A Christmas Tale – Hans Christian Andersen. World Premiere .
Devisors - Theatre Workshop Company.
Director - Robert Rae.
Assistant Designer - Nabil Shaban.
Dramaturg - Robyn Hunt.
Set Designer - Janis Hart.
Costumier - Christine Ross.
Lighting Designer - George Tarbuck.
Sound Designer - Daniel Williams
Music Director - Tom O'Leary.
Animation - Sacha Kahir.
Fight Choreographer - Raymond Short.
Company - Theatre Workshop Company, Edinburgh Company Website.
Cast - here .
Venue - Theatre Workshop, 34 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh.
Dates - 5 - 31 Dec 2005. Public Performances. 5, 9, 10, 16 17, 20 - 23, 27 - 30 Dec at 7:30pm.
Mats at 17, 23, 28, 29, 30 and 31 Dec at 2:30pm.
Run Time - 1 hours no Interval.
Reviewer - Bill Dunlop.
The anniversary of Denmark's most famous son would seem an appropriate moment to bring the most stage-struck Dane since Hamlet back to the boards. The cast of A Christmas Tale - Hans Christian Andersen try to make much of material which, to judge by the publicity flyer supplied, whiffs of rapid re-writes to deal with what Donald Rumsfeld might refer to as 'unforeseen unforeseens'.
There's a lot of energy about, especially from Dolina McLennan as Hannah, dresser to the imperious Jenny Lind, Marnie Baxter, as well as splendid work from younger members of the cast - Nathan Young and the 'Little Match Girl', played on successive nights by Emily Baxter, Anna Kennedy and Jenni Young.
Set largely backstage during an performance at the Royal Theatre Copenhagen, the show briefly references Andersen's fascination with the stage, his infatuation with opera singer Jenny Lind and his (to modern sensibilities) curiously innocent relationship with Jette Wulf, played with some delicacy by Sarah Caltieri.
Giving the audience glimpses of the man behind the stories through the eyes of his contemporaries gives this Christmas show a very adult feel, added to by both effects and playing. Few Playstation or Xbox players these days are likely to be cowed by a dude in a hood back-lit in red, but this reviewer noticed more than a few tinies looking terrorised the night he was in, and not presumably, because the press were there...
Most shows at this time of year offer licence to the cast for one or two'in-jokes'. But in this particular case there's more than a hint of self-indulgent humbug in the air. By which is meant short-changing the younger audience members in preference to getting giggles out of some of the more elderly ones.
Humbug, of course, was the word used by Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens' misanthropic character to sum up his unreconstructed view of Christmas. A near contemporary of Andersen, Dickens' Scrooge has been getting an outing in another Edinburgh theatre, and a hard time from atleast one critic as anti-Semitic caricature.
Scrooge, however, is Puritan through and through, and as ready, one suspects, to condemn the bonfire of turkeys and credit cards Christmas has become, as he would be to condemn some contemporary 'politically correct' attitudes.
In the case of 'A Christmas Tale', these attitudes emerge as pious lecturettes on social inclusion, cohesion and equality all worthy matters, but almost concurrent with this show's opening came an award for the television show 'Little Britain'. One can't help speculating about parents who load their offspring with well-intentioned, wholesome seasonal messages, whilst themselves sniggering at the incontinent, marginalised and mentally unstable caricatures of 'Little Britain'. Once again, the question of whose Christmas show it ought to be anyway, springs to mind.
Hans Christian Andersen urged what an earlier generation would have referred to and believed in as 'simple human decencies'. In terms of relating these ideas to Christmas and its presumed spirit, this show doesn't come near to achieving the effect of Mr. Dickens and his Mr. Scrooge.
Previous Theatre Workshop Christmas shows have delivered delight to young and old alike. It's worrying that they have come unstuck with one of the world's finest storytellers whose original tales children love and adults recall with pleasure.
©Bill Dunlop 7 December 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Cast - Jenny lind - Marnie Baxter, Hannah - Dolina Maclennan, Carl - Nathan Young, Martinius Martinius Jnr - Robert Softley, Henriette "Jette" Wulf - Sarah Caltieri, Niels - Tim O'Leary and The Little Match Girl - Jenni Young or Anna Kennedy or Emily Baxter.
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