There are few stories as treasured and revisited as that of Charles Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol, and I for one was looking forward with eager anticipation to the Barn Theatre’s adaptation, given their reputation for taking a story and adding their intriguing interpretation to it.
First published in 1843, the captivating tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s thawing heart simply refuses to lose its relevance to and adoration from all generations. Alan Pollock’s newly written version interspersed with the beautiful original musical arrangements by Finn Anderson has created an incredibly atmospheric and magically adaptation of this timeless classic.
The exquisite musical score threads traditional Carols sung in artfully harmonized layers by a multi-talented eight strong ensemble that seamlessly slip in and out of the chorus, creating mood shaping echoes that bring the magic of Phil Bartlett’s direction to life with meticulous joy.
This festive treat fuses fun with the macabre, and a fine degree of psychological depth in its treatment of Scrooge’s damaged personality and of his encounters with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and To Come in a story delivered with music, excitement, passion and panache. From the moment you enter the theatre there’s enough festive feeling to blast away all the bah humbugs.
Patrick Ryecart gives a remarkably powerful performance as the cantankerous Ebenezer. His portrayal personifies the suitably hardened yet subtly warm nature of this complex character.
It’s Christmas Eve and the old and bitter miser Ebenezer Scrooge couldn’t care less. He begrudgingly grants his clerk Bob Cratchit the 25th off work, before retiring for the night to his cold and lonely rooms. Cue the ghost of his long-dead business partner Jacob Marley and a supporting cast of genuinely quite scary, thriller-esque, ghouls.
With the use of some amazing “Barn style” projections which layers another level of magical reality to the production, Scrooge is pulled from pillar to post and taken on the most frightening journey of his life.
Particular mention must go to Jonathan Charles’ versatility, with his portrayal of Jacob Marley which is scaringly captivating, his performance as Scrooge’s father, Fezziwig, and his multi instrument contribution.
This evening’s Tiny Tim was played by the angelic Scarlette Lavery, one of a rotating cast of three young performers Trixie Cook and Georgia Dibbs all of whom are part of the hugely successful Barn Academy.
Sophia Pardon’s vibrant costumes against the backdrop of a dark grey brick set design provides everything you would want from a spellbinding theatrical adaptation and coupled with inventive projections and special effects the Barn Theatre has built a hugely immersive experience where the audience is wonderfully transported back to Victorian London.
At the heart of the Barn’s new adaptation is the joy of family and friendship and the delight of Christmas, and this is why Dickens’ tale will be remembered for millennia to come. What better gift for the family than a visit to the Barn for a magical Christmas experience.
It’s a story that transcends centuries and cultures and has survived hundreds of stage and screen adaptations of varying style and quality, because of a very simple and enduring message: just be a bit kinder to each other. The uplifting moral, if you’ll forgive me a slight festive foray into mawkish sentimentality, would make the world today a much more pleasant place where it followed more often.
Never has my heart been warmer upon leaving the theatre and stepping out into the cold – this was an absolute delight from beginning to end. All I can say is that there are Christmassy shows and then there are Barn Theatre Christmas shows. They just keep getting better with every show they create. A truly wonderful five star treat.