First published in The Times, Friday December 10 2021
Among the seasonal traditions that people are once again enjoying this year, a return visit to the Citizens Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol will be high on many people’s lists. Dominic Hill’s production, based on the lyrical adaption by Neil Bartlett, dates all the way back to 2014, but, like a trip to the St Enoch Christmas Market, is well worth a repeat experience.
Once again, the ensemble production is led by Benny Young in the role of Dickens’s miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. His is a performance that is well-nuanced and compelling, from the opening sequence, in which we bear witness to the curmudgeon’s rebuffing of human contact in favour of counting and recounting his money, to the final scenes of redemption. While the actor doesn’t hold back when required to bellow out the occasional “Bah! Humbug!” he is at his most moving when portraying subtler shades of regret and sorrow.
If Young is the linchpin, this is very much an ensemble piece, with the seven-strong company slipping in and out of a number of roles throughout Hill’s tightly choreographed production, which plays out on a small thrust stage at Tramway, the Citz company’s temporary home.
Several of the key characters take the form of puppets, designed by Rachael Canning, and brought to life by the cast, lending the show a distinctively creepy edge. Jacob Marley is a skull-faced spectre; the Ghost of Christmas Past is portrayed as a floating sprite with a lamp where its head should be. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is an imposing monolith of a creature. Among the human cast, Michael Guest exudes warmth and only briefly faltering optimism as Bob Cratchit while Ewan Miller captures the fearsome jollity of the Ghost of Christmas Present.
These performances are driven by the beats and chords of the live score, created by Nikola Kodjabashia, which interacts beautifully with the rhythms of Bartlett’s script, and which the cast creates before our eyes using an array of instruments. Meanwhile, Ben Ormerod’s lighting affects an infectiously warm, wintry feel, as do the festive carols that bookend the show. It is a short, sharp (75 minutes) production that leaves its audience giddy with pleasure.
Box office: 0141 429 0022, to Dec 24. Citz.co.uk