Much like the re-awakening of Ebenezer Scrooge’s festive spirit, I figure this review is better late than never! I got an early Xmas gift of a ticket to go to see Limerick company, Bottom Dog’s new stage adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic at the Lime Tree Theatre on December 12. This was the company’s first foray into children’s theatre and they had the honour of being the first local, professional outfit to grace the stage at the new venue. It was adapted and directed by Myles Breen.
A Christmas Carol has been done to death in terms of stage and screen productions but that’s because it never gets old. It’s a parable easily translated for children, which is about kindness and generosity of spirit. That old curmudgeon, Scrooge—played in all his ‘Bah Humbug!!’ glory by John Anthony Murphy in this case—is a brilliant character. Three ghosts—each representing past, present and future—visit him in an attempt to redeem him but will they convince him to change his ways before Christmas Day?
Murphy was great as Scrooge. Whether grumpy or joyful, he endeared himself to the audience. The all singing, all dancing supporting cast included Pius McGrath, Darren Maher, Joanne Ryan, Marie Boylan and Jean McGlynn. They played multiple parts and imbued all with great enthusiasm and energy.
The ensemble also included Emma Fisher—a puppeteer and award nominated set designer—who was responsible for the excellent stage scenery and puppets used. The set was very versatile i.e. Scrooge’s bed transformed into a backdrop for a daring puppet flight. The puppets, from Tiny Tim to a Grim Reaper-like ghost, were really child-friendly and this element worked very well.
While I approve of not talking down to children, I thought the script was fairly wordy at times. You could feel (and sometimes hear) a few young minds wondering! But that said, it’s good to challenge them. There were plenty of musical and playful interludes to distract so the kids were not bored. They could sing along with Christmas favourites and do the panto classic “He’s behind you!”
All in all I thought the play was enjoyable and engaging. Children’s theatre is difficult to do. Those little people can be the harshest critics! Over 1,300 children attended A Christmas Carol (spread over five shows) and I’m sure they all absorbed a bit of the magic of the piece.
I heart local theatre
On an aside, I think Bottom Dog Theatre Company has had a very productive 2012 with this production and earlier this year with Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens. They also staged four rehearsed readings of new plays and piloted a schools programme with a condensed version of Hamlet.
Also, I’d like to congratulate other local companies such as Sídhe TC, Orchard TC, Limerick Youth Theatre and Magic Roundabout TC that continue to make a massive contribution to the local arts scene. This is in addition to amateur groups such as the Quarry Players and the Torch Players and Limerick’s several musical societies.
All of these companies, groups and umpteen individuals keep our cultural pulse strong and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to go to see as many local productions as possible in 2013.