David Wenham Rocks Scrooge In A Christmas Carol #REVIEW - Noise11.com
David Denham in A Christmas Carol photo by Jeff Busby

David Denham in A Christmas Carol photo by Jeff Busby

David Wenham Rocks Scrooge In A Christmas Carol #REVIEW

by Joan Loverso on November 23, 2022

in News

There’s something about the buzz of a theatre foyer on opening night that signals a night of entertainment, the hum of the crowd in full flight of anticipation. The chink of glasses, the red carpet heralding a splash of glamour and children in bow ties, flashing cameras and microphones searching for words of wisdom.

The Comedy theatre is putting on a show tonight, the perfect venue to pay homage to a Charles Dicken’s tale, a Christmas Carol no less, a story that captures the essence of Christmas and one that has not been out of print since its first publication in 1843. The audience patiently queues to enter, flashing their barcodes at the ushers, then stepping into a wonderland of lanterns hanging from the ceilings, conjuring up a cold, starry night in old London town. The stage is set, a magical blue light of Christmas Eve greeting the audience, lanterns like stars shimmering a welcome and musicians warming the crowd with a lively jig.

All eyes are on Ebenezer Scrooge, played by David Wenham. Wenham is no stranger to our screens, he became a household name and a much-loved character in the ABC series Sea Change, as well as playing the laconic, accidental detective Murray Whelan in the wonderful Australian TV series based on the popular novels of Shane Maloney. He has gone on to work in an eclectic range of films including playing Faramir in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, securing roles in Van Hesling, Pirates of the Caribbean and more recently in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.

David Denham and cast in A Christmas Carol photo by Jeff Busby

Scrooge stands alone, darkness of night surrounds him as he works in his counting house “Scrooge & Marley” Jacob Marley being his former business partner, as well as being as dead as a doornail, years after Marley’s death Scrooge has yet to change the sign above his door. In fact, Scrooge had not bestowed one thought of Jacob Marley since he was laid to rest some seven years ago.

Dickens describes Scrooge in his story “hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” Wenham relishes the part and immediately draws us into his miserable psyche, bah humbug, but don’t we just love the melodrama that begins to unfold around him.

The set design is very minimalist, with make believe doors and clever sound effects, evoking a Dickensian
scene, a chorus of singers and musicians in their heavy coats and top hats, the gentle ringing of handbells heralding the magic of Christmas, a dramedy, with lanterns swirling across the stage perhaps a symbol of hope and change, will Scrooge follow the light or is it illuminating his demise?

Wenham’s acting craft brings energy and angst to the character of Scrooge, we can all identify with this tight-fisted man grappling with the choice’s his made in the past, rejecting any attempt to open his heart to love.
Bob Cratchit (Bernard Curry) plays Scrooge’s dutiful clerk working late hours for low pay with Scrooge’s constant threat of instant dismissal. We learn that Bob has a young son, Tiny Tim (Theo Watson-Bonnice), in fragile health, waiting outside in the cold for his father so they can walk home together on this special night. Scrooge is oblivious to that fact, cold and heartless, he only has room in his heart for money.

A group of Christmas carollers knock on Scrooge’s door seeking coins to help the poor, but Scrooge is in no mood for generosity, they still have prisons and workhouses, don’t they? Fred his open-hearted nephew arrives (played by Andrew Coshan) to wish his uncle a Merry Christmas, Bah Humbug scoffed Uncle Scrooge, rejecting any notion of joining his nephew on Christmas Day.

The audience follows the torturous journey of Scrooge as he is enlightened by the ghost of Jacob Marley and the three spirits of the past, present and future. Each has a story for Scrooge, Marley’s spirit cannot rest because he too lived a life of avarice devoid of any joy, he tries to warn Scrooge to change his ways, yet Scrooge is unbelieving. One by one the spirits weave their dark, foreboding tales, the lantern illuminating Scrooge and all his failures. As if in a terrifying nightmare he sees the story of his past before him, the distant father, his sister, Little Fan who loves Scrooge beyond words, his sad and lonely childhood, his first job as an apprentice at an undertaker, promises he made to his first love. All the good things in his life that he shunned, coming back to haunt him.

He goes on an invisible journey with the Ghost of Christmas present and sees snow capped London in a new light, people sharing the little they have, smiling with merriment in the cold harsh landscape of the working poor. For the audience it’s a sweet, sad and at times laugh out loud bit of fun as Ebenezer learns the hard truths about the path his life has taken. We are invested in his redemption, we journey along with this miserable being as he looks upon his future in fear, Little Tim has died because Scrooge has held back the affable Bob Cratchit from leaving work, spirits reaching out like grim reapers beckoning Scrooge to look upon his own coffin and no one to mourn him. He will be as dead as a doornail.

When Scrooge sees the light, the audience is right there with him, and the merriment gets into full swing. Wenham becomes quite the comedic actor hamming it up for the audience’s delight and he is relishing Scrooge’s rebirth, his heart finally brimming with the love that he has denied himself. Snowflakes fall upon the audience, Christmas carols ring out, Bob Cratchit and Nephew Fred can’t believe their eyes as Scrooge is embracing the joy of Christmas. A gentle poignancy settles on the audience as Tiny Tim, very much alive and Ebenezer become the best of friends. All the cast say their farewell, the hand rung bells chiming out a Silent Night. The audience breathes a collective sigh of satisfaction and leave the theatre guided by the lanterns of a London Christmas.

The production – A Christmas Carol – is partnering with the charity Foodbank, so please consider a donation to help disadvantaged families put food on the table for Christmas and the New Year. Don’t be an Ebenezer Scrooge.

A Christmas Carol is on until December 29, 2022 at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne

Debra Lawrence in A Christmas Carol photo by Jeff Busby

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