A Christmas Carol
Reviewed – 9th December 2019
“a good choice for theatre goers looking for more thoughtful seasonal fare”
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol seems a particularly timely choice of pre-Christmas fare this year. As one walks through the streets of London lit with extravagant decorations and past shops bursting with gifts, it’s quite a shock to get to the Greenwich Theatre and be drawn back into a Victorian world of cruel avariciousness and indifference to the suffering of one’s neighbours. A Christmas Carol is a fable about the austere world that Dickens knew so well as a child, and then wrote about so vividly as an adult. It’s an appropriate reminder that not everyone has the means to enjoy Christmas, or any seasonal celebration, even today.
The European Arts Company’s production of A Christmas Carol is a one man show, recreating Dickens’ own reading tours of his best selling novella. Sitting in the theatre, listening to John O’Connor recite the entire piece from memory, it is easy to understand why this piece has held the attention ever since 1843, when it was first published. Dickens’ words are so memorable, they hardly need a set, lights, music, or even movement from O’Connor. It is enough to let the actor’s voice paint the scenes that introduce us to Scrooge, his ghostly visitors, his nephew Fred, and of course, the unfortunate Bob Cratchit and his disabled son, Tiny Tim.
Director Peter Craze does not take the power of Dickens’ words for granted, however. This version takes care with every detail of the staging. The setting, John O’Connor’s costume, (both designed by Tom Paris) and any prop that might add to the authenticity of the actor’s portrayal of the great writer himself is finely done, and present on stage. There are witty touches, like two enormous traveling trunks which open to reveal bookcases, lamps, and other details of a Victorian writer’s study. The lights are designed (by Duncan Hands) to illuminate these at the appropriate moment, and a screen between the trunks allows for the projection of period street scenes. The music and sound effects (Matthew Eaton) are equally chosen with care. All that is left for O’Connor to do is to narrate the story, and give the audience a sense of the characters. It is here that the authenticity of the recreation falls down a bit—not because of O’Connor’s acting skills—but because it is well nigh impossible for a modern actor to recreate Victorian fashions of public speaking without seeming ridiculous. O’Connor wisely confines himself to creating a warm, authorial voice with frequent steps out of Dickens’ character, and into the characters of A Christmas Carol.
This Victorian morality tale is a good choice for theatre goers looking for more thoughtful seasonal fare. It will give much to discuss on the way home from the theatre, passing the homeless trying to keep warm. A Christmas Carol is always a well timed wake up call to help the less fortunate in our communities. Because, really, who wants to spend Christmas alone in the company of the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come?
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Dik Ng
A Christmas Carol
Greenwich Theatre until 23rd December
Previously reviewed at this venue: