A reviews round-up of A Christmas Carol, playing at the Rose Theatre in Kingston until 2 January 2023.
Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Emilia) brings a brand-new retelling of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic to the Rose Theatre in Kingston this Christmas.
It’s a cold Christmas Eve on the snowy streets of Victorian London, and preparations for another meagre Christmas are well underway – but not for Ebenezer Scrooge. The cruellest, wealthiest woman in town; Scrooge hates charity, she hates carol singers, and most of all… she hates Christmas. Bah, humbug!
The show features new songs by Eamonn O’Dwyer (Beauty and the Beast) and is directed by Rosie Jones (Hansel & Gretel).
A Christmas Carol reviews
"Glorious musical version of Dickens’s festive treat"
"Charles Dickens takes to the stage and Ebenezer Scrooge is a woman with a moving backstory in Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s adaptation"
"As fine a festive treat as Charles Dickens’s story of Christian charity may be, do we need quite so many Christmas Carols every year? Joyously, this musical reworking is different. Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s adaptation still features Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and co, but Scrooge is a woman (Penny Layden, appropriately dour) and her backstory has been subtly yet movingly revised."
"Lloyd Malcolm brings out the ghostliness of Dickens’s story and her script contains genuine darkness, the drama full of frights and spookiness. Death and grief is explained to a family audience in an unflinching way. Happiness is not something that can be hoarded, Scrooge’s sister tells her on her deathbed, and it feels tragic."
"The play is thrillingly directed by Rosie Jones while Frankie Bradshaw’s set design is a beautifully fluid and transforming thing: it changes in swirls as the children manipulate the action."
"An irritatingly framed Christmas Carol succeeds in spite of its adaptation, not because of it"
"Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's plodding new version for the Rose Theatre disrupts the dramatic flow of Dickens's tale"
"This adaptation from Kingston’s Rose Theatre would still therefore make an enjoyable pantomime alternative for a family looking for their Christmas show, even if writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm seems to have done her level best to extinguish some of the magic."
"There is, then, a preoccupation here with making a Christmas classic “different”, which in fact makes it worse. A musical element, with original songs from Eamonn O’Dwyer, seems to have been added for similar ends. Quotidien lyrics (“In the streets of London [...] Everything is ragged, everything is crap”) and simplistic melodies mean they don’t quite hit the effective counterpoint-to-plot that is typically required for musicals to be a success."
"Laden makes a wonderfully stern Scrooge, anchoring the action with a fearful presence, rather than becoming laughably cantankerous. She steers the action to its joyful conclusion, filled with the charm of Dickens’s original. But the success here comes in spite of the adaptation, not because of it."
"Fresh, inspired take on Dickens’ seasonal classic"
"This new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ ubiquitous perennial is surely one of this year’s best festive offerings. With a whip-smart script by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Rosie Jones’ big-hearted, inventive production surrounds its five professional actors with 40 members of the Rose Youth Theatre, ranging in age from six to 20. This is very much an ensemble show and, with their energy, confidence and grasp of characterisation, these talented young people – some of them patently stars in the making – own it."
"Scrooge’s journey from sourpuss severity to grievous self-pity and, eventually, joyous self-discovery, is wonderfully well articulated by Layden. But what probably matters most here is the platform Lloyd Malcolm and Jones provide for the ideas and feelings of young people, and the recognition they are accorded as present – and future – agents of change."