Charles Dickens’ perennially popular festive novella has been endlessly retold and reworked since it was published more than 175 years ago.
In Merry Christmas, Carol, actor Helen Carter makes her writing debut with a warm story of seasonal redemption that is based loosely – but very recognisably – on the cautionary Christmas tale.
Carter’s titular Carol is a hard-nosed, workaholic single mum whose dedication to career advancement and the trappings of success has come at the cost of her relationship with daughter Holly (Molly Madigan).
Things come to a head on Christmas Eve when instead of cosying up at home together with candles and hot chocolate, Carol is instead chasing a promotion at work.
But unexpected encounters with Eve, Joy and Faith – three different representations of her past, present and potential future – serve to teach her a valuable lesson.
Carter has created a slight but very charming play with music which works well within the intimate confines of the Royal Court’s basement studio space.
The all-female cast members swap in and out of the action on the compact stage, and between roles they form a festive Greek chorus, producing some delightful multi-part harmonies in versions of carols and seasonal music whose lyrics have been tweaked to drive the plot.
Rachel Hilton acts a genial guitar-wielding narrator (a version of Jacob Marley), while Madigan also plays guitar and sings beautifully, including her own composition Hold On.
And while occasionally the moral of the story is hammered home a little too forcibly, Carol’s Christmas epiphany when it comes has a palpable emotional resonance.