A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Asha Gill
Richmond Shakespeare Society
Mary Wallace Theatre - 10 December 2019
or this largely traditional production, director Asha Gill has assembled a very strong cast. Opening in what is emphatically a Victorian office, we encounter Ebenezer Scrooge played with great feeling by a wonderfully bewigged John Mortley.
As the start of the Christmas holiday approaches, Scrooge does not miss an opportunity to torment his loyal clerk, played by a delightfully timorous Paul Grimwood.
The Mary Wallace is a small theatre and I have never seen its stage busier but Gill choreographs as well as she directs and, while some of the entrances are a little slow, the transitions and on-stage movement are smooth. Though the set is simple, it morphs cunningly around the actors; now a street; now a shop; now Scrooge’s lonely home. Sometimes one forgets that there are in fact four ghosts in A Christmas Carolbut here the ghost of Scrooge’s partner Jacob Marley – played by a honey-voiced Michael Andrew – is absolutely unforgettable, gleaming like a human firework as he erupts from the stage in a blaze of dry ice and silvery chains. The clock is ticking and, as Marley explains to Scrooge, time has at last caught up with him and he will yet encounter three more ghosts.
The first is the Ghost of Christmas Past, gently portrayed by Clare Farrow, who recounts with much kindness the circumstances that have led Scrooge to where he is now. So far so traditional but, as the director reminds us in a programme note, A Christmas Carol is a genuinely timeless tale and, as such, “there is no period”. The meaning of this becomes apparent with the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Present – Terry Bedell in a rumbustious performance of Blessed proportions – who shows Scrooge a carousel of Christmases present in which Dickens’ most vital characters – ‘Ignorance’ and ‘Want’ – make their appearance. Sometimes dispensed with by less thoughtful directors, Gill puts them – literally – centre stage and by a brief exchange between two minor characters we are gently reminded that Christmas is just another working day for some. The whole of the scene is brilliantly conceived and executed. And then there is the final “stave” in which Scrooge is confronted by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and things will never be the same again.For full reviewhttp://markaspen.com/2019/12/09/ch-carol-rss/
Timeless Tale for the Future