Bridge House Theatre, until 22 December 2015
Guest review by Liz Dyer
If my Christmas spirit was a bit lacking when I arrived at Bridge House Theatre last night, it’s safe to say it’s not any more. A Christmas Carol… More or Less takes Dickens’ classic festive tale and gives it a unique, original and hilarious twist, which also highlights the continuing relevance of the story in our modern society.
Bridge House Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol is about to begin – except for one small problem; the entire cast and crew have gone dry slope skiing in Chatham, of all places, and got stuck in a lift. But the show must go on, so it falls to husband and wife team Charlie and Sarah to present the entire play by themselves. Which might be fine, if they weren’t in the process of splitting up because he’s decided to run off to LA and make pots of money working for Kim Kardashian.
So the stage is set for mayhem – and that’s definitely what we get – but the play also makes room for a modern interpretation of Dickens’ story, with Charlie now cast in the role of Scrooge. Will he see the error of his ways and stay, or will the lure of fame and fortune be too great?
The multi-layered play within a play, written by Saturday Night Live’s Mary Ivey and Stefano LoVerso, is so seamlessly presented that it’s hard to tell what’s planned and what isn’t, particularly during the more chaotic moments. Artistic Director Guy Retallack’s production has a really fresh, improvised feel, even as you can tell the attention to detail that’s gone into making it look that way.
Actors Nichole Bird and Ben Woods make a great team, full of an infectious energy and enthusiasm that even makes the inevitable audience participation sections enjoyable. But there’s a serious story here too, and nestled in between the frantic, funny scenes (Sarah playing all the Cratchits at once is particularly memorable) are some genuinely moving moments as the two try to figure out if they have a future as a couple.
A Christmas Carol is a story we all know well enough by now; as Sarah points out, it’s on every year. But this updated version powerfully brings home how relevant it still is today – perhaps more so than ever, at a time when people across the UK and the world are living in poverty and hardship, and those in power often appear to have little interest in doing anything to help. And it’s a much-needed reminder for all of us about the importance of focusing on what really matters in life, while we have the chance.
Yes, the conclusion’s a bit cheesy and predictable (albeit with a bit of a twist) – but then so is the end of Dickens’ original story, in which Scrooge becomes a changed man literally overnight. And hey, it’s Christmas; if you can’t be a bit cheesy at this time of year, when can you? A Christmas Carol… More or Less is a lot of fun, and if your festive spirit has yet to kick in, this is pretty much guaranteed to do the job.