Theatre review: A Christmas Carol

Our theatre reviewer, Hannah Hobson, shares her thoughts on A Christmas Carol at Hull Truck Theatre.

The production of A Christmas Carol occupying Hull Truck’s main stage this festive period is the ideal balance of spooky and heart-warming. It is classic but innovative. A warming fable brought from Dickens’ London to Hull’s docks.

Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol is a fast-paced retelling which hits all the moments of the novella without ever feeling lethargic. It whips its players into the eye of a snowy storm, paying homage to the novel’s more tired moments while still imbuing them with new vigour. This is aided by Sameena Hussain’s direction, which winds the production like Scrooge’s pocket watch, so it ticks through all of his decades. Also notable are some true moments of stage magic which I won’t spoil here, except to say that making a story this well-adapted is a difficult feat which Hussain manages splendidly.

Leading the cast is Jack Lord as an eccentric and penitent Ebeneezer Scrooge, grounding the production with a sense of reality even amongst the storybook elements. This allowed the ensemble to truly shine. Each ghost of Past, Present and Future makes their own mark on the stage – Lisa Howard’s Christmas Present was my personal favourite, rollicking open the second act with all the cheer needed for the role. Adam Bassett’s Bob Cratchit was both joyful and nervous, grateful and put upon, providing the production’s heartbeat even in its bleaker moments. The company populate Scrooge’s world, flitting from character to character in order to make this Victorian Hull feel rich and inhabited. Jordan Castle and Cynthia Emeagi, for example, have a small moment as a husband and wife ruined by Scrooge who play the scene with such pathos that I was invested in their tale within moments.

One of the more talked about elements of this production is that it integrates British Sign Language almost entirely. Two of its actors, Adam Bassett and Emma Prendergast, are deaf – something which is an element of their characters without ever being specifically referred to within the text of the play. This production rightfully trusts its audience to not need the bulk of the BSL spoken in the show translating into spoken English. The interplay between the spoken and the signed is incredibly well-managed. A signal of what inclusivity can and should look like.

It is also worth noting that the set and costume design from Hayley Grindle is wonderfully evocative and, like Hussain’s staging, often provides new twists on old classics. Whether that’s a night cap replaced by a Santa hat or a set lit up with limelights amongst the Victorian fog. Josh Carr’s lighting design is also dazzlingly innovative, revelling in the full melodrama of the piece to full effect.

This is another stunning Christmas production from Hull Truck Theatre. It is well worth fitting into your Christmas schedule. As pertinent to 2022 as it was to its original audience in 1843, this is a play that speaks to the importance of humanity, charity and good will to all.

[Hannah Hobson – Theatre reviewer]