December: Old Red Lion Islington

A production shot of December by Bag of Beard Theatre Company

December is a digital production staged at Islington's Old Red Lion Theatre - Credit: Bag of Beard Theatre Company

The perils that have faced the arts over the last ten months have been well documented.

A generation of talent has had to confront professional paralysis as stages have been condemned to darkness and doors closed to customers. But in the last few months, despite government-imposed restrictions, signs of life have begun to flicker once more. Adaptation abounds.

Fringe theatres, such as the Old Red Lion have developed digital programmes that theatregoers can stream from the comfort of their own home.

This is how audiences can take in December: Bag of Beard theatre company’s new twist on one of the festive season’s most beloved tales, A Christmas Carol, where we find out what might have happened to Ebenezer Scrooge’s underpaid clerk Bob Cratchit on that dark, dank Christmas Eve.

Two grubby ne’er-do-wells, Threadneedle and Stoneworth, beckon Cratchit to their table one night as he consumes a quick snifter before returning home. The duo bend his ear with a dastardly scheme to con his miserly boss Scrooge out of a few coins. When their plot fails, they collar Cratchit on Christmas Eve as he leaves the office. Threats are made, and the poor clerk’s troubled mind leads to thoughts of suicide before a night of ghostly visitations open his eyes to a whole host of shocking revelations and scenarios.

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Those looking for a family friendly yarn might feel disappointed that December features a script far too literary for younger audiences. And yet it also bursts with a dazzling imagination that brilliantly encapsulates the freedoms afforded by a digital production. Inventive camera techniques enhance the narrative in many places and Knott’s narrative is supported by an impressive lead performance by Ryan Hutton.

Some might find that December ties itself into a bit of a muddle from time to time, but no one could argue that the warm whisper of hope of its concluding message isn’t welcome. After all, if there’s one thing we are all in dire need of right now, it’s hope…through December and beyond.

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