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A Christmas Carol at Kingston’s Rose Theatre – ‘heart-warming’

Martin Ball in A Christmas Carol at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-upon-Thames. Photo: Mark Douet Martin Ball in A Christmas Carol at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-upon-Thames. Photo: Mark Douet

These days a cast of 33 would give most directors the vapours. Happily Ciaran McConville puts them to excellent use in his own adaptation of the Dickens festive drama.

Two-thirds or more are from the Rose Youth Theatre, with which McConville has been associated for some years. They are a talented bunch, and he has entrusted the more experienced among them with some of the featured roles.

With its sanctimonious tone and intimations of mortality, A Christmas Carol can sometimes seem a little indigestible as festive fare, especially for younger members of the audience, but McConville knows how to pep things up with humour, dance – his choreographer Katie Lowe is kept busy – and some whizzy projection design by Timothy Bird that is positively psychedelic at times.

For all its Dickensian gloom, exultation always seems to be on the brink of bursting forth in this most joyful of Christmas Carols, yet it manages to steer clear of the cloying sentimentality so beloved of the Victorians – and so derided by audiences today. Even Tiny Tim seems a rather robust little chap in this production.

Most gratifying to see, is the huge apron stage at the Rose fully and imaginatively deployed. Now that he has won his spurs with two successive and successful Christmas shows – last year’s Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a belter – it is about time they entrusted McConville with a big musical.

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A rich, heart-warming theatrical feast of a show