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Albany Theatre, A Christmas Carol: Review


A Christmas Carol, Albany Theatre, Coventry, until December 26


By Chris Arnot

Almost exactly a century separated two yuletide stalwarts. A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, A White Christmas first released in 1942. Another nigh-on 80 years on and those works of Dickens and Bing are both still deeply etched into our seasonal expectations.

Somehow Albany's latest production meets those expectations without making you feel that you’re watching a load of old hat. Yes, you’ve seen it before on many a screen and stage. But this cast of seven, some of them moving effortlessly between roles, give the tale of Scrooge, Marley and Cratchit a vitality that makes the evening fly by.

Under Kevin Shaw’s direction, one of Dickens’s shorter novels is pruned back to the essentials, helped by an impressive set designed by Dan Tilley and put together by volunteers.

Yes, the snow is falling as Bob Cratchit heads home for a rare day off with his family. A White Christmas then, albeit with nothing much to put on the table. Until, that is, they receive from Scrooge a bird almost the size of a legless and neckless ostrich.

By that time he has had his midnight conversion from miser to munificent donor of seasonal cheer.

That vital main role is taken on by Paul Nolan, a bastion of the Coventry stage since the mid-80s. Paul gives his all. No, not in money, of course. Not initially anyway. Rather it’s in transformation of facial expression, gait and voice after his ghostly visitors put the fear of God into the geezer christened Ebenezer.

Sam Yetunde takes on more than one role, but her appearance as the Ghost of Christmas Present is particularly memorable visually and verbally as she towers over the cowering Scrooge.

The coming of the huge, green-eyed Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is memorable too - more theatrically effective than the snow that comes down from the theatre ceiling soon after we’ve been warmed and blessed by the sight of the Cratchits’ Christmas. Not real snow, needless to say, but flakes of white paper.

No real snow on the streets outside either. Just rain on the lengthy trek back up the Albany Road.

No matter. We were with two of our grandkids. And, like us, they felt that Christmas had started. Whether it would be a white Christmas on the day itself mattered not.