For some Christmas begins when they leave the office for the last time before the holidays. For others it’s the moment the Coca-Cola advert starts running on the TV. For me Christmas begins with a Chichester Festival Youth Theatre production. This is my third and every year I’m blown away by the talent and professionalism on display.
A Christmas Carol is a tough subject to take on. Whether it’s Muppets, Alistair Sim or Albert Finney we all have a picture of Scrooge and company in our heads that is fairly deeply embedded but this adaptation by Bryony Lavery with music & lyrics from Jason Carr is very fresh and innovative. Credit has to go to Dale Rooks & Jake Smith who really make use of an impressive set and a wonderful concept of using a ghostly Greek chorus to propel the story with some excellent use of puppetry for the ghosts.
Any version of this story hinges on its Scrooge and in Brendan Lyle we have an assured performer who fully embodies the role, his physicality is excellent, from the sloped shoulders to the way he struggles to his feet after falling to the ground you forget this is a young lad. He’s equalled by Ed Waller who is a warm and engaging Bob Cratchit.
It almost seems unfair to single out other performances when the cast as a whole are excellent but I really must mention Poppy Baskcomb who has real presence and gravitas both as a spirit in the chorus and as the voice of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Gemma Sangster shines as Mrs Fezziwig and has a superb singing voice and Romina Hytten’s glorious giggling Ghost of Christmas Present.
The puppet ghosts are superb and the teams who work them, in particular those who control Marley’s independently mobile limbs and the hulking Ghost of Christmas Future do a fantastic job of conveying emotion through the models.
If you have an ounce of Christmas Spirit you won’t fail to be moved by this production… get your tickets now as judging by tonight’s crowd it will sell out quickly!