The Bridge House Theatre is very much modelling itself as a real community venue – and it is that sense of community that prevails throughout their production of A Christmas Carol, presented by four multi-role playing actors.
From our entrance into the auditorium we are made to feel like welcome spectators to the action with the cast playing entrance music and greeting us. Even the stairway leading up to the theatre is bedecked with candlelight creating quite a festive atmosphere from the start. This attention to detail is matched by the set, designed by Amy Rose Mitchell. Mitchell makes the absolute most of every inch of the small stage space, immersing us fully into the world of Ebenezer Scrooge (played with a very expressive face by Rachel Izen). The lighting design by Richard Williamson exquisitely creates key effects throughout, again utilising the small space in a most impressive way. The costumes designed by Mitchell do not match the set and lighting (I struggled to understand why Scrooge is wearing a pair of jeans?). Some of the choices in direction by Guy Retallack also jar, with more of Scrooge’s delivery pitched towards comedy than I would have liked. A key moment in the party scene when Scrooge discovers he is the butt of the joke misses the emotional impact it could have had as the character laughs the incident off. In such a fast-paced and choppy adaptation it is hard to fully engage with Scrooge’s emotional journey.
Ben Woods has a strong energy throughout and Jamie Ross impresses with his contrasting takes on Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Present. Some others in the cast do not differentiate the portrayals of their characters enough. At times this leads to moments where if I was not already familiar with the source material, I would be confused as to what was going on.
The Tiny Tim puppet really feels like a missed opportunity; as it is not really animated at all in its first scene, there is no emotional impact later on when we see it in a coffin. Oddly other puppets introduced later in the show are fully animated, making it a particularly sad oversight.
Live music (with some original songs created by Ross, Woods and Saorla Wright) is used effectively throughout to create a haunting atmosphere.
From our entrance into the theatre, the cast continue to interact with the audience at points throughout the production, fittingly ending with a sing-along. This version of A Christmas Carol may not tell the story as clearly and strongly as I imagine other productions will this year but I expect that it will radiate the biggest sense of community spirit to its audience – and what more could you wish for than that at this time of year.
A Christmas Carol is on at The Bridge House Theatre until the 22nd of December. Tickets available here -
Tiffany Clark ( @tifflouclark)
Photo: Jamie Scott Smith