A Christmas Carol at Dominion Theatre
“The only thing I want for Christmas is for this year to be over,” Scrooge (Brian Conley) declares to wholehearted applause from the audience. It’s been a gruelling year for all of us, and it’s tempting to say “Bah humbug!” to the very thought of a merry Christmas, but Dominion Theatre’s A Christmas Carol brings a message of compassion, redemption and hope, which has never been more crucial than it is right now.
This version of the well-loved classic is a socially distanced musical, complete with live orchestra, well thought-out costumes and catchy tunes. A jagged, parchment-shaped screen looms over the cast to set the scene, from the spires of St Paul’s and Scrooge’s ugly wallpaper to trippy, starry effects as the play goes back in time, and the lonely tomb in the graveyard that marks the final revelation. It’s an innovative staging device for limited space.
The backstage team do a great job: the costumes and props look like they dropped out of the 1840s, and the ghosts are inventive whilst remaining true to the book. It’s great to be able to see the orchestra – harp and all – perform along with the cast, and they provide sound effects with perfect timing.
Matt Jay-Willis, grown up from his Busted days, gives a strong performance as Bob Cratchet. While Sandra Marvin (Mrs Mopps/Mrs Fezziwig) steals the show with her unexpectedly delightful operatic tones in Mr Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball, Brain Conley is a good Scrooge, notably in the rapid spoken-word lyrics in Nothing to Do with Me (though he is a little too quick to change and lacks the cruelty to make the transformation more poignant). There is an uncomfortable moment where a giddy Scrooge mimes slapping his employer’s backside – whilst clearly not ill intended, it is a bit tone deaf for modern society.
A Christmas Carol deserves to be seen by a lot more people. It’s been a rough 24 hours for the cast, who have been forced to close just two days after opening night due to heightened COVID restrictions, but rather than cause any bitterness or despondency, the fact actually made the relationship between audience and performer closer than ever. There is nothing like being part of an audience in a beautiful old theatre and watching people do what they love.
This performance is a celebration – of life, of hope, of the end of 2020 and above all else of the theatre, where just for a few hours one can go to escape, laugh, cry and be part of something wonderful. Let’s hope 2021 sees a revival of this musical version of A Christmas Carol, with a much-deserved after party.
A Christmas Carol is at Dominion Theatre from 7th December until 2nd January 2021, with performances during Tier 3 restrictions suspended. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.