Review: A Christmas Carol, York Horror Tours, York city centre

York Press: Damian Freddi, left, and James Wright, in the York Horror Tours production of A Christmas Carol Damian Freddi, left, and James Wright, in the York Horror Tours production of A Christmas Carol

IN the first moments of York Horror Tours’ adaption of A Christmas Carol, a candlelit Charles Dickens informs the audience he will need ‘old magic’ to tell you his tale. The following two hours are full of this, combining both an immersive and energetic production, and the cobbled streets of York.

The promenade highlights the beauty of York’s winding streets and passages, where, away from the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers, it is possible to appreciate the ‘old magic’ that oozes from every building. Following top-hatted gentlemen through Shambles and Christmas spirits around the Minster, it almost seems as if you have slipped back into the 1800s.

Rather than simply telling the story of Scrooge and his three ghosts, the cast of A Christmas Carol weaves it around its audience. The story is well known, and as director Damian Freddi says, “How do you re-tell a story that everyone knows all the way through off by heart and still keep it fresh, dynamic and engaging?”

The answer seems to be by not changing the story, but instead changing the way it is told, allowing the audience to re-live the tale along with its characters.

The tour is perfectly timed, helping to immerse the audience in the plot, the characters magically appearing out of thin air, and at one point, a strategic pause given to bring the chime of the Minster into a speech.

The cast’s ability to engage and, at points, mesmerise an audience is particularly impressive given the cold weather, and the frequent distractions that are inevitable in an outdoors performance.

James Witchwood’s Scrooge and Lee Gemmell’s Fezzywig are stand-out members of a strong cast. Witchwood makes a wonderfully grumpy Scrooge, while Gemmell unfalteringly emanates warmth and humour whenever present.

To top it all off, the promenade goes through three of York’s finest pubs: a quick tipple at The Golden Fleece before heading into the cold; a mulled cider at the Guy Fawkes Inn to thaw out halfway though; and mulled wine and an open fire waiting in The Black Swan for the tour’s finish.

To anyone with reservations about the winter chill: wrap up warm and brave it. This is one not to be missed.

A Christmas Carol, York Horror Tours, York city centre; next performances, December 15 to 18, 6.30pm. Box office: 01904 623 568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

- Emma Cooke

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