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A Christmas Carol at the Rose Theatre Kingston

The best-kept secret in Kingston-upon-Thames is the Rose, an airy riverside theatre based on the design of the eponymous 16th-century venue where Shakespeare’s plays were first produced. It is an ideal setting for this boisterous new musical version of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic.

Killian Macardle in A Christmas Carol at Rose Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet.
Killian Macardle in A Christmas Carol at Rose Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet.

When the curtains open – metaphorically – we are in a ragged school where the children are bemoaning the meanness of their benefactor when, startlingly, they are interrupted by none other than Charles Dickens. Surprisingly, “Charlie” has magical powers and even more surprisingly so do some of the schoolchildren but these are strictly limited – time can be altered and ghosts can be created, but as becomes plain real change requires hard cash and political control.

The charismatic Elexi Walker is a Wonkaesque Dickens, and there is sterling support by Natasha Magigi and the Rose’s Young Company, in particular Lily Rowell who gives a confident and compelling performance and Luke Groarke, who mines every line for laughs. Under Dickens’ guidance, the children get to reimagine Christmas for the benefactor, who of course turns out to be Scrooge, played by Penny Layden. As well as demonstrating some fine physical comedy, Layden fleshes out the character’s humanity, as far as the script will allow her, and she works especially well with the four ghosts. These include Lizzie Winkler and Killian Macardle but the most memorable ghost is Christmas Past, played by an excellent Chloe Nichols, alternately cute and menacing, and the silent and terrifying Christmas Yet to Come seems to have been inspired by the supernatural stories of Montague Rhodes James.

There is much to like about this show, especially if one is under 10, but the script is something of a mess and when one character muses if “any of this is working” one seems to be hearing the voice of the playwright as well.

3 Star Review

Review by Louis Mazzini

Enjoy some festive magic with a dose of time travel as the beloved Rose Christmas show returns. From Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, writer of the Olivier Award-winning Emilia, comes a brand-new retelling of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic.

It’s a cold Christmas Eve on the snowy streets of Victorian London, and preparations for another meagre Christmas are well underway – but not for Ebenezer Scrooge. The cruellest, wealthiest woman in town; Scrooge hates charity, she hates carol singers, and most of all… she hates Christmas. Bah, humbug!

Join the children of the town and Charles Dickens, as they take Scrooge on a time-bending, enchanting journey of self-discovery to confront her past, present and future. Can Scrooge open her heart to undo years of misdeeds before it’s too late?

A Rose Original Production
2 December 2022 – 2 January 2023
By Charles Dickens
Adapted by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm
Music by Eamonn O’Dwyer
Directed by Rosie Jones

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