As far as festive season productions go, A CHRISTMAS CAROL is right up there when it comes to family entertainment options around the world. This year, Cape Town City Ballet has made the Veronica Paeper staging of this Dickens classic their choice again too, with performances at the Artscape Theatre until 29 December 2023.
Dickens’ timeless tale is an obvious ballet crowd pleaser as it allows for narrative and dance to meet in a visually appealing manner. A beloved redemption story, it reveals the transformative power of compassion on the life of Ebenezer Scrooge: A cash-obsessed, cold-hearted man who is morally awakened on Christmas Eve with the help of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. It allows for the use of much symbolism through vivid imaginary, and for those willing to delve deeper, it gifts a critique of social disparities that has sadly not been confined to Dickens’ Victorian era.
In this latest staging at the Artscape, the corps de ballet, along with some great soloists, shares the essence of ballet through technique and allows some of its stars to showcase their talent with captivating interludes. But unlike recent Cape Town City Ballet productions, A CHRISTMAS CAROL - THE STORY OF SCROOGE, this time around, left me somewhat underwhelmed: It’s the equivalent of someone smiling but the smile never reaching their eyes. The technique is there, and the ballet dancers are for sure ballet-ing their best, but I could not really sense the heart of the dancers in their performances. I just could not connect with the spirit that should so clearly and freely flow through A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Audience members sitting behind me commented that “the ballet is pretty, and luckily we know the story”. This perhaps sums up my experience too: Luckily this was not my first encounter with this Dickensian Christmas delight, and yes, the ballet was pretty, so neither much lost nor gained. Though I do hope that the Cape Town City Ballet again finds that enticing performance spark for which they have become known in recent years.
This ballet rendition of A CHRISTMAS CAROL may perhaps not be the smash hit that one would hope for, but it does offer families an opportunity to visit the theatre and see something Christmassy this season, and that’s a definite plus. Although the general ambiance of the production seems to be missing that extra something —perhaps the absence of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra being a big part of that allusive magic— the performances are graceful, the choreography seamless and decisive, and the dancers adorned with costumes that will capture the imagination of many a young theatre patron. Marcel Meyer in the role of Scrooge (a role he resprises from the 2019 and 2022 ballet stagings) also gives a cracker of a performance that brings the production together with a clear understanding of the character journey this tale calls for.
You have until 29 December 2023 to catch the Cape Town City Ballet presented festive season treat, Veronica Paeper’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL - THE STORY OF SCROOGE at the Artscape Theatre. Tickets are available online through Webtickets.