Since its publication as a novella in 1843, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol has become a heart-warming tale of seasonal redemption. Such is the popularity of the story, there is no less than four versions playing across Australia this festive season.
This dark Victorian tale of a miserable old man haunted by three spirits on Christmas Eve, in a hope that these visits will convince him to change his cold-hearted ways and embrace the Yuletide season and the generosity of giving.
Conceived and directed by Matthew Warchus (Matilda the Musical) and adapted for the stage by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), A Christmas Carol provides a stark reminder of Dickens’ themes of social responsibility and poverty, whilst bringing with it festive warmth and celebration.
The festive mood is set from the get-go. As the audience take their seats, a musical ensemble plays traditional carols from the stage, while others, decked in black Victorian capes and hats, hand out mince tarts and mandarins.
Rob Howells’ design is simple and stark, allowing Warchus’ moving storytelling to always be front and centre. Hundreds of suspended lanterns grace the stage and auditorium, providing a magical affect. The eerie shadows and colour palettes of Hugh Vanstone’s atmospheric lighting compliments this design.
In a rare treat for Melburnian audiences, David Wenham gives a masterful performance as Ebenezer Scrooge. Proving to be one of Australia’s finest actors, Wenham held the audience in his hand from the outset, shifting with ease from a crotchety old miser in act one to someone full of warmth and generosity of spirit in the mayhem of act two.
Wenham is joined by an outstanding cast including Bernard Curry as Bob Cratchit, Debra Lawrance and Samantha Morley as the Christmas Spirits, Emily Nkomo as Little Fan, and Nicholas Kong as Fezziwig. A special mention should be made to Theo Watson-Bonnice, who made their theatrical debut as Tiny Tim on opening night.
Music plays an important role in this production. Full credit to Andrew Ross and his small band of musicians performing Christopher Nightingale’s award-winning score and traditional carols – more so when joined by the cast on handbells, providing some magic memorable moments.
There is much warmth and joy in this production – one can only hope, A Christmas Carol will become a regular staple, just as it has in London, on our stages.
A Christmas Carol
Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 18 November 2022
Season continues to 29 December 2022
Information and Bookings: www.christmascarolaustralia.com.au
Image: David Wenham as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: Rohan Shearn