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A Christmas Carol review: Sherman Theatre returns with festive show

The arrival of Gary Owen’s adaption of the Dickens classic signals the start of Christmas
A Christmas Carol. Credit: Richard Hubert Smith

The arrival of the Sherman Theatres festive production is a sign that Christmas has begun in the city of Cardiff.

In this adaption by one of Waless best loved playwrights, Gary Owen has transformed the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol and has sprinkled it with some Christmas magic and a local twist.

As with every Made at Sherman production, the show has been entirely rehearsed, made and built under the roof of the Cardiff theatre. This also marks the first full-length production that Artistic Director Joe Murphy has directed since his appointment in 2019.

Those familiar with the work of the Sherman Theatre, will already know of its long-standing commitment to developing community focused productions by tailoring performances for Welsh audiences. However, this year, there is something notably different.

Audiences will be blown away by the incredibly talented actor-musicians and exceptional production value that A Carol Christmas (in Cardiff) has to offer. The entire experience even begins before the actors step out on stage, the programme itself is rich with facts not only about the production, but also the Victorian era in Cardiff. Did I mention its bilingual too?

Pictured: Gareth Wyn Griffiths. Credit: Rhys Gregory / Wales247

As you go to take your seats, you will be enchanted by the musical wonders of Gareth Wyn Griffiths (Musical Director), who himself has a string of credits under his belt including the Everyman Theatre, Welsh National Opera and Newport Riverfront. He is no stranger to the Sherman either, of course.

Whilst waiting for the show to begin, you cannot help but take in the exceptional attention to detail when it comes to the production set. What beautiful craftsmanship, with a sprinkle of snow on stage to set the scene.

The story begins…

In this adaptation, the story has relocated from London to Cardiff, set in 1843. This isn’t the only change that you will notice, Ebenezer is a female character portrayed scarily well by Hannah McPake. If you pick up a programme, you’ll discover why this is and it has something to do with Wales – who knew?

Hannah McPake. Credit: Richard Hubert Smith

Money is all Scrooge has and that hasn’t changed. She has lots of it. Its all she has ever had but its never made her happy. But on Christmas Eve she will meet three ghosts who will teach her the most important lesson of all, but will she listen? It won’t be an easy journey, so expect lots of twists and turns, which you will leave you presently-surprised shall we say. And yes, that is a nod to you Seiriol Davies (Fred / The Ghost of Christmas Past).

Keiron Self . Credit: Richard Hubert Smith

Keiron Self stars as Jacob Marley’s ghost and the playful Mr Fezziwig. He does a brilliant job of bringing these characters to life (no pun intended) and will leave you in stitches.

Emmy Stonelake, well what can we say, she brings her own personality and sass to her roles as Mrs Fezziwig and Mrs Cratchit in addition to many others. I’d hate for her to take this negatively because it isn’t, far from it, but she has cleverly been able to Welshify the characters in what can only be described as an ode to Nessa from the hit TV series Gavin & Stacey.

As with most Sherman productions the Welsh language is weaved throughout the dialogue and the songs are either bilingual or Welsh in their entirety. There’s something about these elements of the production that really make you feel patriotic and highlights the beauty of the Welsh language.

Seiriol Davies. Credit: Richard Hubert Smith

What’s a Christmas performance without the audience interactions… and there’s plenty to keep you entertained and feeling part of the show. You can’t help but to respond to Scrooge, after all people love a good villain in a bad sort of way. The on-the-spot improvisation gives it a real sense of uniqueness, something which was welcomed by the younger audience in particular.

Being a Charles Dickens story, there are some dark moments, which play with all of your emotions. Notably when the constable (Feliks Mathur) brings out his belt to simulate the beating of a child, his reappearances left us feeling on edge. I can understand why its there, but if as an adult I felt uncomfortable, I did wonder how our young friends in the audience may perceive it. The age guidance is 7+.

With there being numerous adaptations of A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) over the years, it’s difficult to know what to expect from a local theatre company.  What we will say is that the Sherman Theatre has exceeded our expectations, and that’s down to Gary Owen and the very talented company of actor-musicians. The Cardiff twists make the story relatable, and it is certainly a family show,  although it may not be suited for all children over 7 years due to the dark undertones.

Tickets start from £16 and A Christmas Carol is showing at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff until 31st December 2021. Find out more and book tickets here.