A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Het Amsterdams Theaterhuis

Welcomed by Margaret Atwood Handmaid Tale-esque clad choir singers, this set the tone for a futuristic-feeling, family friendly rendition of the classic A Christmas Carol.

The play opens with some fantastic choral singing; thankfully this turns out to be a key feature of the show. The atmospheric use of voices added to the mood and set the scene later on with each arrival of the ghosts and between scenes. Likewise, the AI addition (this year’s Orange Theatre spin on the Dickens original) took the form of an onstage computerised Marley, played by Loveday Smith, which was equally effectively. Her performance and clever editing by the tech team was quite harrowing. The computer is used throughout the play and added a dramatic and somewhat eerie element to the proceedings. Which of course, with a ghost story, is what you want!

Adapted by James Johnson and Hugh Mackay for the Orange Theatre Company’s performance, the script is one of the highlights of the show and to be commended.

To start with, I was unsure how the play would progress as it opened with a heavy silence interrupted occasionally with announcements or narrations from the computerised screen. This led to a somewhat slow start with abrupt replies from Scrooge or rebukes from Cratchit. We have the sense that Cratchit is not sold on this modern AL (Artificial Labourer). Presumably, as in real life, it could make his role redundant and we are able to make the connection to current advances in technology, again referred to later with the ghost of Christmas yet to come. My fears were that the use of technology would be stifling, but in the end it pays off.

Set in Scrooge’s office from the start, there is a stern atmosphere – true to the novel – and done, I assume, to highlight the severity of Scrooge’s character. Through the opening scene, our female Scrooge remains terse and closed off from the festive, friendly advances from Bob Cratchit, Fred (Scrooge’s nephew) and the charity workers. Yet as the play progresses, Maya Moliere’s performance warms up as does her character, after each experience, leading to some believable moments of regret and remorse.

Throughout the play there are enjoyable moments of familiarity, not just in the extracts of the original novel if you know it well enough but also as the story allows space for some modern twists – not to spoil it for those going to the remaining shows, which I recommend you do, but you can enjoy some a capella Christmas songs. I particularly relished the slightly inebriated sing off between Fred and his fiancée, Clara.

Another heart-warming feature of this family friendly (though I would say for children over 10, as the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a bit scary!) is the use of child actors. Their wonderful performances enabled The Orange Theatre to both show off and promote the Youth Theatre string of their theatre community bow. It was a lovely addition and showed how well they came together as an ensemble. This is something they are proud of as a company, and rightly so. There was passion, enthusiasm abundant and festive cheer to get you ready for the Christmas season.  Rose Fawbert Mills    1st December 2023