The past few years have been difficult, since the glory days at the venue faded under the weight of administration.
But early in 2015 Paul Jepson was appointed artistic director, with a vision of returning the theatre to its traditional status as a producing house. The first (and massive) step was the invitation to Devon-based Creative Cow to put on this year’s Christmas show, and so a wonderful retelling of Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol in on stage until 3rd January.
Most of us have seen versions, either on film, as a musical or (as in the current very funny Living Spit version) a comedy. But here Katherine Senior has looked again at the original and incorporated much of the Victorian language and atmosphere to tell the story of the lonely old miser who saw the error of his ways just in time.
Directed by the company’s co-founder Amanda Knott with her usual eye and ear for subtle nuance and theatrical spectacle, this is a show for almost all the family, full of action and colour and pathos and laughter and fun. Musician Jamie Huddlestone directed the company and their teams of young actors to provide some of the most vigourous and spirited singing on the Christmas show circuit this year, and all credit to them all.
Following the lead of the original, Creative Cow’s adaptation is divided into five staves, as the audience follows Ebenezer Scrooge from his grudging and miserly dismissal of Christmas goodwill through a haunted night to his rediscovery of the joy of his youth.
Derek Frood, familiar to many in the audience from his years of work with Theatre Alibi, is an absolutely mesmerising Scrooge, his sonorous voice and menacing scowls filling the stage. All the more impressive is transformation, which he carries off with agile and heartwarming skill.
Edward Ferrow returns to Creative Cow in the multiple roles of Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and more, with George Jennings as the loveable young Eb, nephew Fred, etc, and Katherine Senior as Fanny, Mrs Cratchit, Mrs Fezziwig, Belle and others, Sean Aydon in a number of widely varied roles and Darren Lake as a mercurial Spirit of Christmas Present and a despairing charity collector.
They are ably supported by two teams of nine young actors whose contribution makes this adaptation special.
It is atmospherically staged in a way that gives just enough emphasis to each scene but whirls the audience through a kaleidoscope of emotions and dreamscapes into the heart of the story.
Images by Farrows Creative