No generation was to more radically reshape the traditions and trappings of Christmas than the Victorians.
And Charles Dickens, the consummate story-teller of that age, remains an indelible trademark of the festive institution today.
Appalled by the fallout of the industrial revolution that abandoned the working man, woman and child to the treadmill and the workhouse, he challenged society through the power of his pen.
A Christmas Carol - described by his own contemporaries as a new Gospel - was a dark piece of writing at its heart, with a rapier point designed to refocus society more potently than the social pamphlet it had originally set out to be.
Chichester Festival Youth Theatre bravely took the masterpiece to the stage at the city’s Festival Theatre to give it fresh life to a new generation of audience.
I use the word ‘brave’ advisedly. This is a difficult piece to dramatise successfully. The ghosts of Marley and Christmases past, present and future, require a real sense of pathos, menace, and despair.
Scrooge is a complex character who moves from bitter, commercial isolationist to a philanthropic hero within the course of two hours.
And Bob Cratchit and his family must convincingly bridge the gap between the downtrodden worker, the united family, and the hope that lies in the conclusion to this tale.
That the Youth Theatre rises to the challenge with enormous professional polish comes as no surprise. This is simply one of the best - if not the best - youth ensembles in Britain today.
Year after year they produce one subtly crafted triumph after another, supported by amazing sets, choreography, production values, and costumes.
Nor are they ever tempted to play it safe. The Witches and last year’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians are proof of their courage in exploring dark themes when lesser young players would content themselves with sugar coated baubles.
But this production is a sensation.
It is as near faultless as any staging of A Christmas Carol has ever been.
The puppetry is sublime. A huge WOW to everyone who makes these ghosts live.
The singing and the choreography are rehearsed within an inch of their theatrical lives.
Ed Waller’s Bob Cratchit - it’s an alternating role - was played with supreme simplicity and dexterity. An amazing performance.
While Brendan Lyle - who was the anti-hero when we reviewed - gives the ultimate performance as Scrooge himself.
Let’s state is clearly: Brendan is a star who has the potential to reach the top of his profession. His was a performance of breathtaking excellence.
This is a team effort too. Without exception the cast is exemplary.
There is always a temptation to be kind in reviewing youth theatre. But kindness is not required here.
The blunt truth is this production is brilliant. Only the audience failed briefly to play their part - by not rising to their feet to give this sumptuous Christmas feast the ovation it deserved.
Grey Ghosts LUKE ALDRED, POPPY BASKCOMB, SACHA BROOKE-JONES, EVIE CARTER, DARCY COLLINS, SOPHIE
COOK, CAMERON CRAGG, FRED DAVIS, PHOEBE DUNCAN-DUGGAL, HEATHER FALCONER,GEORGE GOLDSMITH,
EVE HAMMOND, SACHA HEMINGWAY, ELLA HERRYET, BENEDICT HOTHERSALL, ROMINA HYTTEN, CHARLOTTE
LIDDELL, TOM LUNN, HEATHER McCLUMPHA FREYA PEAKE, LUCY PRATT, ALFIE SCOTT, JACK TAYLOR, JEMBA
VALERIO, HANNAH WADEY, GEORGE WALLER, GRACE WATKINS
Silver HEATHER FALCONER
Ash EVE HAMMOND
Stone CAMERON CRAGG
Nephew Fred BEN CRANNY-WHITEHEAD
Scrooge BRENDAN LYLE / LIAM WRIGHT
Bob Cratchit SAMI GREEN / ED WALLER
Goode and Better JACK NASH and DANIEL KITT
Caroller ELLA HERRYET
Jacob Marley FRED DAVIS
Jacob Marley Puppeteers DARCY COLLINS, SACHA HEMINGWAY, ROMINA HYTTEN, FREYA PEAKE, LUCY PRATT
Christmas Past POPPY BASKCOMB
Christmas Past Puppeteers DARCY COLLINS, FREYA PEAKE
Boy Scrooge 1 LUKE ALDRED
Boy Scrooge 2 ALFIE SCOTT
Fan ELLIE BULPETT
Boy Scrooge 3 GEORGE WALLER
Dick Wilkins SAMI GREEN / ED WALLER
Mr and Mrs Fezziwig JACOB THOMAS and GEMMA SANGSTER
Fezziwig Guests ELLA BASSETT-JULL, CHARLOTTE BICHARD, KATE BOLTON, JAKE BUTLIN, ESME COOPER, BEN
CRANNY-WHITEHEAD, FRED DAVIS, GEORGIA DEARNLEY, SAMI GREEN, LINDON JONES, TAYLOR MANSFIELD,
EMILY McALPINE, HEATHER McCLUMPHA, BRENDAN LYLE, ELLIE MUIR, LUCY PRATT, MARTHA SWAIN, ED
WALLER, ANNA WISDOM, LIAM WRIGHT
Belle HEATHER McCLUMPHA
Christmas Present ROMINA HYTTEN
Martha Cratchit JESSIE PAGE-SMITH
Peter Cratchit JAKE BUTLIN
Belinda Cratchit ELLIE DICKENS
Robert Cratchit NATHAN ARBUCKLE
Sarah Cratchit FRANCESCA KEY
Tiny Tim ELODIE JUNCO-RICHI
Mrs Cratchit AMBER WADEY
Topper JOSEPH MARCHANT
Fred’s Wife Marilyn ESME COOPER
Fred’s Wife’s Sister Carolyn EMILY McALPINE
Fred’s Wife’s Sister Valerine ELLIE MUIR
Deaf Aunt Emmeline LUCY PRATT
Blind Aunt Porceline CHARLOTTE BICHARD
Fred’s Daughter EMILY DURRANT
Want and Ignorance FREYA PEAKE and SACHA HEMINGWAY
Christmas Future Puppeteers DARCY COLLINS, FRED DAVIS, ROMINA HYTTEN, FREYA PEAKE
Pound BRENDAN LYLE / LIAM WRIGHT
Shilling DANIEL KITT
Groat GEORGE WALLER
Penny LINDON JONES
Crown JAKE BUTLIN
Businessmen CHARLOTTE BICHARD, KATE BOLTON MARTHA SWAIN, ANNA WISDOM
Sovereign MARTHA SWAIN
Mrs Dabchick ELLIE BULPETT
Mrs Dilber GEMMA SANGSTER
Mr Dobber JOSEPH MARCHANT
Mr and Mrs Old Joe JACOB THOMAS and LUCY PRATT
Antimony SAMI GREEN / BEN CRANNY-WHITEHEAD
Husband and Wife JACK NASH and ESME COOPER
Boy with Goose TOM LUNN
Adaptor BRYONY LAVERY
Music and Lyrics JASON CARR
Directors DALE ROOKS and JAKE SMITH
Set Designer SIMON HIGLETT
Costume Designer RYAN DAWSON LAIGHT
Lighting Designer JAMES WHITESIDE
Sound Designer GREGORY CLARKE
Movement Director LIZZI GEE
Music Director COLIN BILLING
Puppetry Designer and Director TOBY OLIÉ
Assistant Choreographer IONA HOLLAND
Assistant Director ABI RUTTER
Costume Supervisor SABRINA CUNIBERTO
Wig Supervisor EVE WESTCOTT
Props Supervisor MARISE ROSE
Wardrobe Supervisors JESSICA COOPER, LAUREN PENFOLD
Sound No 1 JEREMY GEORGE
Sound No 2 CHARLIE FINNAMORE
Production Manager PAUL HENNESSY
Company Stage Manager SALLY ANN GARNER-GIBBONS
Deputy Stage Manager LOU BANN
Assistant Stage Manager LAURA LEVIS
Puppet Fabrication DAISY BEATTIE, DULCIE BEST, CHARLIE TYMMS
Prop Fabrication JANETTE McALPINE
Chaperone Manager SIAN DE WIED
Chaperone Supervisors JANETTE McALPINE, LYANA PENISTON
TECHNICAL YOUTH THEATRE
Junior Assistant Stage Managers GEORGIA DACEY, MELODY LO, WILLIAM MARLEY, PETER REAVEY, SELASIE
STERANAH, ROSIE TREDRAY
Radio Mic Runners NOAH GALLIMORE, THEO MARLEY
Costume, Hair and Make Up ERIN BOXALL, NATALYA BRASH, MORGAN COX, LYDIA HOLLAND, SARAH LeCLERE,
IMMIE MACLEAN, PHOEBE MILLS, ROSE PHILLIPS, POPPY THOMSON, RACHEL TURNER, POPPY WISEMAN, LUCY
WRIGHT, HANNAH YOUNG
Follow Spot JACK O’LEARY, RYAN PANTLING
Lighting Assistant JESSIE CAIE
Keyboard 1 / Musical Director COLIN BILLING
Clarinet and Bass Clarinet MARK LACEY
Trumpet FRASER TANNOCK
Trombone STEVE TURTON
Keyboard 2 JEREMY COOKE
Percussion MARK TAYLOR
Orchestral Management MARK LACEY and MARK TAYLOR
Keyboard Programmer PHIJ ADAMS