There have been countless retellings of the ageless redemption story of Ebenezer Scrooge, but none quite like An Edinburgh Christmas Carol.
As the name suggests, this version of the story supplants the miserly curmudgeon from Victorian London to Edinburgh, where his business sits opposite Greyfriars Kirkyard, home to the city’s most famous four-legged resident, Bobby.
“It’s the Dickens’ story, but the twist in it is that it also has Greyfriars Bobby’s story, and that’s what makes it such a charming show,” explained Crawford Logan, who plays Scrooge.
“As well as the redemption of my character and the issues of the Cratchett family, which are very topical right now, we also have Greyfriars Bobby constantly being chased away, and the polis and the dog catcher being out to get him. We have a dog puppet which is so loved that there’s not much point in the rest of us being there!”
The production – written and directed by Tony Cownie – was first performed at the Lyceum in 2019 and proved such a success that it was the obvious choice to resurrect, post-pandemic, as a crowd-pleaser that gets plenty of bums on seats.
“The story always has a relevancy but it feels more so at the moment,” Logan continued. “It’s a really joyful show. It’s quite dark as well, but by the end, when we are all singing Auld Lang Syne and the snow is falling in that beautiful theatre, it’s a gorgeous scene and it gets me every time.”
There is a distinct Scottishness running throughout this version of the story, and not just in its geographical setting.
“We have the Ghost of Lang Syne, which is based on the legend of the Green Lady; the Ghost of Nouadays, which is a kilted character with a large beard who looks a little like Santa Claus; and the Ghost of Ayont, based on another Scottish character of legend – the headless drummer boy. Marley remains as Marley, and he’s quite scary, coming out with a lot of smoke, an enormous wig and loads of chains.
“Our version of Scrooge has him as an old-fashioned presbyterian. Our writer, Tony, has brought in another interesting thread, which is that Christmas was not officially a holiday in Scotland until 1958, so the first thing I do when I walk on stage is I bawl at a choir and tell them the celebration of Christmas in the city, including carol singing, is forbidden and I call the polis on them. He’s not only a miser but a miserable old presbyterian who says it’s a criminal offence to enjoy yourself on Christmas Day.
“It’s a more gradual shift for Scrooge this time. The first time we did the show there was a feeling he very suddenly went from being nasty to completely bonkers, but we see him taking things in and learning about the realities of life, but we also see him sliding back at times, too.”
There was a special performance of the show last Tuesday when displaced Ukrainian families were invited to see the production for free. It meant a lot to Logan who, in an act that was far more reformed Scrooge than miserly Scrooge, invited a Ukrainian family to live with him earlier in the year.
“We had a family with us in Stirling for five and a half months from the start of May,” he added. “They are very fortunate they have somewhere to stay now – a small house owned by a friend of ours.
“The father and his little boy came to the show on Tuesday, and then his wife came with my wife to the show on Wednesday. We had subtitles in Ukrainian, a Ukrainian choir singing during the interval, and two of us in the cast taking pictures with some of the audience afterwards.”
An Edinburgh Christmas Carol, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until December 31
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