Review by Martin Barbary
Christmas has arrived in Adelaide!
Last week, the Christmas Pageant brought Santa to Adelaide, and this week The Rep brought A Christmas Carol to the Arts Theatre, and both brought lots of Christmas joy to lots of people.
Although the show is promoted as a comedy, as I took my seat I wondered how a play based on an 1843 novel by Charles Dickens about a sad, miserable and lonely man set in the predominantly poor Victorian times could be in any way funny. What I didn’t realise that a clever man by the name of Patrick Barlow, had modernised this adaption, and added some very quirky humour and modern references, and director Megan Dansie had brilliantly taken it from there to this thoroughly enjoyable tale that unfolded on stage.
Act One started with a basic set against an expertly designed backdrop that was used to full effect during both acts and with traditional 1800’s costumes, which really looked the part, it appeared that any comedy was in the eye of the beholder, and not the audience.
But then you realised the number of subtle differences in both the words and the delivery, and the over the top accentuation of key attributes of the actors and the set, like seven keys to open Scrooge’s money box and a very mobile front door, that all gave the audience many opportunities to laugh, and laugh they did.
Act Two started at a quicker pace, with more comedy and audience engagement, and laughter that continued to increase as the show provided some interesting and unexpected twists that had the audience laughing and clapping. But Act Two also gave us some of the most tender moments of the show, as we came to understand Scrooge, and felt truly sorry for this broken man who had missed so many joyous opportunities.
As per the book, the show ended on a high note, with more raucous laughter, and a few well known Christmas carols for which everyone in the audience joined in.
With the five main cast members playing twenty eight characters between them, the rapid costume and character changes were many but all were swiftly and seamlessly executed and it seemed like there were many more in the cast than there was. Tony Busch, as Ebenezer Scrooge, played the part to perfection, being both mean and hard, and sad and tender. All the other cast members played their numerous and often challenging parts and different characters expertly, which was no man feat. Special mention has to go to the puppeteers, who did a fabulous job and added a whole new dimension to the show. Full marks to Megan Dansie who melded countless scene, costume and character changes, puppets and music into a very smooth and enjoyable show.
Whilst there was no snow to greet us leaving the theatre, the smiles we had left no doubt that this was the season of good cheer. So get along to A Christmas Carol and start your Christmas season off on a good note!