A Christmas Carol (4 stars)

Dickens' festive spook story is given a compelling and creepy outing by Graham McLaren

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A Christmas Carol

Scrooge and Marley’s gloomy office. Dangerous cables loop across the ceiling, piles of dusty papers fill the walls. As we enter in twos and threes to a whooping, fussing welcome, Scrooge himself – a grizzled figure in shrunken tailcoat and slippers – shows us to our seats. With two walls of the specially built room for the audience, the rest of the intimate space is the stage.

Every inch is put to good use in the National Theatre of Scotland’s first ever festive show. Benny Young is a wonderfully gruff Scottish-accented Scrooge, tartly dispensing the carol singers and charity tin rattlers before supping his gruel and curling up on his bleak counting house floor. The spirits that invade his sleep are puppets, masterfully rendered by Gavin Glover, emerging from the wall, descending from the lampshade, staggering out of the cupboard.

The extreme creepiness of these life-sized mannequins, manipulated by the other four actors, is the main reason why this show is not suitable for small children. Marley’s ghost is a bundle of bandages in a suit, the ghost of Christmas Present a scrawny John Byrne figure in a long fur coat.

Director Graham McLaren whirls Scrooge through the mistakes of his past and the lessons of his future without over-sugaring the ending. Jon Beales’ eerie soundtrack, played live from a cubby hole in the corner, adds the final delightful shiver to an impressive piece of work.

Film City, Glasgow, until Sat 31 Dec.

A Christmas Carol - promotional trailer

A Christmas Carol

A spooky retelling of the classic Dickens tale from the National Theatre of Scotland. Recommended for everyone aged 8+.

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