"Beautiful but bustling Christmas overdos"
by Nina Romain for remotegoat on 29/12/10

The Giant Olive Theatre Company puts a credit-crunch spin on the seasonal classic, aiming at highlighting "the current global meltdown" which is "the consequence of our Ebenezer greed". This political message is quite a lot to pack into a kids'show, but Giant Olive approach this challenge with gusto, using an ensemble cast of adult actors to create a international school performance of Christmas Carol.

This bold approach, which saw almost all the actors onstage at the same time, successfully brought to life all Dickens' original 1843 hyperactivity but at times distracted the audience from the play itself. With 22 performers, the small stage needed to be bigger to hold the ensemble, as Scrooge (Peter Gerald) was in danger occasionally of being lost among the singing, dancing, flute playing and general artistic over egging the Victorian pudding that Donna King had choreographed. All that was missing at some points was a tapdancing Tiny Tim playing the kazoo - so far, so Bah Humbug.

To add to the general bustle, the ensemble performers did not need to create repetitive sound effects, such as creaking doors opening and closing as Scrooge enters and exits his study, keys in locks turning. They could have finished the noises after the first time as it was distracting and unnecessary - children can quite easily grasp what is going on and don't need that amount of prompting.

However, director Ray Shell has Scrooge intelligently played as not just a wily old miser, but a witty businessman. When pressurised by the charity callers who ask how much he wishes to be put down as for his Christmas donation and he replies "Nothing". The charity caller asks delightedly: "You wish to be anonymous?" and he snaps neatly: "I wish to be left alone". Michelle Yim (the Ghost of Christmas Past) was beautifully created by costume designer Wai Yin Kwok as a seasonal vision in wintry silver and icy white chiffon, a cross between a dancing girl and a Venetician masquerade performer.

Dickens' "glorious pageant" was well represented and there was a genuinely moving scene with Scrooge's former discarded lover, the "fair young girl in mourning dress" whom he replaces with a love of money. However, these moments were muffled, rather than underscored, by the overdose of artistic enthusiasm.

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