Since when has A Christmas Carol had rattling chickens, a ghost called Terry, a mum with a walnut for a head and a peg bag as a home?
Well, since writer Nick Lane got hold of it and adapted it as A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol for the Stephen Joseph Theatre. He is joined in the enterprise by artistic director Paul Robinson and composer Simon Slater – who complete the triumvirate behind last year’s festive hit Pinocchio. For my money A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol reaches new heights.
It is warm, inventive, hilarious and utterly bonkers – though Lane has included a couple of Dickens’ lines word for word – just to remind the audience of the basis of the story and give them something to cling to as they are taken on a crazy ride through Victorian Scarborough.
The conceit is: the four employees of Scrooge’s household welcome the audience into his home on Boxing Day – the day after his transformation from miser to merry-maker. They then set about telling the story of how his change of character came about. Four actors – Joey Hickman, Alicia Mckenzie, Anne-Marie Piazza and Elliott Rennie – play the members of the household and all the characters from Tiny Tim to the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Their versatility – they sing and play musical instruments – is jaw dropping.
This results in some hilarious scenes – particularly the Cratchits’ Christmas dinner when the four have to fill the stage with at least 12 characters. The music by Slater is first rate and putting Scarborough in the title is not merely a way of selling it to the locals. This is Scarborough to its core. Street names, Christmas traditions, local rivalries and its rich and famous are all in there.
On the surface, A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol does not owe a lot to Dickens – but in its heart, where it matters, it owes everything. It celebrates kindness, generosity, childhood and Christmas.
To December 31.