London is not short of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol right now. I’ve already seen two myself, and I reckon there must be at least a dozen more. European Arts Company’s version, Mr Charles Dickens Presents A Christmas Carol, is on tour, visiting Greenwich Theatre twice this December, and has a nice little twist to it: it’s told by Charles Dickens himself! Well… Nearly.
John O’Connor performs as the author, adorned in (literally) Dickensian garb, and enacts a public reading of A Christmas Carol. He appears, book in hand, and gives a one-person performance of the tale. It’s obviously a very faithful version, being taken literally from the book itself, and the kind of charm it has potential for is certainly there. O’Connor makes a very convincing Dickens, holding characterisations and flow very well. It’s certainly very impressive to read us out most of a whole novel, and he makes it seem effortless – the kind of reading Dickens would have been proud of giving himself.
Unfortunately, the evening was let down, but not by the production itself. Granted it was a particularly cold night, but the auditorium was beyond chilly. By the end of the performance I was one of many people who had put coats, hats and gloves back on – I was shivering! It definitely affected my capacity to focus on the performance, which I found frustrating. I was also sat on the aisle where the houselights didn’t seem to dim much at all, and I was pretty sure I was lit up more than O’Connor now and then. It might also be important for others to know that Greenwich Theatre’s estimate of one hour and thirty-five minutes was about half an hour shorter than the reality. While in truth this didn’t affect the evening, don’t miss your train home!
Despite the circumstances, it was an enjoyable performance to watch. A simple set and handful of props was more than enough for the engaging O’Connor to use to demonstrate his festive morals. Credit goes to the late Peter Craze, the show’s director, for making the storytelling vivid. We are also fortunate enough to be living in a time of sound effects and lights, which Lighting Designer Duncan Hands and Sound Designer Matthew Eaton used deftly to give us an extra sense of immersion.
A Christmas Carol is one of those stories that makes you feel cosy. It makes me think of family, familiarity and warmth, which could be why the cold theatre marred the evening as much as it did. I would definitely be tempted to try this production again, but I might look for a different venue and be sure to book a late train home.
Directed by: Peter Craze
Lighting design by: Duncan Hands
Set and Costume design by: Tom Paris
Sound design by: Matthew Eaton
Mr Charles Dickens presents A Christmas Carol plays at Greenwich Theatre again on 19 December. Further information and bookings can be found here.