Over the years I’ve seen many productions of A Christmas Carol at Theatr Clwyd, but it’s one of those stories that never gets old. It’s particularly relevant in an age where poverty, homelessness and inequality are spiking in one of the world’s richest economies.
Stepping in to Dickensian Mold is a joyous affair – a bustling street of beautiful shop windows, roving traders and carol singers. It was lovely to get a token to spend on mistletoe, a lollipop or a gingerbread man – we food-loving Edwards girls plumped for, and quickly wolfed down, the latter. Real local businesses Spavens and Gerrard’s were represented in an innovative partnership.
It soon becomes clear that poverty and stress underly the Christmas cheer, however. Kerry Peers is charmingly engaging as Mrs Roberts, who barely ever lets her happy and kind mask slip even while dealing with piles of debt and a crumbling roof. This community always have time for each other no matter what their own problems – a lesson for the modern age.
The merry mood dissipates to be replaced by a more tense atmosphere as money-lender Scrooge sweeps through the street on the way to his office. Appeals for a postponement in payments owing are resolutely turned down with relish.
Steven Elliott is excellent as Scrooge – both despicable and loveable which is exactly as it should be. Matthew Bulgo provides a wonderful counterpoint as his genial and patient clerk Bob Cratchit. In some wonderful scenes in the office, an extra dimension is added by Amy Drake who is very charismatic and funny as Ms Aubin.
The set in the studio really is excellent, with beautifully painted shopfronts around the sides, a cart in the middle and Scrooge’s office and bedroom on different levels. This enables audience members big and small to see all of the action no matter where they are standing. It also really adds to the drama to have cast members moving among us and interacting with us, be it Mrs Roberts trying to sell us mistletoe, the butcher trying to sell an enormous turkey to (most thrilling of all) Scrooge shooing us out of his path.
It’s soon time for Scrooge to retire to bed and Phylip Harries’s commanding voice booms out as the ghost of Jacob Marley addresses Scrooge, accompanied by atmospheric lighting. I check the girls – they’re scared but only in that pleasurable way we all enjoy!
We’re then ushered to sit around the stage in the Emlyn Williams theatre where all the ghosts visit Scrooge. Director Liz Stevenson cleverly achieves a sense of dimension and time travel through the actors’ precise timing and movement – to this end the dancing is especially effective.
The community cast members come into their own here – one moment leading interactive dancing and games with the audience, the next playing utterly convincing parts in the action.
Amy Drake, Matthew Bulgo and Kerry Peers are to be praised for their range and quickness to adapt, playing between two and four characters each.
Tiny Tim is played by three young actors, we saw Lewis Lowry whose performance we enjoyed.
It’s back to the street scene for the finale as Scrooge undergoes his famous transformation – the final scenes are happy and cheesy and very, very Christmassy! Full marks to Theatr Clwyd for another festive community production with the level of audience interaction pitched perfectly.
A Christmas Carol is at Theatr Clwyd until January 5 but is almost sold out – be quick if you want tickets!