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FringeReview UK 2017

A Christmas Carol

True Story

Genre: Drama, Theatre

Venue: The Spire


Low Down

A Christmas Carol returns to the Spire after two years and continues to delight an audience treated to an immersive hour of the Dickens classic.


This faithful adaptation of A Christmas Carol not only respects the original but also adds its own flavour in the form of songs, set pieces, special effects, mince pies, mulled wine and a humour that never overburdens the more serious themes about whether and how we, as human beings, can change before life passes us by.

Gary Sefton has successfully adapted, directed and directed this Dickens Classic – the story that s0me claimed invented the modern Christmas, a Christmas that underscores the importance of family at this turning point in the year. When winter sets in, the warmth resides in our hearts, the deeds we do define our humanity. What are the consequences of living a life gone by rooted in spiritual and material coldness and meanness, and is the future then set or can it be altered by our deeds in the ongoing present?

This is an outstanding production as it was the last time I saw it. The roll of honour includes:inventive use of the performance space; we are immersed in the realm of Dickensian London through setting, lighting, costume, accent and soundscape. The cast are multi-skilled, moving in and out of different characters seamlessly, the ghosts make us of never–gratuitous special effects. No CGI used here – pure, impressive inventiveness creates an ethereal atmosphere, enough to delight child and adult alike in the audience. The script is penned with economy, with a few one-liners and permission to speak to the modern audience, the emotional punch of the tale is successfully transposed from page to stage.

The story moves apace, Scrooge is suitably irritated, angry, regretful and ultimately redeemed. The characters in the story are realised with never-waning, measured commitment from the cast.

This tale of realisation and redemption speaks to us all but that cannot be achieved without a clear narrative, lifting words  off the page of what was a short story and offering them to us an dramatic form. Dickens’s original tale was fairly theatrical in style but Sefton has kept things on the simpler side. Set is not overdone, lighting is skilled and forms its own portfolio of special effects. Here the effects really are special because they serve the story, surprise and take us into the realm of the non-physical, the spiritual backdrop to the narrative. The venue is used creatively and we both behold a story before is, and also around us. We are both witness and participant, but the participation is authentically based on the idea that a story, to be properly told, needs a reader, a witness  a participant observer.

Comedy, drama, music and story are in near perfect balance and this truly is a production that will transition you readily into the Christmas mood. The audience joined in, and were on their feet at the end, the applause rapturous.

The venue isn’t warm and you might want to grab a hot mulled wine on the way in, yet the hour flew by and I doubt many in the audience felt too cold, so enchanted they were. It all adds to the atmosphere of a finest Christmas theatre – it’s yet again the unmissable show in Brighton over the Yuletide period.