THAT DICKENS CLASSIC IS AT LEEDS PLAYHOUSE
The prospect of watching a performance of Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in a former scene-dock didn’t fill me with seasonal joy.
For one reason I dislike the works of Charles Dickens whatever genre of the arts they are packaged in. I know they are meant to be representative of Victorian times and attitudes, but their dark and depressing side really does not appeal to me.
But I was in for a surprise. The former breeze block palace had been transformed into a warm and welcoming Dickensian themed foyer and Amy Leach’s production far from depressing.
Leach in her wisdom has made A Christmas Carol into a frothy pantomimesque production without losing any of the stark realities of Dickens original work.
The setting is brilliantly conceived and seamlessly moves from scene to scene retaining its Victorian murkiness and spooky ambience. The combination of John Biddle’s music and Lucy Cullingford’s choreography make this a joy to watch.
Leeds Playhouse have certainly pulled out all stops in every way with their first Christmas pop up theatre show. However the absolute star of this production must be their brilliant designer Hayley Grindle, and the technical staff who take this production to another level with their creativity and skill.
Leach’s production stays true to the original story but what I loved about it was the tongue-in-cheek approach and quirky twists along the way.
Christmas Carol is a high energy show from the very start. The nine strong cast are from the Playhouse resident ensemble and show with flair just how multi-talented they are singing, dancing, playing multiple parts in fact changing their persona as often as they do their costumes.
Leach has also introduced an element of panto into the show with ghosts hiding Scrooge’s shoes – you are tempted to shout ‘ they are behind you’ and the Ghost of Christmas present resplendent in a green tutu who delivers a slightly pantomime induced monologue.
There’s Santa and Rudolph yet we also see pathos from Scrooge and on a more serious note the spooky entrance of Jacob Marley and the Ghose of Christmas to come is a little chilling but certainly won’t frighten the kids in the audience.
With such a talented cast its hard to single out one particular performer but Joe Alessi as the over the top rather camp Mr Fezziwig and a dramatic Jacob Marley is really outstanding.
As Scrooge Robert Pickavance has made the role his own. I loved his take on the rather grumpy old man who turns into a beautiful comedy caricature prancing and dancing the stage.
My reservations cast aside I can honestly say that this show dispenses the ultimate Christmas Cheer factor for the whole family.
Runs until 19 January 2019
Liz Coggins is a member of the Critics Circle
For tickets and information visit: https://leedsplayhouse.org.uk/events/a-christmas-carol/