There are many great examples of the one man Dickens presentation (including by the author himself). And it was reading Dickens that radicalised me when I was in primary school. Yet it was with a sluggish step that I made my way to A Christmas Carol at Hen & Chickens Theatre in North London.
Set in London in 1843, on Christmas Eve when everyone seemed happy, apart from Ebenezer Scrooge,. One of the richest and unhappiest men in London. Enslaved by his own selfishness and so miserable that he would not spend even a penny on himself, Christmas Day was just another day to earn money for Scrooge. Was I ready to hear, in forensic detail, about the grim life of the Victorian poor? Especially as the resonances are so painful and current? Could I bear to listen to Dickens’ mawkish descriptions of Tiny Tim Cratchit?
But as soon as Jud Charlton came onstage I knew it was all going to be alright. This is my favourite kind of performer. The kind I most admire. Vocal dexterity, physical discipline with sharp and comic timing. Just the right amount of showmanship without diluting the at a lick character changes.
No set, just a chair, some clever use of a stick, a torch and various bits and pieces. Great sound design by the director Paolo Serra and original music by Giorgio Buttazzo (the tech operator was tip top too). You could tour it in a cab and a suitcase. Perfect.
Simplicity is difficult to pull off and requires a sensitive aesthetic and a lot of skill. This magical adaptation (by Charlton and Serra) had it in spades with a performance of multi-role mastery by Mr Charlton. I was cheered no end.
A beautifully realised gem! No spoiler alerts as there are also some lovely Christmas surprises. ****
A Christmas Carol runs at the Hen & Chickens until 21st December
730pm evenings with a Saturday matinee at 230pm
Tickets via Unrestricted View