Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
YOU could mistake Cliff Burnett's Scrooge for a genial fellow. He's much given to chuckling and seems content with his place in the world. True, he resents his staff taking a day off for Christmas and delights in poking a carol singer in the eyes, but his complaints are less the view of a misanthrope than the expression of a reasoned political philosophy. His laughter is more complacent than cruel.
But in Dominic Hill's gloriously spooky production, played out in monochrome on Rachael Canning's set, Burnett's air of satisfaction becomes less secure. As the supernatural visitations enter his bedroom, his laugh becomes a nervous tick, an expression of doubt instead of certainty. With his red nose, white face and swept-back silvery hair, he is no pantomime baddie, but a misguided man whose worldview is genuinely rattled.
And who wouldn't be rattled by Canning's puppets? The ghost of Jacob Marley is a grinning skull with a grey wig and a torso draped in chains. The Ghost of Christmas Past has the body of a child and the blank-eyed face of a table lamp. At one point, sheets of ectoplasm waft through the auditorium. Only with the fortification of the interval can we cope with the vulture-like Ghost of Christmas Future, a looming giant decked in tattered strips of black material.
With the dissonant scrapes of Nikola Kodjabashia's live score falling into line with the poetic rhythms of Neil Bartlett's script, it's a dark and austere production that focuses on Scrooge's journey to self-realisation and goes sparingly on the "we was poor, but we was honest" sentimentality of the story. There is also joy in the creativity of the staging: the way the actors throw snow over themselves before coming on and rework Christmas carols to poke fun at Scrooge. It all makes for a rich and satisfying seasonal treat.