THIS festive season Scottish theatre audiences have not one but two major productions of Charles Dickens’s much-loved story A Christmas Carol to choose from. One is the very welcome revival of Dominic Hill’s superb staging for the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow (which plays the Tramway venue until December 24). The other is a brand new production by the Dundee Rep Ensemble, written by Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie (aka Noisemaker) and staged by the company’s artistic director Andrew Panton.

Hill’s production (which wowed audiences and critics in 2014 and 2018) is already a bona fide modern classic of Scottish theatre. Panton’s, it must be said, is already making a strong case for similar status.

At the outset of the Rep show the audience finds the actors milling around the stage in their everyday clothes and company hoodies. Then, surrounded by the sturdy flight cases that are ubiquitous in the backstage area of any professional theatre, they seek a story and build it, bit-by-bit, as if compelled by the time-honoured adage that live drama can be created even if the players have nothing besides “bare boards and a passion”.

This conceit – placing, as it does, a strong emphasis on the very essentials of theatricality – is a brilliantly timely way to welcome Yuletide audiences back to the playhouse after the Covid closedown last Christmas. Makeshift costumes are put together, functional props (such as Scrooge’s bed) are constructed and, crucially, musical instruments are brought on-stage.

With the ensemble’s relative elder statesman Barrie Hunter currently on loan at his old festive stomping ground (namely, Perth Theatre), Ewan Donald (a mere youth in his early 40s) finds himself press-ganged into the role of the humbugging miser Scrooge. Even, in this, a virtue is made of a necessity, as the actor’s reluctant donning of the garb of the notorious pinchpenny adds to the sense of this being an ad hoc return to theatre-making by an on-the-hoof band of thespians.

It is nothing of the sort, of course, but there’s great fun to be had in the pretence. For instance, Ann Louise Ross, alternating between Marley’s ghost (complete with actual metal chains) and her real self (bewailing the lack of health and safety at the Tayside playhouse), is a crowd-pleasing gem.

As the clocks strike one in the morning and the three famous ghosts get to work on Scrooge’s shrivelled soul, there is a tremendous sense of this as a real ensemble piece. Actors step in and out of an array of characters. Performers swirl around the stage, spinning the astonished Scrooge on his bed, and driving the story forward.

In no aspect is this more impressive than in the gorgeous, live performance of Gilmour and McKenzie’s music and songs. Ranging from a lovely, original Christmas carol to the music for the ceilidh thrown by the two Scottified, female Fezziwigs, the score is an absolute delight.

Donald convinces wonderfully in the character of a too-young-for-the-role actor making an excellent fist of playing Scrooge. Indeed, the cast are beguilingly good to an individual. The talented, young Cameron Prophet, who was cleverly inserted into the show as Tiny Tim on Thursday evening, deserves a special mention.

This is a wonderfully inventive and highly original Christmas Carol. Yet, with its energising audience participation and exceptional live music and song, it is also surprisingly and pleasingly traditional. What begins as a band of actors without a story to tell, ends as one of the most heart-warming productions of the festive season.

WHICH is not to say that your heart, and, indeed, your funny bone, won’t be touched at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. There it is that leading children’s theatre company Catherine Wheels (in co-production with the Lyceum) is staging Robert Alan Evans’s totally unique, sometimes magnificently bonkers, Christmas Dinner.

The National: From left: Richard Conlon as Fruity, Florence Odumosu as Madame Lady, Elicia Daley as Leslie, Sita Pieraccini as Bird Girl and Ronan McMahon as Billy in Christmas Dinner. Picture: Mihaela BodlovicFrom left: Richard Conlon as Fruity, Florence Odumosu as Madame Lady, Elicia Daley as Leslie, Sita Pieraccini as Bird Girl and Ronan McMahon as Billy in Christmas Dinner. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

Ever-brilliant director Gill Robertson has in Lesley (a bereft theatre stage manager, played by the powerfully understated Elicia Daly) a potent symbol of the battering the human spirit has taken over the two years of the Covid pandemic. The ghastly virus is not named, but it is present in Evans’s abandoned theatre where, for the second consecutive year, no Christmas show will be staged.

Lesley is sullen and cantankerous as she refuses Christmas Eve drinks with her workmates and Christmas dinner with her daughter. The cause of her sadness is the recent death of her grandmother.

However, as she sets about closing the theatre, the building rages against the dying of the light, summoning up ghosts from its illustrious past. Cue the gloriously named Fruity (an air-kissing thespian of the most shameless kind) and friends.

The National: Ronan McMahon as Billy, ,left, and Florence Odumosu as Madame Lady. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic.Ronan McMahon as Billy, ,left, and Florence Odumosu as Madame Lady. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic.

The spirits of theatre past are determined to create their own Christmas show and to rekindle Lesley’s Christmas spirit through her own story. These adventures in theatre are, by turns, laugh-out-loud funny and touchingly emotive.

The titular show-within-a-show, in which the ghosts decide to stage a festive meal, serves up some of the funniest visual moments (and the most brilliant costumes) I have seen in years. One can imagine the excellent Richard Conlon (Fruity) protesting backstage that he didn’t train as an actor in order to dress up as a carrot, any more than the fabulous Florence Odumosu (the over-enthusiastic theatre-lover Madame Lady) went into the acting profession dreaming of, one day, playing a roast duck.

It’s all wildly humorous, enchantingly magical and genuinely touching stuff – nothing less than we’ve come to expect from Robertson and Catherine Wheels.

There’s somewhat more conventional (but tremendously creative and hilarious) Christmas fare at Perth Theatre, where pantomime makes a triumphant return with a characteristically lively version of Cinderella. Written and directed by, and starring, the aforementioned Mr Barrie Hunter, the show relocates the story to glittering department store Horrids, recently renamed in honour of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother (played by the always splendidly boo-able Helen Logan).

You see, Cinders’s beloved father – a retail entrepreneur by profession – passed away, leaving the entire store to his second wife (or so she says). This leaves his bereft daughter (performed by wonderfully sympathetic rising star of Scottish theatre Betty Valencia) at the not-so-tender mercies of her dreadful stepsisters Bella and Ella (played by the outstanding panto double act of Hunter and Ewan Somers).

What follows would have Charles Perrault (who wrote the popular version of the age-old tale in 1697) spinning in his grave. When the Frenchman penned his enchanting fairytale, I’m pretty sure he didn’t envisage a commoner (Lewis Winter Petrie’s Buttons) pretending to be a prince who’s given up his royal status (à la Harry Windsor)

in order to ally with a bunch of otters (!) to throw a party at which the stepsisters would arrive wearing ensembles incorporating St Johnstone football strips.

The success of this entertaining silliness was attested to on Thursday morning by the raucous response of the children of Inch View Primary School (I’m a St Mirren supporter; I’m not used to such a noisy crowd). The cast (which boasts Neshla Caplan as an enchanting Fairy Godmother) is universally superb and the comedy as constant as it is flatulent.

A Christmas Carol runs at Dundee Rep until December 31:

Christmas Dinner runs at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh until January 2:

Cinderella runs at Perth Theatre until December 31: