★★★★ | A Christmas Carol – Sheffield Lyceum and National Tour

Charles Dickens’ much loved Christmas tale is stunningly brought to life in this magical, colourful and beautifully performed ballet from the Northern Ballet Company.

Ebenezer Scrooge is the meanest, grumpiest man in London, who is obsessed by money and greed, shows no love for his fellow man and has no Christmas spirit. One Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley, and subsequently by the ghosts of Christmas past, future and present. Scrooge is shown how his meanness lost him his true love in the past, how his miserly ways impact on those around him in the present and how he will not be missed in the future. But can the ghostly apparitions show Scrooge it’s never too late to mend his ways?

This festive treat was a feast for the eyes and ears. A live orchestra played beautifully throughout the three act ballet and filled the theatre with the sounds of Christmas. The set lovingly recreated Victorian London and, despite its detail was well utilised and versatile throughout the show. The company added an unexpected twist to the proceedings with a few traditional carols sung by the company on stage, with their voices carrying an uplifting and almost angelic feel.

The costumes were simply stunning with everything from Victorian dress coats and bonnets to beautiful dresses. The whole presentation oozed class and charm. But the costumes which particularly excelled were those of The Ghosts of Christmas. The Ghost of Christmas Future in particular was amazing, with the spirit gliding across the stage in a sinister mixture of floating fabrics and exposed skeletal bones.

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The staging of the production was of a very high quality, with not only the stage being well decorated and presented, but also being lit incredibly well, with a myriad of theatrical techniques which combined to present and atmospheric and versatile stage. Ghosts floated effortlessly in the darkness and a host of spectres filled the foggy stage. Visually, the piece was impressively put together.

The choreography of the piece was very well done and told the (albeit well known) story incredibly well making it accessible to even a ballet novice. During the course of the show, the dancing went from set pieces awash with dancers to solo and duet pieces. When dancing together, the company were well timed and graceful and at times there was so much going off on stage that it was sometimes difficult to know where to look as you simply didn’t want to miss anything of interest. The dancers ably conveyed the emotions of the characters amongst their agile performances. The very large cast were all of a very high standard and singling any of them out would be a very difficult task, but Sebastian Loe who played Scrooge put in a flawless performance, pouring emotion into his role and effortlessly conveying the progression of the character.

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Having seen this production, there is little wonder why, when it comes to quality, Northern Ballet maintain the reputation that they have. The production was one which was very accessible and was a light and breezy ballet littered with subtle humour. If you have never seen a ballet before, this is an excellent starting point. The festive feel of the piece, especially at the end of the show was overwhelming and you could not help but get swept up in the festive spirit and the joyful feeling of the characters on stage. The show is a perfect way to start getting into the Christmas spirit or a great post gift shopping treat which leaves you feeling warm inside.

A Christmas Carol is currently showing at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre before continuing on its national Tour.
Bookings and information can be found at http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/a-christmas-carol-13/?tab=1#unit-production-dates and at http://northernballet.com/index.php?q=a-christmas-carol

About the author: Paul Szabo
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.