An Edinburgh Christmas Carol

Full of good cheer, fun and jokes, carols under falling snow, spooky ghosts and glitter, what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than go to An Edinburgh Christmas Carol, Dickens rewritten and directed by Tony Cownie transformed into a Scots tale? Set in the shadow of Edinburgh castle there is even the delightful addition of Greyfriars Bobby performed by a puppet. The theme of heart-wringing poverty, beggars and homelessness will sadly remind us this is still relevant today but the show is lightened by swirls of Scottish dancing, general hilarity and pratfalls, peppered with terrific Scots words like ‘scunnered’ and ‘glaikit’, much play on words for the adults and bum and fart jokes for the wee ones, aged five and up.

If you don’t enjoy this show, I say to you Bah! Humbug!

The puppet, Greyfriars Bobby, is, of course, the star of the show, manipulated so skilfully by Edie Edmundson, one forgets a puppeteer is there. With a suitably rough coat, strands of cotton rope, the puppet is rather bigger than Bobby is usually portrayed but this way one could see his wonderful crouching and naughty antics better. Tiny Tim was also a puppet, a clever way to avoid over-milking the pathos.

The skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Crawford Logan with great character, is not too stern so we can laugh at him as he undergoes his terrifying ordeal, then impressively changing into the kindly old gent he becomes with expansive benevolence.

The ghost of Marley (Grant O’Rourke) is a highlight of the show, clanking in with yards of chains through spooky mist (dry ice, of course), shaking his grey shaggy locks, but not too scary for the kids. The spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, here called Lang Syne, Nouadays and Ayont, are also highlights. Lang Syne, like a glamourous Queen of the Fairies whose sparkly emerald dress and glittering tiara is breath-taking, acted with sweeping command by Eva Traynor. In contrast, Nouadays falls down the chimney with a loud skirl of bagpipes. Dressed as a Highland Chieftan in kilt and full regalia, tall pheasant feather in his large, floppy beret, he arrives with aplomb, a deep voice and laughter played superbly by Steven McNicoll. Ayont (Taqi Nazeer) in tartan trews, though not so dramatic, is given an imaginatively sinister feel by not speaking (he is headless), instead beating his drum.

The costumes designed by Neil Murray are excellent throughout, not only the ghost and apparitions, but the Victorian dress of the rest of the cast from top hats to crinolines. The set (also by Murray) is stunning too, no exact location, a mash-up of points of view, but who cares, the forboding atmosphere of the Old Town evoked with crow-step gables and overhanging top-stories, the iron gates of Greyfriars’ Kirkyard to one side and the castle, seen from the barracks’ direction, a dominating, oppressive presence. The change of sets with fast rise and fall of the back-drops elicited gasps from the 5 year old sitting next to me, and my 12-year old guest was intrigued by how the wagging of Bobby’s tail was achieved with no visible wires.

Other stand-out performances were Belle Jones as Mrs Fezziwig and Steven McNicoll as Fezziwig. Grant O’Rourke as the policeman and Brian James O’Sullivan as the Dog-catcher elicited boos from the audience at the curtain call, always a sure sign of success. But this is no raucous panto, more of a subtle, moving and cheering show of the excellence we have come to expect from the Lyceum. The inclusion of different choirs each night for the carol-singing is an inspired way of involving the community and added festive atmosphere. If you don’t enjoy this show, I say to you Bah! Humbug!

Reviews by Stephanie Green

Scottish Ballet

The Secret Theatre

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Antigone, Interrupted

★★★★
Festival Theatre

Scottish Ballet: The Snow Queen

★★★★
Royal Lyceum Theatre

An Edinburgh Christmas Carol

★★★★★
Festival Theatre

Rite of Spring

★★★
Dance Base

Juliet & Romeo

★★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

"Humbug! You think I have nothing better to do with my money than squander it on that manky halfwit dog?!" Edinburgh folklore tells us that when Charles Dickens was visiting the city on a reading tour, a stroll through a kirkyard brought him to the tombstone of one Ebenezer Scroggie, inspiration struck and A Christmas Carol was born. Writer and director Tony Cownie (The Venetian Twins, The Belle's Stratagem) brings this famous festive story back to the city of its birth with a guest appearance from the city's best-loved Victorian... Greyfriars Bobby!

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