An Edinburgh Christmas Carol: 'A very atmospheric and entertaining production by a skilled and passionate cast and crew'
- The List
- 12 December 2019
All photos taken by the young critics
Young critics Sofia Alcock, Rose Crook, Maia Barber, Ellie Illingworth, Charlotte Brady and Sienna Barron give their thoughts on the Lyceum's festive show
As part of a new initiative designed to empower women and girls in the field of theatre journalism, Stellar Quines and North Edinburgh charity SHE Scotland recently invited a group of young women to attend the Lyceum's Christmas show An Edinburgh Christmas Carol. As well as seeing the show, Sofia Alcock, Rose Crook, Maia Barber, Ellie Illingworth, Charlotte Brady and Sienna Barron were given backstage access to meet team behind the theatre's festive production. Read on to find out what the young critics spoke to the cast about and what they thought of the show.
A Christmas Carol but with an Edinburgh twist, the Christmas classic is given a new lease on life as a joyful tale of self-discovery for all the family. Happiness, hope and Christmas spirit run riot with a few flurries of snow as you journey through Victorian Edinburgh, spotting incredible special effects, larger-than-life characters and a very familiar dog along the way. We adored the Christmas Spirits, with their exuberant personalities and dazzling costumes.
We talked to some of the cast and crew from the Lyceum about the production, as well as their work in theatre to find out more.
How many months have you been working on the show?
Nicola Roy (Mrs Busybody / Mrs Bigchin / Belle / Rose): About four weeks, or at least, four weeks out there and a week with all of the set and costumes in here.
Eva Traynor (Emma / Mary Crachit / Lang Syne): We did about 63 hours of tech, it's a week where you lose sense of time and place!
Steven McNicoll (Fezziwig / Old Fergus / Nouadays / Collector): It's nice seeing it all come together, you know, we've been in that room in the rehearsal space across the road for so long, pretending everything and then you come here and you see it all.
What's the most fun part of production?
Steven McNicoll: There's always that bit, when you get your costumes on for the first time, and you get to wander about like 'check out my costume', which is the exact opposite to the last performance when you're like 'I hate this costume now'. But I also like it at this stage now where you come in twice a day, you do it, you enjoy it, you know it, you feel comfortable with it and you start to find all of these tiny little improvements.
Which character is the hardest to create?
Steven McNicoll: I think it depends on the writing, the worse the writing is, the harder it is to make a character. But this is so well written it's not been too hard.
Taqi Nazeer (Fred / Ayont): I find it quite difficult, I play a character with no head, so every night I'm sort of just winging it, I can see Crawford and I can see lights, but that's it. I'm kind of walking blind, so having to memorise the stage, and when the set is moving so that it doesn't fall on your head.
Crawford Logan (Ebenezer Scrooge): You know I have a plan to just push you off the edge of the stage one day!
Do the costumes help you create those characters? Do they reflect them?
Eva Traynor: Well the ghosts, they're quite interesting, because they're such extravagant costumes … to have it all come together, and to put it on … my costume weighs almost 2 stone, so there's all this stuff you don't know until you're actually wearing it and it changes. Sometimes the costume can give you things you didn't know.
Steven McNicoll: I think that it's about good designs too, because our designer Neil Murray has read the script and investigated it, and given a vision for what he thinks will work visually for each character, and again if it's badly designed you often think 'I'm going to be working against this thing', and that can be horrible, but with Neil's design you put it on and you think 'OF COURSE!'
Nicola Roy: He also always wants your costumes to be wearable … sometimes costumes can be so restrictive or heavy they're almost impossible to wear.
Grant O'Rourke (Charlie / Jacob Marley / Young Marley / Policeman / Businessman 2): And sometimes they make the doors so wee you can barely fit through them …
Taqi Nazeer: My character for example, Fred, he's a very jolly character so he's got vibrant colours, so Neil reflects the personality of the character in the costume.
Having to work with new people in a new place, do you find that quite difficult?
Nicola Roy: Well, some of us have worked together before, which is really nice because you come in and you instantly have a chemistry with those people. It's been a really lovely company.
Steven McNicoll: Most jobs we do, in Scotland, we know at least one person or a few people, and there's always one or two people we don't know so we all get to know each other.
Crawford Logan: And then you have to get on, because if you're sitting out there *points to the theatre seats* you can tell if people aren't getting along up here.
When you're working with the puppets, how do you make sure that your interactions with them seem real?
Steven McNicoll: There's a part, just before Bobby (one of the puppets) comes on, and Edie (the puppeteer) is waiting in the wings with him. And Edie has Bobby acting, actually in the wings, so that when we look at him, he's there, he's present.
That's something I was amazed by, how focused you were on the puppet.
Crawford Logan: That was actually a problem for us in rehearsals, originally Bobby came on much earlier, and one day the director stopped us and said 'no, no, we need Bobby to come on much later, because as soon as Bobby comes on the rest of you all go home.'
Were there any mistakes made in rehearsals?
Steven McNicoll: There was one show, maybe number five or six, in front of a school and I have a very quick change from a red beard into a grey beard, and I have to do it in pitch black, with help, and it got tangled up, and I ended up with just a massive tumour and my hair all a mess. I couldn't see anything. My whole face looked like a werewolf. But it was fine because no one could see me so I wasn't embarrassed!
Nicola Roy: I had one and it was in front of a school's audience, one of the last scenes. I wear a black cloak with a vest underneath, and I was trotting on and didn't realise it had started to open, by the time I started doing the shaking bit it was completely open! All the children were laughing.
What's one way you think theatre can impact people's lives?
Steven McNicoll: What a great question.
Taqi Nazeer: Great question!
Edie Edmundson (puppeteer: Tiny Tim / Bobby): I think theatre can start really good conversations, about subjects that we might not necessarily talk about in our day to day lives. For example, with A Christmas Carol, starting a conversation about the need to be kind to one another, and to be thoughtful, and just by seeing the show and engaging with it emotionally, you can then go away and have those conversations with other people. I think that's one way.
Nicola Roy: I think in the very least, it can be escapism for the audience, so even if that's all it is, I still think that's a really great thing.
Steven McNicoll: And this production in particular, it includes a lot of members of the local community: by them being in the choir, or even events like this where we get to talk to you and have a dialogue, we get to not just have the show on stage in isolation or a vacuum, but we get to have an ongoing conversation with one another as human beings.
It was a very atmospheric and entertaining production by a skilled and passionate cast and crew. It was funny, whimsical and would be suitable for a family night out. The set and props were all well used and simple but effective. The exceptional costumes really stood out against the traditional drab Victorian aesthetic, differing their traditional depictions.
The message the play shares, to be kind and to be generous, still stands today and the contrast of the greedy banker Scrooge with modern day capitalists connects the tale to modern audiences and politics.
Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 4 Jan 2020.