It takes a creative mind indeed to bring something novel to Dickens’ classic Christmas tale. Luckily for production company Metal Rabbit, they have director Gus Miller at the helm.
Miller has directed a clever and inventive retelling of A Christmas Carol, where its minimalist design highlights some brilliant touches and effects. Props and set take the form of everyday objects, all lit by Matt Leventhall’s lighting design. Polystyrene snow drops gracefully from the hands of the cast and lit by torchlight, for instance, whilst Christmas wrapping is ripped apart to depict rapidly devoured food, a plastic bag is used as a puppet, and tinsel represents the exchanging of money. The set itself, though, is shabby and dishevelled, consisting of seemingly random objects strewn across the floor – probably meant to reflect the poverty surrounding protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge, but adding little to the design. With many of the scenes taking place in the dark, this hardly matters. The costumes, meanwhile, are an odd mix of Victorian top hats and modern outerwear that are at once timeless yet confused.
That said, this is a more abstract take on the story and the production as a whole has a charming and poetic sensibility. Mostly this comes from the imaginative and energetic ensemble, all playing multiple roles. As Scrooge percussively clinks a chain to suggest his money counting, the ensemble cower next to him delivering their lines with a staccato rhythm; later they sing Christmas carols with both joyful and haunting effect, twisting their meaning. This is a group of multi-talented performers who exude warmth but equally can frighten and disturb. After all, this is as much a story about the supernatural as it is a cheery fable.
At the centre is Alexander McMorran as Scrooge. Far from a grotesque pantomime villain, this is an understated and believable performance of a man gradually coming to terms with his wrongdoings. By the end he is suitably endearing, and his change in character surprisingly moving. Stood in his long-johns he seems fragile and literally stripped back – just like this production.
Metal Rabbit have created a Christmas show that manages to offer something a little different, whilst maintaining the feelgood charm and cheer that we all know from this story. If you’re looking for something atypical this Christmas, this comes recommended.
Watch: A Christmas Carol runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre until the 3rd January.
Pictures courtesy of Anna Söderblom