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review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL The Shaw Theatre, Euston

PUBLISHED: 11:55 04 January 2007 | UPDATED: 10:30 07 September 2010

Three star rating. Charles Dickens festive tale spans many genres. On the one hand, it is a morality tale and a piece of social commentary, charting miserly Scrooge s journey to enlightenment. On the other, it is a ghost st

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

The Shaw Theatre, Euston

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Charles Dickens' festive tale spans many genres. On the one hand, it is a morality tale and a piece of social commentary, charting miserly Scrooge's journey to enlightenment.

On the other, it is a ghost story, full of spooky encounters and steeped in the message that the past cannot be escaped.

What it is not, generally speaking, is a puppet show. Yet that is exactly how director and adaptor Chris Pickles approaches the classic. A varied bunch of puppets - from life-size papier mache creatures to two-dimensional bits of floating scenery, all bring the story to life.

Tiny Tim is particularly poignant as the blank-faced puppet whose disembodied voice forever asks when he'll grow big.

The production also boasts eight active actors. Dermot Canavan is a delight as Fezziwig, while Michael Rouse's Scrooge captures just the right grouchy bathos of a man who knows he's done wrong but hates to admit it.

The company work well as an ensemble, boosting their fresh interpretation in a production that is largely faithful to the original text.

Pickles is helped by Paul Knight's songs and Maureen Freedman's very pretty design, suggesting that the whole drama leapt fully-fledged from the beautiful illustrations Dickens ensured accompanied the story's first publication.

Not all of the songs further the action, with some of the scenes sprawling into sentimentality. But the promise of redemption shines through.

Scrooge's meetings with ghosts from his past, present and future do, as Dickens hoped, deliver "a sledge-hammer blow on behalf of the poor man's child".

Until January 12.

Helena Thompson

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