If there is anything worse than someone not opening up to the joys of Christmas, it’s someone so set on jolliness that they think everyone should enjoy Christmas their way. That someone is Scrooge’s niece Carole.
The show opens with a tussle between narrators over whether the adaptation should remain true to the gloomy high-minded 1861 text, or be souped-up into light entertainment fitting for
But within minutes the plot is hijacked by the appearance of not one, but three varieties of Christmas ghost: The Ghosts of Christmas; the Ghosts of Holidays and the villainous Ghosts of Xmas. With some impeccable comic timing and buffoonery - and a dash of magic, a Christmas Carol is turned on its head. Our narrators, hapless and bemused, can only wittily observe along with us, as the story seems to run away of its own volition.
Parodying Dickens and poking fun at itself on the way, A Christmas Carole turns Carole and her overpowering jolliness into the character in need of correction. Convinced that by “working harder” she can “make sure that everybody enjoys Christmas”, she uses her influence to force Bob Cratchit to spend Christmas at Scrooge’s reluctantly given office party. The Cratchit children, thus unknowingly dealt a cruel blow, invokes The Ghost of Holidays Past. Between dressing downs they take Carole on a journey through Scrooge’s life, on a mission to help her become ‘less annoying’.
The glamorous and exciting Ghosts of Xmas are not just “Christmas abbreviated,” but devilish, and set on foiling the Cratchit children’s plan to get Bob Cratchit home for Christmas. With trickery, spells and by sowing chaos, they almost have everybody forgetting about Christmas altogether.
The rivalries of love vs duty; order vs chaos, and Christmas hell vs Christmas heaven ends with a rap battle where the burlesque Ghost of Christmases past and her henchmen are defeated.
Tiny Tim and his Cratchit siblings' bubbling Christmas enthusiasm and brave good sense, conjure, with great humour, the fragile creatures that the moral tale is all about.
As events unfold the agony of their separation from Bob and Emily Cratchit is prolonged by poor management at Ghost HQ. When the battle is won, Scrooge can’t wait to right some wrongs. He starts by becoming a force for progress in the ghoulish corridors of power, demanding holiday rights for ghosts exhausted by thousands of years teaching people lessons.
The 22-plus-strong cast of characters is full of delightful twists. A French bohemian ghost is so drôle, and sweetest demure Tiny Tim is probably the tallest member of the troupe.
The OULES production of Christmas Carole is seriously committed to light-heartedness. The jibes are gentle and the unruliness of audience participation is resisted in exchange for some hard-hitting laffs. Launching from the text with the vigour, hilarity at the core of Dickens’ tale is not lost, but added to.
Proceeds from this production will be donated to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service and Homeless Oxfordshire.