Director and writer Tony Cownie’s relocation of Charles Dickens’ great Christmas fable to Edinburgh has a real family-friendly feel.
Cownie has married Dickens’ story with that of the city’s best-known canine, Greyfriars Bobby. Scrooge’s office is now located opposite the graveyard where the dog kept vigil on his dead master’s grave. Tiny Tim is the mutt’s best pal, but Scrooge is very much his enemy – along with a vicious dog catcher and Grant O’Rourke’s masterfully comic Policeman.
Crawford Logan brings the necessary humbug to Scrooge, but in everything else – Marley and the ghosts included – there is levity. Belle Jones and Nicola Roy go the furthest, in comic terms, as a pair of Salvation Army sisters collecting for the poor.
Edie Edmundson’s utterly life-like puppet Bobby becomes the story’s focus, somewhat upstaging the puppet Tiny Tim and drawing away from the importance of Taqi Nazeer’s fine but under-used Fred. Cownie’s direction brings real clarity to the tale with all the company, Logan excepted, playing more than one character.
Neil Murray’s set, pitched under Edinburgh Castle and in the Old Town’s towering, overcrowded tenements, adds to the local feel.
Dickens’ basic tale is still intact, if translated into broad Scots, but given the impact of austerity, its social message is surprising diluted. Cownie’s script nods to, but never quite gets around, the historically inconvenient fact that Christmas was not celebrated in Scotland in Victorian times, although the carolling community choir adds a delightful shimmer to the whole piece.