Ellie Jones's promenade production of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Neil Bartlett from Charles Dickens' text, is a delight.
The familiar story – with its political and social message – was shaped by the author's formative experiences in the Borough, lodging in Lant Street while his father was locked up in the Marshalsea Prison. So it's an eminently appropriate choice for the Southwark Playhouse's winter production.
This is a promenade production set within a series of railway arches beneath London Bridge Station. Be prepared for a lot of standing and walking, but the show is so absorbing you probably won't notice you've been on your feet for so long.
The action begins with the audience gathered around Scrooge's counting house where the atmosphere of hard, monotonous work for a money-obsessed boss is well evoked ("Tick! Tick! Scratch! Scratch!").
David Fielder's portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge gets the character's greed and misanthropy just right without losing the audience's ability to feel pity for the man.
Fragments of Christmas carols – and modern secular festive songs – are used effectively and hauntingly to mark transitions. Eventually Scrooge's bed is rolled away and we follow the Ghost of Christmas Past (Louise Collins) on a journey into the protagonist's formative years at school.
There's plenty of audience participation – you could find yourself dancing with the Fezziwigs or sitting down to Christmas lunch with the Cratchit family.
The first half blends seamlessly into the interval: the audience simply follows the cast into the bar!
In the second half we meet the Ghost of Christmas Future who brings home to Scrooge where his miserly ways will lead him if he's not careful.
The plight of the Cratchit family (presided over by Steve Hansell and Sarah Paul) brought a tear to the eye of your correspondent.
The eight professional actors are joined by a large 'community cast' of local residents (including one regular poster on the SE1 forum) who add a great deal to the richness of this immersive theatre experience.
This show is a reminder of how lucky we are to have the Southwark Playhouse. It deserves our support. A Christmas Carol blends warmth, humour and sadness; the perfect antidote to the saccharine sentimentality of so much seasonal entertainment.
And with tickets for a family of four priced at £40 it is excellent value too.
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