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A Christmas Carol review, Above the Arts, London – ‘merry and magical’

Al Barclay and Jack Whitam in A Christmas Carol, Above the Arts, London Al Barclay and Jack Whitam in A Christmas Carol, Above the Arts, London

Christmas 2015 appears to be the season of innovative versions of A Christmas Carol – Hartshorn-Hook Productions and the Flanagan Collective’s offering only features the characters of Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley, but it manages to capture the essence of the original story beautifully.

It is assumed that we are familiar with the story – Tiny Tim, Scrooge’s compassionate ex-fiancee and Bob Cratchit are all referenced, but in this version Marley (Jack Whitam) explains to the audience members that we are spirits and he will need the help of all of us to convince Scrooge (Al Barclay) to transform his miserly ways.

The audience is called upon to participate to a degree throughout, but the actors are very skilled at knowing how far to shine the spotlight on their guests. On press night, this reviewer (accompanied by a gregarious friend) was required to perform the role of a Victorian chugger who elicits the famous “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” line from Scrooge. It wasn’t the finest example of improv but it was all very good natured and fun.

The atmosphere that Barclay and Whitam create is remarkable. By the time it gets to the serving of a two-course meal during an extended interval, we are enthusiastically pulling crackers with Marley and posing for selfies with Scrooge. The whole experience is as merry and magical as Christmas itself.

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A unique theatrical experience that captures the essence of the Dickens tale and the general spirit of Christmas wonderfully