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REVIEW: A Christmas Carol at Newcastle Castle

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A Christmas Carol

Newcastle Castle 5th – 9th December 2019
Alnwick Castle 10th – 11th December 2019
West Auckland Manor House 12th December 2019
Scarborough Town Hall 14th – 15th December 2019
York Merchant Taylor’s Hall 17th – 19th December 2019
Durham Town Hall 20th December 2019
Sunderland Wearside Masonic Lodge 21st – 23rd December 2019

We caught up with Theatre Space NE’s production at the atmospheric Newcastle Castle as it starts its tour across 7 venues in the region. Charles Dicken’s classic tale of redemption at Christmas is brought to life by an enthusiastic group of actors and some well crafted puppets in a well-paced performance.

As we entered the Great Hall we were greeted by members of the cast before sitting around a large Victorian five pound note which marked out the performance area. A handy blanket was on each seat as this particular venue has no heating and plenty of cold ghosts of its own.

This production sticks closer to the original closer than most movie versions with the obvious change that it is Mrs Scrooge, performed impressively by Corinne Kilvington, that is the living partner of the deceased Jacob Marley. The action begins on Christmas Eve and poor Bob Cratchit is going to have to work Christmas Day as his boss Scrooge does not believe in paying staff if they have not put in a days shift. Someone comes collecting for the poor and the firm rebuttal points out that there are workhouses and prisons for the poor. This story may have first captured the public’s imagination when it was first published in 1843 however there are plenty of parallels that can be drawn from the current generation of selfish leaders who have only a token social compass.

Over the 75 minutes, and no interval, duration Scrooge is visited by a number of spirits – who arrive in puppet form. Marley is bound by the chains of his life’s choices and he warns the heartless Scrooge that they will be visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

The ensemble of Caroline Liversidge, Calum Bruce, Claire Lewis, Jonathan Chambers, Lawrence Neale and Matthew Nicholson perform the variety of characters as well as operating the various puppets. This becomes a physical piece of theatre as they become the obstacles in Scrooge’s path or the doors that he has to pass through.  They work the audience too: including them in the parlour games and by acknowledging them as the play evolves. Though don’t panic – there’s no audience participation beyond clapping along during the dance scene.

Director Lawrence Neale has included some nice touches and surprises which help make this an interesting performance. The dancing was accompanied by live music from composer and MD Matthew Nicholson which helped evoke the Victorian era. The costumes, designed by Rebecca Robinson, also had the overall setting of the show.

This show feels like a real team effort as the cast remain in view throughout and their positivity made it a delightful watch. It may be a well-known story that has been interpreted many times and yet this production has something to new offer. A well-crafted and enjoyable production.

Review by Stephen Oliver
Photos by Joanne and Stephen Oliver – Carliol Photography

Tickets for the tour go on sale on Monday 28th October 2019 at 9am via official ticketing partner General Admission costs £16 (plus fees) with Concessions for under 16s, OAPs, emergency services personnel and students with valid ID priced at £13 (plus fees). Tickets are expected to sell fast, so patrons are advised to book early to avoid disappointment. Not all of the venues on the tour are completely accessible and patrons with access requirements are advised to check the Arctix website for more information.

Tour Schedule:

5th – 9th December at 6pm and 8pm
Newcastle Castle Keep, Castle Garth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1RQ
There is no central heating at this venue, patrons are advised to wrap up warm. There is no disabled access at this venue.

10th – 11th December at 7pm and 9pm
Alnwick Castle, Alnwick NE66 1NQ

12th December at 6pm and 8pm
Manor House Hotel, Front Street, West Auckland DL14 9HW

14th – 15th December at 6pm and 8pm
Scarborough Town Hall, St Nicholas St, Scarborough YO11 2HG

17th – 19th December at 6pm and 8pm
Merchant Taylors’ Hall, Aldwark, York YO1 7BX

20th December at 6pm and 8pm
Durham Town Hall, Market Place, Durham DH1 3NJ

21st – 23rd December at 6pm and 8pm
Wearside Masonic Lodge, Burdon Rd, Sunderland SR2 7DX
There is no disabled access at this venue. No outside food or drink is permitted at this venue.

Tickets are sold exclusively through Arctix at Tickets for sale on other services may not be valid. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult. We cannot issue refunds to under 16s who are not accompanied by an adult. All tickets are non-refundable unless an event is cancelled or materially changed.

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