Middle Temple Hall is a beautiful venue that lends itself to such a classic and festive story. The hall itself is beautifully decked out with trees, pine and lights. The delightfully named, Bar Humbug, serves mulled wine and minced pies. The warmth and abundance of dark wood and stained glass lends air of grandeur and festive cheer before you even arrive. Speaking of arrival, you enter from the wings past the split orchestra pit onto a thrust stage with a fire in the middle and a Christmas tree to the side.

Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

As the audience settles, the cast enter sporadically warming their hands, greeting each other and our opening number ‘God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen’ begins.

‘God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen’ is used as the main melody throughout Act One, the lyrics and tone change as our story progresses. It’s a clever motif which brings the audience back to a familiar sound. There are a range of Victorian Christmas Carol adaptations, which, along with the Victorian silhouettes and costuming, lend an authenticity to the time period. Staging and formation create picture postcard images, a call to the growing popularity of Christmas cards during the Victorian era.

David Burt is stunning as Scrooge, you can see why he continues to reprise the role. (Playing Scrooge from 2014-19 and again in this 2022 production). His redemption arc is utterly believable. Richard Holt’s Marley is ghoulish and intimidating. Jack Heydon plays Fred with all the joy and heart we’ve come to expect from the character.

It’s quite a small stage, but the masterful use of chorus, and the direction of Ben Horslen and John Risebero, ensures space and location changes are seamless. Richard Jones’ choreography creates transitions of movement and music, with actors doubling as instrumentalists, which allows shift scene changes. Speaking of transitions, the appearance of The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was genuinely terrifying, reminding us all that festivity aside, this is a ghost story.

As mentioned above, Christmas carols are generously sprinkled throughout the play. ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ with the Cratchit family is utterly heart warning. Dylan Hall’s Tiny Tim gives an angelic solo to start, with the rest of the Cratchits joining in with beautiful harmonies. Another lovely musical highlight is ‘Silent Night’, a beautiful conduit between the various scenes of the Ghost of Christmas Present – from the miners to the sailor – something which is often left out of stage and screen adaptations from the original text. I appreciated that amongst the many efforts to remain true to the Staves.

Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

If you go during the day natural light has an impact on the overall lighting and mood of the piece – as the outside darkens so does our stage meaning your eyes need time to adjust – I presume that this is not the case in the evening. Additional lighting and well used projections are used to great effect, from snow, to the shimmer of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Though there were times where the stage appeared a little too dark, making it difficult to make out the faces of the actors.

As an avid Dickens Fan for whom A Muppet Christmas Carol is the gold standard of adaptations, this is a very worthy addition to anyone’s holiday theatre viewing. Thoroughly enjoyable and as true to the text as they come.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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