Scrooge – A Playhouse Winter Warmer!
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
It was written in six weeks and has stood the test of time for more than 170 years, but Leeds Playhouse’s stage production of Dickens’ timeless classic, A Christmas Carol, is as fresh as a Winter’s breeze blowing down The Headrow.
The choice for a festive show was never going to be easy as the main auditorium undergoes its far-reaching refurbishment, so it had to be a balance between adult and child; something for the kids but with the absence of extensive matinees because of banging and crashing from the builders next door!
But Leeds Playhouse – basking in the glory of past Christmas productions like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Strictly Ballroom, the Musical – has pulled if off with Amy Leach in the directorial chair steering this interesting finely balanced hybrid.
“I’ve learned that you ignore an audience’s expectations at your peril,” chirps Leach, ever mindful that some families go to the theatre just once a year and invariably at ‘panto’ season.
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“Where is he?” she calls as everyone bellows back that Ebenezer is hiding behind the Christmas presents! And there were lots of panto moments……the two actors mimicking reindeer, the wonderful ‘ghost chorus’ that kept moving Scrooge’s bowl of gruel and pinching his hat; pantoesque touches for the kids with Dickens’ serious message ever present for those wise enough to understand the folly of greed and ignorance.
I have come to enjoy Robert Pickavance’s performances in the Playhouse’s Pop Up Theatre and I was endeared by his softer ‘Scrooge Light’, which had to be semi-skimmed to fit in with Leach’s lighter touch version of Dickens’ work.
This company of actors – in place since July – and the nearest I have seen to a repertory company in my lifetime, has really gelled and Pickavance says that one of the best parts of the show was working with an ‘amazing bunch of people….funny, kind, noisy, talented, original, unpredictable, exuberant!” And I agree!
This was always going to be a hard choice for the Playhouse in the absence of wing space or a fly tower, but clever lighting, good use of the stage and a great cast have pulled off this festive winter warmer, and I feel sure that it will be remembered affectionately in the same breath as those other Christmas productions that have come to be loved by Playhouse regulars.
A Christmas Carol
Until January 19th 2019
7pm with limited 2pm performances
Scrooge – A Playhouse Winter Warmer!, 24th November 2018, 14:31 PM