While it may not have the slick glossiness of Northern Stage’s festive centrepiece, Newcastle’s other production of A Christmas Carol certainly wins on location. Theatre Space North East’s production (a collaboration with creature and puppetry company 4M) is performed in the city’s castle itself, providing an atmospheric – if also appropriately chilly – setting for an energetic take on the Dickens tale.
Sean Kenny is suitably grave as Scrooge, and an enthusiastic cast of actor-puppeteers (Chloe Flockart, Matt Wood and Lawrence Neale, with support from Matthew Nicholson and Calum Bruce) tackle the rest of the roles. The puppets are beautifully realised and skilfully manipulated, especially in such a confined space.
Director Corinne Kilvington copes well in the restrictions such a venue brings, with design stripped back and props limited to a couple of wooden benches. A pleasingly tight running time means the show is done before our hot water bottles cool (the company recommends you bring your own), though in places the frenetic action feels a little cluttered.
Tonally it’s uneven, with the ensemble’s lurch from pathetic beggars to mischievous urchins particularly jarring, and despite the genuine creepiness of some of the puppets, it never quite allows the true darkness of the story to take hold, which makes Scrooge’s eventual redemption not quite as satisfying as it could be.
While this may not be a classic take on the story, its mix of clever puppetry, amiable cast and the unmatchable backdrop of centuries old stone makes for a solidly enjoyable family show.