A Christmas Carol

Fri 30th November – Thu 20th December 2012

reviews

Alice Coombes Huntley

at 10:48 on 1st Dec 2012

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A ‘Christmas Carol’ was entertaining, amusing and even a little bit scary; the ideal show to make you feel all Christmassy. Bristol Old Vic Theatre School managed to breathe new life into a story many of us are already very familiar with and even beat the version starring the Muppets.

As the theatre filled up the characters wandered about, chatting with the audience, helping to keep the large numbers of children who were there entertained. This audience interaction could have felt slightly forced and awkward, but the cast managed to pull it off. As the actors sang songs and played games, the audience were slowly drawn into the world of the play.

The first scene, set at Marley’s funeral was slightly drawn out and self-conscious. However, with the first musical number the actors warmed up and the play became much more lively and entertaining. The songs were all good ensemble pieces, their choreography often arranged so that a scene change could go on behind; this allowed a more natural transition between scenes and helped to keep up the pace of the play. The quality of the singing was generally impressive but at times a lack of enunciation and a slightly too loud backing track meant that the words were lost.

The entrance of the Ghost of Christmas Past was suitably scary and a welcome contrast to the relatively light-hearted preceding scenes. Eerie sound effects, a drawn-out, building tension and a truly surprising entrance all helped to create the necessary ‘shock factor’. The use of slapstick gave the scene comedic elements which nicely balanced out the more frightening aspects, ensuring that it was still suitable for children.

Todd James had an excellent stage presence, but the best performances came from some of the more minor characters. The awkward romance between Miss Goodly and Topper was funny and touching, with Danielle Winter and James Keningdale managing to convey a lot through through physical gestures and meaningful looks, without over-acting. That said, the flamboyant Mr and Mrs Fezziwig, played by Martin Bassindale and Roisin Kelly, were probably my favourite characters. They were loud, funny and more than a bit ridiculous. They also benefited from a relatively short scene; had we seen more of them they could easily have become annoying. As it was, they drew the largest laughs of the evening and created one of the most engaging scenes in the play.

All in all, A Christmas Carol is the ideal play to get you in the festive spirit. It’s relatively quick pace and lively scenes kept the children in the audience entertained, while some of the more knowing comedic lines meant that there was also something there for the adults. This is a story that can easily feel saccharine and irrelevant; Bristol Old Vic Theatre School managed to avoid those traps and create a truly enjoyable piece of musical theatre.

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