Reviews Dublin Published 16 December 2016

Review: A Christmas Carol at The Ark, Dublin

The Ark ⋄ 10th December 2016 - 6th January 2017

A snow-crisp adaptation: Chris McCormack reviews the Christmas offering at the children’s theatre in Dublin.

Chris McCormack
A Christmas Carol at The Ark in Dublin.

A Christmas Carol at The Ark in Dublin.

In print since 1843, Charles Dickens’s novella about Ebenezer Scrooge and his three ghostly callers on Christmas Eve has yet to lose its appeal. Neither has its lesson about charity at Christmas (his “Carol philosophy”), now handed down though the generations.

Bryan Burroughs and Aaron Monaghan’s snow-crisp adaptation at children’s theatre The Ark, begins with a thoughtful reminder. At the pre-show announcement the adults are warned not to get upset during the darker moments; after all, we’re seeing an illusion. The younger camp, on the other hand, knows this is for them (it always has been – written, as it was, out of concern for child miners in the 19th century).

Ian Lloyd Anderson (cast spectacularly against type) plays the miser Scrooge bristled but cool, stretching out hands as if spinning records. Aided only by Burroughs and one hell of a hat collection, he bears his teeth at different visitors: a nephew inviting him to dinner, a fundraiser searching for donations, and an overworked employee – begrudged for taking Christmas Day off.

There is clear economy in director Maisie Lee’s brisk staging, but Burroughs’s crystal-cut physicality and rigorous lighting by Sarah Jane Shiels and Franco Bistoni make magic. The three ghosts arrive, nicely evoked in the manipulation of fabrics, and classic time starts to unwind – Past, Present and Future.

While there are delights to be had (Tiny Tim, demanding adoration in puppet form), there is also a nice judgement of the tale’s sadness. When Scrooge’s fiancée announces her leave of him, for instance, it could be a gag for Burroughs to face us as he dons a woman’s hat. Instead, he remains solemnly upstage, back to the audience, making both Scrooge and us feel the distance.

In fact, there aren’t many eruptions of laughter; the young audience seem almost too engaged to break silence. The children’s poverty of Dickens’s era, for the most part, is behind us but an absorbing production like this can also remind us of a different deprivation for young audiences: the theatre made for them is widely underfunded and often ignored by criticism. Bah! Humbug!

After this fresh production (and a surprise gift by a generous sponsor) they won’t go hungry for the theatrical arts just yet. Judging by Anderson’s Scrooge, who sweetly chokes up on receiving a Christmas present, philanthropy has its rewards. And Dickens knew well that there’s a simple choice to be made between time-wasted and time well spent.

A Christmas Carol is on at The Ark in Dublin until 6th January 2017. Click here for more details.

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Chris McCormack is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Review: A Christmas Carol at The Ark, Dublin Show Info


Produced by The Ark

Directed by Maisie Lee

Written by Bryan Burroughs and Aaron Monaghan, from the story by Charles Dickens

Cast includes Ian Lloyd Anderson, Bryan Burroughs

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