Twas the week before Christmas and all was still in the South London Theatre except the scratching of Bob Cratchit’s quill writing in Ebenezer Scrooge’s ledgers. This was Neil Bartlett’s adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Scrooge did not want his staff to enjoy one minute of Christmas cheer before they left his office on Christmas Eve. His team of clerks kept their spirits up with song while Ebenezer looked on without a smile. On a spartan stage the scene was set for a night of terror, writes Michael Holland.

A cast of just eight – along with sound and visual special effects – manage to create crowd scenes, multi-ghost hauntings, family gatherings  and parties replete with dance and song, as well as the intimate scenes of both horror and joy that are the light and shade of Charles Dickens’ most famous novel of greed and redemption; forgiving and change; guilt and repressed memories. Yes, there is sadness in A Christmas Carol but ultimately there is an ending of hope.

Other than Justin Bikram putting in a sterling performance on stage throughout as Scrooge, the rest of the cast work wonders playing everybody else, with each one standing out at some point or another in the play: Tom Melly as Marley’s ghost; Elena Markham’s singing; Ross McKenzie as Mr Fezziwig, Josiah Phoenix and Simon Gleisner in every role they played… All putting everything into making this a great production – But all had to up their game to compete with Tiny Tim who drew all the love and affection from the appreciative audience whenever he appeared. You could see how much fun the actors had with this and director Mark Ireson confirmed as much.

Personally, this is the best £12 I’ve spent on Christmas this year.

In keeping with Dickens seeking change for the poor, there was a collection for the local food bank after the show.

You can also text DINNER 5 to 70085 to donate £5 or DINNER 10 to donate £10.

The Old Fire Station, 2A Norwood High Street, London SE27 9NS until December 21st. Times: 8pm, 2.30pm weekend matinees. Admission: £12, £9. Phone: 020 3757 6111

http://www.southlondontheatre.co.uk

Photos: Jonathan Schick