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Under the stage lights: Scrooge

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CAST: Marc Lottering, Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Andrew Buckland, Christo Davids, Nur Abrahams, Poseletso Sejosingoe
VENUE: Baxter Theatre
UNTIL: January 25
RATING: ****


IN DECONSTRUCTING A Christmas Carol and putting it together Cape Town style, Lara Foot has created a very amusing Christmassy affair.

Drawing on both Charles Dickens’S original writing and the spirit of his story, she re-interprets the classic to remind us that this is a time of goodwill and good cheer.

She uses to great effect the celebrity baggage her well-known cast lug around with them, having them tell the story as themselves, addressing the audience and letting us in on the joke. At the same time they also act out the story with the help of a 70-strong children’s choir.

Once the main cast decide they have to tell Ebenezer Scrooge’s story, it starts off prim and proper with Nur Abrahams giving voice to a Muslim call to prayer – this is, after all, Kanalladorpie circa 1901.

But, Cape Town style means mixing it up to be a little less formal, but not disrespectful, just… not so serious and stodgy.

Scrooge gets an elaborate set from production manager Patrick Curtis, with Marcel Meyer’s costumes drawing on a mix of muted earthy tones and Victorian details.

Marc Lottering is Scrooge, the epitomy of a stingy, covetous old meany who is taught by four ghosts to appreciate generosity, kindness and compassion, ie what Christmas is supposed to be about.

He clearly relishes hurling “humbug” around with venom, but credibly softens throughout the show to eventually return to the happy, shiny person we have come to known on stage.

The rest of the cast play a variety of characters, some- times earnestly, sometimes not so seriously. There is flying through the air and dancing and magic and singing and a fun time is had by all.

Language and reference is a very local mix of English with Afrikaans thrown in for emotional effect.

Andrew Buckland starts by explaining the significance of Dickens’s work and then segues into playing the Ghost of Marley – complete with clanking chains and dropping jaw – but can’t help himself. He has to step out of each of his characters every now and then to discuss the story’s significance.

Shaleen Surtie-Richards jerks him back to the events at hand though, keeping the guys in line and chasing the plot.

She starts the second act sitting on a chair slightly too big for her, dressed in an over-the-top silver outfit, swinging her feet like a happy little child, eating bon bons in such an overt display of happiness, you have to laugh.

The whole production is like that; it invites you into yielding to the idea that spreading happiness will bring you happiness.

Christo Davids makes a very pretty girl indeed, but while his Ghost of Christmas Past is a deliberately crazy mix of Beyonce and Brenda Fassie, his Mrs Cratchett is a more demure picture of focus. And that’s not the only character he pulls out of the bag.

This being based on a story titled A Christmas Carol, we expect music and get it in stockings full. Abrahams and Poseletso Sejosingoe lead the choir (comprising children from Kenmere Primary School Choir, Kensington Chorale Girls’ Choir, Herzlia Constantia and Injongo Public Primary School Choir) in both original and adapted material.

Both also fill in as various supporting characters, but it is when they sing that they really shine.

With her clear-as-a-bell voice Sejosingoe is capable of making herself heard over the choir, but Abrahams doesn’t even need that mic. His version of Oh Holy (Night Divine) just adds just that perfect Yuletide touch without being cheesy.

And all of this bonhomie is done with nary a piece of tinsel in sight. The festive season is, after all, not about the trimmings, but the intent. You will be charmed despite yourself. Either way, go with the flow, it’s Christmas.

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