REVIEW: Chichester’s Christmas Carol is a festive masterpiece

SUS-151223-112932001

SUS-151223-112932001

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No generation was to more radically reshape the traditions and trappings of Christmas than the Victorians.

And Charles Dickens, the consummate story-teller of that age, remains an indelible trademark of the festive institution today.

SUS-151223-112920001

SUS-151223-112920001

Appalled by the fallout of the industrial revolution that abandoned the working man, woman and child to the treadmill and the workhouse, he challenged society through the power of his pen.

A Christmas Carol - described by his own contemporaries as a new Gospel - was a dark piece of writing at its heart, with a rapier point designed to refocus society more potently than the social pamphlet it had originally set out to be.

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre bravely took the masterpiece to the stage at the city’s Festival Theatre to give it fresh life to a new generation of audience.

I use the word ‘brave’ advisedly. This is a difficult piece to dramatise successfully. The ghosts of Marley and Christmases past, present and future, require a real sense of pathos, menace, and despair.

Scrooge is a complex character who moves from bitter, commercial isolationist to a philanthropic hero within the course of two hours.

And Bob Cratchit and his family must convincingly bridge the gap between the downtrodden worker, the united family, and the hope that lies in the conclusion to this tale.

That the Youth Theatre rises to the challenge with enormous professional polish comes as no surprise. This is simply one of the best - if not the best - youth ensembles in Britain today.

Year after year they produce one subtly crafted triumph after another, supported by amazing sets, choreography, production values, and costumes.

Nor are they ever tempted to play it safe. The Witches and last year’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians are proof of their courage in exploring dark themes when lesser young players would content themselves with sugar coated baubles.

But this production is a sensation.

It is as near faultless as any staging of A Christmas Carol has ever been.

The puppetry is sublime. A huge WOW to everyone who makes these ghosts live.

The singing and the choreography are rehearsed within an inch of their theatrical lives.

Ed Waller’s Bob Cratchit - it’s an alternating role - was played with supreme simplicity and dexterity. An amazing performance.

While Brendan Lyle - who was the anti-hero when we reviewed - gives the ultimate performance as Scrooge himself.

Let’s state is clearly: Brendan is a star who has the potential to reach the top of his profession. His was a performance of breathtaking excellence.

This is a team effort too. Without exception the cast is exemplary.

There is always a temptation to be kind in reviewing youth theatre. But kindness is not required here.

The blunt truth is this production is brilliant. Only the audience failed briefly to play their part - by not rising to their feet to give this sumptuous Christmas feast the ovation it deserved.

Gary Shipton

CAST

Grey Ghosts LUKE ALDRED, POPPY BASKCOMB, SACHA BROOKE-JONES, EVIE CARTER, DARCY COLLINS, SOPHIE

COOK, CAMERON CRAGG, FRED DAVIS, PHOEBE DUNCAN-DUGGAL, HEATHER FALCONER,GEORGE GOLDSMITH,

EVE HAMMOND, SACHA HEMINGWAY, ELLA HERRYET, BENEDICT HOTHERSALL, ROMINA HYTTEN, CHARLOTTE

LIDDELL, TOM LUNN, HEATHER McCLUMPHA FREYA PEAKE, LUCY PRATT, ALFIE SCOTT, JACK TAYLOR, JEMBA

VALERIO, HANNAH WADEY, GEORGE WALLER, GRACE WATKINS

Silver HEATHER FALCONER

Ash EVE HAMMOND

Stone CAMERON CRAGG

Nephew Fred BEN CRANNY-WHITEHEAD

Scrooge BRENDAN LYLE / LIAM WRIGHT

Bob Cratchit SAMI GREEN / ED WALLER

Goode and Better JACK NASH and DANIEL KITT

Caroller ELLA HERRYET

Jacob Marley FRED DAVIS

Jacob Marley Puppeteers DARCY COLLINS, SACHA HEMINGWAY, ROMINA HYTTEN, FREYA PEAKE, LUCY PRATT

Christmas Past POPPY BASKCOMB

Christmas Past Puppeteers DARCY COLLINS, FREYA PEAKE

Boy Scrooge 1 LUKE ALDRED

Boy Scrooge 2 ALFIE SCOTT

Fan ELLIE BULPETT

Boy Scrooge 3 GEORGE WALLER

Dick Wilkins SAMI GREEN / ED WALLER

Mr and Mrs Fezziwig JACOB THOMAS and GEMMA SANGSTER

Fezziwig Guests ELLA BASSETT-JULL, CHARLOTTE BICHARD, KATE BOLTON, JAKE BUTLIN, ESME COOPER, BEN

CRANNY-WHITEHEAD, FRED DAVIS, GEORGIA DEARNLEY, SAMI GREEN, LINDON JONES, TAYLOR MANSFIELD,

EMILY McALPINE, HEATHER McCLUMPHA, BRENDAN LYLE, ELLIE MUIR, LUCY PRATT, MARTHA SWAIN, ED

WALLER, ANNA WISDOM, LIAM WRIGHT

Belle HEATHER McCLUMPHA

Christmas Present ROMINA HYTTEN

Martha Cratchit JESSIE PAGE-SMITH

Peter Cratchit JAKE BUTLIN

Belinda Cratchit ELLIE DICKENS

Robert Cratchit NATHAN ARBUCKLE

Sarah Cratchit FRANCESCA KEY

Tiny Tim ELODIE JUNCO-RICHI

Mrs Cratchit AMBER WADEY

Topper JOSEPH MARCHANT

Fred’s Wife Marilyn ESME COOPER

Fred’s Wife’s Sister Carolyn EMILY McALPINE

Fred’s Wife’s Sister Valerine ELLIE MUIR

Deaf Aunt Emmeline LUCY PRATT

Blind Aunt Porceline CHARLOTTE BICHARD

Fred’s Daughter EMILY DURRANT

Want and Ignorance FREYA PEAKE and SACHA HEMINGWAY

Christmas Future Puppeteers DARCY COLLINS, FRED DAVIS, ROMINA HYTTEN, FREYA PEAKE

Pound BRENDAN LYLE / LIAM WRIGHT

Shilling DANIEL KITT

Groat GEORGE WALLER

Penny LINDON JONES

Crown JAKE BUTLIN

Businessmen CHARLOTTE BICHARD, KATE BOLTON MARTHA SWAIN, ANNA WISDOM

Sovereign MARTHA SWAIN

Mrs Dabchick ELLIE BULPETT

Mrs Dilber GEMMA SANGSTER

Mr Dobber JOSEPH MARCHANT

Mr and Mrs Old Joe JACOB THOMAS and LUCY PRATT

Antimony SAMI GREEN / BEN CRANNY-WHITEHEAD

Husband and Wife JACK NASH and ESME COOPER

Boy with Goose TOM LUNN

CREATIVE TEAM

Adaptor BRYONY LAVERY

Music and Lyrics JASON CARR

Directors DALE ROOKS and JAKE SMITH

Set Designer SIMON HIGLETT

Costume Designer RYAN DAWSON LAIGHT

Lighting Designer JAMES WHITESIDE

Sound Designer GREGORY CLARKE

Movement Director LIZZI GEE

Music Director COLIN BILLING

Puppetry Designer and Director TOBY OLIÉ

Assistant Choreographer IONA HOLLAND

Assistant Director ABI RUTTER

Costume Supervisor SABRINA CUNIBERTO

Wig Supervisor EVE WESTCOTT

Props Supervisor MARISE ROSE

Wardrobe Supervisors JESSICA COOPER, LAUREN PENFOLD

Sound No 1 JEREMY GEORGE

Sound No 2 CHARLIE FINNAMORE

Production Manager PAUL HENNESSY

Company Stage Manager SALLY ANN GARNER-GIBBONS

Deputy Stage Manager LOU BANN

Assistant Stage Manager LAURA LEVIS

Puppet Fabrication DAISY BEATTIE, DULCIE BEST, CHARLIE TYMMS

Prop Fabrication JANETTE McALPINE

Chaperone Manager SIAN DE WIED

Chaperone Supervisors JANETTE McALPINE, LYANA PENISTON

TECHNICAL YOUTH THEATRE

Junior Assistant Stage Managers GEORGIA DACEY, MELODY LO, WILLIAM MARLEY, PETER REAVEY, SELASIE

STERANAH, ROSIE TREDRAY

Radio Mic Runners NOAH GALLIMORE, THEO MARLEY

Costume, Hair and Make Up ERIN BOXALL, NATALYA BRASH, MORGAN COX, LYDIA HOLLAND, SARAH LeCLERE,

IMMIE MACLEAN, PHOEBE MILLS, ROSE PHILLIPS, POPPY THOMSON, RACHEL TURNER, POPPY WISEMAN, LUCY

WRIGHT, HANNAH YOUNG

Follow Spot JACK O’LEARY, RYAN PANTLING

Lighting Assistant JESSIE CAIE

MUSICIANS

Keyboard 1 / Musical Director COLIN BILLING

Clarinet and Bass Clarinet MARK LACEY

Trumpet FRASER TANNOCK

Trombone STEVE TURTON

Keyboard 2 JEREMY COOKE

Percussion MARK TAYLOR

Orchestral Management MARK LACEY and MARK TAYLOR

Keyboard Programmer PHIJ ADAMS