Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

A Christmas Carol

The MAP Rep Company
The MAP Rep Company
53two, Manchester
19 December 2017 to 23 December 2017

The production of A Christmas Carol by The MAP Rep Company has undergone some last-minute revisions. Rather than stage the planned adaptation by a single author the company has decided to collaborate on their own version. The result is a show that is giddy and enthusiastic even if a bit uneven and episodic.

Entering 53two it is clear that this is not going to be a traditional version of the story. The bar area has been turned into a theatre with the tables and chairs arranged around a raised stage with a few basic, but surprisingly adaptable, props by Dave Howell and Osian Griffiths. The concept for the show seems to be that a group of actors, having a drink in the bar( and conveniently  dressed in Victorian costume) decide to tell a festive tale taking care, in these politically correct times, to remind the audience that not all cultures celebrate Christmas.

The cast form a chorus with members stepping forward to take on key roles and all join in on the occasional carol. The audience is always aware that these are actors in character; an approach that is not always successful. While the very fine ‘ghostly’ tones produced on microphones and keyboards in full view of the audience works really well the occasional ‘Oh is it me?’ gag gets old quickly.

Director, Simon Naylor drops the audience in the centre of the action with the cast wandering around and even appearing high above the seated guests. On occasion one might feel this goes a bit far as when it becomes hard to see the stage through the spooky mist pumped through the theatre. The staging is highly imaginative with the ghosts bursting out of wardrobes and emerging from fireplaces.

As with any play devised by a group rather than an individual A Christmas Carol feels like a collection of ideas and can turn from broad comedy to spooky horror without warning. Gemma Brodrick’s striking version of the Ghost of Christmas Present is like a cross between a pantomime Principal Boy and Barbara Windsor yet her interpretation of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a grotesque tormented figure hooded and seemingly trapped in a shroud.    

The MAP Rep Company has had a very good 2017 and while their version of A Christmas Carol doesn’t quite hit the high note upon which to end the year it is hard to resist its affectionate and enthusiastic approach. 


Reviewer: David Cunningham