With a much bigger cast than the traditional fringe theatre production, Ray Shell’s innovative version of A Christmas Carol immediately sets itself apart from the rest.
Its setting is explained only in the programme - a British school in Jerusalem decides to bring the Dickens classic to the stage and members of the community also join the cast.
Edward Kingham’s Scrooge is at his best when he’s being scathing and sarcastic. Frequently an observer of the proceedings, he plays the role with humour and frequent reserve, continually allowing the other players to take centre stage.
Mark Gillham as the young Scrooge is particularly impressive, commanding the audience’s attention and equally convincing as the youthful romantic, slowly morphing into the selfish, miserly cynic.
With a sizeable cast of schoolchildren who continually take part, then withdraw from the story, the Lion and Unicorn’s limited space is full to compacity and the reshuffling of chairs as props won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
Yet strong characters shine through the occasionally overwhelming action, with Amy Puglia as the Ghost of Christmas Present filling the room with warmth and joviality.
Barbara Lanik’s decidedly female Tiny Tim is a bold move that pays off and her wonderfully silent yet expressive Ghost of Christmas Future demonstrates her versatile talents.
Essentially, an ensemble piece full of admirable multi-taskers, as long as you can handle Scrooge in an unexpected setting, this is a festive favourite worth rediscovering.