A Christmas Carol review – clever multimedia reworking of Dickens

Ellen E Jones
·2-min read

From Jacqui and David Morris, the brother-sister duo who brought us 2018’s authoritative Nureyev documentary, comes this dance-based adaptation of a classic. Any uncultured types who fall asleep during The Nutcracker need not be put off: the Morrises have combined contemporary choreography with Dickens’ timeless tale to create an enthralling and moving experience.

In a cosy Victorian family home, the children put on a paper theatre performance of Scrooge’s tale. As grandmother (Siân Phillips) begins to narrate, their theatre comes to life, with each character performed by a dancer and voiced by an actor. Simon Russell Beale’s Scrooge is embodied as a young man by Jakub Franasowicz, and as an old man by Michael Nunn, while Daniel Kaluuya provides a voice for Mikey Boateng’s Dalston disco-ready Ghost of Christmas Present.

Dickens’ 1843 novella must be among the most adapted works of all time and the multiplicity of screen versions – ranging a from muppet extravaganzas to Alastair Sim in a nightgown and the greed-is-good era Scrooged – mean it’s possible to grow wearily familiar with the plot without ever gaining a deeper appreciation for its themes. The combination of media in this Christmas Carol – dance, theatre, silent cinema, radio play, even collage – allows it to be both unusually faithful to Dickens original text.

Related: Bah, humbug! The many faces of Scrooge

We get the oft-omitted background that turned man into miser, along with a scathing critique of capitalism at its cruellest. (Lines such as “If he be like to die, he had better do it and decrease the surplus population” could have been cribbed direct from parliament’s recent free school meals debate.) It’s a classic for a reason: there is no one better than Dickens for evoking the mingled sensations of a Victorian Christmas, and there is no more Christmassy Christmas, either.

• A Christmas Carol is released on 4 December in cinemas.