Cratchit by Alexander Knott. The Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park N4 to 8 January 2022. 4**** William Russell

If you have have seen A Christmas Carol too many times then this fresh look at the story by Alexander Knott is well worth catching. Apart from anything else the performances by John Dagleish as Cratchit and Freya Sharp as pretty well everyone else are outstanding. The play, which started life at the Old Red Lion in 2020 was subsequently streamed because of the pandemic but here returns to the boards perfectly helped by a splendid set by Emily Destow lit by Chloe Kenward. The tendency is to smother Dickens’ tale in turkey and mince pies and good will to all men, but it really is a ghost story and the ghosts who plague Scrooge are far from kindly. They are indeed quite horrific. Here Cratchit comes into his own, tells us what life is like working for Marley and then Scrooge, how he gets some solace in the pub, about his family, and then as the evening draws on he has visitations of his own of the future that lies ahead for him and Tiny Tim. They are not exactly cheerful. Indeed the gap between those who have and who have not persists.
Alexander Knott has directed his own play with a sure touch and achieves what he set out to write – it also makes Cratchit more than the downtrodden clerk there to be the parent of one of Dickens’ sympathetic children more than anything else and cry God Bless Us Everyone. Watch how nephew Fred, for instance, morphs into a factory boss not quite as genial as you might think from those invitations to Uncle to dine, how effectively Dafleish fleshes out Cratchit the man rather than Cratchit the downtrodden foil for Scrooge – there to show up miserly ways. It is a thought provoking tale for Christmas in other words and finding out what happened to the Cratchits is well worth your while.

Bob Cratchit: John Dagleish.
Martha Cratchit: Freya Sharp.
Director: Alexander Knott.
Set & Costume Designer: Emily Bestow.
Dound Designer & Composer: James Demaine & Samuel Heron.
Lighting Designer: Chloe Kenward.

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