devised by Nick Hutchison.

Wilton’s Music Hall Graces Alley off Ensign Street E1 8JB To 18 December 2010.
7.30pm 9, 11, 13, 14, 18 Dec.
7pm 15 Dec (Family Performance – 1 free under 16 per full-price adult).
3pm 11 Dec.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7702 2789.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 December.

Showing clearly there are several attitudes towards Christmas.
This cold collation of Christmas pieces past, present and, from a Victorian view, to come, certainly knows where it’s at. Wilton’s Victorian owner presides, with an awareness of past and future that would do credit to the newly enlightened Ebenezer Scrooge. He, along with A Christmas Carol’s Cratchit family, and Dickensian interloper Jo the Crossing-Sweeper from Bleak House are a running-theme of Nick Hutchison’s anthology.

There’s a musical carol or two around, and several non-Christmas songs; Champagne Charlie to show Mr Wilton’s age could laugh, an Edwardian striptease number and the sentimentality of The End of a Perfect Day. Throughout the singing is superb, a major joy of the evening.

Mr Wilton is also aware Dickens was writing about the streets around his establishment. At times Graham Seed’s Wilton takes on Dickens’ denunciatory tone. Such moral fervour is awkward, favouring the evening’s most famous voice and providing a too-easy emotional outlet – the climate’s as cold, the shelters as necessary now as in the 1850s.

Dickens hardly needs an actor’s assistance. Maybe his Carol’s inevitable, but its recurrence unbalances a selection that elsewhere offers fascinating rarities. A brief pre-Victorian cluster introduces Captain Christmas, Father Xmas’s ancestor, and several reminders that Scrooge inherited the anti-Christmas mantle of puritans who decried the winter festivities for their idleness, when only the Devil was at work.

Among the Victorians, the simplest voice speaks most piercingly; a water-cress seller, aged nine or thereabouts, out at work by 4am. Interviewed by Henry Mayhew, she can’t believe London’s Parks exist or that she’d be allowed into any such paradise. This is Eliza Doolittle without spirit or hope.

Time’s arrow swerves somewhat, moving back from Noel Coward and Dylan Thomas to Peter Cornelius’ 19-th century hymn ‘Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar’, introducing T S Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’. This, its moods distinguished by three voices, sounds fresh and clear.

Serious too, but there is also Ogden Nash’s moral tale of the boy who enjoyed ruining belief in Santa Claus. Dicken s apart, it’s a mix that has several strong ingredients to cheer a cold, cold winter’s night.

Cast: Amana C Jones, Michael Fenton Stevens, Lottie Latham, Vince Leigh, Charlotte Newton John, Owen Pugh, Graham Seed.

Director: Nick Hutchison.
Designer: Annie Gosney.
Lighting: Filippo de Capitani.
Musical Director: Philip Pope.
Puppet-deviser: Peter Case.

2010-12-09 03:05:56

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