REVIEW: A Christmas Carol
A quirky, new re-imagining of the classic tale
Reviewed by Hamish Stewart
A Christmas Carol, presented by the Ensemble Theatre is a quirky new re-imagining of the classic tale that intricately delves deep into the story’s messages of hope, belonging and spirit. Told through an interesting, meta lens of a thespian society putting on the play, the show brings together a variety of theatrical elements to retell the core text.
Before the play started, the audience was greeted with a jolly sing-a-long of carols and old time hits from across the ages. This very joyous and playful environment was something that truly hit back to the whole concept of Christmas in the story and set up this lively landscape that is Christmas time and the anticipation leading up to it. It was so great to see the whole audience participating in this wonderful exchange of joy as it really got us all in the moment, and of course, in the Christmas Spirit!
It was my first time in the Ensemble Theatre space, one of which was really special. The set, located in the middle of the space, was bare, only containing an elevated platform with a piano and some bells and instruments on the side.
The central symbol of the piano, played by Musical Director, Daryl Wallis, was weaved throughout the play and was an interesting addition to the story. I thoroughly enjoyed its ability to empower moments and create a more bodied and unique landscape onstage. It also created this strong, purposeful connection back to the whole idea of carolling at Christmas time and the central joy and nature of music in our lives. The use of unconventional instruments and bells throughout the play also created this unique feel to the overall show as it audibly created this environment of tension and ever-changing vibrancy that added to the otherworldly nature of it all.
Tiny Tim, who was played in the form of a puppet, created this absurd feel to the much-loved character. I was very intrigued by this new reshaping of Tim as it really held to this idea that, in life, the idea of holding onto hope, is within anyone, and is manifested, faceless in life - which really linked back to the central messages of the play itself.
One thing I would have loved is some more subtle detail on the actual players of the show. The people “acting out” the play onstage. The whole idea of this meta experience was such a unique and interesting idea, but I felt at times it was a bit underplayed. Nonetheless, Hilary Bell's new re-telling really helped shine a new light on the story and is something I'm sure everyone can admire.
What I loved most about the show, and, even though it’s cheesy coming from the Ensemble Theatre, was the role of the ensemble. It was the together nature of the play and of the cast that drove the central text. Interwoven with the classic language, modern-infused costuming, this bare yet theatrically interchanging set, and different, unique humans onstage created this vibrant environment of love, embodiment, change and hope.
It was so great to revisit a classic story like this and truly get into the Christmas spirit. Having been in a performance of “Scrooge” myself, it was also an interesting opportunity to recall, reflect and to be inspired and renewed by a story I have come to know and be drawn to at Christmas time.
Make sure to head over to the Ensemble Theatre and see this great play! A Christmas Carol is playing until the 30th of December.