Tag Archives: Jonathan Evans

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

★★★

Online via Jermyn Street Theatre

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Online via Jermyn Street Theatre and Guildford Shakespeare Company

Reviewed – 19th December 2020

★★★

 

“The spirit of Christmas present may have taken a holiday this year, and while this show doesn’t quite lure it back, it does remind us of our Christmases past”

 

On the day that Christmas was effectively cancelled, it is perhaps a natural reaction to want to seek refuge in some sort of seasonal escapism. ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ or ‘Bad Santa’. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is another annual favourite. Something comfortingly familiar and predictable. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” fits the bill perfectly. Written during a time when the British were re-evaluating themselves, its themes of transformation and redemption inspired, if not created, the aspects of Christmas we have grown to love; including family gatherings, festive food and drink, games and a communal generosity of spirit.

In the absence of that, the Guildford Shakespeare Company with Jermyn Street Theatre, are beaming their live, staged version of the story via Zoom, which allows a degree of audience participation. The technology, born of necessity back in March, still feels a little underdeveloped, but it does let the curtain rise on productions that would otherwise remain locked away in the dark.

Naylah Ahmed’s faithful adaptation pulls no surprises. We all know the story, which is its selling point, along with the two names in the cast – Penelope Keith and Brian Blessed who play the ghosts of Christmas Past and Present respectively. Keith displays her signature imperious disdain for the unreformed Scrooge with a deadpan, but slightly apologetic, sense of humour (“I am not a sir, sir!”), while Blessed’s distinctly unapologetic performance plays up to his own caricature. They are both a formidable and colourful presence. Jim Findley, as Ebenezer Scrooge, fails to react accordingly, and doesn’t seem to be too distraught that his night is disturbed by these uninvited and foreboding spirits.

Rallying round, though, are the three multi-rolling cast members who pick up the remaining characters. Robin Morrissey’s versatility leapfrogs from his Jacob Marley to Bob Cratchitt to Mr Fezziwig with ease, accompanied by the sparkly eyed Paula James as Mrs Cratchitt, Fezziwig and others. Paula James, along with Lucy Pearson, who has her own hamper full of characters, bring a lightness of touch to what is a fairly stolid and dependable narration.

Despite the commitment of the cast, they seem unsure as to who the audience is. Director Natasha Rickman seems to be steering them, perhaps against their will, towards a younger crowd. The sense of enjoyment is prevalent but at the expense of the magic and awe that this tale should inspire. The show features children from the Guildford Shakespeare Company’s drama clubs, in rotation, as the Cratchitt children, and it is a delight to see the relish with which the three young ensemble cast dive into their roles.

The spirit of Christmas present may have taken a holiday this year, and while this show doesn’t quite lure it back, it does remind us of our Christmases past and give us hope for those yet to come. But we want to toast the future with effervescence and this ‘Christmas Carol’ doesn’t have the sparkling warmth to uplift us fully. But ‘Humbug’ to that. The run is already sold out online so don’t listen to this old Scrooge.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Ciaran Walsh

 


A Christmas Carol

Online via Jermyn Street Theatre and Guildford Shakespeare Company until 27th December

 

Previously reviewed by Jonathan:
Marry me a Little | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Rent | ★★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Right Left With Heels | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene | ★★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Salon | ★★★ | Century Club | December 2020
The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk | ★★★★ | Online | December 2020
The Dumb Waiter | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | December 2020
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★★ | Palace Theatre | December 2020
The Elf Who Was Scared of Christmas | ★★★★ | Charing Cross Theatre | December 2020
Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown | ★★★★★ | Online | December 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

★★★★

Online

Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

Online via www.kingsheadtheatre.com

Reviewed – 14th December 2020

★★★★

 

“The talent on display longs to break out of the small screen and take to the stage again”

 

“Mirror mirror on the wall…” begins the Wicked Queen in familiar, heightened, camped up, Disney tones. The mirror is cracked and voiced by the inimitable comedy couple Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard, so any resemblance to the usual Snow-White tale is thrown out of the window for the next hour. The Queen brushes aside the pleasantries about who might be the fairest in the land; she wants to know how best to claw back all that money from furlough that she doled out throughout the year.

And so, the tone is set. But this is more than a mere retelling of Snow White with clever references to Lockdown, as the title might suggest. Last Christmas Charles Court Opera took the Nativity story and turned it completely on its head to joyful and triumphant effect. This year they have been forced to work behind closed doors, but their boundless, chaotic imaginations have not been restrained in the least and again, they have created a unique show dressed up in their distinctive style. It is difficult to continue this review without spoilers. But then again, I could probably describe the plot in detail for you and you’d still be none the wiser.

Snow White is a man in a frock, widow to the late, great King of Soul, Barry White. See what I mean? The Prince of Pretzel (aka Larry) wants to marry Snow White, but his valet Harry reminds him that she is a commoner and therefore beneath him. The Wicked Queen has other plans entirely. The seven dwarves are renamed due to Disney copyright. The poisoned apple is a box of Turkish Delight (or is it a bomb? Or a Pie?). When Larry and Harry meet Gary (the plumber, or could it be the Wicked Queen in disguise…?) things hot up. The jokes and innuendos are the only elements of predictability in this otherwise surreal and riotous romp through Fairyland. There is a family version or an adult version to choose from before you watch, though I suspect there is little difference between the two. A few profanities aside, it is soft-core enough to sit either side of the watershed. The enjoyment and the subversive sense of humour derives from the twists in the Pythonesque narrative, but above all in the performances of the company’s members.

Jennie Jacobs cuts a dusky figure as the Wicked Queen; an inspired cross between Penelope Keith and Cruella de Ville. John Savournin’s Snow White channels David Walliams in drag; but better. Savounin makes the character truly his own with a finely honed, deadpan self-deprecation. Like the rest of the cast, Emily Cairns as the Prince and Meriel Cunningham as the side-kick valet who turns into a toad, trailblaze through the show with expert comic timing and spot-on characterisation. And then there is Matthew Kellett, who has the job of playing the seven dwarves. His versatility borders on insane, especially when he delivers an Elton John pastiche, singing to his own corpse at the funeral of ‘Half Baked’ the dwarf. Indeed, the musical moments stand out. Each member of the cast, along with the chorus, is in fine voice. David Eaton’s lyrics are as inventive and topical as ever, pasted onto parodies that plunder popular culture. The highlight of the show has to be a brilliant ensemble mash up that, within a mere two and a half minutes, packs in The Beatles, A-Ha, Village people, Oasis and ‘Les Misérables’ among others.

The comic references, particularly to the pandemic, never hamper the action, which trundles towards a neat, morally strewn conclusion during which we are advised not to hide the power of “lurve” by Barry White himself (uncannily voiced by Marcus Fraser) from behind an animated cloud. We could almost be in Terry Gilliam territory.

Occasionally, though, the team’s ambitions outstretch them. The interactive elements, whereby we can select an option on the screen to determine the course of the action stall the flow. The teething problems inherent in the technology occasionally set us adrift. But once back on board we are again swept along. It is a shame, though, that we are not witnessing this show live. The talent on display longs to break out of the small screen and take to the stage again. But if this year’s offering is anything to go by, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next Christmas when, surely by then, we’ll all be back in a sold-out auditorium – which is what they deserve.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by  Ali Wright

 


 

Snow White in the Seven Months of Lockdown

Available to stream until 31st December from www.kingsheadtheatre.com

 

Recently reviewed online shows:
Falling Stars | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020
The War | ★★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Marry me a Little | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Rent | ★★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Right Left With Heels | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene | ★★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Jack and the Beanstalk | ★★★★ | Online | December 2020
Magnetic North | ★★★★ | Online | December 2020
The Fabulist Fox Sister | ★★★★ | Online | December 2020
The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk | ★★★★ | Online | December 2020

 

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews