Tag Archives: Rose Revitt

Silence – Donmar Warehouse

Verbatim theatre can be extremely powerful, its cumulative anthology approach creating the broadest picture of an issue or the impact of an event in the affecting words of those who lived through it that show the widespread political, socio-economic and cultural implications across multiple communities, countries and eras. But it can also be difficult to stage in ways that effectively capture the full force of those original testimonies, giving them the individual space that each experience demands while also meeting a dramatic quality that theatre embodies. Sonali Bhattacharyya (who wrote Chasing Hares at the Young Vic), Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Ishy Din and Alexandra Wood’s new play Silence, premiering at the Donmar Warehouse, tries to navigate this dilemma in its exploration of Indian Partition and the long silence from those who were there.

Verbatim theatre productions usually go in one of two directions; in the first, the writer creates a strong narrative frame which semi-fictionalises the circumstances or the events it covers, using oral history interviews and conversations with participants to feed into the dialogue and the creation of specific scenarios that may compress, reflect or distill the experience of multiple people into a single character or sequence. This is often how the National Theatre approaches a verbatim show like Francesca Martinez’s All of Us, telling a story but using original words as evidence like a historian would to support the broader case being made for action, change or greater understanding.

An alternative outlet for verbatim theatre is the character-based structure that tells whole stories in a series of chapters dedicated to different individuals who give their perspective on events. It doesn’t take single phrases or paragraphs out of their original context and merge them together, but presents one wholesale experience at a time to an audience. This approach – which is the one taken by Silence – largely leaves the audience to draw its own conclusions based on the information presented across the different voices, building a picture of multiple effects, themes and consequences that create a muddier picture of everyday life than perhaps offered by the more structured approach to verbatim theatre. It is one that makes room for the complexities and contradictions of humanity and of individual behaviour and it, arguably, more accurately reflects the lived experience. But there is a theatrical cost in terms of presentational variety and dramatic drive across rather than within these pieces.

Silence includes multiple fascinating, shocking and terrible stories within its 105-minute running time. Based on Kavita Puri’s book Bhattacharyya, Kaur Bhatti, Din and Wood put a Puri figure at the centre of the drama as a writer looking to collect stories about the effect of Indian Partition on her now UK-based community of Indian immigrants and their descendants. Cast in journalistic mode, the protagonist is looking to write about the thin white line the British drew and its long-lasting effects, so the audience is shown the process of tracking down willing representatives from the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities in India in 1947 and the series of interviews that take place in which the interviewer is a largely wordless observer of another life – her silence in the moment of retelling mirroring their long refusal to speak about those painful years.

Starting with the bigger picture, Silence is ultimately an awareness exercise, its purpose is to give voice to the effects and problems generated by Partition that have shaped individual lives, the diaspora of Indian peoples around the world as well as being the basis for modern and contentious division between India and Pakistan. It is not an overtly political play in that it isn’t seeking to affect change or to champion a specific policy that will improve the here and now, and while it does have many political dimensions, not least in highlighting the ongoing consequences of empire, for better or for worse, Silence tries to look beyond the national decision-making and process of Partition to focus on micro level events in the lives of everyday citizens. In doing so, it argues for a common understanding that Partition marked a sea change in multiple contexts, not just in the overhasty British withdrawal from India but that the ill-conceived and poorly implemented process had painful family and neighbourly implications that changed everyone.

Bhattacharyya, Kaur Bhatti, Din and Wood use an openly verbatim structure, in which their central character essentially ‘collects’ the reminiscences of others in order to write a book about the effects of Partition on India communities in the UK. The dramatic driver is her dismissive father who maintains his own silence about the events of 1947 and its immediate aftermath which, as the writers provide further context through other recollections, builds eventually to this man’s story and a greater understanding for descendant generations. In between, the protagonist is a shadowy figure, sitting in recess, often to the side of the stage, as her interlocutor talks without interruption and director Abdul Shayek conjures up their different perspectives on this divisive event.

And there is much to learn about the deep complexity of this period that, as Silence argues, suddenly and crudely drew a line between two countries and several religions that had existed in relative harmony before. There are semi-hopeful stories of neighbours shielding each other from violence, of Romeo and Juliet-like couples with different forms of worship who fled together and built a life, and of individuals coming to realise later how much more they had in common than divided them. So while hindsight is a wonderful thing and it may have taken decades to finally reach that conclusion, Silence does explore the opportunity to grow and understand beyond the immediacy of Partition.

But largely, Bhattacharyya, Kaur Bhatti, Din and Wood’s contributors paint a sorry picture of mobs hounding difference out of their neighbourhoods, of deliberate tit-for-tat desecration of religious spaces, of hundreds of desperate refugees crowded on trains and forced into destitution by the occupation of their land, the scale and brutality of the displacement caused by Britain’s “white line” astounding. These experiences are given extra edges by the inclusion of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu voices all reporting similar atrocities committed against them by a newly formed ‘other’ or ‘enemy’, while the rape and torture of women as well as the killing of children is a sadly inevitable outcome of this new form of warfare. Hearing these testimonies from workers and mayors, mothers and administrative assistants to the last Viceroy, even white men born and raised in India, is powerful, almost overwhelmingly so in what proves to be the strongest element of Silence but also its limitation as a theatrical piece.

The ways in which these stories are presented on stage are often too similar. Largely, the speaker sits on the same side of the stage and recounts their story uninterrupted. These conversations replicated how Puri heard them in multiple living rooms across the country, so designer Rose Revitt offers different arrangements of furniture to convey these place changes, yet still the story is delivered as one person sitting down and speaking for 20-minutes. Cumulatively, there is a power in that, in hearing so many tales that build a broader impression of Partition, but it makes the overarching drama too episodic and creates too many peaks and troughs as one story dramatically ends and another begins, making it hard for the audience to understand the pace of the show and how an overall conclusion will emerge.

Director Shayek does some very interesting and atmospheric things with backdrops and projected photographs, telling one story entirely in silhouetted movement, backlit behind a curtain as another actor mimes on the main stage. Another uses Elena Pena’s sound effects and soft orange lighting by Ciaran Cunningham to generate an immersive impression of India at night, a romantic memory of children playing harmoniously together or wistfully watching the packed trains speed by on their way to some exciting destination years before. But the show does take on a Talking Heads quality, a slightly repetitive narrator-style, delivering a tale straight on without fully acknowledging and taking advantage of the three-sided audience present at the Donmar (a failing also notable in Force Majeure).

Bhattacharyya, Kaur Bhatti, Din and Wood’s play eventually builds to a pathos-filled conclusion that has darker undertones, looking at the shame of collaboration, the misdirection of youth and considering alternative reasons for the long held silence – shame. For the journalist lead character it is a moment of revelation and understanding that moves her deeply but there is greater potential here for impact than the current draft offers. While it is admirable to shy away from the dry ‘facts’ of the Partition, to step away from the official line and present an alternative experience, to give greater meaning to Silence, the audience does need some of that shape in order to understand Britain’s decision to withdraw at that moment, the reason for commuting their exit strategy to just 10 months and why drawing a random line in the sand creating two separate countries and 75-years of contention.

Bhattacharyya, Kaur Bhatti, Din and Wood are incredibly fair and balanced in the presentation of these stories, giving equal weight to different Indian communities, to those who were there and their heirs who felt the weight of their silence on another continent as well as to different religious perspectives. The writers seem equally open to the idea that the British were incompetent or thoughtless in their withdrawal and not necessarily malicious, even allowing one participant to rue their departure when the country is left in chaos. It never for a moment divests Britain of the responsibility for the human and political cost of Partition but it does grapple with the concept of a contemporary British-Indian identity in which Partition should have a greater centrality.

Performed by Renu Brindle, Sujaya Dasgupta, Bhasker Patel, Jay Saighal, Rehan Sheikh, Martin Turner, Somi De Souza, Anil Goutam and Nimmi Harasgama as the journalist, the actors take on multiple characters and lives within the different scenarios in what is a cleverly managed ensemble piece. But while there are so many voices represented in a play that explores the widespread impacts and effects of Indian Partition on modern Britain, it needs some exposition on how and why those things happened in the last days of the Raj which, in the long silence that followed, remain unspoken still.

Silence is at the Donmar Warehouse until 17 September with tickets from £10. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1 or Facebook Cultural Capital Theatre Blog.

Folk – Hampstead Theatre

Folk - Hampstead Theatre (by Robert Day)

Hampstead Theatre is first out of the gates once again in 2022 with its new piece Folk, a smart two hour story about composition and the appropriation of music by those wanting to capture a truly English sound. With its interest in identity, ownership, tradition and the ‘rules’ applied to written rather than oral forms, Nell Leyshon’s play, which aired on Radio 3 in 2021, now earns a fully staged run in the smaller downstairs space at the Hampstead Theatre, offering an insightful consideration of artistic integrity and music styles.

Plays about music tend to focus on two things – novelty of form brought about usually through the arrival of a particular or radical individual, and rivalry in which singers or bands compete with one another for Number 1s or top billing. Some like Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus do both, charting the disruptive effect of Mozart’s composition told through bitter rivalry with Salieri who tries to destroy his genius.

But most of the work about the creation and dissemination of songs tends to happen through musical theatre and largely in tales of twentieth-century American bands overcoming personal strife as they make their way from tour group to TV sensation. And shows like The Jersey Boys, The Drifter’s Girl, Sunny Afternoon and recent addition Get Up, Stand Up follow this trend. Folk, then, is a different kind of show altogether in not exploring the development of new songs or singers but in the presentation of a pre-existing collection of common melodies handed between the generations and connecting past and future through stories of individuals and landscapes.

Leyshon’s play has several dimensions; set in 1903, it looks at contrasts between rural communities and self-styled urban elites, between ordered, industrial forms and free, creative or instinctual styles as well as class, gender, economic and educational divides. Focused on just four characters, the action revolves around two glove-making sisters in Somerset recovering from the recent death of their mother and the men they encounter as different attitudes, opportunities and turn-of-the-century mores collide through the performance of and discussions about the appropriation of folk music.

Based on real people and to an extent real circumstances, Leyshon imagines the conversations between Cecil Sharp, a London-based teacher and composer, and Louie Hooper, a glovemaker turned parlour maid who is convinced to share the songs her mother taught her as Sharp looks to be the first person to capture England’s folk songs in printed form. Although it is staged as a dramatic narrative in two Acts, the play is filled with the very songs Sharp ensnared and there is a central debate about Sharpe’s actions and the extend to which he betrayed Louie and the people like her.

Did Sharp ‘steal’ their music and then sell it with his name on the cover or did Sharp play a more positive role in capturing what he describes in the play as a ‘dying’ form, threatened by industrialisation and the urbanisation of manual occupations? So through the conversations with Louie, Leyshon is asking some quite challenging questions about the imposition of socially-engineered rules for music which becomes a scientific need to record, analyse and distribute that clashes with the more Romantic notions of free, evolving creativity.

The provenance of the folk songs that Sharp hears in the play becomes fiercely contested. To Louie, suffering from a deep and abiding grief for a lost parent, these are the last remnants of the mother who taught them to her and although she has the freedom to change them, Louie possessively thinks of them as her family’s songs. And in them, Leyshon argues, are layers of meaning and geographical specificity that Sharp’s reductive versions can never fully appreciate.

When Louie speaks about the songs as she performs them, they not only hold a personal connection to the home she lives in and the singing that the Hooper family have always done to pass the hours as they work, but they represent a linguistic and pastoral experience that is very much a living thing. In one especially powerful moment, Louie charts the progress of a young woman through several specific fields in the local area, describing the length of the verse and repetition of phrases based on the size of the various meadows and the inclination of the land. What Leyshon creates in these exchanges is a tangible sense of the music’s physicality as well as its energy and shape that can only be truly recited by those who understand and have inherited its meaning.

It leaves Sharp’s role in a complex position – although not an entirely unsympathetic one. While certain of himself and his own skill with musical notation and composition, Leyshon creates this warmer feeling to Sharp, like a man aimlessly running around with a butterfly net trying to pin down an intangible and brilliantly-coloured creature that he cannot begin to understand but is equally incapable of possessing as it wriggles and shifts its way to freedom.

Sharp consequently represents a middle-class desire for order, trying to impose orchestral music regulation by writing folk songs as a series of notes and expressions on a sheet to be played. This is a position that he sticks to, insisting that he has done a greater good in publishing the songs while muddied by the claims of his own ego and desire to be publicly recognised among his peers. How this can be viewed as a betrayal of the people who shared songs with him through Sharp’s failure to grasp the meaning of the songs he published and without crediting their authors is nicely balanced with Sharp’s enthusiasm for the music, his genuine desire to record it for posterity and, crucially, his initial willingness to learn from Louie, adapting his record with her advice.

What emerges in the early part of Folk is a reverse Henry Higgins scenario as Sharp receives instruction from the young working class woman who spends many hours trying to teach him about these stories. So while Sharp brings a metropolitan sophistication to Somerset with his greater literacy, wider knowledge of orchestral composers and an ability to read and write musical score, it is Louie who grows into a position of power and authority that belies their class divide and the educational barriers between them.

And the play develops a strand that explores the rigid learning from which Sharp seems unable to escape compared with the instinctual knowledge of life, nature and meaning that Louie exemplifies. That Leyshon balances these theoretical debates about the form and function of music with a subplot about the pressure placed on the sisters and a local man to deliver their hand-sewn gloves to targets as their traditional ways of working are being squeezed by the presence of a local factory and its soulless mass production adds to the reality of Folk, giving its Somerset characters a grounding in a lifestyle on the cusp of change with the last group of families whose livelihoods are all but lost to ‘progress’.

That London, by extension, is never seen and only represented by the personality of Sharp or referred to in his Second Act return makes it seem like a mythical place of concerts and parties with music critics and audiences that has very little to do with real life. Leyshon is creating a feeling that the reality of this music rests not in books and cultural gatherings but in the people whose lives both appear in the songs and continue to provide material for future verses. Thereby, Leyshon leaves her audience with the thought that Sharp may not have been entirely in the wrong, although his methods were shoddy, but even having a printed book from 1903 cannot begin to capture the depth, range and meaning of a form of music that defies simplification and through its oral tradition continues to be free.

Mariam Haque as Louie grows in stature as the story unfolds, particularly as she starts to trust her superior understanding of the songs, increasingly emboldened by her certainty about how they should be performed, heard and shared. Leyshon provides just enough backstory for Haque to draw on as the play opens on a young woman whose damaged leg has meant she was more at home with her mother, allowing Louie to become the guardian of these songs. The grief and agoraphobia Haque projects are manifested as frustration; first unwilling to engage with those around her until the music itself draws her out, ready to carry the traditions and honour her mother’s legacy. Haque explores this with considerable empathy for Louie as she becomes more confident in her own voice and her strength of character emerges.

By contrast, Simon Robson’s Cecil Sharp is a city creature expressed in his formal manner and civilised forms of address as well as a consuming acceptance of the established modes of musical expression. There is a touch of superiority in Robson’s Sharp, a belief that Louie should be impressed by his refinement and the seriousness with which he takes her music. His mistake is to assume that her people would want the same things as him, that a publication and acclaim could be the ultimate goal of Louie’s life as well as his. Yet, Robson doesn’t make Sharp a two-dimensional villain and he is both chastised by and amazed by Louie, willing to listen to her and absorb the lessons, sometimes all too aware of his inferiority of subject and personality which detracts from his less worthy qualities, giving the drama its drive.

The supporting storyline between Sasha Frost’s Lucy and Ben Allen’s John is less well developed however, although there are some interesting themes about working class aspiration, the reluctance to take jobs in the local factories and marital limitations in small communities. It is a strand that could be expanded to consider what the future may have in store for the sisters once the menfolk are gone – just as Sharp left these characters behind, so do we.

Directed by Roxana Silbert with a very smart design by Rose Revitt, merging a plain cottage backdrop with beautiful wallpaper that speaks to the content of the songs as well as charmingly sanitised city-based perceptions of the countryside, Folk packs of lot of meaning into its two hour running time. A rare play about music that eschews rivalry and fame for meaning and provenance, Folk has much to say about songs that may speak to a rural experience of England that belongs to the land and its people but can never truly be contained.

Folk is at the Hampstead Theatre until 5 February with tickets from £10. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1 or Facebook Cultural Capital Theatre Blog

A Christmas Carol – Bridge Theatre

A Christmas Carol - Bridge Theatre (by Manuel Harlan)

As the curtain rises on Act Three of this year’s theatre story – and as we know anything that has two intervals can only be a long and complex saga – one story will dominate the next few weeks, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol with three new productions opening in the West End alone. Whatever type of Scrooge you’re after, there’ll be a version for you; the Old Vic have their (now) annual tale of joyous redemption performed as part of their In Camera series with Andrew Lincoln making a surprise return to the stage; the Dominion premieres a musical version with Brian Conley and, first, the Bridge Theatre puts Simon Russel Beale in the title role in an atmospheric semi-narrated version that sparkles with ghostly Christmas chill.

After the Nativity, A Christmas Carol is probably the greatest and best known Christmas story, produced most years with everyone from Albert Finney to Michael Caine, Bill Murray to Alastair Sim, Paterson Joseph and Guy Pearce in the title role of Ebenezer Scrooge. There have been films, mini-series and plays, there have been musical and dance versions, there has been social realism, comedy and spookiness, narrative and even Muppets so a fresh perspective on Dickens is far from straightforward. Yet, the Bridge Theatre has found one.

Drawing heavily on the original novella, Dickens is credited as the writer and meaningfully so for the words described to explain plot points and character descriptions are taken directly from his pages and are used to shape this 90-minute play. Adapted and directed by Nicholas Hytner, this version of A Christmas Carol is distinguished by using three performers who share the narrative duties and play all of the roles, creating scenarios with a minimal collection of props designed to feel like a well-prepared scratch performance, as though scenes are emerging spontaneously before us.

By leaning so heavily on the original text rather than paraphrasing or embellishing for modern audiences, the more atmospheric aspects of Dickens’s writing are released, asking the audience to use their imagination and the writer’s evocative language to picture the various aspects of the story whether the grimly real dudgeon of Scrooge’s office, the urban poverty of London’s streets or the more magical and supernatural aspects of the unfolding drama. Prompted by the actors with voice, accessories and lighting effects, there is a sense of confederacy between the storytellers and the viewer, meeting one another halfway between audio drama and a full-blown realist production.

And that makes it all the more effective and affecting, borrowing the novelists’ tricks and abilities to transport a reader both through time and space as well as into a character’s emotional interior experience and using the possibilities of live theatre to create a genuine connection with this perhaps over-familiar story arc. There are so many versions of A Christmas Carol this year alone but that brings with it several kinds of burden, not only the comparison with predecessors and peer productions but the heavier weight of audience expectation and anticipation caused by over-familiarity with the text.

To be fully immersed in a story audiences already know well is a very difficult thing for theatremakers to achieve. With plays and stories adapted frequently, sometimes they can feel like a box ticking exercise against which the viewer measures the progress of the play and how much more there is yet to come. Watching a production of Hamlet for example might use it’s key milestone – the ‘To be or not to be’ speech, the arrival of the Players, the gravedigger and the fencing match – as anticipatory markers in which the act of waiting for them is almost a failure of the production to grip the audience and make the events of the play feel impulsive and alive with possibility.

The same notion applies to A Christmas Carol, most people in the room know what’s coming and whether the show lasts 90-minutes or three hours, the shape, trajectory and outcome of this tale is already fixed in the collective mind of the room before it begins. What the Bridge Theatre manage so successfully in this new production is to work with that to draw the audience into the collective act of creation using Dickens’s evocative prose as the basis for suspending our disbelief and jointly imagining the scenarios sparsely presented on stage, by drawing-out Scrooge’s transformatory arc more distinctly and much earlier than other versions.

The result is a more emotive experience, as Scrooge’s regret begins with the Ghost of Christmas Past and grows through the remaining visitations. In Hytner’s adaptation, Scrooge himself becomes a more sympathetic figure as the effects of his chilly boarding school childhood and growth into a unscrupulous young businessmen are intriguingly countered by the sense of personal loss that Scrooge experiences as he revisits the scenes of his past. Not just the path that took him away from the possibility of love and ordinary family life in adulthood but, crucially, we see the loss of a sense of fun, enjoyment and connection to other people that the elder Scrooge feels more keenly as he remembers the lightness of dancing at Fezziwig’s Christmas party and the relationship with his beloved sister. The point of this story comes then, not merely from making Scrooge a more charitable figure, but reconnecting him to the man he once was and could have been.

Hytner uses a tripartite narrative structure sharing storytelling duties evenly between actors Simon Russell Beale, Patsy Ferran and Eben Figueiredo who weave seamlessly between the figure of omniscient author overseeing and controlling events and the various Dickensian creations they inhabit along the way. The less-is-more approach offers just enough visual intimation to successfully move the show between its various locations and time periods while itself remaining fairly timeless in its setting. One of the productions smartest achievements is to feel both modern and Victorian at the same time using costume, props and video projection to honour the circumstances of the original story while still keeping more than a foot in contemporary style, a feat designer Rose Revitt achieves with a subtle brilliance that so absorbed in the story the audience barely registers.

Revitt has created a stacked tower of lock boxes, desks, chests and safes that form a pile in the centre of the stage – a nod perhaps to Bunny Christie’s design for Ink who also receives a credit here as Season Framework Designer – which emphasises the money and work themes that open the play. It also gives height and variation to the staging, allowing the three performers to move around the structure to create different scenes, store props and physically drag chests around the forestage to create seating areas, beds and family gatherings that have a visual harmony and connection within the unfolding tale.

This is one of the most haunting versions of A Christmas Carol you are likely to see with plenty of smoke effects to create the smoggy London streets as well as the mystical smoke of ghostly arrivals. The vivid creation of atmosphere is enhanced by Jon Clark’s meaningful lighting design that does much to alter the mood of the piece as Scrooge’s experience takes in the cold and grim reality of the everyday, the genuine fear and intimidating presence of Jacob Marley and his spectral companions that frighten Scrooge into compliance along with the more wistful flights of memory and imagination that help the story to travel between past and future. Clark employs lots of contrasting filters from warm purples, reds and greens in the very Christmassy and celebratory sections to the stark white and grey intensity of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and Scrooge’s doom-laden and intimidating future.

Hytner’s production and the work of the design team exactly capture those almost extreme variations in Dickens’s writing from the spooky ghost story opening that has a genuine chill here to the simplicity and welcome of the Cratchit household and the warmth of Fezziwig’s celebartion and Fred’s Christmas Day party games. Visually the unfolding narrative holds together strongly and Hytner manages those opposite moods of darkness, misery and foreboding with the brightness and lightheartedness of Christmas spirit extremely well and entirely in the service of Scrooge as a character developing from miser to benefactor, and personally rediscovering his subdued humanity.

Sharing the storytelling duties between the three actors creates considerable flexibility in the management of the show, freeing the cast to also adopt the numerous smaller roles as well as creating a dynamism within the production as sound and intonation freely moves around the stage. But what we do have is character consistency, so the actor assuming one of the roles retains it throughout – regardless of gender or age – bringing greater clarity to the multi-narrator device.

Simon Russell Beale tackles his second Scrooge of the season, having voiced the lead in Russell Maliphant’s dance film version which opened on the same weekend. Delivered from the formality and intensity of his Shakespearean persona, Russell Beale has a fantastic time in this production playing excitable maiden aunts, venal shopkeepers and enthused party-goers, all with a quick change of voice and body language or rearrangement of clothing. But it is this more sorrowful Scrooge that stands out, making far earlier and more explicit connections between his current lifestyle and the more human traits of his youth than other versions. Russell Beale offers genuine fear of each of the spirits and no sense of complacency about their similarly unfolding purpose, but primarily a feeling that the visions they reveal and their underlying lessons hit home immediately, that this Scrooge had a heart and the capacity to feel regret, compassion and most especially shame all along.

With Russell Beale shouldering the central role, Ferran and Figueiredo share most of the remaining duties as the four ghosts and Scrooge’s primary acquaintances. They often work in partnership as Mr and Mrs Cratchit, Fred and Clara or the future couple delighted by fiscal relief of the miser’s death, and in each they carefully match their accents to create fast and effective character portraits. Ferran’s talents are perhaps a little under-utilised given her performances in 15 Heroines, Three Sisters and, of course, Summer and Smoke, and there is far less for her to get to grips with here though she is excellent throughout.

To be on stage with actors as reputed as Russell Beale and Ferran and to outshine them both is no mean feat, but it is Figueiredo whose performance you will remember from this production and the absolute joy of watching a selection of wonderful comic characters each with a unique accent. Figueiredo was excellent as Christian in Jamie Lloyd’s Cyrano de Bergerac a year ago and he brings the same energy and a versatility to A Christmas Carol leaping between characters and vocal styles with little more than a breath at times, bringing out the hilarity and joviality of Fezziwig, the benevolent wisdom of the Ghost of Christmas Present, the hangdog gravity of Jacob Marley and the life loving openness and acceptance of Fred, each as distinct and memorable as the one before. And with a variety of UK and international accents this production gives a real feeling for the capital city, then as now, as a multicultural melting pot. Figueiredo may be the least widely known member of this cast but his presence is the bridge between the other two that brings Hytner’s production to vivid life.

Filled with a real love of Dickens’s words as well as his characters the Bridge Theatre has found a fresh and exciting way to tell this familiar tale and give Scrooge’s redemption arc a renewed emphasis. Full of scares and laden with Christmas spirit, there may be competitive versions of the tale available this month but this celebration of storytelling is full of festive magic.

A Christmas Carol runs at the Bridge Theatre until 16 January with tickets from £15. Follow this blog on Twitter @culturalcap1 or Facebook Cultural Capital Theatre Blog.

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