THEATRE REVIEW: A Christmas Carol ★★★

A Christmas Carol
The Barn Theatre, Cirencester
Thursday 28th November 2019 - Saturday 11th January 2020

Rounding off what has been a blinding opening season at The Barn Theatre, the final installment from this fringe venue has come in the form of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a tale which is told more of late than ever before, and sadly the magic is failed to be captured in this unsteady and frazzled production which sees little remorse for the company on stage.

Alan Pollock has taken the mantelpiece in transporting this classic tale to a modern audience, though keeping faith in time and era of Dickens' wishes. The issue at the forefront here though is the feeling that we no longer have any empathy for the characters which we have known and connected with for so many years; The Crackit Family are hardly in the spotlight to gauge any sort of understanding in an ending which is flipped from the original tale. Phil Bartlett directs a piece of theatre which constantly feels overcrowded, and that's without shoehorning stage hands to appear and distract from the action even more; When the ghost of Christmas Future arrives awkwardly upstage, the tone of the production starts to gear towards a darker mood, but is executed poorly and as a result doesn't feel like it knows what it's target audience is aimed for.

This adaption has brought together on stage ten performers, one in which includes Olivier Award Nominee Patrick Ryecart in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, a role which sees Ryecart produce minimal substance off the page and is often tiresomely directed in a way that brings no understanding to why he gives little attention to the action going on around him on stage, instead briefed to look out into the audience with a puzzled facial expression that never seems to weaver. The role of Tiny Tim and The Ghost of Christmas Past has for this version been shared between three child actors; sadly due to a lack of front of house information we were unable to get the name of this bright performer, but it can be said that they did justice to both roles, even if they did have a dodgy technical dress as the ghost which looked oddly unsettling. As for the rest of the ensemble, due to their constant multiroling it is difficult to commend them more when all their creations were heightened to a degree that made your head soar and squeam at points where words fail to land, especially in scenes were the background antics take attention for questionable reasons.

Sophia Pardon's staging feels uninspired, with brickwork providing little imagination and  Benjamin Collin's visual projections feeling unpolished, further not helped from Sam Rowcliffe-Tanner's lighting that at times fails to capture expressions and fill the stage with a purpose, with transitions failing to hit the mark, especially the moment The Ghost From Christmas Past disappears and Scrooge is once again left alone in the armchair he feel asleep in prior, which all feels a genuine shame when the beautiful pre-show hanging chandeliers down the centre aisle provided so much hope for what was to come.

Overall, The Barn's verson of a Dickens classic is sadly overshadowed by a miscast of its protagonist at the centre, along with a stuttered, and substandard tone.


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