A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens
Adapted by Guy Retallack.
The Bridge House Theatre, High Street, Penge SE20 8RW to 22 December 2019.
Evenings 7.30pm Sat Mat 3.30om Sun 2.30pm & 6pm. Check dates with theatre.
TICKETS: 07983 501111860
A fresh telling of an oft told tale, this version of Dickens’ classic Christmas story devised and directed by Guy Retallack is charming, inventive, well performed by a cast of four headed by Rachel Izon as Scrooge and is ideal winter fare. There is a female Scrooge somewhere, but Ms Izen, who has a forty year career in the theatre here and America, plays him as a man. It is a formidable performance and she gets strong support from Jamie Ross, Ben Woods and Saorla Wright who play everybody else except for Tiny Tim and also play the piano, the guitar and the cello. Retallack’s version tells the tale with clarity, the ghosts of Christmas appear as does an extremely large turkey, there are jolly songs, some audience participation and when it is all over outcome the song sheets and everyone warbles Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas having had a merry little time in this pub theatre, the jewel of Penge. It isn’t earth shattering; no great issues of the day are raised; and, while everyone is as professional as can be, there are no performances to knock your socks off or that will go down in theatrical history. So why all the stars? It does what it says on the tin and does it very well. Stars are a pretty blunt instrument when it comes to summing up any show. Four doesn’t mean for me that it is out of this world but that it delivers what it promises well, hits the targets aimed at, and is worth you spending your money on. And also that this is fringe theatre where different standards apply to those for some Shaftesbury Avenue venue production.
There are some choice moments, the acting space has been transformed effectively with some drapes, lots of sheet music and a couple of pieces of distressed furniture and an armchair, and it is an inspired idea to have Tiny Tim played by a puppet which seems to be created mostly from an old scarf. It is a refreshing approach to how to portray the second most excruciating sympathy demanding character in Dickens – the first being, of course, Little Nell. Jamie Morris has a fine old time thumping out assorted tunes on the piano – notably for the Fezziwigs’ party – and Ben Woods recovered with great style when playing a posh gent with a monocle which refused to stay put and roused much laughter to boot. Saorla Wright gets all the female parts to play as well as one of the visions which appear to Scrooge and copes with changing from being pretty and adorable to scruffy and street wise in a flash. Which is to say all three do what is demanded of them in the circumstances with ease while Ms Izon does her stuff as a Scrooge for today with great style.
Scrooge/Mrs Fezziwig: Rachel Izen.
Bob Cratchit/Jacob Marley: Jamie Ross.
Fred/Young Scrooge: Ben Woods.
Belle/Mrs Cratchit: Saorla Wright.
And, of course, the various ghosts past, present and to come.
Director: Guy Retallack.
Musical Director: Jamie Ross.
Set & Costume Designer: Amy Rose Mitchell.
Lighting Designer: Richard Williamson.
Sound Design: Phil Lee.
Choreographer: Paul Harris.
Puppetry Consultant: Jo Elizabeth May.
Vocal Coach: Katie Heath.