Sherman Theatre, Cardiff – until 31 December 2021
Reviewed by Rhys Payne
Obviously, due to the current global situation, we have not been able to attend a show for the last two years which makes me even more excited as theatre is officially back! As a family, we normally attend a pantomime to help get us into the Christmas spirit, but after watching the Sherman Theatre’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ I will try and encourage my family to go see this one instead!
We all know the fundamental story of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” but in case you need a little reminder Ebenezer Scrooge is a money-obsessed business person who absolutely hates anything to do with the Christmas festivities. They are visited by three ghosts (of Christmas past, present and future) all trying and conscience Scrooge to change his selfish attitudes. What is unique about this production however is the fact that it is set in Victorian Wales and the cast not only included elements of the Welsh language but had altered the script slightly to include in comic welsh places/areas. When we read stories such as this one where people go through a traumatic experience to develop a change of heart, as an audience we naturally distance ourselves from the lesson or experience but as this production is set in wales it helps to lessen that distance and makes the message of the story even more poignant!
The first thing that needs to be acknowledged about this production of “Christmas Carol” is the talent and skills that were showcased throughout by the entire cast. Not only did every performer play a plethora of characters but they even switched to play instruments in the band to accompany their peers. This shows everyone in the audience how truly talented every member of the cast is as they are able to flawlessly switch on and off stage. The highlight of this production is, as expected, Hannah McPake who plays the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Traditionally Scrooge is cast as a male (as written in the original Novello) but interestingly the creative team working on this project had decided to cast this character as female. After a wonderfully festive medley on the piano (played by Gareth Wyn Griffiths), we are treated to an incredible theatrical playing of the cello by Hannah which had the audience transfixed throughout. At the beginning of this musical, the character of Ebenezer is portrayed as your almost pantomime villain crossed by Miss Hannigan from Annie which worked perfectly with the range of ages that were in the audience. The song that appears fairly early in the song titled “What I can do” was a very vampy song that serves as the character show off song where we truly learn about their intentions and what makes them happy …. MONEY! However, despite this, Hannah did such a great job in this role that she actually made the audience feel sorry for her by the end of the production which is an incredibly difficult thing to do due to how cold-hearted her character is. Hannah is so wonderfully expressive and manages to stay in character throughout so even when the focus of the scene is not on her she is still engaged and reacting which was very entertaining to watch! She managed to show off her vocal abilities especially during the rock-infused song “Spirit slayer Scrooge” which was a powerful number all about how she managed to overcome the first two spirits that have appeared to her. Keiron Self starts the production as the compare of the show that introduces many of the classic pantomime elements to the show. His character at the beginning and end of the show was an unusual hybrid of the classic panto stock character “Buttons” and “Beetlejuice” which again made for a very entertaining watch. Keiron also plays the vital role of Jacob Marley in this production who is the person who mentors Scrooge to become the business focused person they are today. After dying, Jacob reflects on his life and how he also was selfish so decided to try and warn Scrooge about the danger of her actions. I thought that the scene in which Scrooge first meets the ghost of Jacob was incredibly spooky and wonderfully performed which left me a little uneasy in my seat!
My other favourite performance in this production would have to be Seiriol Davies and whenever he was on stage he managed to always steal my attention. At the beginning of the production, he plays the role of Fred who is Ebenezer Scrooge nephew who wants nothing more than having his Aunty over for Christmas (which is even more relevant in today’s climate more than ever) but is met with constant rejection! I thought that the trio performance of Scrooge, Fred and Bob Cratchit (played by Feliks Mathur) with the former sticking to the anti-Christmas stance of the character despite the attempts of the two later characters. This number was choreographed perfectly with the two Christmas supporters being wonderfully comically throughout especially during a complex exchange where they were dancing as Scrooge was distracted! However, the highlight of Seiriol’s performance has to be as the ghost of Christmas past who played the almost panto dame of the show. Seiriol graced the stage wearing a fabulous Christmas tree inspired, sparkly outfit with a golden crown where he sang a parody of one of my personal favourite songs “Let’s Get the Party Started” by Shirley Bassey which was adapted to be about started the Christmas celebrations. This was a wonderfully camp role that had everyone laughing throughout who also managed to bring an end to act one. I thought that the pop choice to split the show up right after this Christmas tree character has sung a popular song was great as it left the audience completely baffled as to what would happen after the break which create a very powerful sense of excitement during the interval! The fun was only dialled up after the break as Seiriol was joined by two over-the-top baubles who again had the audience run hysterics. The final ghost of Christmas future appeared as the most dramatic puppet that took up the who back of the stage. It was a wonderfully spooky spectacle that again had me feeling a little scared due to the sheer size of this creature!
Overall, Sherman theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol is a family-friendly show that is the perfect way to bring in the festive period. It had all the elements of a Christmas Panto and in all honesty, was one of the best Pantomimes that I have ever seen And hopefully will become one of our new Christmas traditions! It was brilliantly entertaining while still maintaining the important message of Christmas spirit and kindness that is so important to the original story. I recommend that everyone (especially those with young children) go and check out this product as you will not be disappointed and it truly has something for everyone! I would rate this production 5 out of 5 stars!