‘Tis the season, and all that, so it’s hardly surprising that another version of A Christmas Carol is now doing the rounds. European Arts Company are currently touring a one-man production, making use of the very same performance script as a certain Mr Charles Dickens used back in the 19th century.
It’s interesting to discover which parts of the novella made the cut; it can’t be much more than 100 pages long, but an attempt to fit this into a concise performance piece obviously demands a bit of editing. Gone are Scrooge’s schooldays, a moment where one might feel a shred of sympathy for the young Ebeneezer, and once we reach the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Yet to Come the focus is all on the Cratchit family. I can only imagine that this was Dickens’ attempt to draw as much attention to the plight of the poor as possible – his audiences would have been from the wealthier part of society, so a collection of people whose consciences may have needed pricking.
If it wasn’t for philanthropic means, then I can’t quite understand it. By labouring over these scenes, and consequently brushing lightly over nearly everything else, it lacks any kind of balance and makes the production seem a lot longer than it actually is. Adding an interval into what would have been a 90-minute show does it no favours, and it’s also not helped by a lacklustre performance from John O’Connor. Not much of an effort is made to distinguish all the characters from one another – at some points he seems to forget exactly how one has been speaking and ends up talking in his narrator’s voice – other than the rather bizarre selection of a generic Irish accent for the Ghost of Christmas Past. The details of the book are really vividly painted, so it’s a bit of a disappointment to see and hear it performed with such a lack of imagination.
The set (Tom Paris) is nice, opening up like a book to reveal a homely picture of a Victorian drawing room. There’s even space on the back screen for some projections, which helps to place the action in certain locations and is a lovely added touch.
If you remember back a couple of years, I did #MTBChristmasCarol2017 (a bit of a mouthful of a hashtag, I know) so I got to know the story incredibly well – and have seen a slew of inventive, entertaining & moving stagings of A Christmas Carol as well. Unfortunately, this version doesn’t really compare with any that I’ve previously seen, as it feels like a bit of a drag and ultimately falls flat; sitting in a cosy spot and reading the original would be a better use of your time.
[A final note to anyone planning on attending the show when it returns to Greenwich Theatre: wear several layers and bring a blanket with you just in case! Cold air was actually being pumped into the auditorium during my performance, which made for an incredibly uncomfortable two hours.]
My verdict? An unimaginative production that feels more like endurance than entertainment.
A Christmas Carol was at Greenwich Theatre on 9 December 2019 and returns on 23 December 2019 – tickets are available online or from the box office. Full details of the tour can be found on the official website.