‘Eternally Scrooged’ is a clever take on Charles Dicken’s classic Christmas Carol. Replace Ebenezer with Evangeline and you have a ready made comedy especially when she is played by Nuala McKeever.
Evangeline a tyrant, a lady writer of romance with delusions of grandeur but no time for Yuletide nonsense; think Barbara Cartland or Mills and Boon and then scale down in subject matter, story line and bonhomie. As someone once said, cheap as chips, a real hard ticket.
We first discover her in her office, Christmas Eve with her secretary Bobbi Crachit (excellent Caroline Curran) trying to finish up for a couple of days off but her heartless boss has her running here, there and everywhere. Enter the cycle delivery boy handsomely endowed in Lycra. Bobbi falls in love, so does the boy whose name happens to be Tiny Tim (played by Shaun Blaney). It’s a match made in heaven.
Throughout the performance the boys and girls from Newtownabbey’s Home Spun Youth Theatre make delightful little orphans belonging to the Hug a Child Foundation so despised by Ms. Scrooge, pronounced Scroog’a. We liked them a lot but Evangeline hated them, ugg – children, no way.
Later, as she relaxes on her luxurious scarlet bed, the writers dead agent, Barbara Marley (Julian Eardley) comes to her dragging heavy chains and so the story begins to unfold. First appears the Ghost of Christmas Past, a character out of one of her awful books, a smooth James Bond type, The Ghost of Christmas Present a buxom Highland lassie with a love of Ulster Scots, heroine of another book, think Dolly Parton in Tartan! Abigail McGibbon was brilliant in this part and only had to wave her magic thistle and everything changed – usually for the better. The Future was a robot, all bells and whistles, and the future is grim. The books are ridiculed and so is the author. This glimpse into what’s to come frightens Evangeline who promises to change but if she does, will the end of her story also change?
Did Tiny Tim have to die in a cycle accident just because she wanted her delivery on Christmas Day, why didn’t she read Bobbi’s love story and help her publish it? Can she change her future?
The five actors mix and match their parts, Eardley especially convincing as a woman or a man, great fun, Caroline Curran has shades of Maggie Muff about her and there was a hard core of her fans in the audience.
The first act was a bit muted and lacked punch but things speeded up and took off in the second half and the predominantly female audience loved it.
Review by Anne Hailes
by Andrea Montgomery and Anthony Toner
Theatre at the Mill
Running until Sunday 5th January 2014
Check all Anne Hailes Belfast Times reviews here.