Matthew Burns

SNOW FALLS ON SEDBERGH’S CHILLING CHRISTMAS CAROL

Sedbergh School’s Powell Hall was transformed from 19th-Century school hall into a Victorian in-the-round theatre with falling snow, perfect for a suitably cold, eerie whole school production of A Christmas Carol last week; the play ran for four nights.

Clever lighting effects and custom made projections by Andrew Allan and Chay Turner Richards, and the sound collages such as ‘tick, tick, tick… scratch scratch’ – the Clerks in Scrooge’s office – added to the atmosphere, and a striking set, designed and built by James Wilbye and Chay Turner Richards set a professional tone.

White boxes with a central raised area was the main focus and a wandering choir sang haunting Christmas carols sung in beautiful harmonies. Imaginative and creative staging by directors Cathy Want and Andy Loughe, and the use of gallery levels and many entrances and exits meant that the audience felt included in the experience – like passers-by in Dickens’ London.

This was taken a step further with a very well received twist; the provision of mulled wine and mince pies and audience participation in singing of carols. This warmth of feeling helped create the stark contrast of Scrooge’s bleak and lonely existence against the rest of the world, celebrating Christmas with families and in their cosy homes. The production was not without its surprises, such as magical special effects including the sudden appearance of ghosts from hidden trapdoors and falling snow at the end of the play.

The production was not without its surprises, such as magical special effects including the sudden appearance of ghosts from hidden trapdoors and falling snow at the end of the play.

Stunning make-up work was utterly convincing old age of Scrooge and ghostliness of Marley and the Christmas ghosts, and Harvey Ferguson mastered the complexities of Scrooge’s character, portraying the brutish employer at the start as well as the childish innocent when visited by the Ghosts, and somehow managing to gain our sympathy in the heart-warming final scene when he recognises the true meaning of Christmas.

A strong (and large!) ensemble juggled may different roles and ensured the smooth flow of the piece. Joe Mosley had us all smiling as the bumbling, jolly Ghost of Christmas Present – providing colour in a bleak and cold play, and Robyn Sutcliffe as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was graceful with her dance-like mime work, directed by George Want, movement director. 

For information on Sedbergh School Drama scholarships assessment in February, for Years 9, 10 and 12, please call 015396 20535, or email admissions@sedberghschool.org

Follow Matthew: