A Christmas Carol ★★★1/2

Based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Adapted by Hilary Bell. World Premiere Ensemble Theatre Nov 25 – Dec 29, 2022.

Christmas has come to Ensemble Theatre and a classic is being revisited with an air of freshness I wasn’t expecting. Australian legend John Bell leads a troupe of performers in retelling Charles Dickens’ yuletide ghost story A Christmas Carol, with some charming and thrilling tweaks. Let’s face it, no one can reinvigorate classic text quite like John Bell!

Entering the Ensemble, we find the theatrical Crummles family have taken over the stage to tell the familiar Dickensian fable of the miser Scrooge and the night he is visited by three ghosts (of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future). This trio shows him the error of his cold-hearted ways and teaches him the true meaning of Christmas. 

There’s a lovely fluidity to Hilary Bell’s adaptation of Dickens’ story, under the direction of Damien Ryan the play glides between pantomime comedy & song to morality tale and celebration – rarely staying the same long enough for the audience to even think of letting their minds wander. Beginning with a touring group of players who then take on the Dickensian roles, the layers of the story transition the warm Sydney audience to the frigid world of London in winter where ghosts walk freely.

John Bell is outstanding as Scrooge (did we ever doubt he would be?). Pitching his comedic moments with perfection, and driving home the transformation of a man who loves money more than anything into a charitable, warm soul. Around him orbit a cast of multifaceted performers who steal moments but never distract from the story. Valerie Bader, Jay James-Moody, Emily McKnight and Anthony Taufa take on a variety of roles with warmth and panache as Daryl Wallace provides the onstage musical arrangements. The set (by Ailsa Paterson) is deceptively simple with a neat trick or two up its sleeve. 

HIlary Bell’s adaptation brings out a range of modern themes from the text. Scrooge’s visions of the way his peers dismiss him and talk behind his back, feel sharp in the age of social media commentary, and the story’s anti-capitalist message is never clearer. On the way out the audience is encouraged to donate to those less fortunate, and while there were no Nicole-Kidman-esque six-figure sums being dropped in the buckets that I could see, it was good to witness the Ensemble audience digging out their wallets and purses for a good cause.

Ensemble Theatre’s A Christmas Carol gives you the festive fable you know with a freshness to revive the coldest of hearts. In a season that can be filled with so much soulless colour and noise, it’s worth seeing a show that brings the message of the season back where it should be.

A Christmas Carol-Production Images by Jaimi Joy






One response to “A Christmas Carol ★★★1/2”

  1. […] Theatre currently have two festive shows running, A Christmas Carol, and the new comedy, Boxing Day BBQ by Sam […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: