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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Theatre review: A Christmas Carol

Published in the Guardian
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
THREE STARS
With its hard-working cast, outbreaks of yuletide song and line-up of larger-than-life characters, this staging of the Dickens classic is as rich as a plum pudding. With its drive to race through the story, enthusiasm for the author's poor-but-honest sentiments and its general eagerness to please, it can also be as sickly sweet.

As portraits of Victorian illness, poverty and exploitation go, Andrew Panton's production is on the chirpy side. There is a suggestion it might not turn out to be so in the chainmail curtain that sweeps around Alex Lowde's set, glittering like the iciest of nights and preparing us for the cruel chains that bind Jacob Marley to the dark recesses of hell. Panton uses it to project wintry silhouettes and spooky animations, not least the outline of Christmas Yet To Come, the most chilling of Scrooge's ghostly visitations.

But for all that, it's a production disinclined to dwell on the dark side. Using the admired adaptation by Neil Duffield, it subjects Christopher Fairbank's Scrooge (suitably cantankerous and suitably chastised) to the minimum of supernatural torment before exposing him to the good honest values of community, friendship and plentiful carol singing. He has reason to learn his lesson, but he gets off lightly.

The actors tear into it with gusto, despite occasional discomfort with the English accents. They’re forever picking up instruments, swapping characters and pushing around the furniture for seamless transitions between scenes. They make bright, brisk work of it and their heart is clearly in the right place, but the most memorable part of the evening  comes after the tale is told. With Dickens dispatched, the ensemble joins in a stunning medley of carols spliced together by musical director Claire McKenzie as snow floats down on the auditorium. The audience shouts its approval and heads buoyantly into the night.
Until 4 January (0131 248 4848). Details: www.lyceum.org.uk
© Mark Fisher 2013 
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