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Local writer Ruth Wheeler gave Charles Dickens a twist with this gender-bending mini-version of his most famous seasonal tale. Newbury Dramatic Society presented two performances of Christmas Carole on the first day of the month to appreciative audiences at the Phoenix Centre, Newtown Road.

What hadn't changed was the Victorian period setting, as the excellent costumes proved from the first scene, in which Miss Scrooge is visited by her niece Freda, excellently played by Jessica Spath.

The lead part of Elizabeth Scrooge was very ably maintained by Jacqui Trumper, who had very little time off stage. Her encounters with four spirits were high points of the play First came an exuberant performance from Sarah Enticknap as Jessica Marley, and an engaging comic turn from Isabel Oettinger as Christmas Past in full Miss Havisham bridal wear. Andrew Smith clearly relished his Fagin-inspired persona as Christmas Present, while Emma Morrisen made an enchanting and ethereal Christmas Future.

In this version it is Mr Cratchit (Steven Culpeper) who cooks the family's Christmas dinner. The scenes involving the Cratchit family at home featured an enthusiastic junior group of actors. Well done to Elsie, Reggie, Ellie, Amber and big sister Kerry for their convincing performance as a family in joy and grief.

The talented and hardworking cast was completed by Lisa Lund, Elizabeth Leake, Ruth Wheeler and Mike Brook, who also directed the show.

The challenge of staging 16 scenes and eight different locations in a straight hour put occasional strain on the backstage crew, but for the most part the story flowed effectively with good use of linking music, some of it joyously anachronistic: has the office of Scrooge and her clerk Barbara Cratchit ever before been introduced by Dolly Parton's 9 to 5?

This was NDS's first production at The Phoenix, a venue with excellent facilities and well-suited to these relatively short pieces. It is hoped there will be more to follow.

Click for original article on Newbury Theatre Website

Review by Mike Brook, December 2018

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