"Yuletide yarn gets frenetic retelling!"
by Bec McKenna on 13/12/10

Tight fisted Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three spirits who make him see the error of his ways and embrace the Christmas spirit lest he die alone and unloved. We all know the story. But as the makers of It's a Wonderful Life and that film with Dudley Moore as an elf later discovered, we plebs love nothing more than seeing a well-known tale told again and again - especially at Christmas time. The Giant Olive Theatre Company understands well this need for familiarity, but while their story is faithful to the Dickens they don't shy away from putting their own mark on the classic.

It is presented as a student production in an International School in Beirut, a tidy vehicle for the myriad of songs in foreign languages and the various European accents in the cast. It is the diversity of the cast that gives this production its own special stamp, and it is clear that a lot of time has been spent devising ensemble work and discovering each actor's particular skill. There is a live band in one scene, a ballet with dancers on pointe in another, a wonderfully responsive puppet in the next.

The acting is universally of a high standard but Michelle Yim as the Ghost of Christmas Past stood out in her crazy costume festooned with bells. A more flexible and engaging face I have never seen - I was getting jaw-ache and thyroid worries just watching her facial contortions and ocular Olympics.

This is not a cosy fireside show; there are distorted noises, flashing lights, smoky graveyard scenes, weird disjointed dances and a mute Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come dressed up as a ballerina suicide bomber. In short, a heck of a lot going on! This is the play's biggest weakness - there are so many special effects and subliminal messages that it leaves you reeling. But the slight chaos-induced disorientation does not take away from the fact that this is a tight, fun and superbly acted show.

Even the most jaded Scrooges will be charmed by the energetic retelling of this old yuletide yarn.

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