At certain times of year or at a certain age we have perhaps all felt a little like the Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. As shake and stir theatre company’s adaptation reminds us, however, the cold-hearted elderly miser that we meet at the outset of the story is still capable of transformation. The initially spiteful and mean-spirited character’s redemption comes after he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.
The award-winning production is as pantomime as Brisbane gets, particularly in the performances of Eugene Gilfedder as the misanthropist Scrooge and his long-suffering clerk Bob Pratchett (Lucas Stibbard). More than just being cantankerous, however, Gilfedder’s Scrooge is quite funny, especially when relishing his own amusements. Bryan Probets, too, is wonderfully engaging as Marley’s ghost of Christmas past, present and future, particularly in drag as an Edwardian lady. Ross Balbuziente is magnetic as the younger, almost married Scrooge of earlier times.
This is a grand production, nimbly directed by Michael Futcher. Complete with live music, yule-tide carolling, innovative video design and lavish costumes, it is a family treat. Josh McIntosh’s design ensures that Dickensian London is brought to life through a complicated but versatile mobile set design. Meritorious too are Guy Webster’s sound design, Jason Glenwright’s lighting design and the “musicianship” of internationally-acclaimed violinist Tabea Sitte.
State-of-the-art video projections by Craig Wilkinson awaken the story’s supernatural elements, specifically its ghostly visions. They provide us with Doctor Who-like time vortex travel. While there are moments of darkness, in keeping with its grim gothic ghost story origins, Nelle Lee’s adaption is ultimately a heart-warming tale that maintains the essence of the original. Indeed, it is difficult to leave the Playhouse Theatre without being filled with uplifting appreciation for the Christmas spirit as something to be lived out every day.
A Christmas Carol is showing at QPAC until 24th December, 2021.
For more of Meredith Walker’s theatre reviews, check out Blue Curtains Brisbane.