A Christmas Carol
Print Room at the Coronet
Reviewed – 12th December 2018
“Francis’ conviction sees many of us craning to check that there isn’t a haunting figure lurking stage left”
‘Bah! Humbug!’ So one might say of A Christmas Carol, a story so well-known as to risk being hackneyed (indeed, this is one of several London Christmas Carols running in 2018). Despite this being a tale many audience members must know well, this one-man performance by Clive Francis still manages to surprise and move.
An extremely pacey seventy minute rendition sees us rattle through a merry cast of characters, with Francis seeming to transform before our eyes. So speedy is the delivery that an actor with less-than-perfect diction would risk losing the audience amidst the occasional density of the Dickensian language. No such danger with Francis, whose lengthy West End credits are testament: we are in safe hands. That said, we do occasionally lose the odd phrase to the relentless pace – a compromise worth making for a performance that’s brisk enough to never see us bored.
The range of characters unfolding before us doesn’t allow for a moment of inertia. One moment we shudder at the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, pinched and acerbic; the next, with chameleonic dexterity, the figure transforms to an affable and particularly well-realised Bob Cratchit. Perfectly devised and executed lighting design (Alex Ramsden) and music and sound (Phillip Sheppard) further bring the story to life. We can readily believe that we’re shifting seamlessly from the rosy interior of a warm family celebration, echoing with laughter, to the chilly presence of unwelcome spirits. The ghostly visitors are cleverly represented by shafts of white light, and Francis’ conviction sees many of us craning to check that there isn’t a haunting figure lurking stage left.
Light and sound also contribute to the performance variously being genuinely creepy, as when Scrooge stands in horror at his own deathbed, and truly affecting. That the production remarkably manages to avoid mawkishness, even around the (let’s face it, frankly treacly) Tiny Tim character and narrative, is credit to the utter class of the staging and actor.
As a seasonal night out, this can’t be beat. What could be more festive than a viewing of the archetypal Christmas tale replete with snowy trees, flickering candles and the scent of mulled wine? The Coronet makes for the perfect setting, with its air of faded grandeur and peeling paint only adding to the ambiance. Oh – and, as the star at the top of the tree, look out for a truly magical surprise as the performance draws to a close. Dickens would approve.
Reviewed by Abi Davies
A Christmas Carol
Print Room at the Coronet until 14th December
Previously reviewed at this venue: