Dickens’ Victorian parable, A Christmas Carol, is given fresh and invigorating energy in this wonderfully eclectic new version adapted and creatively directed by Danny Wainwright. Let Them Call it Mischief perform a hugely effective ensemble version of this traditional fireside tale where Christmas charity conquers greed and meanness of spirit in the cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge.
This show is an all-singing all-dancing cocktail of different forms of performance. There are some genius moments of physical comedy such as the creation of a snow storm with the use of a fan which has the audience in stitches. The big show numbers and use of minimal set show off the breadth of talent in this small cast who successfully play out a story with over forty characters.
There were three outstanding performances for me. Alyssa Noble, who plays roles as diverse as the Ghost of Christmas Past and a young Cratchit, giving each part infectious energy and superb comic timing. The narrator, Maxwell Tyler, who dips in and out of the action was a fabulous compere for the whole evening. And of course Benedict Waring playing Scrooge. Waring gave Scrooge more punch than is common, playing him as a younger greedy and cold banker, rather than an ancient miser. It works because it makes him more despicable, more familiar and more comedic. It also makes his eventual reform fairly hopeful and certainly relevant to the austerity days of 2014.
The show is hugely and satisfyingly self aware. It bears lots of references to it’s predecessors – Tiny Tim for example is played by a muppet-like frog. It plays tongue in cheek with original text and has lots of interaction with other entertainment genres – Scrooge’s journey to the future skips forward several generations by accident and the audience is treated to a festively cheery mash-up of a dance playlist which would put any Christmas party to shame. It weaves modern gags and topical issues in with the old and is festively cheery.
As usual, versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol abound at this time of year. This has trimmings galore and is by far the best staged version I have seen. Relevant, cheeky, modern and still insightful everyone should see this show this Christmas.
Review by Annemarie Hiscott
A Christmas Carol
Let Them Call It Mischief reimagine one of Dickens’ most famous literary works, adding a slapstick twist and a revolving stage to reinvent the classic Victorian tale for a contemporary audience. Decked out in a host of eccentric costumes, seven cast members recreate over 40 familiar characters, telling the much-loved story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his very unique Christmas journey.
The show will be the third performance from the company to be presented at the Pleasance, who hosted the The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes in the main house earlier this year. This latest work remains faithful to the ethos of the company, who are dedicated to bringing theatre about London to a London audience.
Director Danny Wainwright said, “For me, A Christmas Carol has always been a part of my Christmases; from the book, to the excellent Bill Murray film Scrooged, and The Muppet Christmas Carol. I think Dickens’ story of a grumpy, miserly old man reformed by the spirit of Christmas is one for all ages and is still as relevant today as it was in 1843. From this version, audiences can expect a fun, fast paced retelling of A Christmas Carol, with plenty of silliness thrown in for good measure! No one need worry about any preconceptions of Dickens being overly serious or arduous or difficult to understand. This version is accessible – with something for everyone, if you’re 8 or 108.”
Let Them Call It Mischief was founded in 2012 by Danny Wainwright, Flo Buckeridge, Stephanie Hampton and Tessa Gillett. They aim to bring plays, often forgotten plays, about London back to a London audience, bringing out the mischief and comedy in the texts and making them fresh and relevant. Their previous productions include The Final Revelation of Sherlock Holmes, The Alchemist and The London Cuckolds.
Cast Benedict Waring, Elliott Ross, Maxwell Tyler, Robert Rowe, Alyssa Noble, Claire Cartwright, Holly Blair
Lighting Design by Tom Kitney
Directed by Danny Wainwright
Produced by Stephanie Hampton
Designed by Ele Slade
Pleasance Islington, Carpenters Mews, N Rd, London N7 9EF
9th December – 4th January, Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm, Sunday 5pm, matinees 10th – 12th 4.30pm
Running Time: 90 mins (plus interval) | Suitable for Ages: 8+ | £13.50 – £10
Box Office Telephone 020 7609 1800
Friday 19th December 2014 LondonTheatre1.com