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A Christmas Carol review at Chickenshed, London – ‘brilliantly staged’

Ashley Driver and Gemilla Shamruk in A Christmas Carol at Chickenshed, London. Photo: Natalie Greco

Forget Simon Callow’s one-man Christmas Carol in the West End; Chickenshed’s enchanting, joyous adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic veers to the opposite, breathtaking end of the cast-size spectrum. Every performance features one of four supporting casts each made up of 200 young performers. So, yes, the combined cast for this production numbers more than 800.

It’s a figure that would impress even Scrooge himself, here a hardbitten cockney, played with pivotal command by Ashley Driver, whose life of lonely enterprise has led him to construct a seemingly impervious fortress of callousness. He even snappily dismisses an impossibly cute little girl on crutches seeking a few financial crumbs of support. I mean, come on.

The ambition of Lou Stein’s production matches the size of its cast. Set in depression-era 1930s, appeals to Scrooge go way beyond a call for human generosity, as unions march for fair and – in the case of female workers – equal pay. Such timely politics are sung to lively, hook-tastic original compositions by Dave Carey and Hanna Bohlin, alongside smooth marshalling of that enormous cast that includes children of all ages, disabled performers and signers.

The sum effect is an irresistible wave of a diverse humanity that makes Scrooge’s transition to kindness as convincing as it is moving. For whose humbugs could not melt to Che Summers’ adorable Tiny Tim, the plangent, beautiful duet between Gemilla Shamruk’s Ghost of Christmas Past and Scrooge’s former fiancee Ramona Libby Isaacs, and the winning exhilaration of Michael Bossisse’s Ghost of Christmas Future?

Merry Christmas everybody, indeed.

Verdict
Enchanting, brilliantly staged musical adaptation of Dickens’ classic with an enormous, diverse cast

Production Information

Production
A Christmas Carol
Venue
Chickenshed
City
London
Starts
November 21, 2018
Ends
January 5, 2019
Press night
December 7, 2018
Authors
Charles Dickens
Book
Lou Stein
Lyrics
Lou Stein
Musical director
Dave Carey
Set
William Fricker
Lighting
Andrew Caddies
Sound
Phil Haines
Costume
William Fricker
Technical
Sarah Ward (sign language director), Rachel Yates (movement director), Jaime Raven (magic consultant)
Stage manager
Malcolm Gorrie
Production manager
Zeeta Jacobs
Cast includes
Ashley Driver, Paul Harris, Gemilla Shamruk, Michael Bossisse, Will Laurence, Finn Walters
Producer
Chickenshed
Running time
1hr 50mins