An Edinburgh Christmas Carol

Nov 26 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Timely

Royal Lyceum Theatre: Thurs 24 Nov – Sat 31 Dec 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is so much to commend in the return of An Edinburgh Christmas Carol to the Lyceum, where it runs through until December 31.

Back in 2019 the defiantly Scottish comic content of writer-director Tony Cownie’s adaptation of the evergreen Charles Dickens Christmas tale was what dominated. While undoubtedly crowd-pleasing, it came across as unbalanced, with the pathos of the original sidelined.

Stacey Mitchell as Tiny Tim, Crawford Logan as Ebenezer Scrooge and Hannah Low as Greyfriars Bobby in An Edinburgh Christmas Carol, 2022. Pic: Stuart Armitt

Perhaps the passing of time and the events of the last three years have mellowed us all, or it is just a smidgeon less frenetic and more measured this time round, but the revival (with many of the same cast) comes across as much more affecting.

The shifting of the story remains a little awkward. Although tonally apt – almost everything about Scrooge is recognisably Edinburgh – historically it is more inappropriate. Christmas Day was not a public holiday in Scotland until the 1950s; while the script addresses this on a number of occasions, the problem never really goes away.

There is, of course, the supposed inspiration for Scrooge being the misreading of a gravestone in Greyfriars Kirkyard. This is presumably the excuse for the inclusion here of Greyfriars Bobby. Represented by Simon Auton’s cheeky puppet, skilfully operated by Stacey Mitchell under Edie Edmundson’s direction, the wee doggie provides Christmas cuteness, but the two stories are an uneasy mix.

fictional associations

We should perhaps be grateful that we don’t get any more of the fictional associations with the kirkyard and have Harry Potter thrown in too.

While the extraneous events still hamper the storyline, and the comic business often works against the more sombre elements, it all seems to gel slightly better this time round.

Community Choir, Stacey Mitchell as Tiny Tim, Crawford Logan as Ebenezer Scrooge and Hannah Low as Greyfriars Bobby in An Edinburgh Christmas Carol, 2022. PIC: Stuart Armitt

Perhaps the cost of living crisis makes it all even more pertinent. Whatever, there does seem to be a more reflective feel to it now.

A lot of this is down to Crawford Logan’s Scrooge. Always an impressive performance, it now seems something close to definitive. The curmudgeonly aspects are frighteningly drawn, while the growing realisation of the error of his ways is done with impeccable timing.

There is real pathos, too, in Richard Conlon’s Rab Cratchit, with his interactions with the puppet Tiny Tim utterly heartbreaking. He also provides a chilling cameo of a sadistic schoolteacher whose impact is out of all proportion to its time on stage.

poignant moments

A suitably downbeat air also surfaces when Liam King’s young Ebenezer turns against his fiancee. Throughout, Cownie and the company are less afraid of giving the poignant moments their due.

All of this helps the original story hold its own against the tide of pantomime-tinged humour – to which Conlon and King, doubling furiously like the rest of the cast, contribute mightily.

Steven McNicoll in the 2019 production of An Edinburgh Christmas Carol. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

Similarly, Charlie West provides genuine laughter as a ridiculous party guest and a slapstick policeman, but perhaps his most impressive appearance is as Marley’s ghost, where the spookiness is paced just right.

The three other spirits – Lang Syne (Joanne McGuinness), Nouadays (Steven McNicoll) and Ayont (Taqi Nazeer) also provide a mix of the funny and the scary; McNicoll’s comedy nous being a joy to witness as always.

The charity collectors played by Nicola Roy and Belle Jones do still seem to be one comic turn too many, but since they are both so impressive elsewhere (Roy’s housekeeper Mrs Busybody is a particular highlight) they are easily forgiven.

The young performers, like the community choir of carol singers, strike exactly the right note. Neil Murray’s design, with parts of Edinburgh flying on and off at speed, remains a joy.

Which could be said of so much here. It is still very funny, but the profundity is dialled up a notch.

Running time 2 hours 10 minutes including one interval
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay St, EH9 3AX
Thursday 24 November – Saturday 31 December 2022
Evenings: Wed-Sat (not 31 Nov, 24, 25, 31 Dec) at 7.00 pm, Sun 4, 11, 18 Dec at 6.00 pm, Tues 27 Dec 6.00 pm;
Matinees: Sats 26 Nov, 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 Dec and Fri 23, Mon 26, Wed 28, Thu 29, Fri 30 Dec at 2.00 pm; Sun 4, 11, 18 Dec, Tue 27 Dec at 1.00 pm

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