A Christmas Carol - RNZB with the APO

By Christina Croucher

Date / Venue:  Wednesday December 3rd, ASB Theatre, Auckland

Last night I took myself (an eager dance enthusiast) and my partner (never watched ballet and hates catchy Christmas songs) to the ASB Theatre to watch RNZB's A Christmas Carol; at this hectic time of year who isn't ready to feel a hint of that warm Christmas vibe?

We took our seats ten minutes prior to the show and were nicely surprised to see the stage already decorated with dancers setting the scene of Britain's Victorian era; bodies laden in old-style street wear amongst dark grey and brown architecture.

I will give you a quick brief on the storyline that was originally written by Charles Dickens. It revolves aroundScrooge, a bitter-spirited man whose death of a close friend and business partner combined with other unfortunate life events have turned him into an angry, pessimistic figure that isolates himself around the backstreet's of London in his old Counting House with his joyful-hearted but extremely micro-managed clerk Bob. Of course, Scrooge hates Christmas...

As the lights went down, the rich timbre of the orchestra started to roll on majestic music with hints of traditional Christmas carol. It was Christmas Eve and everyone was rushing around to get presents. Scrooge leered into the scene and aggressively pushed all the people away from the streets leaving them to run off in fear. This is where we were introduced to the amazing form that dancer Paul Mathews brought on stage. His role as Scrooge was portrayed right from his amazing makeup to his hunched posture and sly gestures, whilst keeping a choreographed grace to him.
I was expecting something, to be honest more child-like and overly chirpy, but A Christmas Carol was quite dark and refined doing justice to an old classic. The scene that first blew me (and my now open-minded partner) away was when the ghost of Scrooges ex business partner Marley hauntingly visited him in his tattered high-rise apartment. Marley stood up a level on stage in chains in insane demonic-like costuming belting down at Scrooge who was crippled in fear by his bed side. Spirit forms all dressed in white consumed the stage in spine-tingling contemporary dance. Again, amazing costumes which seemed to show their skulls so only wiry dreadlocks were hanging from their heads. The dark spirits were warning him that he would be condemned eternally if he did not change his ways.

My other favourite scene was when the white-spirited ghost of Christmas Past sat Scrooge down to a played out memory of him as a young man with his first love, Belle. It was a duet dance choreographed perfectly byMassimo Moricone to portray an unrequited love from Belle. It was danced painfully well by Lucy Green andShane Urton and was definitely a stand out amongst the large handful of ballets nationally and internationally I have watched. Lucy Green's face right down to her elegant footwork enthralled me.

The ballet, true to how it was told by Charles Dickens did have a happy ending. Scrooge picked himself out of his dark situation and joined the welcoming community in time for Christmas. The show was absolutely fantastic, we both thoroughly enjoyed it. The artistic directing was spot on, creating an exciting and hauntingly beautiful portrayal of an old English Christmas whilst keeping it animated in colour and costumes for the young ones (despite a few possible nightmares!) The vivacious choreography full of edgy knee and elbow moves combined with classical ballet was fantastic and original, not to mention executed passionately and with great form by our talented National Ballet Company. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Nigel Gaynor was mind-blowing; harp, steel drums, trombones, tuba, strings, huge xylophones and more. It was the music that really locked in the emotion behind the story.