Manchester has fully embraced the Christmas spirit. The markets are in full swing with gluhwein flowing and bratwurst sizzling, the city is twinkling with thousands of tiny fairy lights and, along Oxford Road, the Palace Theatre is hosting four spirits in the shape of Jacob Marley and the three ghosts who pay the tyrannical miser Scrooge a visit in Northern Ballet’s sumptuous festive feast of A Christmas Carol.
Set over three acts, the production is a faithful adaptation of Dickens’ classic tale. First performed in 1992, under the direction of Christopher Gable, the ballet is re-staged by Massimo Moricone who returns to the company this season.
The opening act introduces the protagonists and is underscored by traditional Christmas carols. It is Christmas Eve and Scrooge is working his diligent clerk, Bob Cratchit, very hard. It is not until Bob pleads with the old man to let him spend the evening with his family that Scrooge finally and reluctantly agrees to let his employee leave.
In the middle of the night, Scrooge is rudely awoken by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley, who tells him he shall be visited by three ghosts. Scrooge is terrified, as are the youngsters in the audience at this ghoulish sight and thus ends act one.
The following two acts follow Scrooge as he is shown his past, the present and a very bleak future. It is a story, well-worn and re-imagined many times over. I half expected an appearance from Kermit the Frog and Michael Caine during the course of the evening and I wondered how a story which heavily relied upon the clarity of its morals would fare when told through movement – but I was surprised and delighted.
The choreography is beautifully staged, the costumes are delicious and the set imaginative (although often squeaky – someone please go and purchase some WD-40). There are light moments and some quirky characterisations, proof that the often stuffy world of ballet has a sense of humour. And there is a mesmerising duet with the Young Scrooge (Tobias Batley) and Belle Fezziwig (Martha Leebolt).
In short, this seasonal offering is a treat for all the family. It twinkles and sings with joy. Just the tonic for cold nights in northern towns.
Review by Lucia Cox
What: Northern Ballet’s A Christmas Carol
Where: Palace Theatre, Manchester
When: until November 23, 2013