It wouldn't be December without a production of "A Christmas Carol" cropping up. It embodies everything we want in festive entertainment - a strong message, a sentiment of hope, and a great deal of creativity. Yours truly once gave a dazzling performance as Dickens himself. Even with a small stage, a core cast of two, and a lot of competition from a sell-out musical being performed in the next room, The Court Jester's production in The Court Theatre's Pub Charity Studio has all the tools needed to make for an entertaining evening.
The Court Jesters themselves are an improv company, and with such a small cast naturally this is no dot-to-dot rendering of the classic story. Modern jokes are interwoven into the narrative (including what I can only assume are some very funny jabs at Kiwi politicians that went right over my oblivious foreign head), some of the funniest moments of the show are when things do not go exactly to plan and improv takes over, and audience members make up many of the characters. While participants are given a great deal of support, and at the performance I attended they all seemed to be having fun and joining in, I feel it would be somewhat punishing for introverts. While this is true of any audience participation, there are times when they appear a little pushed, and perhaps not put at ease as might have been desirable. Then again, for an extrovert, this is your lucky day. Kathleen Burns and Jared Corbin, who each swap between various roles, are fun to watch and interact with, acting and reacting with hilarious results. Kathleen in particular was magnetic to watch, wonderfully exuberant and expressive. Nearly every line she delivered prompted a laugh, and deservedly so.
One does have to give credit to Bain's writing and direction for this too. The script is a perfect blend between wholesome humour, intelligent humour, and a smidgen of adult humour. The highlights of his writing was when the performance slipped into meta, for example when a discussion about predestination and self determinism becomes a discussion about how much on stage is scripted and how much is improvised. Granted, not all of the jokes hit home. An opening gag about an unorthodox warm up excercise involving a broken toilet seat feels a little forced and contrived. The story is neatly condensed into a 70-minute run time, the advantage of which is that the comic timing and swiftness of the performance are perfectly on point. Sadly though, it does feel a little rushed in places. Every time a ghost made their departure, it occurred to me that I could have quite happily watched them for a little bit longer. This is testament to how entertaining the show is, but I at least felt a little unfulfilled once everything had been wrapped up.
This is a show best enjoyed with a good crowd around you - friends to laugh with when one of you is selected to don a candle-topped hat and guide Scrooge around his memories from Christmas past. It's good, light fun for a family outing or company outing, but if you are a scared of the limelight; you have been warned.Three stars.