Review: A Christmas Carol (Ensemble Theatre)

Venue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Nov 25 – Dec 29, 2022
Playwright: Hilary Bell (based on the story by Charles Dickens)
Director: Damien Ryan
Cast: Valerie Bader, John Bell, Jay James-Moody, Emily McKnight, Anthony Taufa, Daryl Wallis
Images by Jaimi Joy

Theatre review

The timeless tale of Scrooge’s awakening, was first published 178 years ago. With billionaires making news every day in 2022,¬† Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol resonates anew, although it is only wishful thinking that our overlords should find their souls overnight. Nonetheless, the story remains heart warming, and with Hilary Bell’s stage adaptation taking the form of a pantomime, featuring delightful music by Phillip Johnston, we are re-acquainted with the classic at year’s end, to be reminded of what is truly important.

Charming direction by Damien Ryan delivers nostalgia and sentimentality in spades, although humour in the production could benefit from being less restrained. It is a beautifully designed show, with Alisa Paterson’s set and Genevieve Graham’s costumes leaving a strong impression. Lights by Mat Cox too are sumptuous, and indispensable in delivering for the story, its crucial supernatural elements.

John Bell is believable as the misanthropic Scrooge, suitably mean and cruel, playing one of the best known characters of the festive season. Anthony Taufa brings wonderful exuberance to a great number of roles, full of charisma and playfulness, encouraging us to respond with appropriate cheer. Daryl Wallis provides live accompaniment on piano and percussion, adding blitheness with his sensitive musical direction.

It is right that we should expect more of the rich, but it is also necessary for governments to insist on redistribution of wealth, when disparities are so severe. Dickens did his best to appeal to the human conscience, but it is clear that not many at the top of town are ever going to be sufficiently conscientious. We simply cannot sit and wait for the rich to do the right thing.

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