Dickens’s A Christmas Carol must be the most known Christmas fable. Every year it is revived in various formats via musicals, films and stage plays.  This year Brisbane Arts Theatre offers its version, Ebenezer, adapted and directed by Tallulah M E Grey (with John Grey).

For this retelling, Grey(s) interpolates Dickens into the play: as Dickens (Reagan Warner is the suitably harried writer trying to meld inspiration with a meddlesome protagonist) narrates his writing of A Christmas Carol, the story unfolds through a faithful reproduction of the three ghosts and Ebenezer’s transformation from bah humbug to Christmas fan.

The standout performance comes from John Grey who is just as we want Ebenezer to be – gaunt, grumbly and generally unlikeable.  The banter between Ebenezer and Dickens adds humour and depth.

The rest of the cast – and it’s a large cast of over 40 (!) – performed well.  Given the size of the stage, it is a miracle they didn’t trip over each other.  So congrats to the blocker.   As the Arts Theatre is a small one, most of them could be heard but sometimes the female voices were a little lost.  It may feel strange but performing/projecting to the audience rather than to other cast members might be the only way to overcome this.  But, I concede, that could be my hearing issue and not their delivery.

The lighting is effective (thanks to George Pitt and crew), the costumes appropriate (Kate Clarke—Xmas past ghost was wonderfully chained, manacled and padlocked just like he should be) and in all the cast and audience enjoyed the performance.  Speaking of which, the play is perfectly okay for children.

Otherwise, the story remains faithful to the original – in fact, most of the dialogue is ripped from the pages and this is the problem with nearly all versions.  And there have been oh so many versions – and please do NOT mention the Muppets.  Let’s be honest, Dickens is a trifle too Dickensian especially for a production that is little over an hour long.  And therein lies the problem: most versions treat the test with too much reverence. Ghosts just aren’t scary enough these days. So, how to frighten Scrooge into redemption – rattling chains and pointing fingers…hmm I don’t think so.  (The only thing that really scares me is A Christmas Carol musical…shudder – and I do realise that says more about me.)

The central problem is it’s a tale of two-halves: the merriment of communal familial celebration -v- horror of loneliness and realisation that life all too quickly passes.  In all, this production is suitable for the whole family and would be a great introduction to theatre for younger members. There’s a short intermission.

Brisbane Arts Theatre

210 Petrie Tce

Until 31st December

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