A Christmas Carol, Norwich

CHARLES ROBERTS Not so much “A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens” as …from an idea by Charles Dickens, with occasional borrowings from the Master.

CHARLES ROBERTS

Not so much “A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens” as …from an idea by Charles Dickens, with occasional borrowings from the Master.

Scrooge, as we see him here, quickly makes his stand when Marley's Ghost uncharitably comes to plague him and his eternal soul. “I do not believe in you,” he proclaims.

My problem was, that I didn't at all believe in Scrooge, as represented by Eric Richard. Nor, I have a feeling, does Mr Richard, whose approach is as pedestrian as a bobby on the beat, who simmers betimes at the injustice of never making sergeant.

Scrooge Mk I may be a dismal old body. But he has spirit, testy as it may be; he has inner strength, curmudgeonly it's true; and even something approaching a sense of humour, acid as it may be.

When he is redeemed, and wholly changed for the better, these qualities change and glow with him. Unfortunately the Scrooge we encounter here exhibits little of these primary virtues, and where we would hope he might fly on the magical tailcoats of the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, he chooses doggedly to walk.

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The show is billed as a musical adaptation. It would be more accurate to say that it is a play which is occasionally punctuated by music. The musical score has a simplistic charm, and a foot-tapping appeal, as in a delightful scene when virtually the entire company (quite a large one) evokes a bucking and bouncing carriage ride, which is as irresistible as a horsey scene in The Pickwick Papers.

Pleasing, too, is the poignant singing of an old Christmas hymn by Belle, the love of the young Scrooge's life, when Rebecca Arch smooths gently and sweetly through the piece, and carries the tune away into the darkness of Scrooge's rememberings.

One must add that the singing overall is not noted for sweetness, a failing which is not helped by the intrusive volume level of the microphones.

Everyone in this essentially young company gives zest and good cheer and sympathy to all that is asked of them, but more imaginative choreography and direction, one intuitively feels, could have tempted much better things from them all.