A Christmas Carol - Northern Ballet

Norwich Theatre Royal

Norwich Theatre Royal

This visual feast had all the trimmings as far as I was concerned.

So often, when you see A Christmas Carol performed it's all sentimentality, two- dimensional characters and glib moralising.

Not so here. Moricone's choreography and Gable's direction offered us all the depth and complexity of the book itself.

At curtain up, the stage was swathed in London smog as Marley's funeral procession tramped across.

Scrooge (Darren Goldsmith) was revealed as a long-haired, unkempt slave to his riches. Almost thinner and more gaunt than his meagrely paid clerk, Cratchit (Hironau Takahashi). The penny pincher's effort to cut himself off from the consequences of pursuing wealth over human interests was clearly taking its toll.

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The action then jumped forwards in time; we were in his sombre office.

It was the 24th of December, and carol singers gathered in the street outside. Bonneted and bright, they danced a jig which Cratchit joined but Scrooge put a stop to. Poor Bob couldn't stop his feet from dancing and was cuffed again and again to comic effect.

There was so much lightness of touch in Goldsmith's performance, that you didn't realise until Act Two just how much you cared about this miser. It was when you saw him as a young man, losing the girl he loved to his lust for money, that you recognised what he had lost and how far he had dwindled. The lovers' pas de deux of separation surprised me to tears.

But in my view, the real coup de theatre was the final act. As the lights went up, a shadowy, spidery shape whirled behind the scrim, morphing into weird shapes. It revealed itself as the grey blue angel of death. I've never seen this moment more frighteningly portrayed.

And right to the end, I was wondering: will Scrooge be allowed to be part of the joy or not? It was only with the last carol, where the voices soared one against the other, that I knew the end would be happy after all. Magic.

Eve Stebbing