Arts Theatre – until 12th January 2019
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Simon Callow was born for this. Watching his bravura performance in this one-man rendition of A Christmas Carol is as satisfying and cosy as a big warm hug. Perfect entertainment for a cold Winter’s night.
The joy and energy Callow brings to the stage retelling the classic tale is unmeasurable. His characterisations are simple but effective, he doesn’t do overmuch vocally to differentiate characters, switching seamlessly from Scrooge to Bob Cratchit with consummate ease. Whether he’s cutting a caper as Fezziwig or sitting painfully and pitifully as Tiny Tim, Callow embodies each character with passion.
The almost empty stage houses a screen for Callow to move around, and some simple but captivating pieces of scenery. At first, I thought there would be high-tech wizardry when the spirits appeared, but Adam Povey’s evocative lighting is all that changes. Instead director Tom Cairns relies on Callow’s storytelling and Charles Dickens’ glorious words to paint images in our imagination, creating an atmospheric and haunting play. It’s easy to forget how funny and playful Dickens’ language is in this story, but Callow revels in it, drawing the audience into Scrooge’s journey to redemption effortlessly.
Dickens’ tale of inequality and poverty in Victorian Britain, and the change Scrooge makes to save himself and those in need is painfully relevant today, as people with shopping bags bulging with unnecessary luxury gifts walk past the homeless on the streets. Hopefully, this wonderful show, as well as being heart-warming festive entertainment, could prompt us to think of making a few changes ourselves.