WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHEN?: 5/12/20 (matinee), runs to 16/1/21
WHERE?: Bridge Theatre RUNTIME: 90 minutes (no interval)
There’s something quietly moving about how the Bridge Theatre, more than any other venue we can think of, has opened during this pandemic. It did close its doors but for nowhere near as long as other venues, offering performers work at a time when it was scarce and audiences escape when it was most needed.
- Read on for reasons including what to expect of this one of many A Christmas Carols
We don’t have to look too far for other A Christmas Carols in London this year and for sheer star power this can’t eclipse the casting of The Walking Dead‘s Andrew Lincoln at the Old Vic performing without audiences as part of its curious In Camera season.
But it does include 2 Olivier Award winners within its cast of 3 and probably our favourite of both of them is Patsy Ferran (Summer and Smoke, Almeida Theatre) although we’ve seen Simon Russell Beale in some fine work including The Tempest at the Barbican.
Ferran was performing on Broadway before lockdown closed her production of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? when it was in previews starring Rupert Everett, Laurie Metcalf and Russell Tovey. Here she plays multiple characters and we enjoyed her lo-fi approach including, when presented with the challenge of playing a plump part, cheerfully shoving a jumper up her top to double as a stomach. Her occasional step into common tongue (at one point she sparks much laughter when remarking ‘Shut the front door!’) works well.
We’d seen Figueiredo previously in the misfiring Cyrano de Bergerac across the Thames at the Playhouse last year and here he is a revelation and even more funny. His impressions are distinctive and well-drawn.
Russell Beale is a convincing if we thought younger than expected Scrooge. This production relies on the art of storytelling with props replacing the spectacle of other Christmas Carols we’ve seen. Although we suspect the Old Vic’s current version will have to make considerable changes to operate in a socially distanced way as here.
Charles Dickens wrote his original A Christmas Carol as a novella in 1843 and its familiar story of Scrooge who discovers purpose and kindness after being visited by the ghost of his former business partner and spirits of Christmas Past, Present and future encourage him to change its ways is well told here.
The emotional intensity of Scrooge’s transformation works despite the limitations and it very much helps that we have been warmed up by an all-cast dance routine to a disco version of a Christmas carol and deployment of some seasonally-appropriate comedy jumpers, both of which bring the house down.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner, this A Christmas Carol is a moving attempt to face down the performance challenges imposed by Covid-19 and rely on simplicity to drive its message home and it’s strikingly successful.
We’d say the Bridge Theatre is the frontrunner in our Venue of 2020 vote because of its attitude to opening during the pandemic and do vote at the link if you agree.