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Theatre Review: An Edinburgh Christmas Carol--Royal Lyceum Theatre ***

Joy Watters reviews a fragmented work with some outstanding aspects.

This new adaptation by Tony Cownie transports Dickens’ classic tale to Scotland’s capital. There is a theory that on a visit to Edinburgh, Dickens saw an inscription on a grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard which inspired the character of Scrooge.

A tenuous link perhaps but Cownie, who also directs, introduces another Edinburgh tale to the mix, that of the city’s most loyal dog, Greyfriars Bobby, who kept watch over his master’s grave for 14 years.

Set in the same time frame as the novel, it raises questions about the difference in celebrating Yule north and south of the border. Cownie’s script comments on the ‘bah humbug’ attitude of Presbyterianism in the land where Christmas was not a holiday. Was Scrooge going with the Kirk’s unfestive flow?

It is a fragmented work with the various themes never quite cohering but there is the delightful singing of the community choir, punctuating the action with traditional carols, to raise the festive spirit.

The play opens against a view of Edinburgh Castle and uses a range of backdrops in Neil Murray’s simple but quintessential Capital design.

Scrooge’s office overlooks Greyfriars Kirkyard, an ideal location for such a grump, with its proximity bringing in Bobby, the Skye terrier. Bobby’s 14-year vigil at his master’s grave is not without its hardships as he’s chased out of the graveyard and pursued by the dogcatcher.

Bobby is a gorgeous bounding puppet, skilfully manipulated by Edie Edmundson so that all eyes are on the dog. Greeted with delight by the audience, particularly the children, Bobby is simply outstanding.

Crawford Logan’s Scrooge is a little hesitant as he expresses his miserliness and mean-spirited nature to all men. His appalling treatment of employee Rab Cratchit (an engaging Ewan Donald) is a little muted.

Runs at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh until January 4.

Tags: theatre

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