By Blog Up North’s Gemma Whelan, a freelance drama practitioner.
The Leeds Playhouse Pop-Up theatre is delightfully intimate and a perfect performance space for this beloved classic. Our adventure begins as we locate this tucked away gem, when we discovered the entrance we were immediately transported on to a Dickensian street. The smell of mulled wine filled the air, and the audience hustled and bustled on the cobbled street or found a quaint little corner to sit in. On entering the theatre itself I was enchanted; The set design, lighting and costume were magical. As I sat in expectation for the performance to begin I realised I was a little nervous; like many of us, this story holds a special place in my heart and I am protective of it. However, the story was placed in very safe hands. Deborah McAndrew’s northern adaptation did us proud.
The stage opens in song as our vibrant ensemble bring the victorian setting to life. This talented chorus seamlessly morph from character to character as they weave the tapestry of the story. Throughout this telling there is a dark undertone, the fragility of life is never far away and the impish chorus of spirits are a reminder of the ever present afterlife. However, the excellent performances of Hull truck theatre and Amy Leach’s direction, meant that laughter, joy and hope are also ever present. In one moment we might be in the otherworldly enchantment of the ethereal ghost of Christmas past, in the next the tenderness of the Cratchit home, and in the next being entertained in musical hall style by the fabulous ghost of Christmas present.
The production’s Tiny Tims are played by young local actors Lipalo Mokete from Leeds and Seb Smallwood from Harrogate. Cast following an open call-out in September which saw over 50 young people audition for the role, Lipalo and Seb have spent their half terms rehearsing with cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Robert Pickavance (Europe, Leeds Playhouse).
The full company are made up of the Leeds Playhouse Ensemble with Bob Cratchit being played by Darren Kuppan (Morocco in Europe, Leeds Playhouse) and Mrs Cratchit played by Jo Mousley (Katia in Europe, Leeds Playhouse).
Taking us through Scrooge’s dreams are the ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, played by Tessa Parr (Adele in Europe, Leeds Playhouse) and Elexi Walker (Airplays, Leeds Playhouse and BBC Radio Leeds) respectively.Joining them are Joe Alessi (Fret in Europe, Leeds Playhouse) who plays the infamous tormented ghost Marley; Susan Twist (Airplays, Leeds Playhouse and BBC Radio Leeds) as Mrs Fezziwig; and Dan Parr (Berlin in Europe, Leeds Playhouse) as Fred.
A Christmas Carol is adapted by award-winning, West Yorkshire born playwright Deborah McAndrew, directed by Leeds Playhouse’s Associate Director Amy Leach (Road, Romeo & Juliet, Kes, The Night Before Christmas, Leeds Playhouse) and designed by award-winning Hayley Grindle (Road, Romeo & Juliet, Leeds Playhouse).
A Christmas Carol is a Leeds Playhouse production in association with Hull Truck Theatre.
A Christmas Carol, Leeds Playhouse Pop-Up theatre
Tue 20 Nov – Sat 19 Jan, Press Night Fri 23 Nov, 7pm
Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk