REVIEW: A Christmas Carol at Nottingham Playhouse

Keith Allen stars as Scrooge in a new production of Mark Gatiss’s spooky version of the Charles Dickens classic at Nottingham Playhouse.
The cast of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Manuel Harlan.The cast of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Manuel Harlan.
The cast of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

We’ve heard of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, but how about the Ghost of 54 shopping days before Christmas?

Yuletide may feel like a long way off, but this revival of Mark Gatiss’s 2021 adaptation successfully conjures up the seasonal spirit of Charles Dickens’ classic.

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The casting of Keith Allen as skinflint Scrooge threw me at first – perhaps because of his bad boy image from the 1990s – but he quickly makes the role his own by playing him as a brutish city boy who’s viciously quick with his metal ruler.

Scrooge is left on the sidelines when the ghosts show him scenes from his past, present and future, but this gives a fabulous supporting cast the chance to shine.

Director Adam Penford stages some truly joyous scenes which showcase the performers’ singing and dancing skills. These flashbacks provide the play with a real emotional punch and show Scrooge all the human values that he has squandered and neglected.

Mark Gatiss's script draws deft parallels with contemporary greed – echoed by the skyscraper filing cabinets of Paul Wills’ clever set – and showcases his taste for the macabre with some very effective scares.

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The lighting, sound, special effects and puppetry are all of a very high order.

Although he remains faithful to the original text, Gatiss invents an opening scene which depicts Scrooge and his business partner Jacob Marley as a pair of happy misers, which I found a bit superfluous. Despite this, many of his embellishmeare very funny and went down well with the audience.

A spokesperson for the Playhouse said: “We are delighted to say that sales for the show are going extremely well – but it does mean that availability is best towards the beginning of the run.”

A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story runs until Saturday November 18 at Nottingham Playhouse.