A Christmas Carol

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

On the 1st Day of Christmas Shakespeare North gave to me…a fabulous, festive, fun adaptation of Dickens iconic A Christmas Carol filled with heart, and heaps of humour!

This being their 1st ever Christmas season Shakespeare North Playhouse have pulled out all the stops to ensure their version of A Christmas Carol is one theatre goers won’t forget in a hurry. It’s fast-paced, laugh out loud funny and wonderfully entertaining as four talented actor-musicians take on multiple roles and multiple instruments, spreading more than a little Christmas cheer as they go.

Nick Lane’s creative adaptation directed wonderfully by Ellie Hurt takes the original story and gives it a real Prescot feel with the addition of localised references and regional jokes all of which are lapped up by the invested audience. Add a little music, melodic songs plus plenty of audience participation (yes we even get to shout ‘It’s behind you!’) and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a real Christmas cracker!

This cast of four go all-out in ensuring no one will leave the Cockpit theatre without a smile on their face as they act, sing, dance and play their way through this super slick production.

We begin in Scrooge’s house where his staff (well most of them) are keen to tell his story; with a little encouragement from each other as well as the audience the storytelling begins.

Zoe West is superb as Ebeneezer Scrooge, snarling and sarky living up to every inch of the name. Her characterisation is wonderful, embodying the miserable miser to perfection ensuring Scrooge’s journey resonates entirely.

Jessica Dives creeps us all out as the ghost of Christmas past, weird and wacky in her haunting, complete with a horror homage, red ballon. Abigail Middleton as the Ghost of Christmas Present ensures we all absolutely get the joke while Eddy Westbury as the Ghost of Christmas yet-to-come has a little problem with autocorrect which has the audience howling.

In addition to the ghosts this versatile cast play Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim to name but a few, each is as creative and hilarious as the last. Their musicianship is a joy as they effortlessly pick up multiple instruments throughout & play them with ease.

It’s uplifting and silly but also offers a thought provoking focus on the plight of those in need bringing us bang up to date with voices from local residents affected by the cost of living crisis. This element is so cleverly interwoven that its poignancy feels strongly effective.

Simisola Majekodunmi’s lighting design adds just the right amount of atmosphere while designer Hannah Sibai makes wonderful use of the Playhouse’s versatile space, no mean feat when working in the round.

The cast do an excellent job of sweeping us up and taking us along on Scrooge’s life-changing journey, involving us wholeheartedly in the witty telling of the beloved tale.

This is feel-good festive theatre that strikes a perfect balance between professional and accessible. It is theatre for all in a stunning new regional space that feels exciting and inviting. If this is what Shakespeare North Playhouse do in year one I can’t wait to see what lies ahead!

A Christmas Carol is on at Shakespeare North Playhouse until Saturday 7th Jan tickets available here.

Images by Patch Dolan

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