It takes skill to inject freshness into A Christmas Carol. Yet Amy Leach has managed just that, by adding some pantomime elements and song and dance into the Dickens perennial.
Ebenezer Scrooge’s encounters with a trio of ghosts are enhanced by unexpected dance battles, the Ghost of Christmas Present indulging in some “he’s behind you” fun with the audience and even an appearance from Father Christmas and a couple of reindeer.
Through all this Leach and writer Deborah McAndrew make sure that the spirit of Dickens is always present – Hayley Grindle’s set and costumes beautifully evoke Victorian times, while Josh Carr’s lighting is suitably gloomy. The production can be genuinely scary too, with Marley’s chain-clanking ghost unsettling more than a few children in the audience.
The repertory cast who have been so good in this season at Leeds Playhouse, are on fine form once again. Robert Pickavance is a terrific Scrooge, convincingly irascible in the early stages before his humanity is gradually brought back, while Joe Alessi has great fun with his cameo as Mr Fezziwig.
Apart from the mildly scary parts, it’s the ideal production to take children to, not least because at just two hours long, there’s no time to be bored. Scrooge’s redemption may be a well-worn tale, but there’s enough energy and invention here for it to capture a whole new generation.