A Christmas Carol - The Dukes

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Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier each year.

“Black Friday” and “Mega Monday” urge us to go out, or log in, and buy, buy, buy, as the TV is flooded with all manner of things you never knew you wanted, but which would of course make “perfect Christmas gifts”.

To be honest it puts me right off, and my inner Scrooge rises up in protest. Bah Humbug! becomes more of a defence than an opinion.

And so I was excited to know how The Dukes would tackle Charles Dickens’ classic tale A Christmas Carol, which made its debut in The Round at the weekend.

Would I sympathise with old Ebeneezer Scrooge?

Adapted by screenwriter Debbie Oates and directed by the Dukes’ own Joe Sumsion, the play is set in nineteenth century Lancaster, and features real characters of the time, including Mary Holden – the last woman to be executed at Lancaster Castle in 1834 for murdering her husband Roger.

Both are used as “ghost” characters in the play.

The Round allows for a truly 3D theatre experience, the action is happening everywhere at once, making this a fully immersive show - the best I’ve seen in this space.

There is never a dull moment. The segues were flawless, the cast were on the ball, the timing was impeccable and the technical elements of lighting and music were spot on.

The songs themselves are unique, fun, tragic and just as importantly move the story forward.

The creative use of theatre trickery is wonderful as well - a magical floating flower, a severed head, the puppetry used for the rat and Tiny Tim - original and clever, and in many instances hilarious.

The Dukes has a penchant for picking apart a story then reconstructing it to suit mood, context and relevance, and this is no exception. I “vibed” with this play from the very start and I’m sure it’s no coincidence either that it was this play – with its undercurrents of poverty, greed, and the gap between rich and poor – that was chosen for this year.

Gareth Cassidy plays Scrooge down to a tee and makes the character his own – initial contempt becomes fear then doubt, then sadness and finally joy in what is easily the stand out performance. It is mesmerising to watch.

But all of the cast are brilliant, there is no weak link here. This is a unique, clever and heartwarming adaptation of the classic story, which plays out at The Dukes until January 4.

I went in half Scrooged and came out full of the joys of Christmas, so job done Dukes Theatre!

By Nick Lakin