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A Chilled Performance of A Christmas Carol

“A story to echo down through the ages”

When we were invited to a chilled performance of A Christmas Carol at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon we weren’t really sure what to expect. I love the idea of a chilled performance which is designed to let audiences come who wouldn’t normally be able and hoped it would mean we could enjoy watching a show together as a family. A chilled performance is great for people who might find it hard to be quiet during the performance or who need to go out of the auditorium. The show itself remained unchanged so you don’t need to worry about missing out on any of the action, the only difference is the house lights remain on at a low level. The extra noise from the audience did not detract from the performance and it made us feel relaxed knowing we could pop out if we needed to. There were lots of friendly staff on hand to help you.

From the first moment of A Christmas Carol to the last, the audience is transported back to the 19th Century. The story is narrated by Charles Dickens himself, which adds an extra dimension, letting us glimpse why he wrote it and how personal a story it was. The theatre is in the round and it feels like we are right in the middle of the action. We had incredible seats right next to the walkways and the cast come on from all sides. It makes the story so immediate as if we have been transported back to the past. There are beggars, hot chestnut sellers and smog, then to make things even more magical snow starts to fall. Tiny Tim appears through the smoke on his dad Bob Cratchit’s back, it is an iconic image as if the story has come to life before our eyes.

The performance of Aden Gillett as Ebenezer Scrooge is incredible. It would be easy to portray this cantankerous man as an over the top caricature of anger and blustering but his performance is perfectly nuanced. This is a man we can all recognise and identify with, a man who has taken the wrong path which has led to his own unhappiness. Our sympathy is with him as he meets the ghosts and learns of his fate if he can’t change. The glee when he wakes on Christmas morning and finds he still has time to change is infectious. As he sets about making everyone happy, he finds happiness himself and we are happy along with him.

The tension builds as Scrooge enters his house after behaving badly to everyone he meets. There is smoke and a ghostly apparition at the door, the audience waits breathlessly for the ghosts to appear. When Marley’s ghost appears from out of the bed surrounded by billowing smoke it is a fabulous shock. The show offers a fresh twist on the ghost in the story. Marley is bound by chains and the Ghost of Christmas Past appears from the back of the audience walking on a cloud of smoke. The Ghost of Christmas Present is sumptuous in a green gown and we loved when she appeared on the throne of Christmas treats. Her exuberant character makes the appearance of the chilling figure of The Ghost of Christmas Future even more frightening as she stretches one small hand out to lead Scrooge to understand his fate.

You go through many different emotions watching A Christmas Carol, that is a testament to how much you identify and feel for the characters. The story has a warm heart. The scenes at Mr Fezziwig’s house are full of joy, providing a stark contrast to Scrooge’s dreary office. There is so much joy in the darkness, with characters finding things to be grateful for even in the middle of suffering.

This is a story as relevant now as it was when it was written. The moral that times may be hard, but that only makes it more important to care for those around us, is particularly apt and offered a palate cleanser after the excesses of Christmas. It provided us with lots to talk and think about, mainly about the fate of the children during the Industrial Revolution and how conditions are the same in some countries today. As the characters say in the play a story has more impact than a tract. There are moments of real sadness and joy, however, we are left with a final joyous dance which is overwhelmingly hopeful. After all, if Scrooge can change then there is hope for us all.

We will definitely be going to another chilled performance. There are also signed and captioned perfomances. The girls had a couple of questions in the performance and it meant we were able to answer them in a whisper. It will also mean we can take some other members of the family who haven’t been able to go for a while. I’m looking forward to sharing my love of theatre with the girls knowing we can relax together.

The show last for 2 hrs 6 mins with 20 mins interval

Disclaimer: We were given tickets for the performance for the purposes of this review.

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