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A Christmas Carol review at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon – ‘intelligent and inventive’

Phil Davis in A Chriistmas Carol at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Manuel Harlan

David Edgar’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol is a tale of two men: Ebenezer Scrooge and Charles Dickens. It opens on the author himself and his real-life anger at a report into child labour. Edgar frames Scrooge’s redemption with a light-touch history lesson about its origins and the enduring power of storytelling.

Having Dickens ‘write’ the story on stage, against a backdrop of workhouses and actual Victorian testimony, sharpens edges softened by the tale’s status as a Christmas favourite. Want and Ignorance are street kids.

Nonetheless, ‘tis the season and this is a family show. Director Rachel Kavanaugh’s [1] bright, energetic production is a splash of colour and dance, with some spooky illusions created by Ben Hart.

Aided by Stephen Brimson Lewis’ versatile, snow-sprinkled set and Catherine Jayes’ score, Kavanaugh gives us a Victorian Christmas card drawn in telling details – mirroring Edgar’s playfully perfect addition of the strangely familiar-sounding Mrs Snapchat and Herr Uber.

Davis was arguably born to play Scrooge, his face crumpled in on itself in penny-pinching rage most of the time. Gerard Carey’s Bob Cratchit is desperately determined to see the best in people. When he stands up to Scrooge, it’s a punch-in-the-air moment.

As the Ghost of Christmas Present, Brigid Zengeni is a force to be reckoned with, raising an eyebrow practically through the theatre roof at Scrooge’s behaviour. She’s emblematic of this production’s mix of wit and grit.

This is a Christmas stocking of a show: full of goodies alongside an evergreen message about the importance of empathy.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s intelligent and inventive take on Dickens’ Christmas classic


A Christmas Carol
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
November 27, 2017
February 4, 2017
Press night
December 6, 2017
Charles Dickens
David Edgar
Rachel Kavanaugh
Stephen Brimson Lewis
Tim Mitchell.
Fergus O’Hare
Georgina Lamb (movement)
Cast includes
Phil Davis, Nicholas Bishop, Gerard Carey, John Hodgkinson, Beruce Khan, Verity Kirk
Royal Shakespeare Company
Running time
2hrs 30mins