Christmas Carole | Suranne Jones stars in yet another Dickens adaptation
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Christmas Carole

Suranne Jones stars in yet another Dickens adaptation

Of the many, many, many versions of Charles Dickens’s classic tale produced each year, Sky’s retelling adds an intriguing twist or two – but can’t help but feel like a plodding adaptation.

That Scrooge is both a modern-day business tycoon and a woman is not particularly revolutionary. Suranne Jones is the titular entrepreneur who has made her fortune hawking festive plastic tat with a spectacular markup. And the novelties are so shoddily made that customers have to buy several replacements.

A business model that’s the very antithesis of sustainable marks her out as a baddie, along with the fact that she treats her assistant, Bobbie Cratchitt-Singh (Taj Atwal), appallingly – and the fact that she has the most severe bob this side of Anna Wintour.

The best idea from writers Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, who both previously developed Citizen Khan with Adil Ray, was to have the ghosts who visit Carole on Christmas Eve be stars of light entertainment past, present and yet to come.

Past is brilliantly represented by Morecambe and Wise – as played by Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel, well known for playing Eric and Ernie on stage. Their trip into Carole’s past is enjoyably cut with reprisals of their best-loved sketches – even if some of the references are shoehorned in: ‘We showed you all the right Christmases, but not necessarily in the right order,’ is particularly clunky and untrue. But the nostalgia is affectionate and woven well into the scenes from Carole’s childhood, and the scene-stealing performances spot-on.

However, when this pair are not on screen, the action dulls. The present ghost is Jo Brand, phoning in a fairly charmless approximation of her act as penned by the screenwriters - showing how hard it is to write and perform a weary comic act without it feeling draining. And future is represented by an intense Nish Kumar, in the back seat of a driverless car, insisting he’s a national treasure in the making.

Eric and Ernie aside, the script feels leaden and unsure of its attitude. Christmas Carole often has the beats and spirit of a comedy, but without the lines to match. It’s certainly not a ghost story, a little bit of CGI straight out of Death Becomes Her notwithstanding, nor especially dramatic.

The Dickens story has been given a remix – Carole’s redemption now coming from her being given fresh insight into her childhood – but even the new version seems predictable. Right down to Mariah Carey playing us out.

How ironic that despite Carole coming to realise the folly of selling tat at Christmas, that’s exactly what Sky is serving up. Christmas Carole is a solid two-star show – and I’ll stand by that however spirits visit me tonight…

Review date: 24 Dec 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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