A Christmas Carol review at Northern Stage, Newcastle – ‘Energetically staged update of the classic Dickens tale’
Northern Stage’s A Christmas Carol is an energetic, slick take on a classic, enlivened by a toe-tapping jazz-inspired soundtrack and bold design.
Neil Bartlett’s adaptation doesn’t stray far from the original story and hits all the expected beats, but the 1920s setting allows some gorgeous design choices (Rhys Jarman negotiates the challenges of staging in-the-round with a sparse, fluid set and clever costume touches). Composer G Hannabiell Sanders (who also performs) puts a fresh spin on traditional Christmas carols, spicing them up with everything from gospel to blues to West African drumming.
Nick Figgis’ Scrooge is suitably curmudgeonly and remorseful in turns, with some nice flashes of humour, and Craig Fairbairn is a likeable Bob Cratchit. Many of the talented cast also excel at the production’s physical theatre – a chain-wrapped Rachel Dawson descends from the rafters as Marley, while Will Pennington negotiates the Ghost of Christmas Past on stilts. Clara Darcy is all gangster swagger as a charismatic Christmas Present.
It’s not a nuanced production, too fond of its dazzle to embrace the real shade of the tale. The first half could be tighter, and some of the musical numbers drag. But director Mark Calvert delivers moments of real emotional heft – the death of Tiny Tim is genuinely moving, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is properly scary, looming ominously over the proceedings. The result is a big-hearted delight of a show that, like the very best of Christmases, is noisy, joyful and a little chaotic.
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.