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Credit: Mat Johns
Credit: Mat Johns

A Christmas Carol, Above the Arts Theatre – Review

Pros: An amazing traditional Christmas meal coupled with a novel production of the greatest of all festive stories.

Cons: Although delicious, the meal broke the story’s rhythm and it took time to pick up the threads afterwards.

Pros: An amazing traditional Christmas meal coupled with a novel production of the greatest of all festive stories. Cons: Although delicious, the meal broke the story’s rhythm and it took time to pick up the threads afterwards. 'Twas the night before Christmas…well not quite, but that was the distinct feeling as we took our place around a banqueting table in the dimly lit studio space of the Arts Theatre. A Christmas Carol is of course the timeless tale of hope and redemption, featuring the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge and ghost of Jacob Marley, who returns to show Scrooge the error…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A memorable version of the Dickens classic momentarily side-tracked by the food!

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‘Twas the night before Christmas…well not quite, but that was the distinct feeling as we took our place around a banqueting table in the dimly lit studio space of the Arts Theatre. A Christmas Carol is of course the timeless tale of hope and redemption, featuring the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge and ghost of Jacob Marley, who returns to show Scrooge the error of his ways. Scrooge and Marley are the only characters that appear on stage. The Cratchets and other supporting characters are confined to the script, while Marley remains in the piece to act as narrator and host of a sumptuous meal served halfway through the production.

The story begins with Jacob Marley, excitedly racing around the set explaining why he had visited Scrooge on this night.  Jack Whitam is never less than entertaining in the role and his performance gave more than a passing nod to Tim McInnerny playing Lord Percy in Blackadder II. The first half of the story ran along reasonably conventional lines but then broke half way through for the food to be served. One sensed rumbling stomachs as the first half seemed to drag on – only dragging because we were looking forward to the meal.  The food was a pure delight; a hearty meat pie, carrots, potatoes and sausages topped off with rich gravy.  There was a vegetarian option featuring a pie made of pumpkin, kale and goat’s cheese.  Desert comprised of mince pies, Christmas pudding and a cheeseboard. With mulled wine available to purchase at the licensed bar, little more could be asked. Marley and Scrooge, played with relish by Al Barclay, wandered around chatting with guests and helped the waitresses when needed.  The only down side as we pulled our crackers and donned party hats was that we’d forgotten where the story had got to; whilst Al Barclay and Jack Whitam quickly pulled the story back on track, the meal created an extended interval that didn’t serve the story as well as it should.

The production overall was an enjoyable romp through a story that needs little introduction. However, the food tended to overshadow other elements of the performance and Danny Jack deserves tremendous credit for a menu brimming with flavour.  However, the strength and durability of the story shone brightly and benefited from an innovative production. Brilliant fun, but if you go along, skip lunch because you’ll need to make room for the upcoming feast!

Author: Charles Dickens
Adapted by: Alexander Wright
Director: Tom Bellerby
Producer: Hartshorn-Hook Productions and the Flanagan Collective
Catering: Danny Jack and the Humble Kitchen
Box Office: 020 7836 8463
Booking Link: https://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whats-on/the-flanagan-collectives-a-christmas-carol-(dinner-theatre)/
Booking until: 31 December 2016

About Brian Penn

Brian Penn
Civil Servant. Brian flirted with drama at school but artistic differences forced a painful separation. At least he knows what his motivation is. Now occupying a safe position in the audience he enjoys all kinds of theatre. He was bitten by the theatrical bug after watching a production of Tommy in his teens. Other passions include films, TV and classic rhythm and blues. He also finds time for quizzes, football and squash. A keen sports fan, his enthusiasm crashes to a halt whenever anyone mentions golf. A musical based on the life of Tiger Woods could be his greatest challenge.