An Edinburgh Christmas Carol @ Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
Tony Cownie's production brings a Scottish Scrooge to life
Charles Dickens' moral fable is as woven into the fabric of the festive season as turkey and brussels sprouts, but in this adaptation Scrooge and co have been given a rather dapper Scottish facelift. According to Edinburgh folklore, Dickens visited the city on a reading tour when a walk through a kirkyard brought him to the tombstone of one Ebenezer Scroggie: inspiration struck, leading to the birth of his now-famous story.
Directed and adapted by Tony Cownie, this new version sets the tale in Victorian Edinburgh’s Old Town. There's an excellent attention to detail in Neil Murray's deftly-changing set: from Edinburgh Castle sitting proudly on top of the hill to the iron gates of Greyfriars Kirkyard, to the Victorian household fireplace decked out for Christmas.
The heart of the story remains the same as ever. Scrooge, played with gusto by Crawford Logan, is a wonderfully miser, chasing away carol singers, Salvation Army charity collectors and local residents asking for more time to repay debts with a well blasted “humbug”. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is haunted by three ghosts who show him Christmas past, present and future to teach him the errors of his selfish ways.
Grant O’Rourke excels in the humourous role of a local policeman, while the addition of Edinburgh’s most famous loyal canine, Bobby, tugs as hard on the heart strings as the sight of Tiny Tim’s crutch beside an empty chair. Adeptly manoeuvred by puppeteer Edie Edmundson, Bobby cheekily scampers around the stage stealing sausages from the local butcher, keeping just out of reach of the long arm of the law.
The appearance of Tiny Tim in puppet form, though, does not prove to be quite so effective. While Bobby bounds around and wags his tail, breathing life and humour into the character, Tim can only be carried around or positioned with his crutch, making it harder to portray emotion in the puppet other than through dialogue. Meanwhile, the talented local community choir form part of the fabric of the street scenes as carol singers, decked out in beautiful Victorian garb, bringing festive charm to the entire production.
Overall, this magical moral tale ignites Christmas charm into the most frozen of hearts, and offers hope for the human spirit in even the most difficult of times.
An Edinburgh Christmas Carol, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until 4 Jan 2020