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My evening started with a wander through the atmospheric, lamp-lit Temple on my way to Middle Temple Hall.   A place steeped in history, not only the venue for the first ever performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night but also a place Dickens himself often frequented, so where better to hold this festive world premiere of Antic Disposition’s new musical adaptation.

As the woman behind me put it, “I bet there are some ghoulies wandering these halls” and she couldn’t have been more right. Ghosts of Christmas Past (Katie Lovell), Christmas Present (Tom Murphy) and the Christmas That Has Yet To Come (dark, ominous figure) to be precise, all materialising in the hope that they can change the grisly fate awaiting the old miser Ebenezer Scrooge if he doesn’t change his tight fisted, penny pinching ways.
The original songs (lyrics by Ben Horslen and John Risebero, compositions by Christopher Peake) are all based on well known Victorian carols in keeping with the festive spirit. Opening with Dickensian Londoners describing the ‘misery and gloom’ of Scrooge sets the scene perfectly and the second act’s ‘Silent Night’ is just beautiful.

Tony Bell looks every inch the grumpy old money lender, though I felt he plays the part too sympathetically in Act One and so the transformation into the caring man he becomes loses a little weight.  Having said this, there are some truly touching moments throughout, not least when he loses his betrothed, Belle (Sammy Andrews), or when he is met with the horrors of Ignorance and Want (Marian Elizabeth and Dean Riley). Elliot Fitzpatrick is charismatic as Scrooge’s jovial nephew Fred, and Charlotte Armer superbly grasps the eccentricities of Dickens’ characters.

The show is not without its faults: Act One could do with some tightening up as it feels a little stilted and scene changes seem under rehearsed and jarring, though the energy is lifted at points with dance numbers choreographed by Edward Lewis French. However, the pace picks up in Act Two, where the charm of the piece really shines through. Tom Murphy’s Ghost of Christmas Present is an all encompassing, ebullient presence and your heart can’t help but melt at Ewan Guthrie’s Tiny Tim (also played by Billy Brown and Miles Roughley).

Ultimately this version of A Christmas Carol delivers exactly what you would expect, a nicely done retelling of a well known tale. No new ground was covered here but the amalgamation of mulled wine and a good story told in a spectacular environment made for a very pleasant evening indeed.

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REVIEWED 22/12/12

By Amy Lawrence

22nd – 30th Dec 2012
Middle Temple Hall, London, EC4.

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