Windsor Castle (venue)
20 December 2017 (released)
After the essential security check at the entrance, walking in the castle grounds on a dark December evening felt like entering into a magical world; a perfect setting for this nineteenth century story. Here in the royal home of the British Christmas tradition, we passed the lamp lit doorways adorned with festive wreaths, the path leading from the entrance to the state rooms was punctuated by Dickensian actors interacting with the public and setting the scene for the familiar tale ahead. Scrooge squeezed past us walking in the opposite direction muttering and grumbling. An apt reflection of his anti-social character, the covetous old sinner! We passed Victorian match sellers, an elegant lady collecting for charity, Bob Cratchett out for a walk with Tiny Tim on crutches and a talented violinist serenading us with Christmas tunes.
It was a pleasure to see the beautiful interiors of Windsor Castle, lit and decorated for Christmas, as we made our way to the Waterloo Chamber. The grand portraits of old Kings, high wood panelling, ornate vaulted ceiling and sparkling chandeliers slowly disappeared as we slipped gradually into darkness. Our attention was directed away from our spectacular environment to the plain black stage set in the middle of the room. John Kay Steel was masterful as both narrator and Marley’s ghost as he introduced us to the mean creature that was Scrooge, played with convincing intensity by Edward Halsted.
The small cast of this inventive, creative team really showed their versatility and talent as they flowed between presenting us with the key characters of the story and then the spirits and characters of Scrooge’s ‘visions’. Thematically based on a ticking clock, a constant reminder of time passing, the atmospheric music stirred our imaginations as we watched the spirits dance with acrobatic menace around Scrooge. A particularly impressive spectacle was the Ghost of Christmas present shown as a creature redolent of a surreal Giuseppe Arcimboldo painting.
As Scrooge wakes from his final vision, truly harrowed and chastened by what he (and we) have seen, he is ready for redemption and excitedly tells us his plans to change his ways. He invites us to join him to witness the reality of his Christmas Day. We have the delight of walking into St George’s Hall to be met by a giant Christmas tree, beautifully lit and shining with gold decorations at the end of this long room. The cast gather in the gallery behind the tree keeping it in sight to the very end. The production uses it’s unique setting impactfully to emphasise and enhance the key elements of this well-loved story.
The heart-warming finale of this engaging performance won’t fail to leave you inspired to ‘keep Christmas well’, God bless us, every one!