The Vaults Theatre, London (***)
Turning Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol into a mock radio recording is, in a sense, returning Dickens to his roots. Dickens public readings of his work are legendary. So here we are, in the Vault Theatre under the thundering trains of Waterloo, with the Fitzrovia Radio Hour, who, formed eight years ago have made staging radio plays their speciality.
Set as if in the 1940s, the cut-glass accents, dinner suited quartet are masters of the art of sound effects. Behind them a bank of shelves houses a wardrobe full of knick knackeries for making keys turning in locks, doors creaking, footsteps climbing stairs, clocks and bells clanging. Half the fun of a show like this is watching what and how the cast will find next to make the actual sounds.
But there should be more to it than that, particularly with a story like A Christmas Carol with its highlight on meanness and redemptive spirit. If ever there was a story and a writer for our times, it’s Dickens, utterly in tune and aware of the inequalities then and sadly once again with ours, with our food banks, zero hours and ever widening wage gap between employer and employee.
So, for all the added tongue in cheek Fitzrovia adaptors and director Owen Lewis bring to Dickens tale of Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and the supposed hilarity of their story-within-a- story of rivalry and attempted murder between two of the leading actors, Tom Mallaburn and Jon Edgley Bond’s adaptation still lacks a certain punch and atmosphere despite the nicely ghoulish entrance of Marley’s Ghost.
A couple of years ago, Guy Retallack and Tony Palermo worked a similar make-over on It’s a Wonderful Life, the Hollywood movie with Jimmie Stewart which like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has had a long tradition of radio and slimmed down versions. In the tiny Bridge Theatre in Penge of all places, it worked a treat.
Fitzrovia’s doesn’t quite live up to that standard though there is enough to give those wandering off the beaten track into the darker tunnels of Waterloo wanting a different kind of festive season spirit, to find it here. Running in at 80 minutes only, its painless, even elegant fare. Sup and enjoy.
A Christmas Carol runs at The Vault Theatre to Dec 31, 2016
Review first published on this website, Dec 17, 2016
A Christmas Carol
Presented by The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s
Adapted from Charles Dickens
By Tom Mallaburn
With Jon Edgley Bond
Director: Owen Lewis
Associate Director: Jon Edgley Bond
Lighting Designer: Richard Williamson
Sound Designer: James Nicholson
Original Music: Tom Mallaburn
Presented by James Seabright Productions
First performance of this production of A Christmas Carol at The Vault Theatre, Dec 6, 2016