A Christmas Carol

Chesil Theatre    Chesil Theatre, Winchester  Hannah-Cait Parker  17 November  2023

My Friday night this week was spent wending my merry way towards the Chesil Theatre in Winchester, to take in their rendition of the Yuletide classic A Christmas Carol.

I’m sure most of us are no stranger to the ins and outs of this show, as some of the greats have covered it, with Michael Caine once even playing Scrooge whilst surrounded by a whole host of Muppets, but although it’s a well known show, it never stops being a firm favourite of young and experienced audiences alike.

The role of the famously curmudgeonly Scrooge was taken up this evening by Duncan Ley, who took to the part rather well. He carried the role of Scrooge throughout the show with the air of someone rather experienced in the game of acting, and had some really fab moments. My one note was that the actor seemed a little too personable at the beginning, however, and I would have liked to see a little more of the miserly side of the character before we get into the swing of his Christmas Eve antics. But I think Duncan did a fab job throughout, and would be one I watch out for in future productions.

My star of the show this evening goes wholeheartedly to Danny Olsson, who multi-rolled superbly as Bob Cratchit, young Scrooge and various other supporting roles. Each of his characters was well rounded, precise and diversely different, with his Jacob Marley being truly haunting (pun definitely intended!). I found myself excited to see what he was going to do for each new character whenever he came on stage.

Actors Karen Fitzsimmons, Katy Watkins and Gary Nicholson cannot go unmentioned, as each had some real highs whilst playing their combined total of 22 parts (!) with Karen’s Mrs Lack, Katy’s Spirit of Christmases Past and Gary’s Mr Grimes being real highlights of the show as a whole for me.

This show was a refreshingly unique take on a classic, with copious amounts of multi-rolling, puppets, breaking the fourth wall, and false endings to name but a few changes. I was a little disappointed in places, however, as I felt that the show could have gone further with a lot of its ideas, and I spent a good portion of the evening wanting the show to go up a gear or really commit to some of its choices.

Director Peter Andrews did a good job, directing some truly brilliant moments, from confetti snow fall being made into a running gag, to hilarity ensuing when there weren’t enough actors to play all of the Cratchits, but there were also some jarring choices, such as the use of some of the music from Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, which really took me out of Dickensian England, to the modern day. Tonally I wasn’t too sure in places if this was supposed to be a wholly classic A Christmas Carol or a modern retelling, and I just would have liked the show to be one or the other, or at least adopt a clearer tone throughout.

That being said there were far more positives than negatives this evening, including some rather impressive projected pieces that I enjoyed seeing utilised to show us the length and breadth of England over the course of Christmases Past, Present and Future.

A Christmas Carol runs from the 17 – 25 November at The Chesil Theatre in Winchester.