Charles Dickens is often associated with Victorian London – but the author was also a frequent visitor to Edinburgh.
And it was here, according to legend, that he came across the name of Ebeneezer Scroggie, which inspired one of his most famous creations.
So it is not so much of a leap to relocate A Christmas Carol to the impoverished Old Town of Edinburgh – and to weave in the tale of Greyfriars Bobby.
In Tony Cownie’s adaptation, Greyfriars Bobby and Tiny Tim are best friends. Both are played by puppets – Bobby a gambolling messy terrier and Tiny Tim a miniature delicate cartoonish boy.
Christmas was outlawed in calvinist Edinburgh – but in this production the mischievous townspeople are always breaking the rules and breaking into song. Members of Edinburgh Community Choir supply a stream of carols – despite the disapproval of the authorities.
Neil Murray’s set recreates the cobbles and tenements of the Old Town, which can dissolve at any moment into supernatural visions of the past, the present and the future.
There are apparitions, there are ghosts and there is social deprivation – but An Edinburgh Christmas Carol always has a feeling of jollity waiting to break to the surface.
Steven McNicol manages to be both terrifying and cheery as a gargantuan Highland version of the ghost of Christmas present. And Richard Conlon as Rab Cratchit and Taqi Nazeer as the nephew both inhabit their characters with warmth and likeability.
Even miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge is played with such humanity by Crawford Logan that we are always optimistic that he will embrace his better nature.
As Scrooge confronts the ghosts and faces the horror of the past, the present and the future we are rooting for him to change. By showing how cruelty is rooted in suffering, Dickens shows the way for transformation.
Even the tiny children in the audience are gripped by the story. And the audience cheers with delight when Scrooge finally starts to celebrate his life, to stop obsessing about money and to think of ways to help others.
We are so lucky in Edinburgh to have the Lyceum Christmas shows, which have a tradition of presenting classic tales in a family friendly format.
And it’s not only for children. The finale is so joyous, so exuberant and so emotionally satisfying it genuinely brings a tear to the eye.
An Edinburgh Christmas Carol
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street Edinburgh
November 24 – December 31
Tickets are available here
Feature image credit: Stacey Mitchell as Tiny Tim, Crawford Logan as Ebenezer Scrooge and Hannah Low as Greyfriars Bobby in An Edinburgh Christmas Carol. By Stuart Armitt.
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