Tradition forms a part of all our lives, no matter our culture or beliefs. For those raised in a vaguely Christian world, Christmas bring with it a plethora of traditions both general and personal. For me, Christmas has always included a family viewing of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol – a live production if possible or if not, one of the more fortunate film versions (especially the Muppet’s version).
So to the Kings Cross Theatre on a hot summer’s night to see Melissa Lee Speyer’s adaptation of this wintery tale of redemption, forgiveness and the need for kindness. Presented by the indie company Lies, Lies and Propaganda this version created “an upside-down version of Dicken’s much-beloved story that holds fast to Dicken’s morality while acknowledging the complicated times in which we live” (writer’s notes).
The ensemble move through the story taking on various characters and genders except for Bobbie-Jean Henning who exclusively played Ebenezer Scrooge. After all, it is Scrooge’s story and the ensemble take turns to narrate. Michael Yore as the ghost of Christmas Past (the one who guides Scrooge through the memories of his youth) is a Playschool presenter much to the bemusement of Scrooge. The ghost of Christmas present was dissolute and wasted, ironic and weird much as the year 2017, emblazoned across his T-shirt, has been. Aslam Abdus-samad , Jasper Garner-Gore, Monica Sayers , Dymphna Carew and Bishanyia Vincent rounded out the focused ensemble with Vincent’s vocal character skills provoking much laughter from the audience.
Flipping from Victorian England to modern day Australia to a nuked future and back again, it is clear that the aim of this production is to present a moral more global than individual. Scrooge’s lesson is less about how we as individuals can affect those around us with compassion and generosity than how we, as a social collective, need to step up and challenge what the elite at the top are doing to our world. Michael Dean (director) portrays this through music (effectively composed and performed by Miles Elkington) and movement with a focus on ensemble performance on a traverse stage. The directorial confidence seemed stronger towards the second half of the play.
The evening runs for about one hour and forty-five minutes without interval. On hard wooden chairs which are packed tightly together, it is hard to stay focused on the action. Wriggling to be a little more comfortable is likely to dislodge one’s neighbour completely. This is a problem which has to be addressed. Either fewer chairs so there are little gaps between them, or small seat pads to ease the punishment of hard wood. At times, the production seemed to be a little disconnected with odd links between scenes but I don’t know how much my own discomfort contributed to this feeling. I did notice how many patrons had to unlock themselves from frozen positions after the curtain call.
This is not A Christmas Carol for a cosy family outing, unless your children are all in their majority. It is aimed far more squarely at Gen Y and the iGen, the references are here and now and aimed at those who are “tired of caring, of fighting, and feeling like it has no effect” (Michael Dean).
Another Christmas. And God bless us, everyone.
Kate Stratford – Theatre Now & On The Town