Review: A Christmas Carol at Leeds Playhouse

Sprouts. Cards. Unbridled spending. An unexplained increased in rush hour traffic. All the hallmarks of Christmas but nothing screams yuletide more than A Christmas Carol.

Robert Pickavance as Scrooge. Photo: Andrew Billington

Now it’s not a plot that needs spelling out but as a quick recap: Scrooge – the local bah humbug-er goes about his daily business bah humbugging. Bah humbug-er meets his dead ex-fellow bah humbug-ger plus three other ghosts which finally puts an end to his bah humbugging.

You literally enter the world of Ebeneezer through the entrance named Scrooge and Marley’s to the fitting atmospheric set. The dual level stage is crafted into the exterior of the street where Scrooge and Marley’s is located. The epitome of Dickensian dinginess makes use of lighting of all descriptions from enough candles to stock a Yankee Candle outlet store to a solo ye olde street lamp and a dash of uplighting from the grates in the stage floor.

Opening with creepy singing by the cast, they start as they mean to go on and work as a virtually perfect unit. From toying with Scrooge as mischievous entities as a prelude to entrance of the first ghost to doubling up as the stage hands shifting the minimal additional props around.

Writer Deborah McAndrew is faithful to the novella and although not a particularly original take on the play, it is a very worthwhile production of it.

Robert Pickavance gives us everything you would expect from a Scrooge. Cape – check, top hat – check, high pitched screeching crescendo of emotional misery – big check. His (and others) use of the local accent was a nice touch. What Tiny Tim lacked in the way of a stick, he made up for with his nasty bout of tuberculosis. The illuminated doll life appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Past (Tessa Parr) is worth a mention. Though the stand out star for me was Joe Alessi who rattled out an utterly anguished Marley (in all his chains and smoking glory), a Mad Hatter-ish Fezziwig and a variety of other characters.

Returning after the interval, act two almost felt like a different play. Rudolph, Dancer (the most off the wall pair of reindeer you’ll ever see) and Santa introduce the Ghost of Christmas Present. This larger than life ghost is always a character that can be played with and play with it they did. Channelling a sexy Christmas tree, Elexi Walker gave a delightful one part stand up routine, three parts pantomime performance satisfying those after a bit of audience participation.

Even though there are some musical numbers, it never feels like a musical due to the singing and dancing blending in with the action and working to move the play along. This production certainly felt bigger than its intimate interim home and is worth a watch to celebrate the festive season.

A Christmas Carol runs at Leeds Playhouse’s pop up space until 19 January 2019. Tickets cost £14-£36 and are selling fast. Call the box office on (0113) 213 7700 or online at:

The play is suitable for adults and children aged 7+.


This post was written by Christine Brathwaite as part of South Leeds Goes To The Playhouse.

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