the man who is given a spiritually unique glimpse into how his chosen life path and direction has ultimately shaped his destiny over the decades. Not often for the better, it would appear.

In fact, Dickens timeless story of regret, forgiveness, benevolence and ultimate redemption has been invested with a timely and relevant feel. This is most obvious during an early scene within the offices of “Scrooge & Marley”. Two cheery charity workers attempt to remind Scrooge that during the festive period, the poor and destitute are in dire need of warmth, food, and drink. The old skinflint then rails at them – “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” For one brief moment, I thought I was listening to George Osborne, or Iain Duncan Smith, and not some distant literary character from the early nineteenth century!!

Yet this production is one that is full of heart, affection, humour, and music, lots of music – and excellent it is too. However, if you were expecting a west-end style extravaganza, you might be disappointed. This is not “Scrooge – The Musical” but an engrossing and uplifting view of Dickensian London, and the men, women and children who inhabited that world. This is emphasised when the cast utilise many evergreen Christmas carols and assorted yuletide songs that no doubt everyone in the audience should recognise. Everything in fact, from “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” to “We Wish You A Merry Christmas…” is included.

With a relatively small cast (including three talented youngsters) the players switch roles with tremendous pace, as the plot unfolds and develops, and stage props are strategically moved and positioned to give extra credence to the story. Amongst the talented cast, special mention must go to actor Lewis Howden who not only thrills the younger audience with his chilly Marley’s Ghost, but also plays Mr Fezziwig, Old Joe, and last but not least, the Ghost of Christmas Present, complete with long white hair, beard and a voice not unlike Billy Connelly’s.

So don’t be an old Humbug, grasp a ticket soon for the Royal Lyceum and warm yourself with a show that is as generous and welcoming as a plate of hot mince pies and a mug of mulled wine!

Lawrence Lettice