An Edinburgh Christmas Carol at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
It is said that, on a visit to Edinburgh in June 1841, Charles Dickens came across the gravestone of one Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie, whose inscription described him as a ‘meal man’, meaning he was a merchant. However, Dickens misread this as a ‘mean man’ and later wrote, ‘To be remembered through eternity only for being mean seemed the greatest testament to a life wasted’. Two years later he began writing A Christmas Carol!

Most of us are familiar with the story of Scrooge (those who lean towards being mean often trot out ‘Bah! Humbug! at this time of the year!), but adaptor and director Tony Cownie certainly makes the most of Edinburgh’s connection.

Set against a backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, a lot of the action takes place beside the gates of Greyfriars Kirkyard - cue the immortalised terrier, Greyfriars Bobby, much to the delight of the audience, best friend of Tiny Tim. The story of how he becomes a Freeman (sorry, dog) of the city adds an extra layer to this production, though it remains traditional in so many ways. 

Thanks to designer, award-winning Neil Murray, it looks like a Victorian Christmas card, and there are even carols (beautifully sung by a community choir), sometimes with brass band accompaniment.

But I think even Dickens would approve of Cownie’s slant on his festive tale. In fact, it’s absolute genius!

Scotland is renowned for its pantomimes and although this is more sophisticated, Cownie manages to incorporate our favourite pantomime characters, especially among the Ghosts of Christmas Lang Syne, Nooadays and Future. There’s even a  programme full of ‘interval activities’ like word searches and spot the difference for young theatregoers.

Lots of over the top comedy is to be had, especially from Grant O’Rourke as the hapless policeman, Steven McNicoll as the flamboyant Fezziwig and Belle Jones and Nicola Roy as ancient crones collecting for the Salvation Army.

There is nothing comic, however, about  Crawford Logan’s role as Scrooge, except when he is scared! He plays the miserly old grump to a T until he sees the error of his ways and then his humility brought tears to my eyes.

I only wish Jacob Marley had been wearing ghostly make-up.

That said, this is an extraordinary show and tickets should be on everyone’s Christmas present list.

An Edinburgh Christmas Carol is at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh until January 4.
Box Office: 0131 248 4848
lyceum.org.uk 
Image: Mihaela Bodlovic