Tag Archives: Zöe Grain

Cratchit

Cratchit

★★★

Park Theatre

Cratchit

Cratchit

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 9th December 2021

★★★

 

“Dagleish is a genial, amusing Cratchit, winning the audience over with a jaunty charm”

 

Barring the actual nativity scene, A Christmas Carol is probably the best known seasonal story, not just in its original literary form, but also as a Muppet, a Donald Duck, the inimitable Michael Cain Christmas Carol of course. The same story every time, the same wholesome message of kindness and generosity of spirit. And unless you’re trying to entertain a bunch of kids, it gets a bit tired.

So it’s not a bad idea at all to mix it up and tell the story from a different angle. Writer and director Alex Knott has seemingly gone for a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern vibe, telling the story from the perspective of Bob Cratchit (John Dagleish), Scrooge’s hard-done-by employee and father of tiny Tim. Already suffering a very tight belt this Christmas Eve, Cratchit finds himself, through little fault of his own, owing money he doesn’t have to a couple of criminals.

In a moment of wretched despair he decides it’d be best for his family if he weren’t around to make matters worse. He tries to hang himself, but slips and falls into the frozen river, where he meets three spirits sent to give him a message.

Cratchit

Given that Scrooge is so close by- literally only next door to Cratchit’s cold, meagre office- I was hoping for a bit of story cross-over, maybe catching a glimpse of Scrooge’s own spiritual journey that evening, or perhaps adding something clever to the well-known plot. Instead ‘Cratchit’ is a kind of shadow of the same plot with a bit stolen from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

Except that the message is a little garbled too. Rather than showing an alternate reality, the three spirits take Cratchit into the future, first showing him the second Industrial Revolution, people enslaved in furnace-hot factories. Next, we’re transported to Christmas Day in WW1, lads playing football and singing hymns on no-man’s land. We take a trip through glittering ‘80s Soho, finally landing in our present plague-ridden day, and moving a little further into the future, where we meet Cratchit’s great-great-grandchild, or thereabouts, who’s doing very well indeed. This isn’t a subjunctive future, it’s just exactly what’s going to happen, so why is Cratchit being shown it? Apparently to show him that if you “live long enough, there must be reward for every man.” This is supposed to be the big heart-warming Christmas message: that his life and the life of his children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren might be torturous and near impossible to bear, but one day, someone in that long line might be allowed a little happiness. This seems deeply depressing to me. It also takes forever to work out what the point is.

Emil Bestow’s staging is simple but fairly effective. A criss-cross of wooden slats lays against the back of the stage, housing a few nestled lanterns and sitting in a pile of snow. This is most effective in the blue-black light of a cold winter’s night, when Cratchit is walking home, the warm glow of the lanterns in stark contrast to the bitter cold. Cratchit’s work desk serves as a general prop- something to sit and climb on, to move around and bang with an angry clenched fist. It’s a bit lacklustre in its most anachronistic moments- sitting in the middle of a battlefield, or in the middle of a Soho nightclub- but it serves its purpose.

Dagleish is a genial, amusing Cratchit, winning the audience over with a jaunty charm. His character could do with a bit more meat, but he makes do. Freya Sharp does her best to play all the parts Dagleish can’t. Her facial expressions carry her, bringing a lot of physical comedy into what are generally quite surface parts.

I feel I’ve said this quite a lot recently, but it needs to be at least fifteen minutes shorter- there’s an especially long rant about how awful Scrooge is which could definitely be chopped in half, and there’s a weird Christmas feast hallucination-type scene on the battlefield that I didn’t really understand at all, and which didn’t appear to add anything to the story.

All in all it makes for an entertaining evening if you’re already in the jolly spirit and looking for something festive to hang it on (no pun intended). But through a cynical un-christmasy eye it doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Charles Flint

 


Cratchit

Park Theatre until 7th January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
Abigail’s Party | ★★★★ | November 2021
Flushed | ★★★★ | October 2021
Little Women | ★★★★ | November 2021
When Darkness Falls | ★★★ | August 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

 

LOOP

Theatre N16

Opening Night – 7th June 2017

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“Outstanding acting from a talented young cast” 

 

The play opens with all four characters on stage interacting with the music from the generation they are portraying. Although this is initially confusing each persona develops as the play unfolds and all eventually becomes clear!

Emily Thornton as “the Woman” delivers a brilliant monologue detailing her move from inner city London to Manchester in order to seek a new life for herself and find out what else is out there. As each of the remaining three are introduced, we find out how music influences and shapes the course of their lives.

They are all deeply passionate about the music of their time. Spanning 50 years we see how music shapes their lives, affects the decisions they make along the way and ultimately ties them together and deepens the bonds they have. As the storyline unfolds, we see the grandson seeking a new life and hope from the city his grandmother left behind all those years ago.

 

 

Rubie Ozanne as “the girl” delivers a perfect portrayal of a petulant and sassy teenager – incredibly believable with great stage presence.

The simple set and intimate venue means the movement, acting and music are intensified and you very quickly become drawn in by the characters. At times I felt that the storyline wasn’t fully developed … it was unclear as to why “the woman” was leaving London and thought her motivations could be better explained. I also felt that the use of the music could be further explored – it was such a key component to the plot I was expecting there to be more of it rather than short snippets! Just as a tune got me toe tapping it suddenly stopped! At 60 minutes with no interval this is a play that with a little bit of development could easily be a 5 star production.

With Aaron Price and Alexander Knott completing the outstanding acting from a talented young cast, Boxless Physical Theatre are clearly a talented bunch of actors and creatives – looking forward to seeing what they produce in the future.

 

Loop has words by Alexander Knott and moves by Zöe Grain Loop.

 

At Theatre N16 until Saturday 10th June