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The Reviews Are In!

The Christmas production of “A Christmas Carol” has received glowing reviews from the local press…

Wanganui Chronicle

Warm cast melt heart of Scrooge
Review: A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens
Adapted and directed by Mark Rayner
Wanganui Repertory Theatre until December 7
Reviewed by Lin Ferguson

What a timely piece this is – not because it is the festive season but because the curmudgeonly and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge, even today, illustrates capitalism in its cringing, uncaring attitude for the poor and struggling in our parishes. The story is as relevant now as it was in the Victorian era.

This play-within-a-play set on Christmas Eve in St Jude’s Parish church hall is orchestrated with all the traditional Christmas carols. Faithful to Dickens’ story, Scrooge starts the action with his miserly contempt for everything smacking of brightness and cheer. Rayner has assembled a large cast of 17, no mean feat on this small stage with numerous scene changes and most of the cast onstage or nearby throughout.
Even though it was opening night where nerves could have taken hold, the cast were strong and clear about who they were playing – even though they all had multiple roles. It was as though Rayner had told his cast to think about who they were playing and devise their characters’ personal back stories. It worked very well – no easy task, but this cast delivered.

The energy was up there from the opening, and I’m sure the audience felt – as I did – that the cast wanted you there and were keen to entertain you with this story of the warm Christmas spirit which Scrooge tried desperately to destroy.But with the ghosts of Chrstmas present and past tormenting our miserable old git (Scrooge played with alacrity and menace by Chris McKenzie), the providence of sharing, caring and loving came to be with the old man finally seeing the light.

Playing Elizabeth Goodall and others, Kerry O’Sullivan was the Grande dame of this production with her vibrance never faltering. From the set design, lighting and wardrobe to the sound, this was a hearty production with all the right ingredients of a Christmas tale.

Take a bow chaps – you did a fine job.

5

Midweek

A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens, adapted and directed by Mark Rayner
Reviewed by Paul Brooks Midweek.

A happy and relaxed audience left Repertory Theatre on Friday night after the opening performance of “A Christmas Carol”. A cast of 17 played a mixed bag of parts with gusto, skill and humour.

The play takes place in St Jude’s church hall in which members of the congregation are performing their annual parish production. Every cast member plays a parishioner, as well as one or more parts in the play. The audience receives honorary status as..(wait for it) the audience of the parish play, as well as the church congregation.

Mark Rayner has assembled a cast of veterans and newcomers in a play humming with action and variety. Huge amounts of clever, witty and narrative dialogue must have taxed even the most retentive memories of the players, but they delivered it with panache and imagination.

The standout scene was when the ghost of Jacob Marley (Paul Collins) meets his old business partner Ebenezer Scrooge (Chris McKenzie); closely followed by Kerry O’Sullivan playing a chiming clock.
And do watch out for young Oliver Keelty, whose eternally smiling face makes you want to respond in kind.
All the cast did a fine job in a demanding play, keeping the audience attentive and laughing. There were scary bits too, as can be attested by the shriek from an audience member as ‘The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come’ glided down to the stage.

Costumes and sets were up to the usual high Repertory standards and the sound and lighting were, at times, terrifyingly appropriate.

Thanks also to Rep for the piece of Christmas cake and mulled wine on arrival, a welcoming touch.

12

River City Press

REVIEW: A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens. Adapted and directed by Mark Rayner
Reviewed by Doug Davidson

Many of us would know the character of ‘Scrooge’ and his ‘Bah humbug’ reference to Christmas celebrations and even have heard of Tiny Tim, the handicapped son of Scrooge’s employee, Bob Cratchit, but how many people have gone to a theatre production of the play that has made Scrooge famous? If not, this is you opportunity, not only to see a polished performance but also to reflect on the significance of a famous play in our history.

Director Mark Rayner has made some interesting and successful adaptions. The play is a play within a play. The performance takes place in St Jude’s Parish church hall on Christmas Eve, complete with traditional Christmas Carols. The words to one carol were given to the audience who were asked to join in the singing. They joined in on other carols although only quietly.

The story is well known so the interest of the audience is more on how the large cast deal with the quick interchanges in the script, their multiple roles and on Scrooge (Chris McKenzie) changes from the despicable uncaring boss and uncle to the generous, supportive one. The performance delivered on all accounts.
All the lead characters stood out with strong performances, especially Chris McKenzie who is such a consistent actor, Kerry O’Sullivan playing Mrs Fezziwig, and Paul Collins who played the Ghost of Jacob Marley and Bob Cratchit.

The acting was supported by some excellent lighting work.

14