In 1843, the Father Christmas of storytellers penned a 28000 word tale that would come to epitomise everything that the spirit of Christmas should ignite in people’s hearts. That man was Charles Dickens. His creation was brought from pen to page in but six weeks, but its charm has lived on through the ages. Its essence is once again celebrate by the Cape Town City Ballet at the Artscape Theatre this festive season as Veronica Paeper’s ballet, A Christmas Carol — The Story of Scrooge is illumined through dance.
First performed in 1982, and last staged 20 years ago, renowned choreographer Paeper is once again gifting her Christmas Carol creation to ballet lovers as a lovely way to experience a Dickensian Christmas this festive season.
A Christmas Carol — The Story of Scrooge is the type of ballet that makes adults feel like children, and encourages kids to believe in the magic of the season. From one’s first introduction to the characters Charles (Conrad Nusser) and Dickens (Zola Putye) —the audience’s chaperons into the world of Scrooge— the ballet reveals an undeniable charm in style and approach.
In this production, Scrooge comes across as less of a despicable money-hungry menace and more an unpleasant grinch. This subtle shift leaves you with a Scrooge that is viewed more as somewhat unlikable and unloved, rather than utterly cruel and despised, allowing for the character’s journey to redemption and compassion to move swiftly in aid of the ballet’s two-act structure. Marcel Meyer, taking on the role of Scrooge, guides the audience through this journey with dance-like miming and heightened expressions and gestures.
This sense of subtlety doesn’t mean that the production lacks the required element of peril. The degree may be less than a darker, adult focussed telling, but Kirsten Wilson, along with the rest of the Gold Ladies and Silver Men —as the influence(rs) that lead Scrooge away from his true love and fiancé (Kirstel Paterson)— still strikingly adds an ominous feeling to the production. Their presence during the visit of the Spirit of Christmas Past (Hannah Ward) brings about a sufficient twist to justify Scrooge’s choice of a life of wealth over one of love and happiness. In this phase the a young Scrooge is impressively portrayed by Ivan Boonzaaier
With the arrival of the Spirits of Christmas Present, as embodied by the imitable Mariette Opperman and Craig Pedro, there’s again a clear, lighter focus on the childlike perception of Christmas with the introduction of dancing mince pies and candy canes.
Overall the performances strike a lovely balance between the themes of greed, grace and humanity. But one moment captivates above all other in impact and execution: Much like the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come leaves a lasting impression on Scrooge, so too principal dancer Kirstel Paterson theatrically leaves her en pointe imprint on this ballet in the offering of a restrained and beautiful moment that lingers in the applause of the audience.
The set design by Peter Cazalet colourfully aids in the lively telling of Scrooge’s tale through dance and suggestion. This is further accentuated by the lighting design of Wilhelm Disbergen. The holistic appeal of the design (including costumes as per the original design of Dickey Longhurst) beautifully packages Paeper’s ballet.
Viewed holistically, A Christmas Carol — The Story of Scrooge is perhaps more playful than it is technically perfect, though the charm of it all travels through the much-loved classic like a beautiful pas de bourre as it delivers on the good will promise Dickens’ story and celebrates the love-infused spirit of Christmas.
A lovely family festive ballet treat, A Christmas Carol — The Story of Scrooge is onstage at the Artscape Theatre until 24 December 2019. Tickets are available at Computicket. As an added bonus to this already magical offering the performances on 24 December includes a Fairy and Prince Fancy Dress Parade after each performance.