Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Past (photo by Peter Dibdin)
Performed in a small room in the former Govan Town Hall, the walls stacked high with ledgers and scrolls, the show brings us distressingly close to the story’s terrors. Benny Young makes an austere Presbyterian Scrooge, gaunt, grubby and humourless; the last man you’d ever feel sympathy for. Yet when Gavin Glover’s superlative puppets magically appear through the apparently solid walls of the set, they have such a fearsome, otherworldly demeanour, you can only feel for the guy. . .
It is rare to see horror so intensively evoked in the theatre, but it’s not only for effect. Rather than being a sentimental portrait of a man who doesn’t like Christmas, this is an evocation of an unjust society – the true horror of Dickens’s tale – and a powerful broadside against anyone who thinks there’s no such thing as society.
The Guardian * * * * *
[Graham] McLaren (who directed the NTS’s recent and deservedly acclaimed production of the Ena Lamont Stewart classic Men Should Weep) directs and designs this Christmas Carol with a wonderfully complete vision . . . every aspect of the piece contributes perfectly to its irresistibly magical atmosphere.
A talented cast shift deftly from playing the supporting characters to operating the puppets; giving great physical and vocal expression to, for instance, the ethereal, girl-like Spirit of Christmas Past, the avuncular Spirit of Christmas Present (who hails, somehow appropriately, from Yorkshire) and the deathly Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come.
Deserves to be remembered as one of the classiest pieces of theatre to have been staged in Scotland, not only in the winter season, but at any time of year.
Daily Telegraph * * * * *
This pared-back, inventively staged version of A Christmas Carol uses puppetry to bring the ghosts and their visions into play within the specially constructed intimacy of Scrooge’s workplace. Every inch of this room is crammed with dingy details. . .
What follows is closer to the cartoon horrors of Tim Burton or Neil Gaiman. Puppets, some grotesquely fanciful and even larger-than-life, some persuasively human, even when on a much smaller scale, slip out of the woodwork with alarming ease. . .
There’s no doubting the power and intention of their visitations. Scrooge learns to pity the poor – and Christmas-time theatre is much enriched in the process.
The Herald * * * *
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 List * * * *
Benny Young’s Scrooge (think George Osborne crossed with Jeremy Clarkson and given a Newton Mearns accent) sets about humbugging Christmas and everyone who would spread seasonal cheer.
No sooner has the wretched miser cast the well-wishers and charitable fundraisers from his door than he is visited, courtesy of brilliant puppet-theatre maker Gavin Glover, by the most extraordinary series of spirits. . .
Glover’s puppets (which are given great body and fabulous voice by an excellent cast) combine with fabulous live music (by Jon Beales) and sound (by Matt Padden) and flawless costume and lighting design (by Graham McLaren and Paul Claydon respectively) to generate an absolutely compelling atmosphere of Victorian gothic.