A Christmas Carol at Windsor Castle seems a perfect match for a Victorian-style Christmas family show. ‘The man who invented Christmas’ in this country was actually Prince Albert rather than Charles Dickens, but the latter’s moral fable about a miser’s change of heart is as evergreen as a Christmas tree with as much festive spirit as mulled wine.
The enterprising theatre company Watch Your Head (which has already presented two pop-up pantomimes in the castle) has made imaginative use of the royal location. The large state apartments form a splendid backdrop, with the cast performing in the round on a dais as well in the two facing high galleries of the Waterloo Chamber, before we are led into St George’s Hall to sing carols before a spectacularly lit Christmas tree.
Unfortunately, although the cast is miked, some of the dialogue is lost in the lofty vaulted ceiling, while sightlines are not always clear as the seating is unraked.
However, Sasha McMurray’s production, based on the version that Dickens himself used for his public readings of the novella, tells the touching if sentimental story of valuing love over money with straightforward clarity.
There are stirring choreographed sequences from Edwin Ray for the supernatural visions of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, with haunting music from Joseph Reuben and dramatic lighting from Matthew Cater.
But the climactic scene of the rejuvenated Scrooge bringing Christmas cheer to the poor Cratchit family feels a little rushed.
The suitably gaunt-looking Edward Halsted convincingly charts Scrooge’s evolution from misanthropic capitalist for whom others’ welfare is ‘not my business’ to reformed benefactor given another chance to be a positive influence. And John Kay Steel acts as the narrator as the ghost of Jacob Marley who succeeds in reawakening his former partner’s social conscience.