Northern Ballet's noted production of Charles Dickens' famous tale of curmudgeonly greed, grim reflection and a joyous redemption in Act III has all the charm of a very traditional Christmas card. Old London, with St Paul's dome and Big Ben on the skyline, looming grey masonry exuding a wintery chill, a smattering of snow.

Enter the bustling inhabitants of Camden Town, rugged up against the chill in muffs and poke bonnets, or top hats and tails. Even the ragged, barefoot slum children are swept up in the seasonal merriment outside Ebenezar Scrooge's counting house door. Inside, the long-suffering but ebullient Bob Cratchit has only a flickering candle flame to warm his toes.

Christopher Gable's mime-heavy telling of the ultimate Christmas story oozes its Victorian origin in every detail. Massimo Moricone's choreography also elicits a sense of déjà-vu, predominantly of the cheerful, cheeky Cockney, thumbs in armpits kind.

But the dancers of the Royal New Zealand Ballet do it all proud. Kohei Iwamoto, as Pratchit, cuts a lithe and quicksilver figure but also shows his dramatic skills in evoking his character's big warm heart, as a family man. Jacob Chown and Clytie Campbell, as Scrooge's visiting nephew and his wife, embody the Christmas spirit of the day as they endeavour to bedeck his gloomy hall. Rory Fairweather-Neylan and Bronte Kelly excel in their comic buffoonery as Mr and Mrs Fezziwig at parties past. Lucy Green and Shane Urton, as the young Scrooge and his heartbroken fiancé, dance a seminal moment in the plot with heart-stopping, classical beauty.


The three Ghosts of Christmas, Past, Present and Future hold more dramatic than kinetic sway and Paul Mathews as Scrooge doesn't get to dance much - until the finale. But then his transformation from hunched embitterment and nastiness to a man truly reborn to his fellows is exuberant and gorgeous.

The company also surprises with its extensive singing and special mention must go to the diminutive Quinn Bevan as Tiny Tim, for his brave solo.

With the final feasting, at Scrooge's expense and instigation done, a series of picturesque tableaux bring proceedings to a close. Subtle drapes of holly and a sprig or two of mistletoe enliven the muted costume colours in pretty, formal arrangement, all in best, Victorian picture-postcard style.

What: A Christmas Carol with the Royal NZ Ballet
Where & when: Aotea Centre, to Sunday; Bruce Mason Centre, December 13-14