A Christmas Carol - Many Hats
29/11/2023 - 02/12/2023
Adapted from the Charles Dickens novella by the Many Hands Theatre Company creatives and cast
Presented by Many Hats Theatre Company.
Based on the book by Charles Dickens.
Clever and humorous production of a simple and sharp storyline
Review by Julie McCloy 05th Dec 2023
If you haven’t heard of Many Hats Theatre in Ōtautahi Christchurch, you’re not alone. Neither had I, until I was invited to see their recent production of A Christmas Carol, a riff on the Dickens classic.
Many Hats is a community theatre company of adults with intellectual and learning disabilities first developed by Skillwise in 2013. Supported by a small staff team, the performers are selected by audition and then supported to create a theatrical or film production each year. Many Hats now supports several groups with diverse specialist needs to find the joy of performing in a range of ways and to discover and showcase their own talents, supported by professional creatives from around the city.
On this particular Saturday afternoon, we are gathered in the small, purpose-built Many Hats Theatre in the central city. About 40 of us prepare to see eight intrepid performers – Michael Finnerty, Peter Rees, Paige Freeman, Benjamin Morris, Ashleigh Smith, Hannah Proctor, Merna Fam and Jillian Vicary – attempt to condense this beloved story into less than 45 minutes. That is quite the challenge.
The set is simple: stark and black, with minimal props which serve to succinctly evoke the scene they represent. Our performing troupe give their all to what is a clever, engaging and very funny (in the right places) rendition of this Christmas favourite. Apart from Michael Finnerty as Scrooge, all the other performers take their moments as individual characters and as part of a general ensemble, morphing from carol singers to crowd members to ghosts with the change of a few simple props. The storyline is kept simple and sharp and delivery is as dry as the ice (and the humour). I thoroughly enjoy it.
What I love most is the unexpected humour brought by the blending of modern pop culture and music references. Scrooge appears, ready to tackle these ghosts, dressed as a ghostbuster (seems appropriate!); the ghosts of Christmas Past are time-travelling Doctor Whos (naturally), complete with Tom Baker scarf; and the ghosts of Christmas Future are Mulder and Scully types, discovering the unexpected, complete with eerie The X Files theme music. This all makes so much sense to me that I wonder why no-one has done it before!
While it seems unfair to single out performers from such a great and committed cast, I must give a special nod to Michael Finnerty for his cat-kicking, urchin-despising and completely unimpressed, and unimpressible, humbug of a Scrooge. Kudos also to Paige Freeman for leading the musical (and dance) ending with ‘Ain’t that just the way’.
I haven’t seen a version of A Christmas Carol quite like this before and now I wonder why other versions need to be so long! I learn everything I need to in this abbreviated retelling, and I tip my single hat to the team of Many Hats for this clever, humorous production. Well done. I’ll be back next year with high expectations.
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