A Christmas Carol, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford - review
Phil Davis was born to play Scrooge. Best known as Jud the drunken servant in Poldark (BBC1), Davis brings world-weary meanness to Dickens's much-loved festive tale of ghosts and redemption.
He has a voice like a creaking hinge and a face like a vinegar taster.
Great actor, shame about the show.
David Edgar's adaptation, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, is a disappointment. Dickens wrote a wonderful little story with the power to scare us rigid in the ghost scenes and make us weep with joy at Scrooge's transformation. This version does neither.
Some of the best lines and scenes from the original tale have been left out. New storylines have been added and they clunk awkwardly.
In this Carol the Cratchits' Christmas meal - the happy highlight of the book - descends into a right-on socialist rant by Mrs C which leaves Bob crushed.
Scrooge's 19th century sins are not enough for 2017. Here, he is also damned as a racist with a downer on "blackamoors, Chinamen and Poles."
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, traditionally a terrifying, faceless spirit, is a very unscary actor in an undertaker's outfit. Scrooge does not confront his own grave. The crucial words at the end of the book: "Tiny Tim who did NOT die" are omitted and Dickens's wonderfully crisp closing line: "God bless Us, Every One!" is rendered as a stuttering shambles.
There are some good special effects and some fine song-and-dance turns. But overall it's not a show you'll want to remember.
A Christmas Carol is at Stratford until February 4.