JOYCE MCMILLAN on A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Citizens’s Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 8.12.14.
4 stars ****
IT BEGINS with a gentle Christmas-carol singalong, as the eight-strong cast form themselves into a little Victorian street orchestra. Yet as Dickens’s old story of the miser Scrooge and his haunting unfolds – in Neil Bartlett’s poetic and deeply serious 1996 version – what’s striking is how fiercely topical and political it sounds, as the current government challenges the consensus about how the nation should treat its citizens that was partly founded on Dickens’s passionate, humanitarian critique of the suffering of the urban poor, 150 years ago.
It’s not that Dominic Hill’s new staging of A Christmas Carol makes a particularly suitable Christmas entertainment for young children – I would strongly advise against it for any child under 6 or 7. Yet Hill’s production is a beautifully staged, eloquent and vividly imagined account of one of the greatest Christmas stories of all, set by designer and puppet-shaper Rachael Canning against a dark Victorian London skyline, lifted by a terrific live score of carols, drumbeats and cries by Nikola Kodjabashia, and featuring a fine central performance from Cliff Burnett as Scrooge. And the story of little Tiny Tim, the most vulnerable victim of Scrooge’s poverty wage policy and conviction that the poor “had better get on and die”, is told so eloquently, through a brilliant interaction of live actors and a puppet, that I actually found myself weeping in the stalls; moved to tears by the sheer strength of Dickens’s belief that every human being on earth shoud be seen as precious, unique and loved, and by the knowledge that in this winter of 2014, that argument has come so close to being lost, once again.