God Bless Us Everyone! Even Mr. Scrooge!

Mr. Charles Dickens Presents

A Christmas Carol

Walker Theatre

12/November/2018

It is 175 years since Mr. Dickens first put quill to velum to bring us the most favourite story of our great Christmas season. A Christmas Carol. It is hard to believe that a piece of work so relevant and so fresh can be so old, but it is and for all those decades this allegorical tale of Mr. Scrooge delights and warns us all every year. Some even hold Mr. Dickens responsible for shaping the Christmases we all know and love.

More prevalent than the ubiquitous Sound of Music at Christmas, A Christmas Carol has been part of our British Psyche for as long as anyone can remember. This created a lot of pressure then for John O’Connor who brought, A Christmas Carol, to Walker Theatre tonight. However his elegant and highly verbose Mr. Dickens was an absolute triumph. Just as generations of Children and Adults before us we sat breathless as Mr. O’Connor’s descriptions of the foul spectres were so well observed that we were there, in that terrible bed chamber belonging to old Ebenezer himself.

Mr. O’Connor found the right level. He spoke to the audience as Dickens most surely would. In those days , of course and thanks to the lack of British Education, people had less ability with the written word and short of having these stories told to them they would have died bereft of anything that was later to go on to become embedded in our culture. So what Dickens did then, taking his stories on the road, was so important to the understanding and access to this writer’s work even now, so long after he wrote it.

This show is such a well-directed piece. Peter Craze, as Director, found all the pauses, the gestures, the pace and timing of how Dickens may well have told his tales. He has been able to work with John O’Connor and evidence of good directing is found throughout the piece. Maybe O’Connor’s hand gestures when playing Scrooge were a little melodramatic, but the Victorians loved that, they loved all the pomp, mystery and authority in which Dickens told his tales. Between them Craze and O’Connor had that balance right and the show works like a well oiled and well run machine. It feels safe.

 John O’Connor gains the award for best memory in the house. Heaven only knows how many thousands of words he learned but there wasn’t a single hitch or slip. Mr. O’Connor proving then that the human mind is a wonderful thing just as soon as one can master it. So many of us never do; fortunately Mr. Charles Dicken’s did and we are all the richer for it.

Tom Paris’ set was aesthetically pleasing and cleverly constructed. Rather like two large books about 7.5 foot tall with a silk screen between the two books. The books then open up to create the sideboards of a generic sitting room in London . Downstage right we have a magic lantern projector and there is a tall boy and chair on the stage. With such limited props and furniture Mr. O’Connor creates a plethora of characters each of them thoroughly entertaining and each one as different from the next as can be.

Sounds and lights came together well. Sound was discreet and always complimentary and the light gave a darker gas lit feel to the set and that is what the designers intended. Matt Eaton and Duncan Hands worked well together and brought the set to life with their subtle shades and changes. Good work from both.

Annet Black’s costume design gave us our Charles Dickens. Tall, intelligent, dashing and a little bit handsome. The perfect Victorian Man.

In our history this was a simply dreadful time. The inequality was obvious and the poverty so widespread this was an England we might have found rather difficult to live in. Charles Dickens, with his stories and his observations on inequalities; and how he spells them out, should hopefully keep us reminded of how a country might go when 90% of the country’s wealth is held by 10% of the people. Some might argue we don’t need reminding, they too are right but as a tract on social injustice a Christmas Carol can be measured as such.

The team of this show are to be congratulated. It is a well presented and beautifully understood piece of Dickens. It is the season to be jolly and how better than to be Jolly with the inventor of the great whimsical British Ideal of Christmas.

This is a Four Star Review

Owen J Lewis

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet. Follow hos blogspot at https://owenscribblerlewis.blogspot.com

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