Middle Temple Hall, London
This was my first time seeing Antic Disposition’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, now in its fifth season in the atmospheric setting of Middle Temple Hall. I can understand why this has become a Christmas staple, playing to packed audiences across the Christmas season. In fact, having done a quick check of ticket availability for the rest of the run, many of the remaining shows are now sold out, but there are tickets available for the 30 December evening performance.
I’m not sure how many of you have been to shows in Middle Temple Hall, but at this time of year a lot of the entrances are closed. So it was a good thing I’d allowed extra time to get there, as I did a 20 minute circuit in order to find an open access point. Fortunately I encountered many lovely, fellow audience members on the way, so we were a bit of a gang by the time we found the way in off Temple Avenue, and I still arrived in time to get a glass of wine and settle in my seat. For those fully embracing the season, they also have mulled wine and mince pies on offer.
Antic Disposition’s A Christmas Carol is a truly festive affair. The songs in the piece are variations of traditional carols, which have been adapted and fused with original music to create an evocative soundtrack that brings a Victorian Christmas to spooky life. In addition to the Nick Barstow’s beautiful score, Theo Holloway’s sound design creaks and groans around us as a creepy fanfare for the arriving spirits.
It is a delightfully atmospheric piece of theatre. Tom Boucher’s lighting design uses shadows to ghostly effect, ensuring the eeriness of Marley’s arrival is fully delivered. This is a show for audiences aged six over, so it doesn’t look to frighten unnecessarily, but nonetheless lands the supernatural elements of the tale convincingly.
David Burt is a fabulously belligerent Scrooge, nailing the often awkward transition from miser to generous, jolly benefactor. In fact the whole company is a joy to watch. With many of these talented performers, and in certain cases actor/musicians, playing multiple roles, they switch characters with a fluid conviction that kept me engaged and prevented any confusion. There is a contagious energy to their performances, which is really brought out by Richard Jones’ choreography. I was taken on the full emotional journey of the story by this production from laughing at the joyful scenes, to fighting tears over Tiny Tim’s potential fate.
As this was my first trip to Antic Disposition’s Christmas Carol, I can not comment on any changes Ben Horslen and John Risebero may have made over the years, all I can say is that they have a winning formula here, for those who want to enjoy an atmospheric Victorian ‘A Christmas Carol’ experience. It is true to both the spirit and detail of the book, while adding its own sense of playfulness that feels fresh and modern.
So if you are free Sunday or Monday night, and want a final top up of festive good-feeling before 2020 begins, I’d highly recommend buying some tickets and going to enjoy the show. You can find out more here https://www.anticdisposition.co.uk/a-christmas-carol-2019.html#ticketinfo