Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Hats off to the Lyceum for this revival of their 2019 success. It’s a bold decision – to repeat a production quite so soon – but it seems likely to work. The last three years have been hard on theatres, and it makes sense to opt for a crowd-pleaser. Tonight’s crowd certainly seems pleased: the atmosphere in the auditorium is electric, and the show is as lively, funny and heartwarming as it was last time around.
This time, there’s added poignancy: Cratchit’s careful selection of a single coal for the fire is all-too relatable; Scrooge’s casual dismissal of the poor horribly similar to the Tory government’s. This lends the piece a somewhat zeitgesity air, which wasn’t there before. It’s a shame for Britain, but it’s good for the show.
The tale is so ubiquitous, there can’t be many who don’t know the story of miserly Scrooge and the three ghosts who visit him to make him mend his ways (in fact, I overhear a little girl behind me say, “I think I’ve seen this before, Mum, but there used to be Muppets in it”). Last time around, the Edinburgh location provided a few surprises, such as the inclusion of Greyfriars Bobby and the weirdness of setting an historical Christmas story in a Scotland that didn’t officially celebrate the occasion until 1958, but this time that’s familiar too. I think that’s the joy of it: no one’s here for a surprise. We’re here for some festive nostalgia, and we get it in spades.
Using puppets for Tiny Tim and Bobby, two of the cutest, most heart-string-tugging characters in fiction and history, is an unashamedly calculating act, and it works. Brought to life by puppeteers Stacey Mitchell and Hannah Low, the pair are simply adorable, garnering the biggest cheer at the end of the night.
I find Nicola Roy funny in all of her roles (except for Belle, of course), but particularly as Mrs Bigchin, the Salvation Army charity collector. She and Lottie Longbones (Belle Jones) make me laugh out loud every time they appear on stage. But this is really Crawford Logan’s play: he makes an impressive Scrooge, imbuing the man’s emotional journey with gravitas and credibility.
The set (by Neil Murray) is lovely, like a series of Christmas cards, a backdrop and a few simple flats cleverly generating a whole range of locations. The spirits’ magic is also simple, relying mostly on lighting (designed by Robbie Butler and Zoe Spurr) and glitter, validating the axiom that “less is (sometimes) more”.
The use of local young actors as John and Lizzie Cratchit, along with the community choir’s carol singers, makes it feel as though An Edinburgh Christmas Carol really belongs to the city: it is inclusive and celebratory.
Merry Christmas, one and all!